Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Comic 721: Falling Flat

There's so many little things about this comic that bother me. No one problem stands out, but together they make me pretty annoyed.

#1, the game hasn't come out yet. It's not even testable in beta form. So either Randall hasn't played this game and is just having his characters talk about it by estimation, or, more likely, he got a chance to play it and is writing this comic based on that experience. Perhaps he got to play it at PAX East last weekend. In the end, what this comic is saying is "I got to play this awesome nerdy game that isn't even available to anyone." A few months ago I complained when he made a comic about Scribblenauts on the day it came out, but today he's outdone himself, and made a comic about a game that hasn't come out at all yet (unless you were at PAX East. but were you?) In other words, what he said.

#2, the comic forgot to tell a joke. The first panel establishes that they are in flatland, the second, that the author has played a certain game, the third, that the game can be related to the book Flatland, and the fourth, that the dude has drawn around the square to make him look like a popular children's cartoon character.

Now that may ordinarily be enough to be considered a joke, and, in many ways, it takes the form of a joke: It comes at the end of the comic (though not the very end - see #3), it is irreverent and suddenly changes the topic, and includes a person being humiliated, perhaps without their knowledge. Usually, these things are good ingredients for a joke. Today, they just don't add up. I've read the first (and as of now, only) 65 posts on the xkcd forum and NONE of them expressed amusement at the spongebob concept.

#3, "Yes it was" = post punchline dialog

#4. Some people are going to point out that there are two puns in this comic, and that perhaps they are worthy of note. I disagree. The first, "what's up?", could be a pun because a resident of Flatland should have no notion of what "up" is. Of course, that's not true; just like you could look at a map of the earth and say "Alaska is way up by Canada" even though you really mean Alaska is way North by Canada, and not that it is "a certain distance away from the ground." In any case, "What's up?" is an idiom, and is rarely meant literally (unless you need to know what is high off the ground). Flatland has plenty of uses of "up" in other senses (I just checked). So I guess it may count technically as a pun, but it's a silly one (especially as A Square is the one resident of the land who actually knows the answer).

The other pun is in the last panel, "That was out of line." Because, you know, things in flatland...are lines! Sort of, at least. But that's the extent of it - usually a pun will have a second meaning, but this doesn't. To say something is out of line means that it was not cool or perhaps not allowed, or insubordinate or something, which sure, the stick figure is saying he was. But what's the second meaning? Nothing. It'd be like if the last line were "well I guess we've come full CIRCLE" or "this adds another DIMENSION to our relationship" or something like that. Yes, you worked a word related to the topic into a phrase - so what? That's not enough on its own.

#5. The drawing. Look at the square in panel 3. Just look at it! someone just took perspective 101, I see. On the other hand, there is a horizon in this comic - I'd like that more often.

#6. The alt-text. Apparently, this was a joke that Randall made at a convention last weekend (see these two posts). Not just any joke, a joke he said he wouldn't put online! Apparently Person #1 got to see this comic a while ago too? tell us more! Anyway, I think the fact that he went and ran it anyway shows that he is as desperate as we all thought. Anyway, it doesn't make sense, apparently touching someone = having an orgy. I'd hate to see what a packed flatland subway looks like.

Update: Randall had to push his "color name survey" off the front page to bring people this message: "Note: People searching for Miegakure are finding malware. The real site's here.
Any claimed downloads are fake. It's presently only playable at expos." (incidentally, is the last line barely visible for other people? did randall fuck up the formatting or is it just my browser?). Anyway all I have to say about that is maybe your readers wouldn't be searching for playable copies of that game if your comic hadn't implied that there were playable versions of it out there.

"No one has the right to not be offended"

Apropos of complaining about things, here is a video of a British author saying some things. This is what he is saying:

It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don't have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don't have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or bought, or sold or read. That's all I have to say on that subject.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Comic 720: Recipe for Disaster

oh my, denizens of the webcomic critique blogosphere! How I have missed you all. So much has happened in my absence - some terrible comics, some crazy rants from Crazy Rob, the new Wigu Comics page got started (this is a big deal and I will write more about it later), and more importantly, there was some kind of crazy insanity which has turned the whole xkcd forum into some kind of stanford-prison-experiment-esque collection of childish nazis (i will write more about that later too). I CHOSE THE WORST WEEK TO LEAVE THIS BLOG.

Oh my, and of course, the first round of my own contest ended! I'll post in a few days with 3-5 finalists and explain (once I make up my mind) how we'll pick a winner. Is that all for now? I think so. I'm getting caught upon all the comments that were left while I was gone. I probably won't be able to respond to most or even any of them, but I do try to read them all. I also have to take a few more days to get caught up on e-mails. Alright - are we done here? I think so. Let's get today's comic.

recipes...FOR DISASTER???????

This comic reminds me of a joke. Here it is:

Q: How many Profession Members does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: X! 1 to change the bulb, and X-1 to act in a manner stereotypical of that profession.

(laughter all around).

I like that joke because it makes fun of actual, specific lightbulb jokes, most of which are pretty dumb (credit where its due: I forget where I heard that joke but it's pretty close to these comics). The point that lightbulb jokes are playing off of is, "what if people of a certain group acted in its stereotypical way while doing an ordinary activity?" Because obviously everyone changes a lightbulb the same way. And what this meta-joke is saying is, "hey, everyone who tells regular lightbulb jokes: You're all being pretty stupid."

That is, by way of very long introduction, my message to the author of this comic: you are basically being pretty stupid.

The joke is, what if computer scientists used computer science for everything? HA HA, it would lead to silly consequences.

--We had to stop inviting the medical school kids to our dinner parties, because they kept bringing us medicine instead of food!
--We had to stop asking the archaeology guys to come to dinner, because they tried to feed us on broken old shards of pottery which were gross and dirty and of historical value.
--We had to tell the graphic arts department not to come to our dinner parties because instead of food, they just brought crappy comics.

HA! it is so implausible!

It all reallly just reminds of the other dinosaur comic that my search brought up. Randall is like T Rex, and I am like Utahraptor. Does that make my point make more sense? I hope so.

Lastly, two words about the art:
-Look under the table. See all those lines? what the hell are they? You think they are going to be like the legs of the table or of the people at the table, but then they completely aren't.
-Why are there hearts coming out of the cup in the middle?

That is all the writing i am going to do for now, my new mission is to figure out what the HELL was happening on the xkcd forums while I was away!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Comic 719: I Dream Of Randall

Also see this, which is one of my, Rob's, rants, and is therefore inherently better than Person #1's lazy-ass drivel.

Hello everyone. Today's post concludes my guest week and in order to get you used to carl again, I decided to be fashionably late with it. Actually, I just didn't know what to write. At the time of writing, I still don't. Let's just see what happens.


Ok, uhm. Well, I know something I can say about this. The art, as always, is extremely mediocre.

You don't even notice it, but more than half of the comic is text, and once you reduce it to the actual pictures, you get an absolutely meaningless scene. Comics are a visual medium. Xkcd is not.

Now let's try that the other way around. I will replace all of the art with two monochrome boxes:

Is it much worse than the original? The only thing the art clarifies is that the black box is quoting this from a book, other than that, it's the exact same thing. Now, I'm not saying that this xkcd is a fucking masterpiece, but it could and should be better. Let's mash it up, SMBC style. Sorta.

This is something Randall presumably found out one way or another and came up with this plan to scare a friend, and then decided to make it a comic. Why he didn't use mr. hat is beyond me, but whatever. The problem is just that it's not really that funny to begin with, mostly because the explanation needed is a bit long, but also because he's not exactly doing a good job at delivering it. Overall, the comic is pretty meh.

I don't even really know what to say about this one, and the forumites don't either, they're just talking about whether they had that dream. Some are saying GOOMHR which is bullshit because he didn't come up with the fact that these dreams are common. Fuck you, forumites

So I went to the irc channel at #xkcd-sucks to get some help:

(09:25:07 PM) person1: if you had to describe friday's comic with one word, what would it be?
(09:25:17 PM) rmason: look at me i'm person1 and i appeal to other people's narcissism out of my own laziness
(09:25:20 PM) rmason: DERP DERP DERP
(09:25:28 PM) person1: lol
(09:25:30 PM) person1: fuck you rob
(09:25:31 PM) rmason: the word is 'loathsome' btw
(09:25:33 PM) person1: you gigantic fatass
(09:26:07 PM) Sh0rtWave: Which one's that?
(09:26:15 PM) person1: the brain worm one
(09:26:28 PM) rmason: oh wait no it's GOOMH-bait
(09:26:30 PM) Sh0rtWave: One word?
(09:26:31 PM) Sh0rtWave: hrm
(09:26:31 PM) rmason: that is my word
(09:26:32 PM) Superbest: man, it's so meh I can't even find a word
(09:26:42 PM) rmason: i had a friend share it on google reader with a 'GOOMH'
(09:26:45 PM) rmason: i wanted to murder her
(09:26:47 PM) person1: ME TOO
(09:27:02 PM) The_Autodidact: is this that one friend that you hate for posting stupid stuff on twitter
(09:27:04 PM) Sh0rtWave: Presumptuous, is the best word I can come up with after "fucking stupid", but fucking stupid is two words.
(09:27:05 PM) rmason: no
(09:27:11 PM) rmason: this is a friend that i actually like
(09:27:18 PM) rmason: it made it all the viler
(09:27:46 PM) Superbest: I guess I could say meh, but it's even more meh than that word implies, somehow
(09:27:56 PM) rmason: ultrameh
(09:27:59 PM) rmason: megameh
(09:28:02 PM) rmason: MONSTERMEH
(09:28:12 PM) rmason: I am a huge fatass

fuck you guys.
I'm done.
also randall is in your head? how ORWELLIAN! I don't feel like this post is worth proofreading, so fuck you guys (again).

But It Doesn't Have To Be Original!

This one is specially dedicated to all of the people who complain about these and insist that we get back to the reviews and stop wasting our time on these shitty, boring essays that nobody cares about. I wrote this one with you in mind! You, specifically. You had better like it, or else I will write more in the future. Your hate is what keeps me going. When I begin to lose interest in the blog one of you, my loyal fan-trolls, will post an insult about how I look like I need to get some sleep or something and that's when I know that I must continue. It's all I have.

Anyway! One of the common complaints we make here on XKCD Sucks is that "this joke has been done before." And one of the common criticisms is that every joke has been done before, and that therefore originality is completely meaningless!

I, too, once thought as you did.

Because it's true, in a sense. Being Completely Original is certainly not sufficient to make a good story. Writing a story which has never been done before is a pipe dream at best. At worst, it's a recipe for something really terrible, where various rules and conventions are broken just because they are rules and conventions that other people follow.

But clearly originality does matter. Surely you have complained about Hollywood's tendency to just remake old films these days--a trend of excessive unoriginality. Nobody wants to just watch something which is a rip off of something else.

There's a saying, the origin of which I have forgotten and am too lazy to Google: "Bad poets borrow. Good poets steal." If you are writing a story, and that story is just Star Wars, you're not writing something anyone wants to watch. That's just borrowing the premise--it's not really yours. Stealing implies making it your own. You can write a story which is inspired by Star Wars--rebels against an oppressive galactic empire, a hero's quest, the works--and make it your own, and tell it in a way that only you could--even if the story itself has been done--and that would be worth reading or watching or whatever.

"But Rob, you fat, objectively undesirable fuck who is incapable of writing a coherent argument and is really dumb and apparently sanctimonious despite the fact that that's not what the word means, who is also a terrible writer and has the emotional maturity of an eight year old and is incapable of thinking about anything with anything remotely resembling objectivity and bashes literally everyone he disagrees with with nothing but hateful disdain, and also has no life at all apart from hanging out on XKCD sucks and is hated by all the commenters and has no friends and never will and doesn't even know what a vagina is, much less what one looks like, and would probably love the cock if he weren't universally undesirable to men and women alike," I hear you say. "What does this have to do with XKCD?"

Basically it's this: whenever XKCD does something which has been really obviously done before, it isn't adding anything or changing anything. It doesn't add to the conversation. It doesn't improve upon or otherwise alter the original. It doesn't offer an original take. It is essentially nothing short of taking an old joke, and then telling it again. There's nothing original or interesting about it.

It's very possible to lift the story from something else and make it your own, and make it excellent. Some of my favorite stories are essentially just rethinking old myths and classic literature (eg Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), and "reinterpretations of classics" is one of my favorite genres to write. Is it Completely Original? No. Does it add to the conversation and make it worthwhile? Certainly. If it didn't, it would be worthwhile to just say "but this is just Hamlet" or whatever.

UPDATE: Right after I posted this, a video popped up in my RSS feed. It is "inspired by" Matt and Kim's Lessons Learned video, which you should watch first. Then watch this one. The timing was too perfect to pass up! Is this original or is it a rip off?

FURTHER UPDATE: I googled the quote at the prodding of one of our friendly neighborhood cuddlefish. Apparently it is by TS Eliot and it goes like this:
"One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion."

Thursday, March 25, 2010


someone can't keep his blogs straight DISREGARD

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Comic 718: Oops! I forgot to tell a joke!

Note: any time Person #1 compliments you he is wrong. -Ed.

Hello smart, intelligent and attractive people of the xkcdsucks blog and Carl (OH SNAP!). Person #1 here once again to guest post about that one webcomic that causes wikipedia editors so much work.

I love including other people in my blog posts, as you may have noticed, and today I have a story too. A friend of mine, who is a legitimate friend of xkcd told me about how incredibly unentertaining today's xkcd is. Once again, this gave me an incentive to check it out. (See? People keep making me read it)


Well, my first thought was "Again? Didn't we already do this?". Well, we did. Back then, the comic had an actual joke, though. What is this supposed to tell us? Ha ha, I changed the equation to see how many different alien encounter stories are out there. Ha. Hilarious. The bottom text (which you read last) describes what's going on. The problem here is, there IS a lot of alien encounter stories. This is not fascinating or unexpected or anything. It's like telling a story about what the best route to the supermarket is, and then expecting people to laugh at it. it's a lot of buildup for nothing surprising.

This is something which could be seen as satire, maybe showing how anyone can make up bullshit equations to prove a point, which doesn't make them true. However, this does not make them funny. This is something I could accept in a newspaper or as part of a blog post, but on it's own it's just lame. He could have done pretty much anything to make it funnier.

yes yes

This strikes me as one of those comics where Randall was not really looking to be funny, but rather to make up some interesting bullshit, which I do like to do with my friends too. But it doesn't make good material for a webcomic.

Alt text: "Statistics suggest that there should be tons of alien encounter stories, and in pracitce [sic] there are tons of alien encounter stories. This is known as Fermi's Lack-of-a-Paradox."
Well, that's lame. I don't even know what else to say about that. It's just so incredibly mediocre. Ha ha, my crazy result is actually not crazy and totally normal and I am pointing this out. Why didn't he just write "Hey guys this comic totally isn't funny, so fuck you"

Forumites, do your thing:
Why is it called the Flake Equation?

Perhaps it's a flaky equation?

There's a ton of stuff on Google about alien abductions in Snow Flake, Arizona... Maybe that has something to do with it? I don't know.

I guess I am not the only non-native speaker. Flake is a crazy person.

blah blah blah - forumites are boring. I have a more important issue to tackle with the forums anyway:

Is turning into a socialist dictatorship?
Yes. Yes it is
I have been informed, through the comments on this blog (where everyone is free to complain about how I totally suck and Carl is better, or how Carl totally sucks and I am better) that the xkcd forums are having this mod frenzy bullshit which is basically a series of hilarious wordfilters. From observing and what I'm told, they look something like this:

God -> Jehova
Mod -> God
edit: -> OOPS
also: -> ALSO YOU GUYS:

The last two may be inaccurate, but that's besides the point anyways. The point is that they are replacing a bunch of shit potentially offending a bunch of religious people. Their justification? The mods wants to have fun for a week. They have a pretty boring definition of fun, but that's besides the point. This whole bullshit I can accept, but here's the thing: Anyone who dares to complain about it will be banned without any warning. That's right. They are actively looking to offend a bunch of people and then killing off those who complain. I guess it's sort of a witch hunt for religious people who aren't willing to be some internet forum moderator's bitch and take whatever they say as granted and justified.
I am going to quote a post which was quoted in the comments of the previous post:
"OK, that's three. Complainers, whingers and absurdly indignant killjoy assclowns are now subject to bannination for the duration of Mod Madness without further warning at my discretion. My whim, actually. Especially if the complaint appears in this thread where I am really really likely to see it. I don't care about annoying people with word filters this week. I understand and accept that some of you find it annoying. And I don't care. Shut up and let the mod staff have some fun for a few days."

Dear Randall, your forum moderators are profoundly unstable douchebags.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Comic 717: Inspector Hilarious

Hey dummies, it's person #1 here guest postin' about a certain webcomic we all know about. First and foremost, I would like to mention that rob is a huge fatass and carl is a meanie. Now that I have insulted y'all, let's get to the comic.

xkcd is hilarious

Funny story, actually. Quite recently I told a friend of mine how and why xkcd was going downhill and how it was white-knight-esque pseudo-feminist. That was one day before he came out with 714. I was so happy the moment I read that strip, because of the i-told-you-so routine that was coming my friend's way soon. He ended up greeting me with "Damnit, person. You might be right." that day. Great fun.
Anyway, the reason I am telling this story is that today he was actually the one that lead me to read the strip when I did. He MSN'd me today saying "Son of a bitch", "Why must you ruin things for me.". I like to imagine he put a period instead of a question mark because he knows how much I like making people, specifically him, suffer. He also thought the author of xkcd was named "Rupert Murdock", which is actually kind of a badass name.

But my actual point was that keeping these words in mind, I went to the comic. It's hard not to be biased when you're writing a hate blog, it's even harder if your friend tells you something is shit ahead of time - but it's not even that. I looked at the comic. I read it, went back to him, said "I don't get it", went back to the comic, read it again, and asked him "wait, is this actually the joke? Inspector Gadget has a lot of crazy shit 'under his belt'? That's it? That was a joke in the show too, Randall just made it dirty". Ok that may be paraphrased to insert that hilarious pun.
But yes, that is it, my friend confusedly reassured me. Huh. Well. That's not funny.

I'm going to go more in-depth on the actual joke, but I wanna talk about something else first


That doesn't really look like inspector gadget. a big part about inspector gadget was not only his goofy behaviour, but also his looks. Notice that if you take away the face and the hair, you aren't left with much of his original personality or charme. Could randall possibly have picked a more retarded choice in terms of his comic gimmick? The point of a comic is that you don't spell everything out, you show it. Your characters not having faces does not make this easier. Randall did kind of a good job at making him look around and showing that no one is there, but only considering the arbitrary restriction he set himself.

visuals 2

The point of that is not to prove that I'm a shitty artist, my point is that faces bring a whole new atmosphere to the comic, and allow randall to express himself better. But since you will all just bitch at me that this is his style (this is a criticism of exactly that, by the way - his style) and that it's just something I have to accept, let's move on.
I'm not done with the art, though. Why is he shown so far away in the last two panels? There's no walls, no anything. It makes you think he shrinked. Randall, we're not asking you to draw us an oil panting in the background of your comics, but please, at least draw a line that shows us that your characters are not constantly in limbo. Also, I get that you want to show that he's alone, but too small. You have to realize that since you've drawn nothing, the borders of the panel are the first possible boundary of the room. What this means is that Gadget is standing in a hugeass room (both in height and width). The fact that it is empty is usually not a big deal since your stick figures are closeup, and their surroundings are unimportant - in this part however it plays a big role since the idea is that inspector gadget is all alone, but alive. You're getting one of these points accross.
ALSO, what's up with his arms not being down? That's weird, man. He probably realized he drew him too small to pull that off. So that makes it two points for bigger inspector.

visuals 3

Doesn't that look far less distracting and better than xkcd's version? Yes it does, shut up. Where's YOUR criticism of xkcd? What gives YOU the right to criticize my criticism?

Well, that leaves one thing. The humor. Sigh. Here's the thing, Inspector gadget was meant to be entertaining, and the fact that he had whatever the fuck seemed convenient in his hat was a joke of the show. What randall did was essentially a conversation I imagine some high schoolers are having somewhere right now. "Dude! What if Inspector Gadget had like naked chicks in his hat so he can look at them whenever he wants" "THAT IS AWESOME! HIGH FIVE! I wish I had naked chicks in my hat, man. Inspector Gadget ROCKS". We've established that it's a joke of the show, so what did Randall do? He took something that didn't belong (as it was a children's show) and mixed it with an unfitting concept. Actually, it's not like he showed an emo kid taking care of orphans, he just took something innocent and made it dirty. Rule 34, basically. Except it's not really very imaginative or funny. Hell, even if we completely ignore the bluntness of the joke, he still just showed a dude talking. It's not he even made an effort to at least surprise the reader through action (Maybe by inspector gadget pulling a dildo out of his hat or some shit. It still wouldn't be funny, but it'd at least be a little more creative than just saying something stupid.)

And then we have the alt text. A 2girls1cup joke? Really? Again? Actually, not joke. Just reference. The difference is that he thinks he can get away with just mentioning something, instead of deriving humor from it. LAME.

But enough about the comic, let's see what the forumites have to say

"go go gadget decaying comic"

"...Well congratulations, you've made Inspector Gadget unfunny and disturbing. I didn't even think that was possible. Go go gadget anti-comic!

It's like anti-hero, you see, except not at all interesting. And gone gone gadget repetitive lame joke intro phrase."

This, basically. While half of the forumites thought it would be hilarious to just say "go go gadget" and then a vague reference to the comic or anything really (implicitly giving randall credit for saying something unusual after go go gadget), a lot of them were also disappointed with the comic. Understandable.
"Just gonna say, xkcd been going downhill recently. Maybe it's just me, but it has a really different feel to it..."

"Point of order: "Lesbians doing it" is an event or possibly fantasy, not a "gadget."

A video camera and cup would be a pair of gadgets, but I don't think they ever appeared in the cartoon. (Binoculars may come in handy if his legs go off instead)."

This guy is funnier than the comic. That's really not saying much, though.
"Funny comic, awful (but predictable) mouseover."

I'm slightly uneasy about both the fact that he liked the comic and that he PREDICTED a 2girls1cup joke at the mere mention of lesbian sex. Poor guy.
"Go go gadget people getting butthurt over a difference of opinion on what is/isn't funny"

I like how this guy calls a bunch of people who just said they didn't like the comic or that xkcd was getting worse butthurt, because he was getting "butthurt" over a bunch of people not liking his awesome favorite webcomic. I'm guessing he doesn't know about this site.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

You're Just Biased!

My friends, I know what you are thinking right now. You are thinking "this website's entire purpose is undermined because it is just biased against XKCD, thus making any criticism it makes entirely invalid." Yes, you, specifically. You phrased your thoughts in that exact way. I know it. I can feel it.

Because we are biased, you are thinking, we just go looking for flaws in the comics. We are predisposed to dislike them when they come out, because that's our "job." That's the function of this blog. We certainly never say that a comic is fine, but that is beside the point. No, the fact that, as critics, we look for something to criticize, makes all of our criticisms invalid, somehow!

Look. This is what, when you were taking your high school logic class, you would have called ad hominem. (Well, YOU never actually called it that, because you are too stupid to actually understand what "ad hominem" is and think that it's just "any time someone insults you," but your teacher probably tried to drill that definition into your thick skull. Every day now he weeps for his failures. You have shattered a man's hope for the future, you dick.) You are not deflecting the criticisms, you are merely saying that because we dislike XKCD our arguments have no validity--conveniently ignoring the arguments!

It conveniently ignores other facts, too--clearly this bias comes from somewhere, since the majority of the posters here used to like XKCD. Even if they never did, they didn't go into it expecting to hate it. No, some quality of XKCD turned us off to it. Bias is not sufficient to explain our hate.

But let me get this out of the way: yes, when writing about a comic, we do, in fact, look for something to talk about. When I write a comic post it goes like this: do a cursory read to formulate a first impression; read it again to make sure I got it; start writing, referencing the comic for an in-depth analysis.

How it is, exactly, that doing an in-depth analysis of something invalidates that analysis is still a puzzle to me--it seems to me that the only way to do a correct analysis is to do so in-depth. I'm left to conclude that fanboys believe that the only acceptable way to read XKCD is to read it on a cursory level and do no thought whatsoever, and that thinking about it ruins the brilliance--like realizing that the magician at your birthday party just had the rabbit up his sleeve the whole time.

So, yes, I guess we do go looking for flaws. I'm not sure of any other way to criticize. But every time we do, this incredibly remarkable thing happens.

When we go looking for flaws, we find them.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Comic 716: Is Rob the new Megan?

Grime Machine
Good old time travel. What jokes can't you make about time travel.

I'm particularly amused by the line "woah, you're me!" Now, I have never been visited by a future version of myself, so I can't say this for sure, but I suspect that I wouldn't respond with that phrase. I might not even recognize that the person was me, because I would think it so very unlikely that this situation would arise. In the world of xkcd, however, everyone looks exactly the same, and so there's no way to tell if two characters are in fact copies of each other or if they are two completely different people. Thanks again, xkcd art!

Next, Panel 2 has a similarly dumb line like that. Think about it - if you went back in time to kill your previous self and prevent them from inventing a time machine, would you announce to them exactly what they were about to do, or would you just kill them and get it over with? Again, I have never been in this situation, so when I say I would not go through the exposition seen in panel 2, I am merely speculating.

The real problem, though, is that this comic is based on the idea that such a situation is a novel one. And it's obviously not. I try not to link to Abstruse Goose too much because I hate it, but this recent comic really is quite similar to today's xkcd. Look at them - not only do they end with a bloody object as the only color in the comic, not only do the end with future self killing off past self in order to replace him but both even that post-script sort of explanation stuck just below the last panel. I like the Abstruse Goose comic more, by the way, for two reasons: one, it has the humorous exaggeration of learning basically all possible knowledge, and two, because it's not only making a time travel joke, it's mocking the idea that you could learn C++ in 21 days.

Of course, there's another source out there that some of you were reminded of with this comic, namely, the movie Primer. There're gonna be some spoilers here, incidentally, so you are forewarned.

spoilers begin!

Primer has this happen all the time - both main characters have to go back in time routinely to kill (or just knock out, it's unclear) their past selves and replace them - sometimes while they do this they run into other versions of themselves trying to do the same thing - it's all very complicated and weird, but the point is, it's been thought out before. And of course, we know Randall is a fan of Primer, because of this.

spoilers end!

Anyway. This isn't the first comic where Randall's thought of an old idea and pretended it was original, but it's one of the lamest. The joke rehashes an old idea while adding so little new of substance that I consider it more pathetic than anything else. It's been a really terrible few weeks for xkcd, and I am perfectly happy to take a break from it. Person #1 - editor of the xkcdsucks book! - will be writing all next week and I'll return after that.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Comic 715: Googley Eyed

holy lord YES we get another graph comic! I have been waiting for these! And not just any graph comic, a TURBOCHARGED one! with 10 different graphs!


i hate these types of "comics". For one thing, I am sick of them. There was the one where he talked about kissing people. There was that one about death. There was that made up one about where people are searching for what. Just a few weeks ago there was that naked games one.

The worst, though, was when we had a comic that proved that "2 girls 1 cup" was a more popular phrase than putting other numbers the the "x girls y cups" formula. HOLY SHIT! it's only like there was a popular internet meme about "2 girls 1 cup" and there WASN'T ONE for "6 girls 5 cups." Why is anyone surprised by this?

The corresponding graphs in today's comic are "[x bottles of beer on the wall," "there are [x]lights," "drink [x] glasses of water a day" and "I got [x] problems." All of these have a common phrase they are associated with where a single specific number is used for X. Of course "I got 99 problems" will be an outlier. That's cause no one has written a popular song called "I got 39 problems"! What's the point? Maybe for "there are [x] lights" the point is that the nerd reference to star trek has permeated the internet enough that 4 is actually an outlier, but still, when your point is "star trek nerds spend a lot of time online" I can hardly care.

Anyway, that only takes us through 4 of the 10 graphs. Let's talk about the other 6. Tell me if you see a pattern:

-Number of girl- or boyfriends
-Age and lack of boyfriends (oddly, no corresponding one for girlfriends, here)
-penis length
-What middle or high school grade one is it
-bra size

Do you see what I mean? It's weirder because he doesn't actually draw attention to it in the comic - these are interspersed with the others. But the point is still: High schoolers, sexyparts, needing a boyfriend. Doesn't that make anyone else...a little creeped out?
What I really hate about these google comics is that they really, truly, have no point. You'll note that with these comics, Randall never actually tells you what you should think about any of this, never interprets the data he gives you. He just presents it. That's because, I think, he respects the scientific method enough to realize that the data he is showing you is woefully unscientific. Google results vary wildly depending on who is doing them (based on what links you've clicked on before, where you are, etc) and anyway, the number of times something is said online is indicative of very little beyond the number of times that this is said online. It tells you nothing about how people actually use that phrase in real life. Sometimes, if you are very careful, you can extrapolate more from the data, but Randall doesn't even try. He just presents the facts as being interesting on their own, which - sorry! - they are not.

Actually, not only is the data not interesting, it's not even accurate. People were arguing, quite violently, about this in the comments, so I chose one and decided to check.

I decided to look at one of the more illogical ones, the one that searched for "I'm and have never had a boyfriend." The results were: this comic is crazy wrong! The comic says that the results for 17, 18, and 19 (the outlier and the two data points next to it) are ~450,000, ~700,000, and ~400,000, respectively. My results were as follows:

if X = 17 : 8,790

if X = 18 : 9,940

if X = 19 : 5,910

How on earth did he get into the hundreds of thousands range? I have no idea. I know that some of you are thinking "well try it without quotes" but that a) is pointless, because then each age is likely to turn up in searches for other ages, and b) the results without searches make all the numbers jump up to the millions range (perhaps because of problem a). So I don't know what to conclude from this, besides the fact that Randall is just wrong.

I'm not going to bother with the others because I am lazy. I am sure some are right, I am sure that some are wrong. He's got a lot of numbers there. But it makes me think that Randall just made up some of these, which really is just sad. You can't find lame google searches on your own, so you make up boring results? Quite a good job you've got there. Quite a good job.

you have so much to be proud of


I totally forgot to link to this the other day, but a certain Suit made of Chainsaws seemed to be taking a direct shot at xkcd the other day. Given that it came the day after the "i know two things with the word ring in them" comic, and that it is basically an "I know two things with the word code in them" comic, I think it's pretty clearly about xkcd in particular. Also, xkcd shirts cost $48.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Comic 714: Porn for Nerd Women

shitty comics for stupid people

First off, isn't "Porn for Women" really old? Yes. It is. It was published on April 5th, 2007. That may not seem so old now (except actually it's almost 3 years ago so really it does), but put it this way: when this book came out, the xkcd had only 224 comics. I don't know why Randall has suddenly found reason to be offended by this book now, I guess he just heard of it for the first time? Well, ok. No reason you can't protest after the fact, right, sort of a theoretical kind of thing. Just makes it hard to sympathize with the outraged characters, you know, because it's like, well there's dozens of these books now, why are you only just finding out about it?

Here's the problem I have with so much of this "getting offended by things." This book series, it is a joke. Ok, it plays off a stereotype, I guess. The stereotype don't like doing housework and so women like to see men to housework. This stereotype - which is, as you know, currently tearing the fabric of our nation to shreds - is terrible. So anything that plays into it - a certain book, you see - is a terrible sexist monster that has to be mocked forever. Randall's female persona in the comic is striking a blow for women's equality everywhere by pointing out that she too enjoys actual pornography - a product not usually associated with treating women particularly well, or as people rather than objects. Somehow this is supposed to help the feminist cause.

I know there are some people out there who think that this comic is supposed to make the girl in it look dumb, because she doesn't understand that the book is a joke. The excuses are nice, but the fact is that clearly Randall Munroe doesn't understand that the book is a joke. Apparently the word "porn" can ONLY mean actual pornography. Apparently some people do not realize that there are phrases like "torture porn" which use the word as a metaphor. No one is pretending or arguing that Porn for Women is actual pornography; there are legal definitions for that and we know that they are not met. Does the book exaggerate for comic effect? Yes. But so what? How is that such a terrible thing?

I'm not going to go so far as to say that Randall made this comic to try to impress so called progressive women (that is what I have Rob for). But I do think that this fits into a pattern of "comics which portray the artist as highly sympathetic to women," the most obvious other example being the fact that we have seen like 18 guy-on-girl oral sexes but 0 girl-on-guy (and no gay ones! get offended by that, guys!). What does that mean? I do not want to speculate.

oh of course I want to speculate! This comic is designed to make women who think they are intelligent like Randall, because he is portraying himself as a woman who is offended by all the "right" things. The glorious irony is, that by setting himself up as a heroic defender of women's rights he is basically doing exactly what the guys do in....Porn for Women.


GUYS! Perhaps you know this already but: there is a new Perry Bible Fellowship comic! Well- there is basically a new Perry Bible Fellowship comic. Nick Gurewitch made a very PBFlike comic for some new comic book about superheroes or something. Anyway, here it is. I don't find it all that funny, but like the best PBFs, I love looking at it just the same - the art is just so great, the faces so expressive. The colors and art style just feels like an old movie in the best way.

The associated interview is well worth a read - good stuff about pacing that lesser writers could stand to study. Also, I know little to nothing about superheroes, but even I can tell that the Galactacus/Magneto idea for a comic at the end of the interview is awesome. so stop reading this and start reading that!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Comic 713: Space Adventures

sometimes i think about waffles for too longLink

There are a lot of comics that xkcd makes that ask the bold question: What would happen if certain people were replaced by young, sarcastic, smug, leet haxoring people closely modeled on Randall Munroe's ideal view of himself?

For example, there was the time he did it with the princess bride, the theoretical traveling salesman, Faust, etc. There are many others, I am sure you can think of them.

Anyway, today's comic asks, what if this ideal sarcastic nerd figure were in space?? Clearly, the answer to this question is that they would mess around with their internet connection for a while, until they were able to get some advertisement to accidentally say something illogical. Right?

That is the point of the comic - these ads are clearly lying, and if you have an unusual IP address you can make them say silly things like this. What I don't see is how that constitutes "messing with advertisers". I imagine that behind every internet ad is a large greasy man in a small dark room, with piles of money everywhere. This man does not give a shit if some sarcastic 20-something astronaut figures this out. Why would he? The point is to get people to the website. Is this astronaut more or less likely to go to the website because of this? Who knows? Probably it makes no difference. Probably someone who knows these ads are BS is not likely to visit the website anyway.

Anyways, in my imagination, I see the guy from this comic being really proud of himself for the rest of the mission and no one else on earth or near earth giving a fuck ever or even thinking about it again.

GUYS: Perhaps you have forgotten that my CONTEST is still ongoing? I have decided to keep the contest open for entries for an additional 10 days or so, because I am arbitrary and cruel like that. But also so that I could remember to put in on reddit and hopefully attract some more competitors. so upvote it, you people.

I think boy wonder Person #1 is going to guest post in a week. Just so you are all aware.
I love Kate Beaton's comics and frequently remind all of you of that fact, and I love her fat pony comics, as do all reasonable people, and so I was of course excited to hear that I would soon be able to buy one. But if that little dude actually costs $50 as some people are reporting, why, that is just crazy! I do not see how anyone would buy that unless they were really just trying to donate to the site. I know they are hard to make and are made by hand, but that doesn't mean people will want to pay large amounts for them! Well maybe I am wrong, maybe everyone will want to buy them.

ATTENTION MS. BEATON: If you send me a free Fat Pony, I will be more than happy to write a review of your product for this blog. It will get lots of attention and I will link to your store.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Programming Notes

Hello, you fat useless monsters. I am busy this weekend so I have neither the time nor the inclination to do one of the rants you all love so much, but I have some things I wanted to share.

First: if any of you are not reading xkcdexplained, why aren't you? They are amusing and you will like them. FACT.

Second: do you hate us so much you want to complain about us in real time, via IRC? The good folks at #xkcd-sucks on Foonetic would like you to verbally abuse them. The link just there is an IRC link. This one is a link for those of you who don't have IRC clients. It uses Mibbit.

Mostly it is aloria making dick jokes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Comic 712: No shit, dumbfuck!



i lied, anon pointed me to this. read it, read the post below it. if you are an xkcd apologist: go! explain how this is not the same!

Comic 711: Tortured Logic

This comic took me a while to get, actually, because its convoluted logic is so childlike, so alien to the way we usually think about things, that I could not even tell what was happening.

The idea, I suppose, is that if you do not have a seismograph to measure an earthquake, and you want to know if one is happening, you hook someone up to a polygraph and ask them if there is one. Then, if there is an earthquake and they answer "no," the polygraph will make some lines that look like seismograph lines.

Stop! stop right there, with your mind! Don't think harder! Don't ask any more questions! cage off that part of your brain that is thinking about this, and you might enjoy this comic!

For those of you who insist on thinking, you shitheads, your thought pattern may be something like this:

--But what if the guy says yes? Then there is nothing special on the polygraph. Is the idea that he just says "YES THERE IS AN EARTHQUAKE" and that is your polygraph, because hey, he told you there was an earthquake?

--Isn't the point of a seismograph to tell you how intense an earthquake was, not just whether one was happening or not?

--What if there isn't an earthquake happening? Then, if he says there is one, you still get a "there is an earthquake" reading on your polyseismograph.

--Most obviously and most importantly, how does the man in the chair know if there is an earthquake. That is, how does the guy in the chair know but not the guy standing? Of course if the earth were, you know, visibly quaking, that could do it, but then Standing Dude wouldn't have to ask.

Are you going to tell me not to think too hard about these things? Are you going to tell me that I need to relax and just take the comic as is, without thinking too hard? Well in that case I am going to tell you to shut the fuck up because these questions are so basic, so obvious to any mildly intelligent reader, and so core to understanding the point of the comic, that you have to ask them. You have to question it when the comic requires you to suspend your belief so much that one of the characters must be a magic psychic earthquake sensing mystic but otherwise, in every other detail, life would be exactly the same. If that were the case, this comic would be funny. Alas, we do not have earthquake sensing mystics on this planet! OH WELL.

Put another way, this comic seems to rely on the childlike notion that if you had a polygraph, you could figure out every truth in the world, by stating it or its opposite and seeing how the polygraph reacted. I am sure my five year old self, upon learning of a magical machine known as a lie detector, imagined hooking someone up to it, asking if aliens or dinosaurs or something existed, and, if the person said "yes" and the machine did not detect a lie, being thrilled that I had just proved the existence of aliens, and moreover, that I may get to meet them (would I ever get to meet them? only one way to find out - ask the lie detector!).

(this comic also relies on the childlike notion that polygraphs actually work as a way to establish if someone is lying or not, but let's not even take up that question, we have enough to deal with as is).

anyway, i guess what i'm trying to say is that if you liked this comic it means you are stupid.


update: a lot of commenters are saying that I've missed the point of this comic, which is to show how ridiculous the whole idea is. People! Think about what you are saying! You are saying that the point of this comic is to write out something terrifically stupid and then laugh about how stupid it is. That's like me making a typo and then saying it was a joke, because obviously I would not be so stupid as that! I was acting stupid, for a joke.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Comic 710: Unsolved Problem

Collatzeral damage

This comic is fine. It reminds me a little of the Drake Equation comic, in that it begins by telling you about a scientific principle but then just descends into a kind of meta-commentary on the principle itself. It's the kind of thing you could imagine him doing to death, but luckily he hasn't so far. So I'm not going to say much about the comic and instead use this as a way to talk about the intended audience of xkcd.

This is an interesting example of the hard math/easy math stuff we've been talking about a bit recently. It occurs to me that there are really two ways of looking at whether the science content of a comic is obscure or not: Some people might say this comic proves I'm wrong, that xkcd is not trying to broaden its audience to the point of stupidity. After all, they might say, who but math students has heard of the Collatz Conjecture? But there's a difference between not having heard of it before and not understanding it. The comic makes clear that the actual conjecture is that halving or multiplying by 3 and adding one will eventually lead you to 1. Even though it's not stated, it's clear. And once it's clear, someone with only a passing knowledge of simple math can understand the point. The math is simple. Someone could try it out themselves with any number they choose. So it's a highly accessible topic.

Contrast that with two old xkcd comics: #12 and #62. In these comics, you really have to know what they are talking about to get the joke, and it's not obvious at all from the comic what a poisson distribution or karnaugh map is. It's a joke made for people who already know these things. That's the kind of thing we don't see anymore - the requirements, so to speak, of the comic have been lowered substantially.

The question, then, is whether that is a problem. I don't think it's a problem per se but it is indicative of the selling out of xkcd - the shift from actually wanting to make actual nerd jokes (and not "nerd as a subculture like any other" jokes) to wanting to have as broad an appeal (and as broad an audience of potential shirt buyers) as possible. What do you guys think?

Lastly, while randall's graphical depiction of the conjecture is nice, I find myself fascinated by the patterns in this one.

Friday, March 5, 2010

(One Of) The Reasons I Hate XKCD

I think Carl made a post about this a while back, but Carl is always wrong about literally everything he ever says and I am always demonstrably correct, so I thought I'd give this a go. This one is dedicated to my fans, who complain that my posts are too long and ask if I have nothing better to do. Written early on a Saturday morning during a bout of insomnia. Started at 2:04 AM, finished at 2:58 AM, with IM conversations in the background. Hugs and kisses!

I used to like XKCD. Like, a lot. I was embarrassingly fanboyish about some of the comics. When I first found this blog (I don't remember how this happened now; it was long ago and much has changed) I was an XKCD apologist. Unlike many cuddlefish, however, I was willing to engage in intelligent, reasonable discussion, and quickly found that many of the comics were indefensible. At first it went something like "well, he's having an off week." But that off week never went away. As is so often the case with this scenario, there's no one moment or one thing that swayed me. But in the space of a few weeks, I went from apologist to hater.

The problem isn't just that Randall stopped being talented, though, and often the posts here focus on what makes an individual comic so bad. This often misses the broader picture, and is part of why I started writing these posts in the first place. There is more than simply the details we point out, and it is in some ways part of XKCD's entire corpus. It is also why I used to like it.

The problem is basically this: Randall does not write jokes, as such. He writes inside jokes.

You see, Randall is synonymous with XKCD, far more than any other webcomic is synonymous with its creators. In almost every other comic--and I am including here Overcompensating, despite its function as a journal comic--there is a break between the creator and the created. There is none with XKCD. Perhaps it is the stick figure style, the fact that it started as doodles and notes he never really intended to share with anyone. But this is why the Megan thing feels so creepy--a phenomenon that I maintain would not happen with other webcomics--and this is why XKCD is so irritating.

I first truly noticed this phenomenon with the Tautology comic. Members on the forums started coming up with their own "tautologies" based on this. This appears to be fanboyish behavior, but I was unconvinced that this alone was to blame, because I was struck with how similar this looked to your garden variety inside joke.

Any social circle has inside jokes, and most social circles have at least one person who is the constant source of them. They are generally not, strictly speaking, funny of their own right, but to the social circle, it provides amusement which is derived almost entirely from being part of the ingroup. It goes something like this:

While getting coffee with his friends, an idea strikes a central charismatic figure for something that amuses him--an observation about something fairly mundane in the world. He mentions this to his friends, who agree that this is amusing, and come up with other examples. The next several minutes of conversation consist of coming up with and discussing examples, and picking favorites. If the idea is particularly memorable, or if it strikes the fancy of the central figure--if he really fixates on it--then this will become more than just an evening of conversation. It will become an inside joke. It will be a little game they play, where they come up with examples for each other.

This explains XKCD fairly well, but it does not, at first, seem to explain the proselytizing. However, one must recall that many social circles try to include other people in their inside jokes. They make them around others, they explain the origin stories. This feels validating. It's a form of social bonding.

Except with XKCD, the ingroup is essentially the entirety of internet culture--or rather, this is what they perceive themselves to be. XKCD is an inside joke for everyone who is into the internet; its fans do not see it as a comic but as a source of inside jokes--they are part of a massive social circle with Randall as its central charismatic figure, but which, they tell themselves on the forums, is filled with very excellent and very intelligent people.

This also helps to explain the utter shock that some XKCD fans demonstrate towards someone disliking the comic. If you express dislike for a central figure in any social circle they will react with confusion--this is not only someone they personally like, but someone who is at the core of their social lives and those of several other people. To be in that social circle and yet dislike its core is nothing short of baffling.

The problem that I have with this arrangement is not the community as such--I appreciate the internet's potential for community formation--and it is not the fact that inside jokes are not actually funny--every social circle has them and they can be quite enjoyable.

No, it is that this community, this feeling of being part of an ingroup, this sense that the ingroup is the entire internet, is a ruse. The XKCD fans think that everyone is part of the group or would gladly join it if they somehow missed out. They act as if the whole internet is their community, casually drop references or links whenever something that reminds them of one of their corpus of 700 inside jokes pops up, and then act hurt or confused when you tell them you don't like XKCD. Randall Munroe is not their friend. In all likelihood he will never be.

And so they try to proselytize and seek members for a community which does not exist, never once pausing to analyze their motives here, but always congratulating themselves for being part of such a wonderful community. And Randall Munroe cheerfully continues the deception, writing things with a formula that's pretty easy to repeat, inside-joke style, and writing about an array of things such that every member of his ingroup will have an opportunity to repeat the injokes. It is built entirely on a false premise and devotion to a concept that isn't even real.

Contest commentary!

I figured that because all of you are a talkative bunch, you'd want a place to discuss the entries, post ideas or critiques, etc. Enter the contest by posting a link on this post, don't post it here. Full rules and details are there also.


official xkcdsucks contest thread

HEY GUYS. It is finally here. I made enough money off this site's advertising to have a contest with SERIOUS PRIZES.

This post is where you should post a link to your entries. Also post your e-mail and whatever name you want to use (I'd say anything but "anonymous" should work fine). If you don't post your e-mail address I can't get in touch with you if you win, so you really should do it. Note: this post is just for contest entries. There's this thread for commentary. So don't post anything but entries! I will probably delete anything else (this is just so that it's easy for all of us to go through them all quickly.)

A rundown of contest rules etc:

What: Entries are remixed xkcd comics, using your own text (or xkcd text, whatever you want) and entirely xkcd art. No other limitations, so you should have plenty of material to work with. If it's not clear that your art is from xkcd, we may ask you to provide comic #s where you got your source material. Remember: The best entries will use the humor-sans font!
UPDATE: Just so you guys know, you can enter something you made a while ago, and even something you've linked to before here. It does not have to have been made expressly for this contest.

How to win: The finalists will be chosen by me and me alone, probably about 5 entries. After that, I'll make a poll and you guys can all vote in it and that is how we will choose the winner and runners up.

Prizes: The top winner will get a $100 TopatoCo gift certificate and the two runners up will get $20 TopatoCo gift certificates. Both of these are negotiable, so if you win, we can work out another prize if you want (but I retain the right to go "fuck it, man" and just give you the damn gift certificates).

Deadlines: This thread will stay open for 2 weeks (ie, until the end of Friday March 19th) until about March 28th or so. I'll take a little while to decide on finalists, and then I'll put up the poll for winners a little after that.

Sounds good? Remember: Post links here, post commentary on this thread.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Comic 709: jesus god almighty

carl posted too! he lied to me! hey read his first ok.

Hey, it's Jay, me again. Would you believe I liked today's comic?

Hahahaha! Joking. Did you fall for that? What is this I am seeing.


Slow down. Back up. Let's take this from the top.

This is a webcomic. It is comic number 709 of the critically and commercially successful xkcd, written and drawn by Randall Patrick Munroe (born 1984.) This comic fully sustains Randall. It is how he makes his living. At the time of writing, it is the most popular webcomic in the world.

This is comic number 709 and I do not understand it. I do not understand it because it does not make sense. There are about five theories about this comic floating around right now, the most credible one being that this is a reference to that part in Star Wars, you know, when the Ewoks mistook C3PO for a god. It's funny because it's vaguely similar to the part in the Bible where God spoke to Moses through the burning bush. Hee it's a reference hee hee and it's funny because it doesn't make snort sense and that's why it's funny hee


This comic is not remotely funny, and there is nothing you can do to make it funny, and there is nothing you can say to convince me that it's funny. This is because I am a sane fucking person who has a decent sense of humor and I don't find stupid bullshit funny just because I saw it on This comic has no joke and no attempt at a joke and no basis in rational thought and it is incredibly stupid


I am truly in awe of this comic. I don't like Randall, but if you had asked me up until, say, 12:05 AM on Wednesday, I would have told you I believed he was at least reasonably intelligent. He worked for NASA, and he was funny once, but HO-LEE SHIT. What kind of mind, christ, could write and draw this comic, and then look and it and think, oh yeah, they're gonna love this one. This is good.

And the worst part, as usual, is not the comic itself. The comic doesn't even make me angry, by itself, just extremely confused. No, the worst part's the fans, because some of them do love it, thankfully the vast sane majority doesn't, but some of them do and I hate them for it. Let's examine them now:

On one hand, there are the fans who get the joke. They get it even though there is nothing there to get, and to them it's so fucking obvious, everyone who doesn't get it is an absolute retard, and of course they have to share what they think with the world. What's interesting to me is, there's more than one of these people and all their theories are different, but they all seem so confident, so clearly the logical conclusion is that they're all right.

Then we have the fans who don't get it. They don't get it but they don't want to say it, because that would mean criticizing Randall, their fucking god. If you drop off by the forum thread, you can see them dancing uncomfortably around the issue, the giant fucking elephant in the room, cracking Star Wars references, because they can't quite bring themselves to directly comment on the comic because that would entail lying ("it's good") or blasphemy ("it's bad.")

And last and worst of all, we have the fans who didn't get the comic, but laughed at it anyway, because they are fucking brainwashed. And they're proud enough of this fact to post it to the forums, instead of what they should be doing, reflexively slapping themselves in the face, getting up, lighting a match, and burning a hole in their finger while they repeat to themselves over and over, "I will reexamine my life."

Do you know what the rational response is when you don't get a joke?


No, the art doesn't save this one. It's not that good. It just has more effort put into it than the usual xkcd. There is one cool touch: the shading on the stick figure's face. It makes him more visually interesting (by which I mean, it makes him visually interesting) and Randall should do it from now on. The rest is just the minimum standard you should expect from a comic. Hey, he managed not to fuck up R2-D2. Holy shit.

I don't even understand the art. What are all those lines supposed to be? Radiating beams of light? Is the burning bush exploding? It looks like they're in a tunnel. See, it's partially obscuring the bush in the second panel. Why are they in a tunnel?

If this is a reference to Star Wars, shouldn't the stick figure be an Ewok?

Goddamn I feel like I'm caught in a time loop or something, because I keep saying the same thing, every guest post. There's no joke! Why is there no joke! And for once there literally is no joke, not even an attempt at one, no the C3PO interpretation is not a joke. Your pet theory about the etymology of YHWH isn't either. You think it's funny. You're an idiot. It's not.

This is, far and away, the unfunniest, most perplexing, shittiest xkcd in a long, long while. You have to go through absurd mental contortions to understand it and it sucks once you do. xkcd sucks.

PS: remember this?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Comic 709: An Affront To God

I Am....pissed

So there's a real weird story with this. In the minutes before this comic was uploaded, I was googling around about xkcd, as I so often do. I somehow came to a url by the name of . I was curious, so I clicked it. It was - and still is, as far as I can tell - simply a copy of xkcd. See for yourself. Isn't that weird? It is weird as fuck. But that is not the point.

The point is that at the time, itself had not yet updated (for me at least) but biblequizzzingwebsite, I guess because it had never before been loaded on my computer, did have the new comic. So I see it, and my first thought is "well that's weird. it's just some strange religious parody of xkcd. they sure got the random nerd references down." But then I was like, wait, this is too close to real. What is this website?

I still, of course, have no clue. But I am sad to say that it appears this bullshit is indeed a real xkcd.




Where can I even start with this? No one can even figure out what the joke is supposed to be. One popular theory is that it is a joke on the time Ewoks thought C-3PO was a god in RotJ. Some people think that it's a joke on droids being named with letters, as god is with YHWH (or YHVH). Some say the same thing but with LOM. Others say it has to do with Anthony Daniels recording a version of the bible (except: he didn't.) Some people think it is just a contrast between a grandiose introduction in panel 1 and a nerd reference in panel 2. this guy, astoundingly, thinks it is about the LHC. In short, you've got readers - loyal, xkcd loving readers - completely disagreeing about what this comic is supposed to be.

Now on its own, this fact is a problem. If you have a joke you want to tell, the point of the comic is that you are expressing that joke through words and images, ideally in the clearest and funniest way. If your readers (your readers! you, Randall! I am talking to you! this is not hypothetical!) can't figure out what the joke is, then you have failed. It's not the worst thing in the world, I guess, but if it happens a lot, you've got a real problem. To be fair, this is not a problem that xkcd has all that often (the problem tends to be the quality of the jokes themselves, not their presentation). But it's part of the growing collection of signs that xkcd is really, truly, objectively, sucking.

Did you think I had gotten to the core of why this comic is terrible? I did not! See, these complaints are just the outskirts, the economically depressed suburbs surrounding Shit City. See, the problem is not just that all the readers came up with so many different explanations for what this comic is supposed to be. It's that none of them make any fucking sense.



First off, the ones that deal with the name of god. "Elohim" and "YHVH" would all be perfectly ok names to make jokes off of, if he had used them, which he didn't. For example, had the first panel been "I am YHVH, blah blah blah, and this is R2-D2" then it would have made some fucking sense. Because the droids in star wars all go by letter or number names, all spelled out like that, and it's not totally inconceivable to imagine a droid named Y-HVH or YH-VH or something. BUT RANDALL DIDN'T DO THAT.

Is the joke about how Ewoks thought threepio was god? I hope not, because as I recall, he was not exactly insisting that he was. His attitude was what you would call bewilderment and not exactly imposing. Not exactly much in common besides the notion of some sort of supernatural power. Anyway, R2 had nothing to do with that scene (right?) and it's not like threepio was even introducing himself to the ewoks, so if you wanted a good threepio line to make god say, it wouldn't be "and this is my counterpart, R2-D2" it would be something like "I command you to release master luke" (which even works with the comic, as Bible God asks Moses, in this scene, to ask pharaoh to free the israelites, so you've got a common theme there).

If Anthony Daniels had just recorded an audio version of the bible, then it would be funny, because hearing the bible in his voice might make one append c-3po quotes to bible verses. BUT HE DIDN'T DO THAT so it's just stupid. In a further example of Randall's so-close-and-yet-so-far syndrome, James Earl Jones actually did record a version of the bible, so making a Vader joke may have worked here. May. But hey, randall, it's not like you tried, so whatever, fuck it!

Was this comic supposed to just contrast God's super-grandiose introduction with C-3PO's epically mild one? If I even have to explain? Can I trust that you are all intelligent enough people to see that that is a stupid fucking piece of shit? Here, I'll use a mocking tone of voice to make fun of the thought process that might have created that nonsense. "What are two things I can mash together? I know! I'll do a joke about how friggin crazy god is when he introduces himself! Or wait...could I make a joke about humble c-3po is when he introduces himself?" HINT: THOSE IDEAS BOTH SUCK DELIRIOUS QUANTITIES OF ASS. "Why, who cares, I'll instead make a joke about both of them! What if one spoke in the words on another? How very...incongruous! yes, it must be so."

I know there are other little theories about what this comic is supposed to mean. They are all even worse than the ones above. Nothing works. Nothing makes sense.

Lastly, look. I complain a lot about what we call reference humor, itself a subcategory of fan service. It's where instead of telling a joke, you just make a reference to something. It's not a joke about the thing - star wars, in this case. You can make good star wars jokes. That's fine. But if you just say "star wars" or "kessel run" or "this is my counterpart, R2-D2" then you aren't making a joke, you are merely referencing something. Now if your audience likes star wars, as I do, then perhaps they will enjoy this reference. After all, we like to be reminded of things we enjoy. And if fact, that sort of pleasurable feeling - which the reference is not responsible for, the referant, if you will, is responsible, the thing to which we are referring - can simulate the pleasure that comes from reading a good joke. But they are not the same. They are not the same.

Just sticking in a Star Wars reference is not a signal that you are creating anything of quality because you aren't actually doing any intellectual work. A computer could spit out pictures of star wars characters and audio clips from the movies. And that is of exactly the same nature as this comic. But some people don't seem to get that.

In fact, combine a lack of a joke with a star wars reference and smack the xkcd label on it, and some fucktard is bound to like it. Some fucktard like this fucktard. Also this guy, he is also a fucktard. As long as we have to deal with shitty people like that, xkcd will always be able to get away with bullshit. A lot of people called him on it this time - which is really encouraging. And hopefully some of those people will learn to use at least a slightly critical eye in the future. But the people who don't care, who gladly swallow shit and ask for more, they are the ones we have to reach.

Comic 708: Mind & Body Games

Sex Dice woman....been working on a SEX DICE WOMAN!

i am working feverishly on the dinosaur comics anacryptogram puzzle. am I close to solution? probably not, but I am close to a pretty good solution. Anyway, I guess I should take a break from it to post this.

This comic is stupid. For one thing, the punchline obvious, if only because it's such a common idea for a joke ("But if we have the regular dice....who has the sex dice??" "But if we have the tape John made...who has the tape with all the incriminating evidence??" "But if you were the one knocking on my door....who has been calling me on the phone all this time??"). Anyway, that's not really the big problem.

The big problem is that in order for this comic to make any sense, you have to imagine that all the characters are skull crushingly oblivious. For the couple in bed to not notice that one of the dice has DOTS on it instead of ACTUAL WORDS until they roll them is pretty dumb. Likewise real life D&D kids would be, i imagine, nerdily attentive to detail, and wonder why their dice (whose details are key to game play) had names of Naughty Bits on them. Here, though, they don't seem to notice until they are well into their game. Why? Because they are horribly dumb.

And goodness, it gets worse. The construction of that last sentence doesn't make sense at all. "I fondle the castle guard." Well that only works if you are rolling the die to figure out what kind of verb you are supposed to do, which of course, is not what you do. You roll dice to get numbers, and those then those represent other things. In short, had the die been normal, there's no way the guy would have said "I...three the castle guard" because that's stupid. He's bothering to read the verb, figure out how it relates to his situation, and announce what has happened, yet still manages to act surprised about it. In short, in real life he would just say something like "wait, what the fuck is this." I know I complain a lot about realistic dialog, and sure, there are plenty of other things a person might say there, but the point is: none of them are anywhere close to what he says.

also, dice crappily drawn.

also, making a comic about sex dice is basically the least mature thing you can do. As I put it to Jay in an e-mail, "sex dice are nominally for adults to get them to do crazy sexual things they may not otherwise have done in their sad loveless marriages but actually for teenagers to look at it novelty stores and laugh nervously about. perhaps one of them is brave enough to buy one for a friend for an awkward but hilarious birthday present." i think that is exceedingly well put.

update: i totally forgot my favorite part of all this! I think it would have been funnier if he had changed the 5 dice roll to a 2, that way the message would have been "two breasts" and instead of the dice actively encouraging him to do somethin' inappropriate to the lady, as sex dice ought, they simply give this passive description of what is already present, with no active encouragement. IT'S FUNNY TO ME.


Hey hey, so speaking of contests, like the dinosaur comics one, MY contest will be starting soon! To recap the details:

--Entries are remixed xkcd comics, using your own text (or xkcd text, whatever) and entirely xkcd art. No other limitations, so you should have plenty of material to work with.
--The finalists will be chosen by me and me alone
--The winners will be chosen by you in some kind of online poll
--the top winner will get a $100 TopatoCo gift certificate (negotiable)
--two runners up will get $20 TopatoCo gift certificates (negotiable)
--you enter by uploading your comic somewhere and linking to it in a special entries-only post that I will post, say, on thursday (update: and will run for two weeks)
--I'll also post a thing where we can discuss the entries as people send them in
--i think that is all
--isn't it cool when the blog starts making money? heck yes
--if you have any questions, post them in the comments