Thursday, April 15, 2010

Comic 727: Backslash Fiction

\/\/hy /\/ot?

OK so sometimes randall munroe is a huge obsessive (or at least pretends to be) and he gets a proverbial bee in his figurative bonnet over some minor thing that no one cares about but he does, so he can feel better than other people because he knows more than them. His fans like it, because it helps them feel better about themselves for the same reason. Let's all laugh at the people who don't know a slash from a backslash! Those stupid fuckers.

Randall often has a direct way of telling his fans that he has a particular oddity he is annoyed about today. So for example, there was this one about electricity or something, or this one about numbers too big for most people but not for him, or the one just like this one where a dude goes to extravagant lengths to put himself in a position of influence only to waste it on some stupid shit. So anyway, what I am trying to say is, I am sick of the style of "argh i am an ocd nerd who can't stand when things aren't done my way!"

But anyway, I think that's not really the biggest problem with this comic. If I wanted, I could always try to take the comic on its own, not in the context of all the other xkcds, and see how it does like that. So what do we have? We have 2 huge problems. One is that the energy levels just drops to dramatically from panel to panel. The first two panels set up what could be a fun situation. There's trickery, sabotage, etc, and it's all on TV! what is going to happen?? But then nothing interesting happens, he just wants to say his boring thing and move on. So that's terrible.

The other problem is the last few words of the comic, "...I die a little." Even if all the rest of the comic was unchanged, the first 3.5 panels could set up an ok ending. "Every time you do that I don't like, happens" is not a set up for which there are zero funny outputs. If the people on the news are pissing you off, do something about it! Don't just say you "die a little" ! That's lame to the max. Who gives a shit if you die a little? You are just a whiny little douche (i am talking to the character, here, you understand.) At least threaten to destroy something, or tell the newscasters that they look like idiots, or something. say that you made a program which will steal $10 from them every time they make this mistake, using your leet haxor skills. Or something! Don't just sit there and complain.

reread the comic and tell me that was the best possible ending. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO BELIEVE THIS.

Also, shit, when do newscasters ever do this? I don't think I've ever heard it. Have you?


  1. your comment on "i die a little" is EXACTLY the problem I had with this comic.

    let's imagine it was Mr. Hat on the show, and instead of going through this elaborate plan in order to just whine, he had taken someone hostage, or had developed some evil plan, as punishment.

    it would still be the same pedantic, nerdy bullshit, but I would be willing to accept it because at least then it would fit into the spirit of XKCD.

    and holy shit, look at the size of his head in panel 3!

  2. I've heard 'backslash' used on broadcast media... but it's been a very long time.

  3. I'm not sure 728 is even coherent.

  4. Oh man is 728 bad.

    1. Product namedropping (yes, you have a Kindle, you got to play that 4D game at that convention and now you have an iPad. Congratulations, Randall, you have an excess of time and money and nothing meaningful to do with your life except draw stick figures that own the same crap you do.)

    2. Failed topicality. Google maps was really cool, WHEN IT CAME OUT IN 2006. I don't see what's so impressive about it on the ipad. It could just as easily be any other tablet computer. Or the iPhone, which is arguably more impressive, due to its smaller size.

    3. Non-sequitur, unrealistic dialog in panel 2. No one would ever say a sentence as convoluted in structure as that. Seriously, what was wrong with just beginning it with "Right now"? wtf

    4. Techno-uptopian evangelism in panel 3. Man, there better be a good punchline in panel 4 to justify all of this crap.

    5. Panel 4. Is there a punchline? Maybe. Is it funny? No.

    6. Alt-text: wtf again. The comic said nothing about death. Is the future going to be something great or will it kill us? MAKE UP YOUR MIND RANDALL.

    It's too bad, with some of the semi-decent comics this week, I thought that Randall was getting back into his game. Maybe not.

    Also, this comic is just so stupid. Less than 1% of the world has an iPad, and those who do just regard it as another toy, not a society-changer. And cyborg monkeys--who cares? Guess what, monkeys already have arms. THEY DON'T NEED ROBOT ONES.

  5. So he took the idea of a monkey controlling a robotic arm via neural implants and thought "this is way cooler than the iPad!"

    I think even a joke about the first dried feces breaking the sound barrier when flung by a cyborg rhesus would have been better than this.

  6. Wow, this comic was bad. Your complaints were spot on, so I just have one little thing to add:

    The newscaster's line in the last panel does not make any sense. Why would he ask some random insane guy who has just revealed himself as such what his random insane opinion was? Suppose the line had been "I'm not actually a doctor or a trade expert. I'm a member of the American Nazi Party and I have a super important message about why we should kill Jews." Would you expect the newscaster to say "Golly, what is your message?" No. The line easily could (and should) be replaced by a call for security, or perhaps an attempt to change to a different story. Really, almost anything would have been better.

  7. Randall Munroe attempts to emulate Aaron Diaz's techno-spergin'. Sadly, he comes up fairly short.

  8. The people on the forums apparently watch all the wrong news channels or are lying to masturbate Randall's ego because so many of them are claiming that they hate it so much when news people do this, meaning that they've seen it happen and have to have seen it frequently.

    Maybe it's just on local channels or something.

    But yeah the iPad comic is stupid. But there seems to be some odd thing on the internet that monkeys are somehow inherently funny so surely Randall's mentioning of monkeys is LOL TEH HUMORZ.

  9. @Nate
    Masturbate Randall's ego? GROSS!! MEGA-GROSS!! I will never forgive you for the dirty feelings. /qyf

  10. idfk, inspired by 728 i guess.

  11. I've heard someone on the news say "backslash" once. I barely remember it, but I'm pretty sure it happened. I think it was the Daily Show, actually.

    I did not give a shit.

  12. What gets me is seeing website ads on a bus which have http:// at the start. Is that really necessary?!

  13. Saying "backslash" when that's not what you mean really makes no sense- backslashes aren't used for very much and the word "slash" is a much shorter word so the error should always tend to be the OTHER way around. I presumed it must be an American thing because I've never even seen it done. If it was done frequently in my presence it would certainly grate on my nerves, though.

    However, it should be noted that the anti-climax is probably part of the intended humour. The sudden letdown of expectations as the man's motive is revealed to be something trite (and supposedly a little quirky) makes the situation more comical. I don't think it was paced effectively in this case, and the line certainly wasn't worded as well as it could have been, but criticising it on the basis that the technique was used is missing the mark a little.

  14. It's not a sudden letdown of expectations. Every single panel is less interesting than the previous one, except possibly the second. And all four panels are less interesting than 725, which had the exact same "Guy overreacts to minor semantic slight" joke.

    It would also help to have anti-climax as humor if there were an exciting climax we anticipated in the first place. The closest thing we get to raised expectations is panel two, except even then we know this guy's a programmer and everything is still sedate and bland.

    I would like to stress, repeatedly, that the utter lack of reaction shots, notable surprise, or even exclamation points on behalf of both characters in 727 makes the whole thing extremely languid. There is no buildup to a big energetic climax that is subverted by the pettiness of his quibble. There is a tiny buildup to the merest blandest hint of a possible climax, which is gradually teased out over multiple panels and then gently, gently put down. Isn't anti-climax about building expectations and then subverting them? This strip does such a terrible job of building expectations that there's no subversion.

    I suppose you might think, stupidly, that panel three is more energetic than panel two. You are stupid if you think this. It is two calm, concise questions, followed by a calm, measured response. The only visual is a rather shittily-drawn stick figure. It is not part of an escalation set up by panels one and two.

    So, yes, I suppose it would be wrong to criticize 727 for relying on anti-climax. It's not wrong at all to criticize 727 for being an incredibly shitty implementation of anti-climax humor.

  15. Oh yeah? Well YOU'RE stupid if you think the first panel is more exciting than the second panel so nyah

    PS my daddy could beat up your daddy.

  16. RE: 728

    This is literally the worst comic I ever read. I actually screamed at the screen in disbelief. It's the most horrible, cliched, unfunny piece of crap to ever hit the web. Randall should just stop right there and stop making any more comics. His job is done. He has produced the worst webcomic ever. Ctrl-Alt-Del? Electric Retard? Billy the Heretic? They don't hold a candle to this shit. At least you could enjoy those in an ironic way. xkcd #728 is not like this. It's the bottom of the barrel. The actual bottom. It's like Randall Munroe decided to play an elaborate prank that culminates in this one single comic. Yes, the joke is on us. We got tricked into believing this guy is talented and funny. His comic gets mentioned in the mainstream media. Eventually it becomes the most popular webcomic ever despite its ever decreasing quality. And then comes the punchline. The comic so bad it makes you want to scream. It makes you throw things at your computer screen. It makes you jump around the room, screaming "DEAR LORD LET ME UNSEE THIS!!!!". In fact, it singlehandedly proves the absense of any benevolent deities. The universe itself recoiled in terror the moment this comic was conceived. How could you, Randall Munroe, unleash this hell beast on your unsuspecting fans??? Not that there weren't any warning signals. But while some xkcd comics were bad, and some were awful, they remained in the realm of theoretical possibility. This time Randall unleashed something special. He has somehow managed to tap into the stream of anti-humor so potent, that it could suck off the funny from anything it touches. Why? Why have you done this to us, Randall? What have we done to deserve a comic this bad? The mind boggles, really.

  17. iPad comic: what is up with her hair in panel 2? I noticed this and it threw me a bit.

    She looks like she's wearing a helmet. Yeeeah

    Text: uuurgh. "I laugh at you fools getting excited at your eye-pad! the great munroe is always ONE STEP AHEAD!"

  18. The best use (and last use that I know of) was for OJ Simpson's web-site: slash slash backslash slash backslash.

  19. 728 is... uh. Yeah. Not funny, not insightful, not anything. "Hey, this hot new gadget that I got (yeah that's right, I have an iPad, I'm totally in the 'in' crowd, see, see?) is kinda cool... but there's other stuff out there that's cooler!" Um... okay. I mean, duh. What was the point of telling us this, exactly.

  20. Carl...

    Carl, I am going to kill you for not pointing out just how INCREDIBLY STUPID Randall is for not realising that browsers don't effing differentiate between the slashes!

    No, I'm not kidding! None of them do! I'm even using the six-year-old Internet Explorer right now, and it doesn't care which you use!

    I mean, goddam!

  21. @Plasma

    ahh, yeah they do.

  22. @Plasma: well, using firefox in ubuntu here and while I was fairly certain you are talking crap I put it to the test: you're talking crap :P

    \ and / are very different and firefox 3.5.9 treats them so.

    Not that this makes the comic in any way, shape or form acceptable: it is a heap of male cow's feces.

  23. Using FireFox on a not terrible OS and it works fine for m.e

  24. Plasma, I just replaced one of the slashes in the URL for this page with a backslash. I got a 404. So Firefox 3.6.3 DOES differentiate between the slashes, at the very least.

  25. Actually, I'm using Firefox 3.6.3 and found that it lets you use backslashes as long as you replace all the slashes with backslashes. If you leave http:// in there, those slashes have to be replaced too. However, it just goes through and fixes it for you so it's still wrong to type it that way.

  26. Comic 727 is horrible, and we can all agree on that.

    Comic 728... aw, damn, Randall!

    I had this slight impression women in xkcd were supposed to be cool. But this Megan here in particular is especially preachy and a party pooper.

    Also, this reminds me of that Scribblenauts comic... you have stick guy and stick girl commenting on this new thing, and one of them is over enthusiastic and the other is being a dick/bitch. Except the girl always wins in xkcd, so Randall can't have the guy come up with a better answer.

    Finally: why is using Google Reader on iPad so "futuristic"? As far as I could see, the iPad is an iPhone with a bigger touch screen. Using Google Maps in it should be just the same, but with a bigger area. And if I got those sounds he's making right, he's just sliding around and zooming; again, something you can do in the iPhone just as well.

    And that's all for now. Mole out.

  27. Ok, I assume using Google Maps on the iPad could be sort of fun. I'm willing to accept that. Even then, I was horrified at how awful this comic was. I went into xkcd already expecting something terrible, and EVEN THEN I was shocked. What the hell IS this?? Okay, so the "joke" is "lol, there are so many interesting and amazing things happening around the world, and you loser is all excited with a stupid new toy", yeah, ok. Now the question: why is the joke spelled out twice in the final panel? The sarcastic "Yeah, but your iPad is cool too" ALREADY is the (utterly boring) "punchline"; why do we need to guy to spurt out such a bloody, horribly boring and idiotic reply? He CLEARLY EXPLAINS the joke, as if we weren't able to get it. This is just not pandering, this is just not appealing to the lowest common denominator -- this is BAD WRITING.

    And the joke is bland and boring. There's nothing fun going on here, and the ONLY possible situation in which this could be interesting or funny is if we cared about the characters. If the comic were better worded, it at least would be just mediocre instead of actively horrible, but there's just no way I can even think of being amused by this. It's even hard for me to consider this the "worst comic ever" because it's completely mind-numbing.

    Captcha: combod. COMBO'D!

  28. both 727 and 728 feel like xkcd is getting extremely repetitive. Like the volvo one, it's the exact same thing. Guy goes on the news for a stupid reason. And that wasn't the first time this has been done either. The ipad one is kinda like the kindle one with the existentialist


    when in fact we all know he immediately orgasmed when it was revealed at the press conference

    In fact, that would make it a lot funnier: in the last panel, the guy should just be like, "I wasn't listening, I was busy recording your tits when you bent over on my chair." Well, maybe that's not funny, but at least it'd be honest.

    At any rate, "nerd declares the future will be better than the present" is both superfluous and disingenuous. We have on-demand entertainment and video phones now. This is the future I was promised as a child, I am perfectly satisfied with it, and I will hit you in the face with a rock if you start waxing on about technological singularities or flying cars.

  30. Try this: read comic 727, then flip back to 725. Imagine if Randall had actually posted them in this order, and not with a gap comic in-between. NOW both suddenly become funny, as 725 becomes a self-deprecating swipe at his own behaviour. As it is, he's exhibiting the EXACT same trait he skewered five days before and apparently doing it completely unironically.

  31. "I wasn't listening, I was busy recording your tits when you bent over on my chair."

    See, that's the problem. iPad doesn't have a camera.

  32. @Mole:

    "the iPad is an iPhone with a bigger touch screen"

    Not even that. It's an iPod Touch with a bigger touch screen. The iPad can't make calls.

  33. Stick men are perfect for a comic about nerds and dweebs. I'm waiting for the day when xkcd-man needs to draw someone strong, athletic and powerfully built - how is he going to do it?

    A comic full of weedy, weedy ole weeds, for weedy dweebs and nerd-like dorks, written by the king of all dorks.

  34. Just as a data point, I've heard "backslash" on the TV fairly often, I remember hearing it within the last couple weeks. I think I mainly see it during ads for local stuff. It does kind of piss me off for reasons similar to what Anon@10:47PM mentions.

    But 727 was still lame and not particularly amusing.

  35. Anybody notice the length of the arms in 728? That shit is weird.

  36. Okay for the first time in months "stop spoiling my future with your slightly more distant one" made me smile slightly.

    I am ashamed.


  38. Every time you say "backslash" as part of a web address on the air, I put a golf club through my TV.

    You're right! It IS better!

  39. From 'No One Is Forcing You To Read XKCD:'

    "Sure, some of the time you can ignore it. But every time I see it I die a little inside."

  40. Except there was no preposterous, wacky situation potentially building up to something awesome in that essay.

  41. Also.

    This could have been an inside joke to nerds, but he's sold out to explain the joke in the alt-text. He's appealing to a wider group of people. You're right!

    I used to like xkcd. Now it's crap 98% of the time. I don't know why I keep trying.

  42. K. Donovan - yeah that was a funny bit in the comic alright.


    Editor: "Randy, google maps isn't exactly 'the future'. That's not a bad joke line though, so how about thinking of a better example of 'the future' and writing your comic around that?"
    Randy: "Hey check out my new iPad pretty sweet huh yeah totally".

    - - -

    Editor: "Regards this newsreader comic, Randy. You know that phrase "show don't tell" I keep repeating? Why not apply it here? Why not "show" us this guy getting a degree inc journalism, and interning in a tv station, and maybe going to loads of dangerous reporting areas like Iraq and such, all for the sake of some minor petty frustration?"
    Randy: "Well when you put it like that, hey it sure does flow better. But uh, isn't that a pretty old tired joke?"
    Editor: "Yeah. Isn't it."

  43. @Keep - Made me think of this

    for no real reason

    i just like linking to kate beaton

  44. I fed a fish to a pelican
    at Frisco Bay
    It tried to eat my cell phone
    He ran away

  45. Water, fire, air, and dirt
    Fuckin magnets, how do they work?
    And I don't wanna talk to no scientist
    Y'all motherfuckers lyin', and gettin' me pissed

  46. it's really easy to make 727 funny. Just imagine 2 extra panels:
    Panel 5: beat pause of silence
    Panel 6: Newscaster: Good.

  47. Even easier way to make 727 funny:

    Panel 5: beat pause of silence
    Panel 6: Goatse.

  48. When I read this comic, I thought to myself "Wow, that was terrible. There's no way anyone could find that funny, or even worth thinking about." So, like an idiot, I looked at the forum to confirm this. Turns out I was wrong! The comic is hilarious and wonderful!
    I think Randall could have just written the words "I hate it when people say 'backslash'" inside a rectangle, and the forumites would respond the same way. GOOMH and all that.

  49. Mr. Monroe could put "I hate it when people kick puppies" inside a blank box, and people would confirm it as interesting and insightful commentary.

  50. An edit of the 'iPad' comic. Some minor changes, and I think it's much, much improved. Sorry for the lack of humor-sans, it won't read on my computer for some reason.

  51. Nice one, Alex. It was actually more persuasive and funnier than the original (which isn't say much, but still).

  52. FYI Alex's rewrite can also be found at\0ayvU.png

  53. Pffft, as if Randall cares about technology that actually helps people. No he's only impressed by really awesome stuff like mind controlled monkeys.

  54. iPads have a practical use?

    The monkey thing is a precursor to cybernetic limbs on humans. It brings us one step closer to people literally having iPads in the palms of their hands.

  55. No I was talking about Alex's edit.

  56. Back in the day, Randall would have just made a one-panel comment about backslashes. Perhaps even comparing a backslash to a regular slash and adding "News Anchors: Learn the difference". And that would have fit in with the old, quirky xkcd just fine.

    Now he has to set it up with "characters" and "dialogue" for some reason, making it eleven billion times worse. If it were just an observation - and he wasn't trying to pass it off as a JOKE - okay, cool. I can't manage to get enraged over an observation, no matter how trivial.

    But the fact that he has to make it a performance just bugs the shit out of me. It's not a funny observation! It's just an observation. Not all observations are observational humor.


  57. A measure I use to evaluate comics, that are really based on an idea, and not character humour, is to compare how amusing I would find it if I had that conversation with my friends.

    For instance:
    -Friend: I went to the airport, and you could click on a seat anywhere on the plane. So I clicked on the cockpit.
    -Me: Haha

    -Friend: I have this plan, that I will pretend to be an expert in something, so I can go on tv. Then I will say "Everytime you say backslash as part of a web address, I die a little."
    - Me: What? You die a little? What kind of pathetic thing to say is that? That's your grand plan?

    - Friend: Your ipad is cool and all, but there are right now monkeys controlling robot arms via neural implants.
    - Me: Yeah. Is that the best example of futuristic science you can think of though? I mean, monkeys already have arms.

  58. jp I agree with that, a lot of recent Xkcd is just random funny things you get when idly talking with friends. "Wouldn't it be funny if you could choose a cockpit seat?" "Hey dude, check out my iPad, it's the future!" "Yeah, I'm not that impressed, it's just a netbook really, science can do much better these days".
    I don't read comics for random brain-farts, or at least, if I'm reading a random brain-fart, I want it expressed in an interesting, funny or insightful way, this isn't the case

  59. jp: Spot on. I am often very annoyed with the quality of xkcd comics when I realise that the content is something I would say in a throwaway message on MSN, etc.

    The point isn't that I say amazingly witty things in instant message. I don't. Do you see, Randall? You t-shirt flounder.

  60. I loved this comic, as well as all the ones you pointed in the description.

    if you just can't (under)stand geek comics just don't read them.

  61. pretty sure I got the joke entirely, and it was STUPID.

  62. you're kind of a whiney bitch aren't you?

  63. I am! you noticed. nice work, detective!

  64. Watching the NFL Playoffs and saw that Audible Pepsi commercial and they said “backslash” and i about flipped! I get really bothered by this, so i decided to look it up and see if I’m the only one. Glad to see I’m not! What really bothers me is if you don’t even know, why would you even say “back” before you say “slash”? If I don’t know what color my boss’s car is but I know it’s a, say, Grand Am, I’m not going to say “My boss will be showing up in a red Grand Am.” I’d leave the “red” out of it! If you don’t know, just leave the “back” out of it! I wouldn't mind as much if they called a backslash a "slash", at least it's some kind of slash! What do they call a backslash? Sorry, it’s a pet peeve.