Sunday, May 16, 2010

Comic 740: Softer, Worse, Slower, Weaker

omgz a poe reference let's all get TOO EXCITED

alright so CLEARLY we are all looking at this comic and saying "woah hey that art looks different! it looks cool!" As you know, though, I am a crappy artist and thus do not like to really talk about what the art in xkcd is like. I agree that it's cool. I think it adds a lot to the feel of this comic, and lets everyone know "HEY GUYS, YE OLDE TIME HORROR" genre without having to outright say "poe reference! poe reference!"

A lot of people like to take comics like this and give the joke a pass, saying that at least the art is good, so we should be nicer on the joke. I, of course, disagree wholeheartedly. The whole reason that this is a comic format is to tell a joke; the art (as well as the text and any other details) should be serving that end. If we just want nice art we can go to a museum.

Now this is, actually, one of the few cases where I think the art in xkcd does help advance the joke, as stated above. But the art can only do so much - how is the joke, on its own?

I say: Pretty bad! The joke seems to be that much like the character in The Telltale Heart, who (spoiler alert!) hears the beating of the victim's heart after the murder has happened, the main character here hears the pounding bass of one "Daft Punk" band of musicians, known, as we are aware, for their steady techno beat (commenters! this is your chance to harangue me for my usage of "techno" right there! go!).

So, to reduce it further, the joke is that he killed the band, and then he heard their beating, which is sort of (like most beats) a heart beat, so it is a lot like the story. But - that doesn't really make sense. Throwing out the whole premise of "wait, you killed the band? what's the story there? why did you do that? oh, i guess we are supposed to not care and just go with it," it's still not done right: The "crazy twist" is that he killed a modern popular band, giving what should be a humorous contrast between the format (gothic-y horror) and the content (daft punk). But that contrast is given away in the first panel! and it doesn't even get emphasis, it's just an aside! it's just "ever since I murdered daft punk, [rest of the sentence]."

An even better joke, as many people pointed out, if to have the beating be real, and just be coming from the floor below (bass being a frequency of sound noted for causing reverberations elsewhere nearby). In fact, he could basically have just pasted comic 411 right underneath this one, and that would have worked pretty well.

that is all i have to say on THAT matter, I think.


  1. it shouldn't really bug me that iTunes samples tend to be thirty seconds long

    but it does

  2. Are you daft? The twist is that the heartbeat is a drumbeat. Tada!

  3. You fool! Everyone knows Daft Punk is house, not techno!

    He should have murdered the Technoviking.

  4. 741 is beautiful

    is it that he's self-aware and referencing himself? is it that he's brazenly unaware and making an ass out of himself?

    it's all left to the reader, it either way he's a shitty writer.

  5. Maybe I'm jumping the gun a little, but what the hell is with 740? Even though I've grown accustomed to asking "What is the joke?" when reading a new xkcd comic, I'm usually at least able to figure out what the joke is supposed to be. I can't even get that far with 740. I'm completely baffled as to where the punchline is.

  6. Er, sorry. 741, not 740.

  7. No one can figure out 741. Not even in the freaking Fourm!
    Randell did Terrible!

  8. The joke's not funny, but xkcd hasn't been funny for a long time now. I'm generally satisfied when the "comic" is either interesting or clever. I'm okay with 740. It's better than usual which has to be something, even if usual is shit. 741? I have no idea what the hell is happening. I'm anxiously waiting for the good people over at xkcd explained to update.

  9. I admit I chuckled at this comic but probably because I like daft punk so much. I think this one could've been a little longer and create a bit of suspense like on poe's tale, and, again, similarly erupt into a violent climax. However, like shakespeare said, "brevity is the soul of wit", and the art already conveys most of the feeling, so perhaps a more elaborated 1st panel could've done the job instead.

  10. I took it that he disliked Daft Punk's music to the extent of despising the band, as that's the only possible explanation for the murder that would make sense without further explanation. The punchline is a little bit funnier that way too.

  11. I actually liked 740. It made me laugh. Solid xkcd, gj randall, etc.

    741, however, is probably the worst one since 709. It's like a panel from a longer strip out of context. The alt-text doesn't help at all either (but hey no surprise there). At least 709 had a semblance of a joke; This one is completely jokeless, unless you somehow count "Awesome! I love content" as a punchline. It's the kind of comic your out-of-touch local newspaper political cartoonist would draw. "Hmm. Blogging? That's a thing relevant people do, right? I'll go for that."

    Randy, why you always gotta be pullin' the rug out from under us like that? =[

  12. The art in 741 looks really familiar. Like he just put new words in an old strip. But I'm not going to go through 740 previous XKCDs to confirm it.

    Isn't establishing your audience a good thing to do before you start writing? The presenter's speech could actually be a good idea:
    1. Identify audience
    2. Identify subject matter
    3. Begin writing

    Was 741 perhaps a subtle dig at this blog? All I can say for sure is that it contains post-punchline dialog.

  13. I feel like he's bashing himself...which is odd. He seems to be admitting he isn't funny and that he only survives by sucking out the cerebral fluids of cuddlefish who lurv him.

  14. 741: I think there's supposed to be text under it, with something vaguely resembling a joke. Otherwise this is the worst thing ever created by a human being.

  15. 741: I didn't think it was that hard. It's essentially 'you guys, why is blogging focussed on consumerables and identifying demographics and all that ad speak! it should be about what you write!". The "Awesome! I love content!" is in this case supposed to be something no-one normal would say: you don't get excited about "content generation", you don't follow a blog for "content", that's a cynical marketeers' abstraction of "interesting stuff written down".

    Still not funny though.

  16. 741 seems to be mocking those "social media guru" types who hang out on Twitter a lot. Or just business presentations in general.

    It's just not very funny.

  17. 741: So the audience member is shrewd enough to know that blogs are primarily about good content and not some nebulous concept of 'reader relationships' yet as soon as his point is acknowledged by the speaker he changes into one of those "Yeah...I like money" morons from Idiocracy. Just how is Randall trying to characterise this guy? Are we supposed to identify with the audience member, the speaker, both or neither?

    And the alt-text is just childlike.

  18. Charles Augustus FortescueMay 17, 2010 at 5:37 AM

    I see your point about moving the Daft Punk reference to the last panel and making that reveal a traditional punchline. That would have made it into a more traditional, possibly cheesey comic. Here I think XKCD Man's chosen to go down a more modernist, atmospheric route, not unlike A Softer World.

  19. Randal has clearly never read 'A Softer World'...

    In my opinion, to go down that route, the murder should only be implied in the last panel with the set up about the beating and Daft Punk in the first two? And the pictures should be much more distant from the subject -- actually just get rid of the stick man and it gets a lot better?

    Anyway, at least he tried to draw something.

  20. 741. Worst xkcd ever?

  21. WTF
    Are these people serious? This get out of my head shit is getting old. I swear if I ever find the person to post this stupid tripe I will taint stab the shit out of them.

  22. I had no idea what 741 was on about until I saw this in the forum:

    "I feel connected to the author and therefore appreciate the comic, regardless of whether or not I understand the joke or find it funny, and regardless of whether or not the comic actually contains a joke."

    and now I'm convinced that it must be some meta-commentary on xkcd itself.

    Randall hasn't even bothered to use original art, he's just taken it from the 'citation needed' comic, just to emphasize that he can do pretty much whatever he wants and his fans will like it. He's become self aware!

  23. I just checked the Wikipedian Protester comic drawing and the comic 741, they are completely different. Did you even look? There's no way he just copied and paste the art from the older one.

  24. Techno? I'll bite (but I'm taking your side). I was having this exact argument 5 days ago and apparently made an ass of myself in front of the most one of the most popular psybient dub artists in the world while waiting for him to take the stage.

    It's like classical. If you want to be a dick about it, Vivaldi and Bach are not classical music (they're baroque), but in common usage classical includes baroque, "classical", romantic, and contemporary music with a similar sound.

    So what do we call "techno"? Electronica is a stupid marketing term that everybody hates (except in Europe where it's a legitimate subgenre). "Electronic music" refers to how the music is produced. I've got no problem with that as a label as long as we include "techno", hip-hop, bubblegum pop, industrial, and new wave under that label. "Electronic dance music" has a similar issue. Is it a genre (no) or a descriptive label? Again, industrial, hip-hop and pop are usually danceable, electronically produced forms of music, but you won't hear those genres at a "rave". And the down-tempo stuff that gets played in the chill-out room at an EDM event isn't necessarily danceable.

    So what the hell is wrong with techno as a label? Yeah, it's not all the same sound as Detroit techno (cf. classical), but the music referred to as "EDM"/"EM"/"electronica"/"techno" all traces it's influences back to Juan Atkins et al. Industrial, hip-hop and techno and electronic pop all have Kraftwerk as an influence, but have different histories and associated subcultures since then. I want a word that describes Juan Atkins, Daft Punk, down-tempo stuff and dubstep, but that doesn't include Outkast, Britney Spears, DEVO and Velvet Acid Christ. "Techno" seems fine to me.

  25. 741 simply fails at telling a joke. I don't mean HUR HUR JOKE FAIL, I mean it attempts to tell a joke but it doesn't succeed at establishing the basic parameters required to do so.

    If humour often comes from exaggerating the facts of some scenario into a new, grotesque, bizarre (but still recognisably related) form, then Randy has failed to deliver anything humourous by not exaggerating the scenario at all.
    This comic is literally Not A Joke, anymore than three sticks of wood glued awkwardly to a plank is a Chair.

    The basic idea he wants us to laugh at is "The popularity of a blog should depend on the quality of the content, but people get so focussed instead on other aspects, like how to market it, they forget to even talk about content at all."

    But that's not in itself funny. There are defensible reasons for bloggers talk like that, e.g. it's hard to give a talk about what content will interest people without just outlining one specific type of blog as opposed to a general blog ideal, or it's assumed that the audience have a head full of content themselves but what they want now is to get noticed.

    Randy needed to contort that idea into something ridiculous in order to make it humourous.

  26. I thought 741 was meant to mock the way commenters expect (and receive) responses to silly or disruptive comments when there are many more readers who follow without replying.

    Or something else unfunny.

  27. Here's my take on 741.

    Randell is the guy up the front. The guy in the crowd is a typical XKCD fan. The slide he's pointing to is an XKCD comic, in this case an unfunny graph. He says the key to a successful blog is building a relationship with the readers - he's done that. The fan is saying "what about content", that is, "enough with being an Internet hero and resting on your laurels, post some funny comics ffs!" Randell's response is "we'll get to that", meaning he acknowledges XKCD is kinda shit but it'll get better he swears okay just bear with him for a bit. The fan's response is basically "OMG you're awesome Randell I knew you wouldn't let us down! Yay XKCD! Yay Randell!" The joke is that the rest of us know that XKCD is still going downhill.

    The alt text is a creepy sexual reference.

  28. Oh yeah, and note Megan there in the front row.

  29. I liked 741, I'm surprised no one gets the joke.

    It's making fun of people who talk a lot of fluff about blogging, e.g. "building a relationship with your readers", and get so caught up in it that actual "content" doesn't seem very important to them even though it's obviously the most important part of a blog.

    @Keep, are you serious? Of course you can give general tips on writing good/interesting blog updates, just like you can give general tips on writing well, or general tips on making good speeches, and so on.

  30. That would only be funny if we actually thought that "building a relationship with your readers" was trivial fluff and not an important, rewarding thing. And even then, the joke is so gently delivered that it's practically invisible.

    @Keep, are you serious? Of course you can give general tips on writing good/interesting blog updates, just like you can give general tips on writing well, or general tips on making good speeches, and so on.

    PROTIP: One of the single best general tips on making a good speech (or, actually, in communicating well with anyone, ever) is Know Your Audience. That's kind of the entire point of communication: To share something with an audience.* So it's not actually remotely unreasonable to prioritize readers and paying attention to them.


    *Here discounting the possibility of a Zarathustrian overflowing. I presume that we're not dealing with people who are so burst with ideas that they simply MUST express them and don't care who finds out, but people who actually want other people to react in some particular way to what they have to say.

  31. See, the new comic is hilarious, because Munroe is complaining about the fact that most blogs don't have content, and really pander to their audience instead.

    Which is funny, because it's exactly what he does! Oh Randall you master of comedy.

  32. 741: Randall has abandoned joke-making entirely.

  33. randy is an idiot, he can suck an egg.

    i had a catscan on my brain that showed i have brain damage from blunt trauma though though, so take everything i say with a grain of salt.

  34. So, since xkcdexplained is particularly venomous nowadays, here's an attempt at objective explanation.

    740: I think the joke is "Lol daft punk are so repetitive, that if it was like in that one poe story, and you killed them but if instead of their heartbeat you heard their music it would be the same anyway, because their music is like, really repetitive. Lol, techno." Compare and contrast with "yo mama's so fat, that if it was like in that one poe story, and you killed her, she wouldn't fit under the floorboards."

    I really liked the art though. The style is pretty cool, reminds me a bit of how PBF would have a different art style for each comic, sorta. The way he ripped off a softer world also works well, but isn't ripping off other people rude? He could at least acknowledge it and pretend it's a parody.

    741: I think the joke is "lol you know how blog experts always talk about knowing your audience and demographics and ad targeting and stuff? How come they never talk about content, since that should be by far the most important factor in blog success, because who cares if it has no content, right? lol, blog experts." It would appear there are these characters which make it their business to "optimize" blog success, defined as ad revenue, for people who actually have blogs. Of course, the joke falls flat for several reasons:

    1) Everyone knows blogs don't have content. They are vacuous echo chambers that provide a relaxing environment, where the author can masturbate in peace. (SUCK IT CARL)

    2) The guy yelling "Oh Cool, Cuz I Love Content, Cuz You Know Content Is Really Important, And If You Haven't Caught On I'm Saying You're Wrong Because You Don't Talk About Content". No subtlety, hams it up way too much, we get it content matters etc.

    3) Nobody needs to be told that "If you want a successful blog you should have quality content". 1 aside, it's obvious to everyone, and it's obvious that it's obvious to everyone, that content matters. No one sits down and says "Oh boy, I wonder if my blog should have good content or crap content? Oh, I'm so confused, I guess I'll try crap content first!". Everyone already tries to do their best. Not everyone might realize exactly who their audience is and what they expect, though.

  35. "Here discounting the possibility of a Zarathustrian overflowing. "

    lol, that's so ORWELLIAN.

  36. That weird sense of déjà vu you're getting from the art is probably because he used the same "dude with a pointer on a round platform" design in 661, except without the crowd. In fact, the comic slightly approaches something resembling comedy if you mentally superimpose the picture he drew of the WTC on fire (in relatively decent detail, for some reason) over the blogger's projection screen.

    It's a shame he couldn't come up with something good on the weekend, because I thought 740 was amusing. There's a lot of people complaining because they don't like the subtext ("oh he's clearly just sayin' techno is repetitive") but on the surface it's a decent twist on a couple of combined ideas, which is all you can really ask from 90% of comics. Now, if it was continually being reposted on the twelve Daft Punk blogs I have in my bookmark bar, that'd be annoying, but that'd still be one of those cases where it's the community rather than the comic itself which is causing my headache.

  37. @em: Stop reading xkcd before it makes your trauma worse. One can only imagine how much of the damage was caused by bad jokes and stick figure sex.

  38. "I liked 741, I'm surprised no one gets the joke.

    It's making fun of people who talk a lot of fluff about blogging"

    You seem to be under the impression that if you are making fun of something then you are by extension being funny. That is not always the case. If I say 'LOL blondes are dumb' then I am making fun of blondes but I am not being funny. If I crack a clever dumb blonde joke with impeccable timing, I am making fun of blondes while being humorous at the same time.


    740, edited with the punchline in the correct place. (Edit: flip horizontal, then rearrange text a little).

  40. Anon 8:53 - No what I meant by it being hard to give advice on content is that you can't say something like "Write about dogs, everybody likes dogs".
    It's hard to say something general about what the specific content of a blog should be.

  41. Oh, and hey Anon 12:39 - yeah that's a much better way to tell it. I thought it was pretty good when I first read the comic but that's a major improvement alright.

  42. In conclusion

  43. The reason Randall didn't do the comic the way it was done in that edit was because the ordering isn't the same as it was in Poe's story. I liked this one, the punchline was just fine how it was, and if he had stopped the alt text after the second sentence then it would have been even better. The last sentence was the alt text equivalent of ppd.

  44. All of these edits made to the comic are worse than the original.

  45. @1:44 - The events as presented in the comic are almost entirely different from the events in the story (being haunted by the noise, it [apparently] being an actual noise beneath the floorboards, etc.), so what difference would it make if the order of the text was reversed?

  46. My take on #741

    Either RanDULL has decided to continue his autobiography through XKCD or he has decided to satirize this blog and as usual did a pitiful job of it.

  47. "Just how is Randall trying to characterise this guy? Are we supposed to identify with the audience member, the speaker, both or neither?"

    It took me a while to get, but Randall is the audience member. He sees the speaker as a blowhard, and heckles him first with a sincere rebuttal, then with sarcasm.


    that is all

  49. I really liked 740. I think it was best to set it up the way he did, because that way you don't learn that it's a Poe reference until the very end, the moment before you see the UNN-TSS (which, in my mind, is the punchline). To me, this makes the "resolution" way more satisfying.

    But that's just me.

  50. @Gabriel

    What about the title? As soon as I saw "xkcd: The Tell-Tale Beat in the tab, I was pretty sure what the comic was about to be.

    Then when Daft Punk was mentioned in the first panel, the joke was over, done. The last two panels were classic post-punchline crap.

    Another comic that could easily have been miles better without the joke in the goddamn title.

  51. I find that the Un-tss is the punchline. It should have instead been "Ever since I murdered those bassheads" or something that didn't give away the joke immediately.

  52. I'm of two minds about 740, because I like the art (and it is definitely better than most of the recent offerings), but for some reason, I can't decide in which order I would want the panels to be. Forwards is okay, but gives away the punchline a bit; backwards assumes the Daft Punk reference is the punchline, which I don't believe at all. Maybe the whole comic is the punchline. Or maybe there IS no punchline, and this is an exercise in futility.

    741 is dumb.

  53. nobody's mentioned edward gorey yet?

  54. Anon 9:18: I was going to say 740 really reminded me of the illustrations for The House With A Clock In Its Walls, but I was too lazy and scatterbrained to look up the name of the artist.

  55. This is really one which you should have taken advantage of to say "See, I don't always hate them just to have something to gripe about. I DO have the ability to actually recognize and acknowledge an occasional decent strip."

    Yes, it's a silly joke, but it actually works, thanks in great part to the art (which, in a rarity for Munroe, actually reflects some effort) setting up the mood.

    If you're going to spend this much time criticizing lazy Wikipedia-researched references du jour and other such mediocre installments, you should at least give credit where it's due for the occasional decent one, if for no other reason but to demonstrate that you're not just an unsatisfiable curmudgeon.

  56. I disagree with 1:15. My appetite for curmudgery is insatiable and I will brook no stem in its flow.

  57. Of course when Randall creates a comic that is drawn well; contains humour or at least a worthwhile observation; does not muddle, obfuscate or overexplain the joke or worthwhile observation; writes realistic, appropriate and concise dialogue, all of us on here will gladly own up and admit to the comic's greatness. If current projections are accurate, this should occur in about 682 comics' time.

  58. 9:18 -- having Edward Gorey and xkcd in the same sentence feels like a crime against nature. I think I even died a little on the inside as I typed that.

  59. Okay, I've decided that what he meant the joke to be in 741 was that bloggers are more concerned about social networking than coming up with good content. The problem with that is that it simply isn't true unless you spend time on blogs that are dedicated to social networking and personal info, there are many many blogs with interesting opinions and information.

    But even if this were true, just stating it is not funny. Randal has failed to establish:
    1. Why people should not use blogs for social networking. I'd like to say no one should use blogs for social networking sense I've forgone social networking online (okay, I've forgone it offline too, but let's not get into that), but I just can't think of any good reason. If people want to use blogs for social networking, why not? I just won't read them.

    2.An actual joke based around the idea rather than a statement. Look at this...

    "The key to establishing a successful blog blah blah..."

    "I thought it was to write good things."

    (Okay, joke is set up, here comes the punchline)

    "We'll discuss content later."

    (wait wut? That's just a normal combination- and really, establishing a successful blog in terms of gaining a readership IS about more than just writing interesting updates. I could write the most interesting thing in the world, but if I keep it under my mattress it won't help anyone. Oh well, let's see how Randal saves the joke."

    "Oh okay good I like content."


    Alt text: "I'm looking to virally monetize your eyeballs by selling them for transplants."


  60. 3. A viable punchline. It's possible to have a joke without a punchline, but comics tend to have them, and he set up like he was going to have a punchline, only he followed it with a normal reply. This comic is equivalent of me having this conversation:
    "Hey, wanna hear a joke?
    "Well, there once was an old man with long gray hair who lived in the woods. What do you think happened to him?"
    "Well I don't know!"
    "He had breakfast, went for a walk in the woods, and then went back home for a nap. The end."
    "I like nature walks!"

    That makes no sense. I could have added something remotely funny like, I dunno, adding a pun off of "woods" only as "woulds," so like he didn't actually do anything because he only would have. I don't know. I'm not a comedian, but at least that would actually be a joke.

    In conclusion this is a horrible comic. Let's look at the explanations people have come up with:
    "'I feel connected to the author and therefore appreciate the comic, regardless of whether or not I understand the joke or find it funny, and regardless of whether or not the comic actually contains a joke.'

    and now I'm convinced that it must be some meta-commentary on xkcd itself."

    nope I'm pretty sure Randal does not understand that about his comic, he thinks he's actually funny and that's why people like him

    "This comic is brilliant because it is so subtle. Randall is a genius, and you are all uncultured fools for not getting the reference."

    ohhhh so there's some super secret reference that we aren't getting and it would be totally HILARIOUS if we understood it...nevermind that simply referencing something else is not funny and just serves the purpose of an "in joke" for those in the know, which are not actually meant to be funny but to make one feel superior to those who AREN'T in the no

    "The joke is rather simple this time folks... the lecture about blogging turned into a blog. Read: The people being taught/educated/informed/entertained take it upon themselves to be the teachers/educators/informers/entertainers , as is the case with most blogs."









  61. This comic doesn't make sense. Daft Punk are robots so how could you kill them

  62. shut the fuck up ^

  63. "Carl: nerd!
    ok whatever
    here i will log out too"

    What is this I don't even.

  64. Maybe... maybe blogs with good content that don't work on building a cultish fanbase tend to be less successful than the ones that focus on coveting a fanbase instead of creating content that is actually worth reading?


    that's 2007

  66. @ anon Apr17 5:28

    Hmm, I somehow managed to not read the title. You are absolutely right that it is detrimental to the joke, and I know I would not have enjoyed the joke if I had seen the title.

    Count me as a verification of your statement: "could easily have been miles better without the joke in the goddamn title."

  67. Was I the only one who was subconsciously expecting a limerick after reading the first panel?

  68. Ever since I murdered Daft Punk
    And buried their bodies in junk
    I've found it astounding -
    My building's resounding
    With monotonous pounding (thunk... thunk... )

  69. Hah, nicely done. That was much more enjoyable than the actual comic, even without the (unusually decent) art. Cheers.

  70. Don't you look at art in an art gallery, and museums are for historic objects?

  71. Are paintings not historic? I always thought they were.

  72. there is such a thing as an art museum.

  73. (I had a film premiere at one once.)

  74. You really suck at reviewing things. Jokes especially. Get better please.

  75. Adam: The only way to make someone better is to write a blog explaining their flaws. You can certainly start one complaining about me (you'll find the good urls taken though) and i will be happy to read it.

    Rob: no one gives a shit that you and your stupid friends made some dumb movie, you think you are so special because "ohhhh, i made a movie! a movie that needed a premiere! la dee da, i am rob, i am a pretentious fuckwad"

  76. whatever Carl, you're just jealous that I have an IMDB page and you don't

  77. what the hell, this post was about #740, why is everyone talking about #741


    look at the comic at the top

  78. i know, people keep doing that, what is up with it

  79. But XKCD sucks sucks is taken, what the hell else would I call it?

    XKCD sucks really sucks? XKCD sucks is not quite as entertaining as it could be?

    Maybe "XKCD is not quite as bad as Carl constantly says it is but is still worse than common popular opinion"


  80. I Have Different Taste Than Carl Wheeler, And Other Universal Truths