Thursday, June 17, 2010

Comic 754: Comic 754

I've said before that I like self reference, as a concept. There's something in it that I find inherently amusing, and I suspect Randall and many of his fans feel the same way. So when I first read this comic, I have to say I had a pleasant moment of enjoyment when I saw what was going on.

But then a little voice in my head said "come on, this isn't good! you only like it because it references a thing you like, in this case self-reference!" And it's true. The comic proves to me, once again, why reference based "jokes" are so deceptive: people get amusement from recognizing the reference, and they confuse this amusement with actual humor, which it is not.

Then a much louder voice in my head said "TAUTOLOGY CLUB" which, as I realized, was at least a cleverer version of this. I disliked that comic because it was smug and annoying, but at least the loop-that-was-impossible-to-break-into was a little more complex and interesting (if inaccurate). He's done plenty of other self-reference comic and I have to say, reading through them, that this strikes me as the laziest. "THE PRE-REQ FOR CLASS X IS CLASS X, AND THE CLASS IS ABOUT THAT SORT OF THING. well, time to call it a day! my work here is done." That's all it is.

i can't believe i wrote this much about such a silly little comic. even by my standards, I mean.

Someone once accused me of having opinions that were only ever highly positive or highly negative, and challenged me to give an example of something I felt only lukewarm about. It was difficult, but the example I came up with was the comic Daisy Owl, which, while it started out strong, seems to have morphed recently into "jaded ironic characters act super-self-aware all the time." Charming art though. I only bring this up because recently it's been updating way the hell slower than it used to, like, once every few weeks, and I am wondering - what's up with that? I guess I am wondering, how is this medium-quality comic going to stay popular if its update schedule suddenly gets all out of whack?


  1. That's a good point. Most of the recent (read: suck) xkcd comics have been a lot about purely reference. People will get the reference and feel like it's funny or just feel good about the comic, because they got the reference.

  2. LOL so hey you guys, did you know that physics students are pretty much the best kind of students ever, and people majoring in the liberal arts exist only to be their punching bags? Also did you know that professors of the hard sciences are much smarter than those of social sciences and will use this to take advantage of them and their students?

  3. Why yes, yes I did.

  4. I'm afraid I may have missed the joke with 755. You never know with xkcd if a particular comic is a reference or just nothing at all.

  5. 755 is a joke about how people who aren't maths and science majors are stupid. Randy, like many math and science majors of his personality type, feels constantly threatened by liberal arts majors, who are usually much more interesting people and generally better liked by everyone except other science types. So he constantly postures and asserts his superiority over them.

    It's his standard reaction to things he doesn't understand--apparently "interdisciplinary studies" are among the things he does not understand.

  6. >feels constantly threatened by liberal arts majors, who are usually much more interesting people and generally better liked by everyone except other science types

    That's true, but most of us manage to cope thanks to knowing that their degree is completely worthless. We don't need to try and make fun of them in a webcomic.

  7. That's a good point. Most of the recent (read: suck) xkcd comics have been a lot about purely reference. People will get the reference and feel like it's funny or just feel good about the comic, because they got the reference.

    i think people underestimate how long this sort of thing has been going on. xkcd has been primarily about producing the shock of "oh my goodness, randall is a member of my ingroup and is interested in the geeky shit i'm interested in!" since at least the 300s or so.

    anyway both liberal arts majors, who are usually much more interesting people and generally better liked by everyone except other science types and That's true, but most of us manage to cope thanks to knowing that their degree is completely worthless made me vomit blood

    reading 755, first i was like "hnng?" and then i got to the caption and was like "mreh"

    also i am a math and philosophy major so clearly i'm not a member of the target audience probably

  8. Lol so basically studying physics is way better than pseudosciences like history and psychology amirite guys?

  9. xkcd has been primarily about producing the shock of "oh my goodness, randall is a member of my ingroup and is interested in the geeky shit i'm interested in!" since at least the 300s or so.

    Weird. That's exactly what has been bugging me in XKCD since it went bad, wrapped into one simple sentence. Beautiful!

  10. Randall Munroe's comedy standup:

    My professors had an ongoing competition to get the weirdest thing taken seriously under "interdisciplinary program."

    They came up with "physics students try to hit psychology students with pendulums!"


    Audience as one: Get outta my head, Randy!

  11. i know you can simplify any joke to unfunniness and carl's sometimes too hard on the basic ideas behind the comics

    but what is the joke here

    "physics students (like me and you, reader!) are awesome"
    "psychology students suck"
    "also pendulums are sorta related to both"
    disguised as a my-hobby type comic to make it seem more than what it is

    alt text: "history students too"

  12. 755 feels like the premise for a really absurd scene. Randall, unfortunately, can't get his chosen medium to work for him.

    The joke is that their professors were weird, and pendulums + social experiments = physics and psychology meshing perfectly in Randall's head.

  13. I suggest you show us that you can do better before criticizing others.

  14. Well, you're the one who asked, so I suggest you show us that you can make a better criticism blog before criticizing ours.

  15. Well, everyone has already noted that Randall is an asshole towards humanities students and doesn't really understand the concept of "interdisciplinary", so I'm just going to comment on the art. This is the first time that Randall has used atmospheric perspective (making distant objects fainter) and it's quite effective. In the past, we were left to wonder if small stick figures were children or just far away. Unfortunately, Randall made a mistake. Instead of using both his generic blonde and his generic brunette (or just a bunch of bald men) he used his brunette twice. So it looks like the brunette is watching her clone or her identical twin release the pendulum.

    Also: couldn't the pendulum be easily sidestepped? In fact, the pendulum seems like it would have a pretty limited range, so you wouldn't even have to run that far away from it. And when it ran out of momentum, the physics student would have to pick it up and carry it back to the top of the block, which would take forever. My point is, pendulums are not a very efficient way of trying to hit somebody and are therefore not threatening. But maybe the joke is that psychology students are dumb and are scared of the pendulum? I dont' know.

  16. Better:

    Physics students calculate the arc of a razor-edged pendulum, and are strapped underneath it by psychology majors. The goal is to get the pendulum as close as possible without being eviscerated. It's a class about studying how certain we are that we know what we think we know!

  17. I just feel like 755 is a poorly thought out joke. It's like he just chose a few things to make fun of (liberal arts, interdisciplinary studies) and tried to work them in, but just ended up being a Family Guy-style reference joke.

    On another note (which I hope is acceptably relevant), I checked out the post on Tautology Club again, and in the comments section I couldn't help but feel like there was an animosity towards the high-school nerd. Now, I'm not saying it's unjustified or mean-spirited, I just would like to know if my assumption was unfounded or if there is another side I'm missing.

    (Full disclosure: I am a 17-year old high school kid.)

  18. There's an animosity towards high school nerds. Sorry! It's nothing personal. We've all been there--it's where the animosity comes from. (For the benefit of pedantic pricks, this post contains sweeping generalities. Also for their benefit, fuck you.)

    The thing is, well, you're 17. You're probably pretty intelligent, and at 17 you've started to realize that. You may be doing well in classes, and think that proves it. You may be doing poorly in classes and say it's because you're too smart for them. Maybe that's even true, on both counts! You're doing better than a respectable portion of your peers. Maybe you're even doing so effortlessly.

    At 17, though, you still live in a pretty small world. You haven't been around long enough to figure out that just because you're smart doesn't mean you're right all the time, or even most the time, or even ever. Just because you're clever doesn't mean your ideas are good. You're only just taking your first steps on the path to knowing what you know.

    Unfortunately, the first steps basically tend to be "I'm really smart and I can understand everything and I'm brilliant and I'm always right and I'm eloquent and my ideas are the best ideas ever and they're also incredibly novel!"

    Like say, we were all there once. You could be charitable and say we're only antagonistic towards the high school nerd because the best way to disabuse someone of the notion that they are the smartest person ever is to subject them to endless intellectual abuse, but really it's probably more that, for all the empathy in the world, it's still really damn annoying.

    (Some high school kids, in fairness, are actually really good about this. You, for instance, didn't get all defensive and say 'I'm a 17-year-old high school kid and I'm really brilliant and clever and you guys are just jerks who discriminate against people because of their age' or whatever. You asked questions! You demonstrated curiosity! Keep not sucking and you'll go far.)

  19. So... Randall's animosity towards liberal arts students is not anything new. Its been there from the beginning. Hell, its even in the warning:

    Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).

    My point is that it doesn't fall into the category of "reasons why XKCD has fallen off."

  20. except those jokes were never funny.

  21. @Rob
    Thanks for the honest answer.

    Yeah, I sometimes let my ego get the best of me but I usually keep it down. For the most part though, I continue to be fascinated by everything I see and absorb whatever I can so I can learn more about the world. I have known kids that think they know everything about everything and they just drive me insane with how arrogant they are. I do take pride in my own intelligence but I had a rough year with grades due to laziness (another thing that keeps me down-to-earth) so I'm hoping to improve my work ethic so i can go to college and make something of myself, maybe go for programming (I would like to develop games in the future).

  22. Ann you will always be my favorite target for my ephebophilic tendencies

  23. Crap, I actually had to look that up...I like Urban Dictionary's definition the best:

    1. ephebophile-a pedophile with a thesaurus

    Perhaps a better-worded definition than anywhere else.

  24. anyway yeah. the most important thing to keep in mind is the following phrase:

    everyone is always wrong about everything.

    add a "literally" before "everyone" and "everything" if you feel like it is not strong enough. it will get you far.

  25. Q: Does Randall have any personal grudge against psychologists?

    A: Yes, since the first day in college, when he heard the word "Randall" and "Asperger" in the same sentence.

  26. My old man got his degree in interdisciplinary studies. He's retiring this year after 35 years of teaching high school, mostly dramatic arts and film studies. He has literally molded the minds of thousands of young people, and I like to think his philosophy of education steered them away from most of the more negative tendencies of nerdiness.

    The point is, forget "goomhr." I am going to stab Randall in the eyes as soon as I make paper.

  27. Rob you verbose faggot- now my head is subsumed by the paradox of that phrase.

    I shall be spending nights in twisted sweaty sheets, my mind filled with infinite loops of recursion, till in the nidst of a fever dream, my mind erupts into awareness and ass I can see, for miles,

    Double Penetrated

  28. Course CPSC Four Three Two
    Will make each dependency issue
    Disappear in a sec
    And there's just one prereq:
    Course CPSC Four Three Two

  29. It has to be said, the real Edward Lear pulled that "for the last line, just say the first line again" shit like all the time.

  30. the new comic is amazing, just saying... before yall say otherwise

  31. it's a good thing we base our opinions entirely on who states their opinion first, then!

    except you're already too late, we already hate the new one and you are dumb for liking it

  32. So, my initial interpretation was that the interdisciplinary program was relevant to the physics students as a lesson about, ya know, I dunno, the gravity/inertia/etc/whatev of a pendulum, while the psych students were involved b/c of... um... some kind of study of... neurotic pendulum phobias? Hypnotism? But where/how do the history students fit in?

    And, I've said it before, but it bears repeating since this comic sorta touches on it: maybe if Randall had studied humanities/liberal arts his comic wouldn't be a festering pile of bad drawing, inept dialogue, and fucked the fuck up narrative/storytelling. But hey, he understands MATH, YA'LL!

  33. Yeah...lets all go on a witch-hunt against everyone who likes math and science! Woohoo!

    Admittedly most of us have superiority complexes and think we are teh awesomzorzlinezz. I agree though...perhaps randall should put his (I am only saying this because he thinks it is) formidable intellect to better use, like...I dunno...doing stuff...or is he just such a failure that all he can do is wallow in self pity hoping he gets some sexytime for his nerd jokes, make everyone interested in sci/math a dimwitted loser of a jerkish idiot, and living off his damn scrawling that would be better is he ... I dunno, got education in art...

  34. It's not that math/science people are boring because they are math/science people. It's because they have deranged superiority complexes.

    ...well, that, and viewing the world through a math/science lens is incredibly boring. I don't know how you people cope.

  35. @8.06: I suspect we're not suggesting that everyone who studies maths and science is dumb. You know, given that some of us, er, study maths and science. Er. Even computer science, sometimes.


    I think it's just that we prefer not to judge large groups of people based on kneejerk reactions. Except xkcd fans, who we can safely and logically judge as 'having bad senses of humour'.

  36. damn straight. my judgment of math/science people is based on years of extensive research.

  37. Dare I say it... based on science?

  38. Normally I agree with many or even all criticisms of specific XKCD strips expressed on this blog.

    But responding to "hard science r teh roxor, humanities r teh sux" (which appears to be the thrust of 755) with "no u" (which appears to be a consensus among comments here) frankly just makes you all sound whiny and butthurt.

    Theres plenty to criticise about 755: the art is (as always) shit; the writing is (as usual) shit; there isnt really a joke; there isnt even a punchline; and basically, it just totally and utterly fucking sucks.

    Therefore, there is no need to criticise it quite so strenuously for having a go at psychologists (many of whom probably deserve it anyway).

    Declaration of interest: I am a misanthropologist.

  39. These kinda comics would work a lot better if it was from a scientist's point of view. But when he keeps scripting it as "this is what really happens", it ends up like After Eden or Least I Could Do, where even if it's necessary for a proper joke joke, it still ends up looking incredibly smug.

    Either that, or just stop making so many of these one-sided comics.

    Your "we shouldn't criticise the comic for apparent bias" post would probably have worked better if you didn't add "also, they deserved it" at the end.

    I agree, it really is boring living a scientists life, compared to the lives of those less scientifically knowledgeable. Life's been so much more run-down since I figured out how fucking magnets work.

  40. There's miracles all around me!
    Rob2:12 hey I went through that around 14-15, with an extra superiority complex about morals to boot. Obviously this means I am more advanced even than the other intelligent 17 year olds and, wait shitfuck :(

    @SirRuto: What the hell man stop having the exact same year I had and the exact same ambitions I have those are mine.

  41. in comic 755 the standard brunette looks as if she's been copy/pasted from every single comic she's ever been in, only facing a different direction.

    for someone who mocks the liberal arts so much, randall sure could use even a drawing I class to make his comics y'know, interesting?

    Also, the pendulum looks like a stick figure with a really long body and just a head, its about the same size. So the comic already has the history student from the alt text, just horribly mutilated

  42. @ScottMcTony11:07
    Wow, odd. I know I should have expected someone to have similar experiences on the Internet, but damn, that's creepy. Maybe you're a doppleganger and don't know it?

  43. This comic reminded me of 747. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a direct stab at XKCD, but it becomes that much funnier in that context.

  44. Get out of my head, SirRuto!

    (sorry for borrowing your identity, Scott, but I just couldn't resist)

  45. The great thing about having taken psychology and counseling courses for two years (I switched into VC because I realized I'm too much of a sadistic douchebag to actually counsel anyone) is that I can talk certain kinds of people into declaring some horribly negative attribute as a founding part of their character without realizing the implications, and then watch them implode when they find out what it really means.

    Its like a beautiful semantics timebomb. Great fun when some neckbeard taking physics courses starts calling psychology "pseudoscience."

  46. @Anon 1:49

    I hate people of color. Wait! I mean... oh, man. You're good.

  47. "... advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)."

    Has there ever actually been any advanced mathematics in xkcd? Maybe I'm forgetting things, but it seems like the only folks who would make that statement are the ones who think that calculus is the pinnacle of mathematics, so engineers who take 4 semesters of it are "advanced."

    The rest of the math related content is random, usually-not-very-difficult factoids that Randall read about on wikipedia, or mathematical symbols with heart shapes substituted for numbers or variables.

  48. 755 sucks. He completely mislabeled the venn diagrams so now the field outside the circles is wha... Wait... No wait.

  49. Anon above, I agree, the most 'advanced mathematics' I've seen in XKCD is the fourier transform.

    That's not exactly the bitch'es bib, if you know what I mean.

    That being said, if XKCD replaced its current meagre maths/science content with "advanced" maths science content, I'm not sure if this would be an improvement. Suddenly, all the comics make less sense, but they'll still be a legion of faggots willing to GOOMH till their testicles explode.

    Also- slightly related- the worst people for being elitist aren't the "science & math" people as a whole, but those who *think* they know more science and math than they do.

    Basically, showoff hipster faggots for physics, (and there is a lot of them).

    Of course, I always suspected that rob would not be a scientist, as the reality of being ably to quantify his voluminous, sweaty bulk would most likely have lead to him destroying the internet with the raw power of Shame

  50. How come RanDULL talks about "science" so much, but the only biology references he makes are to cuttlefish and vaginas?

    choke on THAT XKCDickweeds!

  51. Read half of the comments. Gonna read the rest later.

    So, about comic 755... it's dumb, as usual, but I don't see the animosity towards humanities people so strongly. Sure, the physics student is throwing a pendulum on the psychology student but... I think it's so outlandish it wouldn't matter much if that was a CS student, or an Engineering one. I don't that's the POINT of the joke. The point, obviously, is that someone is saying throwing ginat pendulums on people is "promising".

    Which is a pretty bad joke.

    Rob, on what you said about having 17 years old... I agree thoroughly, and in what you could call a "GOOMH Rob" moment(which I won't, that'd be idiotic), I just finished reading "The Catcher In The Rye", and one constant thought I had through the reading was "man, I think I'd love this book if I was 15 or so".

    On unrelated news, I never had a desire this strong to punch a narrator in the face. Or any at all, this is actually the first time I ever felt like this.

    Comin thro' the rye, poor body, Comin thro' the rye.
    Mole out.

  52. Now, I've not actually read "Catcher", but from what I've heard about it I don't think Holden is meant to be particularly sympathetic - just an accurate portrayal of a teenager.

  53. Old Man SalingerJune 18, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    Yeah. I barely remember the novel, but I seem to recall that he also has a cathartic moment towards the end where he pretty much realises that he's a twat.

  54. It seems like you guys really like xkcd.
    I don't think I've ever seen people more passionate about the comic.
    Keep on!

  55. Hey, now someone agrees with me on wanting to go into the book and strangle that little shit.

    Also I was 17 and I never once understood why everyone said what a great piece of literature that book was, I almost felt like it was a shit stain on literature to be perfectly honest

  56. XKCD fans are apparently so stupid they confuse any emotion for a positive one. I bet they do great in abusive relationships!

  57. A clever man with enough free time may be able to build a convincing argument that Xkcd actually supports abusive relationships.

  58. Who gave you permission to speak, MegMAN?

    Spread your legs for a session of intense punishment cunnilingus

  59. 'But I say, overall, take it easy on Randall; he's had a hard time with psychologists since his first day in College, when he heard the words "Randall" and "Asperger" on the same sentence.'

    in the forum thread.

  60. @Femalethoth: math and philosophy? Just think, you'll be way "purer" than any other scientific discipline, AND you'll be able to ask interesting questions sometimes!

  61. xkcd is painful. Who does Randy think he's writing for? He's trying to appeal to a hypothetical audience and that never works.

    Catcher in the Rye, now that's funny. People don't diss it unless it just didn't make you laugh.


  63. Listen: I support much of what you're doing here. I do think that Randall gets off easy with his comic on occasion, and that it your criticism can be very helpful. Sometimes you fail to see that some of the comics are actually quite good, but for the most part you give good commentary.
    However, PLEASE SPELL CHECK YOUR STATEMENTS BEFORE YOU UPLOAD THEM! Taken straight from your post: "i can't believe i wrote this much about such a silly little comic. even by my standards, I mean.” How on earth can you accuse somebody else of being lazy when you can't even bother to hold down the shift key on the letter "i" and at the beginning of your sentences? It really invalidates any statements of laziness on the author's part if you can't even do first grade grammar and spelling.

  64. I suspect, given that the rest of the post has correct capitalisation and the incorrect capitalisation is confined to a small and consistent area, it was deliberate and for effect.

    But then, you knew that, you're just a twat.

  65. (Suggested corrections denoted with an asterisk.)
    This is not a proper use of the colon.

    "and that it your criticism can be very helpful"
    *"and your criticism can be very helpful"
    The phrase "that it" is extraneous and grammatically invalid.

    Our planet is a proper noun.

    "do first grade grammar and spelling."
    *"spell or use first grade grammar properly"
    One cannot do grammar and spelling.

    Please see me after class, AJ.

  66. oh man i love when people are all like 'you don't capitalize THEREFORE YOU ARE LAZY.' like, really? you really think that's why i never capitalize letters?

  67. It is because you are a bad person with who views the English Language with contempt.

  68. God Damn does Catcher In The Rye suck. Salinger's writing was pretty clever (telling a story without actually telling it), but Holden Caufield was an annoying brat.

  69. ^ double compliments for Salinger?

  70. I love it when people don't capitalise and think they're busting out a meaningful aesthetic style rather than just fucking up their writing for no good reason. It's like a 17 year old thinking his poem about how he can't get a girlfriend is destined to be the next great masterwork of his language.

  71. Know what I love? Non-sequiturs about crappy 17-year old poetry.

  72. man what does this blog have against 17-year-olds :(

  73. and for your information "Why Doesn't Anyone Appreciate Me" is a million times better than anything you'll ever write in your stupid mainstream life

  74. It's probably because 17 year olds suck.

  75. I appreciate you Ann, I appreciate you.

  76. As a 17-year old, I appreciate this entire comment thread.:)

  77. The nothing in my soul
    Is the nothing of the whole,
    And gloom engulfs the hole
    Where I, condemned by all,
    Lay 'til darkness falls.

    When I'm gone they will regret,
    And never will forget,
    How they should have kissed me,
    But too late! They'll only miss me.

  78. Clearly Rob has no respect for our planet if he's unwilling to capitalise it.

    This is what we've become? Treating Earth like shit and NOT capitalising it?

    For shame society, for shame.

  79. "I love it when people don't capitalise and think they're busting out a meaningful aesthetic style rather than just fucking up their writing for no good reason."

    what the fuck is a "meaningful aesthetic style?" nobody is pretending it's "meaningful." what it does is provide a shift in tone, depending on context. it's not any more "meaningful" than using all caps.

    in my case I do it for three reasons. first, I dislike capital letters. second, it makes it more casual, which helps take the edge off. third, it really pisses off idiot pedants. win-win in all cases! unless you're a pedant, I guess. then you lose.

  80. Nobody in particularJune 20, 2010 at 12:54 AM


    Randall wrote a plea for help and dropped when he was too busy thinking about graphs. Then FOUND magazine found it. I can think of no better way to describe the man who could churn out the stuff three times a week.


  82. Rob, what do you have against the English laguage? Does it have anything to do with the fact that you're a dirty sp-illegal who's trying to mooch off this great country and destroy its heritage?

  83. mostly I just think they look stodgy in informal communications. since people around here always seem to assume I'm being super serious (because they are dumbasses I assume), it helps to adopt an aesthetic which is not so serious. it's also more effective in conveying subtleties such as irony and sarcasm, in my experience. case affects tone.

    also the english language killed my mother.


    (although frankly in his Blogger pic he looks like a Muppet)

  85. more like Oscar

  86. Bert, Rob is Bert

  87. "Maybe I'm forgetting things, but it seems like the only folks who would make that statement are the ones who think that calculus is the pinnacle of mathematics, so engineers who take 4 semesters of it are 'advanced.'"

    lol I recently took calc, and tbh Randall's math isn't advanced at all...

    (hah i just superiority complexed randall!)

    Also: new initiative

    GROOEH: Get Randall Out Of Everyone's Head

    Obviously the ubiqitous GOOMHR is actually a plea for help, they no they are being slowly drained of life by the idiocy that is xkcd, WE MUST LIBERATE THEM!

  88. My god, you guys have really missed the joke with this one. Some people seem to be trying to understand it at face value and thinking its a reference to self-reference, which it is, but not entirely. Its not even that badly hidden, but either you don't understand it (and so rip the comic anyway) or are too busy looking for ways to rip the comic that you miss it altogether. This is a JOKE about LIBRARY AND PACKAGE DEPENDENCIES and the problems you often encounter with PACKAGE MANAGEMENT. Get off your pessimistic sorry asses, on your 'NIX computers and laugh.