Thursday, August 19, 2010

Comic 781: You Have it All Backwards

you got it all wrong
[Alt: They actually started the reversed-text practice in 1973 -- not for ease-of-reading reasons, but because too many people were driving backward down the highway blasting the Star Wars opening theme.]

I find this a wholly boring, forgettable comic. Yes, sometimes words are printed on the street/highway such that if you were to look at them in this way, they may seem backwards (not "backward"). But they aren't meant to be read that way; they are meant to be read in the way most useful to drivers, and that means: if you can't see the message easily and all at once, write it in segments so that drivers can read it logically. It's sort of like how if you read a blog from top to bottom, you'd be reading it "backwards" because it's the opposite order of how it was written. Crazy! (this is as good a time as any to point out that Randall recently passed the 3-months-without-a-blog-post milestone, an event which I note with no comment).

The point is, yes, the text is written in an unusual way, but it has a reason, and anyone who thinks about it will understand it. Jabbing at the highway engineers who wrote it in the best way seems pretty obnoxious to me.

Also, though Randall later changed his alt-text to be accurate, it did originally imply that Star Wars was released in 1973, a claim that laughably incorrect to anyone who is actually a nerd. But that's ok! You don't have to be a nerd, you just have to pretend. I have, of course, presented the alt-text as originally written. No acknowledgement of the change was made on the part of

I, like many people, noticed that Ryan North co-edited a book based off an old comic he wrote. It's a collection of short stories, all written by different people, and as you can see by the list of authors, one story is written by Randall Munroe of xkcd fame and fortune.

I'm not sure what to think about that - one the one hand, most of what we've seen Randall create over the last few years has been pretty terrible. That said, this book got hundreds of submissions and I think highly of Ryan North (and David Malki, who has sent me some free books from TopatoCo, one of which i still need to review, dammit) and I don't think he'd include a sub-par story just because it was written by a well known comic person. Anyway - we'll see how it is, I guess! A cool idea for a book.


  1. What's wrong with backward? (The dictionary seems to have no problem with it.)

  2. From the forums, regarding 1973:

    "Of course, Randall is fully aware of that fact. My guess is that he just wanted to use the literary technique of an unreliable narrator in the alt text. Well done."

  3. an alternate theory: he just wants to create a webcomic series using the literary technique of an unfunny comedian. it's all on PURPOSE!


  5. "Backwards" and "backward" are both officially acceptable, but I've always used "backwards" myself; I've just always thought that "backward" sounded weird. Anyways, I agree, very boring comic, and there's obviously a reason that writing on roads is done that way, so making fun of it is stupid.

    This blog has made me wonder more and more exactly what the difference between a "real nerd" and a "fake nerd" is.

  6. someone who wants to be and takes pride in their status as a pariah

  7. Yahtzee Croshaw's entry for that book was put in many years ago and they are just now publishing it so perhaps (PERHAPS) Randall's entry was also written long ago. You know, when Randall was actually good.

  8. Well, Carl, you always whine about how Randull should get an editor, and sounds like he got one. He got Ryan North. Maybe it worked. Have some heart, old bean!

  9. he edited the alt text to 1977

  10. Hey, remember this comic?!

    So which is it Randall, do transportation engineers put a lot of time and effort into the things they do or are they illiterate retards?

    Read the third panel ans compare it to Randall's mnew attitude towards engineers.

  12. latest comic refers to school


    dude must be dating high schoolers

    or at least trying

  13. Rob, you're in XKCD!!!

    And the XKCD version of you is almost as stupid as the real you.

  14. xkcdsucks celebrity (?) Rob makes an appearance in the newest xkcd... Not much else to say about it, though.

  15. rob the depthless character predates rob the fatass blogger

    he is in fact a facet of randall's subconscious. specifically his laziness (manifested in his obesity and, well, general laziness) self-loathing and smugness.

  16. It's not just that xkcd doesn't acknowledge its mistakes; it actively covers them up.

    I remember one time I commented on his "blag" about a mistake he had made. When he realized what he'd done, suddenly my comment went missing.

  17. What

    That's so stupid, reading does not work that way. It doesn't come into view line-by-line, unless you're driving really slow and looking from a weird angle. It only makes sense in theory, not in practice.

  18. I kind of like the new comic. I smiled at it anyway.

    The alt-text is shit, it exists only to say "see, the joke I am making is this joke here!" And in the last panel Rob has managed to completely push his own head off his body using only his hands. Amazing.

  19. Randy, nobody (including highway engineers) gives a damn how you read. Including on your silly kindle stand. Get over yourself.

  20. I find it funny because this is an experience I can relate to. I get very confused when I read "Lane Bike" and "Ahead Stop" on the roads. And the comic presents the concept in a simplistic way. Granted, it's a little obnoxious, but I thought this was one of the best comics in a while.

  21. Carl, whenever you say that Randall is doing something obnoxious, I wonder if you are being hypocritical. But then, sometimes the job of a critic is to be an insufferable dick, so it may not be fair to judge...

    On the editing thing: it does seem to be xkcd's policy to make corrections without comment. Should this be interpreted as arrogance (the refusal to admit mistakes), embarrassment (a reluctance to highlight mistakes out of shame), or perhaps a notion that the Internet is a transient medium? Surely Randall makes any number of changes to the comic before publishing, and we don't demand that these be transcribed for out benefit. Equivalently, corrections can be made to the site without much risk of leaving incorrect versions elsewhere, as one has to deal with in print. One could argue that this leads to sloppy first versions of the comic, but with the ease of correction, perhaps this is an acceptable trade-off.

    It's hard to say without knowing Randall's thoughts. But I've gone on long enough; perhaps someone will call me pretentious.

  22. "And in the last panel Rob has managed to completely push his own head off his body using only his hands. Amazing."

    Well, he is fat enough to do it.

  23. Tosh.0 made a joke about burning a kindle. Except he then actually went and did it.

  24. @Majutsukai: "It doesn't come into view line-by-line"

    Unless there's a car in front of you covering up part of the text. Or it's really foggy and you can't see far ahead. The text is written so that in these scenarios, where you do get the text line by line, it'll still work. Yes, that means the text could be perceived as backwards in some cases, but it's a compromise that favours the more dangerous conditions.

    I guess highway engineers thought that the average Joe would be smart enough to still understand the text if it was backwards in those cases where you can see all the lines at once. I guess they were wrong.

  25. Shit, man! I like much of your writing but XKCD Explained does your bit better with one-tenth the wordcount. The context of all this volume makes your blog seem really pathetic.

    Your obsession with XKCD is even creepier than that of the various folk who want Randall's dilly. I'd understand if your criticism were varied or more frequently-interspersed with other content, but sticky sputum on a donkey dong, it's stuffy in here!

    A few suggestions from a hifalutin elitist dick (which apply to any writing you may undertake):

    1) write about other topics more often. Write about XKCD now and then, but try something else, too. Yes, XKCD is often pitiable and LCD-pandering — SURPRISE! This shit wears thin pretty quickly! "In this blog I profesionally review the idiosyncrasies of horseshit." Y'get my drift? Your linkdumps are a good start.

    2) from one Grammar Nazi to another: stop being a Grammar Nazi. You fail at grammar frequently enough that the hypocrisy shits up everything. Fight the urge. Bite the bullet. Your posts will be better for it. I learned this lesson the hard way.

    3) this'll seem contradictory to #2, but bear with me. Reduce the size of your sentences, for fuck's sake. Stop using so many colons and semicolons. Run-ons suck. Short, pithy statements seem snarkier. If you have three or more comma-separated sections in a sentence, consider splitting it up. Your sarcasm'll have more bite and more tearful Anons will juice up your comment threads.

  26. I like the new one, although I wonder if I would have found it funny if I expected each strip to be good.


    Bonus points for using a real name other than Megan.

  27. @Anon 7:34- I didn't see Yahtzee's name in there at all. Your statement may still be valid, but don't site imaginary sources.

    @Pat- The flaw in this argument is that he's modifying content without consent or knowledge of his readers, and doing it only out of laziness. Most of the edits he makes are basic grammar, spelling, and accuracy. A middle schooler could edit those flaws out, but Randall (Who does this as his full time job) chooses to wait for us to whine. Then, after fixing it, he does everything possible to hide that it was messed up, and gives no credit to the people who corrected it for him. That seems a little Orwellian to me, and a dick move either way.

    Also, these edits barely cover basic grammar and fact checks, so the idea that improving things over time makes it advantageous is flawed. Maybe if he were fixing panel use, art quality, and clarity it would work. But a repeatedly improved omnicomic is far from the current, hide-that-I-don't-know-shit strategy he currently employ's.

  28. I get very confused when I read "Lane Bike" and "Ahead Stop" on the roads.

    Very confused when the words in a two-word sentence are switched around, huh? How on earth do you function in life?

    This blog has made me wonder more and more exactly what the difference between a "real nerd" and a "fake nerd" is.

    Real nerds know when A New Hope was released. That's the only distinction.

    The newest comic is blandness of the shittiest variety. I mean, fuck, this might've worked as an alt text to a better comic about paranormal events (something along the lines of "It didn't help that the bones were buried over an indian burial ground either.") but making it THE ENTIRE JOKE? Fuck!

  29. Everyone who thinks 782 is Rob's first appearance on XKCD is wrong!! The male character in 774, though unnamed, is CLEARLY inspired on Rob's participation in some older comment threads.

  30. Another suggestion: give that slashfic a dedicated post. It could be cleaned up a bit, but it was... something else. Kudos to the writer (y'creeper).

    fwiw I genuinely like between 1/4-1/8 of XKCD comics and it's been that way since the beginning (in other words, to my eyes the SNR is the same now as then). But I enjoy reading this place a bit as well, if only for the delicious comments and occasional funny jab at XKCD fandom. In a way, the two sites form a yin/yang symbol as they swirl about the drain of the internet. This is the XKCD hatedom, the existence of which is mandated by the laws of the universe.

    Do keep it up. But my prior suggestions still stand (for whoever's writing att).

  31. Guys the mistakes are intentional. It's part of a riddle that will be featured in an epic 5-part comic.

  32. @Pat - "Surely Randall makes any number of changes to the comic before publishing, and we don't demand that these be transcribed for out benefit."

    Yes. And then, after making those pre-publishing changes, Randall (presumably) reads over the comic, thinks "Yep, good enough," and posts it. He doesn't evaluate his work carefully. He doesn't care whether it's good, or whether it's flawed in an easily fixable area. And why should he? His fans don't. He's just lazy.

  33. Isn't Rob the usual generic male name in xkcd? I also recall Ryan. #723 (RobM163) always weirded me out because he has the same initials as Randall Munroe, meaning whoever Megan represents probably starts with an M.

  34. Well, damn. The more I read, the more I believe this endeavor is a sort of satire-parody — a text-based mockumentary, perhaps.

    So, I dunno, maybe keep to the looser style and the Grammar Nazism. I had only gone in ankle-deep before making those suggestions.

    Ya'll clearly don't take yourselves seriously, which is fantastic. This place is like Hot Chicks with Douchebags is to spraytan morons everywhere — hyperbolic criticism for its own sake!

    Consider me a fan.

  35. So the central reason why this comic isn't funny (aside from the points about genuine vs fake nerdery and about mistakes, neither of which are especially fair, or especially important) is that it isn't okay to make fun of things about real life that only make sense if you think about them?

    Jeez, I guess Jerry Seinfeld was the least funny person who ever lived. Heck, I guess stand-up comedy, and the entire sitcom genre, as a whole are complete wastes of time and effort on everyone's part.

    The problem with this blog is that you go out of your way to find fault with xkcd even when you have to redefine your definition of humor every time a new strip comes out in order to do so. If anyone ever actually made an attempt to collate the recommendations of this blog into a set of guidelines on how to make good humor, then the only consistent things they'd get out of it would be 1) Always have perfect grammar and perfect accuracy, 2) Go out of your way to make the art better than it needs to be to get the point across, and 3) never reference anything that anyone may have found funny in the past, unless it is more than 10 years old (corollary: if a joke was funny once, it will never be funny again, until everyone has forgotten about it).

    Randall makes some crappy comics, no doubt about it. But the reasons you give for not liking them are consistently stupid reasons. And incidentally, Star Wars sucks. It did at the time and sucks now even more. It is beyond pathetic that you can actually seriously spout a sentence proclaiming that one category of nerds is somehow superior to another of category by virtue of the fact that they happen to be obsessed with an overhyped mainstream media movie from over 30 years ago. If that is what it means to be a nerd (and it isn't), then I for one would be glad not to be considered a nerd in the first place.

  36. We'd really like it if Randall told funny jokes or could draw or write or put some effort into his work = parody-satire-trolls?

    @Anon 12:56 -- I'd be happy if maybe once Randall's art *was* just good enough to get his point across, but he can't seem to even manage that, which is why most of his comics are blocks of text over some vague shapes.

  37. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 20, 2010 at 1:13 AM

    re:782 what the fuck is this shit

    "hey you remember that place where we dug up those indian bones that we did terrible things with well they were buried in the only really logical place for a bunch of indian bones to be buried"

    there is literally no joke here

    am i missing something

    is this funny to anybody


  38. I think maybe it's supposed to be funny that this is a revelation?


  40. How cute, the cuddlefish are attempting reverse psychology now.

  41. It's the "buried over" that throws me.

    If might even have been funny if she'd said "buried in", beacuse that makes more sense grammatically and gives an added layer of absurdity.

    It's frustrating becasue I quite like the silliness of the premise, but JEEEEZUS that man needs someone stood between him and the 'Post' button.

  42. I've always rejected "backwards". It's a legitimate spelling, but I used to teach that, as far as style, "backwards" is only consistent if you would use "forwards" as an adverb.



    GET IT?

  44. Hey Rob, congratulations on your guest appearance

  45. Liked the new comic. The alt-text tells the same joke, but I think that in the context of the comic, this actually works as making it better.

    Also, I can't remember ever reading the generic guy's name, and so to me it's a real relief now that he isn't called Randall.

  46. Rob becomes the new Megan?

  47. Text goes backwards on highways in the US?

    I understand the reasoning, but here in the UK I've never seen road text with enough words that it matters. It's usually just two lines like "KEEP CLEAR" - perfectly readable.

    Is this another thing that the US prefers to represent in words where pictorially would be better (e.g. WALK/DON'T WALK)? Can we have some examples?

  48. Also: highways don't have curbs and sidewalks.

  49. My edit for the most recent comic:

  50. carl you useless fuck ann opolis is not a "she" i mean come on even I know this

  51. 3:16 Dude I know, it's like this one time the Highway Patrol pulled me over for speeding and I was all "hey man fuck you, there's a curb and sidewalk here you've got no fucking authority on this road" and they were all "here take this massive fine for speeding and now you're in extra trouble for mouthing off to us." Bunch of fascists.

  52. I love the dialogue on the first panel: "You look terrified. What's wrong"?

    Yeah, because there is NO OTHER WAY to show the girl is terrified. The guy must speak it out loud.

  53. There really isn't any other way to show she's terrified, because (gasp) Randall is incapable of drawing a person well enough to get that point across! Hey Anon 12:56, what were you ineptly arguing again?

  54. yes fernie that was what i thought when i first read that.

    ^you mean like, waving her hands. or making her text more erratic and rushed.
    Less space between words, reduce word width, rounnded or prickly and rough text. splitting up the line that connects dialogue into a few connecting straight lines pointing in different directions, straight lines but the connection points shouldn't be perfect. hell, even making the text larger would at least show that she's shouting. it's handwritten so this shouldn't be much of a problem. i guess he decided to use italics instead.

    also waving her arms around, touching her head with both. stuff like that.

    you can easily do this in his style. you can make it known without beating it into the reader's head. he just didn't.

  55. If I said my new washing machine smells like a hotel, does that make any sense?

    (The new comic is devoid of anything atypically wrong or (atypically) right. I think we should all agree to not even try satirizing -- satire of something so utterly BLANK just makes us all look foolish -- it's the sort of CHARACTERIZABLE humour that would be interesting in a whole stream of events [which don't come in 12 panels a week], or interesting if the characters [Calling him "Rob
    ", however humourous, does not a character make] were recognizable/established, or even if we could tell what these faceless abominations felt or in anyways could we relate to them.... but that we would never get from XKCD and so there's no point in even hoping. What's wrong with it? Randall's chosen the wrong medium for the wrong joke again, and beyond that you are just sniping sitting ducks [do you guys say that in English? 'Cause that's a pretty kick-ass expression I refuse to drop]).

    So I'm just saying it's kind of a nice smell, but odd. Like, did those delivery guys lose the model or something and steal this one from the nearest Best Western? Or is this normal [I've never put out enough for a new washing thing before (sexually or financially)]?

    Oh, and Jambe, run-on sentences are the Rage. The shit? Fuck colloquial non-sequiturs, you know what I mean; they are grand unless action is occuring, in which case the short sentences lend excitement... but this is XKCd we're reviewing. Carl is highlighting how NOTHING EXCITING EVER HAPPENS. As pointed out by these latest comics, road paint followed by a [almost] tautology in the colourless void devoid of emotion, but fleshed out with plenty of expository statements. I'm finishing this comment right now.

    Also, the moment you take this site seriously you've Lost with a capital L, so good job on concluding otherwise. ;-) At least, I hope most people here have stopped seriously thinking we are the Contra to Randall's Nicaraguan regime.

  56. <>

    What? Carl, your site is broken.

  57. oh yeah, megan could also be shaking rob in any of the panels.

  58. The idea behind this xkcd isn't so bad (parody of ancient-indian-burial-ground thing) but it's told really clunkily.

    "...buried over..." No! You can say "buried in". We'll still get the joke. It's still close enough.

    "...and made puppets..." Is this relevant? I appreciate it's desecration, but digging the bones up is desecration enough for the spirits of the dead to want revenge and for the joke to work. Unless puppets are more integral to the ancient-indian-burial-ground thing than I am aware, this should be cut. Brevity is the soul of wit.

    Cut the PPD.

    The alt-text has "every" in it twice.


    Today's Questionable Content is unintentionally hilarious to this British reader, because "Africa" is the only Toto song anyone knows here. It would be like if the dialogue had been "What's your favourite a-ha song?" "Uh, 'Take On Me'" "REALLY? ME TOO! LET'S MAKE OUT"

    (the correct answer is "The Sun Always Shines On T.V.")

  59. yes qc is funny by accident sometimes. the third panel of was funny until i learned hauteur was a real word and not a combination of hater and auteur.

  60. Actually a trawl through the xkcd forums brings up this:

    "The Indian bones they played with (one type of desecration common in horror film/literature) were on *top of* -- not actually in -- an ancient Indian burial ground (a second type of desecration). So it's exponential or something. Of course, they don't care about the first desecration they're committing, it's only when it's on top of another desecration that they get worried (the alt-text is doing the same thing, but we're not told what the second problem is going to be ... maybe the store was built on an ancient Indian burial ground?)"

    which is a far enough explanation of the "buried over" point I suppose.

    "EDIT: Or, conversely, maybe they should've realized that Indian bones would be in an ancient Indian burial ground, and they're just dim people?"

    This is the interpretation I was going by (and the one for which "buried in" would make more sense). Actually I think it's a funnier one too (changes the tone of the "OH MY GOD!" from "he's actually terrified if a bit stupid" to "look at the dumb guy screaming").

  61. @Markus - "Hiding" typos is "a dick move" and "Orwellian"?! You have to be kidding me. Even professional news sources, which would note a fact correction like a misprinted year, wouldn't go so far as you apparently demand of a guy who draws stick figures.

    CORRECTION In yesterday's edition of The New York Times, on page A16, we carelessly printed an instance of the word "judgment" using the disputed orthography "judgement". The Times sincerely regrets the error and apologizes to those readers inconvenienced by it. Our deepest thanks to Ms. Hazel Peart, Mr. Phillip Maitland, Mr. Samuel O'Brian, Ms. Lynnette Torrance, and Ms. Joanie Kubler for mailing in the correction.

  62. The Independent (on Saturdays) devotes half a page to some smug self-righteous twat pointing out spelling/grammar/fact errors in the previous weeks' Independents. The Guardian regularly notes typos and such in its "Corrections and Clarifications" corner. Lucky they're not professional news sources, eh?

    Moreover, Markus's gripe isn't that he corrects his mistakes - it's that a) he makes such simply mistakes with such regularity (it does rather lend credence to the 'all xkcds are done at 11.55pm' theory) and b) when he corrects them he tends to pretend there was never anything wrong ever with it (that being the 'Orwellian' bit). If he just quoted some typo notice in the forum and said "Fixed, thanks", that'd be ace.

  63. Ann@7:13. Damn you. I wanted to point out the repeated "every" since everybody is talking about Randall's error correction policy.

    I'd put my money on that not getting corrected at all since a) it's not a piece of nerd trivia he got wrong and b) it's in the alt text.

    Incidentally, is there a word for that kind of error? When I end up with a repeated word it's usually because I've made a revision to the sentence; rephrased the clause that contains the repeated word. Sometimes I end up with grammatical errors e.g., if I revise something from singular to plural and don't change the verb. Mistakes from a faulty revision of a sentence are really only possible with computers. I want a word along the lines of "lapsus calami" or "typo" that covers word-processor specific errors. Not fixing the sentence properly after revision could be a "lapsus cerebrum" or "lapsus oculus". But that doesn't really address the underlying technology, or account for errors resulting from e.g overly broad search/replaces or uncritically accepting an incorrect word suggested by a spell check.

  64. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 20, 2010 at 8:20 AM

    okay i got a good night of sleep and came back and the comic still is not funny or really even coherent

    basically the first "desecration" they mention is far worse than the second one and the second can be sort of assumed in the context of the first so it almost seems like randall reversed the punchline and the setup

    the comic might actually be funny if the two ideas were reversed then made slightly more absurd and then subverted altogether

    "weve made a huge mistake"
    "whats wrong"
    "well remember last week when we dug up those indian bones at that ancient burial ground"
    "i am beginning to think that we should not have used the bones to make puppets and then used the puppets to recreate the broadway show rent and then thrown the bones in the dumpster behind a dennys"
    "oh my god are the stories true are we cursed"
    "no but a police officer came to my house this morning and it turns out that is pretty illegal"

    or something like that

    anyhow this has been another fun day of "come up with your own joke for the subject of xkcd because randy sure as fuck cant"

  65. "(the correct answer is "The Sun Always Shines On T.V.")"


  66. What did I tell you? We had color on the last comic, and now none. Black stick figures over white void. Once again invoking the "Randall keeps doing the same mistakes, so I'm going to point them out again" principle, I say: Mr. Munroe, could you please at least pretend to be trying?

    On "buried over"... the only way this joke is even remotely almost-funny is if there are two layers of indian bones. Even then, the joke is that they're now doubly cursed? Frankly, the first desecration is so over the top that I could only wonder "...yeah, and so?"

    And on the subject of "you look terrified"... REALLY? Wow, a guy works drawing stick figure comics for almost five years and you'd think he'd learn to work with his medium, but nope! There you have, Randall Munroe can't even figure out either

    a) that you shouldn't rely on faceless stick figures to convey expressions, so maybe you should rethink your writing; or

    b) if you can't use their faces, maybe their bodies and/or speech can show emotions, right?

    But maybe BWW is right and Randall is so horribly aspergic that human emotions are a mystery for him! So the only way he knows how to convey his characters' emotions to the readers is by stating them. Because so they'll know what they're feeling. And there will be no doubt.

    I'll have to stop here, because this is SO sad...


  67. The joke with "buried OVER an Indian graveyard" is that Indian graveyards in fiction are never cursed themselves, but things that have been on top of them are. (Usually, houses.)

    It is worth noting that "buried IN an Indian graveyard" would have completely ruined the joke. The joke is that they take the "Indian burial grounds" trope and take it literally: A place is only cursed if it is somehow on top of an Indian graveyard.
    While fiction usually means by this trope that placing something on top of an Indian graveyard is desecration, and that *this desecration* is what angers the spirits, the two characters disregard this vital step in that train of thoughts and don't see that their desecrating the bones would already be enough to get them into trouble, if fiction were reality.

  68. David, that would be pretty funny, it's a shame that's not the XKCD that RanDULL posted.

  69. Nobody in particularAugust 20, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    Does...does anybody else really wonder how they knew they were Indian bones? I mean, if they're surprised that they were over an Indian burial ground, then...well.Seriously. Wouldn't they just call them..."bones"?

    And what were they doing in India anyways?

  70. Nobody in particularAugust 20, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    Also: I would like to commend UndercoverCuddlefish for that rewrite. You elicited a chuckle from this sad old internet guy. It was exactly what this joke should have been.

  71. native american burial ground

    randall you missed a chance to be smug
    for shame

  72. Maybe they were actual Indians. From India.

  73. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 20, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    @david in stephen kings pet sematary the burial ground itself is actually cursed and that is the first thing i thought of when i saw this comic (though poltergeist was a close second so your point has some merit)

    @nobody in particular would you believe i do not make stick figure comics for a living

  74. @Undercover: You mean you DON'T? What's wrong with ya boy? Better jump on the bandwagon while the gettin's good! We're all strikin' it rich!

  75. Yeah, maybe the bones were from recently dead Indians who were buried on top of an ancient Indian burial ground.

  76. "Jeez, I guess Jerry Seinfeld was the least funny person who ever lived."

    If Seinfield's jokes stopped after "What's the deal?" then yes, he would be the least funny person who ever lived.

    And he'd also be doing Randall's shtick before Randall did it.

  77. Okay, I actually like this comic. It's new, it's witty, it's... another parody of discredited clichés like that porn one (and that's not a good thing), but it's still an actual joke.

    So the one time I actually don't have anything to be angry about, I come here.

    And no, you do not have permission to remove that pagequote. It's a proper joke for once, and just because the rest of the jokes suck doesn't mean this one can't be told too.

  78. Here's the problem with this joke, if it was said to an actual person:

    *Guess what?*


    *I was at this burial ground, and I dug up some indian bones...*



    'What? That isn't funny.'

    *Yeah it is, it's funny because you were expecting something different.*

    'No, I wasn't expecting anything. The premise is so obscure that most people don't have any set expectation. You could say literally anything and nobody would be shocked. You could say "nothing happened and we were fine" and it would get about the same reaction as "Superman punched me in the face so hard it turned me inside out". Most people would respond with apathy.'

    *But I've heard jokes before that do just that!*

    'What, you mean give a set up and then play out its premise realistically?'


    'But most commonly used setups have some sort of expectation to them. The "two guys go into a bar" joke generally involves them talking about a topic (usually sex), while the "Priest, ,Pastor, Rabbi" setup usually involves them taking their respective religions to laughable extremes. Either of these could be reversed for laughs, because it surprises the reader.'

    *So you're saying that comedy relies upon taking your audiences expectations and turning them on their head?*

    'Usually yes. Heres an example of one playing with the guy walks into a bar premise: (not my material, stolen from that guy who voices Iago)'

    David Hasselhof walks into a bar, then stays there until closing, slowly destroying his liver the entire time.

    *Oh I see, most people would be expecting hof to talk with someone and his reputation to be made fun of in some fashion.*

    'Exactly, but instead he just drinks. It shocks and entertains the reader.'

    *Okay, thanks, I'll go make a chart comic of this...*


    (hopefully that clarified, in obscenely boring detail, just how this comics joke fucked up)

  79. haha plasma you broke WP:BEANS

    "20th Aug '10 3:46:15 PM DrakebloodIV
    removed page quote
    Reason: That joke is a detriment to the quality of this thread"

  80. Anyway: the problem is this joke can be interpreted two independent ways, for one of which "in" is appropriate and for one of which "over" is appropriate. The two ways are explained by whatever forum dude I quoted ^ thataway.

  81. Wait shouldn't the joke be that curses aren't real and superstition is for idiots and how awesome Science is?

    And shouldn't Randall be taking this opportunity to get all pedantic and say how stupid it is that we call Native Americans "Indians" when they're not from India?

    I am confused. So so confused.

  82. randall's pedantry is strange. it seems to be active only work when the whole comic's about the error. sometimes he mocks people for not knowing everything he knows and making mostly trivial errors. other times he clearly doesn't do the research himself. see the jfk comic for both.

    he's either a faker or the world's worst hypocrite.

    and plasma, do you think i was actually suggesting that? what
    sadly i can actually imagine a one-panel mostly text xkcd about natives not actually being from India as an xkcd strip.

  83. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 20, 2010 at 5:41 PM

    while i am perfectly well aware of the difference between "in" and "over" it really does not bode well for randy that many people do not understand his version of the punchline because it sounds awkward as fuck

    if he wanted to get his idea across with slightly more grace than an elephant wearing concrete shoes and a blindfold he should have said something like "turns out there was another more ancient indian burial ground below that" or something to that effect

    the problem of course is that this would still not be funny because at best now the characters are just doubly cursed and we as readers have no indication that they were particularly worried about being cursed in the first place

    randy needed to either make the effect of the curse something unimaginably awful (every youtube clip you try to watch is a rickroll) so we could sympathize with the characters while simultaneously laughing at their plight or he needed to build up our expectations then subvert the idea altogether (see my earlier version of the joke)

    what he actually did was say "things might be worse than we thought" in the most awkward incoherent way possible without giving us any clue that things were bad in the first place and there is literally nothing funny about the situation

    there is nothing here but the seed of a joke which is par for the course with randall munroe

  84. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 20, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    that was mostly directed at plasma by the way

  85. Damn it, Ann Apolis! Now you've got got me listening to Toto's Africa. For the record, I've never heard anything else by them either, and I probably wouldn't know this if it weren't for the crappy music video. It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you! There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do!

    Also, as far as Scandinavian web comics go, Optipess does pretty well for itself.

  86. To everyone who says we here at XKCDsucks over analyze, I simply say this.

    I read it. I then narrowed my eyes at the screen and reread it. I didn't laugh. I didn't smile. I didn't even go "heheheh" in my mind. It wasn't funny to me.

    We could go into why and very extreme detail, but it comes down to that very immediate reaction. It was a shit comic. Randall does this shit at 11:55 PM.

  87. Nobody in particularAugust 20, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    Now, a particularly funny joke would be if they were expecting a minor curse from their planned desecration, and then somehow they got a MAJOR curse because they did not expect so MANY god damned ancient Indian bullshit.

    For example: "Remember when we desecrated those Indian bones and now we're all cursed to have terrible two dimensional stick bodies?"

    "Of course."

    "Well, those bones were in an ancient Indian burial ground! Now we're more cursed!"


    "So now our heads won't quite attach to our necks!"

    "Truly we are the least fortunate of beings."

    It is called DRAMA, Randy. You apparently live in a consistent state of High School, you should know this.

  88. I don't know why the topic of Scandinavian webcomics came up, but Hitmen For Destiny is clearly the best comic from Scandinavia.

  89. ok, what is it with Carl being pissed off that Randall doesn't blog very often? I just do not get it.

  90. Also "Scandinavia and the world" (which I will not link here due to its extreme shittiness) is the worst comic from Scandinavia.

  91. You stupid bastards, the joke is that they weren't worried about the actual disprespect of corpses but get all superstitious about stuff that popular culture has told them to be superstitious about, you stupid bastards. It's like the way you stupid bastards are fine with trying to mutilate works of genius but would probably cower in terror if you thought you were tacitly disapproving of tongue-kissing lesbians or something.

  92. UndercoverCuddlefish - Oh, you're right. I didn't know how it was in Pet Sematary, I just thought of The Shining (the movie) and Poltergeist. However, from what I read now it seems as if it wasn't the Indian burial ground, but the demon living on it that caused all the trouble, so I'm not sure if it counts?

    I disagree with your "more elegant" solution, by the way. Explaining that the Indian bones they dug up were actually in an Indian burial ground, and THAT Indian burial ground was on top of *another* Indian burial ground, is completely unnecessary and overly complicated.
    If you want to have two Indian burial grounds on top of each other, then the dialogue in the beginning would have to be "Remember that Indian burial ground we desecrated earlier? Turns out it was built on top of an Indian burial ground!"

    Which is exactly the same joke as the one from xkcd, only less funny, because the main part of the punchline (the Indian burial ground trope) already gets introduced in the first dialogue.

  93. "Also, though Randall later changed his alt-text to be accurate, it did originally imply that Star Wars was released in 1973, a claim that laughably incorrect to anyone who is actually a nerd. But that's ok! You don't have to be a nerd, you just have to pretend. I have, of course, presented the alt-text as originally written. No acknowledgement of the change was made on the part of"

    I don't get the obsession with needing a note on the site saying that things have been corrected. I get that it's annoying that Randall doesn't use editors and ends up making stupid mistake but would you really want to read through an archive full of little notes saying "This used to be spelled wrong".

    Surely silently changing minor errors is just how every webcomic handles things?

  94. A forumite actually suggested that all of Randall's errors are possibly intentional, and might even be a riddle:

  95. "You stupid bastards, the joke is that they weren't worried about the actual disprespect of corpses but get all superstitious about stuff that popular culture has told them to be superstitious about, you stupid bastards. "

    We've covered this. And it is no more likely (or funny) than the other one. It's actually less likely.

    How do they know the bones are Indian? They must have known it was an Indian burial ground, right? We all know how Randall can do no wrong and is perfect and his comics all make perfect sense and he never makes mistakes unless he wants to. So that means the other one is more likely and you are an idiot. I mean, "they are scared because of pop culture not superstition" is still a work of genius but not as genius as "there were two indian burial grounds."

    Now you morons have missed my interpretation. That Randall is bad at dialogue, art and scribbled this comic five minutes before xkcd updates.

  96. It is an idea he never really thought through. Shocking, I know.

  97. ok so for the second one it's more likely that they mean the corpses were buried on top of their burial ground, and the joke is that they don't care for the desecration but are scared of the popcultural fear of indian burial grounds. my mistake

    also my last one probably isn't even an interpretation

  98. and uh poorly worded and not proofread enough

  99. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 21, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    @david is there some definition of "indian burial ground" i am not aware of

    they clearly knew that the bones they dug up in the first place belonged to "indians" so the place they dug them up from is an "indian burial ground" by merit of the fact that "indians" were buried there

    my solution was an attempt to fix one thing that is wrong with the comic but really the entire joke is structured so poorly and communicated so vaguely that it is like putting a bandaid on a severed limb so i probably should not have bothered

    @r poor wording and a lack of proofreading how does it feel to be like randall munroe

  100. but i acknowledge my flaws

  101. An Indian burial ground (TM) has to be a place where Indians buried Indians. So a place where you find buried Indians is not necessarily an Indian burial ground (TM). You wouldn't call a mass grave where the colonists dumped their Indian enemies an "[Ancient & Sacred] Indian Burial Ground (TM)".

    However, what's more important is that it has to be fictionally certified as an Indian Burial Ground (TM). That is, if the story requires it to be one, then it is one. In this case, the comic doesn't require the Indian bones to have been in an Indian burial ground, so it is not necessarily one. (It is actually not so important whether it is one or not.)

  102. My question is, why is it humorous to find Indian bones in an Indian graveyard? I would have found it funnier if they had found bones, did something sacreligious with them (like puppets! everyone loves puppets!), found out they were ancient Indian bones, pissed themselves with fear of being cursed, and then found out that, though the bones were Indian, they were not buried in, as David put it, and [Ancient & Sacred] Indian Burial Ground (TM).

    But that scenario is really too complicated for anyone to turn into a good comic strip.

  103. Alsworth, it is just too complicated for Randall to pull off. Maybe he had that idea and actually censored himself into doing this. Or may it was 11:56 and he was caught in a TV Tropes cycle again. You be the judge.

  104. Protip: to show facial expression, draw fucking faces on your fucking characters.

    randy this is inexcusable. Please go die.

  105. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 22, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    re: indian burial grounds

    my mistake turns out there is only one of them and it is in rhode island

    wikipedia says the premise of this comic is a complete fabrication and who am i to disagree (the fact that it is not funny does not help matters)

    captcha: geekepro i think i just found a name for my new mathcore band

  106. OMG, don't you hate people who waste your time instead of getting to the point? Speaking of which, apparently there's a new XKCD comic?

  107. Every single person I know would just give me their street address. Maybe Randall just needs new friends?

  108. @Alsworth, ANY person would just give the address. Randall has no friends, that's why he wouldn't know that.

  109. Sometimes, and I know this is a radical concept, the GIS information in a GPS system is incorrect and leads you to the wrong place. This happens more when the place is rural and the directions include words like "the big field". Or sometimes the GPS leads you on a route that is suboptimal, and some of us spend a lot of time thinking about taking the most effective path possible. Like Randall,

  110. fucking luddites being all archaic
    don't they know 'bout my superior GPS technology


  111. Regarding that 85 comic: I totally forgot about that, but is the joke really "I worry about if the straight line is shorter than the roundabout path"? If so: holy shit why did I not realise XKCD was shit way back then?

    New comic: this never, ever happens. Exaggerations in comedy are fine as long as there's some sort of grain of truth to it, instead of it being a total fucking fabrication.

  112. I have GPS!!!!

    Where GPS stands for Giant PeniS.

    Captcha: hotbatic = hot and acrobatic!

  113. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 23, 2010 at 3:16 AM

    not going to know what the new comic is about until xkcdexplained puts it up (or maybe carl gets off his lazy ass which is not going to happen) but i bet i can guess based on the comments:

    somebody is trying to give randall directions and instead of listening and writing down the directions and generally being a decent human being he keeps demanding that they just give him an address because he smugly possesses a piece of technology which can give him the intermediate directions once he knows the address

    i would be willing to bet a hundred dollars that the new comic is about (a) randalls inability to interact with people without being a condescending asshole and (b) his belief that the things you own can make you better than other people

    let me know how accurate this is and you can give me my hundred dollars by going straight until you reach the second light then turning left and leaving the money in front of the fifth house on the right

  114. "not going to know what the new comic is about until xkcdexplained puts it up"

    Stop mentioning this every single fucking time.

  115. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 23, 2010 at 3:40 AM

    i just wanted to be clear that i was guessing at the comics content so people realize how predictable randalls assclownery is or alternately convince themselves i am a psychic

    either outcome is good though the first would be preferable in context of this blog

    also i have said that like one other time so get over yourself i guess

  116. Okay, wtf is wrong with these commenters? Why don't you just comment on the strip that the blog post is about?!

    ps. I lol'd at the GPS comic. It was simple, witty and hilarious.

  117. I don't like going to directly because it encourages randall's asshattery with a pageview.

    I suspect UC is the same.

  118. Okay, wtf is wrong with these commenters? Why don't you just comment on the strip that the blog post is about?!

    We're noncomformist and edgy like that.

  119. 783 is just terrible. Every panel is the same joke repeated. And the alt-text repeats it again. And the joke was never funny to begin with.

  120. yes let's just wait two days before saying anything. and continue to talk about the Indian one even though all discussion has already died out.

    just read the previous post's comments, it's not that difficult. what is wrong with you?

  121. 783 is an unfunny version of Girl Directions by Psychostick.

  122. Today's comic is possibly the most condescending and assholish one that Monroe's written.

  123. Okay, I don't have a problem with the *idea* of 783, because I actually run into this problem myself. People insist on telling me "it's easy!" and then giving me verbal directions rather than giving me the address. Well, I have a learning disability that affects my visual perception and spatial orientation, so it is rarely "easy" for me to get any place, and it is simply frustrating when people insist on giving me directions orally rather than just giving me the address to input. I can't visualize what they're telling me, and I don't have any sort of reference points for the roads/landmarks they are referencing because I don't learn that kind of information well. I don't mind if someone writes down step by step what to do (that is often helpful, in conjunction with using the GPS), but oftentimes people seem to spew the information at you and it just sounds like a bunch of gobbledygook.
    Just because I can relate to the comic however, does not make it funny or interesting. It is still a lame idea for a comic.

  124. Given your explanation of your learning disability, I find your username quite funny LostInSpace. I can only hope that was the intent.

    UndercoverCuddlefish NAILED the comic. I suspect he cheated and looked at it. Or, you know, Randall is that predictable.

    On a sad note: I have a friend that knows I hate XKCD so she only links me when it is "especially funny."

    She linked me to the highway engineers one...

  125. Wow 5:49, good find. I was skeptical until GPS showed up...

  126. Ack. Someone twittered the new XKCD comic. And bonus: it was a GOOMHR! (It was actually "Oh, I know how this feels, some people just don't know what the concept of a GPS is!", but it's all the same). So, this time, it's not your fault that I went to xkcd and saw it.

    So, this time I'll cut the over-analysis short and summarize. Which is something Randall should have done, by the way. Who needs four panels for a "joke" like that? With Randall's habit of making one-panel "comics" with wall of texts instead of splitting it in different panels, why did he use multiple panels now when he didn't need it? To make this an overly long setup with the lames punchline ever("I need to mail you a letter?" Really?!).

    And the alt-text just keeps going on! He never stops! Randall, don't make me feel the urge of firing your joke with a shotgun so it'll just STOP, damn it!

    But he NEVER stops!


  127. @Anon 6:26
    Yes, that was definitely the intent. I'm glad you found it funny!

  128. I wonder if Randall's magic GPS can tell me the times of day you can't make a left turn for several city blocks in downtown Toronto...

  129. We've already realised that Randall doesn't know how to tell a joke, but with 783 we just discovered Randall doesn't know how to STOP telling a joke. WOW, is the comic strip overdone and WOW, are the speeches unnatural! Look at that third panel -- it's a prime masterpiece of stilted dialogue (monologue, actually).

    And yes, there are two problems with that joke: NOBODY would simply refuse to give his address like that and; if a NORMAL person were there, he'd just write down the directions and go his merry way. This strip is yet another piece of evidence that Randall is either autistic or an asshole.

  130. What could possibly go wrong with relying on technology for directions?

  131. yar that new comic must be pregnant as it be laborin point

  132. Haha, thank you for reminding me about the time Randall totally ripped off Penny Arcade, Sepia. That was hilarious.

  133. I know of a case where some guys called an ambulance for a one of their friends. The emergency central kept asking for the address but the guy on the phone didn't stop giving crude directions^^. He was drunk though.

  134. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 23, 2010 at 8:17 AM

    @professional mole it seems that my prediction was a pretty good one but i definitely did not see the reference to snail mail coming (i assume it was also used in a condescending way like "fine you do not understand that my technology makes me better than you are so i am going to subtly mock you by asking for your mailing address because nobody sends mail like that any more so the only thing your address is useful for is preventing me from having to actually listen to you when you give me directions to your house also i do not care about you grandma i am randall fucking munroe and i am famous on the internet")

    obviously i doubt randall was quite that honest in the comic but i have a feeling that this is the gist of it

  135. Re: The Indian Bones comic

    I'm a pretty hardcore Xkcd hater*, but I didn't mind that comic as much as I could have. It seemed to be a 'stupid people are stupid' comic like C&H does every now and then. It wasn't quite good enough to be funny though, because I don't know any implicit doom that comes with digging up an Indian burial ground. Maybe if they were actively fighting off ancestral spirits or something at the time it would have been funnier, but I don't see why the location is important - it could have been some other aspect of what they did ("You know how we made puppets out of the bones?" "Yeah?" "We defiled a grave, man!" "Oh crap, really?")

    *I even go so far as to intentionally capitalize it wrong occasionally.

  136. I like how a huge number of people on the xkcd forum are saying stuff like "Yeah I know how this feels" or "this happens all the time it is so infuriating."

    No. This has never happened to you, or me, or very nearly anyone. This has probably never happened to Randall.

    Although I find myself concerned. People are outright lying about experiences in order to create a false GOOMHR now? wat

  137. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 23, 2010 at 8:25 AM

    @anon6:26 all i needed to know was that randy has a gps and he is having difficulty getting a street address to some place

    the rest was just filling in the blanks based mostly on (a) and (b) above which are central tenets of randalls personality

  138. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 23, 2010 at 8:29 AM

    @scottmctony randalls audience is full of self diagnosed aspies with a technology fetish so i do not doubt that they sympathize with the character in this strip

    or more concisely: "agreement chuckles"

  139. I actually do find the sort of thing in the most recent comic annoying. I've never come across it with a GPS specifically, but I know some people [relatives] who seem to have a mental barrier that prevents them from answering a direct question. So I don't think the character was being a jerk - how was he supposed to react? I know the fallibility of spoken directions, especially given by people like the one on the other end of the phone. I don't think he was fishing for GOOMHbahs either - a lot of humor is funny simply because the audience knows what is being talked about. Randall's not doing a 'look-im-a-nerd-too' move here - lots of people have GPSs these days.

    So I actually kind of liked the most recent comic (barring the alt-text, which was a little too monotonous given the last panel). It's not hilarious, but it's respectable.

  140. Is anyone else getting the vibe that in the real version the other guy knew how to get there but didn't actually know the address, and that Randall either didn't catch that or wanted him to go look it up? This contradicts the last panel, but since that's the part that has Randall being "clever" it's easy to assume he just made that part up afterward.

  141. Today, XKCD merged with Subnormality. Thousands cried.

  142. @ScottMcTony

    While the degree of difficulty in getting the other person to stop giving you directions and just give you the address is definitely exaggerated in the comic, it still can be quite difficult to derail someone who is set on giving you directions. Also the stick figure in the comic is pretty rude- when I am not able to stop someone from giving me unwanted directions after one or two tries, I just give up and listen quietly until they are finished, and then get the address.


    +1 Anon844. I didn't know my own address or phone number for months because I just knew how to get there/never called myself. Hell, I've had a friend who has lived at the same place for a solid decade now. I can tell you the street and what the house looks like, but the number? Fuck that, it's the big grey house on the left with a lawn chairs and the gnomes and the willow.

    @LostinSpace: Randall don't take shit from no one! Although yeah, thinking about it again [I'm not reading it again] he really does come off as an ass. People do not interrupt each other, but maybe he's used to people ceding to his Greatness [with a capital G].

    Randall; yet again superior to this race of untechnological men.

    Also, unrelated, I'm colourblind -- is the number actually 3 here? I inverted the colours but still don't see anything, so is that the point? Damn my crippled X chromosomes.

  144. @GoneFishing - aside from you being a big hypocrite (this is not about GPS, how dare you tell us to be on topic when you are not!) Carl is currently two comics behind. Shall we await him getting around to posting before we talk about how terrible the comic is, or would we do it in the most logical place (the most recent entry)?

  145. @Ravenzomg: I am not colourblind and it is indeed a 3 in that comic. I don't really know how the test works so I don't know if you should be able to see the 3 by inverting the colours. But you can read more about the test here:

  146. Latest comic would have been far superior as a single panel.

    "Looking forward to seeing your new place! What's the address? Actually, can I stop you there? I have a GPS and I just need the destination. Okay, right, but the GPS will tell me these directions. I just need to know your address. No, I really...


    Okay, I have something to mail you; where should I send it?"

    BAM. Brevity is the soul of wit and all that. In the comic as Randall drew it, there's far too much buildup, the punchline is executed poorly, and the post-punchline sentences detract from the joke.

    KISR: Keep it simple, Randy.

  147. KISR? I hardly know her!


  149. i don't think that's possible but ok

    and anon, i do not discriminate. i am a friend to all things (that do not create or worship crappy webcomics.)

  150. "I don't think he was fishing for GOOMHbahs either - a lot of humor is funny simply because the audience knows what is being talked about."

    Oh fuck You.

    I didn;t get ravenzomg's comic- yeah it is a three- but is there much beyond the comic aside from "I'm special"?

    I mean it as a genuine question.

    Also, how do you diagnose synthsesia? don't most people associate colours or textures to noncoloured nontextured concepts? i.e. crunchy bass- or is it a strictly colour->concept thing?

    it sounds like a pretty cool condition really- I sorta wish I had it for a week or so.

  151. I'm a little envious of the people who think the GPS conversation has never happened between two real, live humans.

    I thought the strip was a decent idea ruined by too much exposition and a viewpoint character who comes off as an asshole, but then I got to the alt text. Dear god, that alt text.

    No only does it try to belabor the already strained joke, it actually invalidates the fucking premise without subverting it. As somebody mentioned above, when "a half mile past the big field" features in your directions, there's a very good chance that your GPS will steer you into "Deliverance" territory.

  152. Here is what happens in real life, worst case scenario:

    "I don't really know how to get there. Can you tell me your address?"

    "Sure, it's ________. Do you want directions?"

    "No, I'll use my GPS / mapquest / whatever"

    "Oh, okay, you and your technology"



  153. "it sounds like a pretty cool condition really- I sorta wish I had it for a week or so."

    Yea, now try having it for your whole life.


  154. As somebody mentioned above, when "a half mile past the big field" features in your directions, there's a very good chance that your GPS will steer you into "Deliverance" territory.

    No. No there isn't.

  155. Carl you ignorant pedant! Your (incorrect) assertion that "backward" is wrong makes you just as bad as Randall and his pedantic followers. I have no choice but to hate you now. Sorry, old friend.

  156. Ummmm... backward is correct. Backwards is acceptable as well in this case, but backward is both adverb and adjective, while backwards is only an adverb. Way to fail. You lack any wit/