Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Comic 786: Lost In Space

let me tell you what i know about SCIENCE
[alt: I'm just worried that we'll all leave and you won't get to come along!]

I am very tempted to go the xkcdexplained route here and just write the following analysis and nothing else:

"Mr. Beret is excited because of science. His enthusiasm is lost on a sleepy man."

Alas, my nature compels me to elaborate.

I guess the fun in this comic is supposed to come from his child-like enthusiasm - a common enough theme in xkcd. Often it seems to be set up in way which, like in the comic above, the message is that those who do not have childlike glee are missing out on something and the childlike person is happier and better than the other. They nearly all feel like ripoffs of Calvin and Hobbes, which perhaps was able to get away with this by having its childlike excitement come from an actual child.

I suppose another feature of this comic that is meant to be positive is that he is excited about science in the abstract, and not in any way that will affect him (note the "in a few generations" line). Are we supposed to feel the same way? I hope not. Future scientific discoveries are not always those which people expected several generations earlier, and some things, like travel to another planet with intelligent life, seems too remote to even consider getting excited about.

We are left to conclude that Mr. Beret is a figure to be laughed at for his naiveté. I guess that is starting to be a somewhat defining characteristic for him (finally!) - he is dumb and/or enthusiastic. I am guessing we'll have a few more of these comics which will get very boring very suddenly. Dumb people can be lots of fun but the "I am excited about silly things" trope is rather narrow.

Lastly, the ending to this comic is atrocious, with a print-comicesque line from the sleeping guy and a nonsensical response from Mr. Beret. All of it constitutes post-punchline dialog.

68 comments:

  1. Randall's just phoning it in for this one. He should have just posted a message saying "Didn't feel like drawin' tonight"

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  2. Calvin and Hobbes also had character dynamics rather than a bunch of interchangeable stickmen running around. No, Mr. Beret doesn't count as a consistent character, since until now he has pretty much shown none.

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  3. It's also worth noting that the primary barrier to project orion is political, and mining uranium from space wouldn't solve that. Also project orion was interplanetary, and there was a more advanced (and prohibitively expensive) version for interstellar travel.

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  4. What is it with Randall and space lately? Maybe he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up.

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  5. I think Randall's trying to get his science cred back.

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  6. In which I plug my edit/interpretation of the comic.

    I wasn't amused by the latest one, but I imagine it'd be funny if it was a spur-of-the-moment conversation. The "Type C" XKCD comic that is hypothetically funny, but adapted in the wrong medium/method.

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  7. I absolutely cannot tell what kind of pose panel 3 is supposed to be.

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  8. I guess the new comic was two hours late because Randall had to exert himself drawing a background. But he still screwed it up, why the fuck is there a sine wave on the panel behind him?

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  9. His beret is kinda off in panel x. /smug

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  10. Well, Carl, at least this time you've got it all wrong.
    There is no post punchline dialog. Why?
    Mr. Beret builds up a silly kind of urgency from panel 1 through to panel 4's "Come on!"
    Yes, he's using science as a vehicle for that but that's not significant at all.
    Important is the timeframe of that 'urgent' development which is "a few generations" i.e. at least some 40 to 60 years.
    After the sleepy man begs for some more time to "snooze" the punchline "just once" would give him some 10 to 15 minutes more.
    The disparity of those timeframes makes up the joke and the punchline ends the dialog just as it should be.
    You've got it all wrong. Randall wins - you lose.

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  11. You're mad! "Occupied North Texas" is one of the funniest punchlines I've heard all year.

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  12. People who think timeframe disparities make good punchlines should suck a few cocks.

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  13. That's not the future, those are orcs!

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  14. 787 is teoretically funny, i found myself smiling a bit, but it was too contrived to hit home fully.

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  15. Captcha: revolom

    Sounds Jewish.

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  16. I dunno, maybe this would've been funny if he used an alternate name that actually existed at some point (but still not used by anyone now). Like for Oklahoma "Indian Territory" or "Sequoyah".

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  17. I wonder if the XKCD forums have exploded with flamewars about the middle eastern conflict yet.

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  18. Carl, you dimwit! You can't have post punchline dialogue if you don't have a punchline to begin with!

    This comic really sucks. It has walls of text for basically no purpose, it'd be better if it WAS text-only(say, a blog post) and it tries to pass off a change of tone as a punchline.

    And what the heck is that third panel? What the heck is that pose? How the heck are we supposed to take any expression from that expressionless stick figure?!

    Finally... Mr. Beret enrages me. He enrages me because he's the epitome of Randall's clumsy characterization skills. He can't just create a character and stick to what he's supposed to do, no. So we have a character who was once obsessed with bakeries, then existentialist(sort of), then somehow linked to Lord of the Rings, and now he's a stupid poor man's Carl Sagan. One thing I really think Randall should do is try to develop his characters better, instead of just cramming them in whatever role he needs at the time!

    And no, I'm not gonna read today's comic. It probably sucks, anyway, so I won't give Randall the traffic!

    Mole

    CAPTCHA: mencew. I mencew at xkcd's surreal suckiness!

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  19. "he is as consistent as the person he's based on" -randall responding to person1's question about beret man a while ago, on irc. paraphrased

    so he's either randall himself or a friend of his or something

    there

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  20. He could at least have posted this comic during a shuttle mission. There's two (possibly three) of them left, he could've waited.

    This was also his last chance to have a 7x7 comic about airplanes. Technically there's still 797, but I'm not counting that one because there's no actual aircraft with this designation.

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  21. And why does mission control look like it's the 1960s? Randall works for NASA, surely he knows what the real Space Shuttle mission control looks like?

    It looks like this, btw: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Mission_control_center.jpg

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  22. *Worked for NASA, god damnit. Past tense.

    @Anon1108: Maybe the sine wave is supposed to be the Shuttle's course plot? Although if that's the case he could've at least bothered to draw a map under it. With Randall's art, it could be anything I suppose.

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  23. Another reason this comic is shitty:

    Nobody wears berets.

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  24. I actually kind of like 787. Then again, I don't have anything invested in the conflict so I'm not prone to being butthurt about it.

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  25. @Sven

    I don't think they let college interns into mission control.

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  26. @anon 7:32: right. They don't even let most of the people who worked on the code in there (though a good portion of those people have a separate room they can offer support from).

    But that doesn't mean you can't get a tour when it's not busy. And besides, if he can figure out possible tracks from typical inclinations, he can damn well google a photo like Sven did.

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  27. Oh, nobody made the obvious comment: Maybe Randy's fishing for a new job, now that one of NASA's primary goals is muslim outreach.

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  28. Does anyone else think that is a terrible drawing of a bed? Yes, all the art in xkcd is pretty sucky, but if you're going to put that much effort (more than 5 lines) into drawing a bed, maybe pick an angle that doesn't make it look like a fucked up birthday cake.

    captcha: abosest. Randy is abosest with himself. hur hur.

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  29. yes, somebody already noticed that: http://img294.imageshack.us/img294/2843/xcaked.png

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  30. My first thought was that this is a pretty ridiculous way to handle a comic that is even slightly about the Middle East conflict. My next thought was that if Randall had tried to take it more seriously, he almost certainly would have made a worse comic: maybe more offensive, maybe less informed, but sucky either way.

    So this is probably the best thing he could have done for a Middle East conflict comic. But my third and final thought for the day is: why did he need to do it at all?

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  31. 787 is an interesting example. It's clearly meant to be a witty commentary on the outright silly nature of conflict over the names of places, yet is simply bland, inoffensive pap that, were the art better and the "dammit" removed, you could probably find in the newspaper next to Family Circus. Then there's the fact that it takes place at NASA, firmly setting it in nerd-joke territory. If you threw in a reference to cunnilingus, it could easily be the prototype from which all other xkcd strips were made.

    @anon 7:05: Soldiers wear berets. It pleases me to pretend that beret-guy is actually a special forces operative, that his contrived "wackiness" is his way of emulating the pseudo-humor (pseudo- in the sense of pretending to be something) of the comic to better infiltrate, and that he'll soon kill the rest of the characters so we don't have to suffer anymore.

    In my head I know it's not true, but my heart still hopes.

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  32. @Anon705: Jamie Hyneman wears a beret, and he's pretty high on the list of most awesome people currently alive. :P

    @Michael: I didn't mean to imply that he'd been there personally, just that he should probably realize that NASA uses technology nowadays that looks more modern than what it had during the Apollo era.

    And anyone who watches NASA TV on occasion (and since I do that, surely Randall "OMG everybody should be super excited about space!" Munroe does too... right?) would know what both the Space Shuttle and ISS Mission Control Centers look like.

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  33. In panel 3 he looks like he's doing that weird arm-wave head-bop move in the Napoleon Dynamite dance.

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  34. @Sven: Everytime I see Jamie and his beret on tv I punch a kitten in the face. The way he mangles scientific methodology on his show makes me blindingly angry

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  35. I was at the Outer Banks last summer. I have an OBX T-shirt. GOOMV(vacation)R! *rolleyes*

    Captcha: curonali - I'm pretty sure a restaurant there served this.

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  36. 786 was just Randall again saying "Whoo, science!". We have seen this before.

    IJDG787, so I'm looking forward to when xkcdexplained next updates.

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  37. Nobody in particularSeptember 1, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    Why is there an Israeli and a Palestinian in American Mission control?

    MY ANSWER: They are both simultaneously trying to break into our most nerdy institution, but their stealth is compromised by their sheer inability not to be a dick about terms.

    Oh, and the comic isn't funny whatever shouldn't we just be expecting not funny by now?

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  38. @Ian- similarly, I punch kittens in the face whenever someone makes a chuck norris joke.

    Except by "kittens" I mean "the person who made the joke".

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  39. Damn, the only time I've ever been to OK was a few weeks ago, and my destination* was within a few miles of those coordinates. Do I win anything?

    *the tiny airport there

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  40. You win the "visiting the only city in Oklahoma, whose coordinates Randall most likely looked up for this comic" prize.

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  41. UndercoverCuddlefishSeptember 1, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    787: "look at this new factoid i picked up from wikipedia you guys"

    there is literally nothing else to the comic

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  42. 787: Poor Texans, the U.S. government took their land and turned it into an Indian concentration camp. Poor Texans.

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  43. I kind of liked the newest one. It wasn't the best thing ever (that would be this), but I was mildly amused.

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  44. I quite like 787 too. I hope he doesn't think it's profound though.

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  45. What's with the space thing in 786/787? Is Randall suddenly getting all nostalgic about the days when he still had a real job again? On an unrelated note, holy crap check out what those crazy kids at Uncyclopedia are doing today. Good for a chuckle or two maybe.

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  46. Uncyclopedia's xkcd page is also pretty funny.

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  47. LONG LIVE NORTH TEXAS! MAY FREEDOM REIGN FOREVER!

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  48. That's what I meant. That page is plastered all over their front page for today. Or was. For some reason I have to use the old Wikipedia purge trick to see anything now...

    http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page?action=purge

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  49. Carl,

    I believe you may have missed the joke on 786, as well as most of the other commenters. The can I hit the snooze button bit is the punchline, because in this comic Beret man is this guy's alarm clock. When I first read it that's what I thought, and I found it actually amusing.

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  50. @Anon 9:47

    That's freaking hilarious. You have no idea how much I wish that's what this comic actually was.

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  51. @Ian: similarly I punch puppies (not kittens; I like kittens) in the face every time somebody complains about scientific rigor on Mythbusters.

    It's a popular TV show on Discovery, what did you expect? It's funny, it's clever, it teaches people not to take everything at face value, they're not afraid to admit when they got it wrong, and it has explosions. That's enough for me.

    And I should point out that I am an actual scientist, as in someone who does science for a living.

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  52. The one thing I loathe about mythbusters: the twelve million clones on Discovery and National Geographic with CRAZY WACKY DUDES who talk LOUDLY AND EXCITEDLY designing CRAZY SCIENCE STUFF on a GRUNGY SET WITH A WHITEBOARD to BLOW STUFF UP!

    This is EVERY show on Discovery Channel now. And it's because of Mythbusters.

    Granted, the sublime Scrapheap Challenge (Junkyard Wars for the uncivilized) was also an inspiration.

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  53. Yeah, that I can agree with. But that's not really the fault of Mythbusters, now is it.

    There are only really two things I watch from Discovery and Nat.Geo.: Mythbusters, and Air Crash Investigations (aka. Mayday in some parts of the world).

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  54. scrapheap challenge ftw.

    although I'm pretty sure some components are planted.

    "Guys I found this FULLY FUNCTIONAL TRUCK and JETSKI"

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  55. Hey gang! How's the world of the ninth-best xkcd-related website? A bit late I know, but I stumbled across the most perfect analogy for you guys. Guess which one of these guys you are:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou2mVnElp6c

    (Full disclosure - I'm the fat chick that comes up to the mic after).

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  56. That's impossible. Randall would never make a joke about sex that's not cunnilingus.

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  57. Ninth best? How many there are? Ten?

    Seriously, I think I know only three, and that's counting the xkcd forum!

    Mole

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  58. Hm, there's xkcd.com, this site, xkcdexplained, xkcdexplainedexplained, isxkcdshittytoday.com, that's at least 5 right there!

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  59. Don't forget xkcdsuckssucks.blogspot.com and the derivatives thereof

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  60. so that makes ten billion

    five times that number if you count the absolutely inspired and inevitable "you think xkcd sucks? well i think xkcd sucks sucks hurr hurr hurr!" posts

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  61. There's one explainkcd or something, which is horrible. That one where they call StickRandall "Cueball" and Megan "Cutie", if I'm not mistaken.

    I wasn't counting the xkcd(sucks)^n... counting the ones in the sidebar(n=0, i.e. xkcd, included) it adds up to 10.

    I wonder which one is worse than... oh, wait, it's obvious it's xkcd itself! Silly me!

    Mole

    CAPTCHA: flowls. Plural of flower, for the phonetically challenged.

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  62. My mom always used to say if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

    With that in mind, I'd just like to say I'm glad the guy's head is attached to his body in all three panels. Good job Randall!

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  63. Whoops, meant to post that in the latest one. Even more embarrassing when the guy's head is attached to his body in only one of the panels of this one.

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  64. Randall`s a good 15 years late on this comic. Discovery planets around alien solar systems started in the mid 90`s.

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