Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Very Special xkcdsucks Post

[Your "Dr. Skullthumper" was all like "yo let me post a review of" and I was all like "okay email it to me." At first he tried to send me a Word doc with formatting and I was like "nah, brah," but then he gave me proper HTML. As always, the guest posts are vastly inferior, but it's the weekend and I'm bored, so enjoy, maybe? -Ed.]

Fine people of xkcdsucks:

I rise from the comments section and into the blog proper because I can be silent no longer. Not that I was silent in the first place, but for the moment I will push aside this fact in the interest of a dramatic opening.

I have come here not to criticize xkcd, but – in the spirit of the age-old question Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – I have come to criticize the critics. Specifically Carl and the other posers posters at whom any reasonable man, woman or spambot would label as “douchebags”.

Let us examine a few of the most recent postings.

I will begin with the post Tim reads webcomics (October 7, 2010), published on the eighth of October. Please, open a new tab and follow along with me. Do you see anything remotely resembling criticism? Anything that makes this post more informative than simply reading the webcomics themselves? I cannot even label this as “commentary”. It is more along the lines of a “mind dump,” as though someone sat Tim down with paper and pencil, flashed images of comics in front of his eyes, and instructed him to scribble down his first reaction to each one.

This is not criticism. It is purposeless writing with nothing to offer the reader. It tells us nothing of what each comic does well, does poorly, or in some cases what the comic even does at all. His commentary on SMBC is little more than “Holy shit, this guy has a really long neck,” not explaining what SMBC is or even developing his art critique into something meaningful. He may as well have posted “lol” or “:P” under each comic for all his “commentary” gives us.

And now I shall unleash my unbridled rage onto the next post, entitled QCsucks Weekly Update October 9th, posted on the tenth of October.

There is much to criticize about Questionable Content. Perhaps one might touch upon how the characterization that has driven the comic for years has suddenly gone stagnant and the “plot,” such as it is, has dissolved into directionless matchmaking. Or perhaps there is discussion to be had about the author’s choice to redraw several comics for his recently published collection. There is so much to be said about this comic that it arguably takes some sort of skill for the author to produce such an incredibly bland post about it.

He begins by mocking the author’s name and continues this “joke” throughout in one of the laziest attempts to be entertaining since Mr. Munroe discovered the phrase “Higgs Boson”. What motivation Kirk has for this – whether it was to make a point or just to be random – is unknown.

The first critique Kirk has about Questionable Content is that the “joke-a-day” formula detracts from the quality of the work. I really must give Kirk some points for effort here. After reading Tim’s post, it would not be unreasonable for one to conclude that contains no criticism at all. (I might point out that attacking the formula QC has run on for years since the beginning, and is therefore a large part of QC’s identity, is truly missing the point – QC is a joke-a-day comic and suggesting that it should not be would be to suggest that QC no longer be QC. I might suggest that it would be more helpful to make criticisms that would serve to improve the work instead of altering its fundamental structure. But still, poor logic is better than no attempt at all, Tim.) [I disagree. QC is a long-form comic, not a gag-a-day, but he tries to be both. Sticking to long-form wouldn't alter the fundamental nature but it would make the comic suck a lot less. This is a common complaint among the elite of #xkcd-sucks (use a real nickname; generic mibbit ones are banned) on foonetic, who are better than you. -Ed.]

The second critique faults the QC formula for forcing Hanners to step out of character. Not only is this incorrect – if one were to follow Jeph’s twitter feed one would learn the precise reason the comic was made – it also suggests that the situation was forced and unrealistic because of the artist’s quest to create a comic with “day to day humor”. Again, I am in no way suggesting that Jeph Jacques’ work does not deserve criticism, and heavy criticism at that, but the logic at work here is pathetic. Since the strip is in no way relevant to the week’s plot (the subject of the purse never comes up again) the artist could easily have not drawn it if he deemed it a threat to established characterization. Hanners does make mistakes, it has been established, and the artist has no motivation to construct an unrealistic situation for the sake of a joke. When it comes to forcing humor, Jeph’s modus operandi consists of “witty banter in an otherwise normal situation”, not “breaking character for lulz”. The former deserves more criticism than the latter, which rarely if ever happens, and certainly does not happen here.

Also, calling Marten “Martin” is a mistake made by someone unfamiliar or uninterested in the work. If you aren’t invested in the work somehow, your critique loses relevance in the eyes of the reader. Being blatantly wrong displays ignorance, not analysis. To that end, the sentence “hey, we are just clearing ground for the eventual Martin/Hanners relationship” goes unexplained and thus makes no fucking sense. Saying random shit (such as the aforementioned “Jeff Jacks”) without a reason does not make you a critic or entertaining. It makes you an idiot. If content were calories, your post would be word salad.

Most of the other critiques attack the QC formula as well, suggesting that this post could easily have been a more general post about “the QC formula” instead of posting five separate comics and making virtually identical comments about each.

The next post is Carl’s: Scenes From a Multiverse: The First Few Months. This is criticism. It is content. Carl manages to say more (and sound more intelligent) in less space than the rest of you. It actually discusses what works well in the comic and what doesn’t. It’s not a day-by-day analysis of the comic because it doesn’t need a day-by-day analysis, discussing general trends is enough for Carl to make his points. The post is efficient, thoughtful, and well-written.

The following posts are more of Tim’s bullshit. The mindspillage is a bit more substantial this time, but again he fails to actually criticize any of the comics. Instead, he writes mocking summaries of each. Good job, Tim! You almost had me interested for a second there.

Then comes xkcdsuckstravaganza, which you wouldn’t know was one of Carl’s if the handy little column to the left didn’t tell you. Apparently Carl decided that his posts are too intelligent and interesting so instead he decided to do one Tim-style. A fair bit of real criticism still finds its way into some of the comments, suggesting Carl still has some work to do until he can waste our time as well as Tim can. But the quality is still not up to par.

Luckily the next post on Abstruse Goose makes up for it with more actual criticism and logic and reasoning and the things we’ve come to know and love Carl Wheeler for.

And finally the truly enraging one, Tim reads webcomics (October 23, 1010) [sic].

It begins with the comment “This one will be really short, mostly to piss off the folks who complain that my comments are too short.” Hilarious. Positively hilarious. Here’s the thing, Tim: mocking your audience is funny, mocking your audience’s criticism in lieu of responding to it makes you look like an idiot. You can do both, of course. For example, Andrew Hussie both mocks and responds to the criticism leveled at him on his Formspring, but the key is that he responds to it with a rational and well-reasoned argument. “Rob’s rants” [I object to this characterization -Ed.] and Carl’s FAQs on xkcdsucks address arguments made by the audience. “I’m gonna do whatever I wanna do” is not an argument, and because you haven’t gained any respect in our eyes yet, having displayed no ability whatsoever to pen a critique, it makes you look like the douche you are.

Shut up, Tim. Just shut up. Nobody wants to hear your bullshit two-sentence reactions that address exactly nothing. You don’t bother to support your point of view. You don’t give suggestions for improvement. Obviously we are all part of the hivemind and think exactly the same way as you do so you don’t have to bother doing such things as explaining what the fuck this garbage is you are posting.

I visited, and continue to visit, xkcdsucks because it always has interesting, well-argued criticism. I will not continue to visit because it has none of that. Any post not written by Carl is a waste of space on that site. Carl, either take the reins of your new site exclusively or come the fuck back here. “Serious about webcomics”? Hardly. Nothing there suggests any serious analysis. Even your commenters are less intelligent on this new blog; they do not bother to discuss or debate, only hate on every webcomic blindly for obscure reasons. What the fuck happened to the argument and discussion that made xkcdsucks what it is?

I know you want to expand, Carl, but this isn’t the way to do it. Having a bunch of lazy idiots make contentless posts, not in the spirit of criticism, not even in the spirit of entertainment, but in the hopes of getting murmurs of agreement from a brainwashed audience, of sparking some sort of superficial connection between poster and reader, why… it reminds me of a particular webcomic.

And it sucks.

[We will return Monday to your regularly scheduled hate. -Ed.]

Friday, October 29, 2010

Comic 812: Physical Deformities

[ALT: I read in this one article that the breaking of electroweak symmetry is the reason we have SOULS. This guy with a degree said so!]

[Universally reviled hell demon "shufti" has approached me again and asked to post a review. I published it because it's actually a law that if someone writes two blog posts to poor reception you're allowed to murder them. -Ed.]

I hate you Randall Munroe.

I tried to be nice. I tried to point out that you were a person that, in the past, had proven some degree of knowledge. I wanted to be Fair and Balanced.

But then you go and fuck it all up. What the fuck, man? What the fucking fuck?

Here's the premise for this comic - "Girl tries to break a glass with her voice, angering physics." Roll that through your brain for a second. Try to grasp why, exactly, Randall thought this was a great idea. Seriously, let's think about that for a second. What could have been going through his head when he dreamt up this trainwreck of a comic? I imagine Randy sitting at his drawing board or his tablet PC or his dung heap or whatever he uses to scribble out his stick figures, and he's got his iPad or his iPhone [I think Randy is too much of a freetard to touch Apple products. Ed.] or whatever and he's all like "Okay, shit, nothing interesting on twitter (tap tap) nothing interesting on my RSS feed (tap tap) nothing interesting ANYWHERE; shit, I've got ten minutes here before I have to post, shit shit shit, how in god's na-OH SHIT I CAN DO A HIGGS-BOSON COMIC."

Okay, a Higgs-Boson comic isn't the worst concept in the world. Not the greatest either, but hey, it's another cheap jab at religion in science, right? Everyone LOVES it when irrational beliefs are endlessly mocked! (that was sarcasm; people, in fact, deeply dislike you when you keep on pointing out their flaws to them) [News to me. -Ed]

So I'm imagining him sitting there, t-minus 8 minutes, and he's like, "Ok, gotta mock religion somehow. Oh, I know - religious people love allegories, so I'll make a satirical allegory. That's what Jon Stewart does!" And thus, Science People treating Physics Like God is born.

See, I count three religious parallels here. There's the reference to Christ turning water to wine at the wedding in Cana, there's the reference to Moses turning all the water in Egypt to blood, and then there's the reference to Lot's wife being turned to ash for looking at Sodom and Gomorrah. [It's salt, actually. -Ed.]

What, you don't see that last reference? Oh, but it's there. I mean, it's the only explanation for why there's a pile of shit on the table in the last panel. It's a brilliant supplement to Physics' declaration they should stop looking for the Higgs-Boson. If they don't stop LOOKING for the Higgs-Boson, THEY WILL DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH AT THE HANDS OF GOD. OR SCIENCE. OR SOMETHING.

See I don't get why Physics is God here. Well, let me rephrase that. I get how someone like Randy would approach Physics with the reverence of a Servant of the Almighty; I don't get how he can bypass the cognitive dissonance of mocking religious people while simultaneously propping up his Beloved Field with a platform typically reserved for people wearing Members Only togas issued on Mount Olympus. What would be hilarious is if he was actually trying to say "my religion is better than yours", even if it he was saying religion super-sarcastically.

"My religion is better than yours - because my religion is SCIENCE." - Randall, 10/29/10 NEVAR FORGET.

Also, why the fuck are they trying to break a glass with their voices? And why would the glass be full of water? Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't that interfere with the sound interacting with the glass? And why the fuck would they try to break a glass with their voices? Is this just Randy trying EVEN HARDER to make them straw man stand-ins for fundie scientists?

Also also, I want to point out that someone on the forums compared this to Monty Python. The only thing that gets me through nights like tonight is a healthy dose of Peter Gabriel and MURDER.

T-minus 4 minutes and Randy is like, "Shit yeah, I'm going to put that last line on a t-shirt and make MILLIONS."

God and Physics damn you Munroe. God and Physics damn you to a Scientifically-Accurate Hell. [Do you remember that clearly false story about proving that hell is exothermic or endothermic and the punchline was that dude fucked this chick who said she would fuck him when hell froze over? Yeah, me neither. -Ed.]

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Comic 811: Magic Mirrors

[ALT: Don't worry! From the light's point of view, home and your eye are in the same place, and the journey takes no time at all! Relativity saves the day again.]

This was supposed to go up yesterday but I ended up not being home at all. So fuck you all etc.

Anyway! This one's pretty terrible. Like with most of beret guy's comics, the end result is usually staring at the monitor blankly, reading it another time, then blinking at the computer and saying "um, okay?" It's apparent that Randy isn't trying to be funny, but rather cute or sweet or some shit (no doubt an attempt to attract a mate)--but how? How is that supposed to be anything but a depiction of some events that happened with a guy who is apparently a crazy?

This one relies on an idea so obvious there's a Bright Eyes song* with a line on a very similar tack: "stars that clear have been dead for years, but the idea just lives on." It's used in a number of ways in its myriad interpretations: to convey a sense of our cosmic insignificance (as Megan here is no doubt trying to do), to convey a sense of the unreliability of our senses, or merely to make people sad, because stars are poetic and poetic things are sad, maybe.

Before I continue discussing the joke, we need to talk about mirrors and frames. Because the general consensus seems to be that nobody, on first reading this comic, could agree on what the fuck Beret Man is holding in the last two panels. I was one of the lucky few who saw a mirror the first time, but even the formidable talent at xkcdexplained saw a frame--beret man is framing the sky, maybe!

I usually avoid talking about the art because it's not really remarkable most of the time--sure, there's lots of floating heads and hovering chair-sitters, but the art isn't so much bad as nonexistent in most cases. Your eyes can glaze over while looking at it, and you don't need to be able to piece it together. Your mind can go somewhere happier, like a world where XKCD never existed, or where Randy is not sad, lonely, and pathetic. In this case, however, the art is bad enough that it's actively interfering with people's ability to even understand the comic. It's not that hard, Randy!

(Oh, also: when I first read the comic, I went back to look to make sure it was a mirror. I could find no solid evidence, but it made more sense than the alternatives, so I stuck with that interpretation. Since then there has been a line added to probably represent beret-guy's mirror arm! Maybe I just missed it the first time, but does anyone else remember that line not being there?)

Onwards! So beret guy is extra sad that Megan is talking about starlight dying when it hits the earth or whatever, so he runs and gets a mirror, I guess, to reflect them back to the sky, so they don't die? Or maybe so they can get back home, where "home" is "the star from which they came?"

There's not much I can say about that besides "um, okay?" It's not that I don't get it--it's clear that that's beret guy's intention. It's that I have no fucking idea why that's his intention. Which is to say, I cannot envision a scenario in which someone thinks that "I HAVE TO SEND THE STARLIGHT BACK HOME" is something that he needs to make into a comic--why he thinks it's sweet, why he thinks it's something that a character in any situation, ever, would plausibly think of as something to do.

Beret dude has always been a problematic character, since his personality seems to mostly be 'being a batshit lunatic.' The problem is I know that's not what Randy is going for. Randy wants him to be sweet and thoughtful and in the moment and existential. But these things are apparently utterly foreign to Randall, so he writes a character who has no consistent traits apart from being crazy--and not even crazy in a consistent way.

This is made worse by the fact that Randy once implied (I don't remember where--if someone has a link I'd be grateful) that beret dude was based on a real person. I can only imagine that said real person, after reading a few of the comics, got a shovel, went out and dug himself a grave, put in a coffin with special rollers, and has spent all of his free time since then rolling over in it. Because fuck, man.

(EDIT: xkcdsucks hero "ray" has sent this improvement to the art, which took fifteen seconds in MS paint.)

*with apologies to conor oberst

Monday, October 25, 2010

Comic 810: Reddit

not constructive
[ALT: And what about all the people who won't be able to join the community because they're terrible at making helpful and constructive co-- ... oh.]

I have a special kind of hate reserved for nerds who try to do this sort of shit. You know what I'm talking about--when they think that they can reduce language (especially language online) to a series of numbers, and solve all of its problems and intricacies by running it through a script. I've known far too many nerds like this. I've worked with them. Their simplistic view of the world was nothing short of infuriating.

Enter Randy! Here he has proposed a system whereby people basically vote on whether or not something is a helpful, constructive comment. If they agree, then it shows up! If not, then it vanishes into the void. While many could argue that this is already the default behavior on places like Reddit, Youtube, and anywhere else with comment voting systems, I'm pretty sure Randy is assuming that these votes will be used like a spam filter in the future--that the user voting process will eventually train the system to automatically identify helpful comments and only accept those, while the unhelpful comments go to the spam bin, never to be seen again. (Maybe he just forgot that he masturbates to the Reddit logo every morning though, I mean, this is Randy we're talking about. It's very possible that he just came up with Reddit several years too late, and thinks it's the most brilliant thing ever.)

This system wouldn't work, of course, and there's countless reasons why not. First, it assumes that the aggregate of people are able to identify something helpful and constructive. (I'd like to remind everyone that XKCD frequently makes the front page of Reddit. Enough said.) What this would end up being is nothing short of a popularity contest. Certain people will be downvoted because they don't subscribe to the prevailing opinion, turning every forum out there into a circle-jerk. They're already bad enough as it is--making a filter that automatically gets rid of people who disagree with you is not a good idea.

The system would also not be able to identify context. "I fucking love spaceships" might be a helpful comment on a picture of a spaceship, but it would be significantly less helpful on a picture of an old woman waiting for the bus. How does it decide which one of these is helpful? Do we allow a false positive and spam both comments? A false negative and keep both comments?

Or how about a common thing that bots do these days, which is copy, verbatim, old posts by other, legitimate forum members and paste them into a different thread? Randy's feature won't pick that one up! And if you vote down the bot version, then the original gets spammed also.

Words mean different things in different contexts, but Randy and nerds like him want to reduce everything to nothing more than words. To them, every instance of "no thanks" is identical. If you use a certain combination of words, you're saying something that falls into one of their arbitrarily defined categories.

The reason they think this works is because it works pretty okay for spam filters in emails--you can train them which emails are spam and which ones are not, and it will file them into the appropriate bucket. But these are being used for categories like "spam" and "not spam." Nobody is using spam filters for quality assessments--"emails that made me happy" or "this email sucks" or "helpful, constructive emails" or "emails that don't contribute to the conversation." These aren't categories you can actually quantify, but nerds don't know that. Nerds think that "helpful, constructive emails" is an entirely objective and quantifiable category, and that you can crowdsource labor to generate the perfect filter.

Finally, I am going to steal from your "Gamer 2k4" or whatever, who said a thing in the comments:

. . . the plan outlined in #810 simply wouldn't work. The "constructive" nature of a particular comment is far too subjective, even for a person, to judge another poster by their appraisal of it. If you're only letting comments get posted that have received that sort of approval, then you're essentially letting the hoards of bots be your moderating team, an awful idea if there ever was one. (And as a one-time forum owner, I can promise you that bots are FAR more numerous than legitimate posters).

So, we have three possible outcomes:
1) Bots rate all comments as constructive. Posts continue through as though unmoderated, and significantly more spam makes it through than a captcha would allow.
2) Bots rate all comments as not constructive. The board grinds to a halt as all comments, regardless of their quality, are discarded before making it to the message board.
3) Bots rate roughly half of the comments as constructive, and half as not constructive. The rating system fails, as all comments receive roughly the same rating (the hundreds of bots outweigh the few real users and render their ratings essentially meaningless). Comments are either posted or blocked as a fluke, and enough spam gets through to make it worthwhile. Again, a captcha would be more effective.

Randall, you suck again. See why you need an editor? If you'd have bounced this idea off of ONE PERSON you'd have seen how worthless it was!

ok go

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Comic 809: Atomically Lame


[ALT: The test didn't (spoiler alert) destroy the world, but the fact that they were even doing those calculations makes theirs the coolest jobs ever.]

I'm sure every one of you who doesn't suck has watched Dr. Strangelove. The premise of the movie runs something like this: what if everyone who was supposed to prevent disaster from happening in the Cold War were crazies and incompetents? The result is one of the best absurdist comedies out there.

Much like Dr. Strangelove, this comic has a premise: what if one of the researchers on the bomb didn't know math very well? The result of this one, unfortunately, is incredibly boring. Nothing wacky happens at all! It turns out, in Randy's hypothetical scenario, that if someone researching the bomb didn't know math very well, someone else would just redo his work, and disaster would be averted.

I don't need to tell you how boring this is, but I do want to draw attention to something here: this is a hypothetical scenario. An alternate history, if you will. Randy came up with something he thought was hilariously wacky--one of the scientists sucks at math! HILARIOUS! And maybe this could be a great story. An absurdist comedy about the scientific elite.

Except even when Randy is coming up with wacky hypothetical scenarios, it's still fucking boring. Randy is unable to conceive of something amusing happening. His mind is so incredibly boring that his wacky hypotheticals end exactly the way the real world events happened: without mishap.

There's so many ways this could have been funny. Funny characters, a funny story, something funny happening. Anything. Anything besides "oh no we have to recheck our work!" Anything besides someone saying "hey I don't remember the mnemonic we were taught in high school, which one is it" and someone else saying "OMG YOU DON'T REMEMBER THE MNEMONIC YOU SUCK AT MATH LET'S REDO ALL YOUR WORK."

In conclusion, Randy sucks and I hate you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Comic 808: Randy Affirms the Consequent

bad ideas

[ALT: Not to be confused with 'making money selling this stuff to OTHER people who think it works', which corporate accountants and actuaries have zero problems with.]

Oh man, it has been ages since the last chart comic! I was starting to think Randy didn't love me anymore. But here we have one--and it's even got straight lines in it! This is truly the best comic Randy has ever made.

So I guess the point is that if all of these random mystical things worked, then people would use them to make a fortune, because capitalism etc? Either that or capitalism must not work. That seems to be the conclusion Randy is drawing from this extensively researched chart, anyway. Which is obviously true! Everyone knows that when you have some talent or ability that works, you are 100% likely to make a fortune exploiting that talent. This is why all rich people are incredibly brilliant and all poors are inherently lazy slobs!

Randy's poor understanding of capitalism aside, I am striving to locate a joke. I only think there must be one because even Randy can't seriously think he's being insightful here--this is not just preaching to the choir, it's the Platonic Form of preaching to the choir. We get it, bullshit mysticism doesn't work! It isn't funny or clever to point that out, especially when you can't even fucking do it right. We know that you've got this convenient dead horse that looks like it needs beating from time to time, Randy, but it's dead. It was dead long before you got here. Just stop. It's getting kind of gross.

Finally, I'd like to quote from xkcdsucks commenter and mustachioed cerealmonger Capn, in the previous comment thread:

Not checked:
Phenomena as potential, (read: non-existent) lower cost/benefit ratio, solutions to actual problems that have existing solutions.

Phenomena that needed to be solved and understood, or cropped up, as components of known solutions to known problems.

Counter-Argument for the table:

Crazy Phenomena:
Spontaneous generation

If it worked companies would make a killing in ...
Cricket Production

Are they?

Crazy Phenomena:

If it worked companies would make a killing in ...

Are they?

Also worth noting, pretty much every one of the fields Randy mentioned where companies would be making a killing are, in fact, fields where companies are making a killing already. Where by "pretty much" I mean "literally all of them, what the fuck is wrong with you, Randy?"

Monday, October 18, 2010

Comic 807: A Many-Splendored Thing

terrible things
[ALT: Or love in general, for that matter. It just leads to the idea that either your love is pure, perfect, and eternal, and you are storybook-compatible in every way with no problems, or you're LYING when you say 'I love you'. (sic)]

I'm going to be frank with you. I don't recall ever being so utterly surprised by a comic as this one--especially the alt text. I have never finished reading one and sitting back and thinking "Holy shit" like I have here. This one just blew me away with how fucking terrible it is. I didn't think Randy could stoop to that level.

We've all made fun of his creepy romance comics before--the ones which are all bleak and depressing and about things ending in despair, but those always felt like he was at least going for artful, like if you squinted and looked at it kind of sideways it wasn't expressing the author's sentiments. He distanced himself from them, kind of. There was plausible deniability. Not so for this one! This reads straight up like the rant of a man who just got dumped hardcore, and is pissed about it. (Note: I think it's dumped, not rejected. Hopefully the reasons will become clear.)

We'll start with the comic, which on its own I might have found unremarkable--here we have the implication that all relationships based on common interests are shallow as all get-out, and entirely misleading! (I will not make any snide remarks about how Randy frequently romanticizes people based solely on things they are into. I am above that sort of thing.) Do you hear me? You're fooling yourself into thinking that liking the same things means you'll have any connection with someone, because, uh, other people like the same things, too, and you aren't dating all of THEM, are you??

Nevermind that information like "your favorite song/your interests" tends to be material for first dates, or the first couple dates, and isn't the basis for entire relationships. But it's pretty easy to have a conversation about your favorite bands, if you aren't a complete idiot, and traditionally the way we get to know someone is by having conversations with them. Not sure why Randy doesn't like this method This makes perfect sense for Randy, who has the social skills of a rotten ham sandwich.

And then we get to the alt text. Oh man, the alt text. This is your textbook nerd-gets-dumped sour grapes. "Love is stupid anyway, because when I said I love you she dumped me and that means that love doesn't last forever so why should I even want love because it's all dumb?" It is, of course, entirely unconvincing--he desperately wants that connection, that storybook perfection, and it shows--but he's trying so fucking hard to act like he's SO OVER this love thing, it's stupid and he doesn't even understand it, GOD people are so much dumber than computers!

This is the part that really shocked me with its hideousness. This isn't striving for deep, or artful, or funny. This is just straight up "either your love is 100% storybook perfect or you're a LYING LIARFACE." It's a tantrum, put in a place where he knows he'll get his legion of loyal fans to read it and say "OMG SO TRUE," despite its lack of profundity, its offensive simplicity, its complete lack of saying anything but "I lack the emotional maturity to handle my breakups in an adult way."

This is the sort of thing that should only appeal to emotionally stunted self-diagnosed Aspies who congratulate themselves on their poor understanding of social dynamics, thinking that they are profound realizations that pierce the veil of dishonesty that shroud all human interactions. It only gets worse if Randy isn't being sincere, since it means he's just cynically exploiting people who don't know any better--letting them assume that because he says something they agree with that he has a level of profound genius. He ought to be fucking ashamed of himself.

...actually, I take it all back. Randy knows his target audience fucking perfectly.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Comic 806: Technical Problems

ha ha ha

[Your editor would like to start by apologizing for being late. Your editor knows that you are used to Carl "Won't Return My Phone Calls" Wheeler's lazy "oh hey the day before the next comic is up is good enough for me!" style, but we are aiming to be prompt. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of today's poster, a mysterious and terrible monster known only as "shufti." Your editor hopes you are somehow capable of enjoying it. Your editor certainly was not. -Ed.]

Welcome to every nerd's wet dream, where "experimental" operating systems (whatever that means) don't have anything to do with internet connections, every office has a stereotypical Linux girl ready and waiting to respond to your mighty call of "Shibboleet", and "lingering problems from sever moves" can be fixed in, like, three seconds.

I mean, seriously, a stuffed Linux penguin and a poster of xkcd's version of Richard Stallman? If she knew, like, two programming languages and treated everyone who was like her as some sort of secret society, complete with password, she'd be the stereotypical xkcd girl too.

...Oh wait.

Hilarious wish-fulfillment aside, this is, at its core, yet another comic frustrated that the world isn't good with technology. We've seen those before. It's also a comic about how superior people who use Linux are. We've seen that before. Hell, we've even seen the exact inverse of this comic - remember #278? Hey guys, if you use Linux you are so smart and your tech support is so awesome that getting bad tech support for a Linux distro is a HILARIOUS concept because of how IMPOSSIBLE it would be. Oh, and, hey, remember that time Randy himself sent a check to Verizon for $0.002 because of a HILARIOUSLY bad tech support phone call? Remember how HILARIOUS that all was? Well hold on to that thought, because I need to barf.


Alright, I'm back. You know, I'm pretty much constantly confused why any group, nerds or geeks or otherwise, would feel the need to insist that their group is "better" than another group. I get chauvinism; giving opportunities to people like yourself over people not like yourself is basic human behavior. I get the juvenile reasoning behind superiority complexes; "if you're not 'better', you're 'worthless'" is exactly the sort of thing an insecure adolescent would think. See, I just don't get why this juvenility is so damn pervasive even amongst post-pubescent groups. I'm going to say something that'll probably surprise you - I think Randy is a pretty smart dude.[The views contained in this post belong solely to shufti, who is a wretched fiend and must be wiped from the face of the earth, and do not necessarily reflect those of Aloria and Rob, God-Queen and King of Hatred -Ed.]. Broadly speaking, in fact, I think he's probably a smarter dude than I am [This, however, is true. -Ed.]. Randy's got a physics degree, he's worked at NASA, knows several programming languages, and has a great aptitude for technology. Hell, he's even written some short fiction that was pretty good. Me? I'm just some undergraduate going for an English degree. I run a rarely-updated flash fiction blog and a somewhat-more updated blog dedicated to remixing xkcd. The combined hits for both of those blogs over their entire lifespans probably don't even come close to the hits any single xkcd comic gets on any single day. Why is it that Randall is the one who feels the need to keep asserting how awesome he is, while I'm the one content when I get one or two constructive responses to some poem I throw up [BLAAARGH -Ed.] on my Facebook?

I know what a lot of you will say - he's famous for a horrible comic which is causing him seven levels of existential torment, etc. etc. I'm sure that's at least partially why. But that can only be significant if his standard for legitimacy is still tied to beliefs he should have outgrown by the time he started working through college. And that's my question - why didn't it? And why didn't it for so many others, including so many of xkcd's current fan base? Comics like this (and the slavering support it so consistently gets) just make me sad for exactly that reason. [They also make your editor sad because they suck, horribly. -Ed.]

To: Randall Munroe
CC: xkcd fanbase

You are smart in your own right. You don't need to prove this to anybody. You're only holding yourself back by forcing other people to deal with your own issues.

(Two notes: one, I'm not railing against people with legitimate social disorders like SAD, and two, I'm not saying that all fans of xkcd are socially retarded basement-dwellers. All I'm saying is that I wish that Randall and those like Randall could learn to see more value in themselves and others without obsessively clinging to the metric of peer approval.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Comic 805: Randall Tries Busking

musical boxes
[Alt: Take me down to the paradise municipality / where the grass is mauve and the girls aren't fromthisreality]

I have a confession to make. After reading this comic I experienced, not a GOOMHR moment, but a moment of bonding with Randall. I wanted to go home and visit paradise cities, also! There I could forget that there was ever such a thing as XKCD. There I could finally know peace. As I slept last night, I dreamt of this land. I cannot describe it to you here in a way which will do it justice, but it was a place where I was happy. I awoke to a bright cold Seattle morning and reality dawned. I had still read this comic. I had not escaped to a better place. I will never be free.

The narrative structure of this comic is a little confusing. The man is sitting on a box and singing, that much is clear. I'm assuming he's busking or something, but there's no real indication of that. A bench at a park or subway station would make it pretty clear, and it might even allow for some of that patented "it's better than the shit I usually put out" art that makes the ladies go crazy for Randall-brand loving. You could draw a whole scene if you wanted! And context might help the joke here. God knows it needs the help.

The joke itself--well, here I want to be careful, because it's one of those jokes that doesn't lend itself to summarizing nicely. Obviously it's a play on the song. It tries to create a narrative structure of a spree of violent crime being quelled by the Mounties, who I guess send the criminals off to Orwellian rehabilitation camps? All while keeping to the structure of "Take me down to X region where Y rhyming thing happens."

It's not the worst thing in the world. He manages to keep the meter moderately well. The rhymes mostly work, and only feel slightly forced. It is, however, pretty fucking terrible.

It's just--what is the point? It's not doing anything interesting. It's old enough that I'm not even going to bother complaining that it's not timely, but come on, Randy. Parodies should do something insightful, or at least interesting, with the source material. It should do more than draw a poorly cobbled together narrative using all the words you can think of that mean roughly the same thing as "city" that have rhymes. Or at least do something more than draw five panels of a stick man sitting on a box with badly drawn musical notes surrounding him.

Who else thinks Randy first thought of "counties" and "mounties" rhyming and just went from there?

EDIT: Oh yes, I'd like to thank everyone for their submissions on this one! Keep them coming. The hate has made you powerful.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

804: Blergerghergergh ALCOHOL

DRUNKLORIA HERE posting about comic 804 because I promised Rob even though it is TOTALLY CUTTING INTO MY DRINKING TIME.

So here we have the recurring characters of this comic doing EXACTLY THE KIND OF SHIT YOU'D EXPECT THEM TO. Beret guy acted all quirky, black hat guy acted mischievous-on-the-verge-of-homidical, archetypcal xkcd girl acted all introspective and emo, and generic xkcd guy made some reference to a semi-obscure (in that you don't pick it up in generic high school/college courses) theorem. Randall thinks that you will find this hilarious. It is not.

Do you guys remember the show Family Matters? If you do, you're likely familiar with a character named Urkel. Poor Urkel started out as a supporting character and then became more and more the focus of the show as producers realized audiences loved his helpless dweebiness and slapstick ways. The problem, though, is that his character never developed beyond a one-note gimmick so that by the ninth season, most people wanted to FUCKING KILL THAT BASTARD URKEL. SAY "DID I DO THAT" ONE MORE TIME MOTHERFUCKER, I. DARE. YOU!


That is the problem with this comic. It is basically the token characters doing exactly what they always do; nothing more. There's nothing clever or amusing in that. It's not even worth writing more than "this is completely fucking boring and I hate it." But I did anyway, because I am a talkative drunk.

ETA: Whoops, I linked to the wrong thing. This is because when I drink, I like to open multiple Wikipedia math articles and bask in how cool I am.

programming note

aloria and I are continuing this blog until Randall Munroe himself comes and pries it from our cold, dead, incredibly sexy hands. aloria said she would post about 804 today some time-ish, etc etc

we will probably update in a more timely fashion than Carl.

I also have a SPECIAL REQUEST for you wretched fiends! if you want to write a review, just email it to me (link is in my blogger profile) with the subject line 'I HAVE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE ABOUT COMIC X,' where X is the comic number. I don't promise it will be used, but don't bother asking first. if a comic fills you with the urge to rant, just send away.

(you don't have to use the subject line but I will set up a gmail filter so emails with that tag are more visible and thus more likely to be seen.)

that's about it. the blog lives on forever etc

Friday, October 8, 2010

Comics 802 and 803: We've Been Here Before

i believe i can fly
[Alt: This is a fun explanation to prepare your kids for; it's common and totally wrong. Good lines include 'why does the air have to travel on both sides at the same time?' and 'I saw the Wright brothers plane and those wings were curved the same on the top and bottom!'

I find Comic 802 too boring for words, so you should read this dude's rant about it. I will note, however, that this time he has a preorder up for posters, so all of you who for some reason think that when he posts an obvious poster grab he's not doing it because he wants to sell a poster can get fucked.

803, now! 803 is terrible. Randy is back to his old tricks, which is to say, he is complaining about how teachers don't cater to his every whim in class. Randy is special, you see, and his teachers told him to shut up when he called them out on providing explanations that did not stand up to his rigorous engineer's standards. (He says it is "totally wrong," which is not true. It's actually reasonably close to correct, albeit way too simplified.)

Furthermore, he thinks that it is a good idea to equip your children with clever zingers to harass their teachers when they do not provide you with the engineer's version of a scientific explanation. He further thinks that it is wrong for the teacher to say "that's really too complicated to go into at this juncture, and we need to move on" instead of saying "GOLLY JEEPERS YOU'RE RIGHT LET'S LOOK INTO IT RIGHT NOW AND BORE THE REST OF THE CLASS AND DERAIL THE CURRICULUM."

I'd like to address the "equip your children with clever zingers" bit first. I attended a private Christian school when I was a lad. Around middle school to high school, we started receiving education on "clever things to say to a teacher who is teaching that evolution is true or that the world is older than like two or three weeks old, tops." They were mostly envisioning that you'd say this to a teacher, and imagining that everyone would laugh at how flustered he got and praise you as brilliant and clever and possibly lick your nipples when you got home. Just throwing that out there--Randall is suggesting the same tactics used by young-earth creationists who write propaganda textbooks.

And on to the part where Randy thinks that teachers should cater to students disrupting the flow of the classroom. This works pretty well in his hated humanities courses, actually. I've had a professor literally change the final project to something else because of things that came up in the class. Humanities classes tend to be full of lively discussion, and the teacher is there to guide that discussion to the right places. Unfortunately the comic is apparently about a science class! There is no time for that sort of bullshit in the hard sciences. You would never get your curriculum done! And if you only get 2/3 of your hard science curriculum done then you're only 2/3 superior to those damn humanities students!

But I guess in Randyland it's always appropriate to correct someone about science, especially when they're a teacher. It's their own fault for not being engineers, I guess.

(notice how I'm ignoring the "joke" about Santa being your parents? that is because it is so fucking stupid there's really just nothing to say about it.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


mc shut the fuck up
[alt text: Took me five tries to find the right one, but I managed to salvage our night out--if not the boat--in the end.]

I bet Randy was all sitting pretty on his little shrine to Carl and the rest of the loyal commentariat here at "We Aren't Exceptionally Fond Of The Webcomic XKCD." I imagine he said to himself (because he has no friends, and the silence has driven him to talking to himself), "That beautiful, sexy fiend Carl 'Randall Munroe' Wheeler has finally given up! Now I will produce the worst possible comic right after his final post, and he can't do anything about it!"

Well guess what, motherfucker? I AM NOT LETTING YOU GET AWAY WITH THIS ONE.

Now, I don't want to be unfair to Randy. Maybe he has a terrible fever which is warping his brain and will leave him with permanent damage. Perhaps Megan has finally started poisoning his coffee. I don't know what's going on in his personal life, and I don't want to just assume that psychosis hasn't started setting in yet. We don't have all the information.

But those are the only valid excuses for this comic.

My first reaction to this one went something like "uh, what the fuck?" I kept reading it, over and over again, trying to figure out what the hell he thinks might be funny about this one. I've come to a couple conclusions actually! There are multiple points where Randy thinks he's being funny, and the aggregate forms a sort of extra-terrible joke.

First, this is another attempt to tell a joke by suggesting that something funny happened, without actually showing us that funny thing. "Bolt cutters, Wolf Blitzer's boathouse, vodka, black hat guy. DO THE MATH, PEOPLE!!!" This is, of course, the paragon of laziness, but it works well for the Pavlovian fuckwits that worship Randy.

Second, he attempts to derive humor from the HILARIOUSLY INAPPROPRIATE play on "when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like nails." Get it? He replaced "hammer" and "nails" with different objects! GET IT??? IT WAS FUNNY.

Third, the punchline in no way follows the setup. Randy was here going for a hilarious nonsequitur, because all humor is unexpected and blah blah blah fuck you. It ended up with the shit you see now: two unconnected scenes. In one, a man is complaining about Java. In the other, a man is talking about how he stole Wolf Blitzer's boat.

Fourth, of course, we have references. Randy's author insertion character complains about Java, which many nerds will automatically laugh at. Black hat guy references Wolf Blitzer, of whom many nerds will have heard. The latter reference is of the "LOL THAT'S SO RANDOM" variety. The former is of the "OMG I ALSO HATE JAVA" variety.

The result, as you can plainly see, is just fucking stupid.

Was there really a time when Randy could write jokes with clever subversions? It seems so remote and distant now, like maybe my mind just made it all up. Is this really what Randy has become?


I said in the last comment thread that I could probably continue the blog here if the desire was there. I don't want to push the blog past its expiration date, though, so I'm content to let it be--but if you lot want the blog to continue under the far more talented and corpulent hand of yours truly, you need only say so, and I might pay attention.

I'd say it's been a pleasure but we all know that's a lie. I hate every last one of you and interacting with you is a godawful nightmare. It's bad enough reading XKCD all the time to bring you wretched monsters some cheap laughs. Reading your comments every day was very nearly intolerable. Since the blog is no more, I don't mind revealing that the only reason I continued to post here is as a punishment from the gods.

Fuck you all. You have no redeeming qualities. Good night.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Comic 800: Beautiful Dream

Comic 800! Quite a milestone for Randall Munroe, and I congratulate him on making it this far. I don't think he should have, of course. But still, it's farther along that I would have guessed he could make it based on, I dunno, the quality of his comics.

Another thing that's lasted longer than I would have expected is this blog. I started it in late April of 2008, and clearly did not expect anyone to actually read it, let alone comment and form a tiny, hateful, wonderful little group. We've had about 520 posts on this blog, some of which have been thousands of words long, which is astounding. This is an especially fitting time for reflection, as I started this blog right around comic 400. That means that at this point, half of all xkcd comics have a coressponding xkcdsucks post. Well, technically I started with comic 409, so it's not half until comic 818. But you have to give me a nine comic not-giving-a-fuck margin of error.

In any case, I promised a big announcement, and despite my past history of vile lies, this time I was being serious: I'm going to be making a whole bunch of changes around here. I'm not quite going to stop xkcdsucks or get rid of it, but it's also not going to continue as it has been. Instead, I want to try a new website - a site about webcomics in general, though with the same critical-but-fair attitude I've developed here over the years.

I've been thinking about this for a while, and actually, Person #1 and Aloria helped me set up the url and wordpress structure, and I've posted a handful of things on it already (some of it was also crossposted here, like book reviews). I didn't tell anyone about it though; I figured that I could have it running in the background until I was ready to announce it.

So why am I doing this? There are a few reasons, of course. The idea of getting away from has been around for a while - people particularly hate the comment box, and given that that's how all of you interact with me and everyone else, it seems pretty important. Not important enough that I did anything about it, of course, but still: the idea was there.

When I first started blogging here, I was doing it out of a frustration I no longer feel. That's not to say xkcd has gotten better, of course - in fact, it's gotten worse. But some things have changed: When I started, it was because I felt like no one else seemed to realize that xkcd was getting so terrible. It was just frustrating to feel like I was the only one who "got it", which I know is a super pretentious thing to say, but it's how I felt. I was hoping that someone else online had come to the same conclusion, so naturally I googled "xkcd sucks." I didn't find much. So I decided it was up to me. I had some brief experience with, so I set up an account and started posting.

I truly don't know what gave me the energy to keep going at first. But after a few weeks, a man named Jonathan Harford left some encouraging comments, and apparently, that was all I needed. The idea that someone not only agreed with me but that he wanted to talk about it, well, that was simply lovely. The summer of 2008 saw the first real rise in readership, and it's also when a lot of the regulars around here got involved. FUN FACT: You guys know rob? The guy who comments all the time and is good at arguing but bad at posting, and is rumored to weigh over 350 pounds? The one who is basically an ideological xkcd hater? He started out as a total xkcd fanboy! Here's the first comment he left on this blog, in its entirety:
Veritably cuddly.

Honestly, and I'm not saying this out of spite or anything, I don't think you're going to manage to convince anyone that XKCD sucks or is overrated through this blag. I also think you're probably analyzing it too much. I couldn't really tell you why the "in popular culture" one was funny, but I laughed at it. It's kind of an absurd notion. Like most humor, when you really analyze it, it fails to stand up.

Have you ever read a Wikipedia article on a joke? Any kind of joke, really. I, for one, have never found humor to be more boring than in the context of analysis.

And of course, There Are No New Ideas. I am of the opinion that people ought to be slapped every time they criticize something because it's been done before. Originality is for bad thrillers (and they still don't manage).

GUYS: HE EVEN USED THE WORD "BLAG." what a goddamned nerd.

Anyway - the audience grew slowly but steadily. Here, you can follow along: my google analytics from september 2008 (when I first started tracking) through today. The biggest spikes are based off prominent links and also one particularly terrible comic.

It's been very weird to go from 50-60 visits a day to the point where 2000 visits would be a bad day. Very weird indeed.

So here's what's different now: I'm not the only one who thinks xkcd sucks. There are you guys, certainly, and I love you all for it. But even elsewhere - it's far more common to hear people say that xkcd is getting a lot worse. I no longer feel like I'm doing anyone a favor by having this blog. That alone, though, wouldn't be enough to stop - I truly do enjoy this sort of thinking and this sort of writing, and the practice is certainly good even if no one is reading. And recently, that's dropped off too - the overarching problem with most recent xkcd comics is not that they are terrible but that they are boring. It's not fun to write about. A lot of the problems in the new comics are the exact same problems as in old comics, so to criticize them properly would be to merely repeat myself. That's not fun.

At the same time, I'm reading tons of other comics. I link to them when I can, but usually the amount of time I spend on xkcd crowds out the rest of the stuff. I want to spend more time reading new comics and writing reviews of those, or writing more book reviews, or interviews. And I want to have a few more voices represented, not just mine.

But all this I had decided long ago - the problem was, I still felt like xkcdsucks should continue too, and I didn't have time for both. So here's my compromise: "xkcdsucks" is now going to be a weekly feature of the new blog. Rather than feel the need to comment on every single xkcd no matter what, this will let me be more adaptable - if only one comic is worth commenting on that particular week, then that's all I'll do. I always say that Randall's problem (ONE of his problems) is that he forces himself to update constantly, regardless of quality. So I shouldn't do that myself.

Hey! I still haven't told you anything about the new site! And this is what I am super excited about, too. So! It's a wordpress blog, right now it's pretty basic visually but I hope to work on that in the comic weeks. If you want to help out that would be cool. I certainly want some nicer images around, and maybe some help with the general visual theme. My idea is that everything can be done through one blog, but that there would be links to only certain by certain features (like, "posts written by this guy" or "interviews," etc.) so it would feel a little more organized than just "all posts here, read in order." I have a few ideas for what to write about - actually a whole lot - so I'm pretty excited to get started. The URL is , so that's a pretty nice place for it. I don't have a name for it besides just calling it "" so if you think of a good name let me know. Actually if you think of anything at all let me know.

I know that there are probably a lot of you out there who are going to be disappointed about this decision, and there's nothing I can say to that besides the fact that I'm grateful you like my blog enough that you're mad it's stopping. If you only really like the negative stuff, you probably won't like the new blog as much as the old one. So I feel ok with the idea that many people won't follow me over to the new site. That's ok. I mean, I hope you do - but I understand that it might take another few years to get the audience there up to what it is here now. And that's assuming all goes well. Who knows what will happen! It's going to be fun.

As to some logistics: This site will stay up indefinetly, though I don't plan to update it. I'll include a link to prominently at the top, along with an explanation. But there's far too much content here to just get rid of it. I spent a while thinking about moving everything here over to the new wordpress blog, but I decided against it - they are going to be two different things. I have, however, posted all my book reviews on that site, and may go back and copy some other articles if I think they are relevant and were good enough. I imagine some of Rob's more general-interest articles will end up there as well. Aloria is going to help with some of the backend stuff, and Ves will be writing as well. Rob will probably join as well. And maybe some other folks! If you're interested in writing for it, you can send me an e-mail with some sample articles and maybe we can get that started. I'm particularly interested in some people who know more about art than I do.

So! Here we are. I'm eager to get started on the new site and I hope you join me there.

In closing, it's been a wacky ride for the last two and a half years. I don't want to get sentimental, given that I write a blog that just makes fun of a comic, but still: It's pretty cool that so many of you have spend so much time commenting on this site and being a part of this community. There were plenty of terrible commenters, but they tended to post once or twice and leave - those of you who stuck around, regardless of your opinions, have proven to be truly fun, intelligent, awesome people. I've had many great conversations with a lot of people, both privately by e-mail and publicly by way of the comments, and I have just been so consistently impressed with how interesting, passionate, and intelligent you all are.

Cuddlefish, William Monty Hughes, randallizing wikipedia, comic 631, megan, summer of MADNESS, picto-blog, the Ass can I ever forget them...