Sunday, February 28, 2010

Comic 707: Killing the Joke

who even says that
oh god. I don't think this comic deserves very much of my time. It's just so stupid. He makes an abhorrently cliched old joke, then he, ha ha ha, acts like he wasn't kidding. He is still kidding, of course - absent any other information at all about these people we have to assume that they are run-of-the-mill xkcd losers, and they don't kill people (unless someone is wearing a hat), they just act sarcastic and self-important all the time.

So basically what we have is a stupid old joke, where someone pretends it isn't a joke, and that in itself is a slightly less old, slightly less stupid joke - but not by much. It's like saying "speaking of giant whores, you know who's a giant whore? your MOM" and then waiting to the (hopefully brief) laughter to subside, and then saying "no but seriously, your mom is a whore, and I paid her to have sex with me. Frequently." It's like taking a stupid joke and saying "nope, i'm not just going to say this stupid thing and move on, I'm going to double down on it and pretend i really think the circumstances of the joke are true. Love me."

Ugh, and in addition to everything I just wrote, panel 3's wording just pisses me off: It should be 'I mean, sooner' or even just 'sooner.' The repetition of words 'kill you' makes it a lot worse, a lot more cumbersome with no benefit. Actually, xkcd did recently have an example of a half-decent final panel. In both cases, the last panel should be used to finish a sentence that we had thought was already over. The last few words are added to subvert the meaning of the first part. It works well in the g spot comic, in this one, by starting a new sentence Randall loses out on the benefit that phrasing could have given the comic.

Like most things in life, it reminded me of the simpsons, specifically, Season 4, episode 1, Kamp Krusty:
 In their subfreezing cold cabin, the children lie in their bunks
while the counselors head across the lake to ``meet some tail.''

Lisa: I feel like I'm gonna die, Bart.
Bart: We're all gonna die, Lis.
Lisa: I meant soon.
Bart: So did I.
Obviously that version doesn't suck.

Jay, are you posting next time? I don't even know what is going on anymore.

Have I mentioned that MS Paint Adventures is still really pissing me off? I think we've talked about this before, but the intermission is over and it is still true. The story is so convoluted and now is jumping around between so many people, so many times, and so many different interactions that I just want to give up. Maybe I will.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Comic 706: I am Going to Punch You In The Face

freedom to suck
This is a pretty boring strip, which is odd because it features a dude getting punched in the face. And still, boring.

Probably it;s because it is so horribly predictable - a sort of Checkhov's Fist that is mentioned in the second panel and unsurprisingly used in the last. It's not just that, though; the dialogue is also really stilted and awkward. "Sometimes I'm shocked to realize how many options I have" is just a stupid way to start this conversation. What would be more natural? Maybe something skipping most of the first panel and starting with the second, like "Do you realize that at any moment, I could..." etc. As is, the first panel is just a dumb set up to make the second character demand a further explanation.

Anyway, the other thing that annoyed me about the comment was how clever the first character things he's being, woo, no one has ever thought of that stuff before. "It's only my mental rules that stop me from punching you" is so stupid too, there's plenty of good other reasons not to punch someone - they may be stronger, they may have a more powerful weapon on them with which to get their terrible revenge, also you might get arrested. Or the word may go out that you are a douche. That's a lousy result too. Basically what the character wants to say is "people take long term consequences into account because they aren't idiots. But they could ignore them if they wanted!" GENIUS!

ok, that's it. i am offended at how boring this comic is. maybe tomorrow will be more interesting. Also, looks like you should start paying more attention to who writes each of these posts, because other folks are writing sometimes. keep an eye out.

Hey, it is almost time for the CONTEST TO START! almost.

holy CRAP i mean, I know Zach Weiner loves xkcd for some reason, but my GOD today's SMBC Comic is so damn close to this xkcd from a few weeks ago, right down to the "we have only the barest amount of certainty in this case" punchline. I basically do not know what else to say. We all know that Zach adores xkcd, so I really don't see what his excuse is here. Link

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Awful xkcd Parodies, Courtesy of The Internet

Perhaps these will inspire some more entries in the xkcdsucks contest! Feel free to continue mocking the comic's fetishes for superiority, Joss Whedon, programming, and general geek references.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Comic 705: Die Harder

Hey there ladies and gents, it's me again. Gonna be a quick post today, is this update game exhausting you too? Don't worry, I have it on good authority that Carl will be back for the next one. In the meantime, let's do this.

Randall, please do not draw facial hair on your stick figures. In fact, please don't try to draw facial features on them at all, you've done it a few times now and it pretty much always looks like shit. Either you learn to draw for real, which won't be happening, or you keep it simple. You can't have it both ways.

We all know what's wrong with this comic. Right? Comics are a visual medium, even stick figure comics, and it's just not OK to have a talking head narrating the situation. It's pointless and lazy. The visual element of comics is a tool, it's the main strength of the medium over, you know, text. Showing something crazy happening is always more interesting, and usually funnier, than just describing it, whether the pictures are accompanied by narration or not.

The last line of dialogue here is also awful. Despite its flaws, this comic actually came pretty close to making me laugh (I've known sysadmins like that), but when I finished it, I went from ready-to-laugh Jay to disgruntled, glowering Jay in like a second. It's post-punchline dialogue, which of course is well-loathed, but worse than that, it's pandering. It's a shoutout to all the sysadmins in the audience, "hey, I recognize you!", to make them feel special. It spells out the punchline (so does the alt text), it's awkward, it's not something any human being would say. Not even in xkcd's universe. Don't believe me? Replace "sysadmin" with something realistic, like special forces op, anything. "Shit, we're dealing with an X." Italicized for extra emphasis. People don't talk that way.

In summary, there's a potentially funny idea here, at least for people who are aware of the sysadmin stereotype, but it's ruined by its execution. What a surprise that is. We'll be seeing each other again soon, but for now I'm going to turn you over to Carl. I'm grumpy, going to bed.

Comic 705: Held Hostage

Devotion to Shitty

Oh dear. As I see it, there are two giant horrible problems with this. I don't feel like writing too much so I'll go through them fast:

1, total nerd service. This is literally promoting sysadmins to actual heroic levels, making the anonymous admin a superhero, walking across glass, risking death, etc. In other words, not something a nerd computer dude would ever actually do. But how better to make your nerd fans happy than to suggest that many of them are heroes? After all, someone who does what the sysadmin in the comic does will probably get to have sex with people! people who are impressed with him or her.

2, holy lord, Randall! show don't tell! this is such a blatant example of it. Look at the story in this comic: A bunch of hostages are being held somewhere, a dude crosses over broken glass, kills his enemies - that's exciting. But what are the images we see to go along with it? A dude on a cell phone. That's...not as exciting. Instead of seeing the interesting events, we hear a guy talk about them with words. I'm not going to say it's because Randall is lazy and didn't feel like drawing something that complicated - wait, yes I am. Randall is lazy and if he had tried harder this comic would have been better.

3. I guess I lied, there's 3 things: The phrasings and pacing is real bad. Why does the guy on the other end of the phone not say the important stuff first? Why does he go "well it was all well and good, la dee da, do doo dooo, oh wait actually we're screwed cause of this one guy." Also, why does the on screen character act so panicked if the superhero sysadmin isn't actually trying to rescue the hostages? If he's just reconnecting the internet, why is that a big deal? Lastly, "muttering about uptime" should be enough of a clue that the character they are talking about is a sysadmin, coming out at the end and saying it takes a lot away from the impact of the joke.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

xkcd store update

this new-stuff-in-the-xkcd-store post turned out way longer than I was expecting. Like the other store posts, I found that I got oddly passionate about the subject. I think it's because this is where xkcd makes money - if it weren't for the store, randall would need a real job. The store is basically the fuel for this comic. Anyway, it's a long and an angry post, feel free to skip it.


Well, as the xkcd homepage is telling us, there is some new shit in the store. I am the expert on new xkcd shit, so let's take a look.

First off, the prints. Looks like the new ones are comics 627 and 688. Both of these are actually images which I think work better as posters than as a comics - especially the Tech Support one, which literally says it should be printed out and put up (luckily it doesn't say "everyone, buy a print of this in the store, put it up, now you are a computer expert!"). "Self-Description" is really more the kind of thing where when you see it, you say "Huh" rather than "ha," so as a poster, a reader is not expecting a joke, and shouldn't be disappointed. (theoretical experiment for xkcd fans: Put up a poster of "Self-Description" and see if anyone laughs at it and tells you it's funny. no? that is what I thought).

But the broader point about the prints is this: the pricing. Now I'm not the first to bring this up (Rob and Super Sam seem to have been, according to my old e-mails) but look: It's all well and good to charge $15 for prints (well, maybe not, but if people are willing to pay it, fine). But don't go and pretend you are doing some cool, radiohead style edgy anti-corporate rebellious thing. Randall writes that he's pricing the prints "Radiohead Style," but that's a blatant lie. Radiohead style would be letting people pay however much they want, including nothing. INCLUDING NOTHING. That is key. Click that link, and read the last sentence of the second paragraph real close: "And it's perfectly acceptable to pay nothing at all." That's what makes it crazy! No one cares that you could pay more than a usual price for the album, that's not news (What! Radiohead will be glad to take money you want to give them! Well stop the presses, mother fuckers!)

No. The point is that they were giving their album away for cheap or free. That is the news. That is the significance. That is what it means to price something Radiohead style.

To do what Randall does in his story - to say "You can pay me whatever you want, as long as it is above the price of $15, which is, come to think of it, kind of a lot for a black and white printed piece of paper" - that is not selling something radiohead style. That is trying to get their cool cache without having to actually sacrifice any income. LAME.

Also! I know, you thought I was done, I thought so too, but it was a lie - ALSO: Note that the minimum price for all the prints is $15. Right? But look closely! The default price is a whopping $25! If you want to pay less than $25 - I'll remind you that this is for a single sheet of paper with some black ink on it - you have to actively lower the price if you want to pay less than that. Meaning, there is a certain amount of pressure on you if you do so. You may think I am exaggerating and being paranoid, and I am, but I ask you THIS: Why is the default price $25? Why not $15, which is really high enough?

also, it may mean nothing, but I see that comics 500 - 700 are only represented by a mere 4 prints, while the earler comics get 15. I would say that that's because there are fewer good ones recently, but hey, I am probably biased.

Was I going to say something else? Oh yes. The posters! of course. Gravity Wells and Movie Narratives are now available as posters. RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU ARE SURPRISED! I sure am not. The pattern with this is pretty clear: Randall makes a comic that is huge, and detailed, and took a ton of work. It's so big that you have to click it to see it full size, it doesn't fit within the confines of a mere website. And we all go, "dang, say what you will about how lame the content is, that shit took effort." And then he makes it into a poster to sell, and we go "Oh, right. That explains it."

Here, I'll quote from my Gravity Wells post, which in turn quotes from the Movie Narratives post:

The last overly-complex comic he made was the Movie Narratives chart, and back when he made that, I wrote two things about it that I think are worth mentioning now:
But is there anyone out there who seriously doubts that this will not be turned into a poster, probably before christmas, and that Randall had this in mind when he made it?
Clearly my prediction was wrong, and this is still not available as a poster. So I admit that I was overly critical on that one, and Randall did not act as lame or pathetic as I said he would. That's nice. Likewise, I think this comic feels like an advertisement for a soon-to-be-available poster, but until that is actually the case, I for one will not say anything.

Well, so much for that. Now the comic is an advertisement for a poster and I can say whatever I want. What I want to say is this: xkcd, the comic, is basically just an advertisement for xkcd, the store. The comic continues to somehow create this nerd cult for the comic and for its products, and for some stupid reason people don't seem to realise that that's all the comic is. That's why he needs to dumb down the math and science: so that more people will get the jokes, and therefore, will be susceptible to his comic-based advertising.

Look at the 3 newest shirts - woodpecker polo, Mr. Hat polo, raptor polo - and the tie, as well, which is new: none of them make sense on their own. They don't have a self contained joke, like the old shirts. A person who does not know xkcd will not understand those shirts. And that's the point! The point is so that people can buy them and feel like they are part of the club, and have fake-nerds come up to them and compliment them on their shirts and make them feel special, or so that non-xkcd fans can ask about them and the wearers can feel superior while explaining this particular piece of the Club Uniform. The comic just advertises the shirts etc and gives readers a false sense of nerdiness and non-cool coolness. People buying the shirts makes Randall realise he has to keep appealing to as broad an audience as possible.

it's a terrible cycle and i hate it, the end.

Comic 704: xkcd is not real life

Well, if there was ever a comedic trope that deserved to be shot in the head, this is it. I'm actually not talking about the your mom joke, although that one too, I mean the - the other joke. Something happens in fiction that would not happen in real life. That's not an inherently funny idea, god dammit.

Hey! Read this Penny Arcade. Do you notice a similarity between it and this xkcd? You should, the two jokes are similar. In both of them, the punchline is something impossible (or extremely unlikely), and that's the only punchline, the impossibility. "This is not how it would actually happen." In real life, you cannot use the principle of explosion to derive somebody's phone number, and real life, no one would care about Gabe's birthday. The absurdity is supposed to be funny.

Why isn't it? (because it's not, in either of these) First, let's look at why it's supposed to be. Humor usually - maybe always - comes from the unexpected. In theory, the sudden appearance of something that is literally impossible should be the most unexpected thing in the world. These two comics fail because, in them, the impossible's not unexpected - the worlds of Penny Arcade and xkcd are already bizarre and nonsensical. When the impossible happens, it's just another day.

This is a very common device in comedy, and if you watch sitcoms you've probably seen it a thousand times. Penny Arcade just happened to be the one example I thought of. It works in shows, comics, whatever, that usually are realistic and believable, so when wackiness rears its head, we genuinely are surprised. This comic didn't surprise anyone.

That aside, yeah, this comic is pretty lame. We have a your mom joke, cutting edge of humor right there, did you know that your mom is a classless whore? She goes out with strange men and drinks boxed wine out of waffle cones. Thank you folks, I do sell t-shirts and I'll be here all week.

You know, I have this idea that Randall never deletes anything. Like, he'll be sitting at his comic desk at midnight or whatever, reflecting back on whatever wikipedia article he read that day. He writes "principle of explosion," circles it, and draws an arrow across the page labeled "joke??" Then he plays with a paperclip for half an hour. He thinks to himself, maybe I should just shelve this one, but then he thinks: no, I am a professional. I can do this.

Honest to god, that's what this comic feels like to me. This comic isn't about math at all. The setup isn't connected to the punchline. You could replace the setup with one of a dozen others, anything that gets the guy the mom's phone number (or more accurately, anything that shouldn't.) Maybe he's a mind reader. Or better yet, he's not, but he somehow guesses right anyway. This comic only contained math because it's xkcd. Think about that.

You know how I'd change this comic? I'd make it play out like it would in real life: it doesn't work. He doesn't get her phone number. Sometimes the expected can be more unexpected than the unexpected. Geez that's convoluted. Here's my edit, what do you think?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

xkcdsucks contest! finally!

GUYS! i promised you this like ages ago and I am finally going to do it. This is in exchange for putting ads on the site - it's something I still feel a little weird about so I wanted to give something back to you. I want to give you PRIZES. in exchange for WINNING MY CONTEST.

The contest itself is simple. We all love xkcd edits, so it's an xkcd edit contest. You enter the contest by submitting a comic you've made, using only already-existing xkcd comics as your material. You can't add any of your own art - only your own text. Probably, winners won't just be people who take generic stick figures and make them have a funny conversation, unrelated to the original work. After all, this is xkcdsucks - we like to make fun of xkcd. Doesn't mean you have to, but it does mean we'll have a soft spot for it. No length restrictions either. But if you make it long, make it worthwhile. Make it worthwhile. And enter as many times as you'd like.

How to submit entries: In 2 weeks I'll open entries for posting. There'll be an official post that I write where all comments should include links to entries, and probably a related post where we can talk about the entries. We'll keep that open for maybe a week or two - so get started now if you'd like.

Prizes: Prizes are contingent on google actually sending me the money it owes me. (UPDATE: this has happened, SWEET) If complications arise, I may not be able to offer Fabulous Prizes but rather Modest Ones. Hopefully this will not dissuade you. If google does what it promised, there will be three prizes, totalling $140. (probably that will be a $100 first prize and two $20 runner up prizes) (meaning, a prize worth that much, I will probably not just send you cash - probably some assortment of TopatoCo products). UPDATE: i changed the prize amounts slightly to be nicer round numbers. Prizes are TopatoCo gift certificates.

Pickin' a winner: This will work one of two ways: Either I'll set up a poll and you guys can pick finalists, and then I'll pick a winner and the runners up, or I'll pick finalists and you pick the winners and runners up. It will be one of those two. I haven't decided yet.

Questions? Please ask. I'll update this post as needed with clarifications.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Comic 703: Title of Post

woah hey, it's carl again. Jay and I are still figuring out who will post when. for now: me!

more like asshole societies, am i right
If there was any doubt that xkcd is now entirely marketed towards high school kids, I think this comic finally demolishes that doubt. It's for nerdy outcasts in high school who are so smug and sarcastic that they don't even want to join these "honor societies" because they are sanctioned by The Authorities of The High School. Jokes about making college applications look good? It's like we're back in sophmore year! Bring it on, Randall. This'll be fun.

"Smug" is exactly the tone of the first few panels. It's the same "I am so much smarter than my teachers at school" tone you'll see in the forums on xkcd in general - especially on this comic. And of course, it's not like Randall is new to this smug tone regarding high school in general. If they are having a "who can imitate Holden Caulfield the best" contest, they are all winning.

(though I do appreciate the fact that this comic is leading people to say things like "This comic is funny because it is funny" because that is exactly how inane they always sound! )

Anyway, like most I-am-superior-to-everyone-who-has-authority-over-me screeds, this one has to bend the truth quite hard. Basically, Randall is stacking the deck in his own favor. Honor societies are not for people who are "honorable," they are for people who get good grades. You join them to show colleges that you are smart. Perhaps that's a bit redundant if colleges are going to see your grades directly, but that's a different question. I tried to get into an honor society in high school, and failed, but not because I am dishonorable; that was not a consideration. It was because my grades weren't good enough (I am a pretty dumb guy). That's all! Does Randall really not know this? More importantly, does Randall really think the Anonymous Administrator in panel 1 wouldn't know this? Of course not. But he has to ignore it if the character is going to get to make his biting and sarcastic comment in panel 2.

That clever boy. He sure showed the administration! He sure saw through all that bullshit. they are all a bunch of phonies anyway, huh? And look at all the effort he goes to to mock them, starting his own club. See, he's not lazy, he's just putting effort into subversive rebellious things like school groups. The girls should be flocking to him any second now!

Also, jokes about "If x people join this facebook group" ? Those were what, 2007? Nice.

I can't help but enjoy the final line of today's Natalie Dee, especially given that the two authors are not fans of each other.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Comic 702: I have heard of a thing you have also heard of

Why hello there, xkcdsucks. As you may have read in my previous critically-acclaimed post, "placeholder," Carl is basically a lazy puddle of sludge, and he's drafted me to guest-post for him for yet another week. I feel the need to repeat this because there are apparently some of you who can't tell when someone is guest-posting, despite the large "posted by Jay" text at the bottom. So for those people, this is Jay, NOT Carl, if you have hatemail please direct it to JAY, that's jay (at) jay (dot) jay. This is my real email address.

Look, I'll be honest with you: I'm not sure I want to be here right now. This comic is not interesting to me. It just struck me that there are more important things I could be doing, for instance, anything, and I would be happily doing them right now if only Carl would let me out of this basement. But alas, I'm stuck, so we're going to break this comic down, panel by panel, cause that's the Jay way.

The references in this comic are as follows:
Panel 2: Rocky and Bullwinkle
Panel 3: 4chan meme
Panel 4: Ralph S. Mouse (shouldn't that be 'motorcycle'?)
Panel 6: Lord of the Rings
Panel 8: Chess
Panel 9: Calvin and Hobbes
Panel 10: Calvin and Hobbes (because all that hilarity couldn't be contained in one panel)
Panel 11: Current events
Panel 12: The Large Hadron Collider

Panel 1 is a setup, and panels 5 and 7 are just retarded.

Now, what you've probably already noticed is that most of these references don't even contain an attempt at a joke. Show of hands if you're surprised? The two Calvin and Hobbes panels, for example, are one degree of effort above drawing a picture of Calvin and Hobbes and labelling it "Calvin and Hobbes." What is there to say about this that we haven't already said? No, references do not count as jokes, and no, they are not an acceptable substitute. Everybody already knows this, except of course for Randall and his fans, so let's just move on please and talk about longcat.

For the none of you here who have never heard of him, longcat is a 4chan meme that made the rounds a few years ago. It consisted of a picture of a white cat that was slightly longer than average, which the internet thought was just the most hilarious thing ever. Cue: photoshops. Five short years later, enter Randall Munroe.

As people have pointed out, it's longcat's body that's long, not his legs, so his footprints would actually be spaced out normally. To this I say: who gives a shit? No, really, guys? The problem with this panel isn't that his footprints aren't spaced normally, it's that they are. They're barely distinguishable from the prints in panel one, and without the caption I wouldn't have been able to tell they weren't left by a normal cat. You know what would have been (slightly) funnier? If Randall stretched the panel out to huge proportions, so much that it broke the format of the comic, and put longcat's footprints at opposite corners. Picture it. Don't you agree?

Panels 5 and 7 both capitalize on the theme of "animals using objects meant for humans" (technically, so does panel 4.) This is meant to be funny. It is not. Panel 5 is just a setup for the pun in the alt text, and panel 7 is random wackiness, which after pop culture references is probably the lowest form of humor.

The knight panel is the cleverest in the comic, but it fails for one simple reason: those look like normal footsteps. Especially on the left. Honestly, is there anyone here who thought, "my, that thing certainly is moving in an L shape"? No, you thought, "why the fuck would a knight have round feet?" Here's what I would have done instead: given the knight two footprints, made him walk like a normal human, but in a clear L-pattern. I tried to do a mockup of this in paint, but it turned out to be a lot of work, so instead I invite you to use the magical tool known as imagination.

I don't have much to say about the remaining panels. In the further interests of being topical, we have a Lord of the Rings reference, which I maybe would have chuckled at in 2003. Neither the Prius one nor the Higgs Boson are particularly funny, but they're a cut above the rest, which pretty much typify xkcd's usual tepid lameness. In fact, as the good folks over at xkcdexplained pointed out, this comic is very representative of xkcd as a whole. We have a meme, pop culture references, physics, and whatever current events happened to be linked on Randall's news sites three weeks ago. We just need a couple breaking up. How would you show that with snow prints?

On a scale of one "meh" to five, I rate this comic the wholly unremarkable number of three. Stay tuned for the next one. Until then, keep on rocking.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

But It's All Subjective!

Hello, you rotten monsters. I'd like to talk to you about objectivity. It's not too common, but every now and then a cuddlefish comes by and insists that we have no right to talk about XKCD because it's all subjective. This is demonstrably false.

I'm going to start by defining some terms. We may as well start with objective, shall we? When someone makes an objective statement, they are making a statement which is true independent of the observer. With a subjective statement, that statement is only true regarding the observer. An objective statement describes the object; a subjective statement refers to the subject. An objective statement is not an indelible law of the universe, and no one is claiming it is. If you think that everything which is not stamped on the very foundations of the universe is subjective, you should die.

This does get sticky when describing art, because many sentences are both subjective and objective; that is, they make an observation about the object while simultaneously describing how that observation affected the observer. This is called criticism.

Objectivity Objectively Exists, You Fucking Moron
With the terms out of the way, let's begin properly. This first section is just establishing the fact that objectivity objectively exists in art. Let's begin, shall we?

Anyone who argues that there is no such thing as objectivity in art is demonstrably wrong. I'm a writer, so I'm only going to deal with writing, here. If any visual artists or musicians out there would like to provide examples from their own fields, that would be excellent--I know that there's a lot to both of them and I wish I were versed enough to provide examples.

We'll start with the basics. These are on the level of "so basic people probably forget about them." Every story has a word count which describes how long it is. Most novels can be described based on how many chapters there are, and what the plot of the story is, and who the characters are. You can objectively describe these things about any story which consists of them. But it would be really uninteresting to stop there.

You see, every story has pacing. There is an objective difference between, for instance, the pacing of a comic with a beat panel and the pacing of one without a beat panel. And most stories have a theme and motifs that help drive a certain point home. Most stories have character arcs and similar elements of broad structure.

But also, on a micro level, which is far more important to XKCD, every sentence has objective elements. Each one contains a certain number of words which affect both the pacing and cadence of the sentence and the complexity of the sentence. Individual words can be objectively described both in terms of their own length, which also contributes to pacing and cadence and so on, but also their definitions and their connotations, as well as describing their sound.

Words also have a certain interplay with each other, both in the form of sentence structure and in the form of how they combine to affect the overall meaning of a sentence. This interplay also is what turns a sentence from a lifeless combination of descriptions into something which evokes certain emotions and ideas beyond what the words say in their most literal sense. This is a very complex thing, because language is a very complex thing. It is unlikely that every sentence someone composes is entirely original, but it is also very likely that even the most uninspired of individuals have uttered sentences that no human being has ever uttered before. This, combined with the fact that even if I utter the same sentence as someone else, it will be in a different context and with different subtext, makes the system unfathomably complex. The interplay will seem (emphasis important) different to different people because they will come to it knowing different things or understanding different things. But this is rather like the stars seeming different to an observer in Australia compared to the stars an observer in Finland might see. This does not change the fact that the stars have objective reality.

Finally, we have subtext. No words exist in a vacuum. Every word that is written is saying something without saying it. Subtext is a very complex thing, and it requires a lot of careful observation, and in many cases it requires knowledge of events that are removed from the sentence itself. (The other day, a friend said, after I played a certain song by David Bowie, "You know what you need to play now? The same song again." The subtext was that I should put on a very excellent cover of that song that we've both discussed; that subtext was there objectively, and anyone in possession of the knowledge that we both knew and discussed that cover would have been able to piece it together.) Once again, the system can be unfathomably complex.

We Can Describe Things Objectively
And yet, it can still be described objectively. Now, I am not and have never claimed that there is no subjectivity in criticism. Indeed, the interplay between objectivity and subjectivity is what makes it into criticism rather than simply a rote description. But it can still be described objectively.

I think the best way to describe this is to explain what a critic means when he says "this is bad." Ideally he goes on to explain himself, but this is not an example of pure subjectivity. What he is saying is this: "many of the objective elements in this are ineffective or badly put together, or the ideas, feelings, and thoughts they tend to evoke are otherwise negative." This is partially subjective, certainly--but I will then go on to describe why I think that something is put together. If I dislike the pacing, I will explain how the pacing doesn't flow very well, and tends to be highly disjointed--this is an objective description of the pacing. It does not rely on me as an observer to make it a valid statement. I will then say that I think the pacing is ineffective because of its disjointed flow. This is a subjective statement! You may think the disjointed pacing lends the story a really brilliant, fragmented flow. But when you have finished with a criticism, you should be able to identify precisely what it is about the story (its objective qualities) that evoked that subjective reaction in the writer.

The reviewer's goal is to make the subjective reaction seem as logical and universal as possible--as well, of course, as to make it an entertaining or otherwise worthwhile read.

The Implications of Talent on Objectivity
There are rules in art. If you practice, you will get better. There is a reason that people who have spent a lot of time studying visual art can produce better pictures than me. There is a reason that skilled photographers take consistently better photographs than amateurs, and that first novels seldom sell. There is such a thing as talent. There is a reason that if you take a class or go to a workshop and listen to criticism on your works, the result is usually that you are better at writing than you were before.

There's also a reason good criticism actually works, and receiving it is one of the most helpful ways for an artist to improve. It's not just about subjectivity, and being able to manipulate your audience. I am fully prepared to acknowledge that there is an art to making something that has mass appeal, and that there are rules to that. But what talent is really about, the way to make something which is truly and lastingly excellent, is in knowing instinctively how all of the objective elements work together to produce the desired effect, to create something which does exactly what you intend it to do.

This is not entirely subjective. Discussing art (even art as terrible as XKCD) can be highly productive and informative, and the interplay between objectivity and subjectivity just as much--for in the end, it's not just criticism which is defined by this interplay, but art itself. If it were exclusively only one thing it would be really boring.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Comic 701: Everything We Hate about xkcd, in one simple comic

The latest xkcd is so fucking awful that I having trouble trying to find to words to express my disgust. Every time I think about this putrescent mass of self-aggrandizing anal fist-fuckery, my brain shits all over itself in horror and I have to fight to prevent myself from typing "COCKSHITFUCKBALLS" over and over again while slamming my face against the keyboard in rage.

Nevertheless, I'm gonna give it a shot, because I wouldn't want to let you assholes down.

Where to fucking begin?

Randall, if you're going to write something that's supposed to be the text of a letter, make it at least sound like something a human being who has had any contact with the rest of the fucking human race at least once in their life. The text of this supposed "letter" is so stilted that, were anyone to ever actually receive it, they would vomit all over themselves and then die, just so they wouldn't have to finish reading the letter. It's a good thing the "character" (who is totally not Randall projecting his own romantic inadequacies onto a shitty stick figure he drew (except that that's exactly what he is doing)) in this comic wants the relationship to end, because any girl who gets this letter is going to break up with him anyway, and then kill

Also, this is fucking insulting to scientists. The second to last panel implies that scientists can never be cute and funny. Worse, because it is specifically talking about graphs, Randall is implying that graphs can't be funny. Randall - you are a hypocritical, shit-eating motherfucker. If graphs aren't funny, then why have you been trying to make jokes about them for the past 6 years? Is this a way to excuse any of your past graph jokes that weren't funny? Are you trying to pander to the socially inept, self-diagnosed Aspies of the web, giving them an out when their "humor" falls flat - "I'm sorry it isn't funny - I'm a scientist"? What are you fucking doing, Randy? WHAT ARE YOU FUCKING DOING!?

I am...I just...What is this, I don't even...

Randall. Randall. I can't find the words to explain to you how fucking godawful this...this thing you've created is. It's a muddled message of smug self-certainty wrapped up in a turgid sense of forced sincerity fried in a batter of bitter emo tears served up with shitty writing dipping sauce.


[hey poore, way to include a friggin post title with your post. I had to go back and make one up for you --Carl]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Comic 700: Goddamn Batman

You know, in all honesty, I feel like I really should've enjoyed this comic. Let me be frank - I am a massive Batman fanboy. I saw The Dark Knight seven times in theaters (twice on opening night). The parking spot I use at my house is labeled "Batman". Clearly, I am down with the Caped Crusader. I also happen to love ridiculously contrived set-ups for elaborate jokes, both verbal (I love a good shaggy dog story) and visual (my favorite episode of Black Books is a 20 minute build-up to a Dr. Frankenstein and Igor parody). Not only that, but my expectations of this comic being either a sappy, "thanks for reading guys" 700th episode special, or (worse) another fucking poster, were pleasantly incorrect, and it was instead just a normal comic. Normally, I wouldn't congratulate someone for doing what they are supposed to do on a regular basis, but kudos to Randall for making this an actual comic and not another money-grab. You'd think this perfect storm of unusual circumstances would've led me to actually be amused by xkcd #700.

You'd be wrong.

To be fair, it did not inspire me to rage uncontrollably, nor did it make me feel like Randall was phoning it in, or reusing a tired, old joke. It just made me feel kind of...apathetic. My reaction was something like that. "What? Batman? What the he-oh wait. Two Face. I guess that's kind of clever." And that was it. The end. In the vocabulary of the online world, it was a very "meh" comic. To me, that's almost as sad as him just making a straight-up terrible comic. Why? Because, this time, it seems like he was honestly trying to make something original, interesting, and funny, and yet all it managed to inspire in me was apathy. I wish it had been terrible, because then I could rage about how much of a shitbox Randall's comic is. Hell, I wish it had been fucking amazing, so I could at least feign outrage and have a good laugh and rail against Randall for not putting out great work all the time while feeding him small compliments throughout the course of the post. Instead, I feel...nothing. I use anger as catharsis, but I have no rage within me with which to...cathart...but the reason this comic - which I really think had a lot potential - fell flat is painfully obvious:

The art.

This joke relies entirely on visual cues. Unless the visual similarity between Randall's self-insertion fanfiction version of himself and the actual DC villain Two-Face is uncanny, the joke will lose a lot of its humor. I'm not talking about instant realization of the punchline. I think it's fine for it to take a little while for "the funny" to sink in - delayed reactions can be hilarious if they're properly done. However, such a delayed reaction is only funny - especially in the realm of the visual - if said realization is accompanied by a strong image. Look at the following picture:

Hosted by

Does that look like Two Face to you? Even though the only distinguishing features are a column of red dots near the center of his face (not clearly to one side) and a coin being flipped (that is not two-headed and scratched on one side)? The mass of random dots in the middle of his face remind me more of Rorschach. The simple truth is that Randall did not clearly portray the two most iconic features of Two Face, the very villain about which he was trying to create a joke. I understand that the stick figure is supposed to be looking up and to the side (hence the "centering" of the "pimples"), but with the lack of any other facial features it makes the image less clear, and the joke is further diminished. The fact that I even had to think about why the acne looked like it was centered ruins the joke - if you have to spend time thinking about what the fuck it is you're even looking at, then a joke whose punchline is primarily visual is going to suck.

So, sadly, as good of a joke as this could have been, it is ruined by the fact that Randall is the one who made it. If he had sold this idea off to someone with even a modicum of artistic talent, it might have been funny. Instead, it just falls flat. Thanks for nothing, Randall.


I'm sure all of you have been inundated by links to Axe Cop already, but in the off-chance that any of you have yet to discover it, it is pretty much the best thing on the Internet and you should go read it immediately.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Comic 699: A Comedic Abortion

hurr hurr vaginas

What's up, fuckers? In an insanely irresponsible move, Carl has giving me posting privileges for the upcoming week. That's right - you've got to deal with me for an entire goddamn week, and there's fuck-all you can do about it. For those of you that don't know me, the name's Poore (more recently known as The_P), and I type this now with a Warsteiner in hand (and another in my belly) and a head full of incoherent, misomaniacal thought-pieces that I will vomit into a hat and then attempt to piece together into something that may or may not resemble an actual blogpost.

Now then, on to the comic.

I actually liked it. The first time I heard it. When it was a Demetri Martin bit (at 2:40). Now, some of you may say "But Poore, it's not the same - Demetri talks about trophies, not lab coats! THE JOKES ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT." Those people are retarded. If you thought that, you are retarded. The realization that one can buy a trophy, rather than wasting years of their life training for the activity in which one would win said trophy, and then lie to people to convince them they are a participant in said activity is pretty much identical to the realization that one can buy a lab coat, rather than wasting years of their life training for the profession in which one would wear said lab coat, and then lie to people to convince them they are a member of said profession. They're essentially two instances of the same Mad Lib (the alt-text is even more similar to Mr. Martin's version). And Demetri Martin did it a few years earlier. And he did it better.

So, Randall is a plagiarizing hack, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was cryptomnesia - this comic is still a tired, hackneyed piece of shit. Why? Well, if you're familiar with a little thing called the Millgram experiment, the idea that people will listen to anyone in a lab coat has been around since the early 60's. As far as comedy is concerned, the idea of someone masquerading as an expert simply because they look/act the part has been around forever. It's been done to death. Penn & Teller use it as a recurring comedic segment in their show "Bullshit!" (see the Bottled Water episode, for example, or...well, pretty much every episode has a segment like that). If you think real, real hard about it, you've probably seen comedy in this vein hundreds of times before. So, if someone wants to do comedy of this nature, it better be fucking phenomenal, otherwise I'm going to flip over to porn and jack off for the rest of the night. If Randall wrote for TV, my forearm strength would be fucking incredible.

If you manage to get past those first two glaring flaws that make this pile of bullfuck completely unfunny, you're treated to the joke of "hurr hurr he's telling her her babby won't come out her vag lol". Now I have a juvenile sense of humor. My Halo 3 service tag was "P33" because it looks like it spells "pee". I think the word "shitboats" is objectively hilarious. What I'm saying is I don't have very high standards. I appreciate wit and intelligent humor, but a good dirty joke will still elicit a chuckle. This comic still did nothing for me. Perhaps if he had used "orifice" (which is another word I find, in my immaturity, hilarious) instead of "opening". Perhaps if he had limited it to saying it might shoot out her butt instead of her vagina it would have been funny. But instead, I am treated to the mental image of a newborn clawing its way out of its mother's eyeballs. That's not funny - that's disturbing. That's fucking Eraserhead levels of disturbing. Here's a tip, Randall - gross-out humor only works up to a point. If it's going to give your readers visions of demon fetuses bursting out of people's heads, maybe you should reconsider.

So that's what were left with, folks - an unfunny, cliche, borderline disturbing shit-stain on the underwear of the Internet. That's what xkcd has become - the skidmark of the webcomic community. It's not bad compared to the pants-shittingly terrible likes of Boston and Shaun or Electric Retard, but it's still not something I want to see three times a week.

That concludes my first guest post. Feel free to leave your insipid bullshit feedback in the comments so that I can totally ignore it and then have sex with all the girls you like. See you assholes on Wednesday.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Comic 698: No, You Shut Up

You Shut The Fuck Up First
Well thank GOD. I had gotten so sick of making fun of xkcd for dumb science jokes, or dumb internet meme jokes, or stupid Mr. Hat antics, I had forgotten the true spirit of hating xkcd. Luckily the ghost of webcomics past visited me and showed me this comic and I tearfully remembered just how bad a bad comic can be. It was lovely.

Because this comic is just terrible. First off, I am damn sick and tired of shitty xkcd breakup comics. There have been so fucking many of them, I just do not understand why anyone could not be tired to death of them. Is this one any different? Not really. We see people suddenly go from happy relationship to violent breakup and hatred. I guess part of the joke is how suddenly they break up, which is really more sad than anything else. But then the real point is that they can't even figure out who should hang up first even after their fight. confusing. Do they still want to be on the phone together? In that case, is the whole breakup not really meaningful? Or do they hate each other really, but in that case, shouldn't they naturally want to hang up in anger?

The problem is that it can't be both, and really, it can't even be either. But thinking things through has never been Randall's strong suit, so how surprised can we be?

Also, it's another comic where the alt-text is identical to the punchline.

Man, sorry I don't have much else to say on this comic - it's just stupid and repetitive. Anything I said about previous Breakup comics applies here too.
here's a fun compare and contrast: Different takes on the same basic idea from my favorite and my least favorite comics. I, of course, think Tom the Dancing Bug did a better job, especially because it is presented as a satire of current events. But perhaps you disagree?
Alright, i'm out of here motherfuckers - it's Poore week starting right now. brace yourselves. I'll still lurk around and help celebrate comic #700. But the minimum blood alcohol concentration is about to jump up to about 0.9.

when i get back: CONTEST!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Demented Came The Writer

We've kinda been inundating this blog with essays recently (THANKS ROB), but oh well, you'll just have to deal with it. I felt the spirit of webcomic-critique move me and so I wrote a little something.
(there is apparently some disagreement about the gender of this "Jules Rivera." I'm assuming he is a man but if I am wrong, just change "he is a fucking idiot" to "she is a fucking idiot" etc in the text below.)

Some people were talking about this essay, "Art, 'Art,' and Almost 'Art: What qualifies as 'art' in webcomics?'" by Jules Rivera. Mostly they were talking from an xkcd-point of view, because Mr. Rivera uses xkcd as an example and he provoked a fanboy rage more powerful than ten thousand burning suns. Also, a lot of people just disagreed with him.

I did too, in fact, I think the essay is stupid, though not entirely worthless, as I'd like to use it as a jumping off point for some related thoughts.

His article discusses art in webcomics, with the acceptable premise that art is key in the storytelling, and the conclusion that good comics must then have good art. His last paragraph states that "in order to put out a good-looking product, it helps to still have an artistic eye to get it right." He divides the world of webcomics up based on style: a comic can be a Stick Figure comic, which he decries as "choos[ing] to draw the most haphazard crap" in place of working on art; a Photo Comic, which, if only has a single frame of a photo with no retouching, "DOES NOT qualify" as a webcomic (totally wrong, by the way), a Poser Comic, which uses creepy posed CG characters, which he worried can lead to "a crop of comics that all look the same," and lastly, a comic where the author Hires An Artist, which he likes.

These categories are absurd. Let's start with the lowest of the lowest hanging fruit: Poser Comics? I have never heard of that, and I follow webcomics pretty closely. His examples are "House of the Muses" and "Legend of Lili Deacon." Do ANY of you read those comics? I don't. "Lili Deacon" has been on hiatus for about five months, and "House of the Muses" appears to be some kind of obscure gay-rights / history comic that, I will admit, has characters who look creepy as hell. The point is, they're pretty obscure. But for Jules Rivera, apparently, this is a major category of webcomic. Um, ok.

Photo comics are not nearly as obscure, of course, but they still hardly seem common enough to warrant such a prominent place in the essay. I read about 30 comics regularly, and the only photocomic among them is Superpoop (READ IT, it is great), and it doesn't even take its own photos. I don't consider the author a "lazy bastard" just because some of his comics are one frame of one photograph, nor do I consider the comic "lazy and contrived." It's different from drawing your own work, but so what? As I see it, it's a good analog to general photography vs painting. Is a photo any less a work of art than a painting? If you see an exhibit of photography, do you think to yourself, "well whatever, that isn't cool, because it didn't take effort the way real art does."

Stick figure comics is I suppose where we should spend most of our time. The simple matter is that there's nothing inherently wrong with them. Pictures for Sad Children makes it work really well; the simplicity of the comic (not to mention the lack of color) contributes to the overwhelming feeling of despair that makes the comic so distinct. See this one for an example. Just imagine that comic with detailed, realistic figures. It would suck, no?

And that's true of xkcd too - the problem with xkcd is that often, the simplicity of the drawing detracts from the experience rather than adding to it. In this comic, for example, you can't even tell which way the guy is facing in the last panel, which I would say is pretty important. update: how could I forget this comic - probably the worse example of simplicity in xkcd getting in the way of clarity. Rivera's analysis (that "IT. IS. LAZY." to make a stick figure comic) is a little, shall we say, less nuanced, and that's because he doesn't care.

It's true: He doesn't care. The point of his article is not to actually discuss the function of art in comics, as he claims. Rather, it's to talk shit about any comic that isn't drawn by a professional artist. As he says at the end, hiring an artist - note that he does not say anything about trying to learn to draw yourself - is his favorite method. Why? He comes out and tells us: "it gets me work." Ballsy, Jules. Ballsy. "Commissioned artwork looks like the real deal because it IS the real deal." Holy fuck, this isn't a column, this is a late night advertisement for a shitty artist. "Tired of lousy comics that all look the same?" he might as well say. "There must be a better way! well NOW THERE IS! Call now and hire MISTER JULES RIVERA and your comic will have the BEAUTY and MAGIC of a real professional comic! Just look at this list of satisfied customers! so WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? CALL NOW!"

Literally, his advice at the end is "just pay someone with an artistic eye to do it for you."

I knew he was a hack because he has totally unnecessary naked women at the top of his column (LOOK AT THIIIIIIIS!) as way to get people's attention. And reading this shitty, shitty analysis of webcomic art has only reinforced that. I don't know what the hiring criteria are over at "Comic Related" but clearly they're pretty pathetic.

In summary, Jules Rivera sucks. THE END.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Comics Don't Have To Be Funny!

Oh hello. I was just reading one of the eight trillion comments that say that comics don't have to be funny, so when we complain that XKCD isn't funny we're missing the point. I think this last one might have convinced me!

Except, not.

Let's start by acknowledging a fact: not all comics are trying to be funny. You can list graphic novels as examples if you like, or you could name a number of webcomics that routinely do something other than make jokes or attempt humor. I'm not disputing this! Some of my favorite comics aren't supposed to be funny.

The problem is, XKCD is trying to be funny about 90% of the time. The latest one? Trying to be funny! The elevator one? Trying to be funny! The strip games one? Trying to be funny! "Spirit" was not trying to be funny. And so on down the line. Very rare is the XKCD that is not trying to be funny.

Admittedly, the type of humor, if you can call it that, isn't always the same. Sometimes he's not so much telling a joke as trying to get you to laugh at a situation which is trying to be amusing. Not all comedy requires jokes. We get it.

The thing is, XKCD is trying to be funny and failing. So when we say "where's the humor?" or "where's the joke?" or "where's the punchline?" it is not that we are failing to understand that some comics are meant to be serious. No, there's a lot going on behind the scenes! Let me take you through a typical instance of me reading a comic.

It starts with reading the comic. Contrary to popular belief, I do not generally start with any sort of critical thought engaged. I read it and formulate an initial reaction. Generally that initial reaction goes something like this: "Yes, and?" At this point I go back over it and look more carefully. Did I miss something? Why am I supposed to care about this? Why should I find it funny? On some particularly bad examples, it's difficult to imagine even why Randy thought this was supposed to be humorous. Mostly, though, the joke, such as it is, is pretty easy to spot. It's just not a compelling joke.

I think a good analogy to use here is that of a little kid dressed up in a Halloween costume. You can tell that he is trying to be a fireman or whatever. It's really obvious from the oversized helmet--he has all the trappings of someone trying to dress like a fireman. There is no arguing that he's not trying to look like one. But for all that, you would not, at any point, actually think that he is an actual fireman. If presented with a lineup of actual firemen, you would pick him out as the one who is not a real fireman.

So too it is with Randall's jokes. The problem is not that we don't know what the joke is supposed to be, or that Randall isn't trying to be funny. It's patently obvious that he is trying to be humorous. All the trappings of something which is supposed to be funny here. It's just that, for all his efforts, he does not actually succeed at humor. You can point out all the things he tried to do that failed--but no matter how hard he tries, it doesn't actually pass as funny.

So we say "okay, where's the joke?" in response. What we are saying is, despite the fact that it is patently obvious what Randy is trying to do, it is so unconvincing as a joke that we must be missing something. We never are, of course. Sometimes a cuddlefish comes out and explains that this joke is actually about something which it very clearly isn't, and explains why he thinks that's funny, but this cuddlefish is invariably wrong. The joke is really obvious. It's just not funny.

(Stay tuned next week for Objectivity In Art: Why You Should Be Stabbed In The Face For Suggesting That It's All Subjective So We Have No Grounds Criticizing It (title pending).)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Comic 697: Cut It Out

Tensile vs. The Anger of 1000 Men On The Internet
My goodness, my post is late again. I apologize guys, but you must admit: With all the excitement over the opening of the Space Elevator (finally!) I could barely take my eyes off the television long enough to read this comic - appropriately current event themed - let alone post on it.

Wait, no, that's not right. Let me think harder.


OH I REMEMBER, that's right, there was no grand opening of a Space Elevator! They must have canceled it at the last minute. Right?

Wait no, let me try one more time: People sometimes talk about a space elevator, but it has not been built, or even been in the news at all! That's right. I knew it was something like that. Which is weird, because this comic might be funny if there were a space elevator, not just some astronerds talking about one, or if it had at least been in the news in some way recently. Has it? I sure didn't see it.

So let's examine this comic within the context of, you know, reality. This is just "Hey, if there were a space elevator, you could cut it with scissors! maybe!" Which may or may not be true, I don't really care. The point is, yes, if it were possible, then it would be possible. If we built a giant Space Cannon that shot astronauts to Mars mario-64 style, then yes, you could fill it with marshmallows as well and have them get toasted in the atmosphere before landing far away. If such a thing existed. Which it does not.

Oh I guess also it's a poem; that's nice (though I didn't notice it at first, even with the obvious "put the rhyming words on the other side of the space elevator from the other words") but I don't really care. I also don't care that the title has a pun on "shear," because that is not nearly clever enough to justify the rest of the comic.

The End.

oh not the end: fanservice, space nerds. end.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Comic 696: All The Cleverness Stripped Away

striped James

Boston, MA. 11:56 pm, Sunday. A young man thinks to himself.

Think, Randall! Just concentrate and think. You can DO this, Randall. You made almost 700 great comics and you are going to give up now? No fucking way! Bring on the Munroe Genius, man, bring it on like you do every monday, wednesday, and friday without fail. Come on.

Make a comic about something you like. What do you love? Lots of things. Aaagh, think. Sex! You like sex. And nudin' it up. Lots of naked folks, that's good. Good! You can work with this. Sexy times.

What do your readers like? Ugh, they are all a bunch of nerds. All they do is play nerd games and have nerdgasms and shit. What can I throw them to make them like this comic? What nerd games are out there?

wait. some of your readers just like math. FUCK. What can I do for them? fuuuuuuck. dammit. Gotta think of something.

And how can I combine these ideas? There must be a way. There must. You didn't become king of the internet by haphazardly smacking together random different ideas.

Perhaps, one day long ago, you learned that any fortune cookie can be made more hilarious by adding the phrase "in bed" to the end. This is because when you heard this, you were in seventh grade, and nothing was more funny to you than the idea of sex, or as you called it at the time, "doin' it." For some of you, this is still the most hilarious thing there is. So just by taking something boring, a fortune cookie, and sexin' it up, you ended up with a foolproof formula for the world's greatest jokes.

Today's xkcd makes comedy history by providing a slight variant on that theme. Instead of "in bed" [havin' sex], he adds "without clothes" [havin' sex]. Different words, yes; different idea, no. Apparently, some people think it is funny to take nerdy games (or in the end, not even real games, like Conway's Game of Life) and make 'em naked. But that's stupid.

Apparently, some people are dumb enough that you can literally just stick a "guaranteed Komedy Gold formula" in from of them and they will take your bait. Because it is literally a formula: Take the game name, and add "strip" in front of it. THE END. This works equally well for any game. Strip Bible Trivia? Strip Plants vs. Zombies? Strip Russian Roulette [which is funnier than anything randall mentioned]? All of these are exactly as funny at the ones in the list. If the point of the comic is to say that some of these are less common than others, that's equally stupid. Because the results are exactly what you would expect. If it turned out to be different - lots of people playing strip prisoner's dilemma, for example - then it might be funny. But as it is, he's just saying, "hey look, fewer people get naked playing chess by mail than playing beer pong" and I go "DUHHHHH, what other brilliant insights have you got, Mr. NASA?" "

This is also another in a long list where Randall gives us notoriously-innacurate google results for something, as a way to try to prove some point he is making. See also: Silly ways to die, kiss more people, the right number of girls for the right number of cups, etc (update: and ninja turtles, if you read the methodology). It's a silly way to present data for a number of reasons, but my favorite is the one Sam pointed out here: you'll get a lot of results for "strip " that are not referring to a version of the game where people strip. When Randall gives us these google search comics, I always get the sense that he doesn't really want to show us the results he found as much as the clever search he came up with.

Why did he choose N to be his ratio variable? N should refer to the total sample size, ie, the denominator. Right?


In other news, Dinosaur Comics celebrated its 7th birthday yesterday with what I thought was the funniest comic in months (and a rare comic that had its funniest line at the very end), while over in Achewood Heights someone also made me laugh really, really hard. Did anyone make an hourly comic yesterday, on hourly comic day? Let us know and share a link. I made one but I am not going to link to it, it did not turn out that well.