Friday, December 31, 2010

Comic 841: Easy Lis'nin

easy listening

[ALT: For years, I took the wrong lesson from that Monster Cable experiment and only listened to my music through alligator-clipped coat hangers.]

I wouldn't be much of a completely, 100% impartial narrator imparting only the raw truth and completely objective analysis of XKCD to you if I didn't take some time to note that this comic seems to have greatly divided the vastly intellectual and rational userbase of XKCD. Truly, not since Martin Luther King, Jr. "nailed" his "95 Reasons The Pope Is Kind Of a Dick" to Chrchdor (medieval Europe's version of Twitter) has there been such an epic cataclysm. Some people are all like "this is funny I guess" and others are like "NO I WILL MURDER RANDY IN THE FACE." I, of course, am a Quaker, and thus have no part in this split.

It's interesting (by which I mean 'Randy is dumb') to note that Randy here is making fun of nerds for having exacting standards. It's funny because he's a nerd elitist himself! It sounds like he just never got into the whole 'audiophile' thing, and is mostly just into the 'jankity-ass whatever-works' thing. I envision him as the type of person who basically never listens to music, but does listen to Nerdcore Hiphop because sometimes they say words like Linux and rhyme them with "punch you in the cervix."

Which brings me to the other noteworthy part about this comic--Randy is unequivocally portraying Megan in a negative light! Perhaps she has said something unflattering about nerdkind, and, in a fit of violent rage, he has decided to get back at her the only way he knows how: by writing a comic in which he nerdrages against her nerdiness in an epic nerdy fashion.

He will no doubt despair of this choice soon--for Megan is a perfect creature and a delicate butterfly that needs to be protected and carefully watched 24 hours a day--and post a comic where Megan once again rides a magical steed of automatic correctness. But not now, it is too soon. Let us give Randy some space while he scrawls angry comics where Megan is wrong.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Comic 840: Seriously LAME

seriously LAME

[ALT: Not to be confused with Serious PuTTY, the Windows terminal client where everything is in Impact.]

True story: the last thing I wrote before reading this comic had silly putty in it. GOOMH etc etc.

I guess Randy thinks that things that are serious tell other things not to touch them? I can only imagine that it stems from the scenario that xkcdsucks canoness "RavenzOMG" has envisioned:

ravens oh my god

After many attempts to grope, fondle, or otherwise lay hands upon Megan, and her repeated insistence, "I'm serious, don't touch me," the two phrases have become inextricably linked in Randy's psyche. So when he was sitting around, worrying that his busy schedule of stalking has finally robbed him of the ability to make a comic, he started creating a list of objects. The third one (after 'Megan' and 'oral sex', neither of which are objects in the traditional sense of the word) was 'silly putty.'

"But silly putty is already silly!" ejaculated Randall, lamenting his fate. "If only it was serious!"

Then the words "if only it was serious" echoed with heavy distortion and that ascending-harp "entering-a-dream-sequence" noise played while the surroundings got all swirly, and Randy envisioned the most serious thing he knew: someone saying "don't touch me."

Ladies and gentlemen, this is how your joke sausage was made.


It's that time again, where I make a reference to our IRC channel on foonetic, #xkcd-sucks. Click the clicky and be magically transported to a world of, you know, whatever.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Comics 837-839: Fuck You All

[No images today, because fuck you. -Ed.]

Hello, you rotten pieces of shit. Did you have a good Christmas? I certainly hope not. The idea of you doing anything besides refreshing the comment threads endlessly to see if some new atheist-tard has posted another illiterate entry using the word "Christian" as an insult so you can post "man you are so right that person is such a dumbhead for thinking that atheists are a bunch of self-important mouthbreathing trolls with the self-awareness of a retarded slime mold" is actually offensive to me, as it is to all of human society. I had a wonderful break, of course, as I always do when I don't have to interact with you loathsome cretins. Your bare existence saps the life of everything you come near, and that's not a positive quality.

But you didn't come here for the express purpose of being insulted for being mouthbreathing atheist trolls with the self-awareness of a retarded slime mold (but see the postscript below). You came here to hear me bitch incessantly about XKCD, a webcomic which is "written" and "drawn" by Randall Munroe, who is a basement-dweller in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts, and currently he is outside of Megan's dumpster, wondering why the presents he gave her are in there, unopened. (They contain "sexy" lingerie, by which he means "lingerie which have linux things written on them," and some cloth napkins with mysterious protein stains on them.)

When last we left our hero, he was writing some terrible comic where he whines about religion or some shit. We join him in a humorless attempt to derive humor from coupon codes.

837 could almost be funny. It's not, of course, because it was written by the aforementioned stalker and author, Randall "Randall Munroe" Munroe, but you could probably make a joke out of something like this without much problem or effort. The problem is mostly that the threat is kind of weak. "I saw you steal something 20-odd years ago" is not really that threatening. There's a statute of limitations on that shit, and in Massachusetts it appears to be about six years.

I can already hear the cuddlefish complaining that I'm just nitpicking and obviously Randy wants me to suspend disbelief in order to make this work, but come on. Theft is a minor crime. Worst case scenario, we're looking at felony theft, which is usually a pretty minor charge, and the addition of a burglary charge for illegal trespass. Neither of these are "OMG YOU KNOW YOU CAN HAVE ALL YOUR SHIT FOR FREE" offenses. It wouldn't have been difficult for Carl to write about a more interesting offense. Something that would be a secret that someone would actually be worried about coming out--an actual crime with no statute of limitations, perhaps, or just something which is either widely or personally viewed as deeply wrong in a moral sense of the word.

And I can also hear some particularly stupid cuddlefish complaining that, no, the joke is that the theft is such a minor thing and it's a contrast. But here's the thing: theft isn't a big deal, but it's not a complete non-issue. Maybe if it was "three years ago you left the state and purchased a Macbook Pro, thinking nobody would notice," it would be funny. But we're stuck with this: a crime that is mediocre in its intensity, remarkable only in that it's so utterly bland.

Is it supposed to be made worse by the fact that he stole it from a dying woman? I'm going to assume it was some piece of fancy jewellery or some shit. And while I'm not an advocate of stealing, come on. Unless you stole something which was directly improving her quality of life in her last days, I don't see how her health is even remotely relevant. I know you suck at writing, Randall, but do try to make the thing your entire joke hinges on at least somewhat compelling.

838 was apparently about me! I allow myself the conceit that Rob actually writes my name into his comics just to get at me, because nobody is going to stop me saying it and it's impossible to prove, like all good conspiracies.

This one was so bland that when I was first remembering it, I didn't notice that it was a Christmas comic, and was planning on criticizing him for failing to release a Christmas comic on Christmas eve, when he did one a week or two before. But on looking back on it again, it was, in fact, a Christmas comic, so I didn't write that as a review, except to enlighten you all as to what might have been. What a world!

It's certainly better than last year's effort, which was abysmal. But Jesus Christ, this was bland. Apart from being GOOMH-bait (even I, Lovecraftian horror that I am, have idly wondered where sudo reports these things), this is boring Linux nerdery with a half-assed holiday . . . twist? Let's go with "twist." God knows Randy needs all the credit he can get.

839 was ruined by a surfeit of useless references. The joke could be good--it even almost is--but for some reason he insists on referencing a bunch of other board games, which just makes it kind of annoying. I know he's going for LOL RANDOM HOW WACKY, or perhaps he's just not confident in his joke and hoped that padding it with references would make it funny, but it didn't. Quite the opposite, in fact. The details matter. He could easily have made the conceit "two chess pieces stranded on a desert island" and not insisted on the Catan and Battleship references, and it would have been just fine--simple, but fine.

More is not always better. Frequently the best solution is, in fact, to use less. Simplicity is an art form that you'd think Randy appreciates, given his art style. Apparently not! He keeps trying to be complex, or at least failing to be simple, and it detracts. I'd say "try harder next time," but these days I'm pretty sure Randy's problem is actually trying too hard.

PS. Before I was a troll on xkcd sucks, I trolled religious forums on the internet. It was fun trolling the fundies for a while, but eventually the effort grew stale. I have since moved on to trolling atheists instead, wherever I can find them, and I am not exaggerating when I say that atheists are without a doubt the single most amusing group of people to troll that I have ever encountered. I'd be willing to say they are probably the most amusing group I am ever likely to encounter.

Just throwing that out there. Please continue arguing whether or not trolling atheists is actually worse than the Holocaust because atheists are only improving society with their whining. I hereby dedicate all comment threads, ever, to this discussion.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Comic 836: Randy's Special Problem


[ALT: At least, with p<0.05 confidence.]

Here we have Randy attempting to write a comic from the annals of his own life. Like all great writers, he is able to take the trials and tribulations [EDIT: I mean slings and arrows LOLOLOL] of day-to-day living and make them into something transcendent--a brilliant piece of art, a statement of philosophy, a nearly word-for-word rehash of an old punchline. These are the things that make Randy so great and that relegate us to writing the posts and comments of a hate blog.

You see, Randall has recently had a brush with illness, and he no doubt heard someone ask a very similar question--not of him, of course, because he wasn't actually sick LOL!!!!--and found it offensive. Why should he look for answers beyond science when science has done vaguely helpful things for medicine? Of course, at the time all he could think of was "shut up your god is stupid only Megan is worthy of my worship" but as time wore and as he ran out of other ideas for a comic, Randy knew that the game was on. It was time to prove to the world, as he does thrice weekly, that he was a brilliant writer, worthy to sit with greats such as R.L. Stine, Gertrude Warner, and Ann M. Martin.

"What do brilliant writers do?" he asked himself, as he seated himself at his shrine of empty soda cans and Cheetos wrappers. And he knew he had the answer: they find a way to awkwardly force an incredibly well-known Shakespeare quotation into their hamfisted monologues. Hamlet's famous "to be or not to be" speech would work sufficiently well. But it can't be taken directly. First, he needs to make it a mixed metaphor--"groping for comfort before the slings and arrows of fortune" sounds much worse than seeking protection from them, or some verb that actually has something to do with slings and arrows! Definitely when you're being shot at you "grope for comfort." He also had to get rid of the word "outrageous," but that's probably because he doesn't actually know that it's there.

And then, just when you thought his Shakespeare reference was forgotten, he brings it back with what must be the most brilliant inversion since that one time I said to someone "you're really dumb" and he replied "no, you." Science, you see, has given us slings and arrows of our own! Damn powerful ones!

DO YOU SEE WHAT HE JUST DID THERE? IS YOUR MIND TOTALLY FUCKING BLOWN? (what he did there is use the phrase "slings and arrows" again, but instead of them being weapons used by outrageous fortune against us, they are weapons used by us against fortune, I guess?)

But he's not done! He saves the very best for last. He concludes his "science rocks and people who do anything besides science are actively trying to kill me" monologue--truly the greatest monologue since that scene at the start of Romeo and Juliet where Gregory and Sampson are talking about cutting off the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads, take it in what sense thou wilt--by drawing a parallel to one of the oldest and most well-known of XKCDs, called simply Science. The only text of that one, apart from the graph from the COBE mission, is "Science. It works, bitches." It was made into a t-shirt! You may have seen some nerds wearing it around.

Except now instead of "science" working, bitches, it is the weapons he takes from science that work, bitches. I'm sure there is some deep parallel here, but my mind is too feeble in comparison to the greatness that is Randy to grasp them all. I can do naught but grok in wonder.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Comic 835: If A Comic Sucks In A Forest...


[ALT: Not only is that terrible in general, but you just KNOW Billy's going to open the root present first, and then everyone will have to wait while the heap is rebuilt.]

I had the honor to be present when Randy created this comic. He was eavesdropping outside Megan's window, as is his wont on the cold, dark evenings of a Boston winter, when she mentioned to her family on the phone (tragically distant for the holidays) that she had finally got her Christmas tree. For a few moments, Randy's mind started clicking and whirring, when suddenly, he screamed, "YOU MEAN LIKE THE DATA STRUCTURE??? OH MY GOD I AM THE BEST COMICS ARTIST EVER HAHAHAHA," then fled through the streets before Megan could arrest him for violating his restraining order for the third time today.

Later, at his underground warren in Fort Randy's Mom, he spent hours and hours trying to make this brilliant connection--the word "tree" is not used exclusively to refer to a type of data structure, but it also describes the pointy green thing you put in your living room around the winter solstice for some reason. (Randy is not sure how the pointy green thing is like his beloved data structure, and is fairly certain that the words are actually unrelated, but the lack of similarity only makes his genius the greater.) But how could he convey this connection? He knew that it would need to be a visual thing, so he pulled up the Photoshop gradient shading tool he reserves only for his most artistic of comics. But what could he put in front of the gradient?

He sketched a few trees, of both both the data and the pointy green thing variety, but came no closer until he noticed that the data trees were kind of pointy in shape sometimes! "MEGAN WILL FINALLY LOVE ME," screamed Randy, and he swiftly set about making a pointy green data tree in front of a gradient. But then part of his brain kicked in and reminded him that when you do something like this it is called a "pun," and it is traditional for people to groan and call them "bad" when they like them a lot. So he threw in some characters with gradient-heads and creepy floating glasses and had them tell the genius that is his author-insertion character that his pun is SO BAD they aren't inviting him home next year!

They don't invite him home, Randy decided, because they are jealous of his gifts. WHICH IS FINE, HE DOESN'T NEED THEIR STUPID SOLSTICE HOLIDAY AND THEIR TASTY DINNERS AND THEIR PRESENTS ANYWAY

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Comic 834: Leaking On My Good Carpet



First, the praise. Randy has made a more-or-less topical comic not once, but twice in recent memory! Compared to his usual "this thing that was relevant in 2006 is still funny now, right guys?" schtick, this is fucking brilliant. And that is basically what the WikiLeaks logo looks like. So, good job?

Sadly that's the only good thing I have to say about this comic. The core of the joke seems to be "lol wouldn't it be funny if wikileaks released a bunch of data about people who supported it a bunch???" which, I'm not even sure how that's supposed to be funny. It seems to be coming down on the vaguely negative-on-wikileaks side? But it's not a particularly plausible or harsh criticism, unless it's trying to say that people only like it so long as it's not leaking their information.

Lots of people seem to like the alt text. This is wrong, both morally and intellectually. The alt text is boring and predictable and doesn't say anything new or interesting.

I could be wrong here, since the comic is so utterly insubstantial that it's very possible it is actually nothing more than the product of random chance, but it seems to me that the problem here is that Randy is trying to express an opinion--and subtly, for a change. Normally he expresses an opinion in such a hamfisted way that there can be no doubt that Randy has decreed this to be good and expects his followers to obey him, as they do in all things. But this time he's gone for subtle, and is relying on the power of his writing and the strength of his art to convey the intended message! Unfortunately his writing is weak and his art is shit, so the intended message never gets there.

Listen, Randy. You suck at subtle. Stop trying.

Anyway! I took a little adventure to the forums to see what they had to say about this one. They don't seem to care for the comic much, but it has launched an incredibly hilariously retarded discussion on the nature of truth. It's probably not worth reading, but it produced the following gem:

"Don’t get me wrong: Without trust, a working society would be impossible. But we weren’t meant for this. We were meant for groups of 20-50 people, where we could look every single one of them in the eyes, and he knew the harsh consequences of hurting his group. I’m already in the process of developing a solution that allows societies of the size of ours to work like this again. But it will take time, because it’s far more developed than what anyone could imagine based on the above alone."

He's developing a solution, guys! In a few years all the problems of living in a large society will be solved, thanks to the xkcd forums. You can thank them later.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Comic 833: Unconvincing


[ALT: And if you labeled your axes, I could tell you exactly how MUCH better.]

It would appear that Randy should take a two-week vacation about every week or so, and then he might be able to consistently produce something that is kind of okay about a third of the time. With 833, he has finally given us a true and proper return to form: utter shit!

In what I'm sure he thinks is an incredibly hilarious subversion of his reliance on poorly made graphs to tell jokes, Randy has had his author-insertion character decide that he should break up with someone because she isn't very good at making graphs! Not that Randy ever labels his axes.

So here we have "I only date the highest class of nerd" elitism along with shitty graph-based humor, and what I can only imagine Randy told himself was the greatest subversion since the correct answer to the time-honored riddle, "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

"They'll never expect me to use a graph and then have it FAIL!" says he to himself, chuckling. "And the expected joke, that the graph convinces him, is sufficiently hilarious that they will already be exploding with glee as they read it. I fully expect half of my readers to perish from the sheer brilliance of this excellent subversion!"

And so he released this joke on the world. Unfortunately it's not really much of a subversion--the joke is still "omfgnerds." It's just an elitism directed at those less nerdy rather than a "nerdism is all-powerful" elitism.

Poor Randy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Comics 831 and 832: A Losing Game


[ALT: Ever notice how there aren't as many thunderstorms now as there were when you were a kid? Much like 'the shuffle on my MP3 player has a bias', this is occasionally true but universally believed. Brains are so interesting!]

Man, I get distracted for a couple days and Randy goes all shitty on us again. Hello, Randy! I'm glad you're back to your old self again.

Not much to say about the weather comic. It's a really boring observation--hey, ever notice how sometimes the weather breaks up around you? I think the joke is supposed to be that this actually happens because the weather people are stalking you and feed you false information or something? The alt text here bothers me, because I'm pretty sure "universally believed" is not, in fact, remotely accurate. Randy needs to stop making observations that aren't accurate and pretending he's found some fascinating insight into the workings of the human brain.

And then we have the tic-tac-toe comic! This is incredibly, incredibly boring. We get it, we've solved tic-tac-toe. It's an incredibly simple game. This poster is not visually interesting, intellectually interesting, or funny. It's a complete waste of time. It's also not the best way to present this data--it's not really very easy to read.

I hope Randy does more graphs of presenting information we intuitively grasp in a hard-to-read chart form. This could be a lot of fun! Maybe he can do a map of the local park, and note that the sidewalks do not present an optimal way to get from point A to point B. Maybe then someone will finally love him!

Too afraid to go to the forums for these.

UPDATE! A helpful reader offers this link, which is basically identical to Randy's comic in every way.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Comic 830: Genetically Inferior


[Hated demonic entity "shufti" has vomited another pile of horrible words from the sulfurous depths of hell. What follows is a rough transcript. -Ed.]

I'm disappointed again guys. I actually enjoyed xkcd for a while - a good three weeks in fact. I was kinda flabbergasted that, for once, there was quality on xkcd. All of it was flawed, of course, but it was still decent. Randy seemed to have rediscovered what a "punchline" was and that it meant the comic was "over", he actually displayed a bit of "subtlety", and for once the nerd references weren't so maddeningly stupid and out-of-place. These comics still had their flaws, but they were at least amusing for a change.

And of course Randy's 4chan alarm went off that SOMEBODY WHO HATED HIM DERIVED ENJOYMENT FROM HIS COMIC, so he swoops in with 830, a metaphorical C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER of shit and fail.

Oh, who am I kidding, this wasn't intentional - Randy just sucks at humor. I mean, "Your parents had sex"? That's the punchline? Thanks Captain Obvious. This is exactly like that damned Computer Problems comic or that also-damned Desecration comic - it's a couple of adults acting like fucking infants (or Tea Partiers) over the stupidest shit. I feel like Randy took a trip to Simple Wikipedia (or a Tea Party rally) and he suddenly lost faith in a person's ability to reason anything beyond 1 + 1 = 3 or something.

Is this Randy trying to say he remembered a repressed childhood memory? Or maybe he was catching up on his Big Bang Theory and saw that one episode where Sheldon was being teased about his "Mema" having had sex at some point and he thought, "Oh that's funny. I shall use it for my webcomic."

Well, a pox on your webcomic, Randall. A POX.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Comic 829: POISON


[ALT: According to a new paper published in the journal Science, reporters are unable to thrive in an arsenic-rich environment.]

I liked this one. It's very timely (first time for everything), not particularly political or preachy (so it's just riffing on a current event instead of Having Opinions on it, and as you all know, I detest opinions in all their forms). Most of all, I liked the last panel. It doesn't spell out the joke, and has a nice moment of double-take. It's almost like Randy learned how to make a punchline or something.

So of course he goes and fucks up and explains it with the alt text. It's like Randy is allergic to doing something right. The poor fucker must live in terror that someone might not get his joke, so he makes sure to explain it somewhere. Any time he has something subtle, he pauses for effect after and leans in close and says "I don't know if you noticed, but the joke there is that X."

We get it, Randy. We fucking get it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Comic 828: Autobiographical

blah blah

[ALT: Having a positive attitude is almost tautologically good for your mental health, and extreme stress can hurt your immune system, but that doesn't mean you should feel like shit for feeling like shit.]

I kind of winced when Randy put this one up. It has that whole 'look at the obvious applicability to my situation!' thing going on for it, and that just makes it awkward.

Aside from that, kind of boring. Some of you seemed to like it, some others of you seemed to think it was the worst thing ever. I have approximately zero thoughts about the joke--it is just boring.

The art is interesting, though! Let's talk about that. The past two comics, Randy seems to be trying out new artistic elements: the uselessly placed last panel of yesterday, the weird shade of the background and the wombpanel of today. The problem is his art just doesn't have the ability to support conveying new ideas. I think one of the reasons the 5-minute comics worked so well is he didn't try to use the art at all. They were unapologetically crudely drawn.

Oh, and there's the throw-away jokes! The D&D stat-sheet was vaguely amusing. Less amusing was the one from yesterday, which I forgot to mention when writing the post: the address given was on Ash Tree Lane, which is a clear reference to House of Leaves. I'm normally all about references to HoL, but this one had no reason to be there, and felt like it was just trying to pander to those of us who have read it. YOU DID NOT SUCCEED, RANDY.

I'd apologize for being late, but I hate you all, so I'm not really sorry.