Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Comic 876: Randall Tries To Reference Liberal Arts Concepts (And Fails)

[The two thousand and fourth gamer ever to live sent me this, a guest review for 876. -Ed.]

Socrates could've saved himself a lot of trouble if he'd just brought a flashlight, tranquilizer gun, and a bunch of rescue harnesses.
Hi, Gamer_2k4 here. Normally I'm content to simply comment on bad xkcds, but I felt that this one deserved its own post. Since it's clear that this comic is simply just a failed attempt to write a setup to a bad punchline, let's start by examining the "joke" and go from there.

First of all, it's clear that Randall doesn't understand the Allegory of the Cave, or, if he does, he assumes that we don't. Plato's Cave is about how true reality is unwelcome at first, but once you understand it, you see how foolish your earlier delusions were. It's NOT about the nature of existence and the mind's relationship to the outside world. The notion of a "search and rescue" team is redundant, since that's the whole point of the allegory (bringing people into the light).

On that note, the alt-text is downright retarded. The issue was never getting the people out of the cave. That's a foregone conclusion. Even if you tranquilize them, experiencing the light is still going to be unpleasant once they wake up. Any removal from the cave is going to be unwelcome, and tranquilizers won't change that.

And look! I haven't even gotten to the rest of the comic! It's taken two full paragraphs to properly trash the idiotic idea that Randall tried to form a trainwreck of a comic around. The major point of failure is the operator herself. Her dialogue is unnaturally constructed purely to move the comic along. There's no way she could discern the guy's incoherent babbling that quickly, and the fact that she does proves that the setup is poorly thought out and just awful in general.

Then there's the caller. In just four short panels, he goes from not being able to see or comprehend the outside world (a feat strangely at odds with his ability to call and communicate with other people) to simply being unsure that it represents a reality and not a simulation. This seems odd for someone who's self-aware to the point that not only does he recognize he's a brain, but he also knows that even that is simply an organ in a larger body.

There is not a single redeeming quality in this comic. The characters, the dialogue, the supposed punchline, and the alt-text are all downright awful. I get the feeling that Randall, in a rare trip to a "soft science" like philosophy, got a half-formed idea for a "joke" but just couldn't pull a comic together around it. You know, for all the flak he gives the liberal arts, Randall sure tries to use and reference them a lot. Perhaps if he bothered to study them, his comic wouldn't be such a constant pile of garbage.


  1. Saw this post in the forums, I went hoping that they weren't deluding themselves with small talk about existentialism or whatever.

    There were a few brief flickers of questioning the contrivity of the situation, but otherwise the circle jerk of the "fora" continues.

    Speaking of, I feel like skiing.

  2. Well the resolution here is obvious: The girl DOESN'T exist. She responds so intuitively because she's just another delusion "the system" is giving him, and he's a fool for trusting auditory sensory input as valid. In other words............'s all in his head!

    [okay, that was awful]

    Captcha: guilless. Better hope she rolled a +2 on constitution, at least, so you can force 3 children out of her per round.

  3. @Ravenz: What's with you and DnD lately?

    Captcha: Shagatic. Not someone you want to be trapped in an elevator with.

  4. Because D&D is one of the coolest games possible.

    Also 24 more comics and I'm gone.

  5. "You know, for all the flak he gives the liberal arts, Randall sure tries to use and reference them a lot. Perhaps if he bothered to study them, his comic wouldn't be such a constant pile of garbage."

    ZING! Love it.

  6. @Rinnon: I was actually referencing "Blood Royale", where your female children had two stat scores: "Constitution" and "Guile", ranging between -2 and +2. If they had high guile you married them off to soldiering royalty for attack bonuses, and if they had high constitution you married 'em off for baby-pumping [because high constitution would lead to a lower chance of dying in childbirth while trying for large numbers of kids].

    Referencing semi-obscure boardgames? I'm like Randall, except only funny 5% of the time. OH WAIT.

    Hahaha, Captcha: zingstil. See, Captcha knows what I just did there-- cello's zing? Stil here, 'cause Ravenzomg is bringing it.

  7. Oh FUCK ME that is the most stilted and unnatural xkcdialogue yet to date.

    Who the fuck would immediately guess "eyeballs" from the description "splotches of light"?!

    And why the fuck is he calling 911 for that?

    Goddamnit I hate xkcd.

  8. This is obviously a joke on how about Philosophy is all crap LOLOLOL SO FUNNY RANDALL!

    Randall does not understand that satire does not work if you do not understand the subject in question.

  9. If you see everything as two distorted splotches of light, maybe you have a valid reason to be calling 911. Sounds like a serious neurological problem to me.

    Also, I imagined that he was calling 911 because he was so lonely and he needed someone to dazzle with his sparkling wit. I'm not even being snarky, that was the first thing I thought of.

  10. Um... wasn't the cave allegory about how we only see imperfect representations (images, shadows) of concepts?

    TBH, Philosophy depends a lot on who taught you.

  11. Yeah, the cave allegory has nothing to do with acceptance of reality - the shadows the chained people see are images, imperfect knowledge. When they leave they see the actual objects, reality if you will. They see the ideas, not representations of these ideas, and these are true knowledge (unattainable, of course).

    Randall probably understands it, he just incorporated it in a terrible manner.

  12. Yeah, I think the real problem with the philosophy here is that Randy does a pretty good job of describing Descartes' skepticism about reality, but then slaps Plato's name onto it at the end for no reason at all—except that he had a joke about sending a search and rescue team into a Plato's cave. It's all philosophy, so it doesn't matter, right?

    As I said in the previous thread, you'd think that Descartes' importance in the history of mathematics would lead to Randall paying him a bit more respect, but I guess the philosophy element trumps all.

    Captcha: leeps. As in, both the operator and Randy make unexplainable leeps in logic.

  13. I have to agree with Anon 7:38. Seriously, what 911 dispatcher would POSSIBLY make that leap of logic? The comic is just absurd enough to be stupid, but not absurd enough to be funny.

  14. This comic isn't funny, but it sounds like to me that the Descartes <-> Plato connection is pretty clear.

    -Descartes questions the reliability of our sense in observing the actual world. He is saying that we might be only seeing imperfect versions of the actual reality.
    -Plato argues that we do not see the actual reality, or "forms", but imperfect versions of concepts. Granted, he didn't literally mean reality, but the perfect versions of every idea, but the connection is pretty clear.

    Again, another disclaimer, the actual comic still isn't funny. xkcd rarely is.

  15. guys it's a step in a new direction, but his radiation comic (he forgot to post on the front page I guess??) is funnier than his normal ones so give him some props

  16. This comic is hilarious if you imagine he's in Japan caught under rubble from the earthquake and you fill in his responses after the second panel for yourself. Randall just needs an editor.

  17. Actually Funky, Descartes suggested (specifically so he could refute the suggestion) that the external world might not exist at all, not that our senses might convey only an imperfect version of a perfect, eternal world of forms. There's a (not so) subtle but significant difference. So, Randall fails both humor and philosophy forever.

    This is seriously the best goatkcd ever

  19. What REALLY bothers me in this comic is "distorted splotches of light".

    How does that work? If the brain is "seeing", then the eyes whould be opaque, not "splotches of light". Unless Randall believes our eyes are in the inside of the head and one can see his own empty sockets, but that's so horrid I'll stop right here.

    Really, eyeballs are not "splotches of ligth". If Randall knew anything of anatomy, he'd know that, but I guess Biology isn't a "real science", eh?

    Really, this comic was ruined from panel 1. So goddamn contrived...

  20. @Funky: No.

    Plato (or maybe Socrates, to whom he attributes a lot of his ideas) was concerned with the reason things (which exist, he took for granted) have the properties that they do. He concluded that they have them in reference to "Forms" which we cannot directly perceive.

    Descartes put forth the idea that knowledge, even sensory knowledge, is fallible. He put forth the idea that the "actual reality" might not even exist, or at least we don't have any reason to conclude that they do.

    They aren't the same or even similar in nature; in fact, they are dealing with separate branches of philosophy (respectively ontology/metaphysics and epistemology).

    There's a "connection" in the same way that there's a connection between general relativity and quantum mechanics, because they both concern some of the same things. But if Randy fucked up those two things even his forumites would probably call him on it.

    Captcha:Imback. Well, I had been gone a while.

  21. What are you talking about? You just posted at 1:44. This is your 9th post in this comment thread already Anonymous!

  22. Guys where are all the comments? Did the one samefag get bored with our site and leave or something?

  23. Hey, guys. Sorry I'm late. I was well on my way to getting a life, but then I remembered how much I love you all.

    Group hug!

  24. Then it must follow that:
    10:41 - samefag = 0,
    10:41 / samefag = 1, and
    1 / (10:41 - samefag) = ∞

    captcha: drane. Remember me... *cough* ... as a drane on society

  25. @Ravenz: Haha, are you serious? That's pretty ridiculous in an awesome way. =D

  26. If they get +2 in constitution and guile, they become broodmothers and pump out entire armies. That happened at about a 4% rate in pre-Enlightenment Europe, right?

  27. @Rinnon: Bloode Royale was totally kick-ass. Conquer Europe turn by turn while making sure your royal lineage doesn't accidentally end up under control of another player because of bad pedigree planning, despite constantly rolling heirs with (-1/-1) scores and sickly/ugly daughters that nobody wants to marry their healthy/leadership-heavy heirs to [under a contract of alliance, of course].

    @Kitten: If you do, the Dice Gods will probably kill the child at 15 years old just to smite you. Naturally, your (-2/-2) child lives to be an old weird Uncle that gets forced to lead an army very poorly around your backyard.

    Feh, now I want to play, but I'm pretty sure I cannot round up nine people for a game that runs one turn per week, even on the internet =\.

  28. I feel your pain Ravenz. I've been dying to have a game of Diplomacy, but getting 7 people into the same room to play a 12 hour board game is unsurprisingly difficult. It was so much easier when I was still in high school... we all had Saturdays free!

    Side Note: That DOES sound pretty kick-ass. I love non conventional take over Europe games.

  29. Zomg, are you thinking what I'm thinking? Official XKCDsucks Dip/B.R. club!!! Blood Royale uses Diplomacy rules as a base for the actual army movements/city capturing, so it would be a cinch for you to learn. ...You know, if we get 6-8 more people... O.o

    Captcha: nesse. I got "nesses" twice before. Now I have the singular, I'm well on my way towards a collection.

  30. I'll start! I sacrifice my first-born and 50% of my capital city's population to Cthulu, declare war on everyone else and crap out a window.

    (I've never played either game)

  31. I'll be Cthulu. My power increases due to Kitten's sacrifices, and I take over the world.

  32. I, for one, welcome our new gamer overlord.

  33. My capital city consists of a barn 20 miles outside of Hull. The three ducks and the kitten I sacrificed give Cthulu enough power to take over Ottawa.

  34. You are all such losers. Xkcd is ripe for the picking and you're all talking about not having sex. Fuck you all I hope you die. Love,

    -A fucktard

  35. @1:30 -- Would you say this place reminded you of somewhere else on the internet?

  36. Yes, I daresay I would. You are all dumbasses, like those who frequent the Xkcd fora.

  37. 1:44 sucks big, fat donkey dicks. And that's just gross. Seriously, man, what the fuck?

  38. @1:44 -- I see. Which would you say is worse? Also, does that mean you won't continue to visit here?

  39. 1:44 started AIDS. Way to go, jackass.

  40. Whatever it is it sounds like Risk, so I'm game.

    I place 5 armies from China into Siam to begin my conquest of Oceania.

    Captcha: flacial, a slow moving money shot

  41. Capn: Diplomacy is not unlike risk... but Diplomacy is to Risk as Chess is to Checkers.

    Diplomacy doesn't use dice, which means there is no luck involved. Which is why I love it. I'd rather I lost because someone stabbed me in the back when I least expected it, than lose because I had shitty rolls. Nothing frustrates me more than having the superior strategy and losing to shitty dice.

    Ranvenz: As cool as that would be, I've tried Diplomacy via forums before (Yes, I'm that much of a loser) and it doesn't work that well. We played it so that moves needed to be in by Tuesday Nights, and during the week we could spend time chatting with the other players during the "Diplomacy" phase. But it didn't work... hard to get in touch with the people at the right times, hard to keep track of the game over the period of half a year, etc. It was a fun idea, but it just didn't work for me.

  42. @Rinnon: Oh, I understand, I've done the play-by-email route and I can vouch for the fact the 90% of that games suffer drop-outs within 3 turns, and promptly fall into apathy after a week of inaction. =P That, or you end up next to What's-His-Face who decides from the start, "welp, gonna spend the whole game attacking Italy [as Austria] regardless of how well it pans out!"

    That, and we have to keep this place true to its origins: unbridled hatred over meaningless stick-figure comics.

    Also, capn's captcha was the only one so far that I actually laughed at so points for crassness.

  43. @Ravenz: Yep, that's pretty damn close to what happened. In a game that is so strongly tied to being able to tell if people are lying to you about wanting to help you move your units... it's just not the same when it's not in person. Especially if you've never met the people you're playing with. Makes it extremely easy to bluff, and it ruins the shock when you're betrayed.

    *Warning, Busting out the War Stories*

    This one game I played a few years back I really enjoyed. First time I had played with any of these people except one of them (friends of a friend). I decided it wouldn't be good enough to just go in without a plan... so I established a foreign policy. I told the whole group that I would never lie, and that I would never attack someone without publicly declaring war beforehand. I also stated that any act of aggression against me without a prior declaration of war was considered to be a war crime, and would be punished.

    I followed through with this the whole game. Never lied, never attacked someone unexpectedly... It was extremely effective/fun. Only one person attacked me without informing me first, and I immediately dropped everything I was doing to wipe him out of the game. Considering he was Austria and I was Russia... not too bright of him. Especially since Turkey and I had a defensive pact. I'd talk to Germany and Italy and say things like "We can't allow the renegades of Austria to do as they please! Attacking people unprovoked, ransacking our supply depots! If they could do it to me, they could do it to you! Join me in my war effort against these savages!" So much fun.

    *End War Stories*

    Man, I miss that game.

  44. God Christ Diplomacy is an awesome game.

  45. @Rinnon -- Your story was actually pretty interesting, but I will now forever picture you as Arnold Rimmer:

  46. Diplomacy: The awesomest game? Although if you haven't ever been in a 30+ player intentionally unbalanced megavariant you're missing out. Long story short: I was Serbia, managed to secure nuclear technology, build a single nuclear missile [to do so you have to waive a build for a whole year, which is pretty hard for small countries] and repeatedly issued M.A.D. orders [you get 5 every turn], "If Russia nukes [anyone], nuke Belgium", since everyone who isn't Russia or the USA only has limited range, and Belgium just happened to be close enough, until one day I got the map and found out that my MAD orders had been triggered and I'd declared war with a nuclear strike on non-Nuclear France, whom I'd previously been on good terms with. Hilarity ensued.

  47. Kitten: Hahaha, I was thinking of that EXACT scene when I put up my warning. I realized I might look like a completely and total prat if I rattled on about my glory days of war board games, but it was worth the risk. (No pun intended!)

    Ravenz: That sounds very awesome. What game was that though? Was it a homebrew expanded version, or is it an authentic remake that I'm just not familiar with?

  48. Came on here to pass my judgement upon this comic, but I'd just be repeating what Anon 7:38 has already, more amusingly said. I probably wouldn't have sweared quite as much though.

  49. @Rinnon: Custom variant that's been around the internet a few times. Hopefully the map convinces you how badass you have to be to attack someone as Serbia. =P

    Captcha: cuthunt. ....Most terrifying captcha to date.

  50. Try playing this custom map.

  51. Randall, please. You are not a scientist. Stop doing this to yourself.

  52. Today, Abstruse Goose is...

    ...awful. I mean... shit. He is trolling, right? Right?

    CAPTCHA: dinghe. That's what they call them, you know, sailing dinghes.

  53. @Ravenz: That's awesome. I can't even fathom actually trying to play it though. And yeah, I can see how you'd have to be either badass or insane to attack someone as Serbia. I bet it was fun. =D

  54. I like the new one. But that's probably because I've been studying microbiology for the last few months. In all fairness, slime molds are pretty cool.

  55. AGW: is that Hitler? does the author think Hitler is good looking?

  56. For one, the awfulness in the latest comic comes not from the comic itself, but from the forums. Randall makes a pretty decent joke, and the sycophantic fans all go wild with "non-scientists just DON'T UNDERSTAND us scientists and why we are so AWWWWSUM and they suck".

  57. SMBC has been kind of mwah lately, but the latest is really funny! Now emph{that} is subversion of expectations! Lololol, and thank you zach weiner.

  58. Agree with Rochambeau. Thought smbc has been really sucking lately but the last one was amazing.
    I know we have had this discussion before but i don't know if posting every day is a good thing.

  59. (The goddamn stupid Blogger comment box keeps refusing to let me authenticate with OpenID and then refuses to even publish my comment. I lost the count of how many times I've tried. BLARGAGARH!)

    The Diplomacy talk is awesome and all, but it's time for... *ahem*


    Ah, Randall Munroe. The faux-nerd manchild we all love to hate! One very well know characteristic of this abominable creature is his borderline-misogynistic constant white-knighting. What does this have to do with this comic? Please follow me.

    What are our characters? StickRandall, BlondeMegan and, of course, the real Megan. Megan is, of course, the reeeeeeal scientist. BlondeMegan is... I dunno, is she supposed to be a liberal arts student(if so, then she lacks the horns and goat feet you'd expect in Randall's portrayal)? Or maybe she is a religious person? I don't know. But then we have StickRandall who's... um... he...

    Ladies and gentlemen(and kitten), here's my point: the sole male in this comic does NOTHING.

    He's a scientist, yes, but he react passively to what I suppose Randall considers a patent insult to science. He doesn't speak a single line and doesn't even change position. Heck, he could be a cardboard cutout for all we know. A cardboard cutout with a floating head, but still.

    So, is Randall becoming the polar opposite to Dave Sim? Maybe. And if that's true, this might be incredibly funny in the long run.

  60. ...Seriously, what's with the double line breaks? I HATE THIS STUPID COMMENT BOX!

  61. Mole doesn't know if I am a lady or a gentlemen.

    But seriously, screw you Mole for introducing me to Dave Sim. I much prefer Randy's white-knightism to this:

    Is it me, or is it impossible to read the words of a misogynist without him sounding incredibly bitter about a past girlfriend/his mother? OH GOD THAT MEANS I AM AN EMOTIONAL FEMALE VOID

  62. i think i've found randy's alter ego

  63. R. dude ...

    that's like shooting someone in the dick ...

    you can't just go around shooting people in the dick ... not cool ...

  64. Sometimes I wonder if Randal realizes the obvious white knighting he is doing, or if it's a subconscious thing he's not fully aware of.

  65. oh no! Randall shows women in a good light! he must be trying to get into their panties!

    seriously, fuck you guys. why can't you just accept this as A GOOD THING. i bet none of you have even been near an actual woman.

  66. And I bet you think no one here is an actual woman.

    Project much?

  67. "Project much?"

    what makes you think i'm not a woman?

    who's projecting now?

  68. What makes you think he thinks you're not a woman? The excessive amounts of butthurt and fucktardedness coming from you indicate that you are, actually.

  69. Returning to the subject of SMBC, I don't think he should post less. Weiner explained why drawing and making a joke everyday was good for improving, and I think he's right. And the good thing is that he is evolving and always trying new stuff. He's been doing science stuff for like a year now, and even if I preferred his previous "hardcore subversion of expectations" stuff, I do enjoy most of the sciency comics. Zach Weiner doesn't make cartoons just because he has to, and I know that when he'll be bored with the science stuff, he'll turn to something new.

    If you take only the 10% best cartoons of Zach Weiner, you have ten great, incredibly funny books, and the guy is what? 25?

    It's nice to see a comic artist evolve and trying new stuff. That might be the problem with xkcd: the constraints (stick figures and nerdy jokes) are too strict, and, after a while, I guess he feels trapped in them.

  70. @Rochambeau: You might say he's trapped in the cave of his own creation?

  71. @11:56
    And boom goes the misogyny ...

    Zach Weiner is amazingly creative in both quantity and quality, the fact that he feels the need to kowtow to Munroe is horribly depressing.

    "He does nothing but shitty jokes and stick figures! Most of your graph jokes or dick jokes are better than his whole fucking archive! Fucking stop already!"

    Weiner actually turned 29 recently.

    Captcha: thetstsi, the super hero who is part biting fly and part Cesar Millan.

  72. @Anon 10:51: I'm married actually, thanks.

    The problem isn't that he paints Women in a good light, that would be just fine. The problem is that he consistently paints them as the superior gender in every way shape and form. It's so consistent that anytime there is a dumb person in XKCD, he is nearly guaranteed to be male, and anytime there is someone to put him in his place, it is almost guaranteed to be female. He clearly paints pictures where males of the species are and SHOULD be subservient to the obviously more intelligent females. It's not him trying to show equality, he's boot licking. There's a big difference. I simply wonder if he is aware that he does this, or if it's subconscious.

  73. I like to think that other webcomickers acknowledge XKCD more because they know it's absurdly popular and to keep people from constantly recommending it to them than actual like of it.

    I mean, I can dream, can't I?

  74. @Rinnon

    Guys who can't get girls usually believe that the guys who do are jerks, and girls want nice guys. Problem is, that's somewhat a lie. Point is, too much being a "nice guy" and you might end up becoming practically a parody of a "nice guy", and not even realize that.

    And usually single, too.

    I bet most of the "nice guys" get a clue and ditch at least a bit of the niceness with time and realize it's less about being a doormat and more not being a complete jerk.

    On the other hand, we know Randall has never matured from high school so...

  75. @Pro Mole:

    Oh I hear you, don't get me wrong, I understand where it comes from. When I was in Elementary School, and the earlier years of High School I was the same way. All the guys who had girlfriends were jerks and I thought it was much better to just be nice and thoughtful and do everything a girl needed me to do. That somehow this was the best way to win a girl over. I think a lot of nerds start out thinking that way.

  76. I have an online girlfriend. Does that count?

    Captcha: Drama
    Ooh. Getting dramatic now. And congratulations on using a real word this time.

  77. @Anon 1.30: just this horrifying glance into this world where EVERY introductory conversation you have is:

    'so what do you do?'
    'oh, I draw webcomics-'
    'oh man, webcomics! dude you have to check out this webcomic I know, it's called xkcd, it's so freakin' hilarious!'
    'er yeah I've heard of it-'
    'listen listen listen: *clears throat* "We can't send a search-and-rescue time into Plato's cave!" HAHAHAHAHA oh man you have to check it out'
    'yeah thanks but I already-'
    'what's your one called?'
    'er, hang on, I have business cards'
    'hmm. I've not heard of it. but yeah check out xkcd sometime. hehehehe'

  78. Only if you have a penis that works through Skype.

  79. Thanks for ninja-ing my comment, Ann. I'm just really hoping your comic is called "Only if you have a penis that works through Skype".

  80. It's an experimental thing y'know. Like Dinosaur Comics has the same art each time, my comic has the same punchline each time: "Only if you have a penis that works through Skype!"

  81. I'd read that for 100 updates or so, probably =\

  82. I'd read it...

    ...but only if you have a penis that works through Skype!

  83. @ Rochembeau
    I am an elephant short and stout here is my handle here is my snout, if you don't post this post in ten different threads then

  84. "....The notion of a "search and rescue" team is redundant, since that's the whole point of the allegory (bringing people into the light)....."

    Speaking of bringing/guiding people into the light, I used to be a palliative care worker remunerated on a commission basis.

    I did well indeed.

  85. Him: " The USA and the Coalition just want the oil in Libya. Just like Iraq and Afghanistan"

    Me: "Hey! It's not our fucking fault god put our oil in Arab countries!"

    Now back to fibrillating my engorged misella landica.

  86. @The Kitten of Vanity - All very well and good but have you no soap radio?

    r.e. xkcd - I don't mind if you think philosophy's a lesser subject than science if you can throw Husserl and Wittgenstein and Aristotle and Popper back in my face, but if you can't even get your Plato 101 analogies in order, then seriously? You come across as an anti-knowledge and insecure.

    Randy Shame.