Sunday, March 27, 2011

Comic 877: Sciencegasm

[Hated hell-bird "Ravenzomg" wrote the entirety of this review, including this editor's note. -Ed.]

This comic is not entirely fallacious, but if you think about it as an allegory it is phallacious
Title: Beauty. Tooltip: The best hugs are probably from hagfish, which can extrude microscopic filaments that convert a huge volume of water around them to slime in seconds. Instant cozy blanket!

Hey ya, this is Ravenzomg of Ravenzomg fame, because Robyn apparently cannot find his keyboard amongst the cavern that houses his large mass. This "guest week" turns out to be a Gamer_2k4 sandwich with slices of Ravenzomg for bread, apparently.

So, let's get to business!

For ease of reference, we have three characters: Strawman, Anti-Scientist, and Biologist. If you don't know who is who, I cannot help you.

I'll try to go back and forth between good and bad things to make this seem "balanced". Or, keeping with the "theme", making this a review sandwich. As opposed to a sandwich review. Although, if you really are curious, Ham + White Bread + Marble Cheese -->toaster oven --> Delicious. Anyways, enough about my day.

Let's start with the art.

Pro: There's colour, and the art is serviceable. The slime mold is a bright yellow, instantly allowing us to seperate it as something that is not just her "hands". More than that, "research" tells me that some slime molds are indeed yellow sometimes. This is good -- we can follow along, and XKCD's minimalist style doesn't ruin the "joke".

If you're reading this you won't be able to eat omelettes for a month

Con: Look at the Anti-Scientist in panel four. What is she doing? She's looking towards Strawman's knee, and her posture indicates relaxation, despite her apparently yelling, "oh god, it's moving!" It's not as if the meaning is lost here, since the dialogue makes it pretty clear. But this is just bizarre, and the more I think about it the more I wonder WHY is she like this? As evidenced in panel 3, he knows how to show shock with these Void Creatures, so why not replicate it in panel 4?

The closest I get is that he's trying to show "cringing", but if so... well, wrong medium/wrong implementation.

But all in all, Randall's succeeded in (a) picking a comic appropriate for his style and (b) not messing up the art in his style to the point of confusion. So points!

Now then, my real problem... Strawman. He says nothing, and basically never moves. All he does is lean in closer to Anti-Scientist, as if he were going to kiss her, or smell her hair. It's weirding me out. So let's take him out of the first panel, storing him in the last panel, and we see why he's there. Anti-Scientist needs someone to talk to. And I mean, really, from what we can gleam from this character she's RIGHT in his case. This man doesn't seem to appreciate beauty or anything on account of his being a weird, silent, staring thing that may or may not actually be alive.

That or the mold is intimidating him, making him lose turgidity
Look at that! All he's done is SAGGED DOWN a little bit.

No, this third character isn't WRONG but again, it's awkward and I feel that he could've worked this around without Strawman.

Alternate interpretation: Anti-Scientist is conversing with a literal dummy, and Biologist in her excitement over molds doesn't notice this. Done.

Okay, and the actual message: The view that scientists rob the world of beauty through calculation and analysis is pretty antiquated, and honestly I haven't seen anyone communicate this in years. If anything, Randall's presentation of scientists through Biologist is (a) more accurate and (b)more fitting with society's general view of scientists: eclectic and overly excited over trite stuff in their fields of study, a sort of genius disconnected from the scheme of reality to better focus on their topic of choice.

Most of my friends went into science, and people who actually are passionate about it (as opposed to "well, it's supposed to pay well") generally find some obscure niche and love it to death. But seeing as this comic is intended towards science-steering people, I hardly see what the point of confirming the "oh we are all so quirky in a delightful way!" trope beyond tautologically, except as a sort of back-patting group hug, a validation for eccentric obsessions that 95% of the audience has in quantities rivaling the number of times they've read the XKCD archives completely. I haven't checked the forums and don't plan on it, but I'm sure it's full of "Goomh, my friends totally look at me funny when I talk about [Subject 13]!"

And as someone who calls Zerglings cute, I can sympathize with her on the last matter.
I<3The_SwarmHonestly, these things are adorable, just like every other Hive creature.

And I appreciate his sentiment, that he's already said before: the World is full of some fucking awesome stuff if you look for it. But he's already said this, and #877 doesn't add much.

The "joke" is as trite as the material: Biologist-A surprises Anti-Scientist by being excited over her ugly subject of study. It's not original, and it's not particularly funny -- it's just GOOMH bait.

The "punchline" is, structurally, the realization/exposition that "Scientists [...] DO see wonder and beauty in everything". But really, the subversion occurred in panel 2 where we find out, "oh, it turns out that scientists actually do see beauty everywhere", and this "punchline" feels like a cheap tooltip explaining the joke to us.

But conversely, this is all "set up" and the actual joke is that Biologist thinks (a) the mold wants to hug Anti-Scientist and (b) this is cute. At the best it may make you half-smile, so that is alright I suppose.

But, to end this angry sandwich with a sweet slice of positivity, he took a concept related to the XKCD mission statement of Romance, Hilarity, Science, and... crap, can't remember. Crap? Crap. Yeah. And he made a comic that is clear and sciencey. Functionally this comic is pretty okay, but that's the heartless student of economics in me speaking so you can make your own Judgement.

7/10. Followed the instructions, lacking exceptional effort or innovation.



  1. Word to the wise: Alt-text ==/== Title Text. Well, those geeks amongst you as well as those of you with dysfunctional computers/internets ought to enjoy my wit.

  2. Tyranids >> Zergs.

    Original and best.

  3. GOOMH Randall neurotypicals have trouble understanding my unique perception of the world too!

  4. I like you, Raven.
    I like you a lot :)

  5. smbc-comics did one that was literally the exact same point, with a similar punchline, in only three panels, with vastly less dialogue, and with exciting and expressive art. Over a year ago.

  6. Slices of Raven bread, eh? Sounds like Gamer_2k4 is in a hot, underage threesome.

  7. Raven, could you send me a lock of your hair please?
    I need it to complete my shrine :)

  8. More to the point: isn't that the point Carl Sagan practically made a career out of making? Randall is, like, 20 years late already.

    And the Strawman thing. I agree soundly: he serves no purpose in this comic. See previous blog post for theory that this is the inevitable escalation of Randall's ever growing white-kighting.

  9. Once I tried to run,
    Tried to run and hide,
    But Jesus came and found me and touched me deep inside,
    He is like a Mountie,
    He always gets his man,
    And he'll zap you any way he can...


  10. 7/10? Rob giving a 7/10 is the equivalent of Carl a parade in Randall's honor...

    Kind of surprised you didn't comment on the fact that the biologist is/might be a certain someone.

    Slime molds are yummy. That's what Nethack's taught me.

    And most importantly, I'd say the last time I heard someone express this opinion was last October... in the Guardian... I believe their names were Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope.

  11. Still convinced ICP don't actually believe the stuff they sing about. I know I'm probably wrong but I'm living in denial and don't want out.

  12. You're waiting for a H0 scale train. A train that will take you far away...

  13. Randall gets more chicks every week than you lot will see in a single lifetime. Pay due respect to your superiors and maybe you'll learn something.

  14. It's obvious, she's looking at "Strawman"'s crotch, and "he" is getting an erection. Mystery solved.

  15. Stick figure comics get me so excited. I can barely control myself.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. The word is "glean," not "gleam."

  18. Do you think that this might be one of Randy's attempts to add structure to his comic? His panel structure in this comic is identical to his last.

  19. Actually, the art in the last panel might be better without strawman in it. It'd look more like she's cringing and less like the situation mentioned by Anonymous 10:25

  20. "Randall gets more chicks every week than you lot will see in a single lifetime. Pay due respect to your superiors and maybe you'll learn something."

    i have seen millions of women. are you saying randy is a sex god?

  21. "Randall gets more chicks every week with a net, and chloroform, than you lot will see in a single lifetime."

    Corrected. You're welcome.

  22. P.S. Raven, does it bother you that no matter how many times you state your name and that you wrote the review, some people still think Rob wrote it?

  23. "The view that scientists rob the world of beauty through calculation and analysis is pretty antiquated, and honestly I haven't seen anyone communicate this in years."

    Wasn't that the whole point of that ICP song about fuckin' magnets?

    OK, looking at the above comments I see that this was already brought up, but I'm posting it anyways.

  24. To be fair (I know, I know), asswipes like Dawkins are still picking fights about the topic of beauty and science.

    Sadly, the topic is funnier than the comic, since the argument dates back to Newton, who jammed Indigo into the spectrum so that we'd have a beautiful and mystically significant seven colors while allegedly destroying the beauty of the rainbow by reducing it to refraction.

    Sorry, I forgot where we were: "Refraction, bitches."

  25. I think its very wrong to say that just because it is not an issue in the social circles you operate in (which are usually going to be quite limited unless you have a very unusual job)that this means its a dead or archaic issue.

    It is actually a comman argument i have heard from people when trying to explain the benfits of reason and sciance over fairy stories (got this so much in the rediculous 'steiner' areas of australia).

    Although the comic is pretty lame for the usual reason that he explains the bloody joke. Just from seeing her run in with the slime most people can work out the joke- dont need anti-sciantist to lay it out for us.
    He makes me son angry sometimes.

  26. damn sciance ruining the comman man's aprecietion of naturre with they're rediculous overanalasus

  27. Oh, excuse me, *dam

  28. The new comic sucks, people with model trains don't even have friends!

  29. Model trains? Does anybody born post-1950 do model trains? I mean, it's cool if you're younger and into model trains, but demographically speaking, model train lovers have got to mostly be in their 70s.

    Now that Randall's running out of jokes for high-schoolers, he's starting to target retired eggheads. Expect lots of jokes about slide rules, and wonderment that computers weigh less than a ton.

    Rocket science: it's not just a metaphor for a challenging intellectual pursuit. It's the most cutting edge modern scientific discipline, now that we've entered "THE SPACE AGE".

  30. re: 877.

    PlasmodIal, not plasmoIdal. I'm surprised nobody's caught this and Randall hasn't corrected it yet. Now that it's no longer the most recent comic, I wonder if it will live on, uncorrected, for eternity.

  31. @Gryffilion: If they aren't functionally literate they aren't an actual person as far as I'm concerned, just some errant bot/troll/idiot. So, no. =]

    Re these apparent people who think science is some sort of wonder-thief: Maybe this a regional thing. I live in a >million people city in an Anglophone-dominant region of Central Canada, so anyone in the city who legitimately thinks like that is generally dismissed as pretty insane. Although, I'm sure there are some Albertan communities that feel like this, but logic tells me that if I haven't met them, they must be myths.

    Iron Maiden? Proven not to be a myth. ....Bitches. [No, that is the most popular band I've seen unless you like Blind Guardian {Insert pun on Twisting and Myths that I'm not clever enough to come up with right now}]

    Captcha: Sephan. How post-modern couples write the name of their child "steph-AWN"

  32. Slices of Raven bread, eh? Sounds like Gamer_2k4 is in a hot, underage threesome.

    Are you saying Ravenzomg is a teenage girl? I was all for this sandwiching, but if it's illegal...

  33. Am I the only one who thinks that this comic would have been a lot better if it had ended after panel three? We could have had another mild-chuckle-inducing recursion joke and gone on with our lives.

    Instead we get a bunch of shitty drawings capped off with a completely incongruous Fight Club reference and PPD.

  34. Does Randall admit in the alt-text that he gets all of his comic ideas by browsing around Wikipedia?

    CAPTCHA: coutti. Megan left Randall because he kept giving himself coutti shots around her.

  35. I agree with Ernesto that 878 would've been fine if it had just stopped at panel three. That being said, I liked the drawings, but the Fight Club gag was a little lame. And it sort of bugged me how in panel two the measurements are in imperial, but in the rest of the comic they're all given in metric.

    Still, a considerably above average xkcd, if you ask me.

  36. 878; lol recursion

  37. 878 should ended at most before the last 2 panels. Those were just added mental diarrhea.

  38. Reboot does a Redux countdown: 18

  39. If the layout is going to be in his basement, how the hell is it going to be included in what's basically an aerial view? You don't exactly include gas mains and sewer systems in a model train layout.

  40. Obama sucks!

    Repost on at least ten more blogs including this one or some dirty Mexican will make you eat his big, nasty, hairy unibrow.

  41. I think I'm fine with the nesting visual, but I agree that the last two panels definitely have to go.

    I'm from Ontario also and have to agree -- nobody I've met would ever claim that science removes the wonder from anything. I have encountered this attitude only on the Internet.

    I can only conclude that:

    Science + (sgn(Internet use - Sanity))(Wonder) = 0.

  42. I said repost, damn it!

  43. William Howard Taft is bollocks!

  44. The nesting visuals are fine, I guess, but what gets me about this comic is that it really looks like he's done after panel three. He's got a punchline, and even though it isn't very novel it at least doesn't shout in your face. If he'd stopped there I would have thought, "Well, it's a bit obvious, Randall, but you pulled it off alright."

    But he keeps going! It's almost like he realized the joke was too obvious and thought to himself I'm Randall Munroe. I can make this better. Just think up another joke and paste the two together! But he couldn't think up another joke. So instead he draws some nerdy shit and quotes from the second-most-popular "philosophical" nerd movie ever.

    Captcha: taitr. You know, boil 'em, mash 'em, put 'em in a stew?