Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Comic 891: How To Make A Joke Feel Old

[Everyone's least favorite commenter, "The Mole Who Gets Paid Sometimes, I Guess," has submitted a guest review, which is good because this comic is fuck-off boring. -Ed.]

Well, look who's here again? Yep, it's the Mole, and as crazy as ever! And do you know who else is crazy? I have no idea, but I know Randall is suddenly feeling old, it seems. Because, really, look at this comic:

Oops, this is not Wednesday's xkcd is it? Nope, it's one from 5 years ago, when Randall was... 21 years old. Here we see past Randall, a care-free youngster raising a flag for the world to see. And it says: I don't need to grow up, I'm young and I'll seize that for as long as I can. Oh, past Randall, how you have inspired us...

...then, five years later:

Randall is now 26 years old and apparently realized he just spent 5 years making comics starred by stick figures rambling about nerd interests and receiving comments that were, in the peak of its eloquence and significance, reduced to "GOOMHR". Now Randall is feeling old. And I feel no sympathy for him.

Because, firstly, this is not the first time Randall invokes this "fear". There was that shitty shitty comic that dealed with the same stuff. But what is this fear? What the heck is going on that people who barely reached the half of their life expectancies(I'm guessing at least 72 years for developed and emergent countries) are already having middle-age crisis? Where 20-year-olds are complaining about they youth these days, without realizing they are the "youth these days". I know people who feel old before 30 years old and I do tell them "stop that; you're not even 30 years old, stop feeling old, you have a lot to live through. You can get back to it when your 40." And I think it's amazing that I have to tell them that.

And how does Randall choose to show us why we should feel old? Why, he shows us when famous movies were made! Because, really, that shows it, right? Well, anecdotally I can say I really thought Shrek has been launched more than 10 years ago. It has 3 sequels and one spin-off in the making by now. And the phrasing on that last one is incredibly convoluted, isn't it? "Closer to the moon landing than the present day", really? Well, yes, really: 22 years from 1989 to now, 20 years from 1969 to 1989. So, while that's true... it's just plain confusing. That's Randall's writing on board, ladies and gentlemen!

But most important: THIS IS NOT A COMIC. You can't just draw a table by hand and call it a comic, Randall. These things don't work like that! That's not even an inforgraph, it's just a table. A table that could as well be represented as... well, as a table, instead of a big image. So we have shoddy unnecessary art to pair with our stupid argument.

Veredict: the comic is shoddy. It's not even a comic. I rest my case.

Mole out.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Comic 890: You've Never Heard Of XKCD? (i envy you)

[Title: Etymology; alt text: For some reason, my childhood suspension of disbelief had no problem with the fact that this ancient galaxy is full of humans, but was derailed by language. There's no Asia OR Europe there, so where'd they get all the Indo-European roots?]

Jesus fucking Christ, Randall.

Listen, we get it, you're quirky and nerdy and live in a rich fantasyland with the well-developed imagination you never bother using on your webcomic. You don't need to keep making comics about these made-up quirks you have in order to get your fans to fellate you.

No matter how you look at this strip it is fuck-off terrible. At first it appears to be advocating that science fiction movies should not use Earth languages if Earth does not exist in them. If the alt text is to be believed, Randy has always thought that such things were implausible! "Where do they get the Indo-European word roots?" asks child-Randy. "Why do these people speak English?" he demands. It would appear that he has never read the Lord of the Rings and doesn't understand the basic narrative convention that, in stories where the characters are meant to be speaking another language, they frequently instead speak English (or whatever language is native to the speaker), so that the native speakers will understand. In some stories, like the Lord of the Rings, the "translation" is actually mentioned as happening. In others, it's just assumed to be completely irrelevant.

This convention isn't unique to speculative fiction. Fiction that's set in a non-English-speaking culture or time period does it as well. Films like Gladiator, TV series like Rome. I'd compile a list if there weren't so goddamn many examples out there. I'd be willing to bet Randy didn't even consider this possibility when filing this arbitrary complaint, however--but if SF bothers him, this should bother him just as much. And yet!

Once you're ready to dismiss Randy as a complete moron, however, you realize that the nature of the complaint is weirdly specific. He isn't complaining that they are using English, but that they are using words with Indo-European word roots, because these roots come from Earth, and there is no Earth in Star Wars. Except--EXCEPT! Every single word on Earth comes from an Earth-based etymology. THEY ARE WORDS ON EARTH. So why is he complaining about this weirdly specific thing which ultimately means the same thing as the broader "they aren't speaking alien languages" complaint?

Some have suggested that maybe he's only complaining that their proper nouns aren't alien, but that's at least as stupid--more so, I think, because it's arbitrary. He doesn't mind them conversing in our language, but he objects to them not making up words to refer to their proper nouns.

Click that link I just made, if you haven't already. Remember when Randy complained that books that make up a bunch of words are dumb? Now notice how he's complaining that sci-fi movies don't make up a bunch of words--either all of them, or just some arbitrarily chosen ones, depending on your interpretation of his fuck-off idiocy.

I'm going to be honest: I agree with the sentiment in 483. I find it offputting when my SF stories contain a bunch of made-up words. Or even just randomly changing English word conventions! One of my biggest complaints about A Song Of Ice And Fire is how he insists on "ser" instead of "sir," and "Your Grace" rather than "Your Majesty" to refer to a royal, and some other things that don't immediately spring to mind. Their only purpose is to say "wooo, you're reading faaaaantasy" and it's just obnoxious.

And a huge part of the reason this bothers me is because the narrative convention where foreign and alien languages are translated into English is so necessary to storytelling, so embedded and taken for granted, that when you constantly throw out these random made-up words and needlessly different conventions you shatter the suspension of disbelief by constantly reminding them of the fact that they are reading a story.

But I shouldn't be so hard. This is just another attempt by Randy at making people think that he's quirky. He doesn't actually advocate this position, he's just pretending to adopt it because he thinks it makes him more endearing or interesting as a person.

Or maybe that's worse? I don't know. Is it worse to be stupid enough to actually be annoyed by the use of English in Star Wars, or to disingenuously pretend to be that stupid so people will like you more?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Comic 889: Teenage Mutant Ninja Uselessness

[Finally, noted #xkcd-sucks lurker "Seth" has sent me this review, also, for some reason, which, okay. -Ed.]

Okay, so.

This comic is cool. Like first there's this guy and he's all "BLARG" about his computer or whatever. Then there's this turtle see and it's all "I'm a turtle" and you better fucking believe it was a turtle because that's how Randall drew it n' shit. I mean if it weren't a turtle why would it look like one and for that matter think that it was one it doesn't make any sense. Also okay so then there's another frame and the turtle just is all like check it I'm a fuckin' turtle and then there's another frame and the guy's like here it is or some shit you can't even see if it's a guy maybe it's a girl or like Megan or something (she's the blonde one right?) and shit. So then there's another panel and it's 50 years in the goddamn FUTURE and that fuckin' turtle is still sittin' there doing his turtle thing. Fuck that's awesome. And to top it all off the turtle's still all "I'm a turtle" and shit. And then like at the bottom the caption's all "Turtles have it figured out." Fuck yeah they do.

'Cuz I mean like what do people know. Do they ever like stop and think, "I'm a person?" I doubt it. They're too busy worryin' about shit that don't make sense. Like who cares about Martin Luther or like the Johnson account or some shit. Maybe you're a lady and thinkin' about lady junk who knows. But I doubt you like, stop and appreciate the fact that you're a person. You know? It's just criminal, man, how we go about our lives with our heads to the ground and not realizing who we are. But fuck that, the turtle knows who he is. He's a motherfuckin' turtle, and he's got that shit down pat. Can you believe that? Also he's like at least 50 years old and he still knows who he is. Man. Fuckin' amazing is what that is.

So yeah anyway I thought the comic was cool. I mean you don't get that kinda deepness from everyday stuff, you know? It's like just, really cool. I mean all the allegories and shit. Like with the guy (or girl?) offscreen. He's just worryin' about his computer and he's got a fuckin' turtle just running around his house. Like what the fuck. You're so focused on your little computer you don't appreciate the fuckin' shit goin' down around you, like the fact that there's a motherfuckin' turtle just sittin' there doing his thing. How do you not even notice that.

I wish I could draw as good as Randall. I mean, look at that turtle. I can't draw a turtle like that. I used to want to draw and shit but I never got into it. Just too busy looking for shit that I wasn't gonna find and didn't matter anyway.

You know what? Fuck that. I'm gonna learn to fuckin' draw. I'm gonna take an example from that fuckin' turtle and just do what I wanna fuckin' do without worrying. None of this stuff matters anyways so might as well chill like the turtle and start fuckin' drawin'. Maybe I'll draw a turtle sittin' all chill and doing his own thing. I'm not gonna be like that man or woman or manwoman because if you wanna be that too that's cool. It's good to fuckin' know who you are, take a page from that turtle there and just know. I sure am. Thanks Randall and thanks turtles everywhere.

I need to go find a pen.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Comic 889: Turtles, Man

[Your Gamer "Gamer_2k4" was all like "I will show an XKCD comic to a hostage every thirty minutes until you post my review" so I was like "okay fine, you fucking terrorist," which I guess is letting the terrorists win but really. Here is his guest review. -Ed.]

I hate this comic. I hate xkcd. I hate Randall Munroe. I've been ticked off by xkcd before, but strip 889 just completely blows my mind. I'm not even going to reproduce it here; if you haven't seen it, just count yourself one of the lucky ones, because it's so numbingly stupid that reading it is akin to being smashed in the head with a backhoe. I'd rather get raped by a porcupine than read this balls-awful comic. I'd rather eat a box of thumbtacks, I'd rather swim in a septic truck, I'd rather use a wood chipper as a hat than see that complete and total piece of suck again.

It's's BAD! It's not insightful, it's not funny, it's not well drawn, it's downright stupid, and it seriously sounds like Randall wrote this while on some heavy drugs. You know, normally I try to put in a few good words about each xkcd I review. It would be wrong to say I'm trying to find the hidden gems; it's probably more like searching for whole kernals of corn in a pile of manure. But this one has no such corn. This is just a big, sloppy, puddle of diarrhea.

I'm sorry, that was disgusting. Still, I'm not entirely sure it's inaccurate. The message of this comic is little more than "Turtles don't have worries. Boy, they're lucky!" What the heck are you talking about, Randall? You don't have worries, either! You spend 15 minutes a week scribbling on a sheet of paper, throw it online, and have thousands of people all trying to suck your nonexistent balls the next morning. You could put out anything and the masses would still be there, waiting expectantly, mouths open, panting like dogs. Teachers put up your comics in their classrooms. Blogs link to you regularly. Internet memes have been spawned because of your worthless excuse for a webcomic. It's just one big "find Randy's dick and suck it" contest on the internet, and you're the center of attention. You make more money than you have any right to with this strip, you're considered a guest of honor at conventions, you can probably sleep 10 hours each night, and you still have a 13 hours every single day (rounding down) to jerk off to fantasies of Megan. You've got it made in the shade, buddy! YOU'RE the one who's got it "figured out"!

A turtle doesn't have any worries? It's a FREAKING TURTLE! It doesn't have to brain to comprehend things like stress, it doesn't have a reason to comprehend things like stress, and it sure as heck doesn't have any files to delete! YOU are that turtle, Randall. You go on with your stupid, sheltered little life, completely protected from anything even close to stress, no worries in the world, just sitting there thinking, "hurp I'm a Randall." You know what? You ARE a Randall, and 50 years from now you'll STILL be a Randall, just sitting there, rock-stupid, oblivious to real people with real concerns, and thinking that your little world is all there is. I hate you.

Comic 889: It's Lame All The Way Down

[Mysterious entity "Carl Wheeler" has sent me the following guest review. It is reprinted here in its entirety. -Ed.]


The joke is that Randall tried pot for the first time on Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Comic 888: This Could Be Heaven Or This Could Be Hell

[Noted pirate "ThePirateKing" sent me this guest review, which is short but probably had more thought put into it than my usual reviews, because I am actually incapable of thought. -Ed.]


Comic 888 is really pretty boring. It's basically the exact same idea as 724, just in reverse. This is really lame. If Randy were clever, he would have thought of both those concepts and made them one comic. But it took him over 150 comics to think of the logical reverse of the "tetris hell" idea. And it's not at all funny, either. Mainly because, and I think it was Carl who pointed this out, it was never original to begin with.

So fuck the actual comic. I'm going to talk about the alt text.

You see, after hundreds upon hundreds of shitty comics, Randy has finally found his comedic genius. He has "cast off his commercial shackles", to quote an earlier and better xkcd, in order to call out his gaggle of GOOMHRing fans on being pasty virgins. "If you've never had sex"... as if there is a hint of doubt with this audience!

The most hilarious part is that his fans will not realize they are being viciously mocked! They will GOOMHR, and marvel at Randall's supposed insight on the sexual world, all the while secretly lamenting the fact that he's right, they haven't had sex.
Truly a clever subversion of xkcd's blatant catering to its fanbase.

[in all seriousness, does Randy know what "ennui" means? Or "redundancy"? It's a bit like tautology... ]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Comic 887: Here Is A List Of Non-Jokes

[Your favorite hideous city/woman hybrid "Ann Apolis" has sent me the following guest review for this worthless shit comic, which isn't so much a review as it is a link/image, but really, it doesn't deserve any more complex treatment. -Ed.]


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Comic 886: Here Is A List Of Jokes

craigslist apartments


Since Randy was evicted from his latest place (they have a strict 'no creepy stalkers' policy), he has been searching for new apartments on Craigslist, since his friends are starting to get tired of his continued presence. (As are all of us, of course.) But Randy is a man of ingenuity. He is a man who turns his situation into humor, and Craigslist and apartment-hunting are a veritable gutted gold mine of jokes.

As a true connoisseur of the GOOMH and the cheap laugh, Randy has perfected a technique known as the "list joke." This is a cheap technique used to group together a large group of usually subpar jokes, in the hope that at least one of them will stick and inflict humor upon the unsuspecting.

References include Chernobyl, House of Leaves, Star Wars, Viking slave ships, submarines, spam, and some other shit I'm too lazy to compile. And, of course, apartment-hunting. Odds are pretty good that, if you're a nerd, you'll find a joke to laugh at here, or to GOOMH at here. This is a lazy attempt at humor, but ultimately not a terrible one--though some of the individual jokes are kind of stupid, some are all right, and there's just so many of them. The concept isn't awful, also.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Comics 884 and 885: A Trip Into Randy's Deranged Mind

884. Randy is a man who lives a rich, milk-oriented fantasy life. He frequently comes up with all sorts of fantasies, most of which involve Megan in some way, and, as a man whose mind goes where it will, sometimes his mind takes him down the road to what will happen when eventually Stockholm syndrome kicks in and Megan relents to his endless advances.

"Oh yeah, we'll have a kid and it'll be a girl and she'll be fucking hot, like porn star hot," he moans to himself as he pours himself another glass of milk. He tries to drink it in such a fashion that it gives him a milk mustache. He imagines the mustache is Megan's.

His mind refuses to relinquish this thought. Randy promptly grabs a pen and begins drawing his hypothetical daughter as a porn star--completely naked, of course, as is the usual case with XKCD women--but then he realizes that this amazingly sexy and milk-endowed woman he is envisioning is his daughter! He must come up with a way to distance himself from these thoughts! And he has to make it funny to his audience. What's something unsexy that everyone loves?

Mr. Rogers! Let's go with that. Wasn't there some game where you came up with your porn star name? It involved streets or some shit, right? Cool, comic done. Back to masturbating to your hypothetical daughter.

885. Randy wants to let everyone know that he recycles, of course, but he also wants to let everyone know that the people at the recycling center have compiled an elaborate dossier on him, based on the things they gather from his house. They have even accurately concluded that he is what is colloquially referred to as an "asshole."

He is inaccurate in how they came to this conclusion, of course. He assumes it is because he is only intermittently concerned with making the recyclists' (do you like that? I just made that up right now) job easier that they have concluded this. Really it is mostly because every available surface he recycles has the word 'Megan' written on it, over and over and over again--and inflicting your creepiness on the poor people at the recycling center is pretty much the biggest dick move out there, next to possibly maintaining a hate blog for a comic you don't really even care about.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Comic 883: Randy Thinks He's Imaginative

[Today's guest post comes from someone who is maybe foreign, "Suiseki" or whatever. -Ed.]

Oh dear god. Oh dear god, Randall. Why, oh why, did you have to do this? I mean, I was perfectly fine. Xkcd wasn’t good, but it wasn’t unnaturally horrible. But now, now Randy, you’ve done this.

The first panel:

And it begins…

I can imagine people having this conversation. It sets things up, we’re not confused about what’s happening. But it’s so…strange. It seems like the guy isn’t conveying any emotion about his arm being hurt, for some reason. The guy seems like a shell of a person. Maybe the fact that he's soulless is part of the joke. But I doubt it...

In addition, the doctor asking if there’s any pain is kind of silly, she is a doctor and would know because of the chart stuffs, and also because the guy is fucking clutching his arm. It seems like the doctor is actually just a person in a labcoat playing doctor or something.

Second panel:

And it continues…

It’s been pointed out that the question most doctors ask is “How would you rate the pain, on a scale from one to ten, based on the worst pain you’ve experienced” instead of “can imagine.” Although this alone is a slight flaw, the joke would've been much funnier if “experienced” was used instead of "can imagine." Hell, let me get a crack at this.


Sure it’d be better if I cut some specific bits out, used Humor Sans, but eh. Someone more give-a-damny might do better.

So, missed opportunities based on misremembering the question/not caring.


About the third panel:


Some people seem to think this isn’t necessary. I believe that it’s designed to put emphasis on the “Worst pain I can imagine.” part of the line. Sure, nobody would ever actually say that, but I’m going to go ahead and say that this was a good idea. Try shooping that panel out: I’m sure you’ll find that you won’t get the joke on the first read through if you do that.

So, I disagree with the people who hate this panel. It isn’t natural, but clearly, neither is Randall-insert.

About the last panel:


Doctors do not act like this. It would be more natural if Megan would have said something like “Randall, honey, say getting hit by a motorcycle is a 10,” "Come on. Don't bring your troubled past into this..." or “Randall, I’m leaving you. I’ve never really loved you.” (HAHA MEGAN JOKE I LOVE THIS.) I know it’s “xkcd style,” but it still kind of sucks. It seems like the characters step out of their roles, and that isn’t good. Characters should always be in their roles, at all times.

Why haven’t I seen that criticism before? Have I just missed it or something? Characters should always be in-character.

And now, things I can't be assed to put alone:

1) What’s with those white gaps between some panels and not others? It seems like the borders are all messed up and strange. I’m thinking Randall is being lazy. (I guess he IS lazy if he draws a stick figure webcomic, but still…)

2) Regarding panel 4 and onward: Hey, doesn’t his arm hurt? Why’d he stop clutching it? He can move it to his mouth and everything? Come on….Characters need to be in character AT ALL FUCKING TIMES.

...Randall, you're a famous webcomic-ist. You're a professional now. Fucking act like one.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Comic 882: Signifying Nothing

[I almost forgot to mention that this is a guest post by "Ann Apolis," noted transvestite. -Ed.]

Greetings, cuddlefish and sucksters alike. I am Ann Apolis M.D., here to cast a surgeon's eye (someday I hope to find out which surgeon) over the latest xkcd. Is strip 882 a simple case for outpatients, or is its lack of humour inoperable? Do I inform the next-of-kin with a smile on my face and a couple of jokes or a sombre expression and a comforting voice? Will the tenuous medical analogies continue? I'm as eager to find out as you.

Here it is:

[Comic title: Significant; Alt text: 'So, uh, we did the green study again and got no link. It was probably a--' 'RESEARCH CONFLICTED ON GREEN JELLY BEAN/ACNE LINK; MORE STUDY RECOMMENDED!']

Once again Randall takes it upon himself to point out how stupid people are [though not his esteemed readership of course, who are all intelligent enough to laugh at the idiots in this comic]. Here it's sloppy statistics. Once you notice the 0.05 and the fact there are twenty tests, the final joke [such as it is] because rather obvious and Randall doesn't deviate from the obvious course in presenting it; we clump, clump, clump to the finish line with weary inevitability.

It's not completely awful; while the Minecraft references are a bit 'GOOMH RANDALL I PLAY MINECRAFT TOO', they are at least attempts to include little jokes on the way to the big joke, and this is something Randall doesn't usually do. [In a similar vein, I was hoping there would be some amusing colours in the TWENTY PANELS OF DOOM, but no dice.]

But the overall impression this comic gives is of an amusing illustration in a textbook, the kind that would get you to go 'Hey, I like this textbook, it's kinda funny'. Except this isn't a textbook, this is The Most Popular Webcomic On The Internet (TM), and this kinda thing doesn't cut it. It's badly drawn (come on, Randall, I don't blame you for copy-pasting the twenty panels, but you could at least have made the heads join up in the original), it's patronising, but most of all it is dull. Dull dull dull dull dull.

And maybe I wouldn't mind, if it would end here. But it won't. For the next week this is going to be passed around with a self-congratulatory pat on the back, a smile of "Aren't newspapers stupid? At least we know how science works". And for years to come any time a medical study is mentioned someone is going to post "ah, but did they take THIS into account ". And everyone will go "Hahaha, that's right, that is a thing that happens with statistics". And the myth that xkcd is funny and special and the cream of the internet will continue.

ORWELLIAN WATCH: Originally the comic said "green jelly beans" in panel 2 ( which kinda makes the joke stupid. Quality control at Randall Towers is as high as ever.

Comic 881: The Rejected Guest Reviews

statistically better

Hello there! For some reason two people sent me guest reviews even though they weren't really into it, and today I'm going to show them (the reviews, I mean, show you the reviews). But first, admire the vast improvement I've made to the comic, above!

Anyway the first one was by your "Ann Apolis," and it went like this:

Greetings, cuddlefish and sucksters alike. I am Ann Apolis M.D., here to cast a surgeon's eye (someday I hope to find out which surgeon) over the latest xkcd. Is strip 881 a simple case for outpatients, or is its lack of humour inoperable? Do I inform the next-of-kin with a smile on my face and a couple of jokes or a sombre expression and a comforting voice? Will the tenuous medical analogies continue? I'm as eager to find out as you.

Here it is:

[image: Text: Aww, shit.]

Now I wrote the preceding intro paragraph before the comic came up (in fact I wrote it on Saturday when I decided I was going to do the next guest post) and now that it is what it is it looks a li'l heartless. Unfortunately my keyboard does not have a backspace key so I'll have to keep going.

Is it funny? It's not that unfunny, actually; black humour is the best type of humour and this is certainly an example of that. But it leaves me a little uncomfortable - insert the pictoblog argument here if you want, ask 'why is this a comic?' - so I'll just note that the fourth panel really detracts from the feel of the comic: stick figures can't really convey a hug and I don't think '*sniff* they're hugging this is sad' I think 'wow trying to draw two stick figures hugging like that really doesn't work, huh'. So a minus mark there I guess. But still. Uh. :/


The next one is by "Gamer 2k4" or whatever and it went like this:

This is Gamer_2k4 again, by popular request. I originally didn't want to review this one because I couldn't really get angry about it. I still don't want to do it, but I don't want to leave this review in the hands of someone else, either. This is a serious strip and deserves a serious review, not some flippant Megan joke or irrelevant babbling to fill space.

If you didn't know, Randall has a family member who's pretty sick. He first mentions it here (which, incidentally, brought on two weeks of much higher quality comics), and comes back to it here and here. Now, with today's comic, it seems that this isn't something that's going to go away anytime soon.

[image removed because whatever]
Alt-text: My normal approach is useless here, too.

I bring this up, not because I'm trying to prompt sympathy, but because this strip recalls a time when Randall's comics were for him and him alone. He let his creativity out in the only way he knew how: sketching and doodling. Sure, they went up on the internet, but the idea then was, "If people like this, great, if not, no matter. These are mine." If his life inspired the strips, more power to him. It was only once he strayed from that formula and tried to cram jokes and geeky references into every strip that xkcd became bad. These days, the comic does little except pander to an audience of self-proclaimed nerds.

With that in mind, this is not a bad comic. Sure, I could nitpick it all day: The graph doesn't match the chart, "%" is an awful Y-axis label, the IV tubes lead to the ground, who the heck knows what they're sitting on, and holy balls but the art is ugly in the (largely superfluous) last panel. But that doesn't matter! The crucial thing to note is that this is a return to the old Randall and the old xkcd. It's just the outlet of a guy who doesn't understand the world, so he copes by framing it with math. Even the title text supports this, as it's a reference to one of his first comics. Today's comic strip isn't for anyone but Randall.

Yes, some comic strips are supposed to be funny. We turn to them every day for humor, and can be excused for being outraged when the author tries to be "serious." Remember how, three years ago, Ctrl-Alt-Del had a storyline about a miscarriage? People were appalled, and rightfully so. You don't just get to talk about personal stuff whenever you feel like it, especially not after six years of humor! Webcomics are a source of humor, not a soapbox.

But that's the crucial point of distinction between xkcd and most webcomics. Like I said before, xkcd began as a collection of Randall's thoughts and personal musings. That's its core, and that's when it was good. He didn't start out pandering to a particular audience; he wrote what was in his heart, and what came out ended up being alright. Popularity ruined Randall and it ruined xkcd.

So yes, at the end of the day, this strip is not funny. There's no joke, and the whole thing seems kind of thrown together. And yet, that's fine. It represents the original spirit of xkcd, before it was destroyed by an author who couldn't handle fame. I don't like this particular strip, as it doesn't really speak to me. But I do like that we get a glimpse of the old Randall, the one that first captured our interest so many years ago.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Comic 881: Boo Fucking Hoo


[Comic title: Probability; Alt text: My normal approach is useless here, too.]

Let's not beat around the bush: this comic is shit shit shit shit shit. But it's shit in the style of Randy's creeping, insidious shit--it's not a 631, but it's bad.

We'll start with the art, since it's the most obvious type of shit in this shit casserole. Panels 1 and 2 are your garden variety graphs, though it's not really clear what either of them are talking about--what's the hashed line in the first graph? What's lasting how many years in the second one? Why are they all a-kilter? Is that supposed to be artistic, or touching?

The third panel is remarkable mostly for its giant terrible IV bag. It's connected to nothing and the lines on it make it look more like a chart someone has written on that's dangling from some sort of random post. It was bad enough that on a first read I wasn't entirely convinced it was meant to be an IV bag, because even Randy can't make something that ugly. (Incidentally, this led me to wonder if the interpretation of the comic wasn't just 'it's sad that our relationship might not last forever :( which would have made the shit levels in this comic go off the fucking charts.)

And then there's the fourth panel. Randy, you are incapable of conveying emotion with your creepy spider-fingered stick-people. I'm sorry. The weird gaps in his arm and torso where they intersect with Megan? Those are ugly. The positions they're in? Incredibly awkward. It's not a touching panel, it's just sad--as in pathetic, not as in 'oh, how sad and sweet they are . . . maybe that is hugging? I think maybe that is hugging.' I'm convinced it's only there because without it, people could probably interpret this comic as being intended as having, at the very least, some intention of being darkly humorous.

And maybe that would have been okay. Instead Randy decided to put on the whine-pants when he wrote this one. "Bawww, sometimes using statistics to understand something just makes it depressing! My cold, calculating comfort from the confusing world of humans just makes me sad now! I NEED A HUG, MEGAN, HUG ME PLOX." Of course, Megan is not going to hug him. Even if she didn't already hate him she would have started after this whiny piece of shit.

You know what, Randy? Sometimes when you try to understand something you find out it sucks. Not all facts are comforting! Most of them are just going to remind you that you are alone in an uncaring universe, that you will die alone and afraid, and that you'll be completely forgotten after you die--not right away, perhaps, but in the cosmic sense of things, quite soon.

"I used to like it because it has so many real-life applications," says Author Insert. "Used to," as in he doesn't like it anymore. But what bothers me most is that, in statistics, he surely must have come across dozens if not hundreds of situations where the statistics were more depressing than anything, and I'd bet he didn't bat an eye. Maybe he'd comment things like "I weep for my gender," as he did when individuals with Y chromosomes tended to respond in certain ways on his color-naming thing. But always wry, cynical, or otherwise detached. No, it's not until the statistics touch home that Randy declares he is so over them. They have made him aware that people he knows are also mortal, and that's just not cool.

Here's some advice for you, Randy: harden the fuck up. Oh, feel free to be sad all you like. But you suck at pathos. It's not a thing you are remotely good at. Your art style is all wrong for it, and trying to shoehorn something geeky into it doesn't make it any better. I'd say "stick to what you're good at," but what you're good at is making terrible comics all the time, forever, so maybe just quit instead.

UPDATE: This post is so popular I thought I'd link to our IRC channel! It's #xkcd-sucks on Foonetic. Be there, or die horribly in a fire.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Comic 880: APRIL FOOLS!!!!!!


[Comic title: Headache; Alt text: I'm only willing to visit placid lakes, salt flats, and painting exhibits until the world's 3D technology improves.]

We can tell this comic is an April Fool's joke because Megan is asking Randy to do something with her. This has never happened, and you were all FOOLED. It is doubly foolish, because in such a situation, Randy would never turn her down--this is his attempt at pretending that, in such circumstances, he would "play it cool."

But the joke is funny even if you are capable of accepting a fiction in which Randy has ever been asked out by Megan and/or where Randy is capable of turning her down. You see, some people dislike 3D movies because they give them a headache, and, when asked to attend, it is very plausible that they would say something very much like Randy said in the comic here.

If you are a master of words like Randy, you'll notice that "movies" does not appear in Randy's dialog in this comic! This is a quirk of human conversation, where people will often assume that a certain noun is implied and avoid repeating it endlessly, instead using pronouns or nonspecific nouns such as "stuff" to refer to them. Randy has noticed this, and, as he is a cunning linguist (sluuuuurp), he has decided that, since "3D stuff" theoretically refers to the entire world, it would be extremely hilarious if someone were to reject Megan's amorous advances to do things like ride bicycles by saying "I'm not into 3d stuff because it gives me a headache, GET IT LIKE 3D MOVIES???"

This was accompanied by some sort of script which drew a bunch of extraneous lines around the comic for some reason, which sort of but not really reacted when I moved my mouse around.