Tuesday, April 5, 2011

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: http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/probability.png 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.


  1. It's really wonderful that Rob can pull proper hate out of his hat when it's needed. Because I would have been very disappointed if this was there instead, especially because reboot pussed out too.

    Captcha: penses ... oh god Freud, why do you taunt me so!!?

  2. "irrelevant babbling to fill space"

    that's my MOTTO baby

  3. anyway fuck you rob I was going to reuse the introduction to my one for the next one

    in fact I probably still will :3

  4. Hey, screw you Capn! I don't see YOUR hateblog anywhere. It's all just opinion anyway, and if you don't like it just don't read it.


  5. You forgot the other two links, Capn. Get it right, will you?

  6. So...what's the deal with "reboot" being hosted at capnsblag.blogspot.com if you're not affiliated with it?

  7. Kitten is the doppelganger troll.

    Actually, me, Raven, kitten, and ALT-F are basically the same person.

  8. nono, I am part of the Rob/Randall continuum. That's why Kitten could never properly be my doppleganger.

  9. Admit it, I was the best doppelganger you ever had.

  10. The only reason why Raven couldn't be Kitten's doppelganger is because there's only room in this town for one Rob. Literally.

  11. You know it will always just be me. [/alt]

  12. Sooooo... 881 was about acne?

  13. Another AnonymousApril 5, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    Honestly... I thought 881 was pretty well done. It was on topic for the site (math), and it addressed a problem that in fact exists (articles that don't understand statistics). It even made sense for there to be 20 panels of jellybean colors.

    I guess this is not a very good "xkcd sucks" comment.

  14. In 882, it doesn't make sense for the the scientists to be testing green jellybeans specifically in the 2nd panel.

  15. UndercoverCuddlefishApril 5, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    i am pretty sure my comment on the last post was better than any of this bullshit

  16. Randall's taking a correspondence course on statistics.


  17. Haha that media sure is wacky, right, guys?

    Seriously though, for anyone who ever complained about high-school level math references, basic statistics time! Alright!

  18. Surprise! Randall changed it. Here is the original. http://www.webcitation.org/5xjZxoJZr

  19. I'm glad I'm not the only one who was reminded of CTRL-ATL-DEL 's foray into stuff I don't read anymore...

  20. "'Gamer 2k4' or whatever"- I completely respect your post.
    I enjoy xkcd, but I also completely agree with your insights listed eloquently in this review of "Probability"- this is Randall's stuff, the essence of his work, and it's from this that he derives the best material (worthy of its popularity). It isn't "shit shit shit shit" (such useless and lackluster descriptions serve only to single out the lowlifes-seeking-for-attention-from-a-god-forsaken-audience), and the meticulously annoying Megan jokes, nitpicky comments on drawings and graphs (it's a webcomic, it's based on STICK FIGURES) are irrelevant and can be overlooked; this particular comic is here to convey a message. It does so, perhaps without the poise of Randall's initial doodles and sketches, but with a life of its own nevertheless. Your response to it, on the other hand, was respectful and thoughtful, something that doesn't seem to be a popular paradigm on this site.
    To the rest of you reviewers, readers... No, xkcd is not as good as it once was. I agree with that particular basis which seems to be the fundamental theme of this site. What I don't understand is how a couple grown men and women, instead of promoting actual causes out in the real world, can bear to sit there and think to themselves "How can I criticize Randall's work today?", proceeding thereafter to write paragraphs upon paragraphs, daily- unceasingly, even- wasting away hours that can be spent more productively elsewhere... And as I read (maybe once or twice a year) this site, I notice a downward trend... Have you writers of tirades become hypocrites? Do you not find your countless tiring criticisms redundant? Are we supposed to believe that, outside of your precious xkcd criticisms, you lead action-packed lives, your supermodel girlfriends making sweet love to you every night? (What would you talk about, what hobbies would you people have in common with others? - 'oh yes I'm Rob, yes hello, I delight upon posting blogs on the internet pertaining to the utter destruction of a certain webcomic I despise beyond anything else in the world, what's your name? Wait, where are you going? Come back! I want you to at least see my blog!')
    At the very least, respect that thousands of people visit xkcd frequently. I wonder how many of them contributed to a charity after reading this comic? I did; a few of my friends did (I'd be surprised if we were the only ones...) Meanwhile, congratulations on all your helpful donations to various causes; I'm sure homeless Joe really appreciates your countless hours spent keeping up this blog- skinny Vick too;
    God damn DO something with your fucking time. And at the risk of calling the kettle black, I will take my fucking leave of this site.

  21. mostly what I talk about are bikes, films, music, and writing. and I'm not saying the life of a bike courier is action-packed, but I am saying I've probably come a lot closer to dying in the course of day-to-day living than you have in the past six months. given that you measure human worth based on how much money people give to charitable causes, I'd say it's probably more interesting than your life!

    also, while money isn't exactly flowing out of my orifices, I do try to give to various causes where possible--artistic, political, or whatever--and I've been known to give spare change to the homeless people that congregate outside Safeway from time to time.

    I mean, to say nothing of the time when I was actually a professional activist.

    but yeah, I mean. I don't really talk about myself much, but I pretty much never bring up XKCD or this blog in conversation, except either here or on the IRC channel, or if it's relevant.

    it usually isn't.

  22. Artless art, a discussion of the powerlessness in the the face of hard reality, a display of the truth of the human condition. What's not to like?

  23. rob- a 'professional' activist?

    you mean a paid WHINER amirite?

    this site makes so much sense now

  24. I thought that 881 was talking about the statistics of condoms working and that they were fucking at the end. Then you guys ruined it.

  25. Rob campaigned for these guys:


  26. Another AnonymousApril 6, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    I meant 882, not 881 in my post back there. Noone still cares.

  27. I still always do. er.

    CAPTCHA: ourattic. We're thinking of converting it.

  28. I really like how there's complaining on the one hand that Randall is pandering to the crowd rather than just posting whatever he wants on the internet without caring who likes it --- and whining that he's doing exactly that right now.

  29. I really like how cuddlefish present false dichotomies like its some sort of wise revelation.

    Captcha: masencon, all of these guest posts

  30. Erection.

    Excited anyone?