Sunday, July 31, 2011

Comic 931: I Never Metastasis I Didn't Like


[Comic title: Lanes; Alt text: Each quarter of the lanes from left to right correspond loosely to breast cancer stages one through four (at diagnosis).]

Interestingly, Randy is here accurately describing why merely avoiding XKCD isn't an option. Think of XKCD as a cancer, and the various friends and blogs that constantly inflict it upon you as individual cells. Even if you stop reading every single blog and block or cut off contact with every single friend who is constantly sharing XKCD, you still haven't won. Some new one will discover it or find one that they think is particularly awesome for some reason. They will inflict it on you. Every day is lived in the fear that one day some new person will demonstrate that they have absolutely no taste whatsoever.

The relapse is in many ways worse--while you are actively battling the cancer of XKCD you're emotionally prepared for its slings and arrows, but when you've been living clean for some weeks or months and it strikes it can be devastating. Suddenly all the happiness and joy you knew in your life is shattered when one of your so-called friends messages you out of the blue with those hated words:


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comic 930: Invitation To Love

[Hated moneybags "Carl Wheeler" sent me this guest review. The lazy fuck. -Ed.]

days of the week

Hello all, Carl again. I was going to write a post about the last comic - the one where a conversation about google plus ends, hilarious, with a crossbow deflating a basketball - but Rob pretty much covered the main issues there (the main issue was: WHY IS THIS HAPPENING). It seemed like such a bad comic, by xkcd standards, that I figured I would have to wait at least a few weeks before another one came along that inspired enough wrath for me to write about it. Well I was wrong.

Actually, that's unfair. This comic doesn't inspire wrath in me, the way some used to. This is just extreme puzzlement, and disappointment.

As you may know / remember / guess, I never liked these google-search-result comics. For one thing, the number of results that google tells you it has are notoriously unreliable, sometimes by an order of magnitude or more. For another, Randall seems to take as gospel that these results are direct proxies for whatever it is that he is interested in. For example, a few years ago, he wrote a comic about google search results for "I should have kissed her" vs "I shouldn't have kissed her." But just looking at the number of results for each one is a terrible measure of whether more people regret kissing versus the number of people who regret not kissing. Plenty of people don't put that stuff online! As a scientist, I'm really kind of surprised Randall thinks that this logic is ok. It's very clearly not.

A similar problem exists here, though it's worse in every imaginable way. For one thing, this research isn't trying to answer an interesting question. For all its flaws, the kissing google search was at least trying to answer the question "is it better to kiss this person and maybe regret it, or not kiss them and maybe regret that?" which I think we can all agree is a pretty interesting question (even if his method of answering has many flaws). But this comic is asking - what, exactly? I guess it's something like "which day of the week do certain things happen on?" That's - that's not very interesting. Take the three most correlated phrase/day pairs:

--Church is strongly associated with Sunday
--Getting drunk is strongly associated with Friday and Saturday
--Ladies night is strongly associated with Wednesday.

# 1 and # 2 are fairly obvious, and #3 is boring. Unless we can learn that there is an interesting reason why ladies night is on wednesday, I don't see how anyone can react to this with more than a "huh."

And those are the best ones! Look in the center and you see things like "[blank]day sucked" or "due on [blank]day." None of them are interesting at all! The dark purple is probably my favorite: "Announced [blank]day." What is that, even? That seems like such a vague term that it could encompass almost any type of event, and when it's that vague, hey, guess what: people are just not going to care.

The other problem is that the text is way crazy small, and constantly overlapping. It makes it very hard to read even the large version, and downright impossible for the regular size.

It's not the clearest way of presenting this data, either. I don't think the polar graph is the best way to go about it, but even it was, wouldn't it have been easier to just use solid lines of different colors and then have a key for which phrase each line represents? This post in the forums is exactly in line with my own feelings.

Actually, is it possible that the forums have gotten to be better? Seems like there's a good debate going about this comic.I find much that I agree with. What a strange experience!

Anyway, keep on rockin',

--Your dear pal Carl

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Comic 929: Universally Lame


[Comic title: Speculation; alt text: "'I was pretty good at skeet shooting, but was eventually kicked off the range for catching the clay pigeons in a net and dispatching them execution-style.'"]

Oh Randy, I knew you still loved me. You've been so tepid lately, and then you give me this beautiful pile of shit.

The best part about this one is it's multiple layers of terrible. Like how when you clean out your refrigerator it starts out gross and then gets progressively worse as you unearth the various rotting vegetation and enigmatic mold spheres your roommates buy constantly and then forget about. New smells and offenses assail you the deeper you go.

At its core, this is just another in Randy's obsessions with Google Plus. With the possible exception of Wikipedia itself (praise it with great praise), I don't think we've seen Randy get this excited about something in a long time. I suspect that "YouTube Party" and "Standards" are also in some way inspired by Google+. This time around he creates a strawman argument against Google+ which he handily tears down in praise of it--

AND THEN DISASTER STRIKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Black Hat Guy, that lurking menace, that sinister figure, disrupts the conversation that they are for some reason having whilst "shooting some hoops," as the kids say, in the most dismal way possible--by shooting the ball with a crossbow! OH THE HUGE MANATEE (the manatee is me, i am fat).

Now, you may be saying "wait, this has absolutely nothing to do with the comic; that's just a completely random punchline with absolutely no bearing on the context." And the beauty of this comic is that you are both correct and incorrect--it sucks both for this reason and for another, deeper reason. Randy tried subtlety, and as per usual failed miserably.

You see, the basketball game is not just random art which Randy has thrown in there to desperately prove that he is capable of drawing more than two stick figures in a featureless room shouting words at one another. It is also an analogy for universal adoption! Black Hat Guy is someone who doesn't adopt to the rules and in so doing ruins it for everyone!

Maybe? I mean, maybe he's trying to undermine his point, which would make this the most nuanced xkcd that has ever been made, but more likely he just thought up an artistic analogy and threw it in because it lent itself to what the kids call "Epic Lulls" and didn't really think to compare it to the message he's trying to convey.

I guess it's equally likely that this isn't the intended message at all--after all, the forumites don't seem to be saying that. Some of them don't even seem to get it at all! (There's also a pretty great conversation where the forumites are arguing that Randy doesn't make comics about things he's interested in. They seem to think that if Randy likes Google+ he must also have recently had his basketball pierced by a crossbow. Your friend and mine "Fernie Canto" is involved, probably!)

There's really just so much awful in this comic. I could go on for a very long time about this one, but I'll refrain in the interests of brevity. (I know, I know.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Comic 928: Mimic Humor

[Title was generously suggested to me by mysterious reader Tubbs "Andrew" McGee. The post remains my own. Lucky you. -Ed.]

mimic octopus

Nothing really to say about this one. Randy apparently recently read about the mimic octopus and decided that it made a pretty good punchline for a comic, I guess? Or maybe the punchline is the bit where he is like "TWO mimic octopuses. DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING, DID YOU?"

Alt text sounds mostly like GOOMH-bait. But I'm okay with this one, since he mostly is just using it as a "speaking of the plural form of octopus" aside. I just wish he'd pick something and stick to it.

929, though. Oh man.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Comic 927: The Alternative Title Was "Things Randy Doesn't Have"


[Comic title: Standards; alt text: Fortunately, the charging one has been solved now that we've all standardized on mini-USB. Or is it micro-USB? Shit.]

I'm not really sure what kind of fantasy world Randy is living in, but apparently he thinks that the reason there are multiple instant messenger clients is because every company that's ever made one has been trying to unite the world under a single banner, to forever get rid of the confusion and conflict that multiple standards causes. Or, put slightly more succinctly, Randy thinks that people are well-meaning but stupid, and that's why there's no inter-compatibility.

There are many causes for this problem, of course. But by and large the reason there's so many standards out there is primarily because nobody is interested in inter-compatibility. Maybe it's a desire to make sure that customers have to buy your product, maybe it's just laziness, maybe it's because you don't like the other standards. The point is, standard proliferation has nothing to do with people trying to solve the problem of standard proliferation. It has to do with competing market forces that don't cooperate with one another.

The alt text is misleading--cell phone companies have standardized on micro-USB, and some media outlets misreported that it was mini-USB. I learned this with about thirty seconds on Wikipedia. Randy, why can't you use the thing that you are in love with so much? Were you really that unwilling to navigate away from the lactation article?

It's not like this is a field in which good jokes can't be told. Randy has just chosen the worst joke of them all, as is traditional.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Comics 925 and 926: Boredom Given Form

925. Black hat guy! How exciting! And he's making a joke about correlation and causation by suggesting that cancer causes cell phones! Because . . . well, I guess that's just a thing that he does now? Maybe? In honesty, this one isn't exceptionally loathsome so much as boring, except for the alt text, which reads: "He holds the laptop like that on purpose, to make you cringe."

Look, Randy. If you ever find yourself about to go back and point out that you made a joke, just stop. It is never a good idea. At worst it ruins a subtle joke, or, as in this case, it makes you look really desperate. "GUYS MAYBE YOU DIDN'T NOTICE BUT THERE WAS THIS HILARIOUS BIT IN PANEL 2 WHERE BLACK HAT GUY HOLDS HIS LAPTOP IN A WAY WHICH IS BAD FOR LAPTOPS, AND I DID THAT ON PURPOSE BECAUSE HE IS BLACK HAT GUY AND HE LIKES IT WHEN YOU SUFFER."

926. My first thought when I heard "time vulture" was that episode of Doctor Who where those giant winged time things show up when Rose is stupid and creates a paradox and then cries a lot. Other people are pointing out that the Weeping Angels in Doctor Who kill you by sending you back in time and letting you age to death. But that's really neither here nor there.

The first thing I notice here is that Randy apparently did some revisions on this one and then forgot. The Time Vultures, as he describes them, are scavengers, and are not "using aging to kill prey." They are just waiting for their prey to die, from aging. There's kind of an important difference there!

The second thing I notice is that, while there is nothing funny about this comic, there is also nothing of any other emotional quality to speak of. It's not poignant. Nobody is going to reconsider their place in the universe vis-a-vis how puny and insignificant their lives are because of this. It's just "here is a thing I just thought of." He doesn't do anything with the concept. He just kind of presents it.

As I often do in comics where I have difficulty fathoming why anyone would like this, I visited the forodes for this one. Below are my findings.

At first glance this comic does not appear to reveal much but I feel like Randall has shown, in a very interesting way, the inevitability of death. I also feel that this comic reflects current events that have been surrounding his life and to that, I wish the best of luck to him.

The way he phrases this makes it sound like this is the first time anyone has pointed out that he'll die eventually.

On a slightly different tangent I just finished watching HP7 part 2 and the similarity in theme slightly spooked me out.

I just watched Harry Potter 7 part 2 as well and there is no similarity in theme. This is the same guy as before, by the way.

Please tell me there was someone else who's only thought while reading this comic was this

Even the forumites think this is reminiscent of the Weeping Angels!

Clearly evolution is wrong, because we don't have one of these.

I guess this guy thinks this idea is really awesome?

No, not the Weeping Angels, the Reapers from 'Father's Day'. They are more like time vultures.

Apparently I'm not alone in thinking of the things from that one episode! Apparently they are called Reapers.

Grrrr I spent the greater part of this school year staying up as long as I could until I nearly collapsed asleep, because every time I'd lay down the same "holy crap you're going to die and you're wasting what time you have sleeping" thought would pop into my head. I finally managed to push it out a month or two ago, and then Randall goes and pulls this crap :( What a jerk!


...and I'm done. Most of the comments in the thread seem to be off-topic, which usually is a sign that the comic isn't doing much for them. A fair number of them seem to be impressed with the concept of "a bird that waits for you to die, THROUGH TIME," though, which is kind of sad.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Comic 924: Penis

3D printer

[Comic title: 3D Printer; alt text: I just can't wait for the Better Homes and Gardens list of helpful tips for household reuse of sixteen-inch acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene phalluses.]

hahahahahaha penis

Monday, July 11, 2011

Comic 923: Slash

[Hated hell-demon "Shufti" has howled out this terrible guest review. -Ed.]

Hey guys, remember me? I did some guest posts way back when, dabbled around with some xkcd remixing. Well I’m back doing both again. Aren’t you lucky? Yes you are. Listen to my howls. Awoo.

So this comic is terrible (or should I say that it . . . sucks). I’m having a hard time grasping the set-up to it. What made it such a pressing concern for the Pearson Education Company to, erm, educate people on the correct, uh, “orthography” of slashfic labeling? Was there a meeting? Evidently this is being done “with great reluctance”. Did some intern rush in with fake sales projections just to troll his bosses? Are they just following blithely along with some nice-looking charts that predict doom if this issue isn’t sorted out immediately? I kind of want to know what led to this now. It might actually have been interesting for a change.

Also, this imagery provides nothing except to show that there is a woman typing and a couple other people giving input maybe. We’ve really only got Randy’s word that the text and imagery are connected; for all we know they’re having a YouTube party. If this is all the effort you’re going to put into your characters, Randy, you might as well just cut them out entirely. This thing might even work better as text-only.

Come to think of it, where is the Pearson Education Company posting this? On their website? That’ll look good for the investors. On 4chan? It’ll get buried beneath an ocean of Pedobear. I think a good conceit for this is that Randy was “contacted” by the Pearson Education Company editor and asked to post an open letter on xkcd. It’d be a helluva lot more visceral than what we got.

Yeah, I can kind of picture it – the initial post is just Randy 4th-walling the audience with a stickman, explaining what’s going on and asking his readers to click through the comic to see the actual letter. He could even expand on the letter since he’s not confined to a small box, half of which is taken up by dull, inert stickmen. Maybe even draw up a fake letterhead, which would let him pop in some crazy trollbait.

Man, he could go all out with this. The letter clicks through to an example of some Strunk/White slashfic that devolves into a heated argument over the finer points of their prose and how well it “omits needless words”. Strunk has his own “hilarious” 4th-wall breaking moment when he postulates that he isn’t in control of his own words, that they feel “unnatural” to him. White scoffs at him for saying something that ridiculous, but Strunk sees in White’s eyes the fear that what Strunk said is true. Seizing the moment – on the ambiguity, the vulnerability – Strunk moves in and locks lips with White. It’s forceful, but tender – the exact touch White has always wanted, and as his hands move down to Strunk’s pants Strunk deftly moves his hands up and down White’s back, soothing him, relaxing him, then moving to unbutton him, and from there . . .

Hmm, I think I need to leave the room for a bit. To masturbate.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Comic 922: xkcd sucks club

fight club

[Comic title: Fight Club; alt text: "I'm not saying it's all bad, but that movie has not aged as well as my teenage self in 2000 was confident it would."]

Apparently someone tried to talk about Fight Club with Randy today, and he was just like "ugh shut up that movie is so over" but then, THEN! later on he was like "oh man wouldn't it have been great if instead I was all like 'this conversation is over' just like Tyler Durden in the movie? And then I could be like 'yeah the first rule of talking to me about movies is do NOT talk to me about fight club!' and then they'd be like 'oh man sick burn' and we could talk about why Wikipedia's article on lactation is so woefully incomplete, it would be hot."

I want to make it perfectly clear here: Randy's idea of a joke is making a Fight Club reference to tell people he doesn't want them to talk about Fight Club--a movie which he has referenced before. I will give him points for "this conversation is over" as being at least natural-sounding, though he loses all those points and then some for the really hamfisted caption.

I admit I envy Randy's position here. When he has a case of l'esprit d'escalier (my favorite German phrase), he can just make a comic showcasing the sick burn he totally would have said if he weren't bound by the limits of linear time. And then his friends will all feel ashamed that they talked about Fight Club to Randy, who is so great and clever and comes up with all these great comics, and then maybe someone will finally love him!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Comic 921: You've Got Mail!

delivery notification

[Comic title: Delivery Notification; alt text: You can arrange a pickup of your sword in Rivendell between the hours of noon and 7:00 PM.]

Ahh, observational humor at its worst. Randy must have ordered a new laptop recently, but due to an excess of time spent in the privacy of what I'm sure he calls the "xkcd control room" masturbating to images of lactating women with Megan's picture plastered over their faces, he missed the UPS guy's knock on the door. How irritating! He has to go down to the UPS place and pick it up now!

But Randy knows that mere observational humor is not enough for his sophisticated audience. They also need a nerd reference, and then a HILARIOUS TWIST at the end where it turns out he was too busy pouring milk over his naked chest to answer the door when the elves delivered the sword he needed for some reason, to take to the UPS place?

This seems like yet another of Randy's forays into the genre of the shaggy dog story. The problem is, even when he uses twelve panels to accomplish something, he just doesn't know how to build anything up. What should be eleven panels of buildup become eleven panels of boring conversation and uninteresting tangents, so when the punchline arrives it's just more of the same. He's failed to build expectation at all, so how is he meant to defy them?

(Also what is with the line "I can see the UPS building on the map"? Is that supposed to make it sound like it's close? Because I can see a lot of things on the map that aren't close to me (jk lol i am so fat all things are close to me).)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Comic 920: Randy Is So Very Alone

youtube parties

[Comic title: YouTube Parties; alt text: This reminds me of that video where ... no? How have you not seen that? Oh man, let me find it. No, it's ok, we can go back to your video later.]

Randy, I am saying this as a friend: under no circumstances is it acceptable to acknowledge that you think YouTube parties are a thing with a sufficiently large following that you can just casually mention them on your illustrated picto-blag. Do you know what the problem with YouTube parties actually is? THEY ARE FUCKING TERRIBLE.

This comic is nothing more than a trite observation. I'm pretty sure about ninety-five percent of all jokes that have ever been told have been a variation of this one: "man I hate how when you're [talking to people/showing people YouTube videos] they're just waiting for their turn to [talk/show YouTube videos]." Well done, Randy, you've uncovered the universal human truth that people think that they are brilliant and dazzling, but really everyone else is too busy thinking they are brilliant to even notice that you're talking. (A very Randallian trait, but I digress.)

Apart from that, though, this comic is a real shocker--not because of its content, but because Randy, for the first time in ever, has made a post acknowledging that he didn't do the joke first. (Don't read the comments on that post. They are depressing.) He has a long history of making jokes which are worryingly similar to other comics, or very recent and highly popular Reddit threads, etc. It's always a comic that we know Randy reads, or Reddit, which is second only to Wikipedia as a substitution for ideas for darling Randall. And this is the internet. I'd be very surprised if every time this happens, Randy hasn't gotten emails noting the similarity.

So why has he suddenly decided to start noting when he accidentally ripped something off? I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest that maybe he's turning over a new leaf and has decided to start doing the classy thing and say "from now on, just like every other webcomics person out there, when a similarity occurs between something I write and something someone else does, I will be cool about it and mention it with a link, instead of pretending it never happened." So let's keep an eye out for more of these. Maybe with time and dedication Randy will become a vaguely acceptable human being.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Comic 919: Infotainment Sheeple

[Your hometown and mine "Ann Apolis" sent me this "guest review." He specifically wanted to write a review for this one. Imagine my surprise that it is so utterly awful. -Ed.]

[Comic title: Tween Bromance; alt text: "Verbiage. Va-jay-jay. Irregardless."]

The alt-text continues:

Defriend. Procrastineat. Interblag. Vlog. Grok. Roflcopter. Screamo. Murder. Vajazzling. Staycation. Tweeting. Chillax. Syringe. Flashmob. Lifehack. Bleach. Sexting. Noose. Crimson. Spattering. Tanorexia. Manbag. Gasoline. Wiki. Death. Gleek. Death. Death. Death. Death. Death. Death. Death.


Anyway, this is Rob again with some actual goddamn thoughts, but first, remember Ryan Learn? That was the best comment thread we've ever had. He was truly a man for our times.

Anyway, this is the joke of this comic:
RANDY: [lists some annoying words]
MEGAN: omg stop those words are annoying

That's it! No clever wordplay, nothing else. I think it's probably meant to "troll" in about the least nuanced way possible.

I read probably in some comment thread or other that he basically just stole from a thread on the forums about annoying words. And then it appears that he has stopped linking to the forums from his front page! Is this a "fuck you" to the forodes? Probably not! But hopefully.

On an unrelated note, blogger is starting to do strange things.