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Click the top link to the right ("XKCD Isn't Funny") to see the third generation of xkcd hate. Unlike this blog and the original, that one actually updates regularly.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Comic 1393 - Randall Feels Old

Alt-text: I'm teaching every 8-year-old relative to say this, and every 14-year-old to do the same thing with Toy Story. Also, Pokemon hit the US over a decade ago and kids born after Aladdin came out will turn 18 next year.

Oh wait...that's Comic 647.  Let's try again.






References courtesy of xkcdsucks.


Nope, those aren't right either.  Ah! Here's 1393:
Alt-text:  'Hello, Ghostbusters?' 'ooOOoooo people born years after that movie came out are having a second chiiiild right now ooOoooOoo'

While I can't be bothered to look up other instances of this (891 and 1093 — ed.), I'm positive this isn't the first time Randall has turned around and made fun of the same premises he once used as jokes.  Is it a big deal? It's tough to say.  As these strips indicate, people DO grow older, and as they grow older, their feelings change (look no further than the primary audience of these hate blogs).

For now, I'm willing to accept this change of heart.  Randall did a 180, sure, but he didn't do it with any sort of pretentiousness, and he didn't make "this thing is annoying" the entirety of the joke, as he's done before.  The joke at the end is actually a decent twist, and while I don't think it needed the buildup of three panels (this isn't a newspaper comic, after all - he can use whatever format he likes), there are worse ways of going about it.

That said, I don't believe this was a comic that needed to be made.  Sure, Randall took an unfunny thing and made it funny (and as a cartoonist, that's his job), but it's not really what I'd consider xkcd subject matter.  It's just him saying, "I want to tell people how I feel about this, so I'd better stick a joke at the end."  There's nothing particularly intelligent or scientific about it, and nothing related to romance, sarcasm, math, or language either.  It's just something Randall doesn't like with a joke at the end.

In other words, it's the sort of comic that made me stop caring about xkcd.  Not nerdy enough to have niche appeal, not funny enough to have broad appeal, and not bad enough to have hateblog appeal.  It's just unremarkable; nothing more.

P.S. - My favorite of these sorts of factoids is "Most kids entering high school this year were born in the year 2000."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Comics 68 and 1390: About as Far Apart as Megan's Legs

Today I'm going to do something a little different - a comparative review. Because my fanbase can't legitimately decide on which comic they want reviewed. That's alright. I'll review them both.

Comic title: Five Thirty
Alt text: The 8th panel is my favorite

Eight years later...

Comic title: Research Ethics
Alt text: I mean, it's not like we could just demand to see the code that's governing our lives. What right do we have to poke around in Facebook's private affairs like that?

At first sight, these comics aren't really comparable at all, which would make this a very quick review, and I could go back to writing my slash fiction. But here at Xkcd-sucks we always strive to go beyond the call of duty, so I'm comparing them anyway.

Now that I think about it, they are both representative of their respective eras. 68 came from a simpler time, when xkcd.com was not even two months old, Randall was not put on a pedestal, and nobody actually expected him to be funny.

Similarly, 1390 is an archetypal modern XKCD. It comes from a time when Randall Munroe is a god among men, who turns everything he touches into comedy gold.

Normally I'd shy away from this kind of retrophilia, as I think XKCD nostalgia is for the most part mistplaced. XKCD was best before you started reading it, when you could flip through the entire archive, button-mash the random button and see a new comic every time. It becomes a lot easier to ignore the bad to mediocre comics and focus on your favourites than when they are reduced to the glacial trickle of a MWF update schedule. Far easier to be disappointed with a Monday comic when you spent the last three days waiting for it. But I do think 68 is legitimately better than 1390.

For one thing, it's actually funny. Why? It's funny because it's stupid. I can't explain why stupid things are funny (besides, the Nostalgia Critic said it much better than I could) but they are. It does lose a little of its impact by deliberately going out of the way to be stupid. But I it's way better than what XKCD usually does.

On the other hand, 1390 does what XKCD usually does - jumping on a popular topic, and stuffs it into a conversation. In fact it's more of a monologue than a conversation, but I'll overlook that detail for now. It starts by taking a popular opinion, and attempting to subvert it, and ultimately goes nowhere. And then people praise it as being original, even though it forgets to be funny.

One reason why 68 is funny has nothing to to do with its actual quality, or the fact that it came out closer to the release of Jurassic Park than the present day. It has twelve panels. So while the first panel does nothing for me, the second is actually quite funny, but I am irrationally annoyed by the third. I also think 'fuck the cosine' is brilliant, and so is 'stretchy death'.

Do you see what I'm getting at? 68 is more than just representative of early XKCD. It's representative of all early XKCD. When you read, it's like to being able to push the random button a few times until you find one you like.

1390 is similarly representative of recent XKCD. It's all buildup and no payoff. It's a point without a point. It's a phoned in piece of crap, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Alt text wasn't bad though.

LEGAL NOTICE: I should mention that my review of 1390 is in no way biased by the views of our parent company Facebook Inc, nor does it reflect the views of Mark Zuckerberg or associated persons. The opinions expressed in this review are mine alone.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Comic 1354: My Heart Bleeds for XKCD

Comic title: Heartbleed Explanation


Alt text: Are you still there, server? It's me, Margaret.

I've been stalling for a month because some idiot asked me to review a documentary comic, rather than an actual, y'know, comic comic. But alas, we all make mistakes.

Honestly, I'm scratching my head and trying to think of something. But I can't find any obvious mistakes in this comic. It actually explains the issue quite well. It explains Heartbleed much more concisely than anyone else, barring perhaps Wikipedia's diagram, which seems directly influenced by the comic.

Looking familiar?

First of all, let me bemoan the fact that XKCD is literally everywhere on the internet, and you can't get away from it, ever. But this also raises the question: why not just upload the comic to Wikipedia servers and use that in the Heartbleed article (like certain XKCDs have previously been licensed for Wikipedia)? Maybe it's not as informative as we thought.

Now, Wikipedia's version dispenses with the stick figure, in favour of coloured circles. We can also see that how blue is good and red is bad (which I feel is unfairly racist against red people). I'm ambivalent to the loss of stick figures. At least the XKCD version had some human interest.

The Wikipedia version cuts down on the panels from six to just two. Again, I feel it lost something here. The XKCD version had four panels that built up to something that provides a payoff. Could it be... a punchline?

Yes! So this is a 'funny' XKCD comic after all. Both of the changes that make the Wikipedia version more concise and informative make it less funny and entertaining. So surely the original had to be funny and entertaining in the first place?

Now that I see it this way, 1354 actually has quite a strong punchline, the joke being that this is actually how servers actually behave, in real life, at least until they're patched. This comic could have made the mistake of making it look like a wholly fictional situation. But it didn't.

The text at the top makes it very clear that this is "how the Heartbleed bug works" because this is what it says in big all-caps. You may argue that this is redundant, but keep in mind that the repostings of this comic around the internet typically don't include the title. Thus it was rather thoughtful of Randall to anticipate this.

Lastly, it had none of the preachiness of a usual XKCD. I know this shouldn't be considered praise, but when you consider the knee-jerk "END IS NIGH, CHANGE ALL THE PASSWORDS NOW" that the tech press ejaculated, this was remarkably restrained of Randall.

I fear I am losing my touch with XKCD. So please request a really bad comic for me to review. Or draw your own, and make me review them. I don't care. I just need something to haaaaaate.

Nightmare of Randall - a short story

I have been taking creative writing classes lately. Here is the result.



Randall woke up on the pile of bones. It had been the 35th time in this dream that he had woken up so far, and yet his creative mind felt locked. He could not think of a witty Inception reference for this situation.
"Wait a minute. You haven't even seen Inception," cackled Carl "Ugly" Wheeler, sneeringly.
Suddenly Carl turned into a velociraptor. Carl had always been a velociraptor. The Jurassic Park theme tune was playing out of key. Randall tried to run, but he just fell over. The raptor lunged, and snapped its jaws closed upon his head. Clever girl.

He woke up again. Where was he now? In a ball pit, in his own apartment, right where he remembered falling asleep. Surely he was properly awake now. The morning light was shining brightly in his eyes, so everything in his apartment looked white. He crawled out of the bed and walked through the door into the bathroom, hoping to find Megan's milky nipples.

But what he saw instead was a mirror, the mirror he usually saw above the sink. But it was not showing his usual reflection. Instead of his body, he saw a thin black line, extending upwards into his neck. Two more lines came out of his neck at angles, his arms.

And his head... His head was a big white circle, slightly larger than the head he was used to, but perfectly smooth, and somewhat elongated. Featureless. Randall had turned into a stick figure. Randall tried to scream, to open his mouth, but he couldn't, because he had no mouth. He tried to close his eyes, but he couldn't. Nothing could take away the hideous ugly sensation. He couldn't draw eyes.

To be continued...?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Comic 1374: WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!?

I'm honestly struggling to come up with words with which to fault 1374, because it was so devoid of humour and redeeming value, that any criticism I lay on it would seem petty.

Comic title: Urn


Alt text: Can this PLEASE be drawing with replacement?

It's a word play on the word 'urn'. Actually not even a word play, but more an acknowledgement that urns can be used for containing human ashes and for hypothetical probability exercises. I mean really?!? That's like if the teacher's question involved bottles, and the smart-ass student said "Herp. Is one of those bottles full of beer? If so, I drink it and get expelled from school and never have to do math class again." Or in a geography class, if a student was asked why a river forms meanders and says "Daaa. I pissed in the river. Lolololol." about If either of those jokes were told in one of my classes, it would amuse only the dumb kids. I mean, I'm all for making XKCD more accessible, but this is just stupid for the sake of stupid.

I know I've stopped doing alphabetical grades, but this comic gets an F, and a U, and a C, and a K.

Edit: explainxkcd.com has pointed out that this joke may have been in reference to the recent phenomenon of 'trigger warnings' in college campuses. If that is true, then that makes it 100 times better. It elevates the joke to something more like: "What's next, trigger warnings in high schools? No way man. The only way we'd need that is if students are emotionally retarded enough to be set off by stupid little things like this."

In case you can't tell, I approve of this alternate meaning. And I find it sad that there's NOTHING IN THE COMIC TO SUGGEST THIS. How typical of Munroe to spoil a good joke with piss-poor execution. He either thought of a funny situation to do with trigger warnings in schools, then forgot where he got the idea from and posted it without context, or he made the mistake of assuming that the news story would be so ubiquitous that everyone would know about it anyway.

Then again, I could be giving Randall too much credit, and it might have nothing to do with trigger warnings and simply be a bad joke. After all, it's unlikely that he would consciously write a comic where a female character is in the wrong.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Comic 1370: Randall's Midlife Crisis

So it occurred to me that the 1366th comic milestone went unnoticed. As of three weeks ago, there are more XKCD comics than there are horizontal pixels in my 1366x768 monitor. Moving on,

Comic title: President



Alt text: Anyone who thinks we're all going to spend the 2032 elections poring over rambling blog posts by teenagers has never tried to read a rambling blog post by a teenager.

At first sight, we have yet another preachy XKCD comic that lacks a punchline. Right? Wrong! This is a harbinger of Randall's midlife crisis. Let me explain why.

1370 picks up on a few of XKCD's common themes - the passing of time. This is something that was picked up on as early as 354. He seems surprised that [insert name of movie] came out closer to the moon landing than today. Clearly this is something Randall thinks about a lot. It's like his mind was fixed in 1999, and the idea that time has passed since then comes as a shock.

This is something that he was bound to confront eventually: the idea that he, Randall, is no longer of the young generation.

Randall has long considered himself the voice of this generation. XKCD is quintessentially a young man's comic. It makes jokes about todays technology and pop culture. And it's read by an audience of high schoolers.

Eventually though, the unthinkable will happen: Randall's XKCD will cease to be culturally relevant. It won't happen suddenly. It will be slow. Arguably it has already started to happen. Randall can't bring himself to confront that fear, so in his usual style, he wrote a comic about it.

The comic is a sincere acknowledgement that the older generation are mistrusting of the new, and handing over the world to them is a scary prospect. The little girl is here to ridicule the older woman for having these views. Randall would very much like to identify with this girl.

But on a subconscious level, he identifies with the woman. She is older, and like Randall she has felt the cognitive dissonance of time passing when you don't expect it too. Randall refuses to believe this, which is why he drew her with the blonde ponytail, a character design he usually used for his straw-men.

But make no mistake about it: this comic is a cry for help, to which I say: Randall, stop doing XKCD before it becomes culturally irrelevant.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Comic 1357: Showing you the Door

Fellows, it has come to my attention that I'm not posting reviews as often as I used to. Well today I'd like to change that. I don't know why, but I feel it's what Randall would want me to do. So here's a review for you.

Comic Title: Free Speech


Alt text: I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.

Whoo, six panels! The aforementioned Mr Munroe must have spent a full ten minutes on this one. I jest, I jest. But you know what? The comic doesn't. Because in all those six panels he forgot to include a single joke.

"But Jon, you magnificent yid," I hear you say. "It's not supposed to be funny. It's supposed to make a point." Good point, I say, but that doesn't mean it doesn't make its point in the most obnoxious way possible. For those of you keeping track at home, that double-negative means it does go about making its point in the most obnoxious way possible, even more obnoxiously than the way I'm making this point right now, you schanda.

Public service announcement: prefacing your webcomic, or anything for that matter, with the words "Public service announcement" is a bad start, because those three words are shorthand for: 'This is something important that I think everyone really needs to know right now because I am a smug arsehole.' Thank God he went with the shorthand. The wall of text is large enough already.

The further you go through the comic, the less necessary each panel is. Consider that the comic would have still worked if you got rid of the last panel. In fact you could have cut it short at 5, 4, 3 or 2 panels and it would have made its point just as effectively. Even the first panel would work as a standalone, and that's because he makes the point in the first panel. The other five are taken up with directionless ranting.

Again, the artwork is awful because it does nothing. Aside from an unnecessary picture of a door, the other five panels are just Stick-Randall talking. And for some reason he zooms in and out every other panel, like it's a TV show that has multiple camera angles.

There's a reason why TV stations do the thing with multiple zoom levels. It's because people on TV have faces. You see more detail when you zoom into a face, but when you zoom into a white circle on a white background, all you see is a larger circle. Fuck.

I have often accused XKCD comics of being smug, but frankly this outclasses anything I've seen recently. It doesn't even try to make a joke by cutting off a guy's arm.

Finally, let it be said that free speech doesn't shield Randall from criticism either. If he truly practices what he preaches, then everyone is equally fallible and can be called out for their bullshit, except for me. I have been posting bullshit on this blog for over a year now, and no one has ever called me out for it.