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Saturday, July 26, 2014

DiaBA Chapter 1 - Bored of the Internet

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“I cried myself to sleep last night
And the ghost of Carl
He approached my window
I was hypnotized
I was asked to improvise”
—Sufjan Stevens

Late last night, in Rob's bedroom...

Veritably cuddly.
Honestly, and I’m not saying this out of spite or anything, I don’t think you’re going to manage to convince anyone that xkcd sucks or is overrated through this blag.

“Who the fuck wrote this?” said Rob, who was at that moment reading a very old comment on the xkcdsucks blog from his dusty computer screen.
“You did.” said Carl ‘Ugly’ Wheeler, the former admin of Xkcdsucks, for no one knew more than Carl did that XKCD’s harshest critic was once an optimistic young fanboy, until the hate-blog corrupted him, transforming Rob into a disgusting cretin that spent his online life pouring derision on the comic he’d once loved.
“But he even used the word blag. What a goddamned nerd!”
“Yes.” said Carl, nodding his ghostly head. “You were.”
Carl was visiting as a ghost because he died and went insane. But now he returned from the afterlife to give some advice to his cretin Rob before he set out on his long hard journey.
Rob saw the date on the comment and breathed a slow rattling sigh. 2008. Had it really been that long?
Carl put a hand through Rob’s shoulder. “You don’t need to do this.” said Carl. “Can’t you see that you’re starving yourself?”
“I fail to detect your sarcasm.” said Rob, shaking one of his fat rolls at Carl.
“It was a figure of speech.” said Carl. “You could still walk away from xkcdsucks with a shred of your dignity intact.”
“You didn’t leave me much choice.” said Rob. “No one else but me could review the new comics after you left.”
“What happened to the others?”
“I ate them to gain their power.” Rob confessed.
“Right.” said Carl. “I mean, couldn’t you just find someone to replace you? One of the cuddlefish perhaps?”
“HAHAHAHAHAHA no.”
Cuddlefish was a term they used to refer to the anonymous commenters, because they did not have names.
“Why not?”
“I don’t have permission to invite other people to the blog. Carl never gave me admin access.” said Rob.
“And risk losing my ad revenue? I should think not!” said Carl.
“So you see I have no choice.” said Rob. “XKCD could not be allowed to carry on unchallenged. And now I am its only challenger.”
“What about Jon Levi?” Carl enquired.
“No.”
Carl could see that Rob was getting tired of this conversation, as he was just clicking randomly on Xkcdsucks comment threads. Dozens of colourful avatars flash by as Rob scrolled ever downwards, and Carl felt nothing for them.
“Okay, so let me get this straight what you are planning to do.” said Carl. “You’re going to go down to Massachusets, find out where Randall lives and personally put a stop to XKCD?”
“Yes.” said Rob.
“That won’t work.” said Carl.
“OK” said Rob. “I’ll bring some friends.”
“You don’t have any friends!” exclaimed Carl.
“Lol, I mean them.” said Rob, pointing his fat finger at the comment thread.
“Good luck getting those cuddlefish to do anything.” said Carl.
“They’re not all cuddlefish. Some of them are actually smart enough to type in complete sentences and create a Blogger account.”
“I’m so happy for them.” said Carl sarcastically. “But that doesn’t mean they want any part in this.”
“They will obey me when I give them a common cause to rally around. They too will come to the conclusion that eliminating XKCD at its source is infinitely preferable to hating it from afar.” explained Rob. “Xkcdsucks may have been created for this very purpose.”
“That’s not why I created Xkcdsucks.” said the ghost of Carl.
“And when it’s over, we might be able to leave behind this pointless hate-blog and get on with our lives.”
“But you could do that now. Why go all the way to Boston for that?”
“Megan.” said Rob.
“Ah-h-h. Tell me more.”
“Randall doesn’t know how lucky he is.” Rob monologued. “She is too good for him. She deserves me, a man who truly appreciates her. It is a great cosmic injustice that she became Mrs Munroe, when she should have been Mrs Rob Mason. Believe me when I say that I so desperately desire for hot sweet Megan-loving, that I would go as far as to kill the man she claims to love.”
“But why now? Why not two years ago when people actually gave a fuck?”
“She had cancer. And Randall’s been playing it for sympathy.”
“The bastard!” sneered Carl.
“Well now it’s come back in both tits, and it’s terminal.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” said Carl. “Megan is a truly special woman.”
“Yeah.” said Rob. “If I act fast, I may be able to get her while she still has hair.”
“Then I wish you good luck.” said Carl. “So tell me, has anything else happened while I’ve been gone?”
“Randall went public with his lactation fetish.”
“I always knew he would.” said Carl. “Christ, I dread to think how that’s affecting Megan.”
“Woman who have had mastectomies don’t lactate.” said Rob. 
“Be warned though, Randall will not give her up so easily. Chances are that he knows what you’re about to do, and he is already planning on ways to stop you.”
“Wait.” said Rob. “How do you know that?”
“I have my sources.” said Carl.
“Are you haunting him too?”
“Yes, something like that. Now tell me exactly how you plan on getting to Boston?”
“Well I suppose I’ll take the... hey, why do you want to know?!? You only asked me that because you’re secretly working for him. Isn’t that right?” ejaculated Rob.
“Well sorry.” said Carl. “Ad revenue from Xkcdsucks ain’t gonna last forever.”
“Fuck you!” bellowed Rob. “I trusted you.”
Rob swiped his pudgy arms at Carl’s ghost, but it was hopeless. Even if he had been able to touch Carl’s incorporeal form, the ghost had already faded away.
Rob looked up at the spidery ceiling. It was faintly lit by a glow from the window, meaning that the faint autumn sun had already stated to rise over Seattle. In a few hours it would be bright enough to make him see the reflection of his own face in the computer screen, which he hated. He would be gone before then.
Rob lifted his 300 pounds of rancid flesh from his swivel chair and dusted himself off. A week’s worth of lint, dust and Cheeto crumbs fell from between his rolls of fat. He would take a shower before he got there. Rob grabbed suitcase and packed provisions for a long journey. He took food, coffee, porn, socks, XXXXL sized shirts, his netbook and a breast pump. He zipped up the suitcase and stuffed it between his fat rolls. Rob went online one last time to book a train ticket. He was using his browser’s incognito mode so that Randall couldn’t track him. And then he ate his computer afterwards to destroy the evidence.
He began by stuffing the stiff plastic keyboard into his mouth, without even bothering to unplug it. His teeth gnashed on the keys, typing up yet another XKCD review. His fingers slipped on the mouse, and accidentally posted the eldritch text to Xkcdsucks. But Rob didn’t see, as by now he had started to consume the monitor. The gaping maw of his mouth clenched against the plastic and glass until they gave way. The cables wrapped around his slimy tongue, causing him to retch. But now there was no going back now. He would have to swallow the whole computer. In a fit of electrically charged agony, Rob consumed the tower, his jaw extending into hitherto unknown dimensions, and the . He would not be needing that computer any more.
When Rob got to the front door, he realised he had forgotten something.
“Mom!” he called out. “I’m leaving town for a while.”
“For how long?” came a voice from the downstairs bedroom. 
“Indefinitely.” said Rob.
“Why, is someone is wrong on the internet?”
“Yes.” said rob, cringing at the reference.
“You should just ignore them.”
“No Mom, Xkcd is a disease, and it's reached pandemic proportions.”
“Could you at least change my bedpan first?” the helpless woman pleaded.
“Fuck no... thanks.” he said politely.
Rob squeezed his way through the front door of his crumbling suburban abode, leaving his bedridden mother to die.


DISCLAIMER: this story and its characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons or cuddlefish living or dead is purely coincidental.

Died In A Blogging Accident

IT'S HERE.


The people of xkcdsucks unite to destroy the greatest threat mankind has ever faced: XKCD.
CHEER as Rob throws his weight around in Boston!
QUIVER as Randall enacts a plan to KILL our heroes!
SCREAM as Ann Apolis shows off his feminine side!


Contents:

~

Chapter 1 - Bored of the Internet


Chapter 2 - [COMING SOON]


I will continue to post new chapters, every Saturday night, at midnight (British time) until the story is over.

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.