Died in a Blogging Accident has lived up to its name and died... in a blogging accident. That is to say it has concluded. You can still re-live the magic by clicking here to start at chapter 1. For genuine criticism of XKCD, please click the top link to the right (XKCD Isn't Funny).

Friday, December 30, 2011

997: "Randall" is just a few letters away from "random"

Alt-Text: You can't stab Karl Kasell. He sounds all slow and stentorian, but he moves like a snake.

Oh great, another shotgun humor strip, this time about possible headlines for when Peter Sagal does something "newsworthy" (I'll get to that in a minute) in 2012. Okay, no. First, why would Randall need to specify the year 2012? Is the show going away? Or does he believe the "2012 End Of The World" bullshit? Also, Who the hell stockpiles headlines in advance? If something actually happens, any reporter could come up with a headline, especially with such an easy target. Hell, even Randall could come up with enough of them to fill a shitty comic in only two days.

Okay, in Randall's case it was different, because he didn't have to match his stupid headlines to actual stories, and, to be honest, that actually sounds like the point of this strip, "to be prepared for the unforeseen", but in the end it just works against him. First, none of the headlines are funny (okay, the ACCIDENTALLY one cracks me up, but that's because I'm a basement-dweller who finds memes funny), and second, at least one of them directly contradicts the strip's premise, unless of course you think that a celebrity deleting his Facebook account is newsworthy.

In short, this is a very bland comic, with a few awful parts. When will Randall understand that qunatity over quality only works if you have at least some quality? Well, seeing that he's managed to shell out almost 1000 strips on a thrice-weekly basis, probably never.

But I can dream, dammit!


Edit: Notorious commenter Michael notes that stockpiling headlines, along with whole stories, is a real practice, employed, for instance, in presidential elections, in order to have all bases covered. However, as another commenter says, I don't think it is done in anticipation of improbable events.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Comic 996: And then it get's weird...

Making Things Difficult
title: Making Things Difficult; alt-text: "Favorite mastectomy breast prosthesis idea: a fake boob containing a spare rechargable battery, accessed via a nipple USB port. Complete with a ring of LED charge indicators in the areola!"

acosta02 said...

I hope I'm not the only one completely disturbed by Randall's "stick men draped in people clothes" style in 996. I understand that the joke only works if you can see them wearing clothes, but that doesn't make it work.

I just can't understand the point of this comic. Okay, okay. It's obvious enough that Randall went to the doctor with Megan yesterday, so we all know the inspiration. But what's the joke here?

No, stop typing your response. There's a tradition that showing a man her breasts earns a woman a string of beads... during Mardis Gras. It's not Mardis Gras. It's not Mardis Gras for another 2 months. You wouldn't do a Halloween comic in Augus- well, maybe he would. Who knows.

Sorry, but I want to go back and mention the stupid first box again. Loo, we get it. Cancer. It's sad, but it adds nothing to this comic at all. In a comic that's already about twice as wordy as it needs to be, this is just more useless information crammed in for the sake of... I don't even know why. Clearly this isn't something that actually happened, so it's not for accuracy's sake. Maybe it's there so that fans can say it's not nice to criticize the comic.

I hate this comic's pacing. All this comic really needs to be is:

"You're looking great! Remove your top so I can check how the incision is healing."

"Sorry Doc, you know the rules."

Then the doctor pulls out some beads and she takes off her top. Also, the comic is published during Mardis Gras to establish context. That's all you really need (also I would change the doctor's awkward dialogue, but I'm just talking pacing).

As it stands now, it's just atrocious. NEITHER line of dialogue is necessary in the last panel, and the third panel actually makes me angry. "This is so ridiculous"? Of course it is, it's a joke in a comic strip. The cartoonists' goal here should be to make the reader think that, not to hamfistedly establish that the joke is funny before you tell it. Imagine a conversation like this:

"Wow man, what happened to you?"
"I broke my wrist and fractured my hip. I'm about to say something facetious, by the way. You should see the other guy."

Alright, that's all I have to say. I'm going to go have nightmares about Megan opening her coat to reveal some kind of wormhole now.

Also this turned out really long. You can use it as a guest review if you want.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Comic 995: Randall draws sound effects.

title: Coinstar; alt-text: "Plus they take like 9%."

I figured out a way for this to be funny... imagine Randall trying to explain this joke to someone.

"Can you imagine if some kid put chocolate coins in one of those Coinstar machines?"
"Heh, yeah."
"Yeah, okay, I get it."
"And all the chocolate that got stuck in the machine would be like the 9% commission the machine takes."
"*Sigh* Just go make your stupid comic, dear."
"Oh Man! That would make a wiked sweet comic, this guy would walk up to the machine and it would be all like WHIRRR..."

I will grant that, thanks to my new tactic of imagining Randall trying to explain the joke, I was able to laugh at this comic.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Xkcd Forums Bingo: Holiday Special: Part 1

Hey guys. It's been a while since I've done this, I know. I stopped doing bingo in September because I went back to college. But I just thought I'd finish it all with a countdown to the long-anticipated comic 1000, then we can finally put this horrible bingo thing behind us.

And now for the first bingo cards, which have been pointlessly decorated with coloured lights, which will only make them look outdated in a few months. A bit like Randall's humour - OHHH, SNAP!

991 - Phentom Menace

Not much to see here, just a standard forum discussion about how much Star Wars SUCKED. And the comic was bashed, not just by Fernie (although he did give us a long discussion about the subjectivity of art). I think this quote sums it up:

"I Liked this comic as much as I liked the movie."


992 - Mnemonics

Xkcd presents: the Share-your-own-mnemonics Thread... for seven pages. They also argued about the validity of 'PEDMAS', which was tedious, but it gave us G2.

No language or grammar, but this guy was begging for it. I'll give him I2 anyway because it's Christmas.

This moderator redtexted because people were saying 'Bad boys rape our young girls but violet gives willingly.' THERE, I SAID IT.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Comic 994: Now with colours (two of them even!)!

Advent Calendar
title: Advent Calendar; alt-text: "I think you could get up to about 11:59:57 before you'd have trouble swallowing the chocolates fast enough. At that point, you'd need some kind of a liquify-and-chug apparatus to get up over the 11:59:59 barrier. Anyway, Merry Christmas!"

I don't know why this is supposed to be funny. If the goal was for me to look up Zeno on Wikipedia I guess he succeeded there at least.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Comic 993: Randall offers his services as a retailer

Title: Brand Identity (Formerly Brand Awareness) alt: Legally-mandated information would be printed on the back or discreetly along the bottom. In small letters under the nutrition information it would say "Like our products? Visit our website!" There would be no URL.

Hey everyone, this is the Society of Russell Crowe Film Supporters (SoRCFS) back again with a review.

So....I really have no idea what the hell Randall is going for here. For that matter, not a lot of people on the forums do, either. A lot of the posts I've read across the first couple of pages have gone something like this:

"PretentiousGuy wrote: Mkay it's not really that funny but I laughed at the alt text. But hey, here's [some example of a white label product]

It really is beyond me how they've managed to turn out 4 pages of posts mostly like this (or, failing that, just the second part).

Is there much to say about this comic? No, not really. The only thing I really laughed at was the fact that Randall has apparently put his everything on one supermarket shelf. This including milk, which is generally supposed to be refrigerated. Also, second row down, a bit left of center: cervical caps. Because, you know, you absolutely have to put those in. It's totally not bad taste/irrelevant to the joke/more pointless seXKCD.

I'm going to do that thing where I criticize trivial parts of the comic composition now. If you really don't feel like reading this kind of stuff, then just know my general attitude towards this comic is that it's bland, and otherwise just plain out boring.

It took me a while to figure out that the comic was in color for a reason. Maybe it's just because I'm stupid, maybe because using white to contrast color here is a piss-poor decision. I mean, sure, I noticed the white label things right away (I'm not that stupid, apparently). But I cared a lot less because there were so many things to look at that the white label's uniqueness didn't hit me at first. If I was trying to tell this (admittedly bad) joke myself, I would sacrifice the bunches of objects for greater clarity. Here's some things I'd consider to achieve this goal:
  1. White stands out better against dark colors. Avoid light shades of grey.
  2. My audience reads left to right.
  3. I should try to place important things based on the rule of thirds or in the center.

That said, here's a five ten minute mockup of what I said above:

Clearer? I'd like to think so. Does it improve the joke any? No. Hopefully it does make it a bit clearer, though.

Eh, I'm done for now. There' not much to say and I feel like I'm forcing myself to blabber on pointlessly. Whatever.

Watch Man of Steel in 2013,


Monday, December 19, 2011

Comic 992: Randall offers his services as text-book illustrator.

title: Mnemonics; alt-text: "'Sailor Moon's head exploded once' and 'Some men have explosive orgasms' both work for the Great Lakes from west to east (Paddle-to-the-Sea order)."

What's funny here is that in panel five Randall has carefully avoided a phrase that would have required someone as "sensitive" as Randall to issue a trigger warning at the beginning of the comic between making lite of a potentially tragic condition affecting 5-10% of the female population and  proceeding to purposefully attempting to offend Christians in panel six. LOL offensiveness juxtaposition.

As far as reviewing the comic itself... it kinda comes off as a "meh" for me... Making up pseudo intellectual mnemonics was kinda fun in college (and making up dirty ones in High School... or when drunk and in college*)... actually that really explains it... this is the kind of comic you would come up with if you were getting drunk with other "intellectuals" and drawing accompanying doodles on napkins. If anyone reads this comic while drunk could you let us know if its suddenly hilarious? You know... for science?

(note: I never got drunk in college so I am basing my expectations for what people do when drunk, not from personal drinking experience, but on observations of people getting drunk and their depiction in popular media.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Comic 991: Darth Maul Stick Figure

Phantom Menace
title: Phantom Menace; alt-text: "We could go to the theater across town and see if it's opened THERE yet, but we don't want to lose our place in line."

I was just as confused as you so I went to the forums... turns out in 2012 they are going to re-release the Phantom Menace in 3D and these people are waiting outside of this theatre and are unsure as to why no one else is camped out months in advance like last time.

Three interesting things about this one:

After quickly loading the individual panels into the Gimp and overlapping them and setting the transparency my suspicions were confirmed... Panels 1,2 and 3 are pixel perfect copies of each other. I'm fine with this aside from he usually doesn't do so.

Next is that he could have made this comic stand up on it's own if he had provided some kind of indication they were waiting for the "re-release"... even just a reference to "like last time" or something... or a mention of 3D so we had a clue that that's what they were waiting for... and if these people are there months in advance... where are their tents?

Finally is that I am actually quite impressed that he managed to do a recognizable Darth Maul head while maintaining his faceless stick-figure are style.

That said, maybe he could have used the time he saved (copy-pasting, leaving out useful detail and using materialistic minimalistic art) to come up with a joke.

edit: Also... "give it one more month" makes it sound like they are there way ahead of time while "see if it's opened THERE yet" makes it sound like they are lined up for a show today... maybe I need to check out the forums and figure out how they have rationalized this disparity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Comic 990: Randall went shopping.

Original xkcd 990:
Plastic Bags
title: Plastic Bags; alt-text: "The high I feel when I actually remember to bring my reusable bags to the store--and take them inside rather than leaving them in the parked car--can last for days."

Instead of reviewing I just attached a bunch of appropriate labels that express, in part, what is wrong with this comic.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Comic 989: The Door into Humour

title: Cryogenics; alt-text: "'Welcome to the future! Nothing's changed.' was the slogan of my astonishingly short-lived tech startup."

On the bus this morning (or technically while I was walking from the bus stop to the office) I was thinking "Since no-one has reviewed comic 989 I suppose I should at least put it up so people don't start commenting on it in the thread for 988." but alas, I was too late.

Leahcim said...
The new comic is an interesting halfway breed between a subversion and a shoehorn. After reading the first panel, I thought, "Yet another comic about how technology is changing fast. This is stupid. Life is stupid." Then, Randall Munroe took me in a completely different direction by making the comic about cryogenics. It felt kind of weird but an interesting twist at the time, and that feeling actually won't go away for me. Every time I read it over, I seem to be able to process it as both a cool twist and some stupid right turn in a disjointed comic. I think this is because it is actually the exact halfway point between the two, and it mediates the spectrum. So, not ideal in the "I-wanna-read-a-good-comic" sense, but very interesting to analyze from the literary point of view. A sort of metaproperty. Something for those searching for the next level of meaning. Something for those too bored out of their minds to do anything but criticize a lame but somehow popular webcomic all day long.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Comic 988: Disappointed it wasn't about 'Fiddler on the Roof'

Original xkcd 988:
title: Tradition; alt-text: "An 'American tradition' is anything that happened to a baby boomer twice."

No review showed up today so, while I understand I am under no obligation to do so, I decided to post it here so YOU can tell ME why YOU think it sucks.

This is an example of why xkcd if more often a picto-blag then an actual comic... so, as long as I tell myself "it's not supposed to be a comic" I suppose there's not much I can say against it.

One of the pre-mature-commentators in the last comments thread points out that the "punchline" lands before you have had a chance to inspect the graph and try to work it out for yourself... but meh... let's pretend that that was a guest review:

Acosta02 said...Guest Reviewer Acosta02 sent the following review:
Today's comic is a pile of derp. Before even scrolling down I read "The 20 most-played christmas songs" and then I naturally look to the right to see "Baby Boom."

Randy is really digging this early punchline thing. Then again, maybe I shouldn't complain if it means cutting out graph comics.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Comic 987: Unmet Potential

Original xkcd 987:
title: Potential; alt-text: "The bunch of disadvantaged kids I was tutoring became too good at writing, and their essays were forcing me to confront painful existential questions, so I started trying to turn them on to drugs and crime instead."

(Did you ever notice that if you inspect the "img" element for these comics the "title" property contains the alt text and the "alt" property contains the title of the comic. I have, and it nearly causes me physical pain to label them wrong... but I suppose I have to stick with convention.)

If the execution didn't hurt so much I would likely have GOOMHRed at this one... at least ironically.

I was one of those kids who teachers always often used the "not working at your full potential" type of comments on. I was bright and clever and showed talent for many things and engaged in the classroom but then ended up getting mediocre grades. One time I worked out the math on the value of assignments in a "computer" course and got a perfect mark on the six assignments I wanted to do and just completely skipped the four I didn't... 60% was a C.

Now Randall here is either mocking me for believing that I ever had potential in the first place or giving me permission for having been a slacker because the world couldn't have handled me if I'd been motivated. The hover-text seems to be an indictment of the educational system for failing to help students meet their potencial or a nihilistic acceptance of the validity of said practice because thinking citizens tend to rebel when The Man tries to put them down. Hey... at least the comic made me think... so that's something.

But this brings me to the actual comic. Without the GOOMHR there's no funny in the comic itself. Framing the question of unmet potential as "they complain if you don't but complain more if you do" is pretty bland as a set up and punchline if you are not the kind of person who has failed to meet their potential and has come to terms with it. The giant robot isn't really a surprise because the lack of anything engaging in the first two panels makes the comic read as:
See comic as a whole:
Think - "Hey, a giant robot, I wonder what that's about?"
Read: When teachers complain, "You're not working at your full potential!"
Think - "Heh, if all the slackers who think they are geniuses were as smart as they think they are and actually met their narcissistic expectations, the world would be full of super-villains with giant war machines."
Read rest of comic: "Don't take it to hard, they complain way more when you do."
Think - "Uhm... was that the joke?"
Read alt-text: "The bunch of disadvantaged kids I was tutoring became too good at writing, and their essays were forcing me to confront painful existential questions, so I started trying to turn them on to drugs and crime instead."
Think - "Uhm... what?"
I will grant that elements of this comic entertained me... but the execution, taken as a whole, kinda falls flat.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Comic 986: Water You, Stupid?

And we have yet another guest post! This one is from T-Jack.

Hi, it's me, T-Jack, and I'm back with another idiotic xkcd strip. Do you ever get in those situations, where you drink from a water fountain and then you're like "Oh my god, I have to pee like RIGHT NOW" and then you go and then you're like "Wow, that peeing sure made me thirsty, better drink from that water fountain again" and then you drink and pee and drink again? If not, then congratulations, you live in a real world. Unfortunately for all of us, Randall doesn't and he wants us all to know.

The biggest problem with the strip is its premise. Yes, it's true, drinking (or, for that matter, experiencing running water in any way) may make you want to pee, but it's not that simple. See, I'm not a physiologist, but even I understand that this only slightly amplifies your already present need to relieve yourself. So, unless your bladder is, shall we say, considerably full, this won't send you to the bathroom. (Geez, I'm explaining the mechanics of taking a piss. I hate you, Randall Munroe.) Of course, you could say that this is just some paranoid madman's fear instead of reality, but then said madman should seek help instead of drawing shitty comics for the internet.

Now, the main problem dealt with, we approach nit-picking. First, could you imagine worse drinking sound effects than "drink drink"? Well, of course you could, but still. Couldn't Randy use "slurp" or "gulp" or "I was too lazy to think of a good sound effect"? Or, better yet, how about not using anything and drawing the picture better, instead? Huh, how'bout that?

Then there's the word "WATER" just floating there next to the bottom picture. Maybe it's supposed to mean something, but I think Randall simply messed up and he's going to silently remove it later. Above, of course, is the original picture in all its shameful glory.

Just a minor detail, but why does the bathroom door stay open in the upper right picture? I don't see a knob on it, so it must be one of those closes-on-its-own doors.

The alt-text... the less said the better. All I'll say is that it transforms a relatively harmless piss joke into a disturbing venture into Mr. Monroe's mind.

Whoa, the paragraphs are getting shorter.

In short, my problem with the strip is that it has too much text, or rather that it has text at all. The situation depicted is kinda amusing on its own ("kinda" being the key word here) and coupled with a "sloppy programming" joke, it could've been an actually good strip. But Randall, being Randall, had to totally overdo it. Here, I'll show you ("WATER" left in out of nostalgia):

Tooltip: God must be a sloppy programmer if he left in an infinite loop.

Let it be known that I am not a master of comedy.

PS: No, I did not steal the title of this review from Not Always Right, I just borrowed it. Shut up.

Comic 986: What is this? I don't even...

Original xkcd 986:
Drinking Fountains
title: Drinking Fountains; hover-text: "I've always wondered whether you could drink slowly enough, and eliminate fast enough, that you just sort of peed continuously. But I'm afraid to try because I worry someone might call while I'm doing it and ask what I'm up to, and I won't be able to think of a lie."

My Monday morning routine tends to vary depending on my shift but when I finally got around to checking xkcd-sucks for an update and noticed there wasn't one yet I figured I would sacrifice a little bit of myself by at least posting my reaction to today's comic so people could comment... but then I saw it.

If the purpose of xkcd is to illicit a reaction from those who see it... this comic succeeds... the furrowing of my brows, the confusion and finally the "you can't be serious" laugh... I mean... this can only be an attempt to drive the masses to hysteria.

The comic itself is probably supposed to be a play on the "the water cycle" charts that over simplify the movement of water as being part of a closed system and the subtitle is probably supposed to re-contextualize the chart as a literal description of someone's trip to the bathroom and subvert our expectations. The art and execution isn't so bad... but if we deconstruct it and examine it in parts there are a lot of issues you could nit-pick on this one but really it's the hover-text that breaks my brain... first off, I've tried this, it's a completely normal thing for a human to do at some point in their childhood before they understand the basics of human biology but Randall seems to think that it is an abhorrent little sick fantasy that he has... but if he would be embarrassed to admit to trying it... why is he broadcasting the fact that he has wanted to on the internet?

Anyways... this comic has broken my brain so I'm going to go drink a coke and take a piss in retaliation.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Comic 985: That's a looooot of alt-text.

Hey everyone, this is SoRCFs (on Randall's Comic Forums: Schadenfreude) (SoRCFS) here with some more reviewage and whatnot. Since Gamer_2k4 has decided to bugger off to parts unknown and leave miscreants such as myself in charge here, I'm mourning his passing by doing a somewhat timely post. Don't count on this being a regular occurrence. At all.

title: Percentage Points;alt text: Grayton also proposed making college scholarships available exclusively to sexually active teens, amnesty for illegal immigrants who create room for themselves by killing a citizen, and a graduated income tax based on penis size. He has been endorsed by Tracy Morgan, John Wilkes Booth's ghost, and the Time Cube guy.

You know what I occasionally enjoy doing? Pretending I'm Robin (the Burt Ward one) from the old campy Batman series. And by saying that, I mean I enjoy imitating his overused "Holy [something fancy], Batman!" catchphrase. That said, don't look at me strangely when I say this:

Holy four lines of alt-text, Batman!

I did something weird a few days ago: I reread the early archives of Xkcd. Okay, so there's not too much to say about it. It was way back before Randall had a huge fanbase to pander to and otherwise appear nerdy at. I've alluded to reading a lot of webcomics before, so what I saw was nothing unexpected for a fledgling artist--a little less consistent art, less of a feel for what the comic is about, that kind of thing. But you know what struck me most? Brevity. The first comic's alt-text is three words long. Tiny. It added a little something meaningful to the comic, but didn't distract the reader from what they had just read.Compare that to today's. Ew. 985 shows up as a whopping 4-line, 50 word, 317 character (268 excluding spaces) monster.

The joke isn't one I find funny, but humor's subjective so I'll let that one slide (in this case). Even if I found this joke humorous, I still wouldn't laugh. Why? Because I had no clue where the comic was going. My eyes followed, in order, the title, text in panel, the caption under it, and finally the monstrous tooltip.

Here's a brief view of what's going on in my head at that point:
Title: "Percentage points" Okay, so it's all about--
Panel: um--drunk drivers? Drone strikes on Christmas? I what is going on--
Caption: Wait polls now?
Tooltip: What is going on??!?!?!
Afterwards: Okay, I need to reread this. Dammit.

The Alt-text is busy. So is the panel. In fact, it's so busy that I forgot about the title (which foreshadowed the allegedly funny caption) on the way down. It's not that I have ADD or something--I just couldn't see how it was funny through the thicket of other jokes. When the focus of the comic--"Percentage points" as the now-forgotten title had told me about--hit, I was just confused because it seemed like the joke hadn't been set up everywhere.

One thing I sincerely hope Randall will learn is that you can't always fit more than one joke into a comic. Of course it's possible: see this Brawl in the Family (and commentary!) for an example of a secondary joke in the background that doesn't detract from the what the author's been building up the whole strip. But in this Xkcd? The extras distract from the joke that the title indicates he wants to make fun of or complain about or something. As a result, the actual joke feels underdeveloped or, in my case, not there at all.

Here's a "Sucks (not that much) Less" from me:

title: Percentage Points;alt text: Don't we all.

Okay, Still not funny. But it's clear on what joke it's trying to get through. That's at least a step in the right direction.

tl;dr: the alleged joke is buried inside a mountain of other jokes. The two parts are bad for each other.

Addendum: The sharper-eyed members of the audience will notice that I reused the til-now solitary "list comic" tag. Well, to be fair, the list isn't exclusively on the comic. It extends through the tooltip as well.

And another thing: The tooltip! I just realized I started talking about the tooltip and didn't really go back to it. Uhm, that's totally intentional. See what happens when you start with one thing, distract the audience with something else, then go back where you started? They're confused as hell! This was totally a self-demonstrating article! Right, guys?



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Comic 984: "Space Launch System" don't impress me much.

Space Launch System
Space Launch System
alt-text: The SLS head engineer plans to invite Shania Twain to stand under the completed prototype, then tell her, 'I don't expect you to date me just because I'm a rocket scientist, but you've gotta admit--this is pretty fucking impressive.'


EDIT: I Made an edit for this one.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gamer_2k4 Done Writing Reviews

You all probably saw this day coming. I knew it was coming from the very first day I learned that this blog was my sole responsibility when Raven left. I had hoped that I could gradually phase myself out of the mix if people sent me enough guest reviews, but it wasn't meant to be.

Truth be told, I just do not care anymore about xkcd. The people who praise it, the people who link to it, the people who think it's the defining webcomic of the internet...leave them. I don't care. The man who writes it and profits off it...whatever. If that's really how he wants to live his life, what am I going to gain by being upset by it?

There was a time when I did feel a hate towards xkcd, or at least towards its fanbase. I couldn't stand that Randall would post something on G+ like "hey i think women need more respect" and dozens of people would praise him for it. Now, I don't care. People who drool over xkcd are rare in my life and dismissed quickly. If I don't go searching for them, I don't find them.

It's not a time issue; I definitely have the time to update this blog. I could update a dozen times a week if Randall made that many comics. I just don't want to. I don't want to have go to xkcd three times a week and think, "Wow, another completely boring comic. What the heck do I say for this one." Some xkcd strips make me angry, yes. But they're so rare these days that it's more likely I'll get angry at how consistently unremarkable the strip has managed to be. What's the point? Randall's not getting any better, and he's not getting worse fast enough that there's an end in sight.

We've reviewed over 60 comics here since the blog began. Out of those, only six got my "worst of xkcd" ire. That means a comic really only makes me feel legitimately angry about once every three weeks. That's just not enough to keep a blog running. Still, we've been here since June, which is pretty remarkable.

I wouldn't have kept going for as long as I did without the support from all of you. Thanks to Jon Levi for bingo, thanks to SinbadEV for "sucks less" submissions and guest reviews, thanks to Ann Apolis for filling in for me here and there, and thanks to T-Jack and sorcfs and all the anons who left so many reviews in my inbox. Thanks to all the commenters who shared their thoughts. You guys kept this blog alive.

I don't know what will happen to this blog. I'll send author invites to the people I named above in case they want to keep contributing here, and I'll retain admin rights so I can check in every so often. I'm sorry it had to go this way, I really am. I joined up with this blog solely because I couldn't stand the awful reviews on the original hateblog, and I wanted to help provide an alternative. I did it because I was a dissatisfied hateblog READER, and I sympathized with other readers. I never wanted to own a blog myself, and you can see the results of that.

It was a good (albeit short) trip, and a wild ride while it lasted. I'm glad all of you were here to share it with me. I hope this blog lives on, but if it doesn't, so be it. Goodbye, everyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Comic 981: A Double Helping of Suck

Title: Porn Folder; alt-text: Eww, gross, you modified link()? How could you enjoy abusing a filesystem like that?

Let's ignore all the dialogue for now. Normally, this would improve xkcd vastly, but in this case, it only serves to highlight Randall's awful attempt at illustrating the conversation. As my eyes were drawn to the missing headrest component in panel 2, the ridiculous angle of the chair in panel 3, the fact that the guy picks up his laptop to turn around (who does that?), the uneven lines on the desk and computer, and so on, I realized something. That computer setup looked familiar. Could this be...consistency?

For a second, I was hopeful. Sure enough, a jaunt through the recent archives led me to many more instances of it in comics past. Consistency! However, I soon realized something. Unless the entire cast lives in some fraternity house and are compulsive furniture movers, this doesn't make any sense. Sometimes there's a laptop on the desk. Sometimes it's a computer monitor. Sometimes it's a TV. Sometimes an easy chair is facing the desk, and sometimes it's facing away. Most of the time an office chair is there. My best guess is that Mr. Xkcd (does the generic guy have a name yet?) lives with Megan. Megan is friends with Sarah (the blonde girl). Mr. Hat is that guy that everyone kind of knows but no one really likes, and he just comes over whenever he's bored. It's really the only explanation!

Or, you know, Randall is just awful at drawing, and he can only draw one couch, one chair, one desk, one laptop, and one tv/monitor. Or, worse still, he's NOT that bad at drawing, and is just so darn lazy that anything taking longer than 5 seconds isn't worth his time (unless it's poorly researched collections of colored squares). And the worst thing is, Randall's been doing this for six years. I get that stick figures are his "minimalistic" thing, but flat-out REFUSING to improve the other aspects of the strip is just insulting to the medium.

Okay, I'm done with that little tirade. Bring back the dialogue, toss out the art, and we'll proceed to the second half of the review.

Remember that thing I said about consistency? Yeah, it doesn't exist in xkcd. Megan (who I assume is the person off-screen here) made it very clear 267 strips ago that her porn is NOT about filesystems. In other words, as usual, Randall just makes up personalities for the sake of jokes. I complained about this in just my fourth review here, and it still bugs me. Apparently the appeal of "lulz this is something a super-nerd might do" is enough to create a completely contradictory comic for the sake of that "joke."

And that's really all this comic is. Is this something someone would actually do? Of course not. (More to the point, I doubt someone would be in denial about their porn at first but immediately switch to unashamedly defending it a second later.) And why use the "porn folder" context to frame this joke? The "joke" is "You're not supposed to create hard directory loops and yet this person is doing it." How is that funny? What mood do you have to be in (besides last-minute panic) that your brain generates this idea and you think, "Yeah, that's a pretty good idea for a comic"?

And yeah, I know this is nothing new for Randall. Mediocrity has been his M.O. for years. Still, it's frustrating that comics like this are all xkcd will ever be, and yet legions of fans praise him for it.

xkcd sucks.

P.S. Why are Mr. Xkcd and Megan sharing a drive on a laptop? Isn't the point of a laptop largely that it's your own, and you don't need to share it? Are they really so poor that they can't afford separate computers? (And how could they be poor if they don't have kids?) Personally, I can't imagine sharing a computer with someone (even if they had a separate partition), and I don't even have anything to hide. It's's MY computer, you know?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Comic 980: "Money." It's what Randall wants.

UPDATE: xkcd forumite JiminP was kind enough to host a full-size version of the image. Clicking the thumbnail below will take you there.

Title: Money; alt-text: There, I showed you it.

Good [morning/evening/whatever time of day you're reading this], everyone. The Somewhat Organic Robots Campaigning For Sobriety (SORCFS) is back to write yet another review.

But before that, I should rant at you a bit about Garfield. Why am I starting with Garfield? Because I am, that's why.

As I've alluded to in previous posts, I'm actually a pretty big fan of newspaper comics. Some of them, anyway. Hell, throw me any story told in sequential art and I'll probably read it. Webcomics, comics books ("graphic novels" if you're a snob and in denial), newspaper strips, whatever. And as someone who's tried my hand at many variations of the art myself, I can tell you personally that it's not something easy to do. So I try to not judge too harshly when it comes down to what qualifies as "good" to me. At the end of the day, there are only two or three things that really matter to me when I try to say if a comic is objectively "good" or not. And the biggest thing to me is one simple question: why does the author draw his (or her) story?

To me, the "right" answer to the first question should really be that the author enjoys doing it (even if they work at Marvel or some other big company. They should be there because they enjoy their job. Hating editors and current storylines is permissible, I guess). For example: love me, hate me, curse me out in the comments for deigning to mention it, but I think Dominic Deegan is actually a decent comic.Okay, so the storylines are shaky and the characters aren't the best fictional people ever. I'll give you that. But you know what? I can tell that Mookie, the author enjoys drawing it. That, to me, is the most important thing in the cartooning profession.

Which brings me to Garfield. You know why I don't love Garfield? Because Jim Davis (AKA the guy who draws him) doesn't. Jim Davis freely admits that he created Garfield to be a "good, marketable character." And so Garfield has shambled along since the late 1970s being a perfectly boring character in a perfectly boring strip. But hey, the merchandise sells. To contrast this with some of my favorite strips: Calvin and Hobbes author Bill Watterson slowly turned against merchandising because it seemed "against the spirit of the strip." And Berkeley Breathed bowed out of drawing his newspaper strips because he felt like he'd prefer end his characters' story on a lighter note.

If you haven't already guessed, I'd feel justified calling Xkcd (I refuse to capitalize it properly) the Garfield of the webcomics world. High-profile, boring art, sells well. I'm not the only one who realizes this--according to the forums, the poster of today's comic was up in the stores before the actual comic was. That tells me a lot about the motivations of one Randall Munroe. And, if you ask me, it's a cardinal sin of cartooning.

Yes, I recognize that he needs money to survive. But that doesn't make Xkcd a good comic.

Okay, now that I'm done calling out the comic in general, here's some specific complaints about comic 980:

  • It's a chart comic without a joke. Need I say more?

  • Randall missed his normal deadline by something like 10 hours. Which, if he actually had a syndicated strip or something, would make him worthless as a cartoonist. Hell, it'd even be that way with his now-regular delay of a few hours past 12. I could have sworn that the "about" page of Xkcd used to say it updated at 12PM EST... (ed. note - I could've sworn that, too...odd.)

  • In a few years this will be inaccurate or otherwise irrelevant. It's boring now and it'll be boring & wrong later.

  • GOOMHR-Bait: Okay, maybe this really applies to any given Xkcd strip. but I'm betting that merely mentioning the fact that something is wrong fiscally with the country and world will set off this huge discussion by fans in the forum who think they're smart because they were already aware of this fact and can quote wikipedia. Here's to betting that at least one will claim there's a simple solution.

  • typos: Well, apparently. I can't find them yet and they're sure to disappear, but the forumites are noticing. (ed. note - I didn't look at the entire image myself, but I did notice a discrepancy between EU's GDP and Europe's GDP. The forums say there are a lot more like it.)

  • Size. This is too big and unfocused to be actually interesting in terms of content. To crib a post from the generally vitriolic but accurate Xkcd forum poster SirMustapha:
    Reaction of xkcd fan:"Wow! This must have taken so much time, it's no wonder the comic is late!"
    Reaction of xkcd hater: "This comic is so completely worthless, it's amazing that Randall should spend so much time in it!"
    Reaction of both: tl;dr"

Alright I'm done here. To sum things up: 980 is a big boring chart that seems like it was created mostly for the purpose of money. As a comics purist, I find this to be a bad motivation. As an artist, I fing the comic to be poorly executed. I therefore feel like I am correct to repeat the title of this blog: Xkcd sucks.

Stay Sober,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Comic 979: Randall Attempts Poetry...and Fails

Title: Wisdom of the Ancients; alt-text: All long help threads should have a sticky globally-editable post at the top saying 'DEAR PEOPLE FROM THE FUTURE: Here's what we've figured out so far ...'

Okay, there are several things that make this strip suck. The first one should be obvious to all of you, but I'll say it anyway.

This comic is UGLY.

I'm not even talking about ugly in the traditional "xkcd is stick art" sense. I mean that having a "poem" (if you want to call it that) as the first panel and a guy yelling at a computer as the second panel just looks BAD. But the problem is, I can't think of a way to improve the formatting, at least not as the comic stands now. There's too much text to be used as a caption, which means that formatting it this way is truly the best Randall could do with what he gave himself.

But this leads into the second problem with today's comic. The image is nothing but post-punchline dialogue. Randall said all he needed to say in his little poem, and the second panel probably should've been condensed to alt-text. Unfortunately, that means that this comic, at its core, is simply text. And it's not just any text; it's a POEM. A bad poem, but a poem nonetheless (note the "artistic" separation of the single sentence). It should properly read, "Never have I felt so close to another soul, and yet so helplessly alone, as when I Google an error and there's one result: A thread by someone with the same problem and no answer last posted to in 2003." The touches of purple prose and the format of the presentation bump this simple sentence into poetry status (despite the lack of rhyme or meter). Those interested in the humanities would call this free verse.

Get that? This comic, minus the PPD, is a poem. It's a journey into Randall's self-proclaimed most hated of studies: the humanities. xkcd, a comic of "romance, sarcasm, math, and language," has sunk so low as to use POETRY (and nothing else) as today's update.* That's...shocking, to say the least. I don't know what to make of it.

Okay, onto the third and final problem of today's strip. In addition to being a poem with PPD, this comic is using referential humor (a nice way of saying it's GOOMHR-bait). If readers laugh, it's that "ah heh heh, I've totally been there" laugh that's not really prompted by true humor, but simply a situation that the reader happens to recognize. It's like people laughing at "the cake is a lie." That's a game reference, not a joke, and this comic is doing the exact same thing. We're supposed to like it because we've all experienced this (I actually have, but that doesn't make the comic any funnier). But that's no substitute to actual humor.

* I actually don't have a problem with humanities or poetry. They might not have long-term career value, but they're not as worthless as Randall so ardently proclaims. My issue with this is not that poetry is being used, but that it's being used by RANDALL MUNROE in place of an actual comic.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Comic 978: Randall Makes Up Words for the Internet

First of all, let me clear up a few things. I missed the last two updates simply because I was uninspired and no one sent in any guest posts. I will not review those two strips now, because it's old news and if I didn't care about them when they were new, no one's going to care about them when they're old.

Now, this may cause some concern among you about the stability of this blog. To help ease those fears, let me make you several guarantees that will never change as long as I'm in charge here.

  1. I will never find fault where there is none, and I will never write a review that is anything other than (what I believe to be) a legitimate criticism of the comic in question. We all know what happened to the other blog, and I promise you that will not happen here.

  2. Unfortunately, if I have to stand behind my words, that means that there are going to be days when I have nothing to say. On those days, I will not waste your time. I will not post nonsense. You will either get a guest review or no review at all.

  3. Unless it is absolutely atrocious, I will always post any guest reviews that get emailed to me. This blog was originally intended to be a collaboration, not a one man show, and I'll take all the help I can get.

  4. Finally, I will never abandon this blog without an explanation. I may miss a post here and there, as you've recently seen. However, if I step down from running this blog, I will explain why and leave someone willing and capable in charge (if the community so chooses).

Well, that's a weight off my chest. On to why xkcd sucks!

Title: Citogenesis; alt-text: I just read a pop-science book by a respected author. One chapter, and much of the thesis, was based around wildly inaccurate data which traced back to ... Wikipedia. To encourage people to be on their toes, I'm not going to say what book or author.

I initially tagged this as "straw man," thinking that Randall was just making up a problem and assigning it a name, but a brief jaunt through the forums indicate that this has happened before. However, it's also clear that this is a small, isolated issue, and not the universal "Where Citations Come From" problem that Randall implies it is.

The truth is, Wikipedia is often an excellent resource for research. Obviously you should never cite it directly, but the fact that it's open to editing and that the more important articles get more attention mean that on a whole, Wikipedia is self-correcting. In other words, the information on Wikipedia is MORE likely to be accurate than any other source, simply because it remains current and errors can be removed.

It's also worth noting that this problem goes beyond Wikipedia (one poster mentioned Norse genealogies as an example). Randall uses the Wikipedia example because that's where he lives, but doing so presents the issue in a bubble and misdirects blame. The problem isn't Wikipedia; the problem is confirmation bias that cause people to call it good as soon as one thing backs up what they want to believe. That's a known psychological fallacy - well, known to people who have any interest in the "soft sciences," anyway.

P.S. Does anyone else find it hypocritical that Randall uses his webcomic to cry about bad citations, then offers us an alt-text with a claim but no citation at all? "To encourage people to be on their toes" is a retarded reason to withhold information (if said information actually exists, which several forumites doubt).

P.P.S. It's worth noting that there are two consecutive "was"es in the first panel right now. I expect this is an error that will get corrected, but if it was put in there intentionally (some people on the forums are using it as an example of an "erroneous edit"), that's stupid. You only don't see those things if they're separated as they are in the comic. On a Wikipedia page, the error would be obvious.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Comic 975: The Non-Event Horizon

Well, the masses are empowering me to be a lazy bum and not write my own reviews. Works for me, I guess. This one was submitted by one "anon."

Title: Occulting Telescope; alt-text: Type II Kardashev civilizations eventually completely enclose their planetary system in a Dyson sphere because space is way too big to look at all the time.

Simply put, this strip is just plain stupid. There's nothing insightful or witty about the presented situation. So there's a guy who wants to block stars from being seen with a telescope. Why doesn't he just put a lid on the telescope? No, instead he invents an elaborate system where the telescope inserts small discs between the lens and the stars. How quirky and idiosyncratic!

Now that we are here, why not have a microscope that prevents seeing bacteria? Or a rocket that does not move? Oh, how hilarious that would have been!

This cartoon is like a shaggy dog story except it finishes before getting past the first step and there's no joke. Randall didn't even bother to think how the discs could really block the stars. In fact, it's almost like he didn't understand at all how telescopes work. Unfunny, uninspiring. Clumsy writing, too. "I thought the Point was to image extrasolar planets." […] "He has a Point…". And there's no joke.

The idea suggested in the alt-text, that a planetary civilization might be so advanced that it has blocked others from seeing them, could've been a more amusing scenario. But no, Randall chose to depict the less interesting idea and mention the better one in passing. Although no doubt he would have messed that too.


P.S. from Gamer_2k4

Explain xkcd actually came in handy this time around. It doesn't actually help the fact that the comic is completely retarded, though. As the alt-text demonstrates, the punch line "stars freak me out" is interchangeable with many, many setups. The fact that Randall chose a slow, unnecessarily complicated one just shows what a hack he is (not to mention that "I'm scared of stars" is a really, really lousy joke).

Maybe, with a little comedic timing, this could work. Maybe if it was told in person instead of in a webcomic, the slow buildup to the punchline could have some merit. But, Randall isn't a stand-up comic (thank God). He uses drawings for his humor. And he uses them poorly.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Comic 974: Randall's Rants, Part 2

Ughhh...I kept hoping and hoping that someone would send me a guest review, but no dice. The main problem here is that I don't really have a lot to say about this comic (and yes, I know every time I say that, it turns into an eight paragraph rant). But, in the interest of posting and update before the next strip comes out, here goes.

Title: The General Problem; alt-text: I find that when someone's taking time to do something right in the present, they're a perfectionist with no ability to prioritize, whereas when someone took time to do something right in the past, they're a master artisan of great foresight.

I'm just going to focus on the alt-text this time, because it feels like Randall is just using the comic as a vehicle for his rants again (the last time, of course, being Comic 971. And, once again, the comic actually misses the point that he's making in the alt-text. If you want to garner sympathy for "people taking the time to do something right," don't use the example of some idiot overthinking condiment passing. It takes half a second to slide a salt shaker across the table. Unless the person is inventing a teleporter, literally nothing he could make would be faster. Besides, they have a "condiment passer" device already. It's called a Lazy Susan.

But the bigger problem here is the alt-text. I could be way off, but it really feels to me like Randall's been told this all his life ("you have no ability to prioritize!") and he's trying to argue that all the "greats" were the same way. Of course he labels himself as a perfectionist (which we all know isn't true), and he somehow fails to see the difference between himself and those master artisans.

Of course, it's a simple distinction to make. They made society better in some way. They made contributions. They produced things of value. Randall hasn't done any of those things.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Comic 973: Return of the "Straw Man" Tag

Prolific "sucks less" contributor SinbadEV left this guest post in my inbox. That's good, because I sure as heck didn't want to review 973.

Title: MTV Generation; alt-text: If you identified with the kids from The Breakfast Club when it came out, you're now much closer to the age of Principal Vernon.

So I have recently been running this blog where I post edits of XKCD comics in a "xkcd sucks less" kinda way. I like a lot of XKCD comics and, while I often feel they could be improved or feel the need to to draw attention to a flaw, I usually see a silver lining.

But this comic is just painful. The only way I can see to make it not suck, right now, would be to erase all of the text...

... which for me at least, oddly enough, makes the comic hilarious. I'll grant this might be due to my knowledge of the original.

In order to really understand what's wrong with this comic we first need to find the joke. In case you missed it in the midden heap of terribleness I'll do this for you:

"You are so old that the 'kids these days' you resent are now parents."

I may have stretched a little there but I'm sure I can be forgiven given the material I was working with.

What makes me the most mad here is that I don't know of anyone who has referred to anyone as being part of the "MTV Generation" in the last fifteen years. If people from the MTV Generation are now in their 40s then people who talked about the MTV Generation as being a thing are at least in their 50s and people who talked about them derisively are in their 60s or early 70s. Maybe the stick figure wearing the hat is 65, I suppose... maybe we can call him "Old Man Hat Guy" and the joke is that "Old People Don't Keep Up With Pop Psychology". Even assuming that Randall meant this, it would have been a lot better to say "You ARE the MTV Generation, Dad". This all leads to the final conclusion that the execution of the joke hinges on "MTV Generation" being something people still say... and it just isn't.

Even if the joke had been worth telling and he had come up with a way for it not to hinge on a strawman, the execution is still painful. I'm not talking about the stick figures here. I'm talking about the script.

"See, That's the problem with the MTV Generation - No attention span."
"You know, that phrase referred to the 12-19 demographic that formed the core MTV audience in the mid-1980s."
"Uh huh? So?"
"That generation's now in their 40s."
"That can't be right."
"Face it: Your problem with the MTV Generation is their kids."

Who talks like that? Maybe if in panel two she was holding a phone so it was clear she was quoting Wikipedia or something. Here's the script with the joke as bad as it was presented but just the dialog improved.

"See, that's the problem with the MTV Generation. No Attention Span."
"That phrase refers to teens who grew up in the 80's."
"They're in their 40s now."
"That can't be..."
"Face it. The problem with the MTV Generation is their kids."

See? The problem with this comic is Everything!

Then the alt-text makes it worse by pointing out that "You are 'the man' you once resented" which is the opposite of what the comic seems to be saying.

Also, who the heck talks in colons and hyphens? What does a colon sound like?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Comic 972: Introducing the "Stolen Joke" Tag!

Got another review from "sorcfs" again (the acronym's meaning keeps changing with every submission!), so here you guys go. He said everything I felt when I read the strip, and he's done it in a much more timely manner than I would have. Enjoy.

Title: November; alt-text: November marks the birthday of Charles Schulz, pioneer of tongue awareness.

Hey everyone, this is the Society Of Ridiculously Cruel Flatworm Stompers (SORCFS) returning to write another review.

Ridiculous acronyms aside, this comic had two problems. The first is fairly common among xkcd strips, so it only gets short shrift from me.

Basically, a stick figure comic is a terrible vehicle for expressing the joke here. As a comics connoisseur, I do have to give props to Randall for proper use of beat panels (read: the two in the middle) to slow the reader's perceived passage of time. But that's not why this joke should be funny. Part (and by part I mean all) of the humor derives from the terror that slowly consumes the not-hat-guy as he becomes increasingly aware of his tongue. The terror which would be best be expressed by, you know, expressions. Expressions which Randall's stick figures don't have.

Seriously. I have no clues as to what the guy is feeling. He's just there, frozen. I can imagine that Mr. Not-Hat is sitting there stoned or wishing he had coffee [or both]. And that takes away from what I'm supposed to laugh at.

Wait wait wait. I'm being pretentious. Just because I like to say I know my comics doesn't mean I should know what Randall should have done with this joke.'s already been done before?

This brings us to the second problem. This has been done before.

Read this, please. Look familiar?

That's a "Peanuts" ("Charlie Brown" to the unwashed masses) strip from an absurdly long time ago. It's a personal favorite of mine, actually, which has now been somewhat ruined by xkcd. (Not the first time this has happened) My personal feelings about this aside, the original is superior in pretty much every way--unlike xkcd, Schulz's dialogue feels natural and the wordiness of the strip helps build up Linus' sort of nervous and panicky state. And remember what I was saying about the terror selling the comic? yeah, look at Lucy in those last few panels. That growing horror is really where the joke is.

I can just bet that this kind of discussion will transpire on the oh-so-pretentious xkcd forums:

fans: OMG I read comics too GOOMHR
haters: STOLEN
fans: GTFO TROLOLoll

As an extra "fuck you" to people like me who realize that this xkcd's comic is stolen from Charles Schulz, we have the alt text. Generally, when you steal something you don't tell everyone you did it. I can just bet Randall's fans will defend him on this one, calling it a "tribute" or some other bullshit. It's not. Randall's done homages to other comics before. But this is just copy-pasting a joke into his own style. Slapping a legendary cartoonist's name afterwards doesn't change that.

Post Script: Huh. Reading over this review I appear to have gone from sarcastic in the first point to downright hostile in the second. RIP Charles Schulz.


P.S. from Gamer_2k4:

I'm a pretty big Peanuts fan myself, so here's the original strip in color:

Since we're looking at a real comic by a real cartoonist, notice how there are RECURRING CHARACTERS with ACTUAL PERSONALITIES and that's what helps make the joke? Notice how xkcd doesn't have that? (And before you mention Mr. Hat, he's just the everydick in this strip. He's not doing anything particularly Hat-like.)

You know, for what it's worth, maybe I could've excused Randall for ignorance here. Peanuts is an old strip, and not everyone keeps up with every joke. But the fact that YOU KNOW YOU'RE STEALING MATERIAL AND THAT'S YOUR STRIP is what makes this so bad!

Honestly, it's garbage like that that's made me stop reading other webcomics.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Comic 971: Randall's Rants

Title: Alternative Literature; alt-text: I just noticed CVS has started stocking homeopathic pills on the same shelves with--and labeled similarly to--their actual medicine. Telling someone who trusts you that you're giving them medicine, when you know you’re not, because you want their money, isn’t just lying--it’s like an example you’d make up if you had to illustrate for a child why lying is wrong.

Oh. My. Gosh. I don't know which to criticize first, the comic or the alt-text! This should even be a problem, because normally the two are at least somewhat related. Not this time!

Or, you know what, maybe they are. Maybe the comic is some sort of allegory about homeopathic medicine and how it's like reading blank books. But if that's the case, it needs a LOT of work, because no one's going to naturally assume that from context unless they've just read the alt-text (which makes a completely different point!)

See, until I read the alt-text (ironic, isn't it, that Randall adds novel-length alt-text in a comic about wordless books), I assumed he was just doing what he always does: setting up a strawman that doesn't exist and laughing at him. Look at it. Even the structure of the comic emphasizes just how clueless Randall is about what he's doing wrong. "Not true; there's some ink" and "a smudge" are completely useless to the point the character is making. Guy 1 says something. Guy 2 argues a different point. It's a perfect metaphor for today's update, if Guy 1 is the alt-text and Guy 2 is the the strip itself.

Is this making any sense? Well, at least it can't make any less sense than Comic 971. I mean, I've spent three paragraphs (coming up on four) ranting about this strip and I haven't even addressed its subject matter yet! That's bad, folks.

Look, the joke here is friggin' simple. "All your books are blank!" "My mind makes the books, and I refuse be a part of a system that says otherwise. I'm no sucker." "And you paid how much for these?" I can't stand xkcd, and even I smiled at the "Who sold you all these blank books?" line. You know why? Because that's the punch line! That's the joke! We don't need all these other panels of pointless dialogue!

Image by SinbadEV

But Randall's not content to ruin his comic with an awful setup and a too-delayed punchline. Oh no. Nope, he has to get on one of his, "Boy, people are stupid, and companies just take advantage of them. It's too bad they're not as smart as me" high horses. Carl from xkcdsucks (the original blog; remember when it wasn't awful?) said all there is to say about this sort of thing, so I'll just link to his rant here. In short, it says that people aren't stupid, they know that just because you put two different things together they aren't the same thing, and Randall's a complete douchebag for assuming otherwise.

I dunno, maybe I'm tired and hopped up on pain pills. If I'm missing some deeper point here, someone please tell me. Until then, I'm going to believe that this is just an awful, awful strip, and one of the worst Randall's done in recent memory.

P.S. I was in such disbelief when I read the alt-text, I actually screenshotted it in case Randy changes it. It's just...what was he thinking??

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Comics 969 and 970: Randall is Stupid

Still laid up from my injury, which means xkcd remains one of the last things on my mind. Again, I don't have much to say about either Wednesday's or today's strips, but they do both suck.

Comic 969

Title: Delta-P; alt-text: If you fire a Portal gun through the door of the wardrobe, space and time knot together, which leads to a frustrated Aslan trying to impart Christian morality to the Space sphere.

Oh geez I hate this one. Absolute best case for this strip: Randall's equations work, Narnia gets flooded, and the White Witch dies. OH WAIT, AND SO DOES EVERYONE ELSE. That's like saying we could have prevented the Holocaust by killing everyone in the world. Hitler would be gone, so no Holocaust, right?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next objections might be considered nitpicks, but dang it, Randy put all his equations right on the comic, so he apparently cares about that kind of detailed analysis.

  1. It's not raining so there's no portal.

  2. The pressure might just close the doors of the wardrobe, meaning that no water ever gets in.

  3. Even if the doors remain open, shouldn't the air and everything else in Narnia simply stop the water from filling it? To see what I mean, invert a cup and push it into some water. Notice how there's still air inside the cup?

  4. But okay, let's assume water does make it in, Still, time is completely different in Narnia, so the water would just trickle in, rather than the torrent Randall expects.

  5. What the heck do you mean, "space and time knot together if you fire a portal gun through the door"? The door IS a portal! You can't fire a portal gun through an existing portal!

Seriously, Randall. THINK a little before you post garbage like this.

Comic 970

Title: The Important Field; alt-text: I hear in some places, you need one form of ID to buy a gun, but two to pay for it by check. It's interesting who has what incentives to care about what mistakes.

This is a straw man attack if I've ever seen one. Yes, most registration forms require you to enter your email address twice. You know why? BECAUSE IT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT FIELD. If your email is wrong, you don't get registered. Now, compare that to something like the comments box for this blog. You're asked to enter your email once. You know why? Because it's NOT important! Who cares if your email is wrong there?

The situation in this strip is a total fabrication. It's so contrived it hurts. THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. It's like saying, "I really think the US government should take down How stupid are they to just offer that up to anyone?" He'd be making a good point if that was how things worked, but IT'S NOT.

I think there's a lesson we can all learn from this: Don't be a retard, Randall.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Comic 968: Tact? What's That?

Hey, all. Sorry in advance, but this post isn't going to be especially timely (as you already know) or hateful (as you're about to find out). The main reason for both is that I broke my pelvis in a climbing accident on Saturday and haven't really felt like running a blog in the meantime. (The meds I'm on kind of leave me fuzzy too, so there's that). Maybe I'll try to get Ann Apolis to finish up the reviews for this week, or if any of you want to send a guest post my way, that would also be fantastic.

Still, let's give this review a shot.

Title: Everything; alt-text: I wanna hold your hand so I don't fall out of your gyrocopter.

I honestly can't tell if this is really sweet or really cold. On the one hand, he's saying, "I know I'm not hopelessly and delusionally in love with you, but I still love the things you do." On the other hand, it also sounds like, "You really mean nothing to me personally, but at least you're entertaining." I think Randall's going for the first, but it comes off as more of the second.

Either way, what it boils down to is that Randall has absolutely no filter between his mind and his mouth, whether it's concerning his odd fetishes (which should be kept inside his head to spare the rest of us), his views of other sciences or professions (which should also remain under wraps because they make him look like an arrogant dickhead), his ideas about relationships (which bare his creepiness to the world), or how he honestly feels about people (because, believe it or not, tact is a virtue).

Some might say that this is just a persona of Randall's creation, or his characters talking. I say that when you present the same mindset frequently and consistently over the span of six years (or whatever it's been), especially with as little self-awareness as xkcd has, you can no longer pass it off something fictional. That's YOU, whether it's intentional or subconscious. Randall's an ignorant, arrogant, tactless creep.

Who knew, right?

P.S. Some people say this is a reference to one of Shakespeare's sonnet's, but that can't be right. Do you really think Randall would soil himself with the liberal arts?


Friday, October 21, 2011

Comic 967: Making Stick Figures Look Even Worse

Title: Prairie; alt-text: Colorado is working to develop coherent amber waves, which would allow them to finally destroy Kansas and Nebraska with a devastating but majestic grain laser.

I was just playing this song on my piano today! GOOMHR!

(No really, I was. Weak.)

Okay, first of all, the observant of you will notice that I've applied the label "art failure" to this review. "Why?" you ask. "That prairie looks pretty good!"

It does. So why the heck do I say it's a failure? Well, just look at it! Because xkcd is a "stick figure webcomic," Randall has to cram his stick figures in there, just like he did with Comic 941. No! You made something nice, Randall! Why cover it up? Why make it ugly?

I know I stopped doing xkcd Sucks Less, but please, for this one comic, take a look at what could have been:

If not for that, this wouldn't be a bad comic! Randall (for once) assumes his readers are smart enough to get the reference, and the alt-text is good alt-text. The joke isn't especially funny, but it's nerdy for for the sake of being nerdy, which is what I'd expect from xkcd. I'd like it and I'd call it a good comic.

But Randall had to ruin the strip. Again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Comic 966: X Knows - Controlled Demolition!

Yeah, yeah, worst backronym ever. Too bad.

Title: Jet Fuel; alt-text: The 'controlled demoliton [sic]' theory was concocted by the government to distract us. '9/11 was an inside job' was an inside job!

Well, this being a "My Hobby" comic, it means that Randall avoids his usual pitfalls of long, convoluted setups and post-punchline dialogue. This being xkcd, it still sucks.

This isn't much of a comic, which means that this won't be much of a review, either. 9/11 jokes are just old now (it happened TEN YEARS AGO), and this one isn't especially funny. It's an okay (if utterly pointless) idea, but that's the best I can say about it.

Sorry I don't have anything else in this review, but I've been starting at the blog editor off an on since I got into work today, and this is the best you're going to get. Maybe next time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Comic 965: A New Guest Poster Appears!

If it wasn't apparent from the title, today's review is not my own work. It comes from a fellow (a group?) called "sorcfs," which I'm told is an acronym for something horrifying and unnatural. Just kidding!


Anyway, I get a day off, and you get a review that's timely! Everyone wins!

Title: Elements; alt-text: Of all the nations, the armies of the ununoctium-benders are probably the least intimidating. The xenon-benders come close, but their flickery signs are at least effective for propoganda.

Ooh, color. You know what that means: the forumites will be raving over how "beautiful" it is, as is bound to crop up every once in a while. Nevermind all the other comics that use color all the time and have several metric buttloads better art and jokes and aren't goddam scripts with oversized margin doodles.

But hey, pop culture references! yeah! I mean, that makes everything better, right?

No. No it doesn't.

Okay, first off, this joke has been done to death. I’ve seen plenty of things making fun of the fact that ancient cultures thought that nature was made up of 4 or 5 or whatever number of primitive elements as compared to our modern-day periodic table. Just after ten seconds of thinking, I was able to come up with this example from Order of the Stick (a not-terrible stick figure comic). I'm sure there are other places it's been done. But, to give Randall some measure of credit, it's a fairly common sense joke. It's the kind of joke that people make independent of each other over and over again, just like jokes about erections and the underwear of every superhero ever.

So, let's give him the benefit of the doubt on that. And while we're here, let's also say some positive things. The art is at least workable in this comic. It's properly minimalist, with the characters being recognizable to those who can recognize them. So that's an improvement over it just looking lazy.

My beef with this comic is the alt-text. I probably would have just turned my computer off and gone to sleep instead of spending an extra few minutes banging out this review had I not seen the alt-text.No, it's shockingly not Post-Punchline Dialogue this time. Well, maybe PPD. But more importantly, Post Punchline Contradiction. Is there a thing for that yet? Or is it just a subcategory of PPD? Screw it. To get to the point:

Those who want to bother with all those superfluous extra lines of alt-text will notice that the premise of the extra joke is about the scarcity of certain elements. Now, in the Avatar universe, you need some of the element you want to bend before you can actually, you know, bend it (except firebenders. But they were villains, so screw them.) Apply this to the real world, and yeah,it would suck to be a bender. Scarce like, you know, polonium. a quick jump down to Wikipedia (obviously chosen for being an XKCD favorite) shows that polonium is pretty damn rare. As in, poke around in a metric ton of uranium and you'll get something like a hundred micrograms of polonium. Pro fact: uranium ain't that easy to find either. So unless there was randomly a lot of polonium lying around because, I dunno, a zombie ate the guy carrying it, polonium is not a very sensible element to attack the avatar with. And if you're going to make an alt-text joke, make sure it doesn't mess up the joke you set up earlier.

And no, I'm not the only one who saw this. Halfway through writing this I decided to check if any forumites had made the same observation. Lo and behold, 5 posts down we have this.

Oh, wait. The forumites say there was an Avatar marathon on TV yesterday? That's suddenly...unsurprising.


P.S. from Gamer_2k4: The tag "factually wrong" isn't QUITE accurate, but I wanted something besides the new guy's name marking this post. Besides, it's more reusable than "contradictory in a way that shows ignorance of facts."