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).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Comic 914: In which Beret Guy ISN'T the wacky one

Gamer_2k4, reporting in. The original plan for this blog was for Raven to review the weak, boring strips, and for me to take on the ones that really irked me. I figured, knowing Randy, that I'd get some nice downtime. I was wrong. Randy has seen fit to give us complete garbage twice in a row, so that means I'm on the job twice in a row as well. Here goes.

Title: Ice; alt-text: On the plus side, she wrote 'Welcome to the AAA Club!' in lipstick on the bathroom mirror, and left me a membership/roadside assistance card on the counter.

Well, my first thought upon looking at this was, "Oh hey, it's Megan and Beret Guy. This is going to suck." That's xkcdsucks' influence on me, I guess, because my first thought SHOULD have been, "Really? A banner that just says, 'PARTY'?" I'm not sure which way to be angry about this. Is it that Randall thinks we're too stupid to realize what's going on? Is it that he understands his art is awful enough that the stick drawings alone can't convey a real scene? (Actually that's something else that bothers me. More on that in the next paragraph.) Or is it that he just has no clue that "show, don't tell" is actually a thing that decent writers (and ARTISTS) should have a grip on? And you know what? We don't even need to be told it's a party. Who cares? Beret Guy needs to get ice. That's all we need to know.

I think that's all for the first panel. That takes us to Panel 2, where there's a LOT more to hate. Remember what I said about Randy's art being too awful to present a scene? Well, the thing is, it doesn't HAVE to be that way! Look at the second panel! A sidewalk! A street! A store with brick walls, a sign, and stuff inside! PERSPECTIVE! So Randall CAN draw, and he's just too freaking lazy to do it!

And boy, that really irks me. Why? Because he has his priorities all wrong! When it might be important to establish a setting, the best he can do is give us a freaking sign that says, "PARTY". When the setting doesn't make a darn bit of difference, he goes all-out in drawing it. I just don't even know what to say about that. It's mind-numbing. It leaves me speechless. How can someone write a comic strip (and I use the words loosely) for YEARS and not figure something like this out? You know one reason why I hate xkcd when I used to like it? It's because Randall is REGRESSING. He's not getting better, and he's not even staying level. He's going downhill, and he's going fast. Every day amazes me with how deep he manages to dig this cesspool.

Okay. For the second time in as many strips, I need to actively force myself to calm down. That's something I'm not used to. Relax, Gamer...

Let's put the art behind us for now. (It'll be back.) What else is wrong with the second panel? Well, how about the dialogue? Or rather, how about the situation in general? Why is Beret Guy walking in the middle of the road? Why is the girl pitching her "party" to random passersby? Do people, even people with ulterior motives, even do that? Would anyone listen and think anything other than, "I should probably keep moving"? Is Beret Guy really swayed by the "hey sexy" line? Well, to be fair, that's probably all it would take to get Randy to follow her, so I guess I can see where the notion came from. And Beret Guy is known for being kind of clueless, so maybe I'll let that slide. Still, the situation feels awkward to me. There's got to be a better way to set up the punchline.

Panel 3 isn't bad. For xkcd. You can kind of see what's going on, and for stick figures, that's good. Well, it's tolerable. Moving on.

Ah, Panel 4. You confusing mess of non-humor. What's going on here? Couldn't Randy have channeled the artistic effort in Panel 2 into this one instead? Maybe then we wouldn't have forum posts like:

"are those kidneys or weenies in the bathtub?"

"or is it shit?"

"I thought it was bloody ice. did he get his organs harvested or something?"

"Are those potatoes?"

"Weenies, in cocktail sauce."

No joke, those are the first five responses to the original post. Wow. Really, Randy? You can spend time filling in BRICKS on a freaking STORE WALL but you can't draw the panel with the actual PUNCHLINE in a manner that people can understand it? Can you imagine if he didn't use color? Oh, and that's not to mention that the punchline is, "Hey guys, instead of stealing kidneys and leaving the Beret Guy in a bathtub full of ice, she stole his ice and left him in a bathtub full of kidneys. It's an inversion of a not funny concept and therefore is funny!" "A bar walks into a guy" isn't funny, is it? You have to work harder than that, Randy. Randomness is not the same thing as humor. And, okay, there's a bit of a subversion of expectations at work here; you're expecting something terrible to happen to Beret Guy because he's functionally retarded and accepts offers from random strangers, and something rather quirky and innocuous happens instead. But if you're going to do that, it has to be punchy! It has to be instantly obvious to the reader what's going on. If they spend two minutes staring at the panel trying to figure out what's going on, like I did, the reaction is going to go from "haha, lulz" to "Uh, that's just stupid."

And sadly, we're not done yet, not even after a 1000 word blog post. There's still the alt-text to deal with. I admit I didn't get the reference at first, but the same trip to the forums that got me the above quotes also pointed me to the urban legend that the text is referring to. On the plus side, it does exactly what alt-text is supposed to do; it provides an additional, relevant joke that's not simply an explanation of the earlier punchline. Unfortunately, the alt-text suffers the same problem as the last panel: readers probably aren't going to get it right away. They'll have to look it up or ask someone before it makes any sense. You know the phrase, "It's not funny if you have to explain it"? Yeah. It's not.

Now, one thing that gets me about this joke in general is that it seems to be set up for one of his recurring characters, either Mr. Hat or Beret Guy himself. (It's actually kind of a problem that I can't figure out who it would fit better). On the one hand, Mr. Hat seems like the type to cook up an elaborate plot like this (bathtub full of kidneys? really?), where the preparation outweighs the actual effect. On the other hand, Beret Guy seems like the sort to be all "lol randumb" and simply invert the expected kidnapping situation. But neither happened. Beret Guy was in the comic because he's stupid enough to fall for a stupid trick like this. It's a waste of a character.

Really, this strip is just one massive miscue for Randy. He explicitly describes a scene that doesn't need it, puts detail into a scene that doesn't need it, doesn't put enough detail into a scene that DOES need it, forces the readers to do research for a punchline that needs to be gotten quickly or not at all, and puts in characters but doesn't make the most of them. It's a jumble of misplaced priorities that adds up to four panels of complete garbage.


  1. I actually didn't know that was the punchline until you explained it.

  2. Gamer I love you.

  3. Additional technical nitpick: Using colour in only the last panel makes it absolutely impossible for the reader not to look at it before reading the first 3.

  4. All right! A new XKCDSUCKS website!

    And this time it's good! Like xkcdsucks used to be when Carl ran it!

  5. I've noticed how a lot of the comics with Beret Guy have the alt texts written in 1st person. I checked, and they include: 209 (Kayak), 614 (woodpecker), 671 (Stephen and Me), 769 (war) and 786 (Exoplanets). And a few others are borderline cases.

    Does this mean Beret Guy is Randall's real author insert?

  6. >Unfortunately, the alt-text suffers the same problem as the last panel: readers probably aren't going to get it right away.

    I fail to see how this is a valid criticism. IMO it doesn't matter if people don't get it as long as the joke itself is good (which it isn't, in this case).

  7. Randall is making my job super easy.

    Timofei: I think the more pressing meta issue is that the fact that we [sorry, pulling a Randall -- most of us] have to look up the joke leads people to believe it's "brilliance" at work, rather than just his not knowing what people actually talk about these days and assuming the answer is always "these sites I'm looking at on the internet". And obviously the fact that after looking up the reference I'm less entertained than ever.

    Anon255: Carl's writing? "good"?

  8. March 22, 2011 (better reset my sidereal clock)

    Dear Diary,
    Today I met Aquarians for the first time. We met in the Girl's Lavatory. She sat on the toilet and I stood before her and presented my ponderous prick for her pleasure.
    My god!
    She seemed preoccupied by the elasticity of my scrotal sack, then tried to jam a peanut in my urethra.
    I wish it hadn't been salted.

  9. So Gamer can you be a true bro and ban altf before she gets any further out of hand

  10. Hah... I thought this XKCD was an all time low awful on the "funniness" scale (perhaps xkcd got hacked by the LulzSec people and they posted this piece of trash to teach Randall a lesson), and then you kindly explained it to me and now I realize how hilariously meta-funny it is and laugh-out-loud at myself for being too dense to get the joke myself. L O L ... which is so meta-funny (that you, in attacking xkcd, have ENHANCED my enjoyment of it) that I am actually still smiling. Thank You!

  11. Does it take any longer for you to read "PARTY!" than look at the scenery around? Seriously. Xkcd in general obviously isn't about art (= pleasing you with pretty pictures). The idea of the first panel is to convey the setting and environment to the reader. It 1) gives a sense of space (as opposed to, like, typing in text "two people are in a party. one asks the other to get ice") by showing the two stick figures and 2) provides you with the necessary information to continue with the comic——that is, that they were in a party. Additional scenery would easily result in unnecessary details that take extra time to process while reading, and with xkcd's "style" they wouldn't exactly be much to look at either.

    Just for the record, I thought the comic was terrible but I don't see any reason to criticize the "art" of the first panel.

    tl;dr: the point is the joke, the joke sucks, first panel's art won't save it, first panel's art is ok (for xkcd's style)

  12. "I was merely attempting to determine if the contents might make for a nice tapenade, your royal serpentine pachydermousness."

    It is worse than I thought! You were planning on pureeing my plums with some olive oil?

    I have gone from Loxodonta to Elephas in an instant!

  13. So Gamer can you be a true bro and ban altf before she gets any further out of hand

    I would if I could, but I'm pretty sure my only two options are reporting all of her comments as spam and turning on moderation for every comment. I'll try the former, but I'm definitely not going to bother with the latter.

  14. Kinda makes poor Kitten's raillery look disjointed now.

    What happened to the democracy of the Java Bookmarklet method of avoiding ALT-F?

  15. It would require people to know about it and use it on an individual basis, and it would still make Kitten's raillery look disjointed.

    But...I suppose we could link to it or something. =/

  16. You could link it to Kitten's new blog:

  17. I've always been of the opinion that if Betelgeuse keeps appearing and you keep crying out "Betelgeuse!", furthering Betelgeuse's appearance you've really only got yourselves to blame.

    But hey, w/e. Gamer has posted 100% of the reviews so far so it is his call.


  18. what is this i don't even

  19. Oh Raven, your references are beneath your abilities.

    Twenty years from now, you will be embarrassed about your performance here in.

  20. Who said anything about 20 years? Try 20 hours. IN THE PAST.

    Although I maintain that it's T.B. at his finest.

  21. In keeping with your Betelgeuse metaphor; "Betelgeuse" would not be much of a movie without the Betelgeuse character.
    Now would it?

  22. You pixelated "Betelgeuse" three times! If my research on the movie is correct, I have been summarily summoned!
    Yins is a sly one Ms. Ravenzomd.
    Like that Anonymous wrote, you do waste your talent on pop-culture witticisms. You need to expand your knowledge base - embrace the Classics!
    You need a mentor like I have - BP. You can't have him though, he's mine! Besides, he would have nothing to do with a Westernised woman under the age of 35! He says it takes them at least that long to slough off the cultural burkha in which they are imprisoned and become 'bearable'.

  23. Anon555: Beetlejuice* would not be much of a movie without Betelgeuse. [/pedant]

    The point remains that if you keep talking about someone, in the negative or positive, they will probably keep coming back. Here the Betelgeuse metaphor ends, because reciting the name Betelgeuse three times after a summoning would've dispelled him, but that is not how the internet works, children. Not at all.

  24. Beetlejuice?
    How clever!
    My research was of a verbal nature - that'll learn me.
    I used to chew 'Betel nut' back in the old country - smoked beedies too!
    I was a rebel!

  25. Sigh... look, ALTF.

    I broke up with you over four months ago. I know you were and are deeply upset over this, but it's been so long!

    In fact, it was exactly all this whiny, pseudo-intellectual BS that led me to quit you. I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: life isn't a Joyce Carol Oates novel, baby. Knowing big words and holding quirky, arrogant opinions isn't the way to succeed in life. You continue, but I wash my hands of this matter.

    Furthermore: all those opinions you keep parroting as mine were just my attempt at amelioration. I hardly wanted you to commit suicide, so I said all that stuff, but I don't actually believe it! I thought you'd have realized that by now. It seems I am to be mistaken.

    Well, Xiaomei, this is a cease and desist. I've put up with your bullsh*t for long enough. If you continue to claim me as your lover, I will be forced to pursue libel legislation. Consider yourself warned.

  26. Xiaomei?
    Funny guy!

    May I suggest libel litigation versus libel legislation? You know how slanderous the House of Commons can get - Innit.
    And our life was a garden of earthly delights by the way - and you know it.

    When did you start spelling 'realised' with a 'Z' and the word 'shite' as: 'sh*t'?

  27. It was when I quit inferior China and degenerate England for the wealth and splendour of proud Amerika (how Kafkaesque, innit?)

  28. Re 915: It's awful and goes nowhere. I think Gamer wants to write the review, otherwise expect a Raveiew [omg see what i did there] in about 17 hours.

  29. The same can be said for the draft of my review right now (awful and goes nowhere), so I'll sleep and then work on it later today. Hopefully it'll be up by noon CST.

  30. CST? What are ya, some sort of communist? [[I actually have never been to any province, state, or country in the CST, but judging by MST and EST, and interpolating, this is the conclusion I find]].

  31. Egad, yet another anti-xkcd blog which links directly to Randall's site thereby raising his hit count every page! "capnsblag" may be a weird name, but at least that site links to copies of the strip stored elsewhere.

  32. We've decided extra hits are worth it to know that Randall gets to see "" as a traffic source.