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).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Comic 917: Failing Us; Cute Kinda?

Good evening to one and all, this is Ravenzomg reviewing today because Gamer has not been hulkified by this particularly uninteresting piece of.... work.

Title: Hofstadter; Tooltip: "This is the reference implementation of the self-reference joke."

I was going to write the review in one huge acrostic, but that'd just be stupid since this comic is not about acrostics, it is about abbreviations. (Do not look for a huge abbreviation either, you will not enjoy it.)

So the joke is about Hofstadter, and if you know who this guy is, then you already know we're going to get some stupid joke about analogies. If you don't know this guy, go to that article and read, like, 10 words in.

Hofstadter is a man who has published many quite official books and articles on language, logic, philosophy, as well as quite interestingly rewriting a classic Russian piece to retain its poetic charm. In short, he's taken his passion and he has run with it.

(I just set myself up for personal attacks, but that's not really where I am going with this).

Now, this comic is sort of okay. But the biggest problem is that it is entirely GOOMH bait for anyone who knows about Hofstadter. That is the point of this comic.

The joke, which is the cute little acronym (goddamn it, yes it is an acronym not that other thing) "I'm so meta even this acronym (IS META)". This is the joke. It's a cute little throwaway thing you write down in a particularly boring lecture.

But then it occurs in panel 2 of 3.

Panel 3 is useless Post-Punchline Dialogue, unless you think the acrostical "WIN" is intentional, which I do not. So we have a joke that is kinda okay if it weren't 33% of his workload for the week, sandwiched between two useless panels. Panel one? Oh, yes, I will get to that.

Now, in fact.

Panel one sets us up with an author we've already mentioned has proven himself to be quite capable of language games. Randall has created a little lark, and he legitimizes it by saying someone else created it.

You understand how fundamentally weird this is? It's like goddamn fan fiction. He's inserted his own words into Hofstadter's mouth, and in his created universe it is factual. No, you know what? This isn't like fan fiction. It is fan fiction.

The more I think about it, the creepier this gets. And this coming from the writer who wrote a fan fiction that was almost (but not actually) slash-fic between Rob and Randall.


I mean, let me try this out.

Awkward as shit, and not just because this was inked with a regular blue pen and took less time than perhaps an xkcd comic (hahah, who are we kidding).

The lesson here is that name-dropping is absolutely awful, and creating something and crediting it to someone else, regardless of how good you "think" it "is", is just abhorrent and weird. Why did I mention Randall? Couldn't I have just talked about the Llamas without pretending someone else famouser than I talked about llamas?

Yes. Yes I could.

Fuckin' weird.


  1. I think maybe I meant "aberrant and weird" in the third last line, but maybe not.

  2. In a meta twist, this was actually written by Gamer, he's just attributing it to everyone's favourite contemptible Canadian corvid.

  3. Ah, I love days off.

    Or am I being META????

  4. Ah, but Raven, if he hadn't mentioned Hofstadter, those of his fans who've heard of him wouldn't get to experience the geek-smugness that's the whole point of xkcd...

  5. Why does the girl who finds the largest of the New World camelids disinteresting have a stubby craniopagus parasiticus-like penis bursting from her left zygomatic arch?

    Abhorrent and aberrant, but not necessarily weird.

  6. This may be a new low for Randall (although the infamous #631 is tough to beat). The post-"joke" dialogue and the levitating stick figure (at least he doesn't have internal organs thicker than the line used to draw him...) have long been standard features. But Randall screws up everything about this that's relevant to the joke he's trying to make.

    A geek reference to Hofstadter should at least get it right. First there's the confusion between acronyms and acrostics. (Yes, there is such a thing as an acrostic sentence.) I'd suggest to Randall that he actually read "Goedel, Escher, Bach" sometime, but it's clearly way beyond him.

    Then there's that wretched excuse of an acrostic in panel two. There's nothing about it to suggest that the acronym should be tacked on at the end, as Raven does. That's one thing that has always been explicit in Hofstadter's examples. Also, an acrostic in the style of Hofstadter would result in an acronym that, by itself, means the same thing as the acrostic sentence ("IMMETA", rather than "ISMETA").

    Finally there's the title text. There is nothing self-referential about this comic. Neither the comic nor the "joke" refers to itself. Apparently, Randall doesn't even know what the term "self-reference" means. He's trying to make a pun on the phrase "reference implementation", but the idea that any of his comics should be thought of as the standard against which anything should be compared is cluelessly arrogant.


    Aside: If "WIN" were intentional, I think Randall would have lined up the dialog vertically much like he did in panel one.

  7. @Anon1004: I didn't even touch the title text because I thought that acknowledgement was giving it too much credit, although you did alright there I think. And no, I think my insertion of "WIN" into the panel where they are all feeling overwhelmed by awe [or "awesomed" if we want to condense that into an awful word] is my trying to make this comic more entertaining.

    Sometimes I am too kind.

  8. We should bring on Anon 10:04 to write guest reviews.

  9. Thanks Gamer, but this is probably a one-time thing. I was particularly inspired/appalled by how Randall exposed himself as having no geek/nerd credentials at all.

  10. While I understand someone disliking a comic, and maybe mocking it occasionally with friends or something, I rind it rather ridiculous creating an entire blog dedicated to criticizing every single one.

    Even that would be acceptable if you stuck to legitimate arguments and accepted that humor is entirely subjective, but unfortunately you instead plan on asserting that your opinion is fact. You even continue to throw attacks at the author himself, which really takes away from the legitimacy of your reviews. You literally spend half of this review trying to convince us that it's weird when real people have fake dialogue in a comic. I find it rather amusing. You may disagree, but that's the point of opinions, I'm not wrong and neither are you.

    I'm not trying to call you a poor writer or anything, because your writing is rather good. It's just that the flaw is in what your trying to do, review something that is completely subjective. This is nearly impossible to do well because to get anywhere you'd have to assume that your opinion is more valid than any other person's opinion, which is never true.

  11. Hey, Anon 6:35, you totally don't get it.

    This isn't an entire blog dedicated to criticizing every single comic.

    This is an entire blog dedicated to being better than the other blog that criticizes every single comic.

  12. [...] You literally spend half of this review trying to convince us that it's weird when real people have fake dialogue in a comic. I find it rather amusing. You may disagree, but that's the point of opinions, I'm not wrong and neither are you. [...]

    Don't over-think the purpose of this website. Sometimes things really are that simple.

    Thank you for the nested compliment; if you're really curious, my motive for these reviews is entirely an experiment in creative writing, namely being unreasonably angry at everything. I plant angry seeds in hope for an angry harvest of angry joy that the readers may gorge themselves on. What a dark and glorious angry harvest it will be.

    I actually thought 917 was pretty okay. But the point of this blog is either Gamer giving a review, or me being hyperbolous ("hyperbolic"? Fuck you, spellcheck, that's not what I want here) in every regard. And since this comic was not particularly bad or great, just kinda okay, yours truly got to crack open the twin inky recesses of cess and creativity.

    Also, what Anon800 said -- viewing it in that context I don't think anyone except for maybe Gamer isn't treating this as a joke.

  13. Huzzah, our first "I don't see the point in criticizing xkcd" anon!

    I don't think anyone except for maybe Gamer isn't treating this as a joke.

    Quality can't come from apathy. I know what first drove me to this (well, the other) blog, and I don't want to deprive other people of that.

  14. You're here to break down this product and I'm here to dress it up -- two motives to the same goal of the Review, just with two different "flavours".

    Whatcha complaining about? =]

  15. you can't draw llamas worth shit. seriously that is one lameass llama, look his neck doesn't even make sense.

  16. @6:36
    I would agree that matters of taste are subjective, but I would disagree that there is no cause for criticism of art or humor. Criticism should always be backed up by objective evidence; something quantifiable you can point out to support your claim. The reader can disagree with that claim, but not the evidence. Occasionally this leads to confusion when two people disagree over something, with one person thinking it's great because of reason x, and the other thinking it's shit, also because of reason x. That is where the matter of taste comes in.

    In the case of xkcd, the recurring reasons for criticism often are things like blatant nerd-pandering (as well as GOOMHR bait), stilted or unnecessary dialog, and terrible misuse (or lack of use) of the visual medium to convey the message. Raven points out a couple of these - referencing hofstadter to appeal to his fanbase, unnecessary dialog at the end. For a more clear example of the misuse of the visual medium, look no further than the bathtub full of kidneys in 914.

    This message is getting far too long, so I'll conclude by saying that I agree with your criticism that personal attacks get in the way of honest reviews and otherwise good writing.

  17. I'm not a fan of the phrase 'GOOMH' - I don't think it actually describes any effect a comic is supposed to have, it just reminds me of Rob-era xkcdsucks reviews.

    I for one would vote against its continued use.

    But, of course, I am just one vote, and an anon vote at that. So I acknowledge that my vote counts for zero.


  18. @Duckalon: llameass llama**, I drew a LLAMASS llama. Come on, you just missed that awful opportunity.

    @Anon644: Objection noted! But this is a phrase that originates in the xkcd forums themselves, and describes a very real effect that these comics, intentionally or otherwise, has on its followers. "GOOMH Randall, I was just [etc]". Read through the individual comic threads and you get this at least once or twice unironically each time.

    @Erebus: I thought I was pretty good in avoiding the obvious "Randall is not a good enough writer, linguist, or mathematician to think about putting words into Hofstadter's mouth". Because in my case calling him weird for writing "fan fic" was such an obvious "pot calling the kettle black" that you can't really take it with ANY validity at all.

    Well, this is the internet, so I suppose you always can.