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, July 29, 2011

Comic 931: Quite the Turnoff

Title: Lanes; alt-text: Each quarter of the lanes from left to right corresponds roughly to breast cancer stages one through four (at diagnosis).

Man. Now I remember why we normally leave it up to Gamer's neckbeard to review these. Briefly: if Randall is trying to share with us his amazing insights into what cancer is like, the metaphor is clunky and useless and unhelpful; if he's trying to evoke emotion in us, the dullness of the art and writing poleaxes that; and if he's trying to make a joke he forgot to put one in. Unbriefly: read the above but pronounce all the 'a's as 'aaaaaa'.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comic 930: Like Sand Through the Hourglass

Title: Days of the Week; alt-text: Not pictured: the elongated Halley's-Comet-like orbit of every Rebecca Black lyric.

Like all of the Google comics, this one can't be said to be lazy; like all of the Google comics, it can't be said to be particularly funny or insightful either. Since Gamer_2k4 will inevitably edit this post to add some actual criticism I shall merely point out that one of the lines is "Got my period _day" and ask, why.

I suspect the results for "Wanted to kill the internet _day" would look like this:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Comic 929: It's Impossible to Speculate at This Time

Evening chumps.

Title: Speculations; alt-text: 'I was pretty good at skeet shooting, but was eventually kicked off the range for catching the clay pigeons in a net and dispatching them execution-style.'

Well, I'll say one thing for Munroe's craft - I initially thought the subject matter of the conversation had anything at all to do with the joke. More fool me, however; it is just chat to fill time and establish that they're playing catch. Which is good because if it was actually important, the fact that the guy facing right suddenly becomes the guy facing left would wrong-foot us (are some motion lines to show him turning too much to ask? Oh well).

But that's not the joke. What is the joke is that instead of catching the ball as one would be expected to do in his situation, Mr. Hat takes 'catch' to mean 'hunt, obtain' and shoots it with a crossbow (because crossbows, like Google+, are nerdy and cool)*. This is an idea which is extended in the alt-text. It isn't a particularly funny idea, but you can't have everything.

He shot the ball. So what? He's Mr. Hat, he's not the 'catch' type, he's a classy asshole, remember? This is assholish and it's, er, classy? (because it's a crossbow?) so it's in character so it must be funny. No. The alt-text is a more amusing situation - in clay pigeon shooting you are actually expected to shoot them, so his finding a circuitous way of shooting them is more amusing than completely misinterpreting the meaning of the word 'catch' - but it's not very well written (it's the juxtaposition of 'skeet shooting' and 'the clay pigeons' I don't like - think for instance of the sentence "He threw the ball at me, and I caught the orb." Orb and ball do mean the same thing, true, but the use of synonyms means the two halves of the sentence don't seem connected. So yeah I'd rewrite the alt as 'clay pigeon shooting' and 'catching the targets in a net') and in any case it comes attached to a comic that might fool you with its 'nerdy' conversation but is, in fact, incredibly slight and, incredibly, not funny.

But never mind. jpk rides to the rescue:
Maybe he just couldn't come up with a punchline. Cancer's a bitch, he's got stuff on his mind. Happens.
Sigh. Goodbye now.

*And he does it without looking, too! That's like so megacool crowning moment of awesome Mr. Hat is a BadassNormal etc etc aaaaargh killllll meeeee


Ed. Note:
I know I'm pushing this in every medium I can find (xkcdsucks, the xkcd forums, and now here), but we can't let the second panel off easy with just "the character positioning is wrong" as the criticism (though it is). The thing that gets me, as it's possibly the worst part of the comic (except the total lack of relevance between the setup and punchline), is that Randall's making an awful analogy while being completely oblivious of the fact that he just admitted to having no social life in the real world. That's our Randall!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Comic 928: On Octopiodeses

Raven has apparently committed internet suicide, so I guess I've got to do the reviews from now on. Lucky you.

Title: Mimic Octopus; alt-text: "Even if the dictionaries are starting to give in, I refuse to accept 'octopi' as a word mainly because--I'm not making this up--there's a really satisfying climactic scene in the Orson Scott Card horror novel 'Lost Boys' which hinges on it being an incorrect pluralization."

Okay, I'm going to say it right now. I don't GET this. It LOOKS like Randall drew a bunch of silhouettes and called each a "mimic octopus." Right away, that's not funny, but whatever, that's only the setup, so maybe it'll get better.


No, that can't be.


Is that REALLY the joke? That two mimic octopuses look like a single real octopus? WHY?

Look. Immediately prior, there was something that COULD'VE been funny, where you have a single octopus mimicking a whole school of fish. Humor is about exaggeration, and that might not have been a bad way to go. How would it work? Man, I don't know, maybe some guy goes to the aquarium section of the zoo, sees all sorts of sea life, and asks a zookeeper how many animals they have there. He answers "Oh, just one mimic octopus." The alt-text could be, "Actually, there are two mimic octopuses, and he just talked to the second." Is that funny? I don't know, but then again, THAT'S WHY I'M NOT WRITING WEBCOMICS.

I guess I don't understand the attempted subversion. Maybe if the final picture was captioned "Common Octopus," there could have been humor. That's a mimic, that's a mimic, that's a mimic...oh, and that's a real one. Again, I don't know; I'm not a comedian. But why do two mimics look like one normal one? I checked the forums briefly, and no one there gets it, either. Wow. Way to fail, Randall.

The alt-text really bothers me, too. The main reason you should be refusing to use "octopi," Mr. Comic-about-language, is that it's WRONG. No one cares how many nerd points you think you've scored with your stupid Orson Scott Card reference.

Seriously, Randall, get a clue. And then get a sense of humor. And some artistic ability. And a work ethic. Some social skills couldn't hurt.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Comic 927: Raven Pulls a Redux

Well, isn't this interesting. I leave for a COUPLE of days and everything freaking falls to pieces. I really can't spare the time for this post, but someone's got to do it, and that someone apparently isn't Raven. Besides, xkcdsucks is beating us (eh, me) now, and that's unacceptable.

ANYWAY, the reason that I'm taking the time to write this is because either living in Holland does crazy things to the internet, or Raven's blog is gone, Raven's profile is gone, and Raven's AdSense account that was pulling in money from this blog for sweet prizes once we announced some contests is inaccessible (it always was to me, but now I can't even ask her about it or do anything with the money). Oh, and she's also not in the "Team Members" part of the blog. (Ann Apolis still is, but I don't think she was ever going to do anything anyway).

So! Looks like I've inherited this thing. Woo. Let's take a look at xkcd, shall we?

Title: Standards; alt-text: Fortunately, the charging one has been solved now that we've all standardized on mini-USB. Or is it micro-USB? Shit.

It's Micro-USB. Idiot.

Anyway, Randall has graciously shared one of his "observations" with us lowly plebeians on the internet. As usual, it's 1) not funny and 2) wrong. One big red flag that this comic is going to suck is the subtitle: "See: A/C chargers, character encodings, instant messaging, etc." That's right, give us specific examples so that we don't say, "That's not how Blu-ray became a standard! That's not how HTML became a standard! That's not how electrical plugs became a standard! That's not how literally ANYTHING became a standard!" Oh, and air conditioners don't have chargers. Idiot.

You know how standards form? Committees and organizations come together and say, "Hey, what's a good standard for this? Oh, that is? Okay, agreed!" Or, two standards exist and some catalyst forces one into the forefront (Sony including cheap Blu-ray players in PS3s), leaving the other in the dust. Nowhere, ever, has a company come out and said "Hey, there are so many standards, so just use ours instead!" (or if they have, they failed hard and we'll never hear about them).

Let's take a look at Randall's "examples." Maybe they're the exception to the rule. AC chargers? Nope, that's just everyone saying, "There's no standard so we're just picking one we like and bundling it with the device." What's the use case for that, anyway? "Must be able to supply power to device"? Well would you friggin' look at that, EVERY POWER SUPPLY COVERS THAT USE CASE. Holy balls but Randall's stupid sometimes.

Well, surely this applies to character encoding, right? I mean, there are enough character sets out there...oh. Nope, wrong again. ASCII was the standard for 45 years, and now UTF-8 is. Was that really so hard? The reason we have so many encodings is because we have so many languages! ISO/IEC_8859-6 and ISO/IEC_8859-8 are different standards because Arabic and Hebrew are different languages with different characters sets! Of course neither culture is going to agree to use the other!

Okay, last ditch effort. Maybe instant messaging falls prey to this so-called problem? No! As with the chargers, it's just a bunch of companies with a bunch of formats. All of the standards cover all of the use cases; that's why they're still in competition. If a new standard truly did something the others didn't, it would go the way of Facebook and take over. IM clients don't do that.

All in all, this comic is just another "haha what if" strip without the awareness that that's what it is. Sure, it's a funny situation: Everyone tries to standardize things, so we have a ridiculous amount of "standards." Problem is, that's not how things work in the real world. The things that cover all the use cases ARE the standards, and everything else is just competing products.

Randall's wrong again.


And for crying out loud, Google, being in the Netherlands for three days does NOT make me Dutch! I'm logged into my Google account at all times, and you KNOW I'm an American! Stop making the first link to my searches, stop putting Blogger in Dutch, and stop trying to "help"! I can't read anything else here; at least let me look at webpages!

...Was this "feature" Randall's idea?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Comic 926: more like time LORD, amirite?

Hello you cretinous crustaceans, this is Time Raven of Time Raven fame and it looks like you're stuck with me all week because Gamer is off in Holland fixing the Dutch version of the internet, or the "Nethernet" as I believe they call it. The week following Raven's Week of Folly is an adventure in questionable decisions as we let Ann take over for the three updates between the 25th and the 29th. Alternately, if any of you feel particularly enraged kindly send a review to Gamer at gamer2k4[at]gmail[dot]com and he'll maybe post it if it's good. If no guest post appears within 36 hours, that's Ann's cue to write up a filler and/or review! I don't really care either way since I won't be interfacing with web-based technology for a good 6 sequential days.

I'll be rejoining my aquatic-based ancestors in the Deep of the oceans, preparing for the eventual re-emergence of the Dark Order to summon the Gods of Old who will bring their wrath to this World and the puny, flesh-covered Residents that call it theirs. And I guess Gamer will still be fixing the Nethernet. It's pretty damn complicated I hear. Anyways, that's our programme for the next two weeks, after which we'll resume our schedule as normal until Randall Munroe quits or my Masters decide to end Time and Life as we know it.

So, let me start by saying this. This concept is entertaining. The idea of a Time Vulture is kinda cute in a non-sensical way.

Title: Time Vulture. Tooltip: In a way, all vultures are Time Vultures; some just have more patience than others.

However, the fowl gem of brilliance is buried beneath foul refuse of verbosity. This comic is a 4.9 on the Ravenzomg scale of Wordiness™. For our British and Commonwealth readers, that's a metric shit-tonne of words for a comic that small. Note that the last three comics in reverse were a 3.5, a 2.25, and a 2.5. For even more reference, here's a series of comics from the late 800s rated by word density.

Anyways, I could spout numbers at you for ages, but the bottom line: There are too many words in this comic.

And some of them are just weird. "They live for millenia and use little energy". That's sounding really unnatural. Also the first panel, "Dude, you've got a time vulture!" "Holy crap! What is it?" ....It's a time vulture, fucknuts, he just told you. I think he means to say "What's that" or more wordily "What's a time vulture?" which would be okay given that, upon hearing about time vultures, I'd want to say "time vulture" as much as I possibly could on account of "time vulture" being a pretty cool concept. Time vulture. Or, just swap the dialogue.

Also, the punchline is pretty awful. I'm just saying, if you're going to mention the ultimate "killer", you're only setting yourself up for a macabre end, or a disappointment. Guess which we have here.

I mean, let's try this.

Open to opinion whether this punchline is better, but I hope you'll admit that the dialogue is at least slightly less painful.

And the heart of the matter: I feel like Randall has just watched a certain TV Series again, one episode in particular.

Ask any Doctor Who geek, and 90% of the time you'll get "Blink" as their favourite episode. This is how it works. The concept of an ancient creature killing you by just letting you age is pretty terrifying. Hell, out of the first three seasons it was rated the second most terrifying only behind the episode which focused on the antics of the living and original Devil.

This concept is pretty cool, and sadly it's been wasted here.

....Business as usual.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Comic 925: Carcinogenic Comic Comments

Good Evening this is Ravenzomg with another exciting review about Randall's research regarding radioactive phones!

Title: Cell Phones. Tooltip: He holds the laptop like that on purpose, to make you cringe.

So anyways, this guy named Randall Munroe made a cute joke about Causality.

Here it is:

That was back around comic 550. I'll admit to liking that one. I'll admit to being that idiot who actually repeats it sometimes. It's simple, cute, and geeky. The old school XKCD.

Now, let's look at these two comics and compare. Comic 552 is a 2.7 on the Ravenzomg scale of Wordiness™, while comic 925 is an insipid 3.5, which is a full 29% wordier per pixel.

Let me stop right here and put a milk chocolate centre of praise inside this insipid dish of flavourless grule that I like to call a "Raview". I thought this comic was pretty okay. I smiled. I did not laugh, or snicker, but I smirked.

This is good. It means that there's a cute sort of idea in here, and it's just buried beneath mounds of insipid commentary!
And that's why we're all here: Not to Destroy, but to Recover. We want the XKCD of yore back, that old gem we used to love more than anything before it was tarnished by the filthy plebeian insipid concept of humour that we shall simply call "Mediocrity". ...Well, that's why most of us are here. Some of you have serious issues that I cannot explain.

Without going into detail, yes the XKCD graph is half-accurate in that cancer incidence has been on the rise, but really that misses the point. As this shocking graph below indicates, despite cancer incidence rising, cancer deaths are actually declining. It's a USA-centric graph, but (a) look at other first world graphs and you'll see the same trends and (b)Randall lives in the insipid USA, so only deals with insipid USA issues, obviously. And that's not the point, the point is Cancer INCIDENCE. Also third world countries without access to advanced medical treatment, but please see point B regarding that one. But all the same, these cancer comics are pretty odd.

Now, I won't question his judgment regarding the high incidence of cancer-related comics lately, so I'll just assume he's as excited as we all are about this magical time of year, and he's cramming them all in before we're forced to start making Lion comics like morons. And don't even get me started on August. UGH.

Anyways, bottom line: the punchline is "lol, cancer causes cell phones". The alternative is circle-jerking retorts of, "I always knew cell phones were only marginally responsible for cancer deaths, my statistics professor high school teacher told me so after he told me to stop interrupting class with my so-totally relevant anecdotes!

So, there's thing called "Hanging a Lantern", and if I were Jon Levi I'd link to it on TV Tropes (I'm not checking but I'm sure they have an article on it), but rather than do that I'll respect your ability to either understand the term or be able to look it up. Anyways, the tooltip declares quite cheerily, "That awful design in panel 2? Intentionally awful!" to which I reply, "That's awful."

Combined with Comic 919, it's like he's purposely trolling his fan base. What's the deal with that, eh? I.... I just don't get it.

I'd like to say right now that I feel as if Randall's going to go out with a big bang, and this is just the first signs of it coming. These insipid little quirks he's shoving out are just the forerunners of a greater catastrophe (lol), namely him ending XKCD probably at comic 1000 or 1024. That's my bet anyway. We'll just have to wait and see.

Tl;Dr: Comic has a cute idea in it, but it's clunky, wordy, and insults the reader for gods-know-what reason.

I dated a Cancer once -- they're emotionally fucked up and it's impossible to get through to them in any meaningful way beyond the physical. I think this is the frustration we're supposed to take out of this comic, really.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Comic 924: Concerning Penises

No, it's not what you think. Randall has not actually drawn a penis, so the score is still (if memory serves) 2-0 in favor of female genitalia. But, even without such an inclusion, the comic still sucks. Imagine that.

Title: 3D Printer; alt-text: I just can't wait for the Better Homes and Gardens list of helpful tips for household reuse of sixteen-inch acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene phalluses.

So, 3D printing. Randall has just found out about it via Wikipedia (as evidenced by his listing of the actual material names in the alt-text to sound smart), and he thought, "Gee, how can I make this funny?" Problem is, 3D printing isn't inherently funny, so Randy has to come up with some WACKY application for it before his 12:00AM EST deadline. That didn't happen (the deadline part, anyway). Instead, we get the idea that once dildos can be made cheaply, they'll be mass mailed to everyone. REALLY?? That's where you took this, Randall? A whole world of opportunities, and that's the BEST you could come up with? Holy balls but you make my job easy sometimes.

Listen, I'm no expert on spam email. I never see it, so I could be wrong on this next point. However, I'm pretty sure that the "enlarge your penis" mails (man the ads for this post are going to be OFF THE CHAIN) are just text. "Buy this pill! Get these results!" I'm pretty sure that they don't actually give before and after example pictures. In other words, they don't rely on showing you what you could look like, and therefore wouldn't send out plastic models. Also, just because you can make something cheaply doesn't mean you can distribute it cheaply. The fact that that should go without saying just proves how stupid this idea is. If spam doesn't even contain PICTURES of enlarged penises even now, it sure as heck is never going to contain the actual thing.

If that wasn't enough, we also have the girl's (does the blond ponytail chick have a name yet? we should give her one) ridiculous "I give it a week" statement. What? Aside from the fact that her response SHOULD be "Oh my gosh. He's psycho," the sentence itself makes no sense here. Is widespread deployment of rapid prototyping machines going to take a week? If so, why didn't she say that in the first panel? If not, just what the heck does she mean? While there is in fact a point where you can say, "Okay, 3D printers have had widespread deployment now," the actual threshold is a good deal more hazy. "A week" from that hazy threshold means jack squat.

It's really the sort of line that could work if the setup was different; that is, if there had been some headline like "recent advance allows average Joe to afford a 3D printer," THEN it would make sense. There's a clear-cut, "things are different now" starting point. "Google+ has been made open to the public. How long do you think it'll be before it hits 10 million users?" "I give it a week." THAT works. This doesn't.

Oh, and the alt-text is boring and stupid and again fails to apply. Did Better Homes and Gardens ever release a "helpful tips for reusing those AOL disks" list? No? Alright then.

So, in short, Randall took an unfunny idea, pulled off a wicked non sequitur with it, and just left it at that. You know what real cartoonists do when they can't think of a funny twist on an idea? They drop it and look for something else. You know what Randy does? He thinks, "Oh balls it's 2AM, I have to upload SOMETHING," and calls it a day. Is it any wonder xkcd sucks?

P.S. Why is that guy holding a wrench? Is he building a 3D printer? Is it a model he's replicating? Who knows?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Comic 923: Elements of Fail

This is kind of a dull update for xkcd, but Randall manages to get so much wrong in a single panel and its alt-text that it's worth taking a look at.

Title: Strunk and White; alt-text: The best thing about Strunk/White fanfiction is that it's virtually guaranteed to be well written.

So, Randall's staying up late at night, racking his brain for ideas. I know this because, in my constant quest for timeliness and quality, I tried to stay up until the comic was posted so I could write a review on the spot. I gave up at 3AM. Anyway, sometime between then and the start of my work day, Randall came up with a brilliant (to him) idea: WHAT IF the people who wrote "Elements of Style" stumbled upon the internet and its often stone-age level of communication? Hilarity ensues!

Except it doesn't, at least not in Randall's inept hands. First of all, S&W's editors are NOT the police of the internet, or anything else for that matter. If I wrote "trash need to be taken out tomorrow" on a sticky note, I'm not going to step outside to find an editor sting operation in full force, ready to arrest me for my lack of subject-verb agreement. Likewise, the editors have no such compulsion to point out errors on the internet (which is a darn good thing for their sanities).

Next, of course, is the assumption that there's an official standard for fanfiction reference. I'm sure there's an UNOFFICIAL standard (Raven would probably know better than I {that's like saying there's an unofficial standard for trolling; it just does not exist and instead you have a full rainbow of unique kinds of awful =( -- R.Z.}), but I'm darn sure that you'll never find that standard in an formal writing manual. Probably, you know, because fanfiction ISN'T FORMAL WRITING.

The alt-text furthers this misconception. Since when has fanfiction ever adhered to its source material? I'm no expert, but it would not surprise me one bit if someone paired Chewbacca and Jabba the Hutt together in some awful Star Wars fanfiction. Why? Because they don't care about the source material beyond the fact that it gives them characters and a setting. Similarly, I don't think it's at all out of the question to assume that a Strunk and White fanfiction would be a miserable mess of the English language. You know how there are actual nerds, and then there are Randall's fanboys who just think they're smart but are actually complete idiots? I'm sure that there's a similar disparity between actual grammar and style geeks and the kind of tools who think they're smart but really just write Strunk and White fanfiction.

Finally, don't you think that ACTUAL "Elements of Style" editors would get their grammar right? Take a look at this sentence:

"Strunk and White" should be used for the style manual and "Strunk/White" for the erotic fan fiction pairing.

See the problem? The sentence after the conjunction is a fragment. "Strunk/White" for the erotic fan fiction pairing. isn't a complete sentence. It's missing a verb. This is the sort of mistake that proper editors of such a book WOULDN'T make, but of course, Randall would. Why bother to proofread things, and why bother to make sure your strip makes any degree of sense at all? That's for suckers who actually put EFFORT into their strips, not someone like Randall.

You know, I understand that you have to give a little leeway for humor sometimes. I know that not everything is going to be realistic, and sometimes that's what makes things funny. But that's not how Randall works! For his jokes to be "plausible" (and I use the word loosely), pretty much every aspect of the concept has to be turned on its head, and, on top of that, he gets things wrong that don't need to be gotten wrong. That's what makes this comic such a mess. I do think there's some distant potential for humor by combining style editors and the internet, but this definitely isn't it.

P.S. Looking closely at the text for errors made me realize something: Randall ALWAYS has his quotation marks backwards. Some early jumping around proved that this was a problem at least as early as #148 (incidentally, I now have a source for the retarded word "blag"). That just bugs the heck out of me. It's not just me, right? That's a stupid way to write quotes?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Comic 922: The First Rule of XKCD... that context is never an issue. Most people take issue with this.

Title: Fight Club. Tooltip: I'm not saying it's all bad, but that movie has not aged as well as my teenage self in 2000 was confident it would.

This "comic" is short and so too will be this review. Not "XKCDexplained" short, but simply put the problem here cannot be made more apparent by going of on an angry tangent full of angry ranting about angry problems, but that is not what I am here to do.

Why? Because this "comic" does not fill me with any sort of anger, rage, hatred, fury, scorn, or sense of mortality.

This "comic" is an opinion. Randall doesn't like talking about the Fight Club movie from 1999 starring such drop-dead gorgeous and stunningly talented actor(s) and actress(es) as Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Google Image doesn't seem to be working for me right now, so in lieu of sexy pictures of the aforementioned actor(s) and actress(es) here's an image from my photobucket of the Anger I cannot invoke in response to this comic.

Sexy stuff there! I can barely contain myself.

"But Ravenz", you argue, "The caption is parodying that other line everyone knows! That makes teh funniez"

The caption is a clear parody of the line from the film stating that the first rule about Fight Club (the club) is that you don't talk about Fight Club (the club). That is correct. But we're talking about turning around a phrase nearly 12 years old and doing nothing particularly original or particularly exceptional. This brings me back to my point: This is an opinion. It is an opinion -- and it is a good opinion -- that we should leave Fight Club in the past. It was a good film, but please, let's stop analyzing it. He has then proceeded to wrap the opinion in a comic roll, thus fulfilling his quota and gaining support through "Agreement Chuckles". I agree with him, but I am not chuckling. Not at all.

The generous among us would say that Randall is upset with people for talking about Fight Club (the film), thus violating the very first rule of Fight Club (the club), which is not to talk about Fight Club (the club, but in this case the film) but these people are idiots who don't understand that words and phrases can have more than one connotation and the confusion of reference is not clever, it's just idiocy.

I'm going to critique the tooltip with ungenerous detail, because it's a mix of "GOOMH!" and unexciting reiteration of the comic: phrasing awkward as hell. BLEH!

And to close things up, returning to my very first line: Void Creature 1 keeps saying, "But [such and such] was X, not Y!" which demands that Void Creature 2 (the narrator) brought up some suggestion that it WAS Y. But if he doesn't like being talked to about Fight Club, why bring up Fight Club in the first place???

Alternately, Void Creature 1 doesn't understand social behaviours and cues, so he makes assumptions about what other parties believe in order to rant and finish arguments no one started because to him this seems like a way that regular people regularly interact in a regular setting.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Comic 921: Rivendell Parcel Service

Raven said she wouldn't be able to get a review up until tonight, so, even though this comic doesn't really make me angry, I'll take over for now. I'm sure I'll find something to hate.

Title: Delivery Notification; alt-text: You can arrange a pickup of your sword in Rivendell between the hours of noon and 7:00 PM.

Wow, look at that! Color, shading, passable art in some panels? Which comic am I reading here? Oh. With the level of disconnection the guy's head has in panel 4, there's really no question. Yup, this is xkcd.

Okay, first complaint: The UPS form. I'm not sure how to feel about Randall free-handing it, since perfectly straight lines would sort of detract from the sketchy style of the rest of the comic. On the other hand, the bar code looks absolutely horrible, and there's obviously a pretty striking difference in art once we get to the elves. Okay, he should've used a freaking ruler.

Second complaint: Panels 6 and 7. This is unnecessary dialogue that exists only to set up the "elves make and deliver a sword" part of the strip. Randall SHOULD have expanded panel 5 to the end of the row, and had the guy saying, "The laptop is there. It's mine. I'm going to get it." There would be a beat, then he would say, "I'll need a weapon." That would have the bonus effect of giving more space for the sword delivery panel, which feels cramped as it is now.

Third complaint: The forging montage. It's a nice arrangement of pictures, it's looks alright (for xkcd), and it successfully conveys the feeling of narration over an otherwise wordless scene. So what could possibly be wrong with it? The text. The freaking text. The pictures provide a nice flow. So what does Randall do? He ruins the flow by cramming two sentences above the first image and leaving the last sentence until the third image. And he doesn't even get that right! The first two sentences respect the borders of their image (although I think the second sentence could be fit in two lines). But the third? It overlaps the middle panel! It looks darn ugly. A caption for one image should NOT begin over another one.

Fourth complaint: Maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but I didn't understand the last two panels on the first read. I thought the guy had come back from his trip to the UPS depot, still sans laptop, and as his roommate opens the door for him, we see that UPS tried to drop off his package again and left another note. Can you blame me? It would be funny ("ha ha look at this tool get all worked up and then have nothing come out of it"), and we wouldn't have to explain away the fact that apparently elves use the exact same notification forms as the UPS.

If you haven't gotten it yet, the actual joke is that the elves tried to drop off the sword and no one answered, so they left a note. The alt-text (done right for a change!) helps explain this. And you know what? That's kind of funny! I like that, or rather, I like the concept. It's humorous and it's backed by tolerable art. This could have been a good strip!

But of course Randall, being Randall, ruins it! He spends too much time getting to the point, and by the time we wade through the miscues of excess dialogue and badly flowing text, the punch (and the joke) feel lost. As has happened so many times before, it feels like he had an idea ("what if the elves reforging Andúril couldn't deliver it") but wasn't sure how to set it up. What he settled on wasn't bad, but it could have been better.

Case in point. I see from the xkcdsucks comments that Raven's going to disagree with me, but I really liked Anon552's edit of the strip:

Maybe it's just because the edit changes the punchline to match up with what I originally thought Randall was trying to do, who knows. On the other hand, it gets rid of an unnecessary elf sideplot, clears up the ambiguity in the punchline, and hits a lot harder and faster than Randall's version. It's what 921 should've been.

Why doesn't Randall just get an editor already?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Comic 920: YouTube, Bruté?


This is Ravenzomg with your review of this thing about this thing called "YouTube Parties" which I'm sure you are all aware of/active participants in.

Title: YouTube Parties. Tooltip: That reminds me of that video where ... no? How have you not seen that? Oh man, let me find it. No, it's okay, we can go back to your video later.

So. It's July 1st and three of us are waiting around at someone's place between "events" in the course of our National Celebration.

And I can't get this song/animation out of my head, so I suggest we look it up.

My friend then suggests, "oh, there's this 5-second film you have to see..."

Long story short, everyone thinks their interests are the shit. Everyone. And this comic communicates this idea.

This comic is like a thing that happened.


Okay, I don't want to stray into ad hominem attacks. But my complaint about this comic is the concept of "YouTube Parties". In my anecdote, we ended up watching four videos for a grand total of maybe 8 minutes before deciding to watch the pilot of a children's show from the early 2000s, and from there we ended up going downtown for various Festivities.

But he's created this idea of the "YouTube Party", where a group of people (here there are five of these Void Creatures) gather and watch videos as the Title Event. They plan it enough to turn off the lights to watch (Randall has put in the effort of shading to show us that this is, indeed, in the dark).

So this opens up two venues:
1) This "YouTube Party" is a real thing that exists, and people ARE in fact this awful and lame.
2) "YouTube Party" is a made-up thing and Randall had to create this bizarrely anti-social situation to illustrate a point that is pretty unambiguous.

I can't touch 1 without calling boring people boring, and I can't touch 2 without saying something you've all heard in 918, namely, "Why don't you understand human context".

Sooo, let's change tact.

Notice that he says "YouTube Parties" as the title, and then "titles" the comic in the image "The Problem With YouTube Parties". Now, I understand some people only get the image and not the title.

But does Randall actually need to spell it out? It's as if he's afraid we won't "get it", and it's honestly the sort of redundant condescension that borders on "irritating".

Is there any ambiguity about the setting here? There's a group of people around a laptop; a bottle and glass are on the table; the first figure mentions that they're watching [or will watch] a "video", and the punchline takes off from there. The fact that it may or may not be a "YouTube Party" is just needless name-dropping baggage, especially given that YouTube is the third most popular website on the internet and when people below the age of 30 say "video" in connection with a computer, you probably think "YouTube" [minus the Party] all on your own.

Randall used to get the idea.

Don't let the presence of a human-ish figure fool you, this was comic#46. He didn't put on a caption "The problem with being Emo" or whatever, he let it stand on its own and make its statement!

The tooltip just elaborates on the joke in a slightly different way, but a) that's par for the course and b) the tooltip, if unoffensive, is basically a "freebie" anyways.

So all in all, he has nice potential in this comic, but he's SMOTHERING IT. There is a talented man in there somewhere, and he I still believe deep down that he just needs an editor to help him escape.