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).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Comic 945: You're Sorry Alright, Randall

Sorry this is late. I didn't have too much to say about this comic, so I was kind of hanging back and exploring my other options. Incidentally, the original blog only beat this one because the person I contacted about guest posting ignored me and sent a review to Rob instead. Go figure. Luckily, I got some xkcd Sucks Less submissions in the meantime (see the news at the top of the page), so one of them is going to pad this review.

Title: I'm Sorry; alt-text: You know I've always hated her.

Honestly, when I first saw this strip, I kind of chuckled a little. I don't believe this situation has every happened to me (at least, not recently), but I understand the premise and I'm well aware that the issue exists. This isn't Randall making up a straw man like he usually does.

Still, that's not to say that this comic is perfect. My first thought was that this would make a decent "My Hobby" comic, but I couldn't think of a way to condense the caption to do so. However, one "Schnouk" sent me an improvement that I honestly think makes the comic perfect: a rare (hypothetical) gold star for Randall. I'll save that for the next xkcd Sucks Less feature.

In the meantime, here's another "improvement" he passed along to me.

Would xkcd be better with faces? It would be more terrifying, certainly. However, in all seriousness, perhaps it's the facelessness that makes me so apathetic about each new strip. Even if I can relate to them, they're little more than text. Expressionless stick figures can very nearly fade away into invisibility, leaving the (often too numerous) words to be the entire comic.

Eh. Enough musing. Long story short, I kind of liked this comic, but it could have been SO much better. Stay tuned for Sunday's installment of xkcd Sucks Less to see how.

P.S. To make up for this late review, I've got a special post that I'll be putting up on Saturday. It's going to overshadow bingo a little bit, but I think it'll be worth it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Comic 944: Hurricane Lames

Title: Hurricane Names; alt-text: After exhausting the OED, we started numbering them. When overlapping hurricanes formed at all points on the Earth's surface, and our scheme was foiled by Cantor diagonalization, we just decided to name them all "Steve". Your local forecast tomorrow is "Steve"

Hey guys, did you know that funny == random? Randall sure does! Just throw in some words like "eggbeater" (itself HILARIOUS, provably hilarious) and call it a day! Why waste time with a joke when you can just say, "Oh man, if there were too many hurricanes, the naming conventions would break down and suddenly become WILD AND WACKY"?

To be fair to Randall, Hurricane Irene is still around, so he's at least topical this time. (More like TROPICAL, right? Tropical storm? ...Guys?) Given his past record, I honestly would've expected a comic like this to show up sometime in December. Guess he's improving.

However, that doesn't excuse the flaw mentioned above, or the secondary flaw of just being too darn wordy. Happily, he's buried most of the superfluous text in the alt-text, because by the time you've finished reading through it, the joke has been murdered and dismembered. It's dead. It's like saying, "Why did the hamster cross the road? Because it was tied to the chicken! Ha! Haha! ...You see guys, this particular hamster had been the subject of an awful twine accident involving an underpaid farmhand, a jug of moonshine, and an excess of free time. It all began when..."

Great, we get it. It's not funny anymore. Just tell the joke and call it good, Randall. Quit while you're ahead (or at least not so far behind).

P.S. I've already received one "xkcd Sucks Less" submission for this strip, and, as expected, it does indeed suck less. Great! Keep them coming, people! If you've got an improvement to a particular comic, just email it to me or post it in a comment.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

xkcd Sucks Less, Week 2

Hello everyone, and welcome to the second installment of "xkcd Sucks Less." Unfortunately, Randall did a decent enough job on Monday that no simple correction could improve it, so there are only two edits this week. More unfortunately still is the fact that no one took the initiative to alter comics on their own, so you're left with my dubious improvements. Seems we're off to a rocky start, but oh well.

Comic 942: Juggling


This comic is stupid and has no point and no joke. Enough said.

"Sucks Less" Version:

This version isn't funny, but at least it makes sense. A jedi force-grabs a book about juggling, thinks "I can do better," and does so. Is it funny? Nope. Is it smart? Not one bit. Is it nerd pandering? Sadly, a little. And yet, it's still better than Randall's version.

Comic 943: Empirical


I kind of liked this one, but it really rubbed me the wrong way that the girl is proposing to the guy. As I said in my review, that just doesn't happen. It would be like Randall wearing a dress to promote gender equality. It's just not right.

"Sucks Less" Version:

A few cuts and pastes and the issue is fixed.

So, Week 2 comes and goes not with a bang, but a sputter. If you want to see this do better, try your hand at some corrections! I'm only one man, but I know there's a whole xkcd-hating community out there. Let's help this thing take off!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Comic 943: MAWWAIGE

Title: Empirical; alt-text: I'm as surprised as you!

Gee, this strip is small. It almost makes me wonder if it was a reused "five minute comic" like the juggling one was. When was the last time (besides 942) that you saw an xkcd only 144 pixels high? At any rate, I'm going to assume that this IS a five minute comic until proven otherwise.

This reminds me of the old xkcd, when it really WAS about "romance, math, sarcasm, and language." Empiricism is admittedly more in the realm of science than math, but if we let that slide, then this strip hits three of the four "classic criteria" (romance because of the marriage, language because of the analysis of "I will"). It's short, it's tight, it gets in and out and makes kind of a nerdy joke. I admit it, this strip isn't too bad. See what happens when you don't overthink your comics, Randall? (Oh who am I kidding; when has he ever spent more than five minutes on a strip?)

My main issue with this comic is that the woman is proposing to the man. That doesn't really happen. This isn't even like showing a female professor or a female CEO or something like that, which is a rarer but not unheard of occurrence. This, on the other hand, is more akin to a woman buying a man an engagement ring. It's just WEIRD. Randall is clearly going out of his way to "empower" women, and, as usual, he just ends up looking like kind of a dunce.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

xkcd Forums Bingo: Weeks 12 & 13

Welcome, all. Bingo is now even better than ever! I've added new squares and taken some away where they didn't make sense. More about that later, but first, let's look at a semitransparent overlay of the last few dozen bingo cards, so we can see which squares are more popular.

As you can see, there is a skew towards the left hand side. I've fixed that in the new score card, giving a much more even distribution. However I couldn't help but fix a whole lot of other things.

I changed the numbering system from 1-5 and A-E. Now it is B-I-N-G-O and 1-5. This is apparently how a real bingo card works. Thanks to Anon 10:58 for letting me know that.

Here is the new bingo card:

The old 'feminism' square (C4) is gone. It hasn't been used since comic 896. It had to go. B5 and D1 have been merged together to become B4 on the new grid. There was too much overlap between them anyway.

I've introduced new squares for 'Maths/physics' and 'Language/grammar' (G2 and I2 respectively). They are a staple of long discussions, which forumites often get sidetracked into. As the thread grows longer, the probability of one of them being mentioned approaches one.

In return we lose D4, which is now covered almost entirely by 'Language/grammar'. Likewise, B1 has been replaced with I1. The difference is that it now doesn't require forumites to say which bit made them laugh. Simply stating that the comic made them laugh is enough to win the square. Another entirely new square is I4.

Various other squares have been renamed to make them clearer, but their meanings remain the same. Here is a list:
A4 -> G4
C2 -> O3
D3 -> B2 (I only added a pronoun.)
D5 -> G3
E5 -> G5

You'll notice I've also included important information at the top of the score card - comic number, title and the number of squares it ticked (in case you can't count them).

And now without further ado, here are the scores!

933 - Tattoo
Yes! The new score card worked. BINGO! It could have almost been a double bingo. Let's examine it, shall we.

O1 (Disagreeing with the science) - given by Kirby, with the assumption that electrons travel at the speed of light. Protip: they don't. Aaargh, I just said 'protip', aaargh.

O2 (Not funny, but made me think.) - this thread had heaps of it, being the thread for a cancer comic and all. If I had to single out one reply, it would be this. Note that he signed up just to say that, but it doesn't actually count for B1 unless he says that as well.

O3 (Reminds me of another comic.) - thanks, Eternal Density. The comic in question was Shortpacked.

O4 (Red moderator text) - used by SecondTalon in order to prevent the thread from sidetracking into a discussion about circumcision. I wish I was joking.

O5 (Explaining the joke) - thanks, ConMan. She is totally talking about her cancer!

Other squares of interest:

B4 - this guy was hoping for a DnD reference.

I2 - how typical of xkcd forumites to get sidetracked by the pluralization (or lack thereof) of'bicep'. I'm sure this will be a popular square.

N2 - this post (related to the physics argument) clocks in at 757 words. This one beats it with 884 words.

I5 - this post is hilarious, in that it refers to the xkcd forum 'a forum for cancer'.

934 - Mac/PC

Our new I4 square makes its first appearence, here. In this case it was regarding the alt text, specifically the idea of having xmonad as a Firefox extension. G5 and O5 were also related to the alt text. I1 also makes its debut here. And a few people made the point that we don't do everything through a browser (well, Randall does) so we get a healthy dose of O1.

935 - Missed Connections

Eh, not much to say here. On a comic like this, it's inevitable that G5 and O5 will make their appearence. At least from reading the thread I actually understood what the frick it means. (Frick you, spellchecker, frick is a word!)

936 - Password Strength

This is one of those comics where the discussion is about the issues raised, rather than the comic itself. Usually these are low scorers for bingo. But we sure were bound to find something in those ten pages. I2 and G2 make their second simultaneous appearance, even though people stayed mostly on topic with them.

We had N2 with this 933-word post. And yes, someone actually wanted a shirt with 'correct horse battery staple' written on it (G3).

937 - TornadoGuard

We had I3 in all its glory here, with "I declare thee the winner in the thread-starting race." I really thought that square would be more popular, but I've only ever had it a few times. Fairly short discussion though, barely two pages.

And with this post, we are caught up with the bingo schedule for now. The next regular post will be next weekend.

Comic 942: Boomerang Comics, sans Boomerang

Oh man, you guys, remember when Randall made those boomerang comics? Remember how wacky and wild it was that those CRAZY boomerangs never did what you expected them to? Ha ha ha, oh man, good times.

Oh wait. Remember how those were actually complete garbage? Randall doesn't, because he's exploring the concept again.

Title: Juggling; alt-text: Later: 'Why is there a book hovering over the trash can?'

The best thing I can say about this is that Randall shows instead of telling. There are no words to speak of, and that's a HUGE improvement for him. Unfortunately, that's really all this strip has going for it. The strip is nonsensical with no point at best, and at worst it's a lazy attempt by an untalented hack of a cartoonist to cash in on the apparent success of his retarded boomerang strips.

Just look at this. A guy reads a book about juggling, throws balls into the air, and they STAY there. That's the joke. The post punchline? The book also hovers when he tries to throw it away. Wow. THIS is what passes for "romance, sarcasm, math, and language" these days?

It's interesting to note that, according to the xkcd forumites, this strip was part of the "five minute comics" page Randall posted last Friday before realizing, "Hey wait, I have an actual joke that I can write about instead." Too bad he didn't. Regardless, do you know what this means? It means that this was truly sketched out in five minutes, and Randall decided that that was all the effort it took. I joke a lot about how he doesn't spend any time on his strips, but apparently that's the truth after all. This literally had so little effort put into it that Randall felt he had to bundle it in a single update with a bunch of other half-hearted strips, because it couldn't stand on its own. I guess now it can stand on its own.

Or not.

P.S. Apparently Randy has never read the "How to Juggle" book, because if he had, he'd know that you don't juggle by throwing several balls into the air at the same time. You toss up one, then when it's coming down you toss up another so that you can catch it in the hand the second ball was in. Repeat with the third ball and the other hand. A double-handed throw of all the balls would just be stupid.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Comic 941: Perceived Depth

Title: Depth Perception; alt-text: I've looked at clouds from both sides now.

Well, credit to Randall for putting in a good deal of effort this time. The ideas presented are pretty decent ones, the cloud art is exceptional, the glasses diagrams are reasonably well done, and he illustrates the text, instead of just relying on walls and walls of words. Of that, I approve, Randall. Good show.

Now, it's possible that the first and last panels were actual photographs run through a filter. But, the fact that there's doubt (in my mind, anyway) is indeed high praise for the king of the stick figures. I believe he legitimately drew those in colored pencil, and dang if it doesn't look good. Of course, the next question is, if Randall is such an excellent artist, why the heck does he draw stick figure comics? It's just lazy, IMO, but I suppose it's the model that works for him.

Regardless. For the most part, this is a good collection of information. I question some parts of it (which I'll get to later), but overall, it seems alright. However, as you may have noticed, there's no joke. None at all. Now, that's a good deal better than Randall trying to make a joke and failing (which is usually the case), but still, it shouldn't be a comic update. It should go in Randall's (presently imaginary) picto-blag.

For the uninitiated, the picto-blag is a hypothetical section of the xkcd site proposed by Carl "Ugly" Wheeler (the original owner of the original xkcdsucks). It was a proposition that all updates that contain interesting information that Randall's clearly put a good deal of thought and effort into should be consolidated in one blog, rather than taking the place of xkcd. Randall could talk about the concept (because I'm admittedly a little hazy on it) and use these illustrations to go along with it. After all, Randall's not necessarily a dumb guy; he's just not very good at making webcomics.

So much for the picto-blag. However, there are several issues with the strip itself; some are simple disagreements I have with it, and some are odd assumptions (or at least wording) on Randall's part. First of all, yes, it's very hard to get a feel for the true scale of clouds. The difficulty is that there's no "outside-the-box" way to think about them. They're big masses of water vapor, and that's that. Water vapor is water vapor, and it looks the same close up as it does far away.

However, stars are a completely different matter. I tried searching Google Images for some pictures of a clear night sky, but photos simply don't do it justice. If you're out in the middle of nowhere, on a clear night, and you look straight up, the sheer scale of the cosmos envelops you. It's not a painting on a domed ceiling; it's the very definition of infinity, drawing you in until you're lost in its wonder. Why? Because you KNOW that those bright points are planets and suns and perhaps even galaxies. They're not just formless water vapor. There's deep significance to every single point of light, and they're all unimaginably distant. You don't "snap back" until you look at ground. You can't.

The second problem with the strip is the last panel and how it goes against what's being described. Obviously, an improved sense of scale can't be conveyed with a drawing (assuming the technique Randall's describing actually works). But if you're going to try, don't show a guy walking among the clouds! By placing him among them, you ruin the notion of "mountains drifting by." At that point; the clouds aren't mountains; they're suds in an especially soapy bubble bath.

Add to that the fact that no matter how far away the cameras are from each other, they'll never show you what the tops of clouds look like. In other words, the alt-text is meaningless, at least in the context of this strip. The only way to see clouds from both sides is to get above them. Have you done that, Randall? If so, congratulations; you've been in a plane. Welcome to transportation. But of course, that's largely irrelevant to this strip.

Well, look at all that text. Who know that a comic that didn't make me angry could nevertheless cause me to write a 700 word essay? It just goes to show that comics like this can really make you think, and again, credit to Randall for that. Obviously, I had a couple of nitpicks (that's my job, after all), but for the most part, this strip is far and away the best Randall's done in a while. I'm impressed.

P.S. It's worth noting that you DO get a sense of the true scale of clouds when you're flying above and through them, because now the backdrop is the (tiny) landscape below you. Even if you couldn't see that, the fact that clouds are all around you and towering over you even though you're at 35,000 feet is enough to give you pause. If you want to get a feel for how massive clouds truly are, don't hang a smartphone from your glasses. Fly.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

xkcd Sucks Less, Week 1

Hello all. Starting this week, and hopefully continuing every following Sunday, I'm going to have a feature called "xkcd Sucks Less." The reason? Well, a lot of the time, the worst of xkcd only happens because Randall can't be bothered to edit his work. The goal of this feature is to show just how vastly xkcd can be improved with only a few small edits.

Comic 939: T-Cells


WORDS. Words words words words words. There's way too much dialogue here, and it's all unnecessary.

"Sucks Less" Version:

xkcdsucks commenter uncapitalised posted this improvement. Same punchline, but a much bigger impact. Also, if the reader doesn't understand, Randall could've linked to the relevant article in the alt-text. Everyone wins.

Comic 939: Arrow


This one just doesn't make sense. It only "works" as a reference to an older strip, and since that strip sucked, this one also falls flat.

"Sucks Less" Version:

Ravenzomg (of Ravenzomg fame!) posted this improvement in her review of Comic 939. Now there's a legitimate subversion of expectations; the boomerang doesn't return, but the arrow does. Does it destroy the original point? Sure. And yet, nothing of value was lost.

Comic 940: Oversight


I can handle sex-based humor. That's not the problem. However, I DON'T want to see stick figures humping each other like no tomorrow. No one needs that.

"Sucks Less" Version:

Would you look at that! Same joke, less stick-sex! Forumite jpk suggested this one, and I made the edit. Notice how much better it is, from both a pacing perspective and a LESS STICK-SEX perspective?

So that's that. I'd like to keep doing this feature, so if you think you can improve a particular strip, be sure to let me know in the comments section. I know the original xkcdsucks blog had an "xkcd: could be better" forum, but it hasn't had any activity in half a year. I'm going to try to be a little more punctual than that, so if you have any submissions, let me know!

Friday, August 19, 2011

xkcd Forums Bingo: Week 11

I'm back from Iceland with more bingo. You know I couldn't ever leave you guys.

930 - Days of the Week
This comic had a pretty good dose of C1, as a lot of people criticized the graph for being hard to read. But we all know it would have been better with a Happy Days reference for B5. Remember it's people like this that make xkcd the reference-overdosed train-wreck that it is. The comic was clear poster bait, so it's not surprising we get D5 from here (actually quite a rare square). But wait! I think this takes the cake for A2:

The data is discrete and not continuous, it makes no sense to even think of displaying it in a polar chart - even if you wanted to view the data as a continuous progression on distinct days, you would have to allow for the fact at some Thursday "A" is not identical to some Thursday "B", even though they are the same "day", in the same manner by which sin(tau) is equal to sin(2*tau), despite the latter representing a different point around a circle.

931 - Cancer Cancer Cancer
Yeesh, I've never seen a comic with a stronger B4 vibe. To say this comic made a lot of people sad is an understatement. In fact one person signed up just to say it (B2). Someone thought that "out of the woods" might be a Firefly reference (B3) Some people even wanted a "Fuck cancer" shirt (D5).

This is a bit ridiculous. You don't have to be an cancer survivor to post in the comic's thread, y'know:
I do feel a little silly posting in this thread. I don't have cancer. None of my family has had cancer. I am 'mundane' as it were.

This is somewhat disturbing:
So let me join in the resounding chorus of, "Fuck cancer." Fuck it in the face. Then flip it over and fuck it again.

This gave us the rare C5 square:
If only there was some way in which everyone could just pay an amount of money into the healthcare industry, so those that need medical help can do so without having to pay insurmountable fees!

As you can see, I've added to the score card my own tasteful tribute to the sentiment expressed in this comic. I even wrote it in the blood of my enemies. That counts for something, right?

932 - CIA
A wind-down after the last comic. The thread itself only reached two pages.

Comic 940: Randall has Sex

Hey, guys, did you know about this thing called sex? Apparently not only can it be a decent workout, but Randall does it!

Oh, I'm sorry. Was that too much information? WELL TOO FREAKING BAD.

Title: Oversight; alt-text: I felt so clever when I found a way to game the Fitocracy system by incorporating a set of easy but high-scoring activities into my regular schedule. Took me a bit to realize I'd been tricked into setting up a daily exercise routine.

There's a lot wrong with this strip. A lot. You might not notice because of all the STICK FIGURE SEX SCENES (which, as helpful forumite jpk points out, are completely unneeded for the joke), but the failure goes beyond that. Unsurprisingly, it's all in the first three panels.

Okay, I get that Randall needed a wall if he wanted to depict himself making out against one, but make it consistent! Suddenly transitioning to a white void in the second, third, and fifth panels feels odd after seeing such lovingly detailed perspective in the first.

Next on the nitpick list are the setting issues. Why is the book on the floor where it is? Was he reading next to the wall? Who does that? Second, if Randall's checking out a cardio fitness program, he's probably looking to lose a few pounds. Doesn't that make it a bad idea to stand (with a lot of quick motion, in fact) on the very edge of a chair like that? (It does; I've just done some field testing to confirm.) Or...oh snap! Maybe Megan is just REALLY FAT, so the chair stays anchored in place! Clever, Randall, drawing your stalker target as a stick figure so that we can't see the true extent of her obesity. Finally, where the heck is that swing hanging from? Just how high are Randall's ceilings?

Anyway, that's it for the comic itself. However, in this next part, I'm just going to whine about fat people in general (specifically Randall), so if you're in said camp, go ahead and skip this section.

Look. Fat people. Stop trying to cheat the freaking system. You don't need to "level up," you don't need some retarded invite-only social network, and anything "easy" is not going to be high-scoring unless the system is broken. You want to lose weight? EAT LESS. EXERCISE MORE. It's darn simple. Go running, take up a sport (even something simple like club volleyball), cut out the fat and empty carbs from your diet, lift weights, whatever; just DO IT.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Comic 939: Brick Joke

Or, Alt-Text: The Works of a Man Who Sucks at Movie Titles. A man who can't see a joke when it's right in front of his face, COMING FROM HIS OWN THOUGHTS.

Title: Arrow; alt-text: 'The Return of the Boomerang' would make a great movie title.

No, Randall. No, it wouldn't make a great movie title. BUT IT WOULD MAKE A GREAT FREAKING TITLE FOR THIS COMIC, YOU HACK! Look! You have this idea, and in the right context - THIS context - it would work for something! You have a TRIPLE meaning here and you just threw it into the alt-text! What's wrong with you?

1) The comic is about a returning boomerang.
2) The comic is a return to the boomerang comics.
3) "Return of the..." is a common title that you'd be parodying.


There's no avoiding it: This comic is awful. It's what Jon Levi would call a Brick Joke; way the heck back in Comic 475, a guy threw a boomerang and it never came back. Where did it go? Well, ladies and gentlemen, here it is. Isn't Randall smart?

Well, no, no he isn't. The original boomerang strips were so bad that they triggered one of Carl's angriest rants. This one is no better. I'm not even going to give him credit for keeping the word count down, because UNNECESSARY DIALOGUE SHOULD NOT BE AN ISSUE FOR A SEASONED CARTOONIST. The last strip put him in some serious debt that he's not going to be out of for a while anyway, so screw that.

So what's the joke here? Simple: There is no joke. There is a reference to an older strip, and referential humor is not humor at all. Remember how everyone was all "The cake is a lie!" when Portal came out? Remember how it wasn't funny? Remember why? It's because simply quoting or otherwise referencing something and not adding into it means you're doing jack in the way of humor. Randall's no stranger to doing jack in the way of humor (counting this post, we've reviewed 27 strips, and 11 of those have had the no joke tag), but somehow, that hasn't ceased ticking me off yet.

There's really not much more to say than that. A guy shoots an arrow and a boomerang comes back. He acts surprised. Why? Was he expecting an arrow to return instead? Did the arrow turn into a boomerang midway through its flight? Did it just drop out of the sky? WE'LL NEVER KNOW. All we know is that a guy shoots an arrow (not a joke) and catches a boomerang (not a joke). That makes it WORSE than the original boomerang strips, which were already all kinds of bad. At least there, the punchlines (something wacky returning, or nothing at all returning) were set up by a guy throwing a boomerang and expecting it back by the last panel. This doesn't even have a setup.

Look. Randall. Referencing old strips that weren't funny will not make you funny. It's a sign of laziness. It's a sign of a poor (non-existent?) sense of humor. It's a sign that you're a freaking hack.

Stop writing drawing posting this garbage.

P.S. Prolific commenter UndercoverCuddlefish notes on the other hate blog:

honestly what makes a brick joke entertaining is the sense of looking back and realizing that the comedian planned for the punchline well in advance

there is a sort of enjoyable release associated with being outwitted by the comedian as the punchline to the brick joke arrives mere moments after you completely forget about the setup

this shit is not even close to comparable

He goes on to make some more decent points, so take a look at the link. I should get him to write guest reviews.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Comic 938: WORDS (about cancer, what else)

Okay, I am seriously about to blow a fuse here. Randall, LEARN HOW TO SET UP A JOKE. This is not freaking rocket science (even though you should be the expert on that anyway, right, NASA boy?) Here's a tip. If you have to cram 120 words into three panels before you can get to the punchline (which, on the Ravenzomg scale of Wordiness™, means you'll probably need a bigger scale), you're doing something way, way, way wrong. I mean, just look at this freaking thing!

Title: T-Cells; alt-text: 'We're not sure how to wipe out the chimeral T-cells after they've destroyed the cancer. Though I do have this vial of smallpox ...'

What is this, Subnormality? Randall, we get it. You read an essay on leukemia (which, according to one forumite, is here, because it's next to impossible to read Randall's "citation" in the strip), and it's all relevant to your personal troubles and speaks to you and whatever the heck cancer articles do for you. That doesn't mean you have to write an essay of your own in response! Yes, okay, you get one point for being current this time (only five days removed!). However, your execution gets about 15 negative points, so you're well below breaking even. By the time you've given me the context for the joke, I don't care about the joke anymore. Here's hoping it was funny.

Oh. The joke is, "It sounds like you're putting something bad in me to protect me from something worse. Are you really a doctor?" Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that what vaccination is? Furthermore, the doctor's response is, "Almost definitely," which is just such a load of BS. "Hey, this sounds wacky!" Randall thinks. "Surely anyone crazy enough to suggest it would be so nuts that they wouldn't even know if they're a real doctor or not!" Except, apparently smarter people than Randall have studied this and decided it's worth a shot. In other words, he's talking out of his butt and making fun of things that he doesn't understand. Just a day in the life, right?

I don't really know much about this, so instead of shooting my mouth off about it (like some WEBCOMIC AUTHORS), I'll just quote someone who seems to be clued in to this; namely, xkcd forumer BlueLabel.

I'm sorry but I was pretty disappointed with this comic. I get that Mr. Munroe is probably not a specialist in genetics methodology but lentiviral transduction is a standby technique in biological/life science labs. A perfunctory review of modern gene therapy approaches couldn't possibly overlook this technique. It's a shame that it's been so grossly mischaracterized here. Usually the science jokes turn on the readers' understanding of the concept being discussed - here it's only funny if the reader is ignorant of the technique.

Just to clarify, there is nothing new or novel about using modified retrovirus to deliver genetic material to human cells. This is an incredibly common lab protocol. I was transducing glioma cell lines as an undergrad. That this is what's been highlighted as the innovative aspect of this research is rather shocking to me.

I've bolded a rather important part of that quote. See that? In his webcomic for nerds, Randall is banking on his audience's ignorance. Now, that's not really a surprise if you understand what xkcd truly is. It hasn't REALLY been for nerds since the early days, when he was talking about taking Fourier transforms of cats. More recently, it's just been a big wank-fest for people who think they're nerds but are really just a bunch of antisocial toolbags. But hey, whatever pays the bills, right? Who else is going to buy a T-shirt with nothing but a stick figure on it (FOR FORTY-TWO DOLLARS), just so they can feel like part of some exclusive group?

Okay, in all this ranting, I haven't gotten around to commenting on the alt-text yet. Surprisingly, it's well done. It furthers the joke without being required for the joke, and doesn't explain it or anything like that. Randall gets one more point for that. Unfortunately, his total is still -13. But hey, sub-par is what we've come to expect from this comic, and it hasn't let us down.

P.S. For those of you who don't read comment threads on older posts here, Jon's going to be a bit late with bingo. Something about falling into Eyjafjallajökull or something.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Comic 937: Bland but not Bad

Sorry this is late. I tried writing something as soon as the comic went up, and nothing came to me. I tried again about noon, and still nothing came to me. This third attempt is going to be garbage, but at least it'll give you guys somewhere to comment (if you so choose).

Title: TornadoGuard; alt-text: The bug report was marked 'could not reproduce'.

Well, at least this comic is better than I initially gave it credit for. I thought that the strip was saying, "This app could have had a perfect rating, but some jerk rated it down for some stupid reason." It reminded me of a much older, much better strip. Luckily, on second glance, it turns out Randall's saying just the opposite, so props for that I guess.

Unfortunately, that leaves us with problem that seems to be quite common with xkcd: for a "comic," there's absolutely no joke. It's also what makes it so hard to criticize. The art is passable, the point is a good one, and Randall didn't try to make a joke, so I can't say anything about the lack of humor.

I'm not going to criticize for the sake of criticism; otherwise, this blog begins to lose its credibility. So, good job today, Randall? I guess? You managed to put up something that, while bland, didn't actually suck. Huzzah.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

xkcd Forums Bingo: Week 10

Bingo is early this week, because we're still catching up. Looks like the forums are picking up some momentum now that the link is back. Yay!

Uhhh... they spent far more time talking about universal standards than about the comic. But this one was the most bingo-friendly we've had yet since I rebooted bingo. I even got the rare B4 square from this post. Note that there's one comic in the near future that's certainly going to get B4. Can you guess which one?

I swear I should have added a square for 'Grammar', since they spent half the thread talking about the correct pluralization of 'octopus'. I'm counting that anyway for D4. My favourite was 'octoplural'. Someone did it right though:

"I conclude that "octopi" is a valid plural, except on the xkcd forums, or anywhere else where it will provoke hours long discussions on pluralization."

I feel a bit redundant saying bingo, since it's already written on the image, but 'BINGO!' Yay!

Here's a rundown of the scoring squares:

E2 - Found it in the first post (it was being humorous though).


A2 - In this post by Joee, half of the dynamic duo that is Glasnt and Joee.

"How is the ball still inflated with a arrow through it?
Yes, this is seriously the first thing that went through my mind"

C2 - I know this one is a bit dubious, but he basically saying that it reminds him of the other Google+ comic.

"Randall must really want us to join Google+. Not the first comic about it."

B2 - He signed up just to explain the joke (A1). For what it's worth the explanation was utter garbage.

"Alright I got a little annoyed that no one's got the main part of this joke so I joined.
The "thunk" sound is the old IRC message recieved tone. BHG is sending them an IRC message to say "I still use it, and it still gets my message accross"."

D2 - Thank you, adanedhel728, for your rant about Facebook, clocking in at 589 words (the quote isn't counted). Exerpt below.

"Now... All of that being said.... The only reason I even came to the forum was to point out that "thunk" was a surprisingly good sound effect."

I hope you've enjoyed bingo this week. Thank you and goodnight!

Comic 936: Short and Bitter

This is going to be a short post, partly because I'm tired and partly because there's not much to say about the comic. Really, it's times like this that I was Raven didn't quit the blog in her rather...ignoble manner, so someone else could take strips like this. Oh well.

Title: Password Strength; alt-text: To anyone who understands information theory and security and is in an infuriating argument with someone who does not (possibly involving mixed case), I sincerely apologize.

This isn't good comic material, but it might just be good picto-blag material. It's kind of interesting information (whether it's accurate or not, I can't say), and it's clear that this is something that Randall likes and that he's willing to put some effort into. It's not funny, but he's not going for funny, so we'll let that go this time.

The caption is misleading, simply because for most of those twenty years, passwords that were hard to remember were also hard to crack. However, aside from that, the only real gripe I have with this strip is the know-it-all attitude Randall has about all this. The second parenthetical sentence in the second panel feels (to me) like his "Yes, centrifugal." remark in strip 852. It's just another way of saying, "I know what you're thinking, stupid plebeian reader, and I'm way ahead of you." And in the alt-text, when he says "To anyone who understands information theory and security," I can just hear the unspoken "like ME" after it. Yes, we know, Randall. Not everyone has the same domain of knowledge as you. Get over it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Comic 935: Randall's List

I know that by putting this review up so soon after Jon's bingo post might hide it from people, so, if you're into xkcd fora bingo, take a look here. It's good stuff.

And now, onto today's comic.

Title: Missed Connections; alt-text: The Street View van isn't going to find out anything Google won't already know from reading my email.

Hmm...this looks kind of familiar. Where have I seen this before...

Oh. Right. Comic 886.

You know, that one was bad, but it still was better than this one. Comic 886 came from a time when Randall was too lazy to use a ruler to draw lines, but at least attempted to recreate the search fields on Craigslist. Guess that's too much work these days.

Anyway, this comic has -

No, hold on, I can't let this go yet. This is a LIST COMIC. "Drawing" it involved ONLY writing. How do you not have the time to make the header look tolerable? What is this? How LAZY do you have to be to make a comic like this, look at it, and think, "Yeah, that's probably good"? It's shorter than the apartments one as well, with exactly half the entries. Come on, Randall, if you can't give us quality, as least give us quantity. Make it look like you put SOME effort into your strip.


This comic has some wicked show-don't-tell issues; that is, Randall thinks of an arguably "humorous" interaction, and writes it down. Do we get to see it? Do we get context? Do we get a setup? No, no, and no. Although, to be fair, when Randall does start with a punchline and nothing else, he generally destroys it in trying to cram in a hastily written setup. Because of that, some might say this is an improvement. Unfortunately, a 60 is an improvement from a 50, but they're both still failing grades. An improvement from Randall at this point means jack squat.

Furthermore, the way I understand it (I've never used Craigslist), people use the "Missed Connections" section not just for the literal documenting of a missed connection, but also because they want to meet the person again. Why would a person avoiding a car accident care about hooking up with the driver? Why would a husband need to use this to MEET HIS WIFE? How would the wishing well killer EVER get a response? Everyone who goes there is a silhouette to him! Half of these don't even make sense.

Then of course there are the "lol google knows about you" jokes that aren't really funny. I thought I remembered some recent (but not THAT recent) commentary on Google reading emails, so I did a quick search. The oldest relevant article (on the front page!) is from 2007. Google Street View? Released the same year. It would be one thing if these privacy concerns are fresh, but they're not. All the jokes about Google's ubiquitousness have been done.

The only possible excuse I can think of for these constant dated references is that Randall has a big stack of ideas he's written long ago in case he can't think of something. But, as that's clearly not the case, I guess we can just chalk it up to Randall being a lazy, out of touch sham of a webcartoonist.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

xkcd Forums Bingo: Weeks 7,8,9

Bingo is back, by the popular demand of SEVEN people (unless those two anons were the same person... whatever). For those unfamiliar with the format, each comic has a thread on the xkcd 'fora'. I read the thread for each comic and mark off a square for every time the forumites say a certain thing. At the end of every week I, do the three comics from the previous week. However, this week we're catching up by doing nine comics.

I swear they're never usually this disappointing. In 924 they just sidestepped the comic and spent the thread talking about 3D printers. This just must have been a dull period on the forums, since the forum link was gone for a while. It's back as of 927. Expect more action here next week!

All the old score cards can still be found here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Comic 934: Browser? I Hardly Knew 'Er!

So, you've all probably met our newest writer, Jon Levi. I had initially asked him to move his bingo posts over here to sort of consolidate the anti-xkcd content, but I see he's decided to go ahead and post a guest review. Don't worry; joke reviews like that will never replace actual ones (even if they ARE funnier than the ones I put out). Although, for what it's worth, it's rather telling that my first thought was, "No way, THAT'S what today's xkcd is?" instead of, "Haha, oh that wacky Jon Levi."

Anyway, on to 934.

Title: Mac/PC; alt-text: It's fun to watch browsers fumblingly recapitulate the history of window management. Someday we'll have xmonad as a Firefox extension.

There's not much to this comic; it's just a flawed premise. "Everyone does everything in browsers now." As he usually does, Randall is projecting himself onto his audience. He assumes that just because HE never goes outside a browser, none of the rest of us do (and if he DOES use other programs, then this comic is just one big pile of hypocrisy). It's the sort of joke that only works if you make certain (false) assumptions, which means it doesn't work at all.

Yes, you can use a browser for email, flash games, and rudimentary document handling (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.) However, these things are all done much BETTER as native applications. The reason people aren't dependent on browser apps is the exact same reason that Linux still hasn't caught on. Sure, you can DO all of those tasks (in Linux, or in a browser), but the experience is just so inferior that it's not worth it.

Furthermore, Mac/PC ads focused on things that WEREN'T browser-dependent! Here's an abridged list (taken from Wikipedia).

  • Detachable power cord to prevent tripping

  • Issues in Vista

  • Movie editing

  • Malware and viruses

  • Non-standard hardware

  • Cryptic error messages

  • Customer support

I'm only about a third of the way through the list, but I think that's enough for now. Notice how those issues are still relevant, despite that so much can be done in browsers? In other words, Macs and PCs AREN'T indistinguishable.

And this is why I think xkcd sucks. If it was just not funny, okay, whatever. If it was only that it was occasionally creepy, well, that's tolerable. If it was the bad art, we could just call it "minimalistic" or some BS. If it was that he sometimes uses it to talk about his personal life, I can probably get past that. But xkcd is ALL of those things, and to top it off, when Randall tries to make "jokes," he doesn't even get the setup right! If you have to resort to blatant lies to make your joke almost work, it's time to scrap it and find a new one. If you can't do that, it's time to scrap your webcomic (but please, don't make a new one).

P.S. Helpful xkcd forumite 'folkhero' points out that the Mac/PC ads haven't been running for a while, meaning that Randall is as timely as ever (that is to say, not at all). Surprise, surprise.

P.P.S. Several forumites commented on the brilliance of Randall depicting both the Mac and PC with essentially the same character model. Never mind that this is Randall's default drawing style (dating back to Comic 6!) Nope, his lack of variety is clearly evidence of his genius.

Comic 934: Lost for Words

Title: Loss; alt-text: Ok, so I'll bet some people just said "That's it, I'm not reading this comic anymore!", and that's fine, I respect that decision. Thank you for reading.

Okay Randall, what the fuck.

At first sight, yep, it's another cancer comic. And there are no words. Now for once I wish it were a comic with too many words, so at least we'd get an explanation for what the hell's going on! The context is not clear at all, as Randall is neither showing or telling. Why is the guy rushing to the hospital? It's hard to tell if Megan is having a cancer or a miscarriage.

On top of everything the comic as a whole shows a dramatic mood-swing from 'hey cancer is fun, derp' to wordless angst. Think about this: two days ago Randall posted a comic that make radiation therapy sound all sci-fi and badass. This is just what happens when a webcomic author decides to insert unnecessary drama into an otherwise lighthearted comic that wasn't that good in the first place. If this doesn't cross the line into Wangst, I don't know what does.

On a slightly positive note, the artwork is slightly better than usual. It still ultimately fails because it's impossible to convey emotion in people who don't have faces!

The forumites are already sucking it up. Comments like this are everywhere.

So sad... so much there is said by so little. I want to cry.

I do not expect you read these comments, but I just want to say to Randall, your comic has been the highlight of my day for the last four years. Just know that no matter what happens, there will always be at least one adoring fan for you to talk to.

I can't help thinking there's another comic that this really reminds me of...

Ah yes, its 383.

And yes, this review is not at all serious.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Comic 933: Cancer is the new Wikipedia

Title: Tattoo; alt-text: I calculate that the electrons in radiation therapy hit you at 99.8% of the speed of light, and the beam used in a 90-second gamma ray therapy session could, if fired with less precision, kill a horse (they did not let me test this).

Well, all the fanfiction was right. Megan's the one with cancer. And SHE LOVES IT.

You know, I've tried to hold off on making fun of Randall's situation. Cancer sucks, and you never want anyone to get it. Even if you hate someone or their work, it's crossing the line to make fun of an illness in their family.

BUT HOLY BALLS RANDALL. Give it a freaking rest already! I never thought I'd hope for a return to the Wikipedia comics, but please. Bring them on. I'm sick and tired of hearing about cancer. And you know what, maybe it's not even that. Maybe I'm just sick and tired of awful, awful comics that use cancer their focal point.

And that's what this is: an awful comic. The strip is little more than "Want to see my tattoo?" "I HAVE CANCER" "You're right, my tattoo sucks." You know why you should hate barbed wire tattoos? BECAUSE THEY'RE DOUCHEY. "I need chemotherapy" is NOT a valid form of tattoo oneupmanship. In fact, it's not a valid response to anything except maybe some tool whining about how badly his life sucks. But that's not the setup, is it?

The idea here seems to (maybe?) be that anything, even cancer, can sound freaking awesome if you put it in the right terms. But you know what? IT'S STILL CANCER. Megan is DYING and all the guy can think is, "Gee, no one shoots particles at MY tattoo. I'm so ashamed."

The reaction is completely disproportionate to Megan's already inappropriate boasts. Megan SHOULD have said something like, " got a tattoo to look like a dickhead? Mine is there to SAVE MY LIFE." But she doesn't even mention that side of it! Instead, she just brags about her cancer tat like it's a good thing, and the guy totally buys it. Oh, and what's with the "I'll just put a shirt on" line? Is the barbed wire tattooed across your WAIST or something? Well then you really are a tool. Welcome to Doucheville, population you.

The art? Awful. My biggest issue is the zooming in on that faceless oval of a head. It looks bad. Really bad. And the floating head issue is especially egregious as well, most notably in the second panel. I had thought once that it was just a stylistic choice of Randall's to draw that way, but given the inconsistencies, I'm pretty sure he just draws the bodies first and tries to add a head. Is it really so hard to do it the other way around?

And of course, the alt-text is retarded. Really? They didn't let you test that theory? Man, if only I had some indicator of that, like you using the words "I calculate" instead of "I've proven." Oh wait, you did that? Huh. Guess you're just grabbing at straws for SOME joke, even in the alt-text, since you sure didn't manage to fit one into the strip itself.

I had hoped to be able to use the "worst of xkcd" label sparingly. I guess I should've known better.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Comic 932: Central Ignorance Agency

Balls. Raven's dead and Ann Apolis has finished her guest week, so it looks like it's on me to review xkcd again. Normally this would be alright, but Monday's xkcd kind of sucks. I don't mean that in the "this is complete garbage and my review will be fueled by my hatred" sense; I mean it's bad in the "obvious point with no joke" sense.

Let's take a look.

Title: CIA; alt-text: It was their main recruiting poster, hung nearly ten feet up a wall! This means the hackers have LADDER technology! Are we headed for a future where everyone has to pay $50 for one of those locked plexiglass poster covers? More after the break ...

Here's the thing. This comic is little more than, "Haha, people who aren't experts in a field sure don't understand that field, am I right guys?" It's GOOMHR-bait combined with an unnecessary elitist stance. Clearly, only an EXPERT would know that the CIA's classified files aren't in the same place as their public website.

I don't know, is this really something that Joe the Plumber wouldn't realize? It's like saying, "How does the CIA keep their documents secure? What if a postal worker lost them or sent them to the wrong address?" Or perhaps, "Why is Area 51 such a secret? Anyone can just walk right in, right?" My point is, there's an obvious disconnect between government operations and normal life, and you're not giving Joe the Plumber a lot of credit by lumping all the "normal people" together and assuming they have no common sense.

And of course, Randall's not content to just make his point (however elitist) and be done with it. No, he uses one of his longest alt-texts ever to hammer in the idea that "this is stupid and if you think this you're really stupid and man, what's with those normal people, huh; I'm so glad I'm a Computer Expert and don't have to be that dumb." Randy, as far as "computer experts" go, you're probably one of the stupider ones. These little insights that you have are NOT exclusive to you. Get off your freaking high horse already.