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, October 31, 2011

Comic 971: Randall's Rants

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by SinbadEV

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

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

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


  1. I could not tell at first that 971 was about homeopathy. I actually thought the guy on the left was the strawman, until I read the alt text. Have I been spending too much time here? Wait, don't answer that.

    My main criticism of 971 is that it's a HUGE WALL OF TEXT. The alt text is also a MASSIVE WALL OF TEXT.

    I counted 108 words for a 740x305 pixel space. So this comic is a 4.79 on the Ravenzomg Scale of Wordiness™. To give you a sense of comparison, the wordiest xkcd of all time was 6.94. Most xkcd comics get much lower.

  2. Then you will LOVE my Edit for today:

    Verification Code: matie

  3. The comic itself is a pretty good commentary on the effects of cynicism. If you avoid everything because it might be some sort of scam, you miss out on a lot. (Kind of goes along with the mid-season South Park finale.)

    The alt-text is another matter. It's as if Randall is trying to fill the void left by the retirement of Andy Rooney...

  4. Wow, it's hard to believe there are so many comics with a misleading premise (8 at the time of writing). This is probably the most misleading of them all though.

  5. Well, I've started using it for both that and strawman attacks. I can segregate the two again if you'd like.

  6. I got the message on first read. It's pretty intuitive...