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).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Comics 1253-1255: Forever Delayed

Sorry for the long wait. We had a bank holiday here in the UK. Did I mention that I am British? Good.

Next time I delay fail to post a review on time, feel free to complain about it in the comment thread. I like it when I get comments.

1255: Columbus

B- for humour and delivery. The dialog flows quite well, which carries the joke., and the "You first." in the final panel actually makes quite a good (if a little predictable) punchline. I didn't laugh out loud, but I got a rare smile from it.

D for smugness. I should have seen it coming, as the strawman is played by White Hat. But it grates a little that despite the funny joke Randall's original inspiration for the comic was probably about how he should rightfully inform the masses that Christopher Columbus was a fraud, and didn't really direct two Harry Potter movies, or something.

As always, the man is the butt of the joke, and the woman gets the better of him. F for the continued portrayal of women as righteous she-geek goddesses who say and do no wrong. Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but you get the point.

Something is wrong with the second panel. White Hat should have a speech line, but he doesn't. So it was a little hard to tell who is talking. F-- for quality control. This kind of error is inexcusable, especially when it goes uncorrected for five days. Randall should fucking proofread his comics. It doesn't take long. I write my reviews late at night, so I probably make the occational misktae. But Randall should not be doing the same with his comics. He is the one getting paid.

1254: Preferred Chat System

This is making the exact same point as a previous comic. I forget which one exactly, probably the standards one, of one of the Google+ comics. But either way, it says nothing new. F for originality. 

The punchline almost managed to redeem it, so C+ for punchline. The Harry Potter reference is kinda cute. But even if you didn't know they used owl post in Harry Potter (and to be fair, there are some who don't), it still works as a punchline. So I'd give it B for standalone value.

I have it on good authority that owls can not teleport, even in the Harry Potter universe, so why is it able to respond almost instantaneously? F- for realism. He could have just added a simple beat panel, and it would have improved the pacing.

DETENTION for Gizmodo repost. Guess it's inevitable when the comic is about tech.

1253: Exoplanet Names

Another list based comic. Wow, we haven't had one of those since... last week. Okay, what are its strong points? Well, it's strangely devoid of pop-culture references. It would be so easy to name half of them after planets from Firefly, which would alienate the inferior section of nerds who don't even know the full list of locations from Joss Whedon's opus. He could have so easily done that, and he didn't. That's a solid A for standalone value.

The actual list of planets is fairly bland. I wanted to like this list, believe me. But it somehow feels dull and uninspired. So, C- for humour. It's not terrible. It's just that I feel I could have come up with something better. In fact I'll prove it. Here is my list of names. Tell me if they are funnier than Randall's 
  • test
  • Hell
  • untitled.jpg
  • Urpenis
  • How do I name planet?
  • Help Im trapped in a planet factory
  • Your Mom (F- for missing an obivious your mom joke)
  • Chocolate planet
  • lol
  • Not a planet
  • FUck
  • FuckFuckFuckFuckFuckFuckFuckFuckFuckFuckFuckFuckFuck
  • Cunt-Cunty-Dick-Fuck
  • Giant Testicle
  • iPlanet
  • Planet of the Jews
A* for 'Asshole Jupiter', because That was the best part of the comic.

But, someone had to say it. F for realism. Why is that? People are egotistical, and they would name planets after themselves. If Liz got through the spam filter, then what happened to the other names?

And I almost burst our laughing when I wrote Cunt-Cunty-Dick-Fuck. Seriously, why no swearing? It would have been funny as fuck to see xkcd break out in a bout of glorious gratuitous profanity. If ever there was a time to do it, it would be this comic. Randall thinks he is above this, but he's not (hello, 631).

F--- because the list did not include Planet Of The Jews, which feels like a major oversight.

DETENTION for io9 repost, and a letter to io9's mother. io9 should really know better than to hang around with bad influences like xkcd.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Comics 1250-1252: Brought to you by Gizmodo

Before I start the regularly scheduled reviews, I just want to rant for a second about something that annoys me. First, let me say that I never really sympathised with the idea that No One Is Forcing You To Read It (ah, for the days when Rob would bang out 356 words, but I digress). I read xkcd three times a week because I like to watch the slow-motion train wreck, not because my friends are incessantly recommending it to me (I don't have any friends, so I can't personally verify this fact).

But I can't fucking stand it when Gizmodo dot com reposts an xkcd comic with a few hastily written lines of text below it basically explaining the joke, and links back to xkcd, in lieu of an 'article'.

I'd link to an occurrence of this happening, but Gizmodo makes money from every ad view. Reading Gizmodo is my dirty habit, and I don't want anyone else to get addicted.

Why is this bad? I already checked the xkcd feed in my Google Reader Feedly today. I don't need to see it twice. Why waste all the pixels and kilobytes by downloading the same image twice?

Moreover, it's the epitome of lazy journalism - taking someone else's content and adding nothing to it. And yes, the articles they write (quoted in full below) really do add nothing. The headline of the article usually telegraphs the punchline, so if anything they are taking away from it.

And worst of all, it causes more people to read xkcd. They're acting as if xkcd is That Obscure Indie Webcomic that more people need to know about. Linking to a webcomic is a dangerous power - use it responsibly, like io9 does.

No wonder the Gizmodo editors love xkcd - with its faux minimalism, repeated pandering on a familiar theme, and its ability to make people feel smugly superior - it's just like a typical Apple product.

1252: Increased Risk

Surprisingly, the last xkcd comic of the week was actually quite good. The second paragraph would have been a fine punchline all by itself. But then Beret doubles the amount of stupid in the room, and gives us an even better punchline. A well deserved A for humour.

But surely this is just like a typical smug xkcd comic? And I hate smugness, so what's changed? Well, this one doesn't come across as smugly mocking a bunch of idiots, because the idiots are being real smart-asses about it, and therefore deserve to be mocked. There's a chance the one in the middle is being sarcastic, and the other two are taking it seriously, which if anything makes it better. A* for multiple interpretations.

The caption below ruins it a bit, but only a bit. D for explaining the joke in a smug way. But I kind of like the way it sounds. It sounds like the sort of thing I'd say. So B+ for self-affirmation.

And the alt text doesn't get a grade, because I care a non-zero-but-still-pretty-small amount about it. It would be so much easier if I was allowed to say 'could care less', but anyway...

1251: Anti-Glass

Before I say anything, let's see what Gizmodo's own Jamie Condliffe had to say about it.

"For all its promise of being the Next Big Thing in tech, when it comes to Google Glass, haters gotta hate. Still, if you're gonna object to it, you may as well do it properly.

Of course, this might not be strictly ethical. Or even legal for that matter. But, hey, someone is looking at you with a camera strapped to their face. They had it coming."

Fascinating. /s Think about that for a second. Does Mr Condliffe really believe this is the proper way to object to Google Glass, or is he just looking for something, anything, to say? My money is on the latter.

And the second paragraph... that's basically the punchline. Thanks for explaining it. /s

D- for art. The cops hardly move in the three panels they are in. Their hats look too similar to Black Hat's hat. Randall could have easily avoided this ambiguity. One need only reach into the RGB colour space, and colour them blue. Don't be a pussy, Randall.

C- for Black Hat's scheme. It seems to be in his usual style. But I have to question the effort and resources it would have taken to make something that will cause a handful of Google employees momentary annoyance at most.

The dialog in this comic is so fucking bad, I can't even begin to explain how bad it is. But maybe a letter will do. F for stilted dialog. But that's not all - DETENTION for Gizmodo repost.

1250: Old Accounts

I don't see the point of this comic. I really don't. Do our accounts get lonely without us? (that would be dumb) Is removing friends somehow a necessity because otherwise those friends will expect us to still be contactable through an old account? (that would be dumber) Is it suggesting that we abandon those accounts before we stop using them? (stop, stop, my brain can't take the stupid!)

F for poor premise. And D for not communicating it very well to the audience. It took me a few read-throughs to 'get it', although I almost wish I hadn't. And all this despite that it would us no good to clear out old accounts that we might still want to use, Randall manages to be smug and preachy about it.

F- for smugness. F-- for preachiness. DETENTION for Gizmodo repost.

Here are Mr Condliffe's fine words about this comic:

"Next time you leave an online community, spare a thought for your account, which will sit there accumulating messages, news and all other kinds of crap which you'll never, ever see again.

Maybe you should do something about it. After all, it's like forgetting to get mail sent to your new address: there's a constant stream of information and news, slowly building up at your old place, that you'll never be party to ever again. And while it may mean nothing to you, it could be breaking somebody else's heart. You're better than that, right?"

That's exactly what the comic said, except in more words. The mailbox analogy doesn't even work, because closing a Blogger account would not somehow redirect its news and updates to Wordpress, hence why we are still here.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Comics 1246-1249: The Scattergun Approach

1249: Meteor Showers

"Surely 16 bad jokes are better than one, right, right?!?" Randall says. To be fair, some of them are quite good. They're just diluted in with the bad ones. I chuckled at "Not viewable in region 2 countries" - this is just the kind of absurdist humour that xkcd thrives on. B- for absurdism, but I don't think it was played up as much as it could have been. In short, he ran out of ideas. Two of the jokes actually seem to be the same (February 10th and August 12th).

The scattergun approach to humour sometimes works well, when the jokes are actually told well with, you know, pictures, like in Circuit Diagram, one of my favourites, but this one is too wordy, and I think the Comma Police are going to come get me for this sentence, So I'm just going to say: D for wordiness, which brings me on to...

F for artwork, because this violates Show Don't Tell in so many ways, has no real artwork, and could have just as easily been made in Excel.

1248: Sphere

Ugh. F- for artwork. I know I gave the last one F, but that one was not designed to be artwork, which is bad enough. But this is an honest-to-gosh attempt at a depiction of two human beings, and it still sucks. No expressions. No movement. No soul. These stick figures are going to hell.

I'm also going to bring out the old F- for characterisation.

And that's without even getting into what they're saying. Stick-Megan's smugness is just radiating off the page. F- for smugness.

That said, it would actually be excusable if there had been some half-decent artwork to make us empathise with the character. Maybe replace the beat panel with a series of zooming out views of the planet. Show Don't Tell! Is it really that hard?

1247: The Mother of All Suspicious Files

This looks like a joke between friends that got out of hand. Randall and a group of his friends were sitting around a table at a LAN party or something, and joking about a computer virus. One of them suggested what the virus might be names. "That's not suspicious at all." someone else sarcastically remarked. The rest of his friends pitch in suggestions for names for this suspiciously named file like its some digital Royal Baby or something, whilst Randall is frantically taking down notes under the heading 'COMEDY GOLD'.

C- for the premise. It's not bad. Just not good either.

D- for the failed attempt at the scattergun approach. Like me, you probably read the whole thing, thinking that there would be a series of little jokes. Alas, those things that seemed so funny amongst Randall's friends at the LAN party are now not so interesting.

F for artwork. I don't think I need to explain why.

1246: Pale Blue Dot

So this is a joke about NASA's famous Pale Blue Dot. Most xkcd readers probably know about this already, but I'm sure some of them don't. So I'm giving this a C for standalone value.

The actual joke is pretty good. It gets a B for humour. I think it was 'lens cap picture' that did it for me.

for (un)realistic dialogue. D- for the wall of text. D-- for the essay-length alt text. And B+ for artwork, because it's the best we've seen in over a week.