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).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Comics 1265-1267: Does Xkcd Halt?

If you're browsing on a mobile device, please shoot yourself before you try to read the alt texts. Love you guys. By the way, has anyone used iOS 7 yet? It looks like Randall Munroe designed a mobile operating system! Share your flame wars in the comments, please. Oh wait, Blogger's comment box doesn't work on mobile browsers.

Comic 1267: Mess

Ah, the GOOMH-bait. Been a while since we've had something like that. The joke is something that some newspaper cartoon has probably covered in the last ten years, but it's not a bad joke and told well. C for humour, but F for originality.

The artwork, while not stand-out excellent, services the joke. B for artwork, and well done for trying. In a comic like this, I can't help be feel it would be nice to see the expressions on the stick figures' faces. Ah who am I kidding, Randall can't draw faces.

Comic 1266: Halting Problem


Referencing an obscure computer science problem requires the reader to do their own research, thus ruining the pretence of the joke. Just look at all the people who googled it. This is unacceptable. And it also requires the reader to understand programming jargon. It's just the terms define and return, and you can sort of infer those terms from the context, but it ruins the comedic timing if you do so. I'm just gonna go ahead and give this a big fat F- for standalone value. I'd like to say it could be worse, but can it?

Even supposing the reader did know about the Halting Problem, what is the actual joke? It's about answering an unanswerable question with a simple and obviously wrong answer. It's equivalent to saying "The meaning of life is 42."Actually bad example. It's like if Douglas Adams published a book that contained nothing but that sentence. Do you not see how that would be bad. G-- for humour.

Now look at this:

DEFINE DoesItHalt(Program):
      RETURN True;

"The big picture solution to the halting problem"

This is a plain text adaptation of the above comic. Does it lose anything from the original? No. It also has the advantage of being 101 bytes instead of 7.5 kilobytes. If the comic can be adapted into plain text, then you really have to call into question whether it deserves to be an image or not. Comics are a visual medium, and the PNG image can display over 16 million unique colours. H--- for artwork, or lack thereof.

I would say this is the worst in a while, but we had a pretty bad one a few weeks ago.

Comic 1265: Juicer

I actually had to use to see if the joke is really what I think it is. As it turns out, it is. For those of you who needed a clue, the joke is that someone buys a juicer and uses it to extract the juice from sweets (candy if you're a yank). This has some humorous potential in it, but I don't think it was properly realised. B- for humour.

C- for artwork. I feel he could have added just a little shading on those juice bottles.

D for the alt text, which seems to contradict the joke itself.

And F- for using a brand name product. I'm sure there's cash changing hands under the table.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Reviewing The Classics: 77, 72, 12: Black Hat Guy Begins

No one can agree when Classic Xkcd finished, and when the new comics started sucking. The original xkcdsucks blog started at comic 409, a comic most, if not all newer readers, would assume belonged to the 'Classic Era'. But everyone always seems to agree on one thing: 'Xkcd was at its best before I started reading it.' That of course varies depending on when you started reading it. When you're browsing through the archives you can press the 'Random' button as many times as you want and skip past the bad comics. But once you slow down to three new comics a week, they start getting 'worse'? Mishegas I say! Xkcd has always sucked. And here I am going to prove it for you by giving you my honest opinion of three such 'classics'. Kill me before I use inverted commas any more.

Comic 77: Bored with the Internet

'But that was one of the best Xkcds!' I hear you say. Stop kvetching. I'm the one writing the review. The fact is, this would not pass as 'good' if it was released on today. At most, it would get a 2-page thread on the fora and a footnote on xkcdsucks.

Oh, and don't be thrown off by the appearance of Black Hat. He doesn't do anything Black-Hat-ish in this comic.

First, let's get the obvious things out of the way. C+ for artwork. Yes, The landscape is impressive, but only if you haven't read any other webcomics. It's just that every other panel doesn't measure up to it. Panel 3 gets a particularly crudely drawn crinkly line to represent a mountain range. F- for visual consistency. Furthermore, he can't seem to draw stick figures when they're walking. That is why they appear to be standing still in most panels, but Black hat is tripping over his own foot in panel 2, and doing some kind of athletic stretch in panel 3.

Now, are the two lines of dialog in panel 1 realistic? No, but at least it has few unnecessary words. And at least you can tell who's saying what. The final panel just has a line suspended in mid air, appearing to come from no one. D for clarity.

And I'm not sure if people thought this was fresh and original back in 2006, but I certainly don't. The joke is that someone tries to live without the internet, but can't. He actually did this joke again in 597, which was significantly funnier than this one. F- for humour. Don't worry Randall, at least you're not getting worse.

And the alt text? 'I used to do this all the time.' Really? I doubt it. F for lying.

Comic 72: Classhole

Uggh, a comic about two stick figures standing and talking in what may well be a white-coloured void. F-- for artwork, and I don't need to explain why. Oh, you want me to? Fine. It's that old rule of 'show, don't tell'. Randall never actually actually drew Black Hat's exploits. Rather he has Black Hat say what he's done. This, my friends, is bad writing. Couldn't Randall draw a rock, or a styrofoam cup? Of course he couldn't, and he still can't.

The dialog is stilted beyond belief. The like 'How did you spend your morning?' is a really poor exposition device. Its only purpose is to prompt Black Hat to deliver a fountain of exposition. And 'I am in awe.' is something no one would ever say. F-- for bad dialog, and F for wall of text.

And It bothers me that one of Black Hat's plans has the result of causing dumb people to have more babies. F- for bad family planning.

Most people think this is the first appearance of Black hat. But they are wrong. That honour goes to...

Comic 12: Poisson


A stick figure can not be a poisson distribution. Why should I even have to say that? And Black Hat made the poisson distribution guy... die? Disappear? Did he just frighten him away or what? And what's wrong with negative numbers. We don't know until the alt text EXPLAINS THE JOKE.

F+ for artwork. It's two stick figures meeting in a white-walled void. But it's worse because it's drawn on SQUARED PAPER. Even when he was doodling in class, he couldn't man up and get some plain A4. Even so, there are Photoshop filters that can remove blue lines from an image, have been for years. What is wrong with him?

He only gets the '+' because one of the stick figures actually appears to have a face. But that face is gone by the 3rd panel, and Black Hat never even had a face. So again, F- for visual consistency.

It almost goes without saying, but F- for Black Hat character consistency. He was flawed from the start.

There is no reason why he had to reference an obscure statistical concept for this. D for standalone value. I myself have studied poisson distributions at A-level, and there's nothing inherently funny about applying them to a negative value. It has real-world applications, so it would be like saying 'I have flipped a coin -1 times'. 

He could have made the same joke about a more well known mathematical function, like a square root, which also does not work on negative numbers, and it would have lost none of its original meaning. G- for humour. G-- for explaining the joke. Erase those awful doodles from your notebook right now!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Comics 1262-1264: The Future of Xkcd

I hope you have noticed by now that I am incorrectly capitalising Xkcd on purpose. Randall prefers it to either be all lowercase, or all caps. Anything else is an insult, and I would encourage you to do the same.

Hover over the images to see the alt text. And if you are browsing on a mobile device, you can view the alt text by downloading the Xkcd-sucks app, available on the App Store and Google Play... never!

Comic 1264: Slideshow

Of all the annoying things he could have picked that annoyed him about today's HTML5-dominated, social-media-oriented, search-engine-optimised, internet-that-has-become-a-parody-of-itself. He picked slideshows.

Web design has committed far greater sins, including share buttons that follow you as you scroll down a page, contextual ads disguised as hyperlinks, fake download buttons, pages that get longer as you scroll so you can never reach the bottom, and (perhaps worst of all) blogs that don't have an RSS feed. But slideshows, really?

I've only really seen them on the front pages of estate agents and companies that want to show off their product portfolio - i.e. not the sort of website you come to to enjoy yourself (unless you're an Apple Inc fan, in which case you can fuck off). So it's not a problem for your daily internet usage, not even a first world problem.

I had a look around Flickr, and I couldn't find any examples of this happening. So the alt text is lying.

F for relevance, or lack thereof. F- for crappy alt text. F-- for humour, because there is no joke. Oh, and before I forget, F----- for smugness, and using Xkcd as his personal soapbox.

Comic 1263: Reassuring

This is a comic that is trying to be depressing by telling us that computers will become more powerful than our own brains. He did this before in 894 (Progeny) with a better joke, and fewer words. That older comic made a better joke, and in fewer words.

I get the impression some fans are using Xkcd as a news site. When something happens to Curiosity or Voyager I or whatever, many people, including self-confessed nerds, would not hear about it unless there had been a topical Xkcd on the subject. Following that logic, this comic's function is alert people that computers had beaten Go. So I checked if that was the case. As a matter of fact, it was topical... in 2009.

Here is an article on the subject, which was posted four years ago. As a matter of fact, it makes an interesting point.

“It’s a silly human conceit that such a domain would exist, that there’s something only we can figure out with our wetware brains,”

You see Randall? It really doesn't matter that computers will become more intelligent than us. So stop clinging to your false ideas of 'Humans are better than computers, because... some reason.' Of course they're not better. It's only a matter of time until a computer comes along that writes better Xkcds than Randall.

F-- for topicality. D for humour. D- for wall of text. B for the alt text, which was funny and original. It was better than the actual comic, and should have been the actual comic. Randall needs an editor to see the potential in ideas like these. D for the artwork, because I am so bloody bored of stick figures sitting at computers and talking.

Comic 1262: Unquote

I tried to come up with something to say about this comic. It's not offensively bad. The Star Wars reference doesn't kill it. But it doesn't say anything remotely original. Yes, people will eventually forget about Star Wars and stop quoting it. So what?

My apathy towards this comic is such that I'm going to give it a rare E for humour, artwork, alt text, everything. After all, it's not as if anyone could be emotionally affected by this comic in any way.

"I got tears in my eyes, thinking about that."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Comics 1259-1261: Lethal Dose Of Xkcd

I am writing this from the middle of a fucking desert where there is NO INTERNET. I had to borrow the wi-fi password from the hotel across the road. And Blogger’s interface has been translated to Turkish*. I clicked on whatever the translation for ‘new post’ is five fucking minutes ago, and the page still hasn’t loaded. FUCK YOU TOO, SHIT DESERT WI-FI.

I am in a really bad mood, so I should be perfect for reviewing some xkcds, IF THE PAGE ACTUALLY LOADS. Oy vey.

Comic 1261: Shake That

As much as I wanted to start with a strongly negative review, I'm afraid to say that I actually liked this one.

I hate nightclubs. I too hate it when the lyrics to popular music are thinly veiled pornography written, by an egomaniac, and sold by corporate scholbs. Get out of my head, Randall. So I like the way he is mocking the trend, by interpreting the lyric literally, thereby robbing it of all its erotic surtext, and reducing it to absurdity. A+ for creating a joke that appeals to my cynical self.

I also quite like the artwork in the first panel. Okay, so the first panel is showing off. But still you can quite easily see that she's in a nightclub, and what is happening in each panel. No space is wasted. So the artwork is good enough to convey the joke well. B+ for artwork.

And just because I'm feeling mean. I'll give it a G-- for standalone value, because I'm assuming 'Shake what your mama gave you' is a reference to a lyric that I haven't heard. And if I haven't heard it, then it is NOT OKAY for Randall to make an xkcd about it. You're welcome to disagree.

Comic 1260: LD50

This... I don't know what to say to this. D- for standalone value. By my guess, half of the xkcd readership does not know what LD50 means. LD50 is not an obvious acronym. It means the minimum lethal dose required to have a 50% fatality rate.Those people will not understand the joke, unless they look it up on Wikipedia. That's not good enough.

The joke itself is... kinda cheap. It's the sort of joke you'd crack a laugh at if you saw it in a scientific article. But that's because you're not expecting a joke. Humour is derived from the subversion of expectations. But people visiting are supposed to expect humour (so I am told). So this gets a mere D+ for humour.

Comic 1259: Bee Orchid

Ah, the golden child of last week's xkcd comics. The perfect analogy for this comic is James Cameron's Avatar - it really enthralls you for the duration it takes to watch/read it. You think it's really profound, and you're willing to forgive the clunky exposition because it looks so pretty. But a few days later, you start to think about it too much and you see all its faults. It's kinda depressing. The environmental message falls flat when you realise it is scientifically inaccurate at best.

Surely it would have already gone extinct by now? Surely if Jake Sully had told the natives that they were in danger, then he could have avoided the destruction of Hometree? Surely Beret's memory is worth nothing if he doesn't also take a photo for others to see? Do the Na'vi even deserve to live if they put their faith in a leader like Randall Munroe... wait?

As limp-dick science major Anonymous 7:17 rightfully pointed out, the bee orchid does have living pollinators. So you know what that means? Z for accuracy. That's right. I used the last letter of the alphabet. Weep in shame, Randall. You couldn't even earn your legs back. 

Now for the artwork. I'm not going to pretend the artwork is not good, because it is. But xkcd produces good artwork so rarely, it's always an unprecedented surprise. This is not a good thing. The point being, there are 10 panels in this comic that don't have artwork of this quality. I know it would be impossible for Randall to produce every panel to this quality. But Tom Siddell manages to do it.

Every panel of Gunnerkrigg Court is of this quality in terms of artwork. It got noticeably better when Siddell went professional with GC (about a year ago) but it was pretty good before then. And it has the same M-W-F schedule as xkcd. So don't praise xkcd for good artwork without seeing the big picture. This comic gets a B+ for artwork, but only a B+.

Pacing of the comic leaves a lot to be desired wall of text occupying the first four panels. Let's just give it a D for pacing and be done with it.

Also, someone on the forum suggested that 'painting by a dying flower' means that Randall's wife did the 5th panel. If that is true, then it gets an A+ for subtlety, but an F- for playing the cancer sympathy card. 

*Fuck you too, Google. Just because I am browsing the Internet in Turkey, does not mean I speak fluent Turkish.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Comics 1256-1258: September Solitudes

Well, summer is ending, and I feel so alone oh God. This blog is all I have for company. Please make me feel less alone by writing a comment.

1258: First

This is awful, Randall. *Takes off belt*

F for observational humour - you are literally just commenting on an established trend, and not even telling a joke about it. G for accuracy - the 'first post' phenomenon is far from dead. H for quantum egotism - it's like you decided that if you don't observe it happening on the forums you frequent, then it doesn't exist. I for actually acknowledging the phenomenon, and encouraging more trolls to do it. And don't you fucking dare say that jinxing it on purpose was the point of the joke, because there was no joke. J for lack of a joke. And it looks like you were still trying to do a dramatic buildup for this nonexistent joke. But instead of a joke we get smugness. K for smugness - wipe that grin off your face, because even if there had been a joke then it would still be L for comic timing. The beat panels literally add nothing. M for artwork - the guy barely moves in three panels, and the other character (presumably a woman) is off-panel. And if I wanted to see a stick figure sitting at a computer, I'd look in the fucking mirror. N for appealing to your core demographic - even the forum thread couldn't find anything good to say about it. It just degraded into a 'last post' forum game, then burned out after two pages. You've created something that even the fora can't nerd out on. Think about that. O for being so bad that even Gizmodo wouldn't touch it. P for wasting precious pixels on my screen. Q for the 23 kilobytes I wasted to download this. R for the 35 minutes I have already spent writing about this. I am so fucking angry at this comic. How fitting it is that the harshest grade so far is the first letter of your name. But I'm going to stop there, because there are some things that can't be said with alphabetical grades.

48 BELT LASHINGS for the worst comic I have ever reviewed, one for each of the comics I have reviewed before this one. *Deep menacing breaths, whimpering, and obscure Yiddish expletives are heard from the corner. Thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack...* AYIN KAFIN FAKATA YAN RANDALL. Say first post again. I fucking dare you.

C- for the alt text, which was actually quite good.

1257: Monster

After the 'First' comic, anything looks good in comparison. In hindsight, I probably should have left that one till last.

D+ for dialog. It's terribly stilted, but at least it conveys the joke. B+ for artwork. While it violates show-don't-tell by not actually showing us the monster, I don't actually think that is important. The war room is surprisingly detailed for an xkcd, and showing the monster would ruin the joke. Oh and C+ for the joke. It was not bad, I guess. And B+ for the timing of it. The caption completes the joke, and doesn't whack the reader in the face with an unnecessary explanation. He could have added a few more comparisons in the first two lines of speech to make it more ridiculous, but that's my only real complaint.

1256: Questions

I wanted to hate this one, but when I read it up close, I almost laughed in spite of myself. Funny lines questions like "Why do snakes exist?" make up for at least five not-so-funny ones. This is Randall playing to his strong point, and it works. So I'm actually going to give it a for humour.

It's funny because the questions are dumb, really dumb. And he's not mocking them in a smug way. B for lack of smugness. They remind me of the sort of questions that a child would ask. With the advent of the Internet, we have become like silly little kids, treating Google as our collective daddy-who-knows-everything. I would have liked to see the comic make a joke about this, or explore it in more detail. D because of what this comic could have been

A for effort. No really, it can't be easy to look at several hundred Google search suggestions, and pick only the stupid ones.

By the way, if you get the reference in this post's title, you don't get a million nerd points or anything. You just get get my unending unconditional love.