XKCD Isn't Funny - #1736 - Manhatten Project & #1737 - Datacenter Scale

Work's been pretty busy for me, it being December and all, so when my shift ended I headed over to McDonald's. And for whatever reason it took FOREVER to go through the drive-thru. After like, five minutes, I started singing "99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall" and I got to forty-something before I finally got to the window to get my order. But here's the thing: when he handed me my bag, the guy was like "Careful, the fries are hot", which means that all the food was cooked fresh Just For Me. And when I got home it was the best McDonald's I've had since I was a kid. Anyway that's my excuse for being so slow with my updates lately.

This comic is pretty decent! I will openly admit that I chuckled the first time I read it. It has a really good flow; starting with the second panel, the non-dialogue 'montage' panels keep moving things forward (even if they are a little bit silly if you look at them), and then the last panel just brings things STOP, so we get shaken up through the pacing as well as through the narrative. It gives the joke a little extra 'ommph'. Missed opportunity, though: Having all the panels lead the reader's eye rightward through leading lines and such, and then we get a THIRD kind of upset in the flat end of the final panel.

I'm not really sure if the first panel is meant to be just XKCD's typical minimalist no-context starting panels (see the second comic reviewed in this review for example) or if it - and by extension the rest of the comic - are supposed to be making fun of people who say this. Are there people that say we need a Manhattan project to stop cancer? I wish XKCDs didn't have to be interpreted as much as they do, although I am totally bringing it on myself by looking this deep into the abyss.

Also, it's kinda funny that Randy would use such a generic 'TV science' type scene in panel when he's made fun of it in the past.

To quote Hamlet: "Words, words, words". The 'show don't tell' rule probably does get thrown around too much, but it has a point. A guy getting hit in the face with a pie is funnier than reading the sentence "A guy got hit in the face with a pie". This comic is acceptable, but if it was put in a more 'comic' format, it would actually be funny-funny, instead of just conceptually funny. 

That said, I like that there's a quasi- satirical point being made here. (That's a satirical point that's quasi, not a point that's quasi satirical.) Randy is, in his own way, sticking it to the corporations, who are so high up in their ivory towers that human workers are mere pawns to discard, and long-term stability is sacrificed for tiny immediate power grabs. 

Side nitpick thing, but where is this happening? Is this a datacenter CEO conference of some kind? Why is Longhair explaining her business to them if they're all in the business? It doesn't make any sense!


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1734 - Reductionism & #1735 - Fashion Police And Grammar Police

I actually kinda like this one. If we put aside the text only 'could be a tweet' -ness of it, I can get behind it. Since the joke is taking reductionist ideas to their (il)logical conclusion, the joke is self-explanatory enough that you don't need to have knowledge of reductionism going in.

Points are deducted for that SUPER lame explanation of "R", though. At least specify that it's a consonant.

See, the difference is that if someone has really terrible spelling/grammar, I can't understand them.

This comic also has a weird tonal disconnect. It starts off with "judgemental and smug" etc, but then suddenly goes into "appreciate that they way you are interpreted is your responsibility" and "understand...". Then it's "vindictive about... proxies for race", but THEN it swings back to "fun to cheer on". See how they don't really form a united statement?

What I think happened is that Randy started off on one side of the fence, but then thought "hang on, I'm on to something!" and tried to make a short version of a thesis paper on the subject. (Honesty time: I would totally read the full version)

If Randy had picked either "they're both bad" or "they're both good", then that could have been a coherent argument in joke form and I would be able to judge that. As it is, this comic fails to make a concrete statement. Even if it was on one side, the bullet point structure is too direct, almost confrontational, to be comedy without alterations.

I will grant that the original observation is still interesting. However, the real interesting discussion is in how the two groups share root origins or are unconciously operating the same function in different ways. This is the hypothesis, we need the data analysis and conclusion.


Questionable Content - #3350 - A Dream Deferred & #3351 - Requiem For A Dream


I'm absolutely reading too much into these comics, but I feel like there's something very profound here. Pintsize has built up this identity as a sexual pervert, his whole shtick is shock value. We aren't shown the actual asking process that lead to these events, but do you think Pintsize expected May to agree? Now that he gets what he asked for, he finds out it isn't what he wanted. His identity was built around something that he did not actually feel. You can even go back and look at #2332 and do a whole rereading of the QC archives where Pintsize curated this identity out of boredom or spite while he was Marten's only friend. His giving free money to Faye in #430 is motivated by an unconscious but enormous gratitude for someone else to talk to.

Just to restate - he is canonically Marten's only friend for TWO YEARS. That is 730 days! I like my friends and suitemates and etc, but I can't think of anyone I would want to hang out with daily for two whole years without anyone else ever being involved. Like, after a while you run out of House reruns to watch and you've told each other all the puns you know. And Marten sucks! First thing he does when he comes home is complain about his job, and he doesn't even know what HIS CLOSEST FRIEND does when he's not around. Pintsize has to put up with this lame asshole for 17,520 hours!

This idea also fits perfectly with the interpretation of the comic that says Marten's mom is a The Wall-esque overbearing and controlling figure that made him grow up into such a loser. Eventually all the pieces will come together and it will turn out that Jeph accidentally wrote a modern Shakespearean tragedy.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1732 - Earth Temperature Timeline & #1733 - Solar Spectrum

[After setting your car on fire] Listen, your car's temperature has changed before.

Oh, so that's what he was going for with that ice levels comic a while back.

My main problem with this comic as an infographic is that it seems kinda disconnected from itself. Most of the things listed (pottery, writing, Shakespeare), while important to human history, have approximately zero effect on the climate. I understand that it's not Randy's fault that human history is like that - Earth lives on a whole different scale from us - but it still gives us a lot of information that isn't really related to the point he's trying to make. I will say that it's neat to scroll manually through all that history, it's like that solar system distance thing.

I'll also say that, terrible Pokemon joke aside, this comic does a pretty good job of explaining the difference between 'typical' climate change and what people usually mean when they say the phrase "climate change". Speaking as someone that used to have this exact problem (thanks for NOTHING, Michael Crichton!), I think this comic might have converted me to its side.


I, the little guy, am not the person that needs to be convinced. I could work my whole life to destroy as much environment, and I wouldn't fuck things up as much as the big companies do in a day. I don't mean to get all preachy and stuff, but y'know that whole ozone layer thing? They told me in middle school it closed up, but it's still there! We all agree that chlorofluorocarbons caused the big ozone hole (or at least, that's what my astronomy textbook says) but the end goal for phasing them out is still set to 2030! I know that we can't shut everything down overnight, but we've known since the eighties! (According to my astronomy textbook!)

And those big corporation peeps aren't reading XKCD, they're snorting coke off of expensive strippers, since they're all rich and corrupt and rich. So while this comic has nothing but good intentions, it has not succeeded unless it inspires people to go out and do something. It's like that one Chumbawamba song says: "If our music makes you happy or content, it has failed. If our music entertains, but doesn't inspire, it has failed. The music's not a threat. Action the music inspires can be a threat." (that's from the excellent Revolution EP, if you were wondering)

My astronomy class actually explained this to me so I get the joke! And it is a joke, even if it's one that only smart college-educated people like me can understand. 

For you DUMB HICKS, there are like, these spectrum thingies, and the black lines tell you which elements there are in the thing its a spectrum of, BUT THERE AREN'T SUNGLASSES IN THE REAL SUN. It actually lends itself pretty well to this joke, since it puts the sunglasses in the last place that the reader reads (in a traditional western left-to-right style).

This comic would be EXTRA not-bad if "those giant sunglasses" if it was phrased "silicon (for those giant sunglasses" because like, silicon makes glass (and plastic, maybe??) so it'd be scientifically accurate too. That's a nitpick, though, and if we put aside accessibility, I give this one a passing grade.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1730 - Starshade & #1731 - Wrong

Is "Starshade" an intentional Gregor The Overlander reference? 'Cuz that'd actually be pretty cool, especially because "Gregor" is basically my name and it'd therefore almost be a me reference!

Pranks aren't funny if they're nice. Well, that's not true, there can be nice pranks like painting a dome like R2D2 or whatever, but pranks can't be purely beneficial to the recipient. That's a surprise gift, not a prank.

The kinda-funny idea slightly to the left of the core of this comic is that these two people are able to set up the massive space thingy without NASA knowing until its in place. None of the process or action by which this feat is achieved is shown in the comic, and that's just a shame. It still wouldn't be as funny as if they were actually screwing with NASA, but it'd be funnier than just hearing vague descriptions of things happening off-screen.

This one could have been funny if the guy was wrong about something else. Like, can you really blame him for not knowing something about quantum physics? That shit's confusing as hell!

See, for a guy being wrong to be funny, we have to know how he's wrong. So I will give credit where credit might be due and I will admit that if I knew what they heck "particles" were, maybe I would enjoy this. However, I think we can all agree that this joke would be more accessible if he was wrong about something like the digestive process or whatever.

Now, onto the elephant of the room: This comic is almost certainly about the phenomenon known to us poor peoples of 2016 as "mansplaining" which is when a man corrects a woman because of sexism, or something like that. I'm a man so I might be wrong about that but that gives women a chance to womansplain me back and the genders will be equal again so yay!

Randy, as has been established, is a feminist-y type of person. I'm not going to get into the politics since honestly who cares about my poorly-informed opinions? I'll leave the gender debates to my 15-year-old self. I bring the mansplaining thing up because it means that Randy is trying to make a point, and this point is being made very poorly. All we see is a guy deny that he's wrong and then be wrong in a different way, no lesson is taught or learned, the bad guy is not brought down through a pie in the face or a verbal knockout, we just see things As They Are (in Randy's perception).

I've been reading The Naked Jape for the past few days, and there's a chapter that discusses the different theories about why jokes are funny. I won't get into it for space reasons, but basically there are four theories, none of which cover all types of jokes but together they cover pretty much everything. The one thing that all the theories agree on is that for a joke to work, reality has to be at least a little bit altered. That's not to say that all altered reality is funny, just to say that for a joke to be made, reality has to have been altered; all thumbs are fingers but not all rectangles are squares. That's also not to say that real life can't be funny, just that standard real life isn't funny; a guy picking up groceries is not funny on its own, he has to be picking up KY jelly and fruit or have forgotten his pants or whatever.

So, with the previous paragraph in mind, reconsider the comic. If this is just reality As Is, then what's the joke? There isn't one. And we already talked about how there's no point being made, so what's the appeal of this comic? There isn't one.

I want to close on a quick disclaimer. I may have political views, but I do my best to set them aside for this blog. I'm not criticizing Randy for putting forth a feminist statement, I'm criticizing him for putting forth a badly made feminist statement.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1728 - Cron Mail & #1729 - Migrating Geese

Ha! Take THAT, Cron! Randall "XKCD" Munroe just ripped you a fucking new asshole! I bet you thought you could get away with sending lots of mail, but not on his watch! Now everyone who reads this comic knows how much you suck! I never heard of you before in my life, but now I know to AVOID AVOID AVOID, and furthermore

Seriously though the joke is just him whining about a computer inconvenience, who cares. That's not to say that having a big email backlog is completely devoid of comedy potential (I recall Allie Brosh doing some good things with it), but if the joke is as contentless as this comic, the seed exists in an unwatered state.

I think the biggest problem with this comic is that his "hardball" retaliation is completely toothless. Here's hardball: printing out every one of the emails and mailing them back. Revenge isn't funny if it takes five seconds to plan and execute, revenge is funny when it takes lots of preparation (especially if the revenge is for something minor. See: Dan VS., some of the Kramer subplots in Seinfeld, even #405

I gotta admit - the only reason I'm reviewing this comic right now is because this is the last thing I can do while still pretending to be productive before I have to tackle my homework backlog. Why didn't any of my high school teachers tell me college was gonna be hard!? Well, okay, they did, but why didn't they MEAN it? Back then I could write three essays in a day on a book I'd never read and get hundreds on all of them! (real thing that happened by the way) Now if you don't spend every waking moment studying suddenly you haven't done any of your homework.

So this comic - this fffffffffucking fffffcomic. It's not good. Actually the "Kevin" part is okay, but THAT's IT. None of the comic has any context or reason to exist. A goose being a CIA informant on other geese is a funny idea, but we don't get to see any of it, we just get the idea. This is a comic of broad, nondescript concepts, with no reason or connection for anything.

Any one of these ideas (except for the valence geese, that just sux) could have been made into a real joke. A goose CIA agent informing on other geese has SO MUCH POTENTIAL. As is, it's like saying "a guy gets hit in the crotch by a golfball" instead of actually seeing the guy get hit in the crotch by a golfball.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1726 - Unicode & #1727 - Number Of Computers

This comic comes off as very hypocritical considering the amount of times Randy's used "turn of phrase is taken literally" as a joke.

Does anyone remember Diary Of A Wimpy Kid? Back when it was a webcomic and good, there was this part where the kid has to hang out at his grandpa's and the only game they have is "Gutbusters" where you tell each other jokes and try to make them laugh, except all of the jokes are super outdated. The example given, as best I can remember, is "Putting financial stability before fiscal responsibility is like putting the cart before the horse."

This comic isn't quiiiite that bad, but it's still not a joke. I'll accept it as a statement, I'll even go so far as to call it 'not the worst thing I've seen this year', but it's not a joke. Even as a statement, it's pretty uncreative, a half-step up from cliché, and it doesn't do a great job at explaining why it's so difficult for unicode to do whatever it is they do.

I guess the visual makes it funnier - not that I'm saying it makes it funny, just that it's less unfunny.
If we were supposed to find humor in the guy trying to control the tides, it loses a lot of its impact when it's just a drawing of a simile. Like, I can suspend my disbelief and laugh at an actor pretending to be an idiot or a drawing of someone being an idiot, but when that idiot is then established to be just being dumb for the sake of a point, the dumbness is no longer "ha ha, he's being dumb!", y'dig?

"This is all setup with no punchline." - me, being an IDIOT as I wrote the rough draft of this post last night. HOw the hell did I miss that huge ass caption that MAKES this comic!?

Fun fact that I've been wanting to wedge into a review for a while now: for ages, my eyes just slid over the caption in #68 and I just interpreted it as the best series of non-sequiturs of all time.

My usual criticism of graph jokes would apply here, but I honestly can't think of a succinct way to turn this into a 'panel' comic 'comic' thing, with a 'plot'-type thing. This is the rare case when I think the graph + caption execution is actually the best way of getting the joke across.

A super nitpicky pedantic thing, real quick before anyone thinks I'm capable of actually enjoying anything: This comic only works for a specific definition of 'computer'.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1724 - Proofs & #1725 - Linear Regressions

I could swear that I've read a comic with almost the exact structure, setup, etc, as the first comic, but I can't remember anything about it so I can't prove that Randy's treading old ground. JUST TRUST ME OKAY?? 

I've mocked XKCD for trying too hard to be 'relatable' before (and I will again, just try and stop me!) but I think this is definitely worse. These seem like anti jokes, jokes that you'd have a character say and the joke is that he's trying and failing to be funny. 

Dara O Briain has a bit at the beginning of one of his stand up specials where he talks about how sometimes he gets shit for not making jokes about Muslims even though he makes jokes about Catholics and etc. And he says, do you know what he says, I'll tell you what he says: "1. I don't know a thing about Muslims. 2. Neither do you." (watch the special, his delivery is what makes that joke) Later in either that special or the next one, he does a bit about that movie 2012, and he goes and explains the rough plot as the first part of the bit. 

It's such a simple solution. Your audience needs to know something to understand a joke you're going to make? Exposit knowledge at them in the form of more jokes. Randy is just assuming we know what the heck he's talking about. 

I will say that I do like the idea of a constellation called "Rexthor, The Dog-Bearer", though. Also it was nice of Randy to make a joke about graphs instead of making a joke in the form of a graph.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1722 - Debugging & #1723 - Meteorite Identification

I'm really on board with the concept of this one, but I think something's lost in having it all described to an audience surrogate. I wish we got a shot of him crawling through a dark tunnel, and in his mouth there's a piece of paper with an IP address written on it in blood, something like that. The sword of Martin The Warrior sounds important, shouldn't it get some kind of actual buildup?

Also, that 'long story short' is bullshit. It reminds me of how amateur fanfiction writers will use the word "somehow" to mean "i couldn't think of an explanation but i wanted it to happen anyway". Half the fun of the joke is the transition from boring tech speak to exciting archaeological (?) discovery, and that takes that away.

That last line by White Hat is totally unnecessary as well, it's just spelling out what's supposed to be funny. The correct reaction would be "...wait, what?".

To steal a joke from Jon Levi, I'm not mad with this comic, I'm just disappointed. This was such a cool idea for a comic and we end up with this bland, nondescript, and non-descriptive 6/10.

I'm gonna get killed by getting hit by a meteorite just to spite this comic.

For real though, who has been so personally affected by people who think rocks are meteorites? That's the only group I can think of that would enjoy this comic. I feel insulted on behalf of people that expected an actual joke out of XKCD on the day this went up; instead, they got lectured that they should give up that hope of ever seeing a meteorite.

That interpretation is probably too harsh but this comic still consists of nothing than "You have not seen a meteorite" and it's like fuck you man! I saw one on Monk once!

I actually considered heading to the American Museum Of Natural History where they apparently have meteorites on display, but that's a three hour trip each way and I ain't got that time to give away, sorry. I drew a rough replica of what the blog would have looked like if I'd done that, tho:


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1720 - Horses & #1721 - Business Idea

I've heard Horses is a good album but I haven't gotten around to listening to it yet. There's too much good music out there!

This comic actually made me Think about self-driving cars and how I would want them to be judged, which I'm counting as a point in XKCD's favor even though I ended up coming to the conclusion that it was wrong. Horses can't navigate, a self driving car with a GPS smashes a horse in terms of functionality (and also speed and comfort and etc).

That said, I am okay with this joke. People being impressed by the digitized intelligence of a horse is just inherently funny to me for some reason. The comic could have been better, I'd have added a bit where someone rebrands the horses in the computer and we end up with something even worse, but as it is I am not unsatisfied.

Points are deducted for the awful art in the first two panels, tho. C'mon, Randy, that chick's head is deformed in two different ways in the same comic, your job is literally drawing stick figures, how have you not got the hang of this yet.

How many of my readers watch Castle? Man, that show had like two good seasons, didn't it? And that finale's gotta go down as one of the worst in history. Anyway, y'know that one bit in that first episode where Castle's talking about the case pretending it's a book idea to his writer buddies? He's like "So everyone thinks this guy did it.... and then he did." All his writer friends are like "wow that's dumb, not how mystery books work bro, put a twist in that"*

That's how I feel about this comic. We're given every indication that a guy is going to have a dumb idea... and then he does. If the joke was just supposed to be that he's dumb, why do we get the two panels of nothing buildup? They're basically filler except XKCD comics don't even need filler so I don't even know what they are.

He's not even being dumb in a funny way, he's just presenting an idea that happens to be bad. It reads more like Randy's trying to make him hilariously boring, but he's not being long-winded or big-vocabulary'd enough.

*Proof that I'm nitpicky about everything and not just XKCD: That scene is so dumb, real crimes aren't like books, if you are investigating a crime please do not base your conclusion on what would make the best story