2017-09-20

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1887 - Two Down, One To Go


When I first read this I thought this was in reference to some sci-fi book I'd never read. Like in the book these three things all happen and it's a sign of the apocalypse. (The fact that the aurora happens more than once a year did 100% slip my mind, and you are free to mock me for this fact in the comments) I didn't wanna do that kinda review again where I have to rely on explainxkcd to make sure I'm getting my facts right about the referenced thing I've never read.

See, back in middle school, I was taught to always label my graphs. Reading a graph is supposed to be intuitive, we shouldn't have to infer anything. Without a label on the y-axis, all we know is that these things have happened in some way. We have to read the alt-text to realize that Randy is just talking about stuff he's seen.

And that is just TERRIBLE. This comic is only valuable in any way to people who've become deeply invested in Randy as a person, and even then it's barely worth mentioning. As anon pointed out, the comic is just listing two things he's done. And yeah, both of those phenomena are kinda cool, and I'm a little be envious of Randy for getting to see them both, but is that really material for a comic? If he really wanted to use this framework, he should've actually described the total eclipse vs the aurora, comparing and contrasting the different ways they embodied the majesty of nature and all that.

In conclusion, when I was in grade school my aunt somehow won an interview with Ryder Windham and he was a super nice guy, but because I asked him about Bionicle at one point, that means I was technically TEN YEARS ahead of all y'all on Bionicle G2. And another time at work I recognized this dude's voice and he worked for NPR and he shook my hand.

What are two things you've done?

2017-08-25

Why Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do" Fails


Full confession, I have never been a big fan of 'the t-swift', before or after her shift from strummy country-pop to trendy dance pop. I do like "Love Story" and "I Knew You Were Trouble" though, even though they're kinda dumb.

That's really what Taylor Swift is best at: songs that are dumb but fun. Like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together". That's a stupid song, but it's FUN stupid, it's FUN to sing along to "Weeeee... are never ever ever... getting back together". I mean, fun for teenagers. Not me, I'm an adult person.

When Swiftaylor tries to be dark, it really just comes off as immature. Take the bridge: "I don't trust nobody and nobody trusts me | I'll be the actress starring in your bad dreams". I'm just thinking 'Well, maybe people'd trust you more if you weren't caught lying'. And 'bad dreams'? Old Taylor is dead but the edgy new Taylor can't even say "nightmare"?

And that's really the biggest problem with this song. It's set up like an edgy diss track, when it has no teeth at all. Compare it to Remy Ma's Nicki diss, which brought those #receipts and kept bringing them the whole track. Is it fair to compare a pop song to a rap song on lyrical detail? Not totally, but it does illustrate the point that "LWYMMD" doesn't name names, except in the vaguest terms. If you look at the genius page right now, you'll see people saying the song could be about Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, or Katy Perry, but it's just not clear. So it becomes just a general 'unnamed person is bad' track that might as well be another 'my ex broke up with me song'. And that would be fine, if the song itself wasn't broken.

First, look at the lyrics, removing all context: "I don't like your perfect crime | How you laugh when you lie | You said the gun was mine". Crime/lie/mine is a super basic rhyme scheme (It took five people to write this???), and the image they create is totally disconnected from any kind of reality - someone's accusing Taylor Swift of murder? and then her only reaction is "isn't cool, no I don't like you". Weak!

The beat isn't terrible, but there's a lot of weird decisions. Like how the first verse is percussion only, and there's no transition to the piano-driven pre-chorus, even though there was a perfectly suitable transition effect used at the thirty second mark when a new drum comes into the mix. And interpolating "I'm Too Sexy" was just dumb. That song is one of the (enjoyably!) goofiest songs of all time. Even people who don't recognize it are going to subconsciously associate that goofy mood with the attempted seriousness of "Look What You Made Me Do", which takes away from any power the song might have had left.

In conclusion, the only way that the song works is if it turns out to be some kind of meta-diss. Like, "Look what you made me do, you upset me so much that now I can't recognize a bad song".

2017-08-21

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1879 - Eclipse Birds


I like this one! It's not perfect by a long shot, but the joke works, and that's the most important thing.

The way the characters react as if the birds aren't acting out of the ordinary (for the eclipse, I mean) really sells it. If they were acting scared, I think it'd take away from the comic. It'd just be people reacting the way that, y'know, people would react. That's not funny, that's just people being people, but in a situation that's too 'out there' to be a satire on how people act.

Where the comic falls down is really in the presentation area. I usually have my brightness all the way down, so the words in the top of the last comic were hard to make out. That's not a huge problem, but if I was XKCD's editor, it would be something I'd fix. Maybe the gradient could have the darker side on the bottom of the panel, or maybe it could just be lightened a little.

It's also very static from panel to panel. I'm not asking to see a whole flock of birds or the construction of the blood cauldron, but if we saw like, a sparrow pecking around in the first panel, then it looks up in the second and flies away in the third, it'd make the comic more visually interesting. Or show the eclipse happening! As it is, it's just two people standing there.

Also, very minor nitpick, but the two people should be wearing eclipse glasses. Stay safe!

2017-07-29

XKCD Reviewed - #1868 - Eclipse Flights


Credit where credit is due, this is a good comic!

The dialogue avoids the worst of the usual XKCD problem where it's too stiff. Instead of "I'm calculating how many flights will intersect the eclipse...", we just get "Flight plans.". Much better! We can infer the other information from the context, which is what functional dialogue is supposed to do.

And the joke is good too. That overdramatic "end times" line just SELLS it for me. I just love the idea of a pilot going about their regular business when suddenly the apocalypse is happening except HA JK its not. It reminds me of those prank videos on youtube. No! Not those ones! The ones that DON'T suck!!!

I do have a few tiny quibbles. Panel two having no dialogue gives the comic a bit of a weird pacing, it's like a beat panel, but the panel after it doesn't have anything that would require a beat panel. Maybe instead panels two and three could be combined, with the dialogue from three superimposed over the image from two.

And yknow how English is read left to right, right? Because of that, we also 'read' art as going from left to right. Consider how we almost always see the 8-Bit Theater gang walking toward the right side of the panel, ditto for a lot of XKCDs. So the image for panel four should really be flipped vertically. That could be an intentional choice that I'm just not picking up on the ideas of, though.

I'd also like to point out that this is just a liiiiittle bit similar to #1391, which was almost five hundred comics ago, holy crap. And that on its own is not bad. This comic improves upon that one in pretty much every way, and if you're going to rip something off, you might as well improve it while you do. But if there's a third comic about people being confused about darkness, I will be very disappointed in Randall Munroe.

2017-07-24

Questionable Content - #3532 - Now Light The Other One


This is not a bad gag, but it is not a good joke. This is an almost perfect low-level side gag to be included alongside a fuller joke or an emotional conversation. Even if you LOVE "an unusual candle smell" as a joke, you have to admit that it doesn't deserve three panels of setup. Especially when we've already heard what it smells like in a previous comic. And that other comic had two candle smells, not just the one! So it's not just redundant, it's also distilled. 

The structure of the comic, with the long setup to learning something we already know, makes it seem like the real joke is supposed to be Faye and Bubbles's reaction to the smell. But that doesn't work either, since they're completely deadpan in how they respond. It's just boring! And I'm not asking for Jeph to suddenly start writing his characters to be super over the top, but a comic needs to have *stuff* in it. 'Mild surprise that a strange label is accurate' is not *stuff*. 

Credit where it's due: Jeph did do the not-lazy thing, he did have Faye doing a thing in the background. That's nifty. It's no where near enough to make this comic good, though. 

2017-07-21

Questionable Content Isn't Funny - #3526 - Stay Chocolate Frosty


So, my first reaction to this comic was that Bubbles was saying "trademark" after "Wendy's", but then a Webcomics Review post convinced me that Jeph just didn't know how to put in the little "ᵀᴹ".

BUT THEN

On his twitter, Jeph posted a reaction, saying that Bubbles WAS saying it out loud, because she thought she was supposed to. (also he thinks it makes more sense than looking up the trademark symbol?)  And that begs the question: Why isn't Clinton reacting to it? Check out him being sassy to Faye mere moments later, he's not the super shy guy anymore, so he's not just being polite. There's no way he wouldn't have noticed, and there's no way that he wouldn't have questioned it.

It just doesn't make sense for Bubbles to have a speech thing that doesn't get reacted to. Even Faye's old speech thing got reacted to back in the day!

The joke itself comes across as too abstract to be funny. If we saw a stamp with a weird off-yellow goo, and then the goop squirms on his robo-hand into the shape of the Wendy's girl, that's funny. Just hearing about a weird Wendy's promo... isn't.

Fun fact about me: I was only just finishing up this review when I realized I was picturing the McDonald's logo in my head instead of the Wendy's logo.

In conclusion, Bubbles and Faye are gonna fuck.

2017-06-06

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1846 - Drone Problems

 On the other hand, as far as they know, my system is working perfectly.

When I have drone problems, it's usually because of unrelenting low-pitched hums! coming toward me from the sky as government-issued robots attempt to kill me
Best, anyone the US doesn't like

Speaking of pointless cruelty, what this comic needs is some Black Hat. Think about it, it makes perfect sense. For one, the girl's story doesn't make sense. If the drones are being flown so haphazardly, shouldn't she have known she wouldn't be able to hit them? And wouldn't it also mean that people flying drones near her were doing it by accident, and were therefore undeserving of having their property destroyed?

The comic improves a bunch if you rewrite it to have Black Hat as the shooting-down-y person. He's a jackass who doesn't care about shit, we're all down for his wanton havoc. If we just have our standard XKCD Guy and XKCD Girl®, it's not quite normalized, but it's more grounded than something done by Black 'Stole A Russian Sub Once' Hat.

That's not to say that Black Hat hasn't previously been used as a mouthpiece, he has, but it's been in a clearly over-the-top way. This comic, in contrast, is subdued, with the destructive idea as the setup, not the punchline. Instead of the mayhem being the part we're supposed to laugh at, it's just how we get to the actual joke. This makes the mayhem seem like just something that happens, especially with how the guy just goes along with it when he finds out. I don't think Randy is actually advocating for shooting down drones, but the comic's structure makes it look like he is. He even says "my system" in the alt-text!"

Even if we put all that aside, the joke is still poorly done. The last three panels are all the same idea, which slows down the delivery of the punchline and minimizes its impact. The two panels in the middle should be replaced by a single panel with a line like "Okay, setting up. I can't wait!", THEN cut to them three hours later.


By the way, if you're missing my #content, feel free to check out XKCD Still Sucks, a new blog on the scene! He's keeping the fire alive, plus he says I've got bonhommie! I looked it up, and it means I'm a really nice guy!!

2017-03-22

Update

I may or may not have bitten off more than I can chew. 

Back when I started this blog, I was in high school and had no other real life commitments. It was easy to find time to write a review, and it was easy to think of new things to say. 

Now, I'm in college, which is haaard, maaan. I'm also trying to do a podcast thing, which at this point I find more rewarding than this blog. Like, with Panel Beat, me and Jon can have a fun time talking about whatever we want, but with this blog, I have to talk about how a comic is dumb. And it's harder to find new ways to say a comic is dumb when so many of them are dumb in the same ways. 

That's not to say that I regret doing this blog. I'm glad that I had a device that helped me improve my writing. But I'm not getting any real spiritual (or physical, since none of you jerks buy my tunes) benefits from writing it anymore. And I don't want to force myself to do this; I won't enjoy it, and my writing won't be as good.

And that's not to say that this blog is going to die, either. I'm just going to switch focus. Instead of trying to review every single XKCD, I'm going to talk about the ones that I feel like I actually have something to say about. And I'm going to be expanding in scope, talking about other webcomics and maybe other stuff too. Probably a once-a-week schedule from now on?

Feel free to yell at me in the comments.

2017-03-14

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1810 - Chat Systems


This comic was probably intended to be confusing, but it succeeds a little too well. Especially compared to the other graphs that Randy's put out. Even when he was making an infographic that nobody needed or wanted, it looked planned out and designed. Not to say that Randy put zero thought into the organization of this comic, just that he put less thought into it than we've come to expect.

I really like the double 'wall' bit, but that's the only joke, and it makes the rest of the comic seem like just setup, when it could be much more. Well, not that much more, but still more than what it is.

Maybe if it was more driven by narrative. Like, a guy could be meeting up with a Skype friend for the first time, only to realize that they lived in the same apartment. That's a weak example, but still. And then the wall gag could be the alt-text. It'd say something about the tiny invisible connections that make up our world, like the guy who dates the girl who serves you McDonalds is also friends with your uncle. Maybe I just want everything to be Cloud Atlas.

Also, if I were the type of person to do sick burns on Randy, I'd say like "you can tell he's making this comic up because there's no way he has this many friends".

2017-03-08

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1772 - Startup Opportunity & #1773 - Negativity


I think I've finally figured out what Beret is supposed to represent. Y'know how Randy likes to play up his quirkiness sometimes? Beret is that 'quirky' archetype taken to its (il)logical extreme. See, he's not just hipster, getting his clothing from vintage shops. He's off the chart on the quirky hipster side of the hipster-normie scale, to the point where even his groceries are from shops that you haven't heard of... because they don't exist anymore.

And that's fine, that's a good joke, except we as readers have to make that connection ourselves. We don't see a standard issue hipster buying an out of print 7" who then gets one-up'd by Beret buying a custom space microphone. We're just thrown in to the deep end and we have to invent our own narrative. And that's cool in a David Lynch movie, when the goal is to make an unsettling and confusing experience that you can interpret yourself. It's less cool in a comedy thing, since it's forcing the reader to basically write their own joke with the pieces Randy gives us.

In his review of Final Fantasy XIII, Yahtzee said that "the kookiness of the prerequisite kooky character has now reached some kind of singularity. Her actions don't seem to have any connection to sentient thought or social context.". That's the other problem with Beret. He's so far off the scale that he just seems like he's on drugs or something. We can't relate to him, even through his unrelatability.

Like, with Michael Scott, most people wouldn't do the things that he does throughout The Office (US), but we can see his logic a lot of the time. He doesn't want people to think prison is cool, so he creates 'Prison Mike'. That's dumb, but there's a logical step from point A to point B. With Beret, it just seems like he doesn't understand anything around him. That's not funny, that's just kinda sad.

All that said, this comic works (to an extent) because the punchline is based around people reacting to Beret. Beret is the setup, and the reactions are the punchline. Also it makes fun of corporate types and I love me some anti-capitalist propaganda.


At first I thought this was a remake of that 'Balloon Internet' comic, but apparently this whole time that comic has been a reference to a Google thing. Who knew?

It's kinda lazy to only draw clouds for one panel. I understand that text is almost always the top layer in comics, but we don't even see the tiny clouds lined up with his head. Adding clouds to the other panels would even make the joke more impactful, since it's based on the contrast between internet negativity and nature peacefulness.

The joke is good, though. It has that surrealistic dream-like logic that Randy can make work really well sometimes. Like, you could have a guy pop his head out from under a rock, but why not have the grass itself insult the guy? It works because the grass is retroactively made into the premise of the comic. It still comes out of left field, but since that left field -ness is being played for laughs and not plot, I am fine with it.

And I'm aware it's probably not, but let's all just pretend that the "you suck" phrasing is in reference to the original xkcdsucks blog.