XKCD Is Stupid - #1386 - PEOPLE ARE STUPID

In the early days of this blog, back when I was averaging half a view a post and typed up things in Word instead of using blogger like a normal person, I said this, regarding #1314:

"Hey guys, do you know what’s HI-LARE-E-OUS? Preachiness! Truly, nothing is more amazingly humorous than a strawman being smacked down by an author avatar.

The thing I find interesting about this comic is that I’m managing to hate it despite it aligning with my views on the subject rather neatly. "
I also said some more words, but since they were Early Blog type-words, they weren't that relevant to the topic at hand. Had I possessed the same practice that I do now, I would have clarified:
The way this argument is phrased makes me not want to be on the same side as it. I don't want to be identified as siding with someone that mistakes passive-aggressive sarcasm for comedy.
It didn't have to be this way. This comic could have made fun of both sides, or played dumb and chosen a terrible third option, but no. Randy chose to phrase his argument as obnoxiously and masturbatorily as possible. Maybe he thought it would be funny. It wasn't. It was self-satisfied "I'm better than you." blather portrayed in the most biased way possible.
Just look at it. White Hat gets his one line before Randy's self-insert brings out this prepared song and dance, and White Hat just stands there and takes it. He's essentially a punching bag, meant to eat up the abuse in exactly the way that any actual debater wouldn't.
Sometimes, as a very small child, when I was frustrated or angry, I would punch my stuffed animals, because I knew I couldn't punch my parents, or my bedtime, or my broccoli (well, the last one I could, but my mom would wash it off and make me eat it anyway). This looks like almost the same thing. Randy's frustrated with people saying "People are stupid.", so he draws up White Hat again and draws another stick figure to beat him up.
That's worthy of a comic, right? That's good enough to feed to all his fans that came here expecting a funny joke, yeah, totally. After all, they're only the reason you're able to call this your job.
Making everything even worse is the hypocrisy of the whole thing. "If you say people are stupid, it's only because you think you're smarter than them.", but the way the argument is phrased, the way the entire comic is executed screams "I'm smarter than you.". Especially that last line: "May you continue to grace our Internet with your wisdom.".
Well, Randy, you seem to be doing it, I don't see why he can't.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1385 - THROWING ROCKS

It's comics like this where I really wish I'd decided that my "thing" was going to be passive-aggressive one sentence reviews. I'd just type up "The joke is that reading the comments on a news article is pointless." and be done with it.

I'm setting a limit for myself, preemptively. If XKCD ever gets to the point where every criticism I have of every new comic has already been used multiple times on previous comics, I'm going to stop. There's only so many times little baby Greg could jump off the porch before he realized he wasn't going to fly. There's only so many times angry big boy Greg can yell at a more successful person for making the same mistakes over and over again.

Today's criticism I'm rolling out of the storeroom is my trusty "not presented wackily enough". Today's comic has a solemn, almost somber tone, more befitting the middle of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor song than a successful comedy webcomic*. Look at Megan in the third panel. She's looking at that rock as if it holds the meaning for her empty life, but it doesn't. Nothing will. God is dead. We are alone.

Oh, happy first day of summer everyone.

*"Successful Comedy Webcomic" is going to end up as a name for one of my music alias things.


XKCD Is Really Annoying - #1384 - KRYPTON

Well, that was dark. "The crying baby is annoying, let's send it to an exploding planet." That's almost Louis CK level stuff right there.

I don't really have a problem with dark humor, as long as it's done well. The aforementioned Louis CK is my third favorite comedian. It's a bit jarring to see Randy "kiss people" Monroe come out with something like this, though.

Regarding the comic itself... I don't really see what the point of it is, I don't see what Randy was trying to do with it. It's not a parody of Superman's origin story, since nothing from Superman actually has any impact on anything. Replacing "Krypton" with, say, Makemake, doesn't affect the comic at all. So what we're left with is "Let's kill an annoying baby."

Am I missing something here? I'm honestly asking, explainxkcd is down right now. Nothing in this comic is given any emphasis, I don't know what I'm supposed to be focused on. It really does just seem like a lame dead baby joke with a random Superman reference.

Two last thoughts:
1. Only showing the baby's cry in the first panel was a stupid decision.
2. Rob Swire did this much better.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1383 - MAGIC WORDS

This was a really hard comic to review for me. To start, the source of the premise is so obscure that  explainxkcd.com had to quote Wikipedia to live up to its URL.

One of my major issues with XKCD has always been that it never explains itself. Some comics are almost like Rorscharch tests or postmodern art, open to interpretation but really meaningless when you get right down to it.

I could understand the lack of elaboration on the jokes if XKCD's "thing" was really complex and detailed art, like one yaoi comic I found once  that had a really stylized, slightly abstract painted style. XKCD doesn't. It's not like it would take a massive amount of effort to draw another black and white panel with a talking stick figure in it.

I could also understand it if the jokes were always cheap, easy, and accessible, but they're not. Some of them, like this one, require a knowledge of a specific terminology in linguistics, the kind of joke that makes me imagine Randy coming up with his ideas by hitting the Random Article button on Wikipedia.

Another issue that affects a lot of XKCDs is the really weird way the characters talk, really blunt and direct. I've had an XKCD fan write in before saying that it's just part of the minimalism, to which I respond: Okay, sure, he's allowed to do it, but that doesn't make it any less of a terrible idea. To paraphrase half of all complaints about The Great Gatspy, doing something in a deliberately boring or irritating way to make a point may make the point well, but it sure doesn't make me want to hear your point out.

Lastly, the caption doesn't accurately reflect the joke. "Linguist with a foot fetish" means "A linguist that also as a foot fetish". A better phrasing would be "Linguists have a different meaning for 'foot fetish' than most people."


XKCD Isn't Bad - #1382 - ROCKET PACKS

Pretty much my only problem with this comic is that it wasn't immediately apparent that the lower legs were supposed to be burnt specifically. I got that they were injured, and the title made it obvious that they were injured because of the backpack, but it looked like the person had just smashed up his lower legs on touchdown.

If this had been a three-panel'er, with the first panel having the person flying fine, the second having him loosing control, and the third having him burning his shins lower legs (the captions would be where they are, the beginning and the end), that would have been better for expositing the joke.

All in all, though, it's just another brick in the wall, it was a pretty clever joke that I don't think has been done before, and I'd definitely give this one a passing grade if I gave letter grades.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1381 - MARGIN

I once wondered, as I sat in front of my computer, listening to UK garage, what percent of all XKCDs would have been able to fit on Twitter. While I doubt I'll ever be bored enough to check, anyone counting can add this to their list. I checked, and the text in this comic is exactly 140 characters as written. That alone takes a lot of points off, considering there's not even a doodle to add to it.

A problem with text-based communications is that it's really hard to realize when someone's being sarcastic or lying unless they play it up, and even then it doesn't always work*. When reading this, my interpretation went something like this:

Person: "Holy crap, a proof that information is infinitely compressible! I shalt write it in my biology textbook. Damn, there's only one margin I can put it in, and it's too small. Oh, wait. I could just compress the proof!"

I checked explainxkcd since obviously ":(" wouldn't make sense at the end of that chain of events. This comic is apparently actually a parody of Fermat's Last Theorem. The problem is, there's nothing in the comic that points this out. Someone who had just learned about FLT might get it, but as someone who hadn't heard about FLT until I had to write this post, this comic just didn't make sense to me.

As with many XKCDs, the idea isn't terrible, but the execution is. If we'd been shown a stick figure dude reading out FLT to a friend and saying that he'll pull a joke on everyone just like Fermat, that would have been a decent setup. If we'd been shown the stick figure slowly realizing his idea wouldn't work, with his friend calling him an idiot, that would have been a decent punchline. As it is, we get neither.

I seem to be ending a lot of my reviews by complaining about the small thing that bugged me more than it should have, and I see no reason to stop yet: Only pricks write out emoticons on paper (proof: I do it.).

*I was once E-friends with someone that used "Mhm" to mean "Yes", and up to that point I'd only ever seen it used to mean "Yeah, sure, whatever buddy." so there was a hi-LAR-ious miscommunication between the two of us.**

**She ended up being a really terrible conversationalist anyway. Whenever I told her something she was doing annoyed me, she'd do it again and think she was being funny. She was a bitch about everything too. Just a really awful person to talk to in general.



"Manual for civilization"? more like MANUAL FOR TELLING A GODDAMN JOKE if you ask me! HAHA!

That wasn't really necessary. This comic wasn't that bad. It had a decent go, but then it fucked up the ending, mUCH LIKE PINK FLOYD'S CAREER...! ba-ZING!!!!!!!!!11one

The introduction is a bit awkward, but the second panel reveals that Mr. Eno's giving a speech on behalf of the LNF, so it makes sense that he'd have to explain his background. I give the first one and a half panels my coveted "Fair enough" award.

The second half of the second panel and the third panel lose me a little bit. Why, exactly, is an organization focused on environmentalism and the long term survival of humanity preparing for the end of civilization? This would have been an acceptable break from reality if the punchline wasn't crap mUCH LIKE ROGER WATERS' SOLO CAREER BLAAAAA

The punchline is that Brian Eno, rather than giving a selection of instructional manuals on how to organize nations or whatever, has chosen a series of fictional books that don't give any actual advice on how to rebuild civilization. The issue is, rather than pick a post-apocalyptic series or any series that has "advice" on how to survive (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and A Series of Unfortunate Events come to mind, although they aren't perfect examples), Randy picked the series that would get him the most nostalgia points. I love The Animorphs as much as the next guy, but that doesn't mean a reference automatically gives out chuckles like some sort of chuckle-based ATM.

As a final note, it irks me a bit when he responds "No!". "Of course not." would fit the presentation tone a lot better.


XKCD Is Punny, as it turns out - #1378 - TURBINE

I'm just going to admit it: My first review of this comic was wrong. Dead wrong. I said that the pun doesn't work because a turbine is a big fan and therefore the turbine's statement fails to be both literally and figuratively true. Thankfully, your man Luigi was lurking around in the comments to correct me. A turbine, as it turns out, doesn't generate wind.

So it is with no small amount of embarrassment that I must admit that this XKCD is actually rather clever and funny, with the caveat that adding "really" between "I'm" and "not" would have made the joke slightly clearer.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1377 - FISH

A few years ago, my aunt gave me a copy of Professor Layton and the Curious Village as a present. While I was playing through it, I actually managed to do something that I'm not usually able to do: predict the ending with pinpoint accuracy.

I figured almost everything out, down to the last detail, by about the three-fourths mark of the game. The thing is, as soon as I came up with my explanation, I discarded it. "No way." I thought to myself. "That would just be stupid, they had to have come up with something better than that."

I was probably more surprised by the ending than someone who hadn't seen it coming. I thought it was a giant red herring, right up until the game ended.

I had a similar experience reading this comic. Once I read "Maybe the fish looks like sand"/"Yeah... ...and what does that tell you about the ecosystem.", a hesitant lightbulb crawled out my ear and perched uncertainly on top of my head.

"Because they'd need camouflage as protection against predators." it said.
"No, that can't be what he meant." I replied. "I'm misreading this."
"Ahahaha!" the comic chuckled to itself as I read over the next set of four panels. "That's what you think."

I have to admit, the idea that we don't know about aliens because they're hiding from the giant space sharks is a new one. I don't think I can take any points off for originality here. Honestly, the entire problem with this comic is that it's not set up wackily enough. Nothing in the dialogue gives us any hint we're supposed to take this as anything but a seriously presented idea, and as an idea, it obviously doesn't work. How would the Giant Space Shark propel itself throughout space? How would it survive if it had to eat to live and was a third of the size of the earth? How did it evolve to be this size?

This could have been decent (not good, but decent) if one of the characters was being sarcastic. Then the second row of panels would have been in a thought bubble, and it could have been followed by a non-thought-bubble-panel with one telling the other. "Yeah, I don't think that would work." or something to that effect.

I will give credit where credit is due: the alt text was pretty clever, jumping off of the original joke without repeating or seeming like it should just be another panel.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1376 - JUMP

I'm going to start with the good here: Randy at least tried to move beyond "lookit guyz i is ARTSY!" with that last line at the end. The artwork is pretty decent.

That's all.

First, a brief lesson on how time-perception works when reading comics. In comics, the bigger the panel, the more time it is perceived to take up. So what we've got is three panels that should be showing a longer period of time than usual, showing many tiny fragments of time (assuming the beach isn't actually two miles from the top of the hill to the water).

Second, the pacing of the narration differs from both the suggested and actual pacings, since it was spaced according to how well the words would fit the panel and not for how they would best tell the little story.

Thirdly, the odd format that "G L I D E" is in makes it look like it's a sound effect.

Forth, and the first one to jump out at me as I read this: The setup has something really weird about it. He's not saying "I love these dreams that I have sometimes", he's saying "I love these dreams.". Most jokes about dreams that I've seen focus around two of the top five most common dreams (falling*, being naked), and  with good reason. For one, those dreams are pretty universal (y'know, what with being in the top five and all) and they're lighthearted enough to make fun of in g-rated situations, although obviously the second point isn't that relevant here. This is the first time I've heard of this specific type of gliding dream, or gliding dreams at all for that matter, so any relatability goes straight down the drain.

Lastly, the punchline is really, really weak, even discounting the number of times I've seen it done better. "I hope this surreal circumstance isn't actually happening, as I would be in a bad place if it were.". And this might not be fair considering that this is a dream, but I'd expect someone who worked at NASA to say "this is probably a dream" once they start flying under their own power.

In short, this comic has good art but a hackneyed setup and a lame punchline, and I'm pretty sure I missed some stuff to talk about, but honestly I just don't care quite that much.

*For some reason, I'm apparently the only person in the world that actually hits the ground in falling dreams. Everyone else I've asked wakes up first or just never stops falling.