XKCD Isn't Funny - #1661 - Podium

I find it really ironic that Randy would make a joke with a political-style setup but no actual politics in it during an election year. Especially this election year of all years! For those reading this in the distant future, before the Singaporeans enslaved us all, we had elections, and the one that happened in 2016 was WILD. It was the one year that I think literally anyone could get away with making an easy political joke about what was going on.

If this was an intentional avoidance of making a topical joke, I actually have to give props to Randy, it would have been super easy for him to go the easy route and say "Trump is a foolish man", but he decided that he was going to make a joke that would still work years down the line.

I do think that it could have been better though. Setting aside my usual thing about how there could be multiple panels and more scenery to make the comic come alive more, it just seems un-politician to say "okay, brief tangent". It makes much more sense in the context of the comic if his whole campaign is actually based on finding out if it's 'podium' or 'lectern'. It's funnier, too. Instead of a politician improvising a new part of his campaign, he's going up on stage saying he'll fix terminology, an issue that maybe two people care about.

So, the other day I was talking with Rob, and he mentioned a friend of his who had once complained about 300 'not having enough political intrigue'. And I spent a few days mulling it over a little bit, since - as evidenced by this blog's existence - I tend to be someone who overthinks things, and I came to a conclusion: Criticizing a thing for not pandering to your specific tastes isn't valid criticism, BUT if you can say "oh, 300 totally missed a great opportunity to be smart on top of being an action movie by not adding in political intrigue like it could have", that is valid. (note: I haven't seen 300 so I don't know if the evidence stacks up for my hypothetical rephrased Rob's friend but it works as an example). But I'd like to hear your thoughts on this because I do have "man, I run an XKCD hateblog, that's my claim to fame" kinda bring-down thoughts every now and then and I feel like I was able to self-justify a little.

If you'll bear with me for another slight digression, you don't need to worry about this blog shutting down anytime soon. I feel like I am providing a kind of service, and there is a point to it, even if it isn't readily apparent. There's a Jonah Dempcy tweet that's stuck with me for a while, and it's "Bad critique is still good due to its ironic content. Bad critique ironically directs at the other what is meant for itself." Even if everything I've ever said on this blog is totally wrong, I'm still stimulating discussion and thought and stuff. Plus there turn out to be points to pointless things all the time, like Of Oz The Wizard probably seemed stupid in idea form, but then it turned out to be a super interesting way of relooking at the way we look at film and how pauses are used in dialogue and stuff.

By the way, watch Of Oz The Wizard.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1660 - Captain Speaking

Oh dang, you have to pay? Hey, has anyone else paid already? If so, can I borrow your phone for a sec?

When I was like six I overheard my dad telling a friend "...so the captain does all the flight stuff, but then he forgets to turn off the thing, so you just hear him say to the copilot 'Goddamn, Doug, what I could really use right now is a cup of coffee and a blowjob.' So of course the stewardess runs to the cockpit to be like 'guys, the things on', but before she can tell them the pilot asks her, kinda annoyed like, 'Hey - where's the coffee?'" And for ages I thought that was a true story and I told tons of my friends but NOPE. It's even on Snopes, albeit in a slightly different form.

Anyway, this comic's problem is that the captain is upfront about his failings and is kinda quasi-apologetic about it. A captain being unapologetically rude about his improper-ness is funny, and a guy trying to hide that he doesn't know how to fly a plane is funny, but this guy being all "geez, folks, gonna be honest i got no idea what i'm doing" is lacking in punch.

I think we'd also benefit from an interior plane view, kind of an establishing shot, before the captain makes his announcement. It'd bring us more into the 'plane' mindset and make the contrast between the regulated expectation we have for airplanes and the goofy pilot more pronounced. As it is, we don't even see the airplane first, the comic is very non-visual  in its presentation, which makes it weaker.

Oh, Happy Easter, by the way!


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1658 - Estimating Time & #1659 - Tire Swing

Corollary to Hofstadter's Law: Every minute you spend thinking about Hofstadter's Law is a minute you're NOT WORKING AND WILL NEVER FINISH! PAAAAAANIIIIIIC!

(Rob was a consult on this review, please assume any flaws are his fault)

It took me a while to figure out what the issue with this comic was, and then after doing a few careful read-throughs I finally realized: it's presented too dryly.

This could actually maybe be an educational type comic about the thought processes that can affect a person with anxiety. However, as an educational type comic, it would fail on the basis of not offering any type of solution. I don't know if that's what he was really going for, but it does just read like a more or less straightforward depiction of that kind of mental process, what with the "you're making no progress and will never finish, paaaniiic!" line.

The absurd overdramatization would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that anxious thinking is inherently overdramatic. What would normally be a humorous exaggeration is just... how people actually think. I do have anxiety, though (actual, 'I-see-a-therapist-on-Fridays' anxiety, not 'yeah i worry a lot' anxiety) so it's possible I'm reading too much into this comic on that basis.

I think what Randy was trying to do here was turn a thought process he had into a joke, but he didn't manage to give it any kind of twist. Like, the focus of the comic could have been Ponytail working really hard on estimating how much time the project will take, in the process putting off the project and doubling her work time. Instead it's very much focused on the mental aspect, or at least that's how it ends off.

If we find one of those tire dumps, the next time he tries to get his truck back we can just retreat and let him have it.

This comic is a blatant awareness attempt by Randy towards the issue of tires and stuff, to which I respond with one of my favorite quotes by philosopher Joel Zimmerman. At least it's not the whole comic, though.

I actually like the idea behind the punchline, probably more than I should. The mental image of these two small children robbing people of their tires is just great. The fight angle kinda doesn't work for me, though; these kids are young enough to still be using a tire swing (in 2016!) and a grown ass man is gonna beat them down for stealing a tire? That's not cool, bro. It'd be less weird if the kid just said "I hope he doesn't know our parents" or even just ended it at "Yeah, that guy was real mad."

Also, shouldn't the speakers of the dialogue be switched in that last panel? The kid goes on this monologue and then responds to themselves, it just flows better if "We should use one of those next time" is a response to the monologue from the other person.

In other news, regular commenter Toby Jackson made a song called "GOOMHR" on his album Hoard, and it's actually just an interlude, but the rest of the album is DOPE, SON. You probably won't enjoy it if you like your songs 'to the point' or 'less than twelve minutes long' but if you enjoy well performed music for music's sake, I definitely recommend at least giving it a listen or two.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1657 - Insanity

 I looked up "insanity" in like 10 different dictionaries and none of them said anything like that. Neither did the DSM-4. But I'll keep looking. Maybe it's in the DSM-5!

Oh, so that's why Randy keeps remaking the 'simple words' gag. He thinks it's totally cool to just do the same thing over and over again, much like Weezer, burn!

The thing about these White Hat comics is that we never get any context for what he's saying. The whole point of the comic is for Randy to rail against whatever particular turn of phrase is irritating him today.

And what a weird particular turn of phrase it is. I wish that this was a multi-panel comic, where he really went in-depth with his reasoning. Is his whole thing that it's a cliché and it doesn't necessarily change people's minds? Or is it, as the alt-text implies so condescendingly, that it misrepresents the medical condition of insanity?

Anyway, here's my defense of the insanity quote: If you do the same thing over and over expecting a different result, that is a foolish course of action. You can hit a tree with a feather all you want, but maybe try an axe instead if you want it to fall down. I can't think of any examples of people trying the same tactic over and over and eventually it worked, but I can think of a lot of examples of people trying the same thing over and over and it keeps failing for the same reasons. That's what that quote is intended to highlight, at least most of the time. Maybe in this instance, White Hat is using it completely incorrectly, but since we aren't shown what he's saying it in reference to, I'm going to have to assume that Randy's just being a presumptuous asshole here. Especially when he's saying "has it convinced anyone to change their mind yet". I really don't think anyone is expecting anyone else to change their minds based on a well-known quote, quotes are more of a supplementary material to a larger argument.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1656 - It Begins

You can also try 'Yikes.'

It's kinda funny that this counts as CouldBeATweet when it's literally (literal in the literal sense) a drawing of a tweet. And not even an original one, I've seen pretty much this exact joke before at least a dozen times, except those times were better since it was an actual comment on an actual news story. And even before that, the joke that any given news is the beginning of something horrible has been done on pretty much any sitcom.

Now, to be fair to Randy, this specific way of telling this joke has not been done before. By presenting it in this form, with faux-screenshot and separate caption, he is making a wider joke about how the "It begins." caption joke can be done. Which would be fine, were it not a ripoff of #1022. It's not even a better ripoff, since that one was applicable in almost infinite situations and this one is only to 'make your day more dramatic' which it doesn't even do. It, at best, makes you seem kinda funny, and at worst, makes you look like a conspiracy theorist.

As mentioned previously on this blog, I try not to mention the alt-text too much, since it is both bonus and hidden, but today's doesn't even make sense. "You can also try 'Yikes'.". That's just a statement! You can say that on literally any news story and all it means is that you're offput by it. How is that dramatic at all? It's not even a good expression of surprise, it reads like condescending disapproval. (that last sentence brought to you by the anti-SJW side of tumblr)


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1655 - Doomsday Clock

So, I actually really like the idea here. I give it points for topicality and originality. However, I do think it stumbles a bit on the execution.

The Doomsday Clock doesn't actually affect anything directly, it's basically a measurement tool (it's also not an actual clock but I think that the comic can get away with that for Rule Of Funny and also clarity of the joke). This makes the last panel seem disconnected from the previous three, we don't have an understanding of why the clock is connected to the apocalypse and we aren't given one. There should be a panel or two in between panels three and four showing a military bunker on red alert, with a screen flashing "DOOMSDAY CLOCK PAST MIDNIGHT", and a guy in a hat with stars on it says "The Russians must have finally done it. Launch all weapons in retaliation". And then maybe instead of showing an explosion from the Earth's surface, we could see it from space, and we'd really get that this is Doomsday with a capital D and ain't nobody surviving that.

I'm also not sure how well known the Doomsday Clock is. I know what it is, but I asked two of my friends and neither of them did. Maybe there could have been a panel before the firsts one where a tour guide is explaining what the clock is to a tour group, or something like that.

Speaking of world-ending tragedies, I am pretty annoyed right now. My friend painted my nails, and the color was supposed to be pink, but for some reason it ended up being this really dark magenta that ended up just looking red if it's under any kind of light at all. I don't mind red per se, but I'd have much preferred an ACTUAL dark magenta, thank you very much.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1653 - United States Map & #1654 - Universal Install Script

I actually think this is kinda clever. Not really ha-ha clever, but I think it's pretty neat that he didn't have to mess with the shapes too too much to get a recognizable US shape. That said, this definitely feels like more of a setup than a punchline. This feels weird to say, but I think this would be funnier as a poster. You'd see it out of the corner of your eye and think 'oh, a map of the US', and then you'd do a second take and surprise! It doesn't work so well in comic form because when you log on to xkcd.biz, you're focusing all your attention on it, so you instantly recognize it as incorrect. Maybe Randy could have had some zoom in type thing, or it could have been a multi-panel comic called "the worst classroom in the world" or something.

I should really get more friends who know about programming, solely so I'd have someone to consult on this comic besides my cousin, who is frankly getting sick of me messaging her at nine at night (her time, not mine) just to go over webcomic business. She was, however, willing to tell me "I understand the programming commands, but I don't get the joke" which means I'm not stupid for not understanding this.

As someone to whom programming is witchcraft, this comic could have been written in Chinese for all I comprehend. A quick browsing through the forums and explainxkcd does suggest that there are a couple of mistakes like missing parentheses and such. Also, apparently this isn't a joke, it's just a code Randy made to install any given program. 

This really should have been posted to the blag. XKCD has such a history of programming jokes, I can't be the only person who spent half an hour trying to figure out what the joke was before realizing that there actually wasn't one, and not just because Randy tried and failed, but because he genuinely didn't try. Like, props to him for making a thing, but it's not funny, it's not informational, it's not entertaining. So let's put aside the arguments we've had in the past about how XKCD should make jokes that people understand or XKCD should separate the posters and the comics or how XKCD shouldn't make comics that are just Randy exposing his viewpoints. This is straight up not entertainment, no one is going to read this and get any enjoyment out of it. It is not an obscure joke, people who get programming aren't going to find this funny or interesting, it's not informational, people aren't going to gain any knowledge from this, it's not even an argument, no one is going to get agreement chuckles or reblog it on tumblr. This is not entertainment, it is an extra, it is not comic material. If XKCD was an action show, this wouldn't even be an episode that was for some reason just footage of Rachel Ray baking a cake, because that would be interesting to the members of the audience that happened to also like cooking shows. This would be an episode that was just a black screen with audio of the director masturbating.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1652 - Robotic Garage & #1653 - Conditionals

This is like, the most boring way for Black Hat to be Black Hat. Say what you will about him being a mouthpiece for the author's views, at least when that happens he seems like he's having fun. This is the same guy who stole a Russian submarine just to get his hat back, now he's a traffic director?

Even if this is the most evil robotic garage in the world, where they tie you to a chair and then cut apart your car in front of you, that's still a just a job, the thrill of destroying a car is going to wear off when you do it a hundred times a day, five days a week.

Black Hat isn't chaotic neutral in this comic, he's lawful evil. And it is boring. Lawful evil is Nazis and Professor Umbridge. No one wants to be them, because it's not fun. Black Hat is good when he's doing things for his own amusement. With this one, he seems like he's filling some 'evilness' quota. I'm imagining him walking home from work and kicking a puppy so it'll give him an extra five minutes on his lunch break.

I actually like this one. This isn't him lecturing us on how language works, it's him losing a friend because he can't stop being pedantic. You can even project the realization that he's just destroyed a relationship over his need for perfectly unambiguous and literal language. 

It reminds me of #276, but I think it's actually an improvement. #276 had a little bit of a 'too real' moment with the "you don't know how much that made my stomach hurt" / "i want to cry" lines, and this one just lets us imagine all that, leaving the sad parts safely non-visualized. We only get the funny kind of tragedy in this one, and the tragedy is placed entirely on someone who deserved it.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1649 - Pipelines & #1650 - Baby

True story: In my visual communications class the other day the professor pulled up #657 as an example of an infographic and it was all I could do to not embarrass myself by referencing this blog. Good thing she picked that one instead of this one, though, because this one sucks.

First off, what resolution is a typical computer screen? That is important information that changes the way the information is perceived. And then it's confusing when the scale changes in the second square. The first square is labeled "actual size" but there's no corresponding "to scale" label on the second.

The information is also hard to understand in general. Assuming all the math is correct, it gives the reader a decent idea of the relative consumption of each thing, but I don't think anyone who reads this is going to come away with any figures that they could state, unlike the majority of the previous infographics XKCD has run. There's the "4 m/s" thing, but can anyone really visualize what that actually means? This comic could have really benefited from extra labels like "4 gallons of spit a second" or whatever.

Speaking of, what does 'consumes' mean when it comes to spit? Like, is that the rate at which we produce spit in our mouths on average or is that when we swallow it or is that strictly when it's sold and purchased? The same questions go for the 'milk (human)' circle.

I also really don't get why solids like glass, meat, and cheese are on here. And since he split milk into two categories, why didn't he split meat and cheese? That would actually be pretty neat, seeing how much more chicken we eat than cow, or vice versa. Especially since chickens are smaller, that would be all like "woah!" if it turned out we eat more chicken than we do cow.

I smiled a bit at this comic, n-not that I think it's good or anything, b-baka! I have totally been in that or similar situations, and I like how the phrase he says aloud is one that I could reasonably expect him to say to a baby under the circumstances. He discounts the other ones because they aren't good, which makes sense and also adds to the punchline, like "that was the best you could do?" and it was!

I'm also going to give it points for differentiating the thought text from the spoken text in different ways, keeping it (if barely) from being CouldBeATweet.

Speaking of CBAT, I kinda feel like that's a bad name now. The point is that it's text-based, with the art not actually adding to the joke. "Could Be A Tweet" makes you think like "oh, it's bad because it's short" which is a bad criticism and if you make it than you are a bad person and I try to be a good person so I don't make it.

Parts of this comic are kinda lame, like the first thing he thinks of, which just comes off as "people who say "it's getting so big!" are stating the obvious and are therefore stupid". It'd be funnier if there was some indication he was thinking it in response to his own thoughts, like if it was written "...unlike other babies, that never grow? You dingus" or something to that effect.

Also, Randy, if you're reading this, the safe thing to say is "Hi, how are ya? I'm (insert name here), I'm your (relative/relative's friend/colleague/cellmate)." real soft like, like you're talking to a baby.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1647 - Diacritics & #1648 - Famous Duos

@ Whoever commented on my last post a thing that began with "Breaking News from The Front: DATELINE INTERNET", please try reposting it. It looked hilarious but it's not displaying for some reason. Blame Google.

Now, those who read the comments (bless your pure and incorruptible souls) know that Jon Levi really likes this one. And frankly I just do not get it. I mean, I understand the joke, but it just does not appeal to me.

I think one issue is that the art is once again regulated to what is essentially background. The joke would be better served if we saw the screen he was typing on, then his roommate could walk up behind him and go "ry-soom-echth?" and he'd say the caption. It'd make this comic feel more like a comic, I think.

Also, this could just be me being a dummy, but did anyone else not know what "diacritics" meant until after they looked it up? Like you can pretty much infer it from the comic, but it'd be instantly understandable if he just said "accent marks".

Also also, I was exceedingly disappointed when I plugged the transcription into a text-to-speech thing and it didn't make a funny noise at the end of the first line. It just said "resum... degree" like some person who wasn't reading something with a million accent marks on it. Not fun at all.

Sorry again Jon but I am MY OWN MAN who has HIS OWN OPINIONS.

This comic pretty much just feels like those really easy tests back in grade school, the ones that were all about matching the words in column A to the definitions in column B. It also kinda reads like he's just showing off how many duos he knows, and I got TVTropes for that, man.

Now, any of these could probably be funny if they were fleshed out into a full comic. Maybe it could be four panels showing the adventures of Mario & The Beast and four panels underneath showing the "Meanwhile..." adventures of Beauty & Luigi.

As it is, we have to imagine those adventures for ourselves, and comedy shouldn't make you imagine the funny bit. This comic is all setup and no punchline.