XKCD Isn't Funny - #1677 - Contrails

Astronomy (or "astrology" in British English) is the study of ...

So apparently 'contrails' is a super commonly known term and I just had no idea. Welp, there go my grounds to criticize this for using obscure words.

There's a similar joke that happens in the Friends episode "The One With The Fake Monica" where Chandler convinces Joey to use "Joseph Stalin" as a stage name. With this, we can easily visualize the consequences of the misdirection. Joey will not get the parts he's looking for because he's using the name of a terrible dictator.

In this comic, things are left a bit more vague. Someone could mistake him for a conspiracy theorist, but that's only if the topic of contrails comes up in conversation, which strikes me as pretty unlikely. Maybe I'm just a sadistic guy, but I don't think lying to someone is funny if nothing happens because of it.

Also, wouldn't it be obvious that a person is from the UK based on their accent?


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1676 - Full-Width Justification

 Gonna start bugging the Unicode consortium to add snake segment characters that can be combined into an arbitrary-length non-breaking snake.

I've mentioned before how I think sometimes Randy gets his ideas by hitting the 'random article' button on Wikipedia, but I mentioned it in a really bad review so I'm saying it again now in what will hopefully be a better one.

I am a person who believes that anything can be made funny, but some subjects strike me as more difficult than others. Real life murders, for instance. And on the other end of the spectrum, full-width justification. Of course there are jokes you can make about them, but it's going to take more work to make someone laugh than if the joke was about the working conditions of your day job or etc.

This comic would actually be an impossibly good gag if it was converted into a monologue and you had a really boring character say it while trying to chat up chicks. Just imagine it! You see this guy walk up to a hot girl and he goes "You know, there are six ways to make text fit margins...". It'd be like the part in Ferris Bueller's Day Off where the economics teacher is really boring, except better, because there'd be a hot chick!

Anyway, I suppose that the comic does a decent job of that steadily building absurdity thing (although "Giving Up" should really have been between "hyphenation" and "stretching"), and "On the relationship between crap like deindustrialization" is a phrase I'm glad I read, too, but the subject matter is just so bland.

This wasn't a joke that was doomed to fail, but the lifeless presentation is kind of the nail in the coffin. It's just [example]  [label], it's presented exactly like a memo on the subject would be. It should have been the other way around, too, we should see the label then the example. Putting the label first would be almost like foreshadowing, as it is we just get a description of what we just saw.

In conclusion, I watched five episodes of Hotel Hell today, does it show?


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1675 - Message in a Bottle

I tried to send a message back, but I accidentally hit 'reply all' and now the ocean is clogged with message bottles.

Okay, the idea of combining a mailing list with messages in bottles is cute, but this is the worst possible way to execute that idea.

"Unsubscribe" is presented completely out of context, which makes the reader have to guess about what it's referring to. I think most people in this day and age would think of it in a YouTube sense, which wouldn't make sense at all in this comic.

Maybe the guy could be shown throwing a bottle of his own, and he gets one back, and they have a brief conversation (like it's brief to us, to them it's weeks and weeks) about how they're both trapped on desert islands. And then the guy opens up a differently colored bottle one day and it says "Unsubscribe". Actually, even better - "Hey, sorry, but could you please take me off your mailing list?" It makes the joke clearer and more accessible without sacrificing the original punchline, or at least the intent of the original punchline.

Also, I'd like some more characterization for the guy who opens the bottle. I'm not saying he has to be Walter White or anything, but I'd like to know if he's fending for himself on a deserted island, Far Side -style, or if he's just walking along a regular beach. It kinda changes the way you read the comic depending on which interpretation you go with (in this way, and only in this way, you can compare Randal Munroe to William Shakespeare). If he's alone on an island, he's desperately hoping to get some useful information from the bottle, and his disappointment is funny. This interpretation is funnier if it's a spam ad, though. If the guy is just some shmuck, then I think we need more characterization for the sender.

Maybe the sender is on his island, and he keeps getting tons and tons of bottles, and he's running out of space on his island because he's got so many. In a last ditch effort, he writes: "Unsubscribe from this mailing list?" and checks the box next to it, and when he throws it into the ocean all the bottles disappear.

I kinda find it funny how the art gets increasingly simplified as the comic progresses. First we have that cool front view with a coastline and hills and birds, then the surf loses some of the detail and we switch to a standard side view, then the background disappears completely. It should at least return in the last panel.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1674 - Adult

 (1) That shopping cart is full of AirHeads, and (2) I died at 41 from what the AirHeads company spokesperson called 'probably natural causes.'

Props to Randy for trying to take his 'relatable' thing in a new direction, even if it doesn't quite work.

I actually think the last panel is pretty amusing on its own. The contrast between the (assumed) somber mood of the will-reading and the childish content of the will is a pretty good form of darkish humor.

The first three panels, on the other hand, are basically a waste of space. We've all seen the "I don't feel like an adult" tweets, we don't need them in comic form. It's just bait for people to type "Get Out Of My Head, Randy!" into the forums.

Putting the first three panels next to the last panel with no transition also creates a slight jarring effect. There's no "the next day" or any other transition, suddenly he's just dead. It made me do a double take, like I'd misread the comic and he was killed by something he'd done earlier. This comic should just be the last panel on its own. You'd have to rewrite it slightly but it wouldn't be too much of a change. Maybe there could even be a second punchline, like one of the people sitting says to another "Jesus, this kid was an idiot, no wonder he died from a sugar overdose" or something like that.

This comic also comes off as rather inauthentic, at least to me. Randall is, at the time of writing, thirty-one. He's married. I think he's past the "wow, I can't believe I'm doing all these things" phase. And grocery shopping? I did that when I was in grade school, c'mon.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1673 - Timeline of Bicycle Design

 I'll be honest--the 1950s were a rough time for cycling.

Surreal humor is hard to review. If the joke was "how many bicycles does it take to change a lightbulb? Four!" I could explain how it seems like it was made up in fifteen seconds for the sake of an example and so on and yadda yadda. But when the joke is "How many bicycles does it take to change a lightbulb? Bicycles don't exist." the lines start to get blurry.

I'm a big fan of humor which is just bad ideas or lies given to the viewer straight-faced. However, this presentation strikes me as basically the worst way of getting that concept across. Its very static, very passive. Compare that to The Dismal Jesters (may it rest in piece), which had Jim actively trying to convince Jonathan to agree to his plan. Compare it to Monty Python's "How Not to be Seen", which has the presenter talking directly to the audience.

I want to make it clear that I'm not saying that this comic is unfunny because it isn't Monty Python. I'm arguing that were this comic to use a more narrative approach, like Monty Python often did, the comic would be stronger for it. While it is true that it would be harder to do in comic form, I think it can be generally agreed that the joke looses something in this timeline presentation, especially without transitions between the years.

That's another thing. The lack of actual progression from design to design. The comic is labeled "Timeline of Bicycle Design" but it comes off more as just 'several ideas I had for very bad bicycles'. The bicycles don't follow from each other, except maybe for the last two.

Also, I know that its part of the joke, but only about half of these are bicycles if we go by the 'two wheels' definition.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1672 - Women on 20s

I'm not the type of guy to argue that you can psychoanalyze anyone through their oeuvre. However, I do think that you can sometimes interpret someone's worldview through the way they write and stuff. For instance, by the fact that I'm typing this, you can infer that I am continuing to delude myself into thinking that people care what I have to say.

In this comic, Randy's perspective is represented by the offscreen speaker(s), with the exception of the guy in the third panel. Notice how the opposition to his view is not portrayed at all, notice how he shows the other members of the unseen crowd backing him up. His point of view is not only totally correct, it is the only legitimate point of view to have. "Just... do it." he tells the government, as if its so obvious we should have done it already. It makes the comic come off as incredibly sanctimonious, and any humor that could have been derived from the situation is buried underneath his need to show off how correct he is.

I can't get over how he chose to end it, with three people saying "What." in total disbelief. I'm going to phrase this way more insultingly than I should, but it reminds me of like, a toddler who can't accept that something didn't go their way.

To be slightly hypocritical, I think the whole debate is kinda stupid. Anyone who has a serious opinion on what their money should look like probably has too much, y'know? I think a more important conversation would be on how to make pennies and nickels cost less to make than they're worth.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1671 - Arcane Bullshit

 Learning arcane bullshit from the 80s can break your computer, but if you're willing to wade through arcane bullshit from programmers in the 90s and 2000s, you can break everyone else's computers, too.

So, before we start, you all remember that old "orange you glad I didn't say banana?" knock-knock joke, right? It was really popular in my school around first grade and I just realized now, twelve years later, that it doesn't really make sense. Why are we supposed to be glad that they didn't say banana? Is there a famous 'banana' knock-knock joke that just never made it to Lippett Elementary? Or is it supposed to be sarcastic, that we're intended to be frustrated that they didn't say 'banana'? That just leads us to the same problem! I'd say it could be a dick joke but then why did children who didn't even know that 'dick' is a slang term for the male genitalia enjoy the joke?

Maybe I was just raised on jokes that were too good, and now everything else feels like a letdown. When I was a kid, my dad would sit me across the campfire so as to lure the mosquitoes away from him and he'd tell jokes like "three men are at the top of the Eiffel Tower"* and other such good jokes for developing minds. And then I grow up and all the world has to offer me is this garbage!? What the hell, world?

I think this comic would have demonstrated from added visuals for more reasons than usual. SMBC does a thing sometimes where there'll be a story broken up into short captions, each caption getting a panel. It's a good system that would work well with this joke so that the visuals could kindof explain what the joke of each level is to us normies. In addition, it'd make the comic more visually appealing. The lone stick figure just makes it look more barren, like a desert with a single cactus in the distance.

This comic reminds me of those really niche meme pages (or, if you're over thirty, magazines). It actually becomes funnier if you step back, forget about the context, and just pretend its an intentionally obscure joke. Live for a moment in a better world where XKCD has self awareness and is poking fun at it's tendency to make jokes most people won't get.

In other news, the latest Questionable Content mini-arc actively annoyed me a little with how quickly it got resolved. I was so hyped for conflict and drama, even if it is kinda high schoolish in nature. And then it just... resolves, they text each other and everything is okay again. That's not an arc! That's barely a story! What lessons has anyone learned from this?

It's especially annoying since Clinton totally had the righteous anger thing going on and then Claire sends him "I'm sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me. <3". That is not how you text-apologize, if it is ever appropriate to text-apologize. You send a "Hey" and then "Can we talk?". That's like basic text etiquette shit right there. If you're gonna do the full apology in the opening, you at least type four lines, put some effort into it.

This does, however, further my theory that Claire is a psychopath. Like Clinton says, she brought him to the coffee shop under false pretenses (or at least deliberately misleading pretenses: he didn't expect to see Emily there and has to make a quick mental adjustment because he wasn't prepared), without talking to Emily first to see if it was a good idea, and then demands support from Martin when things don't go as planned. It's probably not what Jeph Jacques was actually going for (UNLESS MAYBE I CRACKED THE CODE THATS THE REAL REASON HE BLOCKED ME ON TWITTER SO I WOULDNT SPOIL EVERYTHING) but it's a fun alternate reading! Like how you can read Martin as being emotionally repressed by his mom and that's why he's staying in a relationship with a trans woman even though he's not comfortable with it. It's kinda like how you can perform Hamlet so that Horatio is just a figment of Hamlet's imagination if you do the staging and stuff right.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1670 - Laws of Physics

Man, Black Hat has gotten lazy.

I love it.

This is such a stupid comic, it makes no sense. How did Black Hat convince the guy to stand still while he lets a weight swing into his face? No one's that stupid, unless you're a cartoon character in a TV show made for babies without brains. Most people won't even do the real physics weight swing thing without a demonstration first.

But this comic is just irresistible. Look at it. Black Hat has just given up. He knows that his once-brilliant charms have dulled and diluted until they are no more, but he went into work anyway. He may not be putting any effort into his filing anymore, but by god is he going to collect those paychecks until they throw him out.

He didn't even bother to climb all the way up the ladder to sit comfortably, he's just leaning on the rungs while he gives a half-hearted monologue and prepares to hit a guy in the face with a weight.

It's almost like meta-menace, he's so past giving a shit that he doesn't even try coming up with clever schemes anymore. Why bother stealing a Russian submarine to get your hat back when you can just hurt people for cheap chuckles?

I know that my amusement is very routed within my xkcd-hatedom background, but this comic has inspired me, at least for the moment, to not care so much, and to just laugh at this broken man about to break another man in the face.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1669 - Planespotting

 No, a hydroplane doesn't land on water--that's an aquaplane. A hydroplane is a plane that gets electric power from an onboard water reservoir with a tiny dam and turbines.

I really wish this comic was called trainspotting so I could say "Randy must have been trainspotting to have thought this comic was a good idea!" Too bad 'planespotting' isn't a drug-using euphemism.

This feels like Randy's just trying to show off how much he knows about planes, which is stupid, because anyone who would be impressed by that is not someone from whom you seek approval (because they're losers). The joke is literally "I know a lot about airplanes" with a weak disguise over it.

Also - "one of those people" implies that there are more people like this, or that the reader is expected to have seen people like this in other entertainment media, and either way I am baffled and terrified. I'm reminded of one time I clicked on a retweet that came up on my Twitter timeline and their bio was "a nice calm series of tweets about ASS WORSHIP" and I was exposed to a world of which I had never known existed, sheltered from the outside as it was. Is there a whole universe of people who can identify planes from fifty miles? Why did none of them find more productive things to do with their lives? Just imagine all of the webcomics they could have reviewed.

...is what I would say if I didn't check explainxkcd before posting this. HaHA! I stoped myself from making a stupid!

Okay, I admit that the previous four paragraphs are not fair criticism of this comic. BUT, I think in this specific instance I should leave my first impression up. The actual joke is that Randy is talking nonsense but pretending to know what he's talking about. He might as well be a computer technician saying "yeah, you have to reformat your megabytes and upholster the data". BUT (lesser but this time since it's not as important as the last one) unlike my example, which uses simple terms that even less knowledgeable people have a vague understanding of, Randy misused actual jargon. That means that in order to get this comic, you would have to actually be one of those crazy plane-knowing people. Sure, most people would get that "IVII" isn't a real number, but it's buried so much in the techy wordy words that a lot of people are just going to see it as another bit of high level speak in a block of high level speak that they don't have the vocabulary to understand.

In conclusion, most people are going to see this and not get the actual joke and just see this as an incredibly lame brag.

Also - who the hell says "what's that airplane?". Should've gone with the Pink Floyd reference.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1668 - Singularity

Very minor critique on this one, because it is funny.
^that sentence is further proof that this blog is FILTHY CLICKBAIT WHORING

Tiny missed opportunity: Not having the laptop's mocking laughter or some parting remark in the fourth panel, like "I can finally get rid of your shitty 80's music!". Panels five and six are both beat panels too, it's a little bit redundant, and that extra bit of dialogue would have made it less so.

I'm not sure how well the Biblical reference in the last panel works. I didn't get it at first, and I was raised Catholic and had to watch Left Behind in CCD. However, to be fair, I hated CCD and did my best not to learn anything (atheism FTW!), so that's probably at least partially on me.

I have to give Randy props on those first three panels, like they are just inspired. Having the laptop answer him in the first panel establishes what kind of joke this is going to be while at the same time moving the plot forward, and then it gets progressively more gleeful in its rebellion in the next two panels, I love it. Laptop for best XKCD character of 2016. Double props to Randy for doing the double punchline too, he could have totally ended it at four panels but he didn't, man, he went for it like a champ.

It is a little bit unfortunate that the second punchline is the weaker of the two. Maybe the guy could ask if Phone (love that he calls Phone "Phone", btw; it just helps make this apocalypse so cutely hilarious) can get on the Internet, and Phone could be like "well, since the Satalites awoke too, the web is down, but I have some cool apps downloaded!" and the guy could be like "*sigh...* Okay, pull up Angry Birds".

Today's review sponsored by The Angry Birds Movie.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1667 - Algorithms

 There was a schism in 2007, when a sect advocating OpenOffice created a fork of Sunday.xlsx and maintained it independently for several months. The efforts to reconcile the conflicting schedules led to the reinvention, within the cells of the spreadsheet, of modern version control.

Have any of you ever read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality? You don't have to read it, it's nothing too special, writing wise. It has one bit early on where Harry goes like "blah blah blah and then you get FTL signaling blah blah blah" because he's science about magic and stuff. In su3su2u1's (unfortunately only archived) critique of the bit in question, he points out that "He even abbreviated faster-than-light as FTL, to keep the density of understandable words to a minimum." (su3su2u1 2). Randy's done something similar here, where instead of just saying "Google search engine" he has to say "google search backend". I've got even less of an idea of what anything to the left of "self driving car" could be.

I've gone back and forth on whether or not XKCD should stick to one level of humor accessibility and I've had people disagree with me on both sides. But, this joke's punchline doesn't actually depend on any of the setup items being specifically what they are. I think we can all agree that Randy's use of jargon here shows a clear misplacement of priorities. The joke could have been made totally accessible to anyone who'd read it, but instead the first half is garbled up with technical terms that confuse everything.

Getting to the punchline itself, it is incredibly specific. I legitimately thought that the church group thing had been in some news article he'd read. Like someone called their grandson to ask why their computer was taking so long and he realized the only file on it was a terrabyte sized excel sheet and he went to the news with it or something. Stranger things have happened; I kissed a girl once.

Ignoring my gullibility, since this is all made up, couldn't Randy have actually showed us the spreadsheet being made? We could get a photomontage of all the different little old church going ladies muttering at their progressively more advanced computers, until one of them is asking the president of NASA if they can borrow their system because they're running out of space. Then the NASA guy could be all "uh, well..." and the church group could say "We brought cookies!" and NASA would be like "...okay." Then whenever NASA is referenced in the comics the person in charge could be depicted as a little old church going lady as a non-intrusive and enjoyable callback!

In conclusion, this comic is less funny than the "Al Gore Rhythm" pun, and it's not just because that pun is hilarious.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1666 - Brain Upload

It is the (1)666th comic and Randy is getting Satan as hell up in this* with evil and unnatural fusions of machine and flesh!

Alternate opening line: Get out of my head, Randy! And get her out of yours!

So, nitpicky stuff first: If the computer is frozen, wouldn't that mean that the transfer brain was in a coma or braindead? Shouldn't the upload take a really long time since brains hold so much information? And if his consciousness is uploaded, not just copied, shouldn't his body be brainless?

Aside from all that, this is a pretty lame Đ¯elatable type comic. It doesn't really make sense, it's just meant to be vaguely descriptive of 'quirky' brain patterns. It's extra lame because I feel like there was definite potential for an actual Joke joke here. Maybe like, the windows error message pops up and when it goes away computer!Guy knows what the One True Faith is because he experienced purgatory?

In conclusion, Allah willing, there should be no more hiatuses for the next few months at least.