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.

2017-02-25

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1769 - Never Seen Star Wars & #1771 - It Was I


The last three panels, taken on their own, are actually not too bad. I'm a sucker for people pretending to know what they're talking about, and the double thought bubble bit is almost philosophical. Are we not all merely pretending to be who we are in conversation? Are we not constantly relieved that the other person is communicating back, even though we will only ever know our idea of the person, not the person themselves?

It sucks that those three panels have the first six weighing them down. Even if Randy's right, nobody wants to be lectured not to do something for five painfully unfunny panels. (I kinda like the second panel) The people who agree with him already know so they don't need to be told, and the people who disagree are just going to be turned off by the sarcastic condescension.

Also we don't really need the "Oh, I've nev-" line in panel seven. We as readers can infer that he's trying to avoid a retread of the thing with White Hat.


Isn't it kinda hypocritical of Randy to put out these two comics within one week?

Anyway, first off, it is "It was I". The trick is to switch up the word order and see if it still makes sense. "It was I who allowed..." → "I allowed..." ☑. "It was me who allowed..." → "Me allowed..." ☒. That's also why it's "John and I went to the store." instead of "Me and John went to the store.". And yes, if you're wondering, I did just learn this last month.

I almost want to apologize to Randy for the next sentence. This comic reminds me of a Family Guy bit. It has the exact same structure: recreation from a classic movie, then a line is added into the original script, people are pedantic at each other for too long, and then we get a shit punchline. Also the art is lazy and makes the recreated characters look ugly and off-putting.

In conclusion, this comic pretty fucking epic, I can't wait to tell Tyler about it when my mom drives me over his house to play Halo.

2017-02-22

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1765 - Baby Post & #1767 - US State Names


I can relate to this comic because I also have many friends that check their phones, walk up to me, and ask why I posted something. It's a hard life being famous, but since me and Randall Munroe are the only two famous people in the world I guess it's okay.

This comic is really just a perfectly fine joke mangled in the presentation. Bald should just be checking his daughter's browser history or asking her what she's doing on the computer. Instead we get this convoluted thing where he's being updated on what his account posted to Facebook by other people.

The Facebook thing isn't just non-integral either; it actively confuses the reader as to the daughter's precise role in the story. The stuff she's uploading paints her as some kind of developing criminal, but if she's going to do crimes why is she posting about it to Facebook? If she's posting it by accident then how is she even finding jewel room schematics? She can research how to steal the crown jewels but not how to avoid posting things to Facebook?

And in panel two, the guy says he would have to look up how to set up a lock screen, which is just baffling. Is he like one of those super old people that doesn't know what email is?

A guy slowly realizing his daughter is becoming a criminal is not a bad idea, but it's presented so poorly. It's like trying to make out a melody being played on a detuned radio.

Also, does 'videos on metal-working, zip lines, and camouflage?' come off weird to anyone else? Like, the video is just about camouflage, just in general. That could just be me though.


Just a worse version of #1759. That comic had the premise an American labeling a British map, so it made sense that everything would be misnamed. This comic doesn't really have a premise at all, so I'm just confused as to why it exists. Like, if the caption was "The Fifty States Of Autocorrect", then okay, that's a weak joke, but I understand why the names are all weird. Does Randy think that incorrect names are inherently funny on their own? 

All that said I do quite enjoy "Dakota / More Dakota", even though it's in the wrong order.

2017-02-11

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1762 - Moving Boxes & #1763 - Catcalling


Is this even a joke? Like, it's funnier than a blank white square, but it's still less funny than actual formed comedy. Every box might as well just have been labeled "I'm quirky".

Not all jokes make sense broken down into a setup/punchline equation, but let's just go with this for a second.
Setup: Randy forgot to label his boxes when moving.
Okay, that's fine. It's not the most interesting setup, but not all setups have to be interesting. Maybe someone helping him move will unintentionally open his sex toy box instead of his blanket box.
Punchline: Randy labels the boxes with words that do not represent what is inside the boxes.
Like, what even is that? That's not funny! That's not a joke! If this was Questionable Content or whatever and it was just in the background, it'd be kinda cute as a character thing, but this is the entire comic, this is all we're given!


Literally everyone who has heard the word "catcalling" as thought of a variation on this joke.

Also, missed opportunity: Not having it turn out that the definition of 'catcalling' was somehow integral to the structure of the universe.

2017-01-27

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1759 - British Map & #1761 - Blame


This is probably the weakest a comic can be without getting a thumbs-down. The joke boils down to 'certain words sound British', which is obvious to anyone that knows anything about history. We speak English, which was developed (mostly) by the English, who also live in Britain....

That said, it is kind of amusing in a vague way to imagine towns named after Pokemon, and "BBC Channel 4" is actually a clever pun that could only have arisen though this specific joke. Plus, I asked Jon (Levi), with whom I do a podcast, for his thoughts about this comic, and he said it pissed him off! That's how you know a comic's good, when it pisses off the British. 

I think most people will find at least one funny bit in this comic, even if as a whole it might leave them cold. It's still better than 'time is passing (again)' or 'im very smart with science' or...


This is set up like a parody of people, but no one in the history of ever has had this thought process. Even in a longform way that this comic just sums up. This comic parodies something that doesn't exist, which would give it a nifty dada quality if it was intentional. 

And I'm not just being dumb! Explainxkcd has (at time of writing) like five different theories on what this comic could mean. 

Also, who uses Facebook anymore? That exact question was asked two years ago on this very blog, the last time XKCD mentioned it. 

Fuck yo shit, I can't even believe this shit. Have you seen this shit? Fuck, I just watched this shit. Fuck Jessie Heisenberg, man.

2017-01-20

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1755 - Old Days & #1756 - I'm With Her


I've long since given up on my (incorrect) stance that XKCD should stick to one level of comedy, but if we're going to make jokes about old school coding, do they have to be so impenetrable? I'm not wrong, right? Enjoyment of this comic is 90% predicated on knowing what it was actually like in 'old days'. The humor comes from the total historical inaccuracy of what Notbald is saying.

And yeah, you can kinda understand that she's not being serious even if you don't actually know much about computing history, sure. HOWEVER, the humor is still devalued by a lack of understanding on behalf of the reader vis a vis where the falsehoods begin exactly.

Dara O Briain has a really good bit early on in his second stand up DVD where he talks about why he doesn't do jokes about Muslims. It's better in context and I do recommend you watch the full thing, but for the purposes of this review the relevant quote is "I could research and write the greatest Muslim-based material you've ever heard [...] and you'd all be there going 'Is that a thing? I've never heard of that, is that a thing?'"

Of course comedians should never limit themselves just because we're all ignorant and all artists should strive to challenge their audience in some way, but y'know, there's making difficult music and there's making twenty minute compositions for wind machines.


Speaking of wind machines, politicians! Get it?

You really have to wonder what Randy was thinking when he made this comic. He just doodled stick figures doing random shit on top of the Hillary Clinton logo. And like, that'd be fine, except he also has some on chairs and flying kites? Is that supposed to be funny? Cute? Ironic? It makes the comic look less serious, like he's trying to distance himself from any kind of serious endorsement.

I'm not going to get political here, since the system is rigged so that any form of meaningful choice is taken from the people and it doesn't matter what you believe, but this comic is just a bad idea. It's fine to show support, but this is such a vacuous message that it should have just been a note under the header like he's done before. Instead he made it into a comic with no substance that became dated in less than a day.

I'd be less critical of this comic if there was some persuasion or explanation attached, something to say "I'm with her because [X]." But even that wouldn't have meant much since this comic went up on election day, and most people have made up their minds by then.

Basically what I'm asking is who is this comic for? It's not convincing, it's not funny or cute, it's basically worthless now that the election's over, and it went up so late that the information that could be useful probably won't get to most people that would see it.

Also why is the list of links labeled "How to help"? It's a really pretentious way of saying "Here's some stuff to help you out if you're having trouble voting". Sure, voting is helping, but in a really abstract way, it's not like volunteering or demonstrating on behalf of a candidate, or -even more importantly- arguing with strangers on the Internet.

2017-01-15

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1753 - Thumb War & #1754 - Tornado Safety Tips


My biggest issue with this one is that the meter gets messed up in the last line. I know Black Hat is a kid in this comic, but I was a kid once and I knew how to stick to a rhythm. Back in second grade, me and both my friends would make up tons of new lines for that dumb 'I hate you, you hate me' song and we knew how to count syllables, dammit! It's an easy fix too, just add "the" in front of "thumb" or switch "won't" out for "will not".

I really like the idea of seeing Black Hat learning to be menacing, and I hope we get to see a good comic about it someday. OHHH! Did you see what I did there?

I know that the lack of actual menace is explained by Black Hat being a kid so I can't complain about it, but I'm going to anyway. It's not menacing! That 'I hate you, you hate me' song is more menacing than this! That had explicit mentions of various types of weapons and their usages, this is vague and doesn't even paint an abstractly ominous picture.

The thing that made Black Hat work in the past was a kind of catharsis factor mixed with Rule Of Cool. Don't we all kinda want to smash in the windows of jackasses with vanity licence plates? Isn't it just fun for someone to steal a nuclear submarine just to get a hat back? But no one wants to be this guy, anyone can be this guy, and it's not cool to be this guy. It's not chaotic evil, it's boring evil.

All that said, if there's a sequel where someone comes along and teaches him to actually be wacky mayhem guy and then we see him using an electric toy car to short circuit the P.A. system, this comic is retroactively made better.


Also not menacing! It's just unhelpful! I will say that it's kinda funny because it is all technically true but useless, but the inclusion of Black Hat just throws things off. It doesn't even need a character to pin it down, but if it did, Beret would be the way to go, since he's the weird guy.

Actually, this comic could be made pretty good if it was established that this was inside some kind of "In case of Tornado" emergency kit. Imagine, people look inside the box desperate for help and then they just find this flyer? Morbid, yeah, but funny!

2017-01-09

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1751 - Movie Folder & #1752 - Interplanetary Experience


Somewhere along the line, Black Hat and Beret swapped some of their characterizations. In the beginning, Beret was the weird one and Black Hat was the menacing one. But then suddenly Beret developed supernatural powers and Black Hat stopped trying so now its just anyone with a hat is abnormal in some way.

Here is my totally evidenceless idea: Originally, it was Bald and Beret, with Bald just listing the titles and Beret interjecting with lines like "Love that one!" or "A classic.". But then Randy realized that the comic sucked and he had Beret actually interject with jokes, but the lines read too sardonically so R swapped B out for BH. It's a good thing the end result is funny, but then that's what you get when you do rewrites.

Black Hat's interjections make this comic. Without them it would be boring, even though the fake movie titles are kinda clever. Titanic having multiple sequels is a funny concept, but it's just a concept until our dark-helmeted friend describes plot elements.

That said, the comic does kinda leave me waiting at the end. There are some good jokes in it, but the comic doesn't really 'move' from start to finish. It's the same kind of joke four times, and we don't even end on a high note, we just get 'Michael Bay CGI' which has been done more times than your mom

's gardening since she's a nice lady and people want to help her with her yardwork.


This comic, on the other hand, is all premise with no point.

Unless it's not supposed to be a joke, but it can't be intended as an informational thing. For one, don't most people know this, roughly? Mercury is really hot because it's close to the sun, Pluto is really cold because it's far away, all the gas giants are gas giants so they're gas and no land, and so on. I'll give credit for Titan, though, that was a new one on me.

Plus, obviously, none of the things can be done by regular people, so readers can't even have fun going through the list. If he actually wanted to let people do hands on things, he should have said to like - this is for Pluto - cover themselves in ice and lie on the beach at night, something like that.

And furthermore, I was once on Jupiter, and

Hey, wait a minute! He already kinda covered this in that one What If?, this is an outrage!


Oh, by the way, Blogger changed so that I don't get notified when someone comments, so apologies if I've missed any cool things anyone's said.

2017-01-05

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1749 - Mushrooms & #1750 - Life Goals


It's called "Mushrooms" because you'd need to be on mushrooms to find it funny! Haha!

I kid, I kid. It's still not funny tho. I can see how the idea could be funny, but the execution is more "cute" than anything to actually laugh at.

It's a subtle difference, but imagine that the guy reaches down to pet the mushroom in the final panel instead of the first one, and instead of growling, the mushroom purrs. It'd be more consistent, 'plot'-wise, and it would be a logical extension of the preceding action.

Now I'm aware that this IS nitpicking and I do still consider this a good comic, but I think with that change, it would move from being just cute to being cute and maybe chuckle-worthy.


The first time I read this comic, I got steadily more annoyed until the punchline, and full props to Randy, I did actually chuckle at this one. All that annoyance just released right out of me, which is a good feeling.

Points are deducted for the text-only presentation, but I'm willing to forgive it for being as long as it is, it wouldn't fit on Twitter. It would also be difficult to illustrate some of the things on the list, so I can forgive him (to an extent) for not doing so.

If this were a lesser XKCD, the joke would just be the weird life goals, but that final one gives the rest of the list a point. The comic has a reason to exist, it takes an idea and jumps off of it to make something.

That's not to say that this comic is amazing, but it does get my coveted "Good Comic" tag. To self-plagiarize for a moment: if all XKCDs were at least this level, this blog wouldn't exist.

2017-01-02

XKCD Isn't Funny - #1747 - Spider Paleontology & #1748 - Future Archaeology



I think this is the first time we've gotten two continuous comics that were also consecutive, without being part of a week-long storyline (of which there have only been four or five, all more than six years ago). And that's not particularly new for webcomics, especially with all those qualifiers in there, but still.

So, first thing: why is the future populated by floating energy sphere things. That seems like a weird thing to gloss over. The characters don't even react! I don't have an issue with the time travel element, that's fine, that's part of the joke, that's okay, but then Randy piled a further thing on top of it for no reason. Did he just not want to fit a third stick figure in the panel?

The joke itself is more of an idea than anything else, but it's a neat idea! This is also a comic where it makes sense not to show the dinosaurs oozing goo or something (as opposed to all other comics, where we SHOULD see dinosaurs oozing goo). The point is to make us imagine, it'd totally ruin things to give us something to narrow down how we'd imagine things.

Over all I give the first comic a pass. The second however, is meh.

This comic was released on October 17th, which means that the election reference in the first panel became dated in less than a month. And while it's slightly salvaged by the lack of any specific mention of candidate names or dates, it's still a really awkward thing to put in. He could have just had them say "So what advances have you made in the future?", or, even better "So, why are you a weird energy orb thing?".

And then we get to the punchline. The idea that Randy's trying to convey is that incomplete archaeology can give us false images of the past, just like incomplete paleontology. Which is true, and a neat thing to think about. However, he chose to illustrate this idea with "That's How I Beat Shaq". I may not be the most 'with it' person, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who didn't get the reference. Randy should have gone with something either more popular today, like Rick Roll, or something more memorable from the past, like Space Jam.

These comics made me think a little bit, which I appreciate, but I'd have preferred to have some more context to the weird orb thing angle, and I'd really have preferred not having to listen to an Aaron Carter song as part of this post's research.