XKCD Is Good Sometimes - #1928 - Seven Years

If I was a total pedantic asshole, I might be tempted to make some kind of semi-joke review about how this comic isn't funny. And that's like, technically true, but Futurama had "The Luck Of The Fryrish", The Simpsons had "Lisa's Substitute", XKCD can have "Seven Years".

I'm aware as I write this that I don't have the exact right words for it, but there's a phrase that I've come up with to describe things like this, and it's "This thing has stuff in it.". Like, Mulholland Dr. has stuff in it. 2001 has stuff in it. Finnegans Wake has probably too much stuff in it. (This blog, I hope, has some stuff in it somewhere.)

What I mean by "has stuff in it" is something between "This work of art* conveys an idea in a way that is arguably more impactful than if it was outright said." and "This work of art conveys an idea that is at best difficult to put into words.", with maybe a splash of "This work of art teaches the viewer something.". It's kinda like how impressionistic paintings don't make sense up close, element-for-element, but if you back away the seperate elements combine and it's a picture of a swan. Except the elements might make sense and instead of a picture it's a sense of dread or joy or amusement. I know I'm not doing the best job at explaining this concept I have, but keep in mind I'm trying to get across an idea about "Art", that thing that after thousands of years of argument been best described by the phrase "Art is what artists do" or, if you like, "Art defines itself". It's something like 'montage' or 'juxtaposition' or 'the way that music can make a scene seem more important' but on a larger scale, one step up on the rung. Basically like, 'can a liberal arts student overanalyze it in a paper?', and 'was the art intentionally made in a way that it could be analyzed in such a way?'.

So, if all that made sense beyond my own pretensions, here's why I think that this comic has stuff in it.

Y'know, putting aside the obvious actual emotions that went into this comic (emotions are usually a form of stuff), it's just a well-done depiction of a situation that I hope I'm never placed in. I have a friend who had a brief AIDS scare, and I couldn't fuckin sleep, man. That lasted for less than a week before the test came back negative. Cancer is a scary scary thing and it's bad and it has lasted as a feature in Randall's life for (as the title says) seven years. I had trouble dealing with the possibility of something similar for less than seven days. It's easy for you or me to semi-jokingly quote "Fuck cancer" or to look at panel six and call it maybe a little blunt or poorly done, but to quote Mark Prindle:
The mental torment is real. When your life falls apart, it's difficult to (a) envision how you could possibly build a new one in its place, and (b) muster up the strength and energy to actually do so. [...] I can vouch for the fact that when one considers one's life and art to be intertwined, one can only work through the pain by using it as inspiration -- even if that means displaying your failings to the world in all their unpleasance and embarrassingness.
The message of this comic is not necessarily a new one - I thought of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and Grave Of The Fireflies** after reading it - but it is the first time I've seen the message made from such a personal experience. And for the record, it's a good message, and it's a message that's hard to remember in trying times. And the personal experience related does make the delivery more powerful, although I'm aware that to analyze what is essentially just Randall's life as if it were only a story is to belittle it slightly.

The message, at least by my reading, is hard for me to put into words, and I hope it's understandable that again, it's because these are Big Concepts. Yknow, like real respected philosopher people talk about. I don't want to further belittle this incredibly good, well-meaning, if-you-make-fun-of-it-you're-an-asshole comic by trying to inject my personal ideas or politics into it either.

By putting the scenes of vacations and recreation against the more dramatic scenes, Randall forces us to reconcile them together. We get a 'fun' panel as number three, which is really quick. It's almost jarring, especially if you follow XKCD and already know what's happening. And then in panel five, we get a 'cancer' panel and a 'fun' panel at the same time, yknow, for a given value of 'fun'. We, as viewers, are forced to figure out how someone can enjoy parts of their life and do things when their wife is suffering from cancer... which is exactly what Randall had to figure out. By continuing this pattern, Randall hammers home the need for humor, levity, and fun when dealing with a stressful situation. Because the alternative is an absence of those things, just sorrow all the time. And that's no way to live or to die.

In the last panel, I think the message maybe shifts to be a little bit more broad, at least by how I'm reading it. We have to enjoy the time we have while we have it. We are all going to die, and it's better to die with happy memories than with sad ones. As one of only three 'state rock song's goes:
"Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die? And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize that life goes fast, it's hard to make the good things last..."
And as the aforementioned Eternal Sunshine goes:
Clementine: "This is it, Joel. It's gonna be gone soon."
Joel: "I know."
Clementine: "What do we do?"
Joel: "Enjoy it."***
And, from a short story that some will think I'm quoting ironically or as a joke but I'm really not:
"It's like summer," he said. "We know it won't last forever. We know one day the leaves will fall from the trees and winter will come. I could spend my life worrying about the coming winter or I could enjoy every precious day of sunshine. I can walk. I can talk. I can think. It's still summer and I want to savour every last day."
And that message/idea maybe needs a handful of asterisks for people in different kinds of situations, and for a whole thing about hedonism & escapism and productivity & devaluing a person down to their labor, etc; but let's not get into that cause that's a whole other thing.

If I had to make a criticism, the solar eclipse panel could have maybe been more detailed and artsy, yknow, to bring across the beauty of it, but like everything else I could complain about, it's just a nitpick. This is essentially a perfect comic that is not only engaging on both the visual and storytelling levels, but also important and good and full of stuff. And even if you disagree with the message, the presentation, etc; you have to at least respect Randall's willingness to put his life out here, and to put as much thought and work into it as he did.

*Yes I'm calling this XKCD art. XKCD has been art before and it will be art again.
**I've never seen Grave Of The Fireflies.
***Included in the script, but not the actual movie, is an extra bit said by Joel that continues from the last line given: "Say goodbye."


A note on Questionable Content - #3617 - Laying Down The Law

EDIT: So apparently I completely missed the commentary thing there at the bottom saying "if you take the I-90 to Boston anyway", so please enjoy the review thingy in the context of me blatantly missing a key part of the comic. 

This thing is totally not a legitimate criticism, it's entirely a nitpick and nothing else, but I think it's fun. EDIT: FUN TO NOT HAVE A SINGLE PERSON PROOFREAD MY POSTS

Questionable Content canonically takes place in Northampton, Massachusetts. By using FreeMapTools.com's "Radius Around Point" tool, we can see that 106 miles from Northampton is well past the coastline. The radius line actually extends through most of Long Island Sound and part of Long Island proper to the Atlantic Ocean. Even if we say that Long Island Sound isn't really the ocean (I wouldn't), 106 miles still puts us 20 miles deep into the Massachusetts Bay. EDIT: UNLESS, LIKE JEPH JACQUES, YOU FACTOR IN ROADS AND SHIT.

There are a few different explanations for this, and I'll go from least to most interesting. EDIT: ALL OF WHICH MAKE FAIL TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE EXPLANATION THE COMIC STRAIGHT UP GIVES US.

(Option zero is that Hannelore was just misinformed or Jeph Jacques just picked a right-sounding number or something etc. Boring!)

Option one is that Hannelore, normally fastidious and precise as we saw a few comics ago, is thrown off her game by Tilly. This is possibly the first sign of the long-foreshadowed breakdown. EDIT: OR A SIGN OF MY HAVING ZERO READING ABILITY

If we assume Hannelore is correct, we can put this together with the fact that Questionable Content takes place in a fictionalized version of our world (yknow, with the robots and all). So option two is that the Earth's continents are differently shaped on QC!Earth. This could mean slightly different cultures, which would have resulted from the differently placed hunter-gatherer societies that tended to cluster near water during early societal development. We can perhaps assume that this is what has led to the other changes in Questionable Content, such as the further scientific advancement and the general embracing of progressivism and all that good stuff. EDIT: OR THE EARTH IS THE SAME AND JEPH HAS A GENERAL EMBRACING OF KNOWING HOW TO USE MAPS.

Option three (and here's where it gets fun) is that in the universe of Questionable Content, science is so advanced that humans have been able to reverse the effects of global warming, resulting in the ocean levels actually going down as the water goes back into the ice caps. This would expand the continents. How hard can it be when we have functional brain-scanning, AI, holograms, and high level space stations? (also anyone who's planning on correcting me on how global warming works: physics are also different in QC its just not explicitly stated so there) EDIT: IN OUR CURRENT WORLD WE HAVE GOOGLE MAPS, AN AMAZING TECHNOLOGY I FORGOT EXISTED.

Option four: Hannelore's dad is a mad scientist who does the evil laugh thing and goes off his medication. He has a space station, with lasers in it. Her mom is an evil controlling businesswoman lady person. If we put these two things together, is it unreasonable to assume that a giant space laser vaporized part of the ocean, or a giant machine terraformed the land? Is that not what would automatically happen as a result of evil business combining with mad science? EDIT: IF YOU COMBINE PRETENSION WITH NO READING SKILLS, YOU GET THIS REVIEW.

Option five: Consider, for a moment, politics. The average American, in my experience, does not talk about international conflicts* a lot. (And I live in Rhode Island! That's the world capital of angry, ineffective politics!) We have in-comic confirmation that wars are being fought in QC land, but not a lot about discussion about who's fighting who. Could a war be being fought on American soil that just happens to not be talked about since everyone's used to it? If we consider this, with the implication that some kind of bomb has been dropped near or off the coast of New York, (causing the new coastline) Questionable Content suddenly gets good! The boring slice of life 'happy relationship and nothing else' stuff is people desperately seeking meaning and intimacy in perilous times. The forced wacky humor is forced wacky humor because there is no real humor because of WAR. In every Questionable Content from now on, put a big ol' 'threat of war' filter over the entire thing. EDIT: IN EVERY REVIEW I WRITE FROM NOW ON, PUT A BIG OL' 'CAN'T FUCKIN READ' OVER THE ENTIRE THING.

Also, I know Jeph wouldn't read past the title of this blog (and really, can you blame him?) but wouldn't it be hilarious if in a week there was an offhand dialogue like "It's neat how we all moved to another city named Northampton (which is exactly 106 miles away from the shore) all at once and just didn't talk about it"? just to spite me? EDIT: YKNOW WHAT WOULD BE EVEN FUNNIER? IF HE OFFHANDEDLY EXPLAINED MY CONFUSION IN THE COMIC I WAS TALKING ABOUT.

Also also, it's been a whole week since the phrase "Now what am I going to do with you?" was used by a taller character talking directly to a shorter character. From what I can tell, not one person has used this as the basis for rule34 of any sort. It's criminal, I tell you, criminal! EDIT: MUCH LIKE FAILING TO READ THE FUCKING COMIC WHEN REVIEWING IT.

*(numbers at time of writing for America are 7 direct interventions with ~800 bases in other countries, just if you were wondering) EDIT: NUMBERS FOR THIS BLOG AT TIME OF WRITING ARE ZERO GOOD REVIEWS WITH AT MOST SEVEN UNIMPRESSED FANS THANKS AND GOD BLESS.


XKCD Could Be Improved Somewhat - #1902 - State Borders

Actually, the way to fix boarders would be to eliminate them entirely. Smash the state!!

Best, Karl Marx

I'm okay with this one! It's a good concept for a comic, especially since I think we've all had that thought about the bump on top of Missouri or Alaska's tail. Rhode Island doesn't need to be bigger, though, just saying, size doesn't matter.

The problem with this joke, which isn't a big problem but it is still a problem, is the empty space. Traditionally, this kind of joke relies on there being a lot of things to laugh at, so even if one isn't that funny, you can laugh at another. With this map, there are nine whole states that aren't touched at all, and more that are only touched a little bit. There's definitely more that could be fixed, like for instance, the ugly Idaho-Montana boarder.

It seems kinda weird to me that there'd be that "good curve! keep." line off of Georgia, but no other comments on the coastlines, when getting mad at coastlines is inherently funnier than getting mad at man-made social-construct boarders. Plus, there's plenty of design-flaw material there, like how the fourth island of Hawaii should be brought into the curve established by the first three islands.

There's also just a little missed opportunity about the plot. Wouldn't it have been fun to see the graphic designers about to unveil their list of demands, and everyone's all scared there's gonna be fascism (cause fascism's bad), but then they reveal the map and we hear the crowd's reaction like "...oh, that's not so bad." / "Finally, someone's focusing on the real issues!" / etc. That could just be me, though. What do YOU think???

In conclusion, I looked it up, and it turns out that Missouri's bump was actually the result of an incorrectly plotted map, so we can all blame John Mitchell.


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?


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".


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!


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.


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. 


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".


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.


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!!



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.


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".


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.