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.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1745 - Record Scratch & #1746 - Making Friends

Do people actually wonder what a record scratch sound was? I don't even mean "Do people not know what records are?", I mean that by now a record scratch doesn't really mean 'the needle slipped on the record player', it's just the sound effect for a freeze frame. It's like when someone falls off a cliff in a cartoon and a slide whistle plays. It is, as TV Tropes would say, a Stock Sound Effect

This comic doesn't indicate it, but it was directly inspired by a twitter meme. That's why the comic is set up so weird: it's set up like a tweet: caption then image. 

What the comic SHOULD have done is have at least one panel of the guy being approached by the mob, and then a record scratch (with the sound effect in between the panels). Imagine it in your head, isn't that so much better? The way Randy did it, it feels out of order, it's a little bit confusing. 

Also, nitpick: music is still recorded on vinyl discs by hipsters some people, and vinyl sales are still a sizable part of the market. It's not a completely archaic technology as the caption kinda implies. 

So if they're having this conversation, they're friends, right? It doesn't seem to me like a conversation that two people would have as just acquaintances. So wouldn't that mean that Ponytail has already experienced Bald's attempts at friend-making? I don't think this is me being pedantic, I think this is a logical question to ask given the series of events we're presented with.

The fix for the weird paradox isn't even hard, just call attention to it and make that part of the joke. Cyanide & Happiness's "Sad Ending" short gives a good example of how to do it. If a work points out one of its flaws, that flaw is not a flaw that can be held against that work. (The way that the work points out the flaw can be, but let's not get into that now) It's like how you can't criticize Harry Potter for having magic, since that's the premise. They say "In a world where magic is real..." I don't say "Ha! Magic isn't real, your series sucks!", I have to say "Several scenes lose tension due to the lack of clearly defined rules for how magic works, etc."

THAT SAID, I do actually kinda enjoy the described scenario here, even if it is a little silly. It's cute! Just think about people slowly creeping towards a guy with a broken leg, when suddenly - "No one is sure why Uranus has a sideways rotation!" And all the predators halt for a second, and go "Hmm. This guy isn't so bad after all."

If only we had that visually presented to us. Oh well.

[page break]

Yo I'm writing this after watching Love Actually so forgive me if this is a bit sappy, but I wanted to say Happy Holidays to everyone reading this. Your comments honestly do perk me up and I sincerely hope that my Christmas gift to all of you will be a balancing out of my work and my college and my podcast and my music and this blog so I can give you regular updates across the board. 

Also, to the first reader of this post - your present is an iTunes gift card! The code is XVHV685WN9KV7JXP. (Hopefully this time it'll be usable in all countries)

I love you all.

- Greg


XKCD Isn't Funny #1742 - Will It Work? & #1743 - Coffee

I'm gonna have to trust this chart since the farthest I've ever gone down it is the package manager. I am a simple man, and I stick to what I know.

Yo, by the way (real quick) I don't know if this is a well known thing, but I remembered myself figuring it out in fifth grade and being really proud of myself and then my teacher fuckin SHIT on it! So like, the difference between 2^2 and 1^2 is three, (3^2)-(2^2)=5, and 4²-3²=7, and the difference between a square and the next highest square keeps increasing by two. And people get a lot of money when they discover new primes, right? Therefore I can use my thing to keep discovering new squares and become crazy rich, right? Someone hook me up with the email of whoever's in charge of giving out money to maths peoples.

Speaking of math! Back in my science class, I learned how to do graphs and this ain't no good. You gotta have little dashes that show where you are on the scale, even if you're not doing number specific things.

It also feels pretentious to say "code" instead of "program". (It is possible that I am just misunderstanding a difference in terminology) It's like those pretentious guys I've been told exist that say "film" instead of "movie" or "lobster" instead of "instant ramen". Some of us weren't born with a silver screensaver in our mouth, Randy!

There's probably a good joke somewhere in the idea of this comic, but a narrative structure would probably bring it out best. Maybe a guy's scrolling through snapchat or whatever the young kids are into these days, and he sees a code that only needs minimal tweaks, and then he's frustrated when those minimal tweaks turn out to take up years of his life. And that would even be kinda relatable; plenty of people have spent way too long working on something meaningless. The way this comic is presented, it's only relatable to coder people.

I haven't yet experienced this phenomenon, but I've been told (read: heard on a podcast) that there are these people you run into that really make a big deal out of not being able to cook. Like "Oh yeah, I burn water, I can't make cereal", like it's something to be proud of. The "I don't know how to adult" joke has kinda worn thin by this point. I'm all for understanding that we're all fallible humans and we're all just trying our best and all that, I'm less for celebrating not knowing stuff and wallowing in ignorance.

That's me reading too much into the context and whatnot, though. How does the joke stand up outside me whining about what the kids are doing these days? As it turns out, not too bad! Total is usually worth a chuckle,  and it is kinda neat in a gross-out way to see the chick horribly misinterpret the concepts involved in making coffee.

However, there are two huge Missed Opportunities in this comic. For one, it'd be way better if we saw them reading from a wikihow article or a cookbook or something. "Step 1: Poor the coffee grounds" and they just poor it out on to the floor. Ha!

The second M.O. (Mike Oldfield) is that we don't see the guests. This whole comic gains an extra dimension of sitcom hilarity if we have their guests are just in the other room, hearing these not-coffee-making sounds. Extra bonus points if we get to see the coffee actually being served, which makes the concept that people are going to drink this stuff more real and therefore more horrible and therefore more funny.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1740 - Rosetta & #1741 - Work

So the chick is all incredulous right in front of him, and he still believes her when she goes with it? It's also not clear that the other chick is whispering to her in the last panel, so it looks like he's just being willfully delusional.

Also, I am 100% not sold on this being a space center. I've never been in one, but I've been in a government type place once, and that shit had three television screens, on top of twenty-something computers. This isn't a dorm room, with a pair of laptops and a pair of desks, it's like NASA or some shit.

I like this comic, but I think it's kinda funny that the scene from his life he chose to show was just "plain drawer-less table with single lamp and cup of water". It might have come off a bit better if there had just been close-ups on individual objects. Or he could have gone the other way, and had a more zoomed-out shot of a room, with one caption per item.

This comic does retread #277 a bit, but it's okay because 1) it's been like eight years c'mon and 2) it's a notable improvement, no preachy author-inserts to be found. And it's just a cool thing to note, y'know? Isn't that the beauty of humanity, our ability to put passion into the corporate, to create meaning from meaninglessness, to argue emotionally about tiny, insignificant things?

I'd also like to point out that this comic also reflects the process that brings you this blog. Every individual word must be agreed upon and triple-proofread by me and all five of my consultnats.


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1738 - Moon Shapes & #1739 - Fixing Problems

I'd like to point out that #4 depends on the viewing angle. Imagine you're laying down in a field, looking up. You see the moon like it's #3, but if you rotate your body around, you can see it like it's #4.

Also, #5 is still possible, right? It's just improbable, it should at least get a half checkmark.

It kinda annoys me that Randy decided to caption this "Interpreting the shape of the moon in art". Art doesn't have to be realistic, man! The fact that The Starry Night isn't astronomically accurate doesn't devalue it, it enhances it. The comic should have been captioned "A guide to drawing the moon realistically" or something like that.

#8 brings up an interesting thought: How much human habitation would it take for the light they generate to become visible from Earth? 'Cause the light we generate in cities is visible from near space, right? So it's like vica versa. Also how bright are nuclear explosions from space, realistically?

Anyway this comic isn't a joke, but it isn't really informational either. Like, doesn't everyone pretty much already know this? 90% of the time someone draws moon #6, it's just stylization. This comic really just comes off like Randy complaining that other people don't have the same standards that he does. NEXT!

This is just like that other comic, except without everything that made it good. With that comic, we saw the development of those problems, we felt his exasperation at the exponential disaster that was his computers, and then we got some decent art stuff at the end. This is just a tweet with art slapped on to call it a comic. The recursive phrase suddenly ending out midway is even a regular twitter joke thing (although I'm unable to find any examples at the moment). 


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1736 - Manhatten Project & #1737 - Datacenter Scale

Work's been pretty busy for me, it being December and all, so when my shift ended I headed over to McDonald's. And for whatever reason it took FOREVER to go through the drive-thru. After like, five minutes, I started singing "99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall" and I got to forty-something before I finally got to the window to get my order. But here's the thing: when he handed me my bag, the guy was like "Careful, the fries are hot", which means that all the food was cooked fresh Just For Me. And when I got home it was the best McDonald's I've had since I was a kid. Anyway that's my excuse for being so slow with my updates lately.

This comic is pretty decent! I will openly admit that I chuckled the first time I read it. It has a really good flow; starting with the second panel, the non-dialogue 'montage' panels keep moving things forward (even if they are a little bit silly if you look at them), and then the last panel just brings things STOP, so we get shaken up through the pacing as well as through the narrative. It gives the joke a little extra 'ommph'. Missed opportunity, though: Having all the panels lead the reader's eye rightward through leading lines and such, and then we get a THIRD kind of upset in the flat end of the final panel.

I'm not really sure if the first panel is meant to be just XKCD's typical minimalist no-context starting panels (see the second comic reviewed in this review for example) or if it - and by extension the rest of the comic - are supposed to be making fun of people who say this. Are there people that say we need a Manhattan project to stop cancer? I wish XKCDs didn't have to be interpreted as much as they do, although I am totally bringing it on myself by looking this deep into the abyss.

Also, it's kinda funny that Randy would use such a generic 'TV science' type scene in panel when he's made fun of it in the past.

To quote Hamlet: "Words, words, words". The 'show don't tell' rule probably does get thrown around too much, but it has a point. A guy getting hit in the face with a pie is funnier than reading the sentence "A guy got hit in the face with a pie". This comic is acceptable, but if it was put in a more 'comic' format, it would actually be funny-funny, instead of just conceptually funny. 

That said, I like that there's a quasi- satirical point being made here. (That's a satirical point that's quasi, not a point that's quasi satirical.) Randy is, in his own way, sticking it to the corporations, who are so high up in their ivory towers that human workers are mere pawns to discard, and long-term stability is sacrificed for tiny immediate power grabs. 

Side nitpick thing, but where is this happening? Is this a datacenter CEO conference of some kind? Why is Longhair explaining her business to them if they're all in the business? It doesn't make any sense!


XKCD Isn't Funny - #1734 - Reductionism & #1735 - Fashion Police And Grammar Police

I actually kinda like this one. If we put aside the text only 'could be a tweet' -ness of it, I can get behind it. Since the joke is taking reductionist ideas to their (il)logical conclusion, the joke is self-explanatory enough that you don't need to have knowledge of reductionism going in.

Points are deducted for that SUPER lame explanation of "R", though. At least specify that it's a consonant.

See, the difference is that if someone has really terrible spelling/grammar, I can't understand them.

This comic also has a weird tonal disconnect. It starts off with "judgemental and smug" etc, but then suddenly goes into "appreciate that they way you are interpreted is your responsibility" and "understand...". Then it's "vindictive about... proxies for race", but THEN it swings back to "fun to cheer on". See how they don't really form a united statement?

What I think happened is that Randy started off on one side of the fence, but then thought "hang on, I'm on to something!" and tried to make a short version of a thesis paper on the subject. (Honesty time: I would totally read the full version)

If Randy had picked either "they're both bad" or "they're both good", then that could have been a coherent argument in joke form and I would be able to judge that. As it is, this comic fails to make a concrete statement. Even if it was on one side, the bullet point structure is too direct, almost confrontational, to be comedy without alterations.

I will grant that the original observation is still interesting. However, the real interesting discussion is in how the two groups share root origins or are unconciously operating the same function in different ways. This is the hypothesis, we need the data analysis and conclusion.