Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Comic 682: Gag Me with a Spoon

Oh fuckity mcfuckshit, guys. I have been having heart palpitations all day, so I am really not in the mood to discuss this comic. That's right, this xkcd literally broke my heart.

OK, not really. I did kind of luck out in the respect that I'm a Star Wars nerd. Still, wow, what a crock of shit. I guess I should be all like "GOOMH, Randy!!! I totally watched Star Wars on TV during the holidays, too!" I went over to the forums to see if that's what his fans are doing, and instead got treated to a discussion of Darth Vader and Padme masturbation and god fucking DAMN IT.

Let's cut to the fucking chase here. Why the hell is Vader so tiny? Darth Vader was 6'8". He towered over most anyone. That was a big part of what made him so intimidating-- he wasn't just a dude in a crazy armored suit(stormtroopers had suits, too,) he was a dude in a HUGE armored suit. Observe the following:

Now look at xkcd-Vader flipped to compare him to the paramedics:

Handwave away the shitty art all you want, but to me a big part of the humor in the idea of Vader erotically force-choking himself to death is the fact that he's such a powerful, bad ass dude. Drawing him so that he looks like a skinny midget really spoils the joke.

The joke was also diminished for me by this little fact: When Anakin falls onto the lava during his duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar, his lungs were seared. Part of the reason he wears the suit is because he can't fucking breathe without it. Maybe I'm way off-base here, but it doesn't seem likely to me that someone who is essentially living in a giant iron lung would be attracted to the idea of auto-erotic asphyxiation. I'll admit that's extremely pedantic and nitpicky of me, but considering xkcd's target audience is exactly the sort of folks who would be pedantic and nitpicky about Star Wars stuff, I think it's worth pointing out.

I think Carl is back to posting on Friday's comic, so Happy New Year's, bitches, and perhaps I'll sneak a little hamster action onto the blog in the next few days.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Comic 681: Guest-guest post. + The ghost of Carl Sagan

they kind of look like boobs.

Hey guys. I am laid up with a cold, so I am letting my cat do today's post. He is not a very good typist, but he's pretty good with my video camera. Enjoy.


Alright. I'm feeling better and not all hopped up on cough syrup, so I'll post my opinions on this thing (you didn't think my cat and I had the same opinions did you? Fucker voted for Pat Buchanan.)

I will admit that this thing is visually pretty. It is kind of cool to see, visually, that a simple jump would allow you to exit the gravity of Mars's moons. You may actually even think this is a clever visual depiction, however, this concept really isn't new at all. Hey, don't get me wrong-- big props to Randall for making it eye catching-- but he certainly isn't breaking new ground here.

There are other issues here, most of which you guys have pointed out already. In some instances, the people and objects in the well are to scale, but not in others. The whole POINT of visual depictions like this is to make it easy for people to wrap their heads around just how weak/strong these gravitational pulls are. The inconsistency in whether the people are to scale or not just makes it confusing; it looks like misquoting Carl Sagan dude can literally tiptoe off Neptune, which is obviously not the case.

Then there's the "your mom" joke. Don't get me wrong; I love "your mom" jokes as much as the next New Jersey douchebag. However, you've got this whole poster (let's call a spade a spade, alright?) chock full of factoids, so the lone joke feels out of place. It's almost like Randall didn't think the comic could stand alone as a pretty, informative work, so he slapped a "your mom" joke on there and called it a day. I agree with what Rob had to say about this-- either pepper the entire poster with jokes (the Titan things and Sagan aren't jokes, just cute,) or don't at all.

Carl said this comic deserved more rage, but honestly I can't work myself up to get pissed about it. It's just boring and OH WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT??


HI GUYS it's Carl here, invading Aloria's post in order to add a little more anger. I thought this comic was awful.

First off, it is boring. We all know - because he told us - that Randall loves reading The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte, so I guess he occasionally uses xkcd as a place to try out some experiments. But this one doesn't work. We know that Jupiter is way bigger (ok fine, "more massive") than all the other planets, and in fact all the gravity wells are basically in correspondence with what you would expect, given their sizes. So I'm not sure what the point is.

In theory, it's to give you a sense of how hard it would be to escape the gravity of the various planets and moons. But it doesn't really work - we're supposed to see the walls of each well and imagine how hard it would be, at a human scale, to get something out of the well, and thus out of orbit. But the only human included in the main picture, the one at Neptune, is obviously not to scale. The human standing on Deimos in one of the insets looks like he could get out of the well with very little effort, though we are told that it would take a bike and a ramp to get him out.

I also don't understand some of the peaks between the wells, most notably the one between Mars and Ganymede.

So the chart is confusing and boring, two things that I am sure it is not trying to be. So it fails on those counts.

The last overly-complex comic he made was the Movie Narratives chart, and back when he made that, I wrote two things about it that I think are worth mentioning now:
But is there anyone out there who seriously doubts that this will not be turned into a poster, probably before christmas, and that Randall had this in mind when he made it?
Clearly my prediction was wrong, and this is still not available as a poster. So I admit that I was overly critical on that one, and Randall did not act as lame or pathetic as I said he would. That's nice. Likewise, I think this comic feels like an advertisement for a soon-to-be-available poster, but until that is actually the case, I for one will not say anything.

I also wrote
But of course, xkcd is a comic, and so it can't just show you something cool, no matter how cool it is. It has to make a joke.
And here we have that once more. Like the product descriptions in the xkcd store, this comic is an unfunny thing with bad jokes smacked onto it just for the sake of it having jokes. In this case it looks like there are two references (Sagan and Titan) and one joke ("Your mom is so fat she attracts football players into her orbit"). The joke is not even connected to any other part of the comic, it's just filling in white space (alas, he ran out of equations before he ran out of space).

I think if he is trying to write a comic he should focus on writing jokes, and if he wants to make visual displays of quantitative information, he should write a goddamned illustrated picto-blog.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

You're Just Jealous, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Shut the Fuck Up

Rob again! I am going to continue bitching about cuddlefish until Carl personally comes to my house and murders me, on weekends so I am not in the way of comic posts.

So! How about xkcd sucks, huh? Are we just jealous of Randy's talent and success? How disingenuous is our disdain for Randy, who is definitely not just a talentless hack who churns out shit comic after shit comic to the adulation of deranged fanboys who insist on telling everyone about it all the time every time it is even remotely "relevant" to the conversation and who believe that everything Randy says is immediately codified forever into geek law? IT IS SO DISINGENUOUS, YOU GUYS. The only reason we dislike Randy is because he is just so much more talented and successful than we are!

Listen. Cuddlefish. I am a nice guy really, so I am going to put this as delicately and politely as I can here. I just want you to know that that is the stupidest fucking thing in the entire goddamn world. I try to be optimistic. I try to think that people are usually reasonable and intelligent. You prove me wrong every fucking day. Here is a partial list of people I like who are more successful than me, and who I think are more talented:
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Joey Comeau
  • Ryan North
  • John Allison
I could continue; this is by no means exhaustive. I include Gaiman and Pratchett because they are not only more successful than me, but they are unarguably more successful than Randy, and I esteem their talents far above his (which is on par with that of a lichen, if not slightly below). If I hated Randy because I am jealous of his, ah-ha, "talent," I would hate them even more!

(I can hear the gears turning in your brain as you work ahead of what I am about to say. I know it's difficult but I have every faith that you will be able to guess the gist of what my next non-parenthetical sentence will be, and that you will do so successfully. Consider this lengthy aside a pause while I wait for your third brain cell to finally kick in; consider the moment over.)

Turns out, I don't--I actually like them a great deal! It turns out that, when people are more talented than me, I like them a lot, because not only do they provide me with superb entertainment, I can also learn a lot from them.

Based on this, I am left with only two possible conclusions: one, you believe that I am at least as talented as, if not more talented than, the authors I like (and, apparently, more successful), and that you esteem Randy as some super-talented god-writer whose massive talent and success bring me to shame that these other, lesser writers simply cannot hope to compare; two, you are a fucking idiot.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Comic 680: shit cocks


Happy Christmas, you sons of bitches! And what a glorious gift Randall has given us on this most special of days-- a boring webcomic!

Really, the fact that people born on or around gift-giving occasions get the short end of the stick in the present department is only slightly less obvious than the fact that drinking water will make you have to pee. It's about as insightful or humorous as pointing out that Jewish children don't get to open a pile of presents today. Hey, what about TWINS born on Christmas Day? They must get double-shafted since they're sharing their birthday with Jesus AND their freakish sibling! Oh my God, I almost pissed myself from all the hilarity.

Oh, but the real gold of this comic is in the alt-text. It is such a massive wad of WTFery that I feel duty-bound to reproduce it here. Behold:
If you're turning 27 and were born in the Northeast, maybe you were conceived in the blizzard of 1982. Imagine: snowed in, candles, massage oil, your mom sporting nothing but her early 80's haircut and a smile ... aren't you glad you read the title-text?

First off: lame. I know we're all supposed to be really grossed out by the thought of our parents getting naked, but my sensibilities are so dulled by instances of Randall's inadvertent creepiness that when he deliberately tries to be gross, it's just sad.

In the interests of fact-checking, a must when dealing with people who chronically pull little nuggets of information out of their asses, I checked Google for the "Blizzard of 1982." What do you know, there was a blizzard in the Northeast that year, on April 6th, approximately when you'd need to be conceived to be born today. So mad props to Randall for managing not to completely mangle a fact! It is truly a Christmas miracle.

$17 (Blog posts count as $5 each)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Comic 679: A Lonely Jew on Christmas

Christmas Plants, what does that even mean

Oh man, those Jews! They can be such clever little bastards sometimes, no? What I like about the jew in the comic is that he's clearly worked out this whole little joke, and is just waiting for a chance to use it. He can't just blurt it out and make this a nice one-panel comic, though, because there are too many elements ("What are you doing the day after Christmas?" "Well, I'm a Jewish physicist who doesn't observe Christmas, so it doesn't even have a definite date! Ha!"). So he sort of needs to string the non-jew along adding in each element in its own panel, in what is completely a sit-com fake-smile-at-the-camera-conversation conversation, and then hit him with the pun.

Aren't people supposed to hate puns? don't people consider them like the lowest form of comedy or something? I don't, but I thought that every other human being did.

Does this even work, science-wise? Can a physicist say "I can't observe X particle, therefore it doesn't have a set location" ? Or is it, "If it has a set location, then I can't observe it?" The whole "My belief means that no one can detect CHRISTMAS" seems real un-sciencey.

Quite frankly after panel two I was expecting a joke about the Jewish Calendar vs. the Everything Else Calendar, with The Jew not knowing when Christmas is because it jumps around every year (whereas from his perspective, Hannukah is always at the same time each year). Does that make sense? I think it's better than a crazy "Jew physicist doesn't know when christmas is" pun that relies on the double meaning of the word "observe."
my god, the xkcd search function sucks.
I'm going to e-mail the breadpig dudes about that spiderpig shirt, it bothers me too much.
GUYS merry christmas to all of you, I am off to vacation on Mars for a week or so and as my christmas present to you, I am giving you all ALORIA (woooo!) to guest post for the week. aloria! i bet you $5 the first words she posts are "shit cocks." SEE YOU IN A WEEK!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Comic 678: Lost in Translation

lost inn translation
I don't know what it is about these new comics but I just cannot seem to care about them. Today's is just five different ways of saying "I get annoyed when people promise me fun things and then I don't get those fun things" and none stands out as being particularly interesting or funny, to me. It's all just like that "it's the 21st century, where are my flying cars??" stuff. We get it; we don't care.

I headed to the xkcd forums to try to find the guy who wrote "that's so funny, it seems like every product fits into one of those categories" so i could be like "well DUH everything is either within 25 years or in 25+ years" but I couldn't find it. Instead I found a phd comic:
Why do I like this comic better? For one thing, it's not as linear. The joke is not "if he says x, it will take Y, if he says 2x, it will be 2y" etc. The 3rd item on the list subverts the expected joke, and then the 4th does it again. In the 5th item the issue isn't even the length of time, so it's in some ways a different sort of joke. Basically, it isn't repetitive. It isn't inefficient with space.

Also, what Lint of Death said.

Holy CRAP how does Subnormality manage to write so many goddamn words in a single comic? How is that possible?


I'm still reading Homestuck over at MSPaint adventures but I feel like it's been about a month since anything important to the story happened. It's just...too expansive, this world he has made. Too many people and too much backstory for each of them. Does it matter that John hates Betty Crocker? Some wacky diversions are fine - that's part of MSPA's thing. But it just seems like he's going downright crazy with them these days.


Only one more shitty post from me and then it is Aloria for a week! Hurrah!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Comic 677: Assholes

more like CLASShole amirite
I basically don't want to talk about this comic. It strikes me as boring. You all can discuss it for yourselves. All I'll say is that he seems to be in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" sort of situation* and it is no more or less entertaining than any other such situation.

* note: this is not the same as a catch-22. if you think it is, you are dumb. don't make me go on a rant about this.

What I want to talk about the alt-text. Now I frequently complain that Mr. Beret is a dumb character, because none of his actions are consistent with any sort of "character" at all, in the sense that you cannot "characterize" any of his actions into any "category." (note - if you say "but his character is that he is an existentialist!" then I will kick you in the balls and Rob will punch you in the face).

ANYWAY. In one of our earliest sightings of Mr. Beret we were informed that he a) thoughts buildings that were not bakeries were, in fact, bakeries, and b) thought items that were not scones, were, in fact, scones. I thought it was dumb then and I think it's dumb now. It's particularly annoying because in later comics, this one definable, if odd, trait was totally absent.

So you think I'd be happy to see that today's alt-text: "[Shortly thereafter, at a nearby bakery] ::CRASH:: ::RUMBLE:: ::VRRRRRR:: '... I don't know, officer. It just scooped up an entire rack of scones and drove away!'" Because it gets back to the one thing I thought we could count on with this guy. But I'm not happy (surprise!), because we all we get is: He loves scones! He has a murderous love of scones. I was kind of hoping for something that added to his character, not something that just repeated it. It's like if Homer Simpson were defined entirely by his love of donuts. It just gets super boring, really really fast. So he's also got his job, his catchphrase, his various other phrases, his friends, his hangouts, etc. You know, like an actual character.

Have you ever seen the movie Theodore Rex? I recommend it. It is delightfully bad. The point is that the main character has a noticeable love of cookies. He makes it known frequently just how much he loves cookies! I kept expecting it to somehow affect the plot - perhaps he would inadvertently stop the bad guys while simply trying to acquire some cookies across the room? But it never happened! The only purpose to him loving cookies was so that later, they could have him keep loving cookies! WHY.

It's the same problem here: Mr. Beret's love of scones serves no purpose. Why do we care? How does it affect him, or those around him? Besides being able to repeat "he loves scones! isn't that CRAZY?" over and over, what is the point?


By the way, you haven't noticed this probably, but it is getting really hard to keep up with all the comments. Back in the day, I used to read and respond to them all. Now I'm lucky if I can even read them all. It sucks, because all the good ideas and all the actual funny stuff usually comes from there, and the sense of community and stuff. So - I'll try to keep up, but if I don't, that's why. heck knows i was not expecting this web-blog to turn into a goddamn internet phenomenon. Heck no.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No One Is Forcing You To Read It

Hello! This is Rob with a special announcement.

Are you one of millions of cuddlefish who thinks that no one is forcing us to read xkcd? That it is the simplest thing in the world to ignore it, and that we are just being silly and masochistic for going to the website every day?

You are probably sitting in your cuddlefish chairs right now [Do cuddlefish sit in chairs? Look this up later. -Ed.] feeling extraordinarily pleased with yourselves for your clever and insightful comment. No one else has ever shone the light of truth on us before!

Well, I am here today to set the record straight. I will not talk here of the enjoyment we derive from mocking xkcd. No, I will simply share with you a link. I will wait a moment while you take the time to click it.

Do you see that, fuckers? DO YOU SEE THAT? I was sitting here innocently browsing my Google Reader feeds and Lifehacker decided that it was totally worth my time to show me this horrible webcomic. I don't have a choice in the matter.

"But Rob," you whine in that cuddlefish voice of yours [Do cuddlefish have voices? -Ed.]. "You could always just not read Lifehacker. Surely that is a small sacrifice to make!" Ignoring the fact that other tech blogs are just as guilty, that doesn't solve my problem! Oh no. A simple search for "xkcd" on two other blogs that I follow reveals several examples of unsolicited mentions of xkcd.

This is ignoring that we all still have friends [Does Carl have any friends? -Ed.] who still read xkcd for reasons unfathomable to mortal man. These people often insist on sharing them, almost invariably on one of the more annoying comics. These people are your friends. You can't just ignore them. And sometimes, knowing that you hate xkcd, they link you to one saying "okay I know you hate xkcd but surely you think this one, which is even more xkcd like than most of them, is really funny." You, specifically.

"No one is forcing you," indeed.

Sure, some of the time you can ignore it. But every time I see it I die a little inside. xkcd is not just a webcomic. It's a disease, and it's reached pandemic proportions.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Comic 676: Wasted Effort

Holy crap, look who is posting a full day early it is THIS GUY. In part that's because I don't have a lot to say on this comic. Mostly it just reminds me of the kind of comic you would see over at Abstruse Goose, which, as that link shows, only recently dealt with the topic of the Awesome Powers of Computing. Abstruse Goose is, needless to say, perhaps the single worst webcomic out there that has any sort of following, so I try not to link to it much. Oh, the promise it had back in the early days...

Anyway, today's comic just seems boring to me. Yes, computers are complicated, and you use them for frivolous things. What's next? I mean lots of things are complicated. Every damn thing in your body - in every living organism - is complicated as hell, way more complicated than a computer - plus, you can more credibly claim credit for "causing" it - but anyway. To make up for a lack of thoughts about the comic, I made you all an edit:

Guys! Aloria is going to guest post in like a week! GET EXCITED NOW.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Comic 675: Math people are, yes, STILL BETTER than you!

Oh my goodness PHILOSOPHERS! Those people are just fucking idiots! I hate them so goddamn much. They think they are so great with their thinking and their more thinking. While we scientists have to do experiments and they don't have to! Those bitches.

How much more of this are xkcd readers going to have put up with this? Are math and physics people really so simpleminded that they seek the affirmation of a stick figure, gently caressing their minds while saying "there there, it's ok, philosopher will never be as clever as you, don't worry. don't worry." ? I doubt it. And of course, anyone else read this comic would probably just be offended. Quite frankly, as far as I can tell, the only people who should like this comic - besides physicists with low self esteem - are philosophers who can laugh at themselves.

It's the same irritating elitism that we saw here and here and I worry that Randall loves it so much it's not going to stop.

More people than usual were irritated enough to e-mail me about it, and I had two guest posts in my inbox and some offers for more. I'll quote a little, just to give a flavor of what is pissing people off:

Sheepdean says:

I am sick and tired of this bullshit that Randall thinks he can attack any degree that isn't in the oh-so-wonderful sciences. What has clearly happened here is that Randall has spoken to someone who has half a brain in their head, and this person has taken a critical eye to a generally accepted, most likely true, scientific theory.

A. K. writes:

Xkcd fanboys will read this comic, and their shrieking snorts of hysteria will punctuate dorm-rooms worldwide. As they wipe tears from glee from their puffy eyes, they’ll rejoice at how Randall has once again put those Pesky Philosophy majors In Their Place.

Some will even print out the comic, smudging the ink with their cheeto-greasy fingers in a rush to staple the comic to the noticeboard of their communal kitchen. They’ll take a step back, and for a second, admire their passive-aggressiveness as a dog admires itself as it pisses against a tree.

But hey, whatever makes you feel better. Just remember: You aren't a physicist either, Randall, you sell t shirts with pictures of stick figures for a living. And even I - a crazy blogger with a first-grade education - can look down on that.

update: clearly, when I wrote a post accusing Randall of being elitist, I had no idea that the next comic would end with him saying "I am a god."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book Review: "Your Whole Family Is Made Out Of Meat"

here is the picture of the dino comics book! you can't see it!
(link at TopatoCo is weird for some reason but I'm leaving it up)

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Dinosaur Comics. So when a twist of fate forced me to buy a book online, I chose the only Dinosaur Comics book yet published, "Your Whole Family is Made Out of Meat: The Best of Dinosaur Comics 2003-2005 AD." Unfortunately, the book is little more than a printout of some of the comics online.

So what's in this book? First of all, the TopatoCo description claims that this book contains all the comics from 2003, when Dinosaur Comics started, through 2005. That's just completely false. I wish it did, but that would be something like 600 or 700 comics, and this book contains only about 250. The title even says it's "the best of" so really to suggest anything else is just dumb.

It has an introduction - a short, very short introduction - by Joey Comeau, and that's about it. Nothing from Ryan North besides a single line of dedication. A few strange photos from Found Magazine and precious little else is new in the book. Alt-texts are included under the comic, but only one - as you may know, Dinosaur Comics each have 3 alt texts. Hope you only enjoyed the rollover one, because that's all you are going to get in this book!


Part of (perhaps most of?) the trick with books of webcomics is figuring out the balance between new and old material. Obviously, a good comic is successful because of its old content, that's what people know and what gained it its fame. But all its old content is (usually) still available online, so people need some additional reason to buy the book. The xkcd book solved this problem in a perfectly fine way; it had an substantial introduction, doodles and comments, and of course, those absurd puzzles (which are, of course, pretty great for the mind of your average xkcd fan). The Achewood book, created as it was by a man obsessed with writing about his characters, had commentary, and introduction, and dozen or so pages of text backstory. The Dinosaur Comics book...not so much.


So the bulk of the book is the comics. And the comics are great, but you expected me to say that. I love them. Obviously. They're clever and sarcastic and energetic and thoughtful but that's all true online as well. Heck, at least online they are in color. Turning T-Rex and pals into black and white, as they are here, takes away something from the comic: It's lower energy, and seeing the same 6 shades-of-gray panels over and over gets monotonous faster than the color-filled ones online.

And there are ads in the back. What kind of book has ads in the back? And not cool ads, just lame ads for the publisher.


Dinosaur Comics is one of the more popular comics online - one of the few able to be self-sustaining - and it's odd that its one attempt at publishing would be such a failure. I hope Mr. North and people he works with now can figure out what they did wrong (maybe by reading this post!) and try again - maybe the audience is big enough now that with a good approach, they could start over. Maybe release all the comics in yearly volumes? It would still be about 250-300 comics per book, but have a sense of completeness to it for obsessives like me. Dinosaur Comics is too great a thing to give up on.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Comic 674: Child Abuse

for a different take on this comic, see this post.
nothing natural about this shit
Well, maybe John was going to e-mail me about this comic but I'm just going to assume he is not.

Here we see, yet again, that Randall Munroe is not good with kids. We first saw it with comic 441:

What's astounding to me is that he managed to use the exact same weird unnatural phrase ("we made a baby") in both comics. Both of them have the same exact message, "I am not responsible enough to have a child" and both of them make me go "well then it's a good thing you don't have one, and aren't likely to have one at all soon!" Both feature women who seem to think that having a baby is no big deal (in fact, 674's woman just can't wait to get started again!) and both seem to relate to Randall's fascination with female reproductive systems (witness this overtly in 387), though of course that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

Wait, what? The woman in panel 1 is saying "Don't panic" over and over? Say what you will about pregnancy, but one thing I don't think is true about giving birth is that it comes as a surprise. It's not like you are feeling sick so you go to the doctor and he goes "woah, hey, we are going to have to do some surgery here" and then you get anaesthesia and then a few hours later the doctor is like "Yep, just as we thought! You were nine months pregnant, so here is your baby!" Because then I think an appropriate response would be "don't panic, oh shit what am I going to do, don't panic."

As I said, that is not usually what happens; usually you are aware of it ahead of time, and so any panicing is before the birth, not "after the time when your baby is able to stand up and say 'BABY!' like the little dude is doing in panel 1."

Actually, that's unfair. I don't think the baby is saying "BABY!" in panel 1, I think that's supposed to be a label. But of course, that brings up two related, worse problems: 1, The fact that readers are disagreeing as to what it is means that Randall has failed to communicate through visual means what he wanted. He could have used speech bubbles - not exactly new territory - and then we could have seen that this text was not meant as speech. Just a simple, straightforward suggestion.

The other problem, of course, is that his art is so shitty that he has to point out what a baby is because his baby is literally just a scaled down version of every other friggin character he draws.

Anyway, this comic was made by a dumb person and contains very dumb people, and i pity them all.

tomorrow, if I have time, I am going to write a review of the (several years old) Dinosaur Comics book (alternate link), just so that you see that I can write negative things about stuff I usually like.

On the subject of things you can buy from TopatoCo, what the fuck is up with this? One internet cookie to the person who can explain it to my satisfaction. Keep in mind: The size of this poster must also be explained.

Holy crap, Penny Arcade has a friggin video series? That's crazy. Totally crazy. I feel like Penny Arcade is just this unstoppable behemoth of creation, just making and producing more and more and more every day, taking over various field and drawing all human creative potential into their icy grip. That said, I totally suggest you check it out - it's only 3 videos so far, about 20 or 25 minutes of total video, so not overwhelming. And they are promising weekly updates, so I for one will try to keep up.
No one has yet offered to buy me a Winter Holidays present! This is tragic. You already know what I want, but if you are a poor person and still want to buy me a gift you should buy me one of these. Hell, the cheapest thing on TopatoCo is still something I would want to have. Now GO! go buy me gifts, all of you! I don't see why this hasn't worked already.

Comic 674: An Alternate View

Some strange man calling himself "Bob Dole" sent me a review of the most recent comic and I thought I would post it, just so you all know I am fair about these things. Bob Dole, everyone:

Hello, Bob Dole here. Despite the name and my illustrious political career, I am just the average humble XKCD fan. So please, don't view this as some sort of elitism when I say that XKCD is the greatest comic in the world and if you don't laugh heartily at every single one you are a mental midget of the most miniscule magnitude. That is to say, your brain is short.

With that out of the way, I hope Carl will allow a small voice of dissent among the XKCD hating crowd and post this.

When I read an XKCD comic I like to go panel by panel, from left to right as if I am reading a book or a holy manuscript, digesting each panel in its entirety. I then read it again, usually this time with my pants off, and take it in as one cohesive unit. Finally I read it a third time and make sure to hover my mouse cursor gingerly over the comic so as to call forth the title text all whilst rubbing cocoa butter over my sun spotted skin. I read this particular strip a whopping sixteen times and, I tell you, my skin has never been smoother or more aromatic. Nor have my sides ever been so thoroughly split.

But enough about me! Onto what you all came here for: the comic. And boy is it a CLASSIC!

Just looking at the first panel I know it'll be good since it hits most of the pillars of XKCD comedy.

Romance? A man and a woman and a child. How can that be anything but romance? Check!

Science? Well, they 'made' a baby. And considering they have just become aware of that fact and that the baby is saying "baby!" only leads me to believe it is some sort of sophisticated cyborg they built. That is the height of science! Check!

Sarcasm? "Don't panic." is clearly sarcasm on the woman's part since she should be celebrating for creating such a spectacular work of engineering. It is safe to assume she is sarcastically quoting Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and not actually panicking. Check!

Math? The baby saying "baby!" is clearly a reference to Pokemon. And anyone that has played Pokemon knows that its a game of math. Every single thing is assigned a number and the majority of gameplay consists of adding and subtracting the numbers. Oh man do I love Pokemon. And XKCD. An XKCD that mentions Pokemon? Pure heaven. Baby! Er, I mean, check!

The second panel has the characters in the same pose. This is something XKCD has always been great at: creating a thread of continuity throughout all of its panels leading to a comic that flows smoothly and does not suffer from the jarring jumps that a change in scenery or posture can bring. Its the type of consistency that every other webcomic can only hope to achieve. The one thing missing is that the baby isn't saying "baby!" That is the only thing that could make this panel better.

I am, however, a bit perplexed by what the male figure means by "do what comes naturally." I hope the next panel will illuminate me.

Oh yes, the silent panel. This is classic XKCD right here! They give both the readers and the characters a moment to ponder. Ponder what, you might ask? Anything! Like what might happen in the next panel or possibly the meaning of life. It's really quite poignant. I can't help but notice the baby has stretched its arms apart. What is that little tyke doing? I can only assume that it is "doing what comes naturally." Again, I wait with baited breath as to what the next panel will bring. It just must inform me what that natural thing that is to be done is! I just wish the baby was saying "baby!" again. Oh well, I guess Randy can't always be perfect.

Ha! The moment of clarity! This is what I read XKCD for. I was left in the dark the last two panels and had NO clue what was going to happen. This totally caught me off guard. But given the short timespan of "soon" there is only one possible conclusion. For those of you that didn't catch it, and I assume there are quite a few out there since this is one of Randy's more subtle jokes, the baby was going through mitosis in the third panel! "Do what comes naturally" is some kind of audio trigger phrase built into the baby's positronic brain by its amazing creators that causes it to self replicate! Wow! That's some high science right there. And math since it's dividing into two! There is no way I could see that coming! Bravo Randy! Bravo! Now if only both babies were saying "baby!"

Now that the exhilirating panel by panel read through is complete I can look at it as a whole. It's practically the perfect comic. The only thing I would have liked to see, apart from more "baby!" would have been a black hat on the man in the comic. I do so love the chap in the black hat. I think adding that would have put a sinister bend on the comic like perhaps he is building an army of self-replicating cyborg babies in an effort to bankrupt the diaper industry by straining their manufacturing capabilities to the breaking point. But still, it is amazing as is. Don't get too greedy, Bob.

Finally onto the title text. All I can say is the fact that it contains the term "sampling bias" in it makes me feel REALLY smart. And the mother pun since the comic was talking about babies? Genius.

This is Bob Dole and I love XKCD and so should you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Comic 673: Dark

The Son of all fears? or something? i don't even know
OK so John said he was guest posting this week but I haven't heard from him so I assume he is off finding a dinosaur to paint. ANYWAY let's see what this comic is.

OH what this comic is is shitty. surprise! Why, he's taken a simple thing - Daylight Savings Time - and gone and made it dramatic! Oh ho. Why, it's just what you did a few weeks ago! But this time it's...repetitive.

Apparently sometimes movies can be inaccurate or silly from a scientific point of view. Now you or I, we might look past this. We might say, "oh, well, that's ok. I know the Sun doesn't work like that. Oh well. Maybe I can look past it and enjoy the film." Now sometimes this suspension is just too basic to the story, so you can't do it. Like here. . But sometimes it's just incidental, so who cares? The only people who would be sarcastic and bitter about it are tools, people who want you to know that oh, well actually they know the science and actually the movie is wrong. It's basically the usual scientific elitism that xkcd does all the time. The two smaller stick figures in panel 1 are the stand in for Randall 'n' his smart friends, sarcastically mocking their superior, who shouldn't even be their superior because they are smarter than her but they forgot the fundamental rule of xkcd-world, which is that the women are in charge, dammit.

Deep breaths.

I don't even get what this comic is trying for - is it mocking serious movie versions of simple things, or is it just mocking The Core and using a simple pun as the title? Whichever it's trying to be, cramming the other one in there is distracting. I think the alt-text implies that it's the former, incidentally.

links links links links! let's go!

Remember all the shit we gave xkcd for its creepy-as-fuck robot boyfriends comics? I feel it is therefore my duty to point out today's Amazing Super Powers, though I won't comment much on it: All I'll say is that I like it more than the xkcd, because it's far more tasteful and of course better executed.

If you click on only one link today, click on this one: CLICK IT, FOOL. I don't know why I haven't seen it before, but it's a (super long) interview with Ryan North that's completely fascinating. To all those people who think Dinosaur Comics is lame and lazy because it uses the same images over and over, read that interview. Ryan North is a person who completely understands the medium of webcomics, and works hard every day on his own comic. I particularly like the part about using punctuation, and how it can be tricky to express exactly the cadences of verbal speech when you are writing it down.

Sometimes I think Moe and the xkcd blog are in a race to see who can update slower. But then moe goes and does something like the current comic and I just go "awwww moe, you can get away with anything you want. You lovable little fucker you."

Kate Beaton's site is still down! What is up with that? You can still read the new comics on her livejournal but man it is not the same, and no one seems worried but me!

update: jay points out that after he recent hosting problems, she is now at I probably should have known that, oh well. I'm still calling the comic "Kate Beaton's History Comics" no matter what, though. Unless she asks me not to, i would do anything she said.

Lastly, those of you who love me very much and want to show your appreciation, which is all of you, obviously, y'all should buy me this for Winter Holidays. E-mail me if you are wealthy and we will Work Something Out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Comic 672: Suggestive

Guys I outsourced my job today to cheap 3rd world laborer "John." He wrote some weird stuff but I posted it anyway, because I didn't have time to post my own writing because I spent all of the last two days furiously trying to wash off myself the horrible creepy feeling that this comic made me have. JOHN, everyone.


Yo, my name's John, but I've decided that today my name is Robot MD, because doctors get all the ladies and that's something to aspire to. If I weren't gay.

Also, you may remember me from this.


So here we have a beautiful little comic fresh from Randall Munroe's ker-razy head and...oh. It's um. It's not that great is the first thing I notice; it's kind of mediocre. The joke appears to be “What if Facebook were creepy?” and you know what? I agree with Randall that it wouldn't end too well.

1st Panel

We have Randall some guy sitting at his desk, looking at facebook while his projector shows us what he's looking at by projecting it on the wall behind him.

Guys, this is why we can't see this man's eyes, he is looking at the wall where his projection is. Maybe that's why we can never see the eyes of all xkcd characters? They're always facing the other way. So my first problem with this comic is, why is the guy facing the other way? I'd like to be able to see his face. So that I can relate to him. EVER HEARD OF THAT RANDY?


Also, I'm pretty sure you can't text from Facebook.

2nd Panel

This is where the “fun” begins. Facebook starts to recommend stuff to do beyond what it usually does. Hilarious right? So the guy thinks it over and starts talking out loud about his feelings. Now, this is just plain inconsiderate. We don't see where he is, but I'm going to assume he's at the library where people don't want to know his problems. You know what? I don't want to know his problem. If I was there I would put some music on or something. Try and liven this shit up.

Oh yeah, and her profile picture changes in this panel, as it does in all of them. Maybe this is a little joke put in by Randall, that the stick man takes so long to make his decision that she is changing her picture while he does it. Or maybe the esteemed Munroe forgot how to use Ctrl-v, which is odd considering how often he's used it in the past.

Who knows?

3rd Panel

This is where Facebook comes into its own. It starts to convince this man, this vulnerable, lonely man that the only thing he wants right now is Susie. But let's be clear here, he only wants Susie's body. He doesn't want to complicate things. But in THE VERY SAME PANEL, Facebook says that life itself is complicated. Oh yes, and there's some hover chairs. I forgot to mention them earlier.

Anyway, we have a little picture of what the stick man and Susie should be doing. And...and I'm not sure I like that picture. For one thing Susie is quite low down on his body, perhaps she is inferior? I guess Randall got a lot of stick for making males inferior, but I think this may be too far in the other direction.

HOWEVER, this if Facebook's idea of what should be done. This is the devil's way of doing things. Randall thinks women should never have to be inferior. Only men should do that.

4th Panel

And here's the punchline. Nope. Hang on, I'll just go look at it again. Okay, no that didn't have a punchline, we just have it get slightly creepier. Although, to be honest, Facebook has just done a little bit of matchmaking. Without Facebook that guy would be sleeping alone tonight, but now he's got a bit of booty to see him through to the dawn. The least that guy could do is let Facebook see the fruits of his efforts.

Speech after the punchline: What punchline?

Alt Text

Nipples need to be licked in the xkcd universe. It's's just a fact.

Okay, we've analysed pretty in depth the individual panels, but it's time to get into the HMS Reasoning. I'll leave you with Captain James Swift as we approach the Archipelago of Themes.
Captain James Swift: Okay, everyone line up. Now, we've dropped anchor just south of the Ocean of Regret. What I want you to do is look through this periscope and see if you can see any xkcd characters running around on the islands nearby.

You lot can look through the telescope and I'll tell you what you should be seeing. Right now you should be having a peek at the Island of Unrequited Love. There'll be quite a few characters there, but we're looking for Susie. Can you see her? Good, that's because that's what she represents.

Captain James pulls a lever on the inside of the submarine. It begins to move.

Right, we're going past some more islands. If you can see there, there is an island that we call the Isle of Fate. You'll see Facebook there, as that's what it represents in the comic that we've just read. The bringing together of peoples for its own purposes.

Okay, now on the island on the right, we should be able to see the stick man, the lead character in the illustration we have just read. This is the island of Randal Munroe, because the stick man represents him. The only thing we learn from this is that Randall gets all the ladies, even ones he doesn't want.

He puts the periscope back in its place.

We've got no more need for that old thing. There's no more a salty seadog can do with island metaphors; let's go back to John.

Hey guys, I'm back, just got myself a sandwich. I hope you enjoyed Captain Swift's tour. Last point I want to make is that Susie is an anagram of Megan.


Carl again. What the hell was that? I have no idea. Whatever, he still drew a picture of me arm-wrestling a dinosaur. Oh hey also, why did this comic seem so familiar? OH YEAH it's because this was on the front page of digg like 3 days ago. It's ok Randall! We know you don't use digg and neither do any of your readers so it's ok.

this comic makes me feel unhappy in so many ways. Why is facebook responding to him?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Comic 671: Randall and Me

who is stephen
Holy crap, two 1980s movie comics in a row! That is crazy. Last time was Spinal Tap, this time it's Michael Moore's debut film, Roger and Me. But instead of visiting the head of GM, as that film does, Mr. Beret visits the head of Volvo. And he does it for stupid petty reasons, because Randall Munroe thinks that if he gets one of his characters to say a Dirty Word then people will laugh at his comic. Which they might, because at this point the comic is basically targeted at pretentious fourteen year olds with too much time to spend online.

Now, I hate Mr. Beret. He is the least consistent character ever created, ever, bar none. Why is he now a political/economic activist-turned-immature-preteen? that's not anything he's ever done before. And the stuff he did before - think things were bakeries, think his mom was alive and fat, love staplers - has absolutely no relation to what he is doing now. I hate him so much.

What is that box labeled "VOLVO CARS" in panel 1? Is that the box...that cars come out of?

I would be remiss if I did not link to Way Walkers glorious re-editing of this comic, so click here.

Also, does anyone know why this comic is called "Stephen and Me" ? Wikipedia tells me that the CEO of Volvo is Leif Johansson, not Stephen anything. Also, wikipedia tells me that Leif Johansson plays the ukelele. So...yeah.

update: ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh the new comic freaks me the fuck out. agghghghhhhhh gross creepy ahhhhh

Friday, December 4, 2009

Comic 670: On a Scale From 1 to Awesome...

Spinal Tap chAmps
Oh god. Here's the deal. This is Spinal Tap is a very funny movie. You should all watch it, though I imagine most of you have. This comic, on the other hand, is not funny. And quite frankly it pisses me off when xkcd tries to take a comedy movie and make jokes about it. He did it with Ghostbusters, he did it with the Princess Bride, now he is doing it with Spinal Tap (that list, incidentally, is not exhaustive). The point is, the source material is funny, in this case really funny, and so if you are going to attach yourself to it you had better be damn sure you are making a really fucking great joke. Which, of course, you are not.

The thing that makes this comic especially dumb is that not only is Spinal Tap a comedy, it's a mockumentary! The members of Spinal Tap are supposed to be really dumb. So the punchline is...ha ha, they are so dumb! How dumb are they? They are so dumb, you could take advantage of them! ha ha!

Here, let's watch the original together:

ahhh, so good.

As you can see, the first two panels of the comic are essentially distilled versions of the dialog in the original. And the second two are Randall putting his smart-alec self in the scene in place of Rob Reiner. Being like "oooh, I totally could have said something funnier there! If you are an engineer you will think it is funny!" But no one gives a fuck because a) your version is not funnier at all, b) even if it is, which it is not, the reason they are famous and you are not is that they didn't just make up one joke, they made the whole fucking movie and they made it brilliantly. Who cares what you think of that. Even Mystery Science Theater, which is of course based entirely on other works, makes hundreds of jokes per movie. Yours on its own is just...petty.

And it's not like people haven't made "this amp goes to eleven" jokes before. Guitar Hero (or Rock Band? i forget) had "this amp goes to eleven" stickers for their plastic guitars. Hell, Wikipedia has a whole damn page dedicated to this joke. So your dumb little contribution to the canon makes a huge difference.

This commenter got to the heart of it well, I think, but this commenter just makes me vomit. Why the hell are you giving Randall credit for putting an umlat on the band's name? It's in their fucking name! That's just being correct! Woo hoo! he didn't spell it wrong! good job! here's a lolipop!

god, can i go home now? is there anything else to say about this shit?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Comic 669: Sucks

more like SEXperimental
Yesterday (a word which I here am using to mean "the last time I posted a comic") I wrote about how I liked a comic a lot of people here hated (this is unusual, because I rarely like comics at all.) Today we seem to have the opposite problem, where lots of people think this comic is pretty great and I think it sucks hard.

First off, this is the second time in four comics that Mr. Hat has made us suspend a crazy amount of disbelief (particularly in the alt-text) while he goes about his crazy scheme. Sure, he can just put that dude in a vacuum, why not!

Hey, here's another occasion where some visual cues would be nice! What if in order to see that he was making a vacuum, you had some stuff (office supplies, paper, text books) also getting sucked out of the dome? As it is vacuum-dome and filled-with-delicious-breathable-air dome look exactly the same, and we have no idea what is happening with that "whoosh" until the end. ALSO we have no idea that guy will turn out to be a physics professor. He looks the same age etc as all the xkcd characters.

The last three words of this comic are typical post-punchline waste (PS if i make a new category page for post-punchline dialog, will you all help me populate it?), and in fact having that girl there at all (is she Mrs. Hat? WE DON'T KNOW because without her hat she looks JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER GIRL randall draws!) is not needed. Why is there a black panel at the beginning? To show that he was blacked out? Going from "all black" to "entirely visible" is not the best way to represent that, visually.

why does the laptop not get sucked out along with the air? there's no friction there so shouldn't it come out with everything else?

Lastly, this whole thing mostly just reminded me of the Magic School Bus episode (HELL YES magic school bus!) where they play baseball in a frictionless stadium, or at least, attempt to and fail miserably and end up learning about the importance of friction. Oh magic school bus. You taught be so much about science.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Comic 668: Deeply Embarrassing

i luv pandora 4 eva
Apparently I was one of the few people who didn't think this graph was all fucked up. Maybe if I look at it real hard I can see that "Deeply embarrassing music" should really be inside the circle it is next to, but honestly, I got the point pretty easily. Far be it from me to dismiss a criticism of xkcd, but I don't really care about that one. How odd.

Leaving that aside, the comic is not too bad. The point is simple - "Pandora plays embarrassing music when people are around" - and simply executed, so it's not likely to make me froth about in a bitter rage, as so often happens (you really should not be near me when I read a new xkcd comic). I didn't find it all that funny - in part because I only listen to embarrassing music, so I am used to this, and also because I tend to listen to Pandora on my own or with headphones (because all my music is embarrassing). Part of me wants to say "why the hell is he making this comic now? Surely he's known about pandora for years, right?" but again, that's not really enough. The worst thing to be said about this comic is that it is oh-so-similar to comic 400, and that's not something I can defend it on. That is just a problem.

Those of you disappointed that I am not more angry today, read on.

Unrelated to the current comic, but I've been glancing through the xkcd store as it quietly adds new products, and noticed this.

I think that the xkcd store selling shirts entirely based on a joke from the Simpsons movie is pathetic. The writers of that movie worked hard to come up with the script and to take their work and make money off of it is just wrong. I'm not talking about a legal, Creative Commons style debate - I'm just talking about what is being a dick and what is not. (hint: this is being a dick!)

update: No, I don't care that it is being sold to supposedly give money to some charity somewhere. And I also don't care that some comic book once made a similar character in like the 80s or something for a 17 issue kids comic series. the xkcd store fucking quotes the movie. OK? shut up and i hate you all.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Comic 667: Free At Last

yeah this post is late. maybe it's because I was eating dinner last night with...GEORGE WASHINGTON??? anyway, deal with it.
Now unlike everyone else, I had never played this "skiing free" game, and so I had no idea what to say when it was introduced into the comic-story. Monster? It will always kill you? Ok. Of course, I am someone who considers skiing a metaphor for the inevitability of death because I am quite certain you will always fall down, painfully.

So for the billionth time, i must admit that perhaps this comic's point was lost on me, that perhaps you must have felt the terrible dread of the imposing snow creature, felt its putrid breath upon your bescarved neck, and thought that each moment must surely be your last, in order to understand what is happening in this comic. But I have a feeling it doesn't matter. I have certainly played games with the same feature, so I'd like to think I can relate.

But ultimately, what is the point? The girl thinks that the monster will kill her, then she finds out that it won't. So her metaphor was....flawed! HA ha ha. Death isn't inevitable? No, just that her image isn't. That last panel is meant to be a sort of "fill in your own joke here" pause because there is nothing funny Randall could actually write there. Seriously, all she could be thinking is "Huh, guess I was wrong."

Of course, what I think this comic is really trying to say is "Guys, I just found out that you can escape the skifree monster, let me show you my knowledge so you will be impressed." but that's just cynical old me talking.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Comic 666: Evil Spirits

silent laughter
I'll get this out of the way first: I like this comic, at least more than usual. The style of prank is the sort of thing that I think Mr. Hat is funniest at: A whole lot of work for a rather petty (and ironic) conclusion. In this case, making the head of the American Skeptics Society believe in Evil Spirits. Not excatly helpful for any goal besides general impish pranksterism.

That said, silent hammers? What? I think Fred's edit was perfect on this:
Not only is this a crazy implausible idea, not only is it one that the characters seem to brush off like "oh hey, silent hammer, that's cool, i guess, but why?" but it is totally unnecessary! There's plenty of ways that Mr. Hat could have accomplished this goal without needing something as massively silly as "silent hammer." maybe he could have taken all the furniture out of the apartment and sawed it or whatever a few blocks away? Maybe he could just use glue to make some tables taller? I mean, once you've broken into the house you have a lot of options. Heck, just move things around, or leave like creepy notes places. Implausible? Sure. But this is the same guy who filled the US Capitol with playpen balls. So presumably he has some skills. Anyway, it's all more plausible than silent hammer.

But, once you get beyond that (if you get beyond that), then I think this is a nice return to the sort of shenanigans Mr. Hat got famous for.

now that i've written something nice, I fully expect to be attacked as soft-on-xkcd from the more rabid anti-xkcders out there.

silent hammer? COME ON.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Comic 665: The Chronicles of THIS COMIC SUCKS

shut up shut up shut up
I think xkcd is in the middle of about 3 or 4 weeks of really mediocre stuff. Nothing that's really pissed me off for a while, just a lot of things that make me want to pat it on the back and say "it's ok, you can stop. You don't have to force yourself this much."

And that's how I originally thought of this one. But then the more i looked at it, the more it filled me with rage. Perhaps it was the lack of dialog that threw me off, perhaps the fact that I so clearly understood what was happening shielded me from the terrible fact that what was happening does not make sense.

Ok, let's talk about this. The girl (who is being smart and tech-savvy, surprise!) is Lucy, from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (god i want to put an oxford comma in there but apparently that's not part of the official title). And instead of just heading straight into Narnia, she sends in some kind of mars-rover type webcam, to scout things out for her!

why the fuck should we give a shit.

Obviously, this option was not available to the Lucy in the story, written as it was in 1950. So it's just another dumb old random media mashup, one that tells us nothing new about any of the characters involved in either. It's not like those parodies where a character from something famous is suddenly put in a crazy new position, where you see how the creator thinks they would act. Here all we know is "what if Lucy had technology, and was really careful?" and the answer is she would use technology to be very careful. That's it! that's all there fucking is!

OK, here is my challenge to the xkcd fans: TELL ME WHY THE FUCK YOU LIKED THIS, or admit that you didn't. And no cheating by saying it wasn't supposed to be funny! it obviously was supposed to be.

what will happen for comic 666??????? maybe: nothing! has he ever done anything special for a certain numbered comic? 404 doesn't count, he didn't post it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Review: "Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar" - Achewood Volume II

buy it

Achewood is not like any other webcomic. There is something about it that makes most of its fans - myself included - completely obsessed with it, always trying to read as much as possible about its universe, and rereading the archives on a regular basis. If you ask us why, we will usually say something about characters.

Achewood's characters are unlike anything else in the world of webcomics. Not only does he revel in having them interact with each other, seeing just how their own personalities and speech patterns work with each other and in different situations. For example, when Lyle gives adorable five-year-old Phillipe his copy of The Anarchist's Cookbook, Phillipe does exactly the "right" thing for his character. You read it and you go yes! that is exactly what Phillipe would do!

Chris Onstad is basically obsessed with the world of Achewood. He freakin wrote blogs for all the characters for years. He managed 12 blogs. TWELVE. And they were filled with just more and more conversations between the characters. Here's a Thanksgiving one from a few years back. Here's another, non-thanksgiving one. He wrote a cookbook in the voice of all his characters, and when that wasn't enough, he wrote another one.

All of this is to say that when the second official Achewood book came out (but in many ways the first one doesn't count, so this new one is the first one) no one should be surprised that it is chock full of character stories.

The comics themselves are things we've all seen before - starting with the first comic and taking us up through this one - though not every comic from the period is included. Unlike the Great Outdoor Fight book, it does include alt-texts [as an aside, the alt-texts are included in small type underneath each comic, leading me again to wonder why the xkcd book needed to stick its alt texts in random places and at random angles between panels. Also, the title of each comic is included, something I thought xkcd should have done to help organization].

Note: color comics have been rendered in black and white. It isn't a big deal - there are only, by my count, six color comics in this period, and you can't notice that anything is missing if you don't know what it's supposed to look like - but when the titles are things like Color Monday! it does make it pretty obvious.

Most comics have comments below them, some of which are rather trivial but many of which are pretty interesting for Achewood obsessives like me (and, as I said in the beginning, nearly every Achewood fan is an Achewood obsessive). In addition, this map is reproduced on the title page, and these two are inside the front and back covers. They look damn classy there.

But of course, for those of us who have read all these early comics so many times, the real excitement is the new writing. There are no new comics, but there's a Prologue, featuring a regular day's conversation between Onstad, Ray, and Roast Beef, and there's "A History Of Achewood," explaining just how it is that Phillipe, Cornelius Bear, Téodor, and Lyle ended up living with Onstad. So committed to his world is Onstad, and so aware of this fact are his readers, that we don't think twice when the introduction is missing all the usual introductory stuff - "So here's how I started this comic, then I got famous, now I got a book, thanks for buying it" - but just goes head on into how these stuffed animals came into his life. And it feels right.

What's a little different - but by no means problematic - is that Onstad takes a much more active role in their stories than he usually does in the comic. We know that those characters live in his house, and he made occasional appearances in the early comics, but for the most part, he's faded away. Perhaps it is because these are early comics, but it doesn't feel wrong to have him take this role. In any case, what we all read for is the animals, and we get plenty of that (for example, here's Téodor: "I'm just trying to keep blood out of the food. It imparts an iron taste").

Lastly, a note on organization: The comics are not quite presented in order. Instead, it cuts the 8 month series in half, and reverses the two halves. This actually makes a great deal of sense. The very early comics are a bit random and strange, and take a while to get used to. There are no recurring stories, and the characters aren't really very consistent yet. In fact, Ray and Roast Beef aren't even around. It's fitting, then, that the book puts those first comics at the end (under the title "Before we were Achewood") and starts with the comic that introduced the cats. The "History" segment is also split up, starting at the beginning of the book, continuing between "Achewood" and "Pre-Achewood," and then putting the last installment at the end. It's a clever way to make the book feel like it has more content.

It takes a while for people to get into Achewood (it took me three tries before I realized how much I loved this comic), and many of them may have an easier time with both the print format and the fact that it starts out past all the strange early comics. And of course, Achewood fans will love the book, and will likely take a very long time to get tired of these comics, no matter how often you read them. But then again, Achewood fans already knew that.

Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar: Achewood Volume II is 136 pages, hardcover, and $15.95. Note: xkcd: volume 0 was paperback and costs $18 ($35 for the signed copy!)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Comic 664: No One Appreciates You

i don't like itOh, poor coders. No one ever appreciates them. They work so hard and get no thanks. I guess?

I guess Randall just wants to shit on some businessy people (I guess he really wants to be hired by some university somewhere?) , because you could totally just reverse this: Academics you spend all this time trying to get grants and stuff and make your papers get published and it takes years and is totally thankless, and you have to deal with stupid students and stuff, and in business, you get paid and stuff and if you work it right you can get famous and invent ipods and stuff (simplified? perhaps. no, on second thought, no. not simplified). Anyway, the point is, this just feels so damn complainy, especially for a guy who has never been an academic, or even gone to grad school, or even tried to go to grad school (as far as I know). While we're at it, isn't a thesis basically what you write at the end of a doctoral program or some other sort of program? Don't you usually write only one? How is that different from a paper, besides the difference in who is writing it?

But whatever. Man, I knew that being an academic was awesome in the math/physics/comp sci fields. You know how I know? Because I read Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, which covered this topic last week. Just last week! Am I being crazy here, or is this a little suspicious?

I am going to try to do a better job of reading comments and occasionally guys are just writing far too many. Stop writing! only one person has to call me a douche for me to get the picture, not all of you!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

more book news!

I got my copy of the Achewood book in the mail today! woo. I will read it this weekend and write a review. In the meantime, large amounts of thanks to Aaron Colter at Dark Horse for sending it to me.

If there are any new(ish) webcomic products you want me to review (ie, you want me to try to get for FREE) let me know. I am a vast internet force now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Comic 663: Criminal

Sagan-Man? more
GUYS i felt so bad about being lame these last few posts that I am writing all super early today. Hurrah for me.

This is not so hard a task, because the comic is so freaking dumb. I think the point is to choose a scientific figure who Randall knows everyone will like (and he's got Feynman covered) and make a comic that basically says "Isn't [scientific figure] cool?" So that's what he does. Just by acting like Carl Sagan you can fight crime! Well obviously not really, that's why this doesn't happen, and it remains a cartoon webcomic internet nerd fantasy. But guys! How cool would it be if we finally overcame the bullies and criminals...using science! That is what this comic is about.

Oh, and if he can make his "profound truth" be along the same lines of a previous comic that was oh so similar well then so much the better. Right down to the shape of the comic, with the scene set for us in a box that overlaps the first few panels, some silent panels, and then the Crazy Thought at the end.

Sadly, we still have the xkcd sycophants eating this shit up. for example, a delightful fellow who goes by the name "Steve The Pocket" writes that "I don't even get the joke, and yet I'm laughing." Do you see what we have to work with? How many people get that much slack? How many people can make such crappy crappy jokes and still have people actually admit, "I don't know what the fuck is going on but i will love it anyway!"

this is why i blog, people. this is my sacred cause.


oh hey rob finally wrote something about the last comic, you can read it if you want, I GUESS.

Comic 662: Carl Literally Sucks At Everything

iPhone or Droid or NOTHING? hm? thought of THAT?

Because Carl's post is pretty much terrible, Rob emerges from his dark grave etc etc.

So, apparently Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) has heard of the Droid! This is exciting news, you guys. He has heard about it and now he is going to wax philosophical in the only way he way only he knows how to: by talking about meaninglessness, which is shorthand for existentialism! That's pretty deep.

Mostly though I feel validated. You see, before today, I wasn't sure if Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) approved of my purchase of the Droid. Now that I know it has his stamp of approval, and--oh, fuck it.

I think there's a hint of self-depreciation in panel 2. Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) apparently already had a G1 (which he just cold doesn't mention in the comic). He apparently bought or covets the Droid. And now he is aware of what he is become--the type of person who sedately consumes, as Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) once put it.

Then panel three is a snarky comment at how the iPhone is proprietary software. Ha ha ha, free software is great, will someone please love me? And that kind of ruins it. I mean, the setup for a really good joke is there. It could be really excellent, the kind of stuff that made up the golden days of XKCD. If only he'd just drop those last two lines of dialogue. It's not necessary. It's not clever.

Without those two lines, Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) could have ended on a succinct note, for once, but I'm mostly annoyed that he took what could have been a funny line--"Yeah, on both"--and followed it up with some snarky "haha the iPhone sucks" jab.

Now, I'm a man who likes his snark. I am guilty of it, oh, basically all the time, ever. Just ask anyone! (Or don't, usually they just say "We don't want any" and slam the door in my face, and it's cold outside and just once I want them to let me inside for a minute so I can be warm.) But this is just a poor example. There's no depth to it, no absurdity, no irony. It is utterly bereft of the je ne sais quois, as the Russians say, which makes snark (which is a Russian word, look it up) so beautiful. It feels, not even contrived, but obligatory. Like the sort of thing a free culture nerd would say if this had come up in conversation. And then the people who happen to like their women like they like their software (proprietary) roll their eyes and say "fucking freetards" and then everyone gets on with their lives.

It's not webcomic joke material. It's utterly expected. It's completely mundane. It lacks chutzpah (a Russian word). It fails to capture the zeitgeist (also Russian).

So I guess what I am saying is, Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) ruins everything, and fuck Carl and his stupid face.