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March 9, 2010 4:16 AM   Subscribe

Your favourite comic sucks. "The problem is basically this: Randall does not write jokes, as such. He writes inside jokes."
posted by mippy (232 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Inside jokes are a subset of jokes that a funny to are subset of people.
posted by DU at 4:21 AM on March 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


Nice.
posted by DU at 4:21 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm ambivalent really - I don't always love it, but then I'm not a geek, and I dislike webcomics in general. (No idea why. They just do not appeal.) However, anyone who wrote this gets a free pass.
posted by mippy at 4:23 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


The blog's tagline: "[a] vitriolic and bitter collection of unwarranted nastiness about a silly and harmless comic."

Note to blog creator: Acknowledging that what you're doing is unwarranted and nasty behaviour does not, in itself, excuse that behaviour. It simply reinforces the perception among the people who read your blog that you are someone who knowingly and repeatedly engages in unwarranted and nasty behaviour, ie. that you're a jerk. This is not something to be proud of.
posted by ZsigE at 4:24 AM on March 9, 2010 [29 favorites]


The only way this blog makes any sense whatsoever is if it's secretly written by Randall. No one could actually be this big a dick.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:37 AM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


strangely obsessed person is strangely obsessed?
posted by Narual at 4:37 AM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


As an English major, I just hate it for this one. It shouldn't annoy me because he looks like a babbling idiot to anyone who has ever taken a literature course ever, but going from the whole "I love geeks! I love life! Whee!" to shitting on other geeky people is just being an such an asshole. God, what a douche.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:38 AM on March 9, 2010 [30 favorites]


xkcd often sucks. Obsessing over it either way sucks a whole lot more.
posted by wrok at 4:39 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, I've never felt motivated to write a {topic}suckssucks.com blog before this.
posted by odinsdream at 4:39 AM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Man, if I ever do something like this, you all have permission to kill me. Life if too short to spend so much time picking apart other people's joys. I understand that he used to love the comic, and then it changed (or he felt that it changed), and the blog blossomed from that frustration of seeing something you love become something that, well, you don't love. But when that happens, I don't see the good in dwelling on it and obsessing over it. Just leave it. Go find something else that will tickle your fancy.

Anyway, I'm off to poison people's pancakes at the local diner, so, see ya!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:40 AM on March 9, 2010 [15 favorites]


ZsigE, I know what you mean. Still, it's not exactly nasty behaviour in itself: No-one is harmed. Criticism is just criticism. And calling criticism nasty – even though the critic calls it so – it doesn't make it that way.
posted by krilli at 4:40 AM on March 9, 2010


I'm like mippy about web comics. They just don't amuse me. The majority are web comics seem to have been created to a formula that goes:

(i) Create a handful of characters, and make each embody some stereotype or quirk.
(ii) Make characters say witty things based on their particular stereotype/quirks.
(iii) Add lots of self-references and/or references to other things your audience is likely to know about, even if there's not actually anything funny or interesting to say about them.

And that formula makes the majority of web comics turn out like a knock-off of Seinfeld written for a school assignment, but featuring two cats and a robot.

Having said that, xkcd isn't following that formula, and can sometimes be quite funny. But I'll take PBF over xkcd every time.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:45 AM on March 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


Bottom line: if I laugh, then it's funny.
posted by inturnaround at 4:45 AM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


And to swiftly pop out of the closet, IMO several things suck about xkcd :) There's something off about it. Some vague feeling of pompousness borne out of insecurity gone famous. To me.

I think it is HILAROUS to write an entire blog hating on xkcd. It's a pure and refined gentleman's sport.
posted by krilli at 4:47 AM on March 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


This seems almost Tim Rogers-caliber humorlessness in its breathtaking scope. I'm not sure if this is the worst thing ever or one of the best.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:54 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


...you are someone who knowingly and repeatedly engages in unwarranted and nasty behaviour, ie. that you're a jerk. This is not something to be proud of.

But it improves your chances of getting a gig at FoxSnooz.

Still, this blog follows in the proud tradition of "Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad" and "PVP Makes Me Sad", both of which have closed up for good. Good.

A while back, the Mefite formerly known as wendell attempted to do a blog about webcomics with a mostly-positive spin. That one has folded too, but before it did, one webcomic parodied the comic-haters, using a fake domain name he hadn't registered. This was the result.

Still, sometimes things work out in different ways, like maybe a webcomic about a crappy blogger? (warning: self-link to something I was going to submit to Projects next week, but this post will probably be deleted when cortex wakes up)
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:55 AM on March 9, 2010


The majority are web comics seem to have been created to a formula that goes:

(i) Create a handful of characters, and make each embody some stereotype or quirk.
(ii) Make characters say witty things based on their particular stereotype/quirks.
(iii) Add lots of self-references and/or references to other things your audience is likely to know about, even if there's not actually anything funny or interesting to say about them.


If anything, this formula applies more universally to non-web comics. I will rest my case after noting two things: Peanuts and golf/nap jokes on Father's Day.
posted by DU at 4:58 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


There's also it XKCD Explained, which isn't always that great, but occasionally it really nails the issues that krilli and Solon were talking about above.
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:04 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


As an English major, I just hate it for this one. It shouldn't annoy me because he looks like a babbling idiot to anyone who has ever taken a literature course ever, but going from the whole "I love geeks! I love life! Whee!" to shitting on other geeky people is just being an such an asshole. God, what a douche.

A touch sensitive?

I think XKCD is a fine web comic and as good as about anything you might find in your daily paper. I don't agree with the blogger here that it's built on in jokes. I'd agree that some of the jokes may be based on having a level of technical or mathematical knowledge, and obviously, there's a heavy geek influence, but not all comics are for everyone. Some people didn't like the Far Side, other people love Beetle Bailey, and arguing that because a comic panders to a group of people is only a grounds to explain your own dissatisfaction, and not a reasonable ground to make a blanket assertion.

What is silly is devoting so much time and energy to something you hate. As someone mentioned above, life is short, don't spend so much of it focusing on a negative project.
posted by Atreides at 5:07 AM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


(And then there'sthe inevitable...)
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:08 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


The reason that I love XKCD is that it is full of in-jokes. Not everything has to be universally accessible.
posted by octothorpe at 5:14 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't bother to visit XKCD on my own initiative anymore since invariably I'll come across a link to EVERY SINGLE ONE either here or on Facebook.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:18 AM on March 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


XKCD can't be everything for everyone.
posted by Xany at 5:19 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this another one of those people devoting a large part of their time to criticising someone else's completely harmless project? Pffff.
posted by creeky at 5:21 AM on March 9, 2010


Your favourite comic sucks.

How dare you say anything about Marmaduke. Marmaduke most certainly does not suck.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:24 AM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Every time a Cory Doctorow XKCD comic pops up in Google Reader, my testicles recede into my body and the Fight-or-Flight impulse kicks in, except Flight is hanging out at the bar taking book and cheering Fight on.

This has nothing to do with my dislike for Doctorow the individual. Either Randall has found the absolute worst outlet for hero-worship or he has struck a Faustian bargain in order to get featured on BoingBoing semi-regularly. I do not know which is worse. I fear for his soul.
posted by griphus at 5:26 AM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


A touch sensitive?

No, I don't think so. I'm not creating an elaborate blog based on my hate of XKCD, but I don't think I'm being over the top in commenting that the author seems like an ass.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:31 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


As an English major, I just hate it for this one. It shouldn't annoy me because he looks like a babbling idiot to anyone who has ever taken a literature course ever, but going from the whole "I love geeks! I love life! Whee!" to shitting on other geeky people is just being an such an asshole. God, what a douche.

So, maybe he was a bit off-target in calling out English majors per se, but I took that last panel as a commentary on the Sokal affair.
posted by kcds at 5:32 AM on March 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


I wish Garf-eel was real.
posted by cashman at 5:34 AM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


ASDF
posted by symbollocks at 5:35 AM on March 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


While I think the author of the blog is perhaps taking things a bit far...

Yeah, XKCD did start sucking a while back.

I think for me it was when something of the sheer wonder at the world (and occasional meloncholia) which characterized the early comics was gradually replaced with Monroe's mildly smug impressedness with Monroe's own cleverness. It isn't just that it's an in joke. In jokes are fine. It's a self-referential joke. Yes, the image of Cory Doctorow terrorizing the intarwebs in a balloon and aviator goggles was kind of amusing the first time around, but once you get to the point of riffing off someone else's riffing off your original and admittedly clever idea, it isn't actually clever anymore. Someone else thinking you're cool is not actually cool, and I've better things to do than watch Doctorow (can't stand that guy!) and Monroe jerk each other off.

He's out of ideas. And like any show that's gone on too long, reruns are more common than new episodes, and even the new ones are increasingly stale.

There's such a thing as quitting while you're ahead.
posted by valkyryn at 5:35 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Alas, my favorite comic does indeed suck. Gaaah the shame.
posted by Mister_A at 5:37 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If tis dick can't find this one funny, he's full of shit and I don't have to listen to his overwrought "critiques".
posted by grubi at 5:40 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


And goodness, it gets worse. The construction of that last sentence doesn't make sense at all. "I fondle the castle guard." Well that only works if you are rolling the die to figure out what kind of verb you are supposed to do, which of course, is not what you do. You roll dice to get numbers, and those then those represent other things.

I mean, that's just top-notch douchebaggery. He probably scoffs at all fiction because "that never happened!"
posted by grubi at 5:42 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If tis dick can't find this one funny,

Actually, I found that one pretty forced. It was almost UserFriendlyesque.

I think xkcd would be well served by dropping the self-imposed schedule. Most of the comics lately seem like filler while he works on the periodic Big Clever One (which are also of decreasing quality, but that's a separate topic).
posted by DU at 5:46 AM on March 9, 2010


This is the worst xkcd ever!
posted by swift at 5:48 AM on March 9, 2010


*pfft* are to belive this is some kind of *snun!* magical stick-figure?
posted by The Whelk at 5:50 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


{topic}suckssucks.com

What, you mean XKCDsuckssux?

Or the more-recently updated XKCDsuckssucks?

Or XKCD sucks sux sucks sux?

Meh, I like XKCD sucks. Their analysis of why clunky comics are clunky (or why good comics are good) is informative, even when I disagree.
posted by muddgirl at 5:52 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


He probably scoffs at all fiction because "that never happened!"

So it's unreasonable to expect fictional characters to act in a sane, rational, and realistic manner? Are we not allowed to criticize, say, modern romantic comedies for scripting the most unreasonable and unrealistic dialogue ever? IMO, it's unreasonable to expect critics to "suspend disbelief" over something has fundamental as human behavior, when that behavior is the focal point of the whole comic.
posted by muddgirl at 5:55 AM on March 9, 2010


oh oh can I say it…..Christ, what a asshole.

/likes xkcd
posted by ShawnString at 5:55 AM on March 9, 2010


http://xkcd.isitfunnytoday.com/
posted by Jericho at 5:57 AM on March 9, 2010


XKCD: It's not funny anymore
posted by timshel at 5:58 AM on March 9, 2010


Well he's sure as hell right about this one. What the fuck was he going for there?
posted by graventy at 5:58 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, easy with throwing my name around like that.

Disclaimer: Not the the same Randall
posted by bwg at 5:59 AM on March 9, 2010


So, maybe he was a bit off-target in calling out English majors per se, but I took that last panel as a commentary on the Sokal affair.

That could be the case - if it is, it's rather clumsy but perhaps more understandable. Just his "So I went on wikipedia [per the mouse-over] and looked up something I don't understand. Since I don't understand it, it's clearly nonsense! Lol humanities!" punch-line is rather hypocritical from someone who considers themselves an open-minded humanist/a friend of geeks/whatever.

I just see this a lot in XKCD - as others have referenced, his attitude towards women shows some of the same issues. I don't really think it's worth a whole blog, but only because its firmly enshrined in the land of fanboyishness at this point and there's no coming back from that.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:00 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This reads like the bitter ravings of ex-cult members.
posted by stavrogin at 6:01 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I liked it. This is a blog with multiple authors, not just one dude with an axe to grind. Xkcd has had some decent, even classic comic strips, but is often pretty overrated. If any comic strip just calls out for beanplating overanalysis, it has to be xkcd.
posted by idiopath at 6:02 AM on March 9, 2010


I once made a webpage making fun of other people's work. It got me a lot of attention and people thought it was funny. But it was too easy and I felt bad inside, so I stopped.
posted by ropeladder at 6:04 AM on March 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


"I used to like XKCD. Like, a lot. I was embarrassingly fanboyish about some of the comics."

The pretty much explains it, right there. In my experience, strong feelings like this invariably go sour over time, leading to a strong opposite. I suspect this site and its contributors are primarily made up of jilted fanboys.

(Or, "ex-cult members" as stavrogin so succinctly puts it.)
posted by clvrmnky at 6:06 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


So it's unreasonable to expect fictional characters to act in a sane, rational, and realistic manner? Are we not allowed to criticize, say, modern romantic comedies for scripting the most unreasonable and unrealistic dialogue ever? IMO, it's unreasonable to expect critics to "suspend disbelief" over something has fundamental as human behavior, when that behavior is the focal point of the whole comic.

I'm not asking him to suspend disbelief for everything; I'm saying the part where a character says "So I fondle the castle guard?" is perfectly fine within the context of a comic strip and to deem it bad because it's unrealistic... well, that's douchey.
posted by grubi at 6:08 AM on March 9, 2010


As an English major, Solon, I think that comic is hilarious.
posted by SansPoint at 6:09 AM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is as worthless as writing your masters thesis on Ziggy cartoons.

Move on, nothing to see here.
posted by Theta States at 6:14 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I once made a webpage making fun of other people's work. It got me a lot of attention and people thought it was funny. But it was too easy and I felt bad inside, so I stopped.
posted by ropeladder at 9:04 AM on March 9 [+] [!]


Yeah. This.
posted by Theta States at 6:15 AM on March 9, 2010


i wish someone would spend this much effort dissecting and pontificating on Cathy or Marmaduke. Or Bazooka Joe. Back in college my New Criticism comrades used to use Bazooka Joe comics as examples of narrative upon which it would be absurd to do a close reading, to prove that everyone should read the Western Canon only. It always sounded like a good idea to me though. We'll call the first book 'Stuck in History'. Now who wants tenure?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:16 AM on March 9, 2010


Potomac Avenue: "i wish someone would spend this much effort dissecting and pontificating on Cathy or Marmaduke."

Marmaduke Explained.
posted by idiopath at 6:19 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The great thing about this link is that when the XKCD poo flinging begins, we can simply point to this site and avoid the derail. Or not.
posted by mecran01 at 6:23 AM on March 9, 2010


Jesus fucking Christ. I like XKCD just fine. Not every day, but if it gives me a chuckle once a week it's worth what I pay for it, which is nothing.

This reminds me of people who are still angry at George Lucas over the prequels. Sure, they sucked, but just move the fuck on and find something you do like. Unless that's just not possible, in which case you should just sit on your porch and yell at people all day.

Life is way too short to spend so much time hating stuff.
posted by bondcliff at 6:24 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is as worthless as writing your masters thesis on Ziggy cartoons

By which you mean: as worthless as a pretty diamond that everybody wants. Because I want to read that thesis a lot more than I want to read your Lacanian analysis of Middlemarch.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:26 AM on March 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm curious whether there is a "Calvin and Hobbes sucks" somewhere out there. After reading some of Watterson's commentary in compilations, I'm not sure there could be: he was highly critical of himself, and seemed to know when he had to try something new. The setting allowed him to explore a lot, too.

XKCD seems to be stuck in having to constantly churn out one-liners, much like Far side (which Larson also admitted was full of stinkers). But the scope of the comic is so limited. valkyryn made the point that his occasional bouts of wonder occur less than they did when it was new. Instead, we get the same math major characters, who are always one smarter than the other characters.

I've never been a big follower, but I guess it really is becoming a job, and he's retreating to comfortable zones.
posted by FuManchu at 6:27 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is as worthless as writing your masters thesis on Ziggy cartoons.

Ziggy is a masterpiece worthy of study by anyone.
posted by swift at 6:30 AM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


A touch sensitive?

After three years of comp sci degree students - men who, in my view, wanted nothing more out of their educations than to push buttons and be rewarded handsomely for the fun - telling me that my Linguistics degree would qualify me for nothing more than five stars in McDonald's, I thought that strip could fuck right off too. Geeking should be celebrated whatever flavour it comes in - and with geeking comes, inevitably, wankery and waffle.
posted by mippy at 6:31 AM on March 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


Well he's sure as hell right about this one. What the fuck was he going for there?

I dislike Star Wars humour. So I just skip over things like that whilst yawning inwardly.

You know, I used to love Ziggy aged ten. He's barely known this side of the pond. And I have warm feelings for Garfield, even though, as a cat, he has no grounds for caring whether it is indeed Monday.
posted by mippy at 6:36 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry you don't like my favorite webcomic. Have a nice day.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:40 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Lockhornes is much better to write your thesis on. Never has there been more suburban existential dread concentrated into so few panels. I think Werner Hertzog ghostwrites it.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:45 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


#695 is the saddest thing since Lie Bot told us what the saddest thing is.
posted by giraffe at 6:53 AM on March 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


The thing is, these guys just obviously looove XKCD, otherwise they would just shrug and move on. They are seriously invested in XKCD as a "serious" web comic (ha!) and its perceived decline strikes at the heart of their geek identity.
posted by Mister_A at 6:56 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Saddest Sound In The World
posted by The Whelk at 6:56 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Marmaduke Explained

My favorite Marmaduke Explained is the one where (after over a year of wry commentary) Mathlete completely loses it.
posted by tomcooke at 6:57 AM on March 9, 2010 [48 favorites]


The Formula

SASS
posted by mippy at 6:57 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think font nerds will agree that at least we got Humor Sans out of this. Although, come to think of it. it's kind of an in-joke for font nerds.
posted by jefeweiss at 6:58 AM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Honestly, Mippy, the one you linked to is as hollow and lazy as the strips it mocks.
posted by COBRA! at 7:01 AM on March 9, 2010


That's kind of a really neat comics font.
posted by The Whelk at 7:01 AM on March 9, 2010


le morte de bea arthur: I'm like mippy about web comics. They just don't amuse me. The majority are web comics seem to have been created to a formula that goes...

As DU points out, it's a formula that dominates the daily/weekly strip format. In spite of the once-a-generation attempt to move character plots forward Cathy, Dagwood, and Garfield will still be largely the same jokes about the same characters. An exception Mark Trail which is entirely based on the incongruity of giant animals in the foreground of the perspective.

A key difference here is that webcomics are not bound by the constraint of offending as few people as possible in as many different newspapers as possible, so I'm more likely to find characters I can relate to telling jokes I find to be funny.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:03 AM on March 9, 2010


I look forward to reading the author's clearly much better webcomic.
posted by albrecht at 7:16 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder if this guy would have felt as strongly if he had never read the forums? Like, I sort of see what he's saying, but I've never felt like there's a cult around xkcd - it's just a comic that is usually amusing and occasionally awesome.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:16 AM on March 9, 2010


CurmudgeonApostateRant.diaryland.com
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:19 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


After three years of comp sci degree students - men who, in my view, wanted nothing more out of their educations than to push buttons and be rewarded handsomely for the fun - telling me that my Linguistics degree would qualify me for nothing more than five stars in McDonald's, I thought that strip could fuck right off too. Geeking should be celebrated whatever flavour it comes in - and with geeking comes, inevitably, wankery and waffle.

I think that there's a difference between lit nerds and math/science nerds (although there may be some overlap, in certain cases), and that while they're similar, they're also bitterly opposed on some fundamental level. This strip seems to fall a bit more on the 'spergin' side, and while it sometimes has made me laugh, I too find something squicky and unlikeable about it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:20 AM on March 9, 2010


OK, I'm willing to accept that the strip formula is pretty much an inescapable fact. But I think a lot of (especially) web comics fail by investing too heavily in their own internal world. It takes a lot of investment on the part of the reader if the only jokes are in-jokes about the characters in the strip; strips that work will find humour by bringing in things from outside, not necessarily by direct reference to the real world, but by taking on the issues and anxieties of the real world even if only obliquely.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:21 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I look forward to reading the author's clearly much better webcomic.

This is a common critique of, well, criticism. And it's a critique that I absolutely reject. Does Roger Ebert need to make a movie before he can criticize other movies? Do I have to write a book before I can start a blog post with, "I didn't like Twilight because it portrays dangerous and abusive relationships as the ultimate form of romance?"
posted by muddgirl at 7:27 AM on March 9, 2010 [23 favorites]


I wonder if this guy would have felt as strongly if he had never read the forums?

It's probably never, ever a good idea to read a webcomic's forums. They're all tripping over themselves to praise the author the most effusively. It's always disturbing, but moreso when the comic in question is awful.
posted by graventy at 7:27 AM on March 9, 2010


>:)
posted by Damn That Television at 7:29 AM on March 9, 2010


It's probably never, ever a good idea to read a webcomic's forums. They're all tripping over themselves to praise the author the most effusively. It's always disturbing, but moreso when the comic in question is awful.

...which touches on the biggest mystery in all of webcomics, at least as I'm concerned: the sycophants. Some people have 'em, some don't, and there seems to be no correlation to quality. Some strips just have this hard-core group of people who mob every update with praise and generally talk about how the cartoonist is the Awesomest Motherfucker Ever. And this is just as common for awful strips as it is for good ones.

I've accepted that I'm never going to make any money off of my webcomic work, and that's fine. But I hope to god I get me some sycophants soon.
posted by COBRA! at 7:31 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


And what's the deal with Garfield? For starters, cats are carnivores- lacking the d-glucosyl-transferase 4 protein- so much ricotta in one sitting would lead to basically barfing and skin rash all the time.

And for #2 WE NEVER SEE JON BRUSH GARFIELD. He's so cranky all the time, doubtless because his hair so clotted.

And the Garfield fanboys? A bunch of long-haired Linux freaks, hopping from one Fancy Feast Flavored circle jerk to the next.
posted by mrdaneri at 7:33 AM on March 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm petty and small enough to be bothered that this petty small blog makes enough money on advertising to run a contest with generous prizes not by creating unique, thoughtful content but simply by snarking at someone else's work.

If snarking is so profitable, why aren't we all millionaires by now?
posted by misha at 7:37 AM on March 9, 2010


Man, I wish I had someone this passionate about dissecting my comic.
posted by egypturnash at 7:37 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally, I've many times considered buying picturesforsadchildrenrules.com and turn it into a blog where every post reads something like "oh man the latest comic is so great I want to swim in the dark sweat of my own despair now what's behind this door" but I figure people - and John Campbell - would tell me to shut it after about 23 such posts and I can't handle that kind of rejection.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 7:41 AM on March 9, 2010


Dude, that's just weird, a blog ranting about someone else's comic. Not comics, comic. Just one. Creepy weird.
posted by Xoebe at 7:42 AM on March 9, 2010


I'm petty and small enough to be bothered that this petty small blog makes enough money on advertising to run a contest with generous prizes not by creating unique, thoughtful content but simply by snarking at someone else's work.

Not to turn this into another websites/advertising thing, but holy crap I didn't realize he had ads on that thing. Making a buck by running down someone's work while liberally using excerpts and entire strips to do so? That deserves a sudden and hard punch in the back of the head, or at least a fierce pinching. Fucking parasite.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:43 AM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


If snarking is so profitable, why aren't we all millionaires by now?

You haven't been getting your checks?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:43 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


xkcd is never funny anymore. But it is still very funny as far as comics go.
posted by water bear at 7:44 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and xkcd "isn't funny anymore"? I missed the part where was all that funny to begin with. I have read every one of them, and I read it every day.
posted by Xoebe at 7:44 AM on March 9, 2010


The funny thing about the self-proclaimed vitriol is that this blog would actually be a hell of a lot more interesting to read if it weren't for the personal attacks on Randall and fans alike--I mean, I understand why it's infuriating, I even welcome the need to express that anger, but if you're going to do it so consistently, be entertaining about it or don't bother at all and get to the real meat.

Critical discourse on web comics is actually a really neat idea. Past the links already posted, are there any other intelligent discourses on comics I can peruse?
posted by Menomena at 7:47 AM on March 9, 2010


Oh great, another xkcd fan site.
posted by mikeh at 7:47 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not to turn this into another websites/advertising thing, but holy crap I didn't realize he had ads on that thing. Making a buck by running down someone's work while liberally using excerpts and entire strips to do so? That deserves a sudden and hard punch in the back of the head, or at least a fierce pinching. Fucking parasite.

Wait, hold on, I thought I was the parasite for running an adblocker. Does this make me some sort of double secret parasite?
posted by graventy at 7:48 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


* quietly moves to obscure mockups for billwattersonsux.com *
posted by everichon at 7:50 AM on March 9, 2010


Wow. I was expecting to come in here totally hating on the hater, but I read a bit of the guy's blog and you know, he makes some good points.

I stopped reading XKCD a little while ago. I wasn't finding it funny. But I didn't take the time to think about why it wasn't funny, and this guy clearly has, and, you know, I don't think it's a terrible thing when somebody overthinks something for me.

As muddgirl said, there's nothing wrong with criticism. As long as you're making it enjoyable in its own right, you're allowed to hate on somebody else's thing. So far, XKCDsucks has managed to avoid becoming gimmicky, which surprises and impresses me.

Sure, he could probably be doing something better with his time, but so what? Most wonderful things in the world are made by people who probably have something better to do.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:53 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


i wish someone would spend this much effort dissecting and pontificating on Cathy or Marmaduke. Or Bazooka Joe.

The Comics Curmudgeon
posted by Think_Long at 7:53 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Haters gonna hate.

Arguments about repetitiveness and formulaic comics are very weak. It's like trying to argue that super-hero comics suck because the bad guy always loses. I mean that last Batman movie sure did suck. Batman lived! I mean, talk about repetitive and predictable, amirite?

So XKCD no longer does it for you. Move on. Invest your time in something that you enjoy. This is the path XKCD is taking. You don't have to follow it, but you also don't control it and arguing that your hating on XKCD is your attempt to help improve it is ridiculous.

That you continue to focus on XKCD tells me that maybe you secretly enjoy it, but are sensitive to being labeled a "fanboi". Or you're simply pissed off (read: jealous) that some random guy is making money drawing stick figures. Or maybe you sent off an e-mail or posted on a forum and got hated down for something you said about XKCD and this is your payback.

But I really think your motivation is that you were a big, big fan of XKCD and then a comic or two came through that hit really close to home. It's stuck a big chip on your shoulder that you can get rid of and now you're doomed to spend the rest of your life chasing XKCD so you can hate on it.

So be it.

Haters gonna hate.
posted by ruthsarian at 7:55 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a common critique of, well, criticism. And it's a critique that I absolutely reject. Does Roger Ebert need to make a movie before he can criticize other movies? Do I have to write a book before I can start a blog post with, "I didn't like Twilight because it portrays dangerous and abusive relationships as the ultimate form of romance?"

Having just recently read the Dave Eggers interview on the subject of "selling out," I'm inclined to say yes to all of the above. Maybe it's an unfair standard to have, but the alternative, in which any jerk with an axe to grind feels entitled to write a blog shitting on something, just gets a little old after a while.
posted by albrecht at 7:55 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fancy Feast Flavored circle jerk

This phrase fills me with an unspecific gut-level horror.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


But the alternative, in which any jerk with an axe to grind feels entitled to write a blog shitting on something, just gets a little old after a while.

Umm... I'm failing to see the problem with this. If you want to please everybody all of the time, you're doing it wrong.

From the Eggars interview you linked to:
The critical impulse, demonstrated by the tone of many of your own questions, is to suspect, doubt, tear at, and to take something apart to see how it works. Which of course is completely the wrong thing to do to art... What is it about art that can make us so angry?
Disagree. Absolutely disagree. And I suspect many MANY artists would disagree as well. Eggars is making the same mistake that so many amateur critics and laypersons make - confusing thoughtful, honest assesment with negativity. Roger Ebert, for example, is rarely angry at a movie he doesn't like. He explained this pretty clearly during his "feud" with Rob Schneider. It's natural that Eggars, as a creator of a work, personalizes that work and feels that criticisms of the work are criticisms of him, but that's a really dangerous road to go down.
Just as no one wants to grow up to be an IRS agent, no one should want to grow up to maliciously dissect books.
Respectfully, Eggars can fuck off.
posted by muddgirl at 8:16 AM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


In a truly ironic twist, Randall had his own critique of a comic which had also jumped the shark.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:16 AM on March 9, 2010


After three years of comp sci degree students - men who, in my view, wanted nothing more out of their educations than to push buttons and be rewarded handsomely for the fun - telling me that my Linguistics degree would qualify me for nothing more than five stars in McDonald's, I thought that strip could fuck right off too. Geeking should be celebrated whatever flavour it comes in - and with geeking comes, inevitably, wankery and waffle.

...

You did notice that the strip wasn't making fun of linguistics, right?
posted by kmz at 8:19 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Having just recently read the Dave Eggers interview on the subject of "selling out," I'm inclined to say yes to all of the above. Maybe it's an unfair standard to have, but the alternative, in which any jerk with an axe to grind feels entitled to write a blog shitting on something, just gets a little old after a while.

It's important to make the distinction between jerks and well-intending critics. Nitsuh Abebe elaborates on this a lot more eloquently than I can so I'd rather point you to his response to that Eggers interview. Not all critics are jerks and to put them all in the same light undermines the value of cultural discourse and criticism.
posted by Menomena at 8:20 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


le morte de bea arthur said: "...I'll take PBF over xkcd every time."

thank you so much for introducing me to that strip - I find most webcomics unfunny, but PBF renewed my faith in the creativity and originality of webcomics.
posted by archivist at 8:20 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for linking the Eggers thing. I hadn't seen it, and it's friggin brilliant.
posted by nevercalm at 8:24 AM on March 9, 2010


In a truly ironic twist, Randall had his own critique of a comic which had also jumped the shark.

Is it really ironic? I think most people are put off by this person's obsession with xkcd, not the fact that he's criticizing it. If Randall developed a website that was dedicated to publishing long, rambling critiques of every published Garfield panel, then I think you'd have a point.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:27 AM on March 9, 2010


I'm torn, because I like xkcd ok, but I like pessimistic contrarian criticism better.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:27 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Eggars is making the same mistake that so many amateur critics and laypersons make - confusing thoughtful, honest assesment with negativity.

I think "xkcdsucks" definitely qualifies as negativity.

It's natural that Eggars, as a creator of a work, personalizes that work and feels that criticisms of the work are criticisms of him... Respectfully, Eggars can fuck off.

I guess you proved his point?
posted by albrecht at 8:27 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a common critique of, well, criticism. And it's a critique that I absolutely reject. Does Roger Ebert need to make a movie before he can criticize other movies? Do I have to write a book before I can start a blog post with, "I didn't like Twilight because it portrays dangerous and abusive relationships as the ultimate form of romance?"


Or, as Samuel Johnson put it, "You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables."
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 8:33 AM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


I still miss The Parking Lot is Full.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:34 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Or, as Samuel Johnson put it, "You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables."

Hunh, I always used to say "You don't need to be able to build a house to tell when a door's hung crooked." Whomever this Johnson guy is, he better back off of my lines.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:36 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I guess you proved his point?

Eggers is right inasmuch as Sturgeon's Law applies--most "criticism" is ill-thunk poo-throwing. But criticism can be useful and good and enlightening, and you don't have to be a painter, novelist, or film-maker to do it. You have to be a good thinker, a good feeler, and a good writer. Also, being educated in the domain of your criticism helps a lot, too.

Good criticism can turn people on, can infect others with thinking, feeling, seeing, and writing.
posted by everichon at 8:46 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's also it XKCD Explained, which isn't always that great, but occasionally it really nails the issues that krilli and Solon were talking about above.
posted by Ian A.T.


I'm going to beanplate this one because I take issue with their explanation that this comic MUST be sexism. It could be sexism. However, there are many takes on this comic which they didn't offer as possibilities, and I'd say they are extremely plausible. XKCD overall may have "issues" with women, I will not address that, but I will say that using this specific comic as an example of such, is wrong, as it doesn't hold up to scrutiny as definitely sexist on its own, so should not be used as an example of such.

The scenario is a doctor speaking to a patient, the doctor says something insane, the patient replies "What?" and the doctor adds to the insanity. The caption explains that it's not a doctor, just a guy who is wearing a lab coat. The authors of this post assume that therefore, the comic is attempting to demonstrate how easy it is to "trick" women.

There was a giant leap though, from a woman saying "What?" in italics (thus indicate perhaps shock, perhaps incredulity) to determining that she has been deceived. She may be saying "WHAT?" with the subtext of THAT IS CRAZY TALK ALSO YOU'RE NOT MY DOCTOR BUT SINCE YOU HAD A LAB COAT ON I ASSUMED YOU WERE A DOCTOR HOWEVER CLEARLY YOU ARE NOT. She has not in this comic demonstrated any lack of knowledge towards the way human reproduction works. The comic in no way claims he has successfully deceived her with his explanation, simply that he made it far enough to GIVE her a crazy explanation, by wearing a lab coat.

The joke of the comic, the punchline, is the labcoat making her (and the audience) believe that it is a doctor, while then revealing that it's just a labcoat. Possible subtexts for the joke that don't involve patriarchy or sexism include-- our societies trust placed on seeming authority figures, the awkwardness of visiting a doctor who you don't really know, etc. I also think the joke would still work in exactly the same fashion, were it to be a man (one could argue that he didn't use a male patient and therefore is sexist somehow, but I'm unsure that holds up either, he may have thought of the baby other exists joke first, and then put it in comic context second). Here is an alternate male script-- "Sir, it appears you have lice, and I don't want to alarm you, but now that the larvae have hatched it appears that they have begun to burrow their way down to your brain stem." "What?" "It is a matter of minutes before the parasite, will become the host, Sir. Do you want me to tell your children you were brave?" or perhaps "Sir, you may think this is a case of the chicken pox, but the marks on your skin are notably SMALL. We've contacted the CDC and they've set up a perimeter. You know that heartbreaking scene from E.T.?" "What?" "HAS ANYONE GIVEN YOU ANY BLANKETS RECENTLY SIR!?" And so forth. The "joke" of the comic is essentially the same in all of these instances, and since the inherent joke of it hasn't changed through altering the dialogue and the gender, I don't think their analysis holds up.

Essentially they've taken one interpretation from the many possible, and thus extrapolated it to be a further indication of attempted dominance of women, when the evidence on its own merits does not support the case.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:48 AM on March 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


I can never find it when I'm looking for it, but somewhere out there is a perfect four-panel xkcd parody that really nails the tone of the comic . . the narrator brags about how he and his girlfriend built a computer and had sex, then he points at the reader and says something like "what did YOU do this weekend?" If someone can dig that up and post it I will love you long time.

I think what makes this mostly harmless webcomic such a hate magnet is that it sits at this weird focal point of internet geek culture, where certain people are proud of having no social skills, being deliberately off-putting and difficult to communicate with because "the nerds won" some kind of ambiguous cultural battle, wearing fedoras and collecting replica swords and speaking Klingon in public. These kinds of folks worship xkcd because it speaks their language and reassures them daily that yes, they are better than the "normals" (or sometimes "hipsters"!) that surround them.

If you are a defender of xkcd you should be happy because it doesn't need your help, it's like the second most popular webcomic in existence. I don't think that fact says good things about webcomics in general, but hey.
posted by chaff at 8:52 AM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


(warning: self-link to something I was going to submit to Projects next week, but this post will probably be deleted when cortex wakes up)

This will foop swell.
posted by JHarris at 8:52 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This conversation is going in weird directions.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 AM on March 9, 2010


As an English major, I just hate it for this one. It shouldn't annoy me because he looks like a babbling idiot to anyone who has ever taken a literature course ever, but going from the whole "I love geeks! I love life! Whee!" to shitting on other geeky people is just being an such an asshole. God, what a douche.

As a former English literature grad student who once was in a 3-hour seminar devoted entirely to trying to make sense of a footnote in the article we'd read; and who once had a professor excoriate the class when we protested that something he'd assigned was gibberish (it was); and who once sat through an incomprehensible visiting scholar lecture to respectful attention from the faculty, all of whom later derided her in class as being a complete bullshit artist but none of whom would actually challenge her total crap "scholarship"...well, I like it. In fact, I suspect he may have once delivered the lecture that final-panel quote was taken from in my department--I'm pretty sure I was there.

Of course, one take-away from my years of study of contemporary literature scholarship is that it's possible that the primary aim (or at least the primary outcome) of such studies is to render the student unable to recognize a babbling idiot from a literature scholar. Or to render the difference meaningless.

(Seriously, though: if you're an undergrad English major, you may just have not gotten to the shit he is so perfectly parodying there.)
posted by not that girl at 8:56 AM on March 9, 2010 [15 favorites]


XKCD is occasionally very funny. The good strips are very good.

That said, I don't read it every day, because so many of them (and especially a lot of the most popular ones) are self-consciously "touching" in a way that always strikes me as manipulative and, for lack of a better word, squicky. Creepy. Also, the ones about women are often creepy, and the ones about Cory Doctorow are... um, also creepy. The creepy to funny ratio is just way too high for my taste.

I don't care whether Randall has a big cult or anything. I don't hate it, by any means. But I also don't really see the adulation that it seems to attract. Or, I guess, I do see it, and it's sort of depressing, because it's mainly built on the old formula of self-congratulation. It's a comic that's really good at communicating to its fans how brilliant and enlightened they are, and by inference (or sometimes explicitly) how dumb and benighted everyone else is. I mean, read the img title on that last one: "If you think this is too hard on literary criticism, read the Wikipedia article on deconstruction." Christ, what a fucking tool. Never mind, now I hate him too.

I'm going to have to go back to not thinking about it.
posted by rusty at 8:59 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Essentially they've taken one interpretation from the many possible, and thus extrapolated it to be a further indication of attempted dominance of women, when the evidence on its own merits does not support the case.

OK, you've convinced me. That particular xkcd strip is not sexist, nor is it an example of the author publicly working out his weird sexual/emotional problems in comic strip form.

That's one down, I figure you've got about a hundred fifty left to go.
posted by chaff at 9:02 AM on March 9, 2010


Oh, and xkcd "isn't funny anymore"? I missed the part where was all that funny to begin with. I have read every one of them, and I read it every day.

I would recommend reading some other sorts of comic.

These kinds of folks worship xkcd because it speaks their language and reassures them daily that yes, they are better than the "normals" (or sometimes "hipsters"!) that surround them.

I thought I was geeky until I started boardgaming. I love the gamers but that's a different level of geek.

Also, the ones about women are often creepy

I've been around enough techies to not notice this. One had a poster in his room - a series of knobs and switches with the caption 'Women', and a single on-off switch with the caption 'Men'. I thought 'when he learns about the prostate, his mind is going to be BLOWN.'
posted by mippy at 9:06 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's one down, I figure you've got about a hundred fifty left to go.
posted by chaff


Someone else will have to do it, I haven't even read 150 XKCDs.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:10 AM on March 9, 2010


No, I don't think so. I'm not creating an elaborate blog based on my hate of XKCD, but I don't think I'm being over the top in commenting that the author seems like an ass. - Solon

As someone with an advanced degree in a humanities subject, I thought it was pretty funny. There's an aspect to the humanities where it does seem rich with jargon and essentially for saying things that fall into line with what the last panel was poking fun at. Calling the guy an ass for doing so seems a bit over the top. If he did it regularly, sure, go at 'em, but I don't see the big deal. Hence my sensitivity comment. With regard to the second person with the linguistics degree, I can understand your reaction as it seemed you were daily immersed in those types of jokes (straight forward comments?).
posted by Atreides at 9:12 AM on March 9, 2010


I can think of a lot of internet content which is created to point out how a specific comic is terrible. And I've almost always liked those things - but this, geez. This is heading into Denby territory.

There are two main problems with this. One: Garfield without Garfield, Nietzsche family circus, Explaining Marmaduke - all that stuff is picking on fair targets. Over the hill cash cows. Stuff thats been aimed at the lowest common denominator. That sort of stuff is legitamately insulting to intelligence, and there's no chance in hell that one snarky blog is going to do any real damage to their marketing juggernauts. XKCD on the other hand is just one dude doing his own singular thing. Most of the time it doesn't work for me, but that doesn't matter; I don't think he has any of the artistic failures that those other comics do. Also, since we're talking about a small time guy trying to make a living off his creations, I think the ethics of launching an all-out attempt to destroy are questionable at best. Live and let live, you know?

But the second point is more the problem: the other anti-comic material I've seen is funny in it's own right. It points out how terrible those other comics are by taking their basic premise and making it funnier. Lasagne Cat, for example, both ridicules Garfield and makes me laugh more than Garfield ever did. Its not just a fair criticism, its a fun one. This, on the other hand, is just obnoxious, because it suggests not just that he doesn't get the joke, but maybe he doesn't even know what jokes are. The tone is wrong: the medium needs to be the message. If someone is sort of funny, and you come across like an anal, rude boob with an axe to grind, then there's no way I'm going to be on your side.
posted by Kiablokirk at 9:20 AM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


You guys don't understand. It's nerd humor, with a scientific bent. Which != geeky, and that would explain some of your anti-reactions to it.

Disclosure: I stopped actively visiting xkcd, but I do enjoy the jokes.
posted by polymodus at 9:21 AM on March 9, 2010


This reminds me of people who are still angry at George Lucas over the prequels.

It reminds me of those people who think The Simpsons stopped being funny after the "legendary season 5" ... and they must comprehensively catalog all of the non-funniness in extensive detail.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:23 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please, it was season 7.
posted by The Whelk at 9:25 AM on March 9, 2010


Of course, any half decent computer scientist knows linguistics is a closer cousin to their own field than the humanities anyway.
posted by kmz at 9:25 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


The author does not understand what "in-jokes" are in the context that would make xkcd bad. xkcd sustains itself on a set of jokes that are comprehensible to a certain (large) group of internet geeks, but it's not so self-referential that anyone in this group coming to xkcd for the first time wouldn't understand it. Now maybe the author of xkcdsucks doesn't like nerd/geek humor or feel that it's "pure" enough to qualify as standalone humor, but that's a philosophical issue about the nature of humor, which Mr. xkcdsucks believes cannot, by definition, be jokes about a (large) subculture.
posted by deanc at 9:27 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If Mr. xkcdsucks's biggest problem with the comic was that xkcd made jokes about xkcd, then he'd have a point, but his complaint seems to be that xkcd is a comic that makes nerd-jokes, which he believes are inherently unfunny because of their appeal to nerds.
posted by deanc at 9:28 AM on March 9, 2010


If Mr. xkcdsucks's biggest problem with the comic was that xkcd made jokes about xkcd, then he'd have a point, but his complaint seems to be that xkcd is a comic that makes nerd-jokes, which he believes are inherently unfunny because of their appeal to nerds.
posted by deanc


Maybe he's a jock. The eternal battle continues!
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:32 AM on March 9, 2010


I think everyone should lay off this poor guy. I can sympathize with his criticism because my favorite pastime is to go to chick-flicks and stand up in the middle of the theater and explain to the audience that they really shouldn't be laughing at the jokes because they are obvious and not all that funny.
posted by digsrus at 9:33 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


These kinds of folks worship xkcd because it speaks their language and reassures them daily that yes, they are better than the "normals" (or sometimes "hipsters"!) that surround them.

Which is where I don't understand where the criticism is coming from. Is there more than a small number of people who actually "worship" the strip? Or is it just another stop on a list of bookmarks and RSS subscriptions. Then again, I don't grok nerdrage over a 7/10 review for Heavy Rain, or excessive wailing over Avatar's modest performance at the Oscars either.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:38 AM on March 9, 2010


Is there more than a small number of people who actually "worship" the strip?

I know, right? Sloppily constructed arguments => waste of my time.
posted by polymodus at 9:43 AM on March 9, 2010


Is there more than a small number of people who actually "worship" the strip?
posted by KirkJobSluder


Yet another LOLXkcdTIANS thread.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:45 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well OK. Webcomics fans and xkcd fans in particular seem kind of intense to me, but I'll allow that this may be an unfair generalization based on limited experience, and I agree with those who have pointed out that the xkcdsucks blog is so far out of proportion to be unsettling in its own right.
posted by chaff at 9:47 AM on March 9, 2010


I don't bother to visit XKCD on my own initiative anymore since invariably I'll come across a link to EVERY SINGLE ONE either here or on Facebook.

Seriously. I sometimes regret knowing so many CS/engineering folks, because my Facebook news feed often feels like the XKCD version of one of those cartoon-a-day calendars. And it's always accompanied by some comment like "This is my life" or "XKCD understands me" or whatever. I wouldn't advertise that some four-panel UNIX joke expresses the depths of my soul, but that's just me.

I like the comic just fine, as some mild amusement that I forget about in a minute. I was a CS major in a past life, I get the jokes most of the time, but too much of it is about patting yourself on the back for knowing nerd arcana. It would be just as obnoxious if Randall were a different kind of nerd and the jokes were all references to Foucault or something.
posted by naju at 9:50 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


nor is it an example of the author publicly working out his weird sexual/emotional problems in comic strip form.

You say that as if the same words don't describe Cathy. Or Garfield.
posted by stevis23 at 9:51 AM on March 9, 2010


Gawd, if that guy is being serious, he's awful. This one is so mind-numbingly stubborn that I want to find out where he lives and then drive there and punch him. "Wouldn't it be funny if God really was C3P0, like the Ewoks thought" is not the funniest thing ever, and in fact it doesn't even make me laugh, but I'll at least acknowledge that there's enough there to make it a joke.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:54 AM on March 9, 2010


I think everyone should lay off this poor guy. I can sympathize with his criticism because my favorite pastime is to go to chick-flicks and stand up in the middle of the theater and explain to the audience that they really shouldn't be laughing at the jokes because they are obvious and not all that funny.

Metafilter is linking to his site, not the other way around.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:55 AM on March 9, 2010


I'll take PBF over xkcd every time

I'll take A Softer World over both.
posted by acb at 10:04 AM on March 9, 2010


I find this bizarrely depressing. That someone would get so angry about it/at it just seems so irrational. Yea, so it's a bunch of inside jokes, you're clearly not the kind of person it's intended for, so why don't you just fuck off and ignore it. We don't need you rocking up to the ballet only to start ranting outside about how it's clearly only intended for people who like ballet and that it's evil because of that...

What in the fuck is wrong with people?
posted by opsin at 10:09 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It would be just as obnoxious if Randall were a different kind of nerd and the jokes were all references to Foucault or something.

But you see, the deconstruction would be inextricable.
posted by polymodus at 10:10 AM on March 9, 2010


I think I'll start a blog about why this guy is a bastard.
posted by zzazazz at 10:11 AM on March 9, 2010


I don't really think XKCD is good enough to merit much more than the occasional grunt of approval of disapproval, SO ANYWAY

i wish someone would spend this much effort dissecting and pontificating on Cathy or Marmaduke. Or Bazooka Joe. Back in college my New Criticism comrades used to use Bazooka Joe comics as examples of narrative upon which it would be absurd to do a close reading, to prove that everyone should read the Western Canon only. It always sounded like a good idea to me though.

What I love about Cathy, Marmaduke, Garfield, etc is that once a newspaper comic becomes a decades-long institution, it moves from Creative Work to Landscape. Do we think to ourselves when we wake up, "God, I can't wait to see what trouble Marmaduke gets into today!"? No! No one does! Zero people look forward to Marmaduke! People look forward to seeing how many hairs circle the bathtub drain at the end of their shower more than they look forward to Marmaduke!

So what does the comic become? Simply part of the landscape; we open the paper, we see the spread of comics, and we let our minds ooze slowly down the page, nodding without much thrill. The comics soothe us, comfort us, reassure us with their sameness, but are designed to never challenge us. They keep us coming back, but they do not attempt to be groundbreaking, because really, who wants to get their mind bent all out of shape like they're watching Primer when it's 6:30 AM and the kids are yelling about how they don't like CHUNKY peanut butter, they like SMOOTH peanut butter. The comics become the textual equivalent of seeing the sun rise and set; they simply assure us we are still breathing, still able to think.

So what's great about that is that it's a situation ripe for absurd re-examinations: Lasagna Cat, mentioned above, or the Marmaduke Explained blog -- they make us take another, slightly more oblique look at these weird text-drawing things that sort of drift quietly over our minds on the last page of the paper. If the comics themselves are flecks of dust, able to settle on a pond's surface without causing so much as a ripple, then the above-mentioned metacommentaries act as electron microscopes, making clear to us all the incredibly weird contours of these barely-noticed flecks of dust.

Anyway, my favorite recent example of this kind of re-mixing/re-examining is Kathy. Ack., which mixes the sort of soft-feminism-cum-gosh-women-sure-are-wacky qualities of Cathy with the experimental-confrontational-feminism of Kathy Acker, leading to a weirdly hypnotic sense that the reader has somehow stumbled into an alternate universe where Irving is suddenly way more interesting.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:14 AM on March 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


This is a common critique of, well, criticism. And it's a critique that I absolutely reject. Does Roger Ebert need to make a movie before he can criticize other movies?

Well, he has (The notorious Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but that's neither here not there. The difference is that Ebert reviews the gamut of films out there, with an optimistic eye. The posters at xkcdsucks are obsessing over a single webcomic with an eye towards hating it.

Except that it's not about xkcd. It's the fact that so many other people love xkcd that pisses them off. That's weird and creepy. I'm a fan of xkcd, and I'll admit that I laugh at it a lot less than I used to, but I attribute that not to any drop-off in quality so much as to simple diminishing returns from any singular humor-source.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:24 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


XKCD has kind of been sucking lately. I would always click links that people posted to it, but when I added it to my RSS reader it seemed like most of them were duds.

---
But man, XKCD fans sure are touchy. I remember an XKCD post a while ago where someone decided to preemptively call out anyone who didn't like XKCD.

These "making fun of a webcomic" blogs have been around for a long time, and been linked on here before. But now because it's XKCD people freak out and decide the author is an asshole, etc.
This reminds me of people who are still angry at George Lucas over the prequels. Sure, they sucked, but just move the fuck on and find something you do like. Unless that's just not possible,
I don't know about "Still" angry, but he pissed of a lot of people, probably the majority of people who were actual starwars fans. What's wrong with having a negative reaction to stuff that's crap and complaining about it? It's a bit much when people complain about almost everything, but I don't really see what the problem is in complaining about one particular thing that you don't like, in it's own space. If you don't like it, don't read it. Or I suppose you could start your own counter hate blog if you're really that passionate about it.
This is a common critique of, well, criticism. And it's a critique that I absolutely reject. Does Roger Ebert need to make a movie before he can criticize other movies?
Yeah. The idea that being a critic makes you a pathetic loser is kind of unusual, but it's something people sometimes bring up when things they like are criticized. People enjoy criticism of other web comics, so I don't see what the big deal is here. It's not just one guy, it's several. Yet people in this thread are arguing that, it deserves "Sudden and hard punch in the back of the head" (due to the fact they're running ads)
There are two main problems with this. One: Garfield without Garfield, Nietzsche family circus, Explaining Marmaduke - all that stuff is picking on fair targets. Over the hill cash cows. Stuff thats been aimed at the lowest common denominator. That sort of stuff is legitamately insulting to intelligence, and there's no chance in hell that one snarky blog is going to do any real damage to their marketing juggernauts. XKCD on the other hand is just one dude doing his own singular thing.
Ah, here we get the hypocrisy in just one post! Stuff you don't like sucks and deserves to be mocked, whereas stuff you other people don't like (but you do!) does not!

Blah.
posted by delmoi at 10:35 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


NSFW: http://goatkcd.com/

Enjoy.
posted by shii at 10:45 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Honestly, Garfield really bugs me because it's often obvious that entire frames have been copy and pasted with minor changes in affect and dialog. But, I don't read a newspaper so I only encounter Garfield on the rare times I visit relatives.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:45 AM on March 9, 2010


Do we think to ourselves when we wake up, "God, I can't wait to see what trouble Marmaduke gets into today!"? No! No one does!

When I was really young I was excited to read Garfield every day.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:54 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Seriously, though: if you're an undergrad English major, you may just have not gotten to the shit he is so perfectly parodying there.)

Oh, I have. I mean - I think there's a lot of funny, messed-up ridiculousness to parody in literature studies. For instance, the Sokal affair is hilarious to me.

But Randall's not making a commentary on anything, it's like he sort of gets what the Sokal affair was about... but not really. So he's just uses "deconstruction" and... that's the joke? Uh, okay. Yeah. You're right Randall, literature studies are a sham! `,:|

For instance, there's probably a lot to mock about physics academics. But if I just went "The relativity is the cause of the black hole quasars! LOL Physics!" and... that was the joke... it would be really stupid. Because I have no idea what I'm talking about so my attempt to parody it seems rather pathetic.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:54 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh hai guise is this the thread where I say I don't like Cat and Girl any longer?
posted by infinitewindow at 10:55 AM on March 9, 2010


I submit that all comic strips are based on inside jokes.

Is Family Circus funny? I wouldn't know!

I've never been to a circus. Also, I've never been part of a family.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:55 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


jabberjaw, you really need to personally know Not Me to find those comics hilarious.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:58 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's wrong with having a negative reaction to stuff that's crap and complaining about it?

Is that what this is?
No, the worst part's the fans, because some of them do love it, thankfully the vast sane majority doesn't, but some of them do and I hate them for it.
Navelgazer seems right to me. I've only read a handful of posts, but it seems that this blog doesn't hate xkcd. It hates everyone who likes xkcd. All of the posts I read were more angry at the fans' response to the comics than the comics themselves.

I see a difference between that and "having a negative reaction to stuff that's crap." I guess I've been indoctrinated into the belief of "constructive criticism." This criticism is not constructive. It's an "us vs. them" mentally where not only are the authors right and the xkcd fans wrong, the xkcd fans are inferior.

The more I read, the more delusional the blog gets, e.g. "Why won't people admit it?" It reads a little bit like a psychological study of neurosis.

So the blog mostly seems like a delusional, overblown, negative reaction to a somewhat frivolous subject (a comic strip). That's the generous interpretation. The less generous impression is of a leech sucking off a creator's popularity to make Google Ad bucks.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:14 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


What's wrong with having a negative reaction to stuff that's crap and complaining about it? It's a bit much when people complain about almost everything, but I don't really see what the problem is in complaining about one particular thing that you don't like, in it's own space. If you don't like it, don't read it.

Shouldn't the guy with a hateboner for xkcd do the same thing? If he doesn't like one particular webcomic, why does he keep reading it?
posted by 23skidoo at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2010


Oh, I have. I mean - I think there's a lot of funny, messed-up ridiculousness to parody in literature studies. For instance, the Sokal affair is hilarious to me.

But Randall's not making a commentary on anything, it's like he sort of gets what the Sokal affair was about... but not really. So he's just uses "deconstruction" and... that's the joke? Uh, okay. Yeah. You're right Randall, literature studies are a sham! `,:|


No... the punchline was: "Eight papers and two books and they haven't caught on".
So it's not like he just uses "deconstruction" and... that's the joke , as you put it.

Also, with the line "I'm not actually an expert in their field", the author nowwhere near comes out as denouncing Literary Criticism to be a illegitimate field of study or populated with sham experts. Because such a statement would be untrue.
posted by polymodus at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2010


I guess I've been indoctrinated into the belief of "constructive criticism."

Man you really need to read more Juggalo threads.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:25 AM on March 9, 2010


Man you really need to read more Juggalo threads.
posted by shakespeherian


If Randall doesn't man up and stop being a girlbitch to hos in his comics than he is going to get kicked in the nuggs.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:28 AM on March 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


xkcd is funnier when it skewers its own than when it relies upon the superiority of its own (for whichever value of its own you want to say is in play in a given strip) for its humor. I stopped reading it in part because I realized it had become almost completely other-deprecating and almost never self-deprecating. For a while I read xkcd explained and then I realized I just didn't care at all so I stopped. Now I just roll my eyes when I see it every day in my Facebook feeds.

Also, cosign the lack of love for the author's creepy issues with women. The "girls want to be chatted up on the train" strip was significantly more alienating to me than any of the snide comments about humanities.
posted by immlass at 11:31 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, with the line "I'm not actually an expert in their field", the author nowwhere near comes out as denouncing Literary Criticism to be a illegitimate field of study or populated with sham experts. Because such a statement would be untrue.

You don't think so? That seems exactly what it's saying to me. In other subjects, a sham expert will get called out. In literary studies, a sham expert will be well-respected and sell a lot of books. QED...?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:34 AM on March 9, 2010


For instance, there's probably a lot to mock about physics academics. But if I just went "The relativity is the cause of the black hole quasars! LOL Physics!" and... that was the joke... it would be really stupid. Because I have no idea what I'm talking about so my attempt to parody it seems rather pathetic.

Last panel: "Branes vibrating in 16 dimensions occasionally collide and in so doing, alter the basic constants of the intersected physical realities, thereby rendering impossible any attempt to measure or predict effects across brane divisions..." [Eight papers and two books and they haven't caught on...]
posted by rusty at 11:37 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This comic is not remotely funny, and there is nothing you can do to make it funny, and there is nothing you can say to convince me that it's funny. This is because I am a sane fucking person who has a decent sense of humor and I don't find stupid bullshit funny just because I saw it on xkcd.com. This comic has no joke and no attempt at a joke and no basis in rational thought and it is incredibly stupid

So it sucks because he hates it and it's stupid (also, dumb).
posted by Sebmojo at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just his "So I went on wikipedia [per the mouse-over] and looked up something I don't understand. Since I don't understand it, it's clearly nonsense! Lol humanities!" punch-line is rather hypocritical from someone who considers themselves an open-minded humanist/a friend of geeks/whatever.

This attitude is widespread in the Silicon Valley startup world -- an extraordinary number of geeks believe that they are the most intelligent people on the planet, that engineering and science are the only forms of knowledge that are worth anything, and that other disciplines are necessarily inferior. I've had debates with geeks who claimed that a business degree is irrelevant because they are smart and only need to pick up a few Seth Godin books. Sustained study of the field is only necessary for people who aren't smart enough to get into an engineering program.

This attitude is reflected in Robert Scoble's advice to start-ups: don't hire anyone except for programmers if you can help it, and shower them with expensive tech toys as a recruiting tool. I've worked at several places run by engineers with this attitude, and the non-engineers universally hated it and felt like their work wasn't important to the company. The hiring process at these companies was pretty brutal, since they were asked technical questions that were irrelevant to the position and only geeks could answer--not the oddball ones like calculate how many gas stations there are in the US, but asking a marketing manager candidate to explain Apache's thread management model.

I've known lots of very smart people who were invited to different geek events around the valley, only to come away from the experience feeling humiliated because they didn't know how to write code. The official message is that it's all about celebrating learning and creativity, but there's a very strong hierarchy with science, math and engineering at the top.

These are the background assumptions behind a lot of the enthusiasm around crowd-sourcing and open source movements. The idea is that open organizations are meritocratic and allow the best ideas to rise to the top, which sounds nice, but when your organization is populated mostly by engineers, guess what kinds of ideas end up being more popular? In a lot of cases, "open" is a code word for shifting power and control of an organization to them.

I wouldn't say XKCD is especially offensive in this regard--there are worse examples. But it definitely caters to an attitude of superiority that has real effects on real people.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:08 PM on March 9, 2010 [17 favorites]


Yes, some people spend too much time obsessing about / identifying with XKCD. Some people spend too much time obsessing about / identifying with $ART. Many of them are self-indulgent. A handful of them are geniuses. Either way, you're better off just enjoying $ART without the commentary.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2010


The "girls want to be chatted up on the train" strip was significantly more alienating to me than any of the snide comments about humanities.

XKCD sometimes gets it right on gender issues in academia. Romance, not so much.

Count me as another girl who wishes strangers wouldn't feel entitled to start mini-conversations about netbooks. Not shy, just antisocial! Don't talk to me.
posted by tantivy at 12:12 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks to the internet, inside jokes are being outed at an unprecedented rate. Trololo, am I right? Pfft.
posted by davejay at 12:39 PM on March 9, 2010


and after reading the blog: wow, we no longer have the market cornered on bean-overthinking.
posted by davejay at 12:41 PM on March 9, 2010


Oh, and William Shatner said it best, about having done great things in the past but not the present:
What are you afraid of?
Failure?
So am I
Has been implies failure
Not so
Has been is history
Has been was
Has been might again
am I really quoting William Shatner? yes. yes I am. wanna fight about it?
posted by davejay at 12:45 PM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also, with the line "I'm not actually an expert in their field", the author nowwhere near comes out as denouncing Literary Criticism to be a illegitimate field of study or populated with sham experts. Because such a statement would be untrue.

You don't think so? That seems exactly what it's saying to me. In other subjects, a sham expert will get called out. In literary studies, a sham expert will be well-respected and sell a lot of books. QED...?


No, he's saying he can bullshit literary criticism because he can use fancy words and opinion. Chemistry doesn't rely on opinion. Math doesn't rely on opinion. Criticism does.

English lit majors seem to be awful sensitive people. At least based on their reaction to this one comic strip.
posted by grubi at 12:49 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Chemistry doesn't rely on opinion. Math doesn't rely on opinion. Criticism does.

Actually, it doesn't.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:16 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey Grubi! The plum pudding model! amirite?
posted by tigrefacile at 1:27 PM on March 9, 2010


Actually it does. Remove opinion from criticism and what do you have? A list of facts about the subject, but no conclusion.
posted by grubi at 1:28 PM on March 9, 2010


English lit majors Technocrats seem to be awful sensitive ignorant people. At least based on their reaction to this one comic strip.

I am a programmer, by trade, so this kind of judgment-from-complete-ignorance that is tragically common in my peers is especially annoying to me. You know how you feel when some newspaper article absolutely butchers the technical details of a really interesting new scientific result? Yeah, that's what you're doing. Stop it.
posted by rusty at 1:31 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually it does. Remove opinion from criticism and what do you have? A list of facts about the subject, but no conclusion.

This is not quite true.

Criticism is built from a causal chain of observations about the subject, which lead to a factual conclusion about the work. The critic may inject his or her opinion about that end result, but the logical chain is there and can be evaluated on its own merits.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:38 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


The critic may inject his or her opinion about that end result, but the logical chain is there and can be evaluated on its own merits.

So, then the "logical chain" would produce the same conclusion, regardless of the critic?
posted by grubi at 1:44 PM on March 9, 2010


So, then the "logical chain" would produce the same conclusion, regardless of the critic?

I'm not sure why you put it in scare quotes, but, yes. Of course, different critics may focus on different parts of a work, so the chain of facts being strung together may be different from one critic to another, depending on what they are interested in. But you can verify those elements for yourself, as well as the factual part of any conclusion reached about those elements. That's why honest, informed critics are more respected and interesting than dishonest, uninformed critics, and why we can tell the two types apart.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:51 PM on March 9, 2010


And come on here. It's not as if "hard scientists" are adverse to slapping their own mushy and interpretive opinion on their conclusions as well. Carl Sagan famously hitched his nuclear-disarmament agenda onto a speculative work of climate simulations.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:56 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure why you put it in scare quotes

Not scare quotes. Just quotes. You used the phrase, so I quoted you.

but, yes.

So, two different critics, focusing on the same item, and the same portion of the item, and both are equally informed... the'd both come to the same conclusion? With no variation? This seems utterly unrealistic.

I don't know why someone would have a problem with what I said: I didn't claim opinion was bad or injecting it was bad. I only said that opinion is the vital portion of criticism. I rely on criticism when I want to be better informed of a work (film, music, literature). But I expect that, regardless of facts, the criticism will be tinted by individual critic's experiences and opinions.

You may say "different critics may focus on different parts of a work, so the chain of facts being strung together may be different from one critic to another, depending on what they are interested in," but that difference in focus, that choice of focus... that's a matter of opinion, isn't it? If not, what purely factual basis do they have for making that choice?
posted by grubi at 2:01 PM on March 9, 2010


And come on here. It's not as if "hard scientists" are adverse to slapping their own mushy and interpretive opinion on their conclusions as well. Carl Sagan famously hitched his nuclear-disarmament agenda onto a speculative work of climate simulations.

Yes, and that's generally seen as a bad thing in science, which (ostensibly) seeks to find the objective facts and deriving conclusions based purely on those facts.

In the humanities, opinion isn't necessarily bad, and in fact, is often sought. Right?
posted by grubi at 2:03 PM on March 9, 2010


As an English major, I see the math gags flying over my head. But generally, I think xkcd is often brilliant and quite a window on the life of an observant critic.
posted by Cranberry at 2:10 PM on March 9, 2010


it suggests not just that he doesn't get the joke, but maybe he doesn't even know what jokes are

I was trying to articulate what it is about this blog that seems so wrong-headed, maybe even wondering whether the blogger is borderline autistic or if he just has to reach really hard some days to find an angle from which to criticize xkcd and just has to pretend he doesn't understand it, but I don't think I can say it better than Kiablokirk there.

But man, XKCD fans sure are touchy. I remember an XKCD post a while ago where someone decided to preemptively call out anyone who didn't like XKCD.


No matter how tiresome you think XKCD is, delmoi, I assure you the people complaining about the fact that other people still like it are 10x more tiresome. Maybe 12x more tiresome.
posted by straight at 2:17 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, two different critics, focusing on the same item, and the same portion of the item, and both are equally informed... the'd both come to the same conclusion? With no variation? This seems utterly unrealistic.

Certainly, it's unrealistic in the sciences as well.

I don't know why someone would have a problem with what I said: I didn't claim opinion was bad or injecting it was bad.

Except that's not what you said. What said was that the author's claim is reasonable because literary criticism depended on mere opinion. And that's a pretty ignorant claim to make.

You may say "different critics may focus on different parts of a work, so the chain of facts being strung together may be different from one critic to another, depending on what they are interested in," but that difference in focus, that choice of focus... that's a matter of opinion, isn't it? If not, what purely factual basis do they have for making that choice?

But this is also a problem with the design studies in the sciences. In fact, the whole process of hypothesis construction is a big black box of heuristics in most fields. Einstein certainly didn't have much more than a hunch and a thought experiment derived from Maxwell when he started developing Special Relativity. Kepler likewise let himself be mislead by a purely aesthetic ideal for several years before hitting on ellipses.

Yes, and that's generally seen as a bad thing in science, which (ostensibly) seeks to find the objective facts and deriving conclusions based purely on those facts.

Bwahahahahah! Pull the other one, it has bells attached.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:21 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


What said was that the author's claim is reasonable because literary criticism depended on mere opinion. And that's a pretty ignorant claim to make.

No, I said criticism relies on opinion. Not that it's based solely on opinion.
posted by grubi at 2:28 PM on March 9, 2010


It also needs to be said that a lot of criticism in the humanities is pretty dry, technical, and esoteric stuff.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:30 PM on March 9, 2010


Not scare quotes. Just quotes. You used the phrase, so I quoted you.

Without going into why you phrased it the way that you did, do you agree or disagree that most criticism, whether in arts or sciences, generally contains a "logical chain" or "chain of reasoning" in order to present an argument for the critic's audience?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:30 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I assume that "xkcd isn't funny" is itself some kind of reverse troll in-joke, or perhaps a bizarre meme that started on 4chan. Perhaps something Insanity Wolf once said.

If there really are people who dislike xkcd, I imagine they are from bizarre alternate dimension where people actually like User Friendly or Family Circus, and these are not people I want to associate with.

Then again, I hear there actually are people who like kombucha, and there are organisms that don't require oxygen. Perhaps these are all the same beings.
posted by Foosnark at 3:37 PM on March 9, 2010


One could pose the analogy that string theory is the scientific counterpart of certain areas of literary criticism (postmodernism/most of continental philosophy? Etc). Well: xkcd
posted by polymodus at 3:45 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I prefer Sinfest.
posted by bwg at 3:59 PM on March 9, 2010


English lit majors seem to be awful sensitive people. At least based on their reaction to this one comic strip.

Sigh. Okay. It's not that we're sensitive. I'm not threatened by Randall, because he looks like an idiot here. I hate the joke because it's an instance of the small-minded self-sanctification that characterizes so much of XKCD.

I'll explain why the joke is so stupid, if that helps. Ah-hem:

"The deconstruction is inextricable from not only the text, but also the self."

Basically, like rusty said, this is the equivalent of science journalism. Except instead of trying to educate a layperson or sell headlines, he's mocking another academic field. While not understanding anything about that field.

In very simple terms, a "deconstruction" is not a voodoo word, despite some people misunderstanding it. It was once much overused, but it's not voodoo. A deconstruction of a story, for example, shows that while the story tried to convey one thing, it actually conveyed the exact opposite. Thus you're deconstructing it into little component parts, and then building it back up again.

For example: superheroes. Superheroes have been often deconstructed, because while original comic books made them out to be the American Dream and democracy personified, they're actually vigilantes (thus undemocratic) and - hey - what's with the spandex?! These people must be fucked up. And so you get Watchmen, a deconstruction of the superhero genre.

That's a layman's example. In more academic sense, it might be applied to a story ostensibly about the badness of racism that actually reinforces racist stereotypes.

So... "the deconstruction is inextricable from [...] the text." Doesn't really make any sense as a statement. It's like, "This theory of something inherent to the text. You can't remove it from the text." ... Yeah. It sounds like a computer randomly generated it.

And then! It's not only "inextricable from the text, but from the self." Whaa? That's like saying "The sky is not only inextricable from the earth, but also wikipedia!"

He sounds really stupid.

But his whole point is "Ah Ha! I, Hard Science Man, Am So Smart That I Trick These Feeble Lit Grad Students!" Which. Come on. That joke could have worked well if he actually understood 1% of what he was talking about instead of doing a minute's worth of research on wikipedia. I've seen lots of funny examples of awful incomprehensible academese. But this is not it. It's the difference between well-crafted political satire and "Bush Sucks!!1"

It's also endemic of his general assholishness to anyone who is different from himself, despite his whole "I love the world!" shtick.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:06 PM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


I meant "self-satisfaction", but "self-sanctification" works just as well. Thanks, autocorrect!
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:07 PM on March 9, 2010


GRAHAHAH! Literary Criticism relies both on opinion and on a well-educated, well-informed knowledge of the craft. There. I come from the "softer" fields of study myself, and that comic made me laugh out loud. I don't think for a moment that he was saying that literary criticism is an illegitmate field of study, just that it by nature opens itself up to more bullshit fakery than fields which require peer-review and repeatability.

Moreover, the joke requires that everyone get that stick-figure-man's "expertise" is bullshit immediately. It doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense for his to be claiming that everyone but Lit-Crit grad students would recognize it as bullshit. It's just a damn joke. And one which, in my own travels, I've seen a lot of truth to.

I also took the "wikipedia" reference to be as a reference for the reader (and another joke, really) not just saying that's where he got all of his information from. Munroe is a phenomenally successful and popular nerd; it's not hard to imagine that he has friends in literary criticism, that that's where his information would be coming from.

Anyway, just my 2¢.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:12 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've bean-plated it to the point where I don't care anymore. Too many words on my part wasted on jokes for the lowest common denominator.

ANYWAY! Here's something legitimately funny: Grad Student Deconstructs Take-Out Menu.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:32 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, uhm, are some of us here actually arguing that we prefer our entertainment to be focused on the lowest-common denominator? Is that really what we want, here?
posted by davejay at 5:24 PM on March 9, 2010


So Gary Larson had this comic he drew, of a dog dreaming that he'd actually caught the car he was chasing (in his dream.) The car was flipped over on its roof and the dog was standing on it, howling. An unfortunate juxtaposition between the nethers of the dog and the differential housing of the car's rear axle made it look like the dog was humping the car, something that neither he nor the editors noticed before it went into print. A subset of readers was horrified and you should see the letters he got (a few were excerpted in a book he published some years ago.)

That wasn't the worst one, though. The worst was "Tethercat", a comic that had two dogs playing tetherball with a cat instead of a ball. The cat wasn't injured, the dogs looked goofy, and it was a single panel comic with no resolution. Mr. Larson speculated (in the book) that perhaps it was the lack of resolution that triggered the outpouring of hostile email, inasmuch as the dogs would be playing tethercat forever and oh-that-poor-cat.

It never fails to amaze me how appalled and offended people get over this sort of thing, how personally they take it, how thin-skinned we all must be, that one might be able to refute another person's views in open debate or in a well-written rebuttal, but for an offensive comic one has to somehow prove that not only the comic was potentially offensive or ill-advised, but also that the body of the comic's work is similarly mediocre, and ultimately that the comic in question was also not at all funny. That last part of it is the funniest of all, to me, anyway.

I think there's a certain misunderstanding on the part of the offended party, that somehow other readers will read the comic and laugh, and then somehow take the comic as truth. As if some reasonable person would see "Tethercat" and think "oh, how fun! I'll adopt a cat and let my dogs play tetherball!" or "oh, how hilariously stupid all grad students must be, tra la!" Somewhere, there's an assumption that people don't have their own critical thinking skills, or that our views of one another in this world are negotiated through an ongoing, unique pubic and private dialog between each of us and everyone else we share this earth with.

Perhaps there's a fear that once a "meme" is born, there's no stopping it; our own childhood experiences with bullies and adult experiences with political parties certainly suggests there's some truth to this. Nevertheless, a meme requires attention to propagate, and the strenuous efforts to refute a meme are often the very thing that allows it to spread. Case in point: I've read xkcd for quite a long time, and laughed, but it never left a lasting impression -- certainly not the kind of lasting impression that this person's criticism, and much of the commentary in this thread, has left with me.
posted by davejay at 5:38 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


argh. "or a lack of understanding that our views of one another in this world are negotiated through an ongoing, unique pubic and private dialog between each of us and everyone else we share this earth with."
posted by davejay at 5:40 PM on March 9, 2010


and in case it wasn't clear: the impression that this person's criticism and much of the commentary in this thread has left with me is a negative one towards the persons making the criticism/commentary.
posted by davejay at 5:41 PM on March 9, 2010


xkcd was very nearly my favorite strip when I first discovered it. I'm still reading now, but I suspect that it's peaked.

Dinosaur Comics, though, I will defend to the death.

Also, I'm another English major who thought the literary criticism strip was hilarious.
posted by danb at 6:44 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dinosaur Comics is indistinguishable from your average Cathy strip. There, I said it.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:41 PM on March 9, 2010


Dinosaur Comics is for creative people what xkcd is for engineers. Therefore, Dinosaur Comics is actually good.

YEAH I SAID THAT SHIT WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO NOW HAVEANICECATHYREFERENCE
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:45 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Frankly, if I were Randall, I'd be tempted to read the xkcdsucks site every day and feel smug about how obtuse and clueless and unreasonable my most prominent enemies are.

I hope he's a better person than I am.
posted by straight at 8:05 PM on March 9, 2010


Also, all kidding aside, I think the reason people have a hate-on for xkcd fans is because there's a idea of the kind of person an xkcd fan is. I don't think it's wanting to take away something that someone loves at all; I think -- as with a number of fandoms that have their backlash anti-fandom (I'm looking at you, whedonites) -- the vitriol has WAY less to do with the object of adoration and with the perceived characteristics of its admirers. I mean, like I said, xkcd has sometimes made me laugh, but the things that I really don't like about it -- the nerd inferiority/superiority complex, the didacticism, the conviction the one is SO RIGHT and those who disagree are SO FUCKING WRONG -- are unlovely aspects of...well...a certain kind of tech nerd who tends to really piss people off, because while he may be an awesome dude underneath it all (and tragedy is, he often IS an awesome dude underneath it all), he's just so fucking inept on a social level that it makes him impossible to talk to on any subject he feels passionately about. This is not a trait that warrants fucking lionization. This is a personal failing that one should strive to correct.

(See also)

But I want to make two things very clear here:

1. I don't think xkcd is responsible for its fans. It's not a strip I'm in love with -- although it is a strip I think has real value -- but even if I hated it, that wouldn't matter. You don't pick your fans; your fans pick you.

2. I don't think most xkcd fans are the worst kind of engineering stereotype. I think some very obnoxious people like this strip and talk about it a lot, but my guess is that the vast majority of its fans are cool people who like computers and are a delight to have at parties. I know for a fact this is basically true of whedonites. (although, really, you guys, it was the lowest-rated show ever to get a second season, you can't say that they didn't try)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:13 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


FOOLS!!!      THE ONLY GREAT WEBCOMIC
                IS POKEY THE PENGUIN!!!!
     YES



Also, Leisuretown
Spare a hug, miss?
posted by FuManchu at 8:42 PM on March 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Really?
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:48 PM on March 9, 2010


Dinosaur Comics is indistinguishable from your average Cathy strip. There, I said it.

hee hee
posted by danb at 9:02 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Incidentally, you guys should read minus. It's not a laugh-out-loud funny kind of comic, but I found it immensely affecting.)
posted by danb at 9:05 PM on March 9, 2010


Minus is so great! As are the other comics in general, though Minus is the best. It's a shame such a talented writer / artist only updates sporadically, but it's better than nothing.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:13 PM on March 9, 2010


No matter how tiresome you think XKCD is, delmoi, I assure you the people complaining about the fact that other people still like it are 10x more tiresome. Maybe 12x more tiresome.

What are you talking about? When did I say I found it 'tiresome'? all I said was that there were a lot of duds once I added it to RSS. What I find tiresome is this obsessive need people have to shut down any critics.
posted by delmoi at 9:56 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Outrage! Grrr. It never ceases to amaze me how much people complain about free shit.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:03 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Criticism is built from a causal chain of observations about the subject, which lead to a factual conclusion about the work. The critic may inject his or her opinion about that end result, but the logical chain is there and can be evaluated on its own merits

What a weirdly posivitist thing to say. Are they realy teaching this in lit crit classes these days?
posted by afu at 10:10 PM on March 9, 2010


I don't like XKCD either, and while I wouldn't dedicate a whole website to critiquing it, the little bit that I read raised a good point or two.
It's funny that people in this thread are responding defensively by bandying about their academic/nerd credentials, because that's exactly what it is that irritates me about XKCD. There's something about XKCD that feels very insecure or attention-seeking in its cleverness. At one time, programmer scifi male nerds may have been an unrepresented demographic. Not anymore. In fact, I'm getting bored of hearing the educated, nerdy, socially awkward, ignorantly and slyly sexist, smugly superior P.O.V. as if it's the voice of the underdog. It's not. That it thinks it is irks me. In fact, that's a pretty privileged sector as far as subcultures go (in terms of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, generally speaking). But I like humor that addresses these issues squarely, and grew up on a steady dose of Roseanne.

I also think XKCD holds unhealthy sentiments about women, as people have picked up on. It's hard to state or to pinpoint exactly, but this comic rubs me the wrong way. I think in general, XKCD idealizes a certain kind of woman, without actually giving her a voice. It's like it keeps her willfully out of reach so as to provide some semblance of fantasy-sanctuary for the male protagonist perspective. Again, nothing really wrong with it, but it's certainly not my bag.

What is my bag? Why, thingpart of course! (Also, Just So You Know chronicles J. Sayer's MTF transition. It does that square addressing of issues in such a lovely and brave way and is worth paying for).
posted by inkytea at 10:14 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


xkcd? Yeah, I used to really love that comic. The new stuff though, it's just not the same. I mean, as soon as all those other nerds started reading it, it got all mainstream now people who don't even like math are all sticking comics outside their offices and stuff. Dinosaurs!
posted by solipsophistocracy at 3:18 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


In fact, I'm getting bored of hearing the educated, nerdy, socially awkward, ignorantly and slyly sexist, smugly superior P.O.V. as if it's the voice of the underdog. It's not. That it thinks it is irks me. In fact, that's a pretty privileged sector as far as subcultures go (in terms of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, generally speaking).

This. Educated is a pretty good minority to find yourself in, to be honest.

As I said, I think a lot of geek humour has some questionable sentiments about women. Maybe because a lot of geek interests do too more than because geeks are socially/sexually inadequate. Or maybe just norms - I used to be in a society of opera freaks at university and people often did or said things that were not meant to - or perhaps more accurately, not expected to -offend but were just inappropriate - sending dirty rugby song- type poems down mailing lists for example.

And god, I very much dislike Dinosaur Comics.
posted by mippy at 4:06 AM on March 10, 2010


Sometimes White Ninja is sublime. (NSFPeoplewhowrotetogarylarsontocomplainabouttethercat)
posted by haveanicesummer at 5:50 AM on March 10, 2010


It's hard to state or to pinpoint exactly, but this comic rubs me the wrong way. I think in general, XKCD idealizes a certain kind of woman, without actually giving her a voice.

Inkytea, to be fair, that strip was a set up for this one. And I really really enjoyed that one. The woman in that one is far from voiceless.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:58 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


At one time, programmer scifi male nerds may have been an unrepresented demographic. Not anymore. In fact, I'm getting bored of hearing the educated, nerdy, socially awkward, ignorantly and slyly sexist, smugly superior P.O.V. as if it's the voice of the underdog. It's not. That it thinks it is irks me.

This is exactly what I mean about the voice of xkcd and self- vs other-deprecating humor. When xkcd points its funny at its own people, it can be dead-on hilarious. But I dropped reading the RSS feed when I realized it had stopped being a webcomic about geeks poking fun at themselves and started being a webcomic primarily about geeks poking fun at the usual geek targets. That's boring to me rather than funny, both because I can get that anywhere and because I don't particularly like that brand of mean tribal humor (even if I do laugh occasionally for other instances of mean tribal humor where I identify more closely with the tribe).
posted by immlass at 7:29 AM on March 10, 2010


I think it is HILAROUS to write an entire blog hating on xkcd. It's a pure and refined gentleman's sport.

No, in this case, it just seems sad and pathetic. If you ever find yourself doing something like that, it's time to sit back and think about your life and what you're doing with it.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 7:45 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


What are you talking about? When did I say I found it 'tiresome'? all I said was that there were a lot of duds once I added it to RSS.

Of course. Your utterly fascinating proclamation of how you don't like something other people like. So riveting. How could I have possibly failed to quote it exactly?
posted by straight at 7:48 AM on March 10, 2010


Dinosaur Comics is hilarious. Dinosaur Comics has always been hilarious. TAX TIME!

In fact, I'm getting bored of hearing the educated, nerdy, socially awkward, ignorantly and slyly sexist, smugly superior P.O.V. as if it's the voice of the underdog. It's not. That it thinks it is irks me. In fact, that's a pretty privileged sector as far as subcultures go (in terms of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, generally speaking).

This.


Stereotypes irk me. There is a whole boat of gay nerds who like xkcd.

Inkytea, to be fair, that strip was a set up for this one. And I really really enjoyed that one. The woman in that one is far from voiceless.

Zing! It's always easy and fun to take offense at content out of context.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:26 AM on March 10, 2010


I really don't care who likes XKCD or not. It's not that important to me that you convince me of its merits, or that I convince you of its pitfalls. Just my take since it hasn't yet been said.

Omnomnom: I think I vaguely remember that one too, but thanks for reminding me. It does look like she's far from voiceless, and it's cute how they turned around our expectations like that. But she still smacks of the MPDG, which is a personal pet peeve of mine.

mrgrimm: Stereotypes irk me too, and I've no doubt that XKCD has fans of all stripes. It's those qualities in the webcomic itself that I don't like.
and Zing? I love the Zing! too, but I don't see how it's really the best use of it here. Lots of people are seeming to respond as if it's a personal attack that people don't dig XKCD for whatever reasons, which I find bizarre. MAN GOT HER GOOD ZING HO HO HO. TAKE THAT INKYTEA.
posted by inkytea at 10:31 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love the Zing! too, but I don't see how it's really the best use of it here.

You pointed out a specific strip to show how the comic displays "unhealthy sentiments towards women" while missing the subsequent strip (3 strips later) that shows the offensive character getting his comeuppance.

I.e. your analysis of the comic's "sentiments towards women" was impeached rather efficiently. (FYI: Journal 3, Journal 4, Journal 5).

(and, fwiw, I mostly meant "Zing" as in "Zing! Back to you!" rather than "Zing! You're stupid and wrong!" Perhaps I misuse the term.)

The more of xkcd I read, I'm finding most aren't that funny at all (to me). I'm going back to reading the 3-4/year that are funny/cute via social networking...
posted by mrgrimm at 11:03 AM on March 10, 2010


Psssh. XKCD is so 2007. I am in the midst of an extremely rewarding reëvaluation of Curtis, which, yeah, I don't think you lot are ready.
posted by everichon at 11:50 AM on March 10, 2010


nice use of the diæresis.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:56 AM on March 10, 2010


But she still smacks of the MPDG, which is a personal pet peeve of mine.

Woah, I'm always a bit startled to see a pop culture term I've never even heard of and can't place. Cool, thanks for the new term! I haven't seen any of the movies mentioned though, that would explain it.

The funny thing is that I don't follow XKCD aymore, I just had a short but intense phase of reading it around the time of those episodes. So I don't know enough to say anything about possible misogyny.
I liked that particular strip because the hat guy in question is supposed to be the sleazy unethical guy and none of his stick figure friends know why he gets away with it. So this is what one of the hapless nerds imagines would be the perfect come uppance for him.
I guess if this is typical for XKCD, it does make it a webcomic about male nerd fantasies, rather than Real Women.

Anyway, I just wanted to say I'm not trying to convince anyone!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:04 PM on March 10, 2010


Personally, I couldn't read past the blog post on the seismograph comic. Did anyone else think he completely missed the point and not just in the sense that the comic was supposed to show how ridiculous the idea was? Um...the point isn't that the lie detector detects earthquakes because the guy's lying about there being one--it's that the lie detector would also shake enough to make seismograph-type lines if there was an earthquake (hence seismograph working as a lie detector with a liar with a nervous tic).

Why am I even trying to explain the joke?
posted by inara at 5:01 PM on March 10, 2010


Omnomnom: Yeah it's a useful little term!

mrgrimm: Thanks for digging up the rest of those. I guess the attitude I find irritating isn't precisely a misogynistic one, but the whole journal series does support the MPDG thing I referred to earlier. I can think of a couple of young men who have fallen for the idea of an intriguing girl who could rescue them from their doldrums (which puts a helluva lot of pressure on the girls that try to date them), so that's probably what bothers me the most. Also, thanks for teaching me the word diæresis. I've always wondered what that was called.
posted by inkytea at 7:52 PM on March 10, 2010


A great comic strip : The Perry Bible Fellowship
posted by MechEng at 7:53 AM on March 11, 2010


white ninja is best webcomic in world. xkcd not so much. I love that someone trotted out that reliably idiotic nonsense "you don't like it? where's YOUR webcomic?" people who hate on criticism seem simple minded to me. like all you want is a chorus of people going "hooray for everything!" i like thinking about the things I like/dislike and why. criticism deepens appreciation of art, provides new perspective on things, triggers conversations, champions newcomers, so many other things. yeahhaters gonna hate, but those of us in sympathy can enjoy a larf and fans can pass on. you have to be pretty insecure about the things you like to get so het up about someone else disliking it (or, god forbid, exlaining WHY). I see this fairly regularly on mefi-- waah why bother criticizing pixars gender representations it's just a movie waah this detailed essay criticizing cormac mcarthys writing is mean and pointless.

ah well hard to type onehanded on ths phone in conclusion the comics links in this thread
are great thx all
posted by jcruelty at 8:12 AM on March 11, 2010


I can think of a couple of young men who have fallen for the idea of an intriguing girl who could rescue them from their doldrums

What?! You think that fantasy is unique to men? Have you ever heard the word Harlequin?
posted by straight at 12:32 PM on March 11, 2010


Good sir, I work in a bookstore. I cannot put a number on the bekilted, smooth-chested fantasy men I've sold.
I'm not up to date on the whole Twilight craze, but that seems far more damaging to impressionable young things than the elderly ladies clamoring for their Wind Warriors.
posted by inkytea at 1:44 PM on March 11, 2010


My point, inkytea, is that those fantasies are out there full-on in so many other media, for men and women alike, that it seems bizarre to call out xkcd for having a hint of it and complain about "young men who have fallen for the idea of an intriguing girl..."
posted by straight at 8:09 AM on March 12, 2010


Point taken, straight. But the kinds of people I like to be around (nerds, as I'm pretty nerdy myself) are more likely to read xkcd than they are to consume many other media, including harlequin romances (seriously do your friends read those?). xkcd is sometimes great in very different ways; so that it contains a message I have personally found damaging in the past, is perhaps more insidious than full-on sexist media. I guess I don't like some of the oldest gender ideas in history being transmitted through such a progressive-seeming subcultural vehicle. But right on if you're a fan. Just let me think myself some kinda awesome mighty gender warrior awright?
posted by inkytea at 3:48 PM on March 12, 2010


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