Thursday, 29 November 2012

xkcd: volume 0 by Randall Munroe

Lowdown: A collection of cartoons from the famous geeky website.
Thus far, my following of xkcd cartoons has been limited to reading others’ blogs post cartoons from that website. Usually it would be along the lines of atheists quoting xkcd in matters of religion or liberals quoting xkcd on matters of, say, freedom of the Internet. I liked what I saw but never liked it as much as to make the effort to visit the source. Recently, though, I have acquired xkcd: volume 0 through the Humble Bundle, which drove me to conduct an experiment. I tested my perceived quality of this comic book, and I also tested the virtues of my iPad as an ebook reader (given that I already know my default ebook reader, the Amazon Kindle, sucks when it comes to comics).
As one might expect when conducting experiments, I learned a few things in the process. First, I learned that xkcd became famous after one of its cartoons was referenced in Boing Boing, thus firming my conviction that in these days when we witness the death of conventional media one can still find worthy, if not far superior, alternatives for keeping one aware. Second, I learned that at least for yours truly, the iPad sucks big time as an ebook reader: sure, I can use it at home under stable conditions where I can control lighting and such, but for reading on the train? Might as well sell the gadget as an iHeadache.
It’s about time I get to the point and discuss xkcd, right? Well, the point is that there isn’t that much to say. volume 0 is, according to author Randall Munroe, a collection of favorite cartoons from the site. I concur: this is exactly what you get. You get a collection of cartoons drawn in the crude style the website is famous for and dealing with subject matters such as math, science, technology, liberal culture, and occasionally relationships and sex. Some of the stuff is politically incorrect, which spices things up, but in general we are talking geek humor here of a type that often reaches outside conventional boxes. Take this one as a fine example of the species:

 The above cartoon is embedded here under a Creative Commons license, which says a lot about Munroe and the type of humor and views you can expect to find at xkcd. Needless to say, I like it; but do I like it enough to religiously follow xkcd from now on? No; cartoons are nice, but I feel they cannot compete with a narrative driven comic (or book, for that matter).
Overall: As much as I’ve enjoyed xkcd: volume 0, I will continue to follow its adventures only through references from other blogs. 3 out of 5 stars.

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