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Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe

18 Projects Inspired by xkcd

Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe

Who is the most influential person in Internet history? That argument could go on for years. But you could make the case that one guy with a pencil has the strange power to make things happen without a company, without a title, and without even asking. Randall Munroe has influence he never asked for. His creation xkcd is "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." The accompanying blog, which Munroe calls a "blag," is where he posts everything outside of the thrice-weekly comic. He's published several books, too, but it's the comic that seems to have the biggest impact.

1. THE BALL PIT

When Munroe posted this comic, Mike McHenry was inspired to install a ball pit in his home. Then Munroe was inspired to make it happen in his own home (shown at the top). He later enlarged it. Then Last.fm put one in their office, although it didn't last long.

2. CORY'S COSTUME

When Munroe posted this comic, Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing was just an average-looking guy you might not recognize on the street.


A couple of months later, he showed up at ETech 2007 looking like this. Since then, the red cape and goggles have become Doctorow's signature in various comics and animations.

3. NINJA ATTACK

When Munroe posted this comic, it wasn't long before Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman was given a gift of a katana by two xkcd fans. He didn't know what to do with it.

Maybe he should have taken lessons. A few months later, he was mock-attacked by a band of ninjas as he spoke to the debate club at Yale University.

4. INTERNET MAP

When Munroe posted the "Map of the Internet" comic, it inspired Hourann Bosci to create an application to find the location of any IP address on the map.

5. ONLINE COMMUNITIES

In 2007, Munroe posted a map of online communities, and updated it in 2010. Click here to enlarge.

JaySimons via DeviantART

Last year, Martin Vargic produced a map that used the data from Munroe’s online communities in the style of National Geographic maps. The print is for sale.

6. CHESSCOASTER

When Munroe posted this comic, a new "sport" was born.

Andrew, Chris, Ryan, and Chance recreated the stunt in real life and sent Munroe a photo. More people sent in pictures, which end up in the Chesscoaster gallery. See more pictures here.

7. RULE 34

When Munroe posted a comic about Rule 34, he thought ahead and registered the domain wetriffs.com. Pictures were, of course, submitted. Wetriffs is no longer, but the mildly NSFW contents can be viewed via the Wayback Machine. Rule 34 leads to Rule 35, which is “If it doesn't exist on the internet, it must be created.”

8. OPERATING SYSTEM NOT FOUND

When Munroe posted this comic, Dustin Spicuzza was inspired to create software that posted a love note at the startup, with a ominous "Missing operating system" appended.

He also posted warnings about trying this at home. It could lead to panic, anxiety, and domestic discord.

9. BUTTERFLIES

When Munroe posted this comic, Raffael Mancini was inspired to develop the butterfly easter egg for Emacs. Only real programmers will understand it.

10. TASTY AND DIFFICULT FRUIT

When Munroe posted this comic (be warned: its title is NSFW), it caused an explosion of dissenting opinions. To appease the grapefruit lovers, Munroe took a poll that plots everyone's opinions on fruit. A response comic was then posted to reflect the disagreement with the original graph.

11. BOOM-DE-YADA

Remember the Discovery Channel song that we all sang in 2008? Munroe made his own version, featuring recurring elements from xkcd. Noam Raby made an animated version, and then there was a live-action version of the comic, and then another featuring some folks you might recognize. (I’m the one singing the first boom-de-yada.) 

12. WOOD

On July 7, 2008, Munroe posted this comic. The Wikipedia entry for "wood" immediately sprouted more pop cultural references for wood. It was the highest traffic that particular entry would ever see. The entry has since been edited, with the "Pop Cultural References" section removed.

13. YOUTUBE COMMENTS

When Munroe posted this comic, YouTube was paying attention and made it come true. Sadly, the "audio preview" comment feature only lasted about a year.

14. GRAPHING MOVIE PLOTS

When Munroe posted this comic, shown only in part here, Vadim Ogievetsky was inspired to create a generator called PlotWeaver to plot narratives for other movies.

15. TETRIS

Munroe posted about Tetris Heaven, then followed up with Hell. It was only a few hours before someone had a working version of the game online. It is every bit as frustrating as you'd think.

16. PACKAGES

When Munroe published the strip "Packages" in 2009, the punch line was that the kind of things a ‘bot buys on Ebay could be used to profile the buyer as if he consciously chose those items. But the idea for an automatic buyer appealed to New Zealand developer Paul Hunkin, who created a program to do just that. His Python script scanned the Australian auction site TradeMe for cheap items with free shipping. The bot was given a dollar a day, and could make purchases out of its balance. He even told us about his purchases on Twitter for about a year. Hunkin was not the only one who tried it.

In 2014, a service called Bobcat in a Box launched, inspired by the comic. You can sign up for $30 a month, or any amount above that, and then receive surprise packages bought by their automated system. You can even set keywords on your account to limit your preferences.

17. MALAMANTEAU

The comic "Malamanteau" appeared in 2010. Munroe didn’t coin the word malamanteau, but he popularized it. A malamanteau is "a neologism for a portmanteau created by incorrectly combining a malapropism with a neologism." Some of those things are explained here. So, of course, some Wikipedia editors immediately added a page for malamanteau. It was taken down and re-added several times before the URL for malamanteau was redirected to the page on xkcd, but not before the word was analyzed at The Boston Globe and The Economist. The kerfluffle spawned a blog called Malamanteau Mania! that lasted for a couple of years. Malamanteau survives at Urban Dictionary.

18. TOP TEN HUNDRED WORDS

In November of 2012, Munroe posted the comic "Up Goer Five," which explained the parts of a Saturn V rocket using only the thousand most common words in the English language. Writing in that manner is not easy. Munroe had help from his computer, and he eventually posted a text editor that lets you know what words are not in the top thousand. Even “thousand” isn’t in the top thousand. I put the first paragraph of this article into the editor and found about half the words are verboten. An earlier text editor based on the idea was even harsher in its word rejection.

The "Up Goer Five" comic inspired Alaska Robotics to rework the song “Space Oddity” using only those common words. The result was the song “Space Weird Thing.” MinutePhysics made a science video explaining space travel using the same technique. In 2015, Munroe published a book titled Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words that takes on quite a few subjects in this manner.

No doubt there are other projects inspired by the many xkcd comics. If you have any doubts about Munroe's influence, bear in mind that there have been several sites dedicated to explaining xkcd. One is still active, and there's an app that can link each comic to the explainer. One defunct site that explained the comic was itself parodied by another site, devoted to explaining the explainer. And another site explains how bad it is. Of course, there's an xkcd subreddit. There’s even a forum where other artists take xkcd comics and alter them to make them less funny. (That's influence.) Don't forget to check the hovertext at each xkcd comic for an additional punch line.

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Pop Culture
Cheerleaders and Chicken Suits: Funko is Releasing Several Special Edition Deadpool POPs!

Marvel’s “Merc With a Mouth” is not only getting a sequel—he’s also getting some new swag. Deadpool, the sardonic superhero/villain in red spandex, will soon be immortalized in a new line of special edition Funko POP! vinyl toys.

In keeping with the franchise's eccentric sense of humor, there will be several outlandish outfits to choose from, each one sold exclusively by a different retailer. Among the outfit options Funko lovers will find are a mermaid get-up (complete with starfish bra) at Target; a cheerleader uniform for BoxLunch; a king’s robe and crown at FYE; and a chicken suit for Amazon shoppers. There’s even one of Deadpool holding a chimichanga while wearing ninja gear for 7-Eleven.

These parody dolls seem to be keeping in character with the Deadpool films, which themselves are parodies of the superhero genre. The title character, played by Ryan Reynolds, often breaks the fourth wall in order to poke fun at both DC and Marvel. (The filmmakers also famously signed off on spending $10,000 for a quick shot of the unlikely superhero wearing a tank top with Golden Girl Bea Arthur's face on it.)

The figures will be out this summer following the release of Deadpool 2 on May 18, 2018. Funko also recently released its royal family line of POP! dolls, depicting Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Elizabeth II, and her kin.

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Pop Culture
20 Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Locations You Can Visit in Real Life
Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

While most of Marvel Cinematic Universe is magically brought to life on sound stages, the box office-busting superhero movie franchise also makes use of real-world locations around the world to bring its stories to life. Here are 20 Marvel Cinematic Universe movie locations you can visit in real life.

1. WARRIOR FALLS // BLACK PANTHER (2018)

Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Connie Chiume, Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, and Daniel Kaluuya in 'Black Panther' (2018)
Disney/Marvel Studios

If you want to be the next king of Wakanda, you have to challenge the current king to ritual combat at Warrior Falls. While close-ups and action footage of Black Panther’s Warrior Falls were filmed on a soundstage in Atlanta, Georgia, establishing and wide shots were filmed at Iguazu Falls, a water system on the border of Argentina and Brazil in South America.

2. STARK INDUSTRIES // IRON MAN (2008)

After three months of being held captive by a terrorist group in Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to the United States and gives a press conference about his ordeal at Stark Industries HQ in Los Angeles. However, the press conference scene was filmed on location at the headquarters for Masimo, a medical technologies company based in the city of Irvine. The company’s offices have also been featured in Transformers (2007) and Dodgeball (2004).

3. CULVER UNIVERSITY // THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)

In The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is a nuclear physicist and biochemist at Culver University in Willowdale, Virginia. For the film, the campus of the University of Toronto was used for the fictional school, while Morningside Park in Scarborough, Ontario was used for the university’s quadrangle. The park was the main filming location for General “Thunderbolt” Ross’s (William Hurt) attack on the Big Green Guy.

4. RANDY’S DONUTS // IRON MAN 2 (2010)

In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark—in full Iron Man armor—lounges inside the large, iconic donut on top of Randy’s Donuts when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) meets him to talk about the Avengers Initiative. The exterior of the real Randy’s Donuts location in Inglewood, California was used for filming, while the interior of the scene was filmed at Yum Yum Donuts in Playa del Rey, about 20 miles away.

Randy’s Donuts has also been featured in Get Shorty, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, Earth Girls Are Easy, Dope, and episodes of Arrested Development.

5. COUNTY HOSPITAL // THOR (2011) 

As soon as the Mighty Thor arrives on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) immediately hits the God of Thunder with her van. She rushes him to a small county hospital in Santa Fe. The production team used an office building called the Toney Anaya Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the hospital’s exterior.

6. PIER 13 // CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011)

After small and skinny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is transformed into the tall and hunky Captain America, a HYDRA infiltrator steals the super soldier serum and speeds away through the mean streets of Brooklyn, New York. Instead of filming in the borough, the film crew simply used the exterior of the Titanic Hotel at Stanley Dock in Liverpool, England for the climax of the chase scene at Pier 13.

7. LOKI’S PLATFORM // THE AVENGERS (2012)

In The Avengers, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in Germany when he delivers a rousing speech about humanity. In real life, the scene was filmed just outside of Tower City Center on Cleveland, Ohio’s Public Square. (You can actually see the city’s iconic Terminal Tower in the background.)

8. NEPTUNE’S NET // IRON MAN 3 (2013)

In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark has a panic attack when he’s signing autographs for fans at a seafood restaurant called Neptune’s Net. While there is a real Neptune’s Net in Malibu, California, the scene was actually filmed at Dania Beach Bar & Grill in Dania Beach, Florida. The production moved from California to Florida because the real Neptune’s Net is located on the Pacific Coast Highway and it would’ve been virtually impossible—not to mention expensive—to shut down the busy highway for filming.

9. OLD ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE // THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

In Thor: The Dark World, the climactic battle between Thor and the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) takes place at Old Royal Naval College, located on the south bank of the river Thames in Greenwich, London. Thor even asks a confused subway rider how to get to Greenwich after he’s transported away from the fight.

Due to its popularity and cinematic look, Old Royal Naval College has also been featured in Cinderella (2015), Skyfall (2012), The King’s Speech (2010), Les Misérables (2012) and Netflix’s The Crown.

10. THE MALL // CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

When Captain America and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are on the run from undercover HYDRA soldiers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the superheroes hide in plain sight at a mall in Washington D.C. However, the scene was not filmed in the nation’s capital; it was shot on location at Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

In fact, much like The Avengers, most of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was filmed at various locations in “The Land” (Cleveland’s nickname), including the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland State University, the Cleveland Arcade, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Western Reserve Historical Society, and Pilgrim Congregational Church. Even the city’s highways were used to film the movie’s exciting chase scenes, namely the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway over the mighty Cuyahoga River.

11. XANDAR PLAZA // GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

While Guardians of the Galaxy takes place on the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a few real-life landmarks and buildings were used during filming. Most notably, the Liége-Guillemins Railway Station in Liège, Belgium was used for the centerpiece of Xandar Plaza, where the group of alien misfits are arrested at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy.

12. HYDRA RESEARCH BASE // AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

At the beginning of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the titular superhero team fights their way through a forest in the fictional country of Sokovia. Their goal is to retrieve a Chitauri Scepter and the Mind Infinity Stone from inside a castle-like HYDRA research base, which was filmed at Fort Bard (or Forte di Bard) in Bard, Aosta Valley, Italy. The old fort was used as an outpost to protect the valley from Napoleon Bonaparte during the 19th century. Fort Bard is currently the location of the Museum of the Alps.

While Fort Bard was used to film the exterior, England’s Dover Castle was used to film the interior of the HYDRA research facility.

13. MILGROM HOTEL // ANT-MAN (2015)

After he is released from prison, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) moves into his former cellmate Luis’s (Michael Peña) apartment at the Milgrom Hotel in Ant-Man. However, the real filming location was the historic Riviera Hotel on Jones Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. It was originally built as a luxury hotel in 1907, but now serves as low-income housing.

14. THE AIRPORT BATTLE // CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)

In Captain America: Civil War, the epic showdown between Team Iron Man and Team Captain America takes place at Leipzig/Halle Airport in Schkeuditz, Germany. The airport was also the location for other movies, such as Flightplan (2005) and Unknown (2011).

15. EXETER COLLEGE // DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

When the villain Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) conjures a dark and mysterious spell from the Book of Cagliostro in Doctor Strange, he contacts Dormammu of the Dark Dimension. He recites it inside of the chapel at Exeter College in Oxford, England to seek revenge on the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).

16. DAIRY QUEEN // GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

At the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock) and Ego (Kurt Russell) pull into a Dairy Queen in Missouri in 1980. That Dairy Queen is actually the location of BB’s Cafe, a restaurant in Stone Mountain, Georgia, about 20 miles outside of Atlanta.

17. FORESTS OF ASGARD // THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)

In Thor: Ragnarok, Heimdall (Idris Elba) leads a large group of refugees through the forests of Asgard to find sanctuary in the mountains. A majority of the superhero movie was filmed on sound stages in Australia, while Tamborine National Park and Cedar Creek Falls in South East Queensland were used for Asgardian forests and waterfalls.

18. MIDTOWN HIGH SCHOOL // SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) attends Midtown High School in Forest Hills, Queens. The production team for Spider-Man: Homecoming used Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, New York as the exterior for the fictional high school, while Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia was used for its interior.

19. MUSEUM OF GREAT BRITAIN // BLACK PANTHER (2018)

In 2018’s Black Panther, we meet the film’s antagonist Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) while he's viewing African art and artifacts at the Museum of Great Britain, a stand-in for the British Museum in London. Instead of traveling to England, the film’s cast and crew filmed the scene at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.

20. SHAWARMA PALACE // THE AVENGERS (2012)

At the end of The Avengers, Iron Man remarks that he’s never tried shawarma after he spotted a shawarma joint while flying around Manhattan during the Chitauri Battle. During the last post-credits scene, we find the very exhausted superhero team chowing down on the yummy Middle Eastern treat.

Director Joss Whedon filmed the scene at the then-Elat Burger (now Shalom Grill), located at 9340 West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. To keep the scene a secret, Whedon filmed it a day after the film’s world premiere, when the entire cast was in Los Angeles.

Fun fact: Sales of shawarma rose in Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Boston following the release of The Avengers in May 2012.

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