Monday, 25 June 2007

Walking amongst monsters: On Goats

Goats, created by Jonathan Rosenberg, is weird. I know, I know, it is not the most revealing opening sentence ever to be written, but... it just had to be said. When you are confronted with something so devoid of logic, so mind-bogglingly absurd, so... so Goats, one has to utter the most inane statement that comes to mind, in order to keep a semblance of coherence. And I have been exposed to Goats far more than it would be necessary. Because I love you, guys.

Slipping sanity

Goats has too bizarre a premise to describe in a few words. It started as your average self deprecating imaginary journal (which is, in itself, quite strange), starring Jon, Jewish guy extraordinaire, and Philip. You know, the drunk. Those were the calm and mellow days of 1997, quiet, simpler times. However, things were about to change.
With the introduction of Diablo, satanic chicken, and Toothgnip, mythical animal and ladies goat, the tone of the strip quickly escalated into the realm of the surreal. Not long after that, Jerrel, intensely deranged programmer, Neil and Bob, omnisexual extraterrestrials, and Fish were introduced. I don't think I need to tell you what Fish is.
At some point, Diablo adopts and egg that will eventually spawn Oliver, a chain-smoking, profanity-spouter, violently psychopathic itty bitty chicken, and brutal antagonist. But it gets even better: Diablo has a penchant for launching on wild tangential tirades about his adventures with Shazam Twix, that usually pit them against Gregor Mendel, father of genetics and evil mastermind. Of course, Jon and Philip tend to discard Diablo's ramblings as the demented babbling of his usually incoherent mind. You probably know where this is going...

A turn for the worse

But, of course, in a world like the one Goats depicts, if something can go wrong, it'll go wrong. And so, I give you Gregor Mendel. Shazam Twix existence is still enshrouded in mistery, and he could be just a figment of Diablo's imagination (to his credit, Diablo has had weirder things happen to him in the past).
This is where things start to get complicated (oh, you haven't even know complicated yet. Listen, rising 7 children to be the top executives in the 7 most active multinationals, compared to a Goats plot summary? Child's play). During their encounter, Mendel installs a soldier routine in Fish's brain, making him a killing machine on fins. Thus, he becomes Fineas, and then Fish back again, and again Fineas. It's sorta complicated.
Anyway, shortly after the first Fineas-Fish transition, Philip and Jon journey to the center of the universe, specifically, God's Condo (you can't make up stuff like this, people), to try and solve the ages old debate: atheism versus agnosticism. When they get there, they meet God, who is apparently fascinated with pirates, and trick him into turning into a pork chop. Which they eat. God is dead.

The problem with deities

Mainly, that their disappearance screws up the universe. When Woody Allen, God's assistant, confesses that unless the program that runs the universe on a laptop computer is mended, every one on every universe will die, our heroes, anti-heroes, and everyone and his mother rises up to the challenge and starts looking for the Programmer, a creature part myth, part God, part drunk. From then on, I fear you must read yourself. Really. I couldn't possibly describe something so ridiculously random, and, at the same time, full of sense and motive. I shit you not.

Die, die, die

For some reason I love Goats, I love it with a passion that is usually reserved to far more intimate acts. Is it because of the sheer randomness of it all? Is it because of the deliciously intrincate storylines? Is it because of the carefully crafted dialogues, with just enough weirdness to keep you laughing, but not enough to make you feel ashamed? Honestly, I couldn't tell. What I think about Goats, can't be said in words, because it's not a fully conscious reaction. I feel an intense addiction, an unexplainable one, at that.
Funny thing is, the first time I tried to plough through the rather extensive archives, I was discouraged. I couldn't finish it for the life of me. However, one day, much, much later, I decided to try again. I mean, everyone was saying so nice things about it, what could I lose? Man, was I a fool. Here I am, two years later, still staring catatonically at my monitor, refreshing my screen compulsively, anxiously waiting for the next instalment.
And, before you ask... Yes, I've got it bad.
My advice, you say? Read it, read it, READ IT! For fuck's sake, what are you still doing here?

Tomorrow: Getting started: On XKCD

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