Sunday, October 11, 2009

Comic 647: Old

ScaryNOTATALL
HA HA, you are old! that is what you are, OLD. So old that something that happened in 2001 happened 8 years ago!

This comic feels like it just falls short of making sense, but falls short in every possible way. The fact that you are old is not "scary" even if that is sometimes the word people use; no one sits up in bed at night because they are suddenly older than they realized. Also, 8 year olds obviously don't talk like that.

I note that this is at least our third reference to 9/11 in the comic, not counting some throwaway lines, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Obviously I am not going to say he shouldn't talk about 9/11, but using it as a default "traumatic event" starts to feel like latent Cyanide & Happiness-ism.

It's also not even the first time he's done these "oh shit i'm OLD" comics; see comic 354 or 447 [update: Or, as Daniel points out in the comments, 218] for others. Also in some ways comic 493 seems to be getting at this same idea. Yes, people get older. Yes, sometimes it can be jarring. Everyone knows this. This happens at every anniversary (the 2008 election was almost a year ago???) and it's an old boring idea.

Also, way to skip out on some cool lighting effects with the flashlight, as it is it looks like he's just about to cut a hole in his head when he turns on the lightsaber he is holding, or something.

75 comments:

  1. To some extent, the problem that "8 year olds obviously don't talk like that" is fixed by the title text: "I'm teaching every 8-year-old relative to say this." With Randall's coaching, an eight year old could say just about anything (a frightening thought).

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  2. i was surprised he didn't take the chance to use his gradient skillz in that first panel there

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  3. an 8 year old will say just about anything you teach him

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  4. captain tacos (the lesser)October 11, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    354 is really more of a math joke than an old age joke. More relevantly, I didn't realize there was a flashlight in the comic, even though I read it several times looking for the joke.

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  5. This review: weak sauce.

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  6. More and more xkcd is becoming an outlet for Randall to vent his insecurities. Yes, Randall, you're 25ish. That's a quarter of a century. In your lifetime, the USSR fell, two Gulf Wars happened, the greatest terrorist attack on US soil occured, and Moore's Law has doubled computer power 16 times (resulting in computers becoming 65,536 times more powerful). Congratulations, Randall, you're not a child any more. Now stop acting like one. You're not an old man either. I can't wait to see how much Randall talks about this shit when he's actually OLD.

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  7. I actually personally liked this one, although I agree the flashlight was fairly awkward. :P

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  8. Also in the last panel there's a dent in his head.

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  9. there is a dent because he fell over from being so scared, and hurt himself.

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  10. Moore's law says nothing about computer power. It only talks about transistors on a chip.

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  11. Five seconds of Wikipedia has given me the following:

    "The capabilities of many digital electronic devices are strongly linked to Moore's law: processing speed, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras. All of these are improving at (roughly) exponential rates as well."

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  12. "This comic feels like it just fails short of making sense, but falls short in every possible way."

    It's a nerd thing. Don't try to understand us. And what's wrong with reflecting on one's age?

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  13. Would anyone really expect to find a GHOSTS head?

    I'd really like to hear the rest of this story... did a ghost get brutally murdered or something?

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  14. Why the hell does Comic JK post here when his entire creative being has its lips firmly wrapped around Randall's genitalia?

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  16. No one sits up in bed at night because they are suddenly older than they realized....??????

    I'm not old and even I know that that's very, very wrong.

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  17. "The fact that you are old is not "scary" even if that is sometimes the word people use; no one sits up in bed at night because they are suddenly older than they realized."

    Actually, I think some people do: namely angsty, pissy, whiny little jerks who like to amplify all the problems in their mind and go "holy shit I'm SIXTEEN!!!! I'm older than 80% of the population on the Internet, MAN, I'm already all wise and full of experience, and now I can stand up against my parents. This makes me feel so WORRIED and INTROSPECTIVE*, in a very adult way".

    Also, one thing just struck me: the comic itself uses 9/11 as a time reference. Yet on the alt text, the references used are Toy Story, Pokémon and Aladdin. Well, THIS is scary: for Randall, the WTC attack was a "pop icon" as much as Toy Story. Really, he could have used the Kosovo War, the Gulf War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, or something, to maintain coherence. A terrorist attack with thousands of injuries and deaths isn't very similar to a film première, you know...

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  18. Fernie, you're being too hard on Randall with the criticism of the groups he's putting 9/11 in. The group isn't pop icons, it's what people remember from a while ago. Toy Story and Aladdin, and in most cases pokemon, made huge impacts on people's childhood.

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  19. Newest comic is awesome. I didn't believe Randall could actually put the hope of better xkcds on my heart, but he did. Also, the writing is much better. What he did shows me that, if he actually TRY, he can be good.

    Now, if he actually tried more often...

    ...But I still hate 647. It's hateful. Only now I realized there was some lighting on Uncle Rob's face, but the gray tone is so light you can barely see. Fuck 647 for ever.

    Also: Fernie, you mentioned to Berlin Wall, eh? Well, I was born on the same year the Berlin Wall fell. Weird, huh?

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  20. How sad would it be if Randall achieved this drawing by messing around with Hue sliders?

    Also the alt-text is pretty grim.

    Still, it's nice to see someone appreciating beauty and rebuking the techno-weenie.

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  21. Anon, I get your point about "impact", but come on: the WTC attacks and those films caused "impact" alright, but they're completely OPPOSITE kinds of impact! The mentality displayed on that seems to come from some alienated MORON who'd say "oh, yes, 9/11, I remember watching that on TV". Come on: wiping away the massive social and historical relevance from those attacks is something I'd expect coming from 4chan, not an allegedly "intelligent" webcomic. I'm not against using 9/11 in a webcomic, but sheesh, too much frivolity eventually becomes alienation. And keep in mind that I'm not saying this because I have any scars or traumas because of it.

    (I was born before the Berlin Wall fell, but I don't remember A SINGLE THING about it. I think I watched very, very little TV news when I was a kid)

    Regarding the newest comic: the only good thing I saw on it was the art. I can't find the humour. But I'll say this: being able to see and comment on an individual comic thread WITHOUT bumping into morons saying hi "memetically" to each other almost makes it worthwhile to stay up late. It's so refreshing, for a change...

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  22. To Mal: in that case, the rebuking should have been much more than "hush" -- maybe throwing the moron down that cliff, or something. I just don't get where the humour is supposed to be, because knowing xkcd, the comic could have as well been a commentary about "how those simpletons ignore the PAINFUL TRUTH of how life could be made MUCH MORE SIMPLE by embracing technology over those silly human attachment over futile things". Mostly, this confusion is made even worse because the alt text DOES NOT make it clear who is saying that. If the woman said that, then I could definitely enjoy the comic; otherwise, this gets filed under "Just shut up and slit your goddamn wrists already, Randall".

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  23. I noticed I'm getting a STRANGE HABIT of typing MY POSTS as if I were a CHARACTER from the game BENEATH A STEEL SKY.

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  24. Hi Mole. I have to agree with your post; the contrast between 648 and 647 is quite sharp. Now, if Mr. Munroe could change his updating schedule from three-times-a-week to whenever he has an idea worthy of readers' time, that'd be great. It's not going to happen, of course...

    Fernie: I'm given the impression that the alt-text is a continuation of what the guy was saying, though it is admittedly hard to tell. Either way, I don't see how this would make Randall emo. If the text is the guy talking, then wouldn't it make sense that Randall is deliberately antagonizing his mentality by making him say jerkish things?

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  25. Fernie: "première"? Really.

    also newest comic is wayyyy better than this one, but the alt text is all emo and whiny again

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  26. 648 is terrible. Without the alt-text it's merely unfunny, but include Randall being painfully emo and the comic itself takes on a decidedly meaner tone.

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  27. I sorta liked 648, although it seems like I've seen it done before by other people.

    Someone explain to me why this one's "emo".

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  28. Aw, poor Randy mixed up his climates in the new comic. You definitely wouldn't find a cliff edge like that anywhere along with that kind of foliage.

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  29. New comic is pretty. Reminds me of XKCD #77 for some reason.

    As for 647... I can see where he's going, but he never quite goes there. This is a concept, but instead of using the concept to make a joke out of, Randall just presents the concept. It's not the first time I get this impression from an xkcd strip. Because I actually agree with Randall that when presented correctly, this concept can be both funny and scary. To steal an example from the previous thread: In my country the age of consent is 16, and it just freaks me out whenever I realize that people born in 1993 are legal. (and according to this site, people born in 1997 are old enough to have sex with the Pope.) That IS frakking scary, but not if you just paste your concept into the webcomic. There's a reason why comic book publishers actually hire artists instead of just asking their writers to send in ideas and then print the synopses directly in the magazines: The thought works, but it hasn't been processed into entertainment yet.

    Seriously, I would probably laugh out loud at a good joke about how eight-year-olds didn't live when 9/11 occured. But there's nothing funny about just telling me that eight-year-olds didn't live when 9/11 occured.

    And I disagree that the alt-text makes it better, too. The whole point of the comic is "I'm old enough to have this conversation with you". The alt-text negates that ("I'm not really old enough to have this conversation with you, I've only been instructed to do so by that weird guy who draws doodles on T-shirts for a living"), thus the alt-text effectively destroys any attempt of a joke in the strip and would have been better if just left out.

    I'm sure it's pretty easy to teach eight-year-olds to say awkward things about anal sex, too. But it would be silly to respond to that with "Ohmygosh, eight-year-olds are really perverted". The correct response would be "You taught an eight-year-old to say that? What is WRONG with you?".

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  30. Re: 648, would it even work that way? The hue adjuster, I mean. It seems to me that what makes autumn leaves beautiful is that there's so much variety and life in the colors; you couldn't just take various shades of summer green, apply a single whole-image Photoshop filter, and suddenly get a convincing simulation of fall.

    On the other hand, I have to commend Randall for his effort on the artwork in this strip; it's kind of a blatant imitation of Calvin and Hobbes, but that's okay. At least it shows that he's putting some honest time and work into it.

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  31. I don't like 648. The fact that you can photoshop anything does not a good joke make. Also I think it would be more xkcd-ish if he said something like "Instead of driving all this way, we could've just looked up this place on Google Street View", seeing as GSV now has very good coverage of American countryside.

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  32. @Timofei: except that anybody as nerdy as Randall knows that they don't take knew google streetview photos every day... they could've taken a screenshot of google streetview and then photoshopped it... ;)

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  33. To his credit, changing the hue of the image will achieve exactly the effect he's talking about and is very very easy. Changing the leaves to blue or something would be much harder.

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  34. 648 once again suffers from text after the punchline syndrome. Why did we need "hush"? In fact, why the "click" sound effect? Now it feels like -two- extra lines after the punchline.

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  35. Bugger off Carl, there's nothing wrong with this comic

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  36. "It's a nerd thing. Don't try to understand us. And what's wrong with reflecting on one's age?"

    Possibly the most stereotypical XKCD-reader comment possible. Also, stop being proud of being a nerd.

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  37. I think the title-text is referencing A Softer World. At least, it's the exact sort of thing you would expect to find on the title-text of A Softer World. Definitely emo. But a good sort of emo, since it's unexpected.

    The "don't try to understand us" is arrogant, divisive, elitist buffoonery, and quite stereotypical. But don't tell people to stop taking pride in being a nerd.

    Aside from the alt-text, the comic itself is pretty but it'll never make me laugh. Also, there's something odd about the perspective on the trees. I didn't realize they were trees until I read the title.

    The hush is unnecessary, but I think the *click* is helpful to make it clear that they are holding cameras.

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  38. I don't understand why people are saying the title-text is 'emo'. The way I interpreted it was the girl threatening to/suggesting she should photoshop the guy to make him look happy, because he is clearly sour on their current trip. In the comic she is taking photos of trees but I don't think it's a leap to expect that they would also take pictures of each other. In this interpretation, the title-text I think is mildly amusing and ties-in with the idea presented by the comic of technology replacing/cheapening/perverting real experiences, real human reality.

    I think that he does a pretty good job, and it is great to see him put so much effort into the art. I think there is humour value that he has achieved quite well, with the juxtaposition of a simple photo-manipulation trick with the vast beauty of nature, and the suggestion itself. Moreover, I think he presents an interesting point (technology diminishing our connection to real world etc) in an interesting and creative manner, rather than essentially writing out his idea and bludgeoning us over the head with it with absolutely no subtlety.

    While I understand why some people object to the 'hush', I don't think that this is entirely necessary post-punchline text. I think it helps to focus the reader on the carefully rendered magnificence of nature. In one word, the guy's suggestion is rebuked. In other words, without the 'hush', it may well seem like he is almost advocating the lazy photo-manip, but the hush allows him to explore an extra layer of meaning.

    So, in summary, one of the best Xkcds for a long while, and a very welcome follow-up to the excretable (ha ha...) 646.

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  39. Amanda, at least this time I made my research: "première", unlike "meme", IS a French word. What can I do? I'm picky.

    Daniel, I think the alt text is interpreted as emo mostly because xkcd's history of "tragedy" in love affairs, à la Unsatisfied, that is always done in a fake, self-pitying style. If the alt text is actually the woman speaking, the mood gets changed completely.

    I actually think the theme of technology getting in the way of human things is very interesting, but if we were to get that from xkcd -- the comic that is proud to cater to geeks and assorted people with technology fetish -- the concept would have to be much more fleshed out, otherwise it just seems like Randall is stating how "STUPID" it is to travel that far just to experience things the way they really are. Besides, the woman's "hush" seems like a "stereotypical response from a tired, weary lady who doesn't want to hear the truth", which is there just to show how the guy is right, instead of being a well-deserved rebuttal.

    In short, what I'm saying is that, at this point, I do expect something that awful and stupid from Randall, and this gets worse since he refuses to make things clear in the least.

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  40. Strictly speaking, premiere with the accent (copypaste doesn't work for me at this juncture) is indeed a French word. Without the accent, however, it is an ordinary English word with an identical meaning, so throwing in the French version is analogous to using a term like "weltanschauung" which, while not necessarily gratuitous, generally is.

    Comprenez vous?

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  41. Almost. Throwing in the French version is like typing "Weltanschauung" instead of "weltanschauung".

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  42. In either case it's most appropriate to italicize the foreign word. So "premiere" or "première"; likewise with "weltanschauung" and "Weltanschauung".

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  43. I think that the fact most of the people here (including me) dont relate to or understand very well this comic you should just let it be. I mean, i dont find it as anything extraordinary but i dont think it deserves so much hate.

    Id rather you mocked the Jonas Brothers, who really deserve it

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  44. Man, can all the anonymous people get names and stop posting anonymously?

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  45. @ch00f, 12:29 --- The Gunks, in Poughkeepsie, New York.

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  46. No, see, Fernie HATES the English language, and so he does his best to type in any other language whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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  47. Well, you know, I'm not exactly the one to blame since so many English texts already use French and other foreign terms to the point of saturation; coup de grâce, tour de force, chef d'oeuvre, portmanteau, déjà vu, and so on and on. But let it be clear that it also annoys me when English terms are spelled or pronounced incorrectly (I already mentioned "engine" being pronounced in all sorts of weird ways), so for me there's no distinction.

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  48. @anon 9:15

    Nope, still not right. The Gunks were formed (as the rest of the Appalachian Mountains) when Africa slammed into North America and compressed the rock upward causing it to jut out of the top of the mountains (I think this is called "Karst Topography". I took Earth Science like 7 years ago).

    The picture Randy drew is clearly the edge of a some sort of plateau made from sandstone carved out of the landscape by some kind of river. I mean, maybe his art is failing him, but that cliff definitely looks like something that belongs in the western US.

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  49. @Ch00f

    The Porcupine Mountains of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan have things like that.

    Also this:
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2080/2055332995_4bb95ccf94_m.jpg

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  50. And this:
    http://www.outdoorbound.com/images/photos/MillbrookTrailFall1.jpg

    (Google image search for fall foliage in the gunks)

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  51. "Amanda, at least this time I made my research: "première", unlike "meme", IS a French word."

    Yeah, but you're not typing French, you're typing English. So the word you're looking for is "premiere", not "première".

    "But let it be clear that it also annoys me when English terms are spelled or pronounced incorrectly."

    So is that why you chose to intentionally misspell an English word like premiere?

    Using the French spelling because the word originates in French is nonsensical. Why aren't you substituting all the words that originate in Latin or Arabic with their Latin or Arabic equivalents?

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  52. Portmanteau was created from a fusion of French words, but it was made by an English author in an English book so I bet it's considered an English word.

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  53. I got this comic, but didn't find it funny. The alt text was pretty "meh", too.

    The autumn one made me chuckle a little bit, but it's still not up to xkcd's old standard.

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  54. This one didn't make me laugh, but since its aim seems to have been to get its audience to lift up their arms and scream, "O God, what have I even been DOING with my life?!!", I'm going to call it a complete success.

    Sometimes it blows my mind that I can have conversations with people who didn't even exist at all in the previous millennium.

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  55. haha, what a bunch of suckers they are

    missing out on 90s television

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  56. oh and fred

    it's like arguing with the #xkcd channel about why fora is retarded

    "but it's the latin plural"
    "but this is not latin"
    "but english is based on latin"
    "so? english has it's own plural"
    "fora is commonly used"
    "no it isn't"

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  57. "but english is based on latin..."

    That would also be a good educational moment to mention that English is based on Germanic languages, not Latin.

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  58. Photoshop 1.0 was released in 1990. I don't know if you could adjust hue in the same way back then, but even if we cut the time from release 'til now in half, this joke is still almost a decade old.

    Are you fucking serious Randall? Do you even care any more? INQUIRING MINDS WISH TO KNOW.

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  59. @Comic JK:

    Largely, yes. However, some elements of English grammar and much of its vocabulary are derived from Latin.

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  60. carl please please please let me review the new one.

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  61. but Dragon, it is aloria's week! I know i've been a dick about this but i swear if you e-mail me in...say...a week and a half we can work something out.

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  62. heh.

    Nah, I just have strong feelings for the new one...
    s'okay for aloria though.

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  63. You missed http://xkcd.com/218 on the "Oh shit I'm old" theme.

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  64. Person #1:
    I confess to laughing out loud when I GIS'd that.

    Amanda/Fernie:
    See, this is why people are supposed to use italics for foreign words! Then we could all be friends! :(

    CAPTCHA: lingliz. I am the linguistics lizard?

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  65. Daniel, you are totally right. Appending the post now.

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  66. Bleh,,, Why make the panels so noticeably dark f you aren't going to do something with them? It makes it look more like a mistake in the creation than a deliberate attempt.

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  67. "no one sits up in bed at night because they are suddenly older than they realized."


    I have done this before. I'm not defending the comic. I'm just saying, yes, this happens.

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  68. well then let me ask you this: What were you doing the night before? Did you sit up terrified then also? Or did you not notice till that one day that suddenly, woah! time is moving forward!

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  69. Fear of growing old is not rational, Carl, but it happens all the time.

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  70. I'm going to have to disagree with your criticism on this one. As someone who works extensively with children, I find it incredibly unnerving that, starting next year, I'll be face to face with kids who weren't alive for 9-11. This event defines our millenium to date, and represents an unprecedentedly sharp divider between two American views of itself. The fact that children will soon be coming to age without this context, without the memory of the fear and uncertainty caused by September 11th, but still living in an America influenced by this context, is shocking to accept.
    I imagine that if I hadn't made this realization some time ago, this comic would have deeply unsettled me, achieving entirely its desired effect.

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  71. You mean you've never heard a parent say that they can't believe that their child is so old? I'm not a parent myself, but I'm regularly freaked out by the fact that there are kids I've known at my church since they were two and now I'm having conversations with them about economics and Halo. I have friends who still cannot believe that we're in college, and we all freaked out a bit once we realized that we're turning twenty a while back. My kid sister is starting to get interested in boys and now I'm starting to understand why fathers give the gun collection tour, and my dad regularly inquires of me how I grew from something he could hold with one hand to a college student that looks down on his father's thinning hair. This comic speaks directly to myself and pretty much every person over the age of 15 that I know.

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  72. That's all well and good, and of course I recognize the feeling you mean. But that isn't being "scared." Do something actually scary - see a genuinely scary movie, have your car break down across the street from a prison riot in a lightning story, be attacked by ferocious pirates - and tell me it's the same emotion you are talking about above. It's just not.

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