647: Scary

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I'm teaching every 8-year-old relative to say this, and every 14-year-old to do the same thing with Toy Story. Also, Pokemon hit the US over a decade ago and kids born after Aladdin came out will turn 18 next year.
Title text: I'm teaching every 8-year-old relative to say this, and every 14-year-old to do the same thing with Toy Story. Also, Pokemon hit the US over a decade ago and kids born after Aladdin came out will turn 18 next year.


Uncle Rob is telling his eight-year-old nephew (also a Cueball) a ghost story, employing such stereotyped devices as a flash light-lit face and stock ghost story endings. Normally you do not look for the head of a ghost, but of a body - then the ghost may be a headless one.

Rob's precocious nephew thus characterizes the ghost story as "lame," meaning that it was unimpressive or unconvincingly feeble. His uncle Rob ask him if he can come up with something scarier. Sure he says and offers the much scarier notion that even though he has been born after 9/11 he is already old enough to be able to have this kind of conversation.

No hidden meaning here, but this sure is scary for many adults. What's being implied here is that time seems to be moving really quickly and we're getting older faster than we think. Events that seem like they "just happened" have happened long enough ago for a whole other person to come into existence, grow up, and learn to carry on a conversation. Every time we get reminded of this fact, it can be scary, as you then realizes that you are now closer to your death...

9/11 was a major disaster in 2001 to the United States — maybe also topping the Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The title text mentions that Randall is teaching his 8 year old relatives to say the same as in the comic — presumably to the annoyance of his older relatives who will be reminded of the fast passage of time. He does not stop here, but teaches the 14 year old's to say they are born after Toy Story — a major block buster hit from Pixar which came out in 1995. A movie many people will remember fondly and feel just came out the other day... He continues with these scary thoughts by mentioning that Pokémon (1996) came out over a decade ago and that kids born after the big Disney hit movie Aladdin from 1992 will turn 18 next year (i.e. in 2010 a year after this comic was published).

Randall has since this comic tried to make people feel old several times in 891: Movie Ages, 973: MTV Generation and 1393: Timeghost.


[First panel: Rob and his nephew are sitting on the ground. Rob is holding a flash-light up to his face.]
Rob: But they never found the ghost's head!
Nephew: Lame story, Uncle Rob.
Rob: And you could do scarier?
Nephew: Sure.
[Second panel: Rob has removed the flash-light from his face.]
Rob: Try me.
Nephew: 9/11 happened before I was born, yet I'm old enough to have this conversation with you.
[Third panel: Rob has dropped the flash-light.]
[Last panel: Rob has curled up and wrapped his arms around himself.]

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Not wishing to detract from the gravity of the 9/11 events (expounded at very great length), but the first thing we read, "...never found the ghosts head", is perhaps a lighter parody of the kind of endings that accompany "It was a dark and stormy night..." at the start. Usually in a ghost and/or a horror story (headless ghosts aside) it's usually a newly-found corpse whose head is missing. Hence there's strange imagery involved in the concept of a decapitated ghost (as opposed to a ghost of a decapitee). It could have been an interestingly compounded set of tropes, of course, but given its apparent lameness it probably wasn't. 17:22, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

They never found any traces of firemen in the ruins of the twin towers did they? No fireproof, extremely hardwearing clothing, nor axes, gas cylinders etc.? Horrific or what?
And the layer at the top of the mounds should have contained some traces of human DNA. Right?
That's more horrific. -- Weatherlawyer (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Using movies as a reference for making people feel old and scared about how fast time flies was used also in http://xkcd.com/891/ -- 12:03, 15 May 2014 (UTC)

Children born after xkcd first came out are now old enough to have this conversation. 19:12, 5 May 2015 (UTC)

I was born after 9/11, yet I am old enough to read this comic.

Two years from now, people born after the turn of the millennium will start to graduate high school. International Space Station (talk) 05:16, 22 April 2016 (UTC)