1899: Ears

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My theory is that most humans have been colonized with alien mind-control slugs that hold the earbuds for them, and the ones who can't wear earbuds are the only surviving free ones.
Title text: My theory is that most humans have been colonized with alien mind-control slugs that hold the earbuds for them, and the ones who can't wear earbuds are the only surviving free ones.


Cueball and Megan are sitting in a park together and appear to be cloudwatching. Cueball asks if Megan has ever looked up in the sky and wondered, suggesting that he is thinking deep thoughts while allowing his mind to wander, what "normal" people's ears are shaped like; that their earbuds stay fitted inside their ears instead of falling off. It is possible, but not evident, that Cueball is listening to some audio device through earbuds, and his wondering is caused because he looked up at the sky and they fell out, leading to his thoughts about what it would be like to have "normal shaped ears" that would allow him to wear earbuds without this happening. (This joke is directed towards a large group of people who cannot use earbuds successfully because they fall out.) Megan's response could either be making fun of Cueball (whatever goes on in his head with the random conversation points he tends to bring up) or agreeing with him that earbud wearers' ears are mysterious.

The comic appears to be a variation on a famous and oft-quoted fragment from Voltaire's satirical novella Candide, wherein Dr. Pangloss states that we live in 'the best of all possible worlds', among other reasons because '…noses were made to wear spectacles, and so we have spectacles'.

The title text is a play on conspiracy theories wherein the human race is being assimilated by aliens, and the person coming up with the conspiracy theory thinks he is one of the few "free" survivors. The use of "brain slugs" in particular may be a reference to the Animorphs book series, a nostalgic favorite of Randall's, in which humanity is being colonized by parasitic alien slugs called Yeerks, that enter a human's brain through the ears and can control them. Randall/Cueball here may be suggesting that the reason most humans can wear earbuds is because the Yeerks hold the earbuds in place.

Another possibility, given the earbud/music reference, is that Randall is making a joke about earworms.


[Cueball is sitting with his back towards Megan who is lying on her back on a grassy hill. Both are looking up at a sky with small puffy clouds (one large, two small, and four tiny). In the background fields are visible below their vantage point.]
[Same setting, but with the clouds removed, to make room for Cueball's text.]
Cueball: Do you ever just look up at the sky and wonder...
[Same setting, zoomed a bit out to make more of the background fields visible, still with the clouds missing due to the text from the two people.]
Cueball: "What are normal peoples' ears shaped like, that earbuds stay in without falling out?"
Megan: Man, who knows what's going on in there.

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The explanation for this comic may wish to reference this NYT article on Earbud Cartilage Deficiency Syndrome (E.C.D.S.) [1]. I suffer from ECDS myself and hope this comic will bring much needed recognition to the condition. --

I added the description. Feel free to edit it. --JayRulesXKCD what's up? 12:45, 6 October 2017 (UTC)

I modified the explanation. It is speculation that Cueball is listening to music through earbuds, as I can see nor read anything that made it a "fact" that he is doing so. Please feel free to revert my modification if anyone can present evidence to support that theory. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 00:37, 9 October 2017 (UTC)

Re. "Megan responds by making fun of Cueball and the stuff that goes on in his head" - I'm not sure it's clear that that's what she's referring to. It could be read as she doesn't know what's going on in normal people's ears. In fact, my first reading of it was that it was a deliberate double meaning - she's making it sound to Cueball as if she's agreeing that there must be something weird about the ears, but privately she's referring to the weird thoughts in his head. 13:08, 6 October 2017 (UTC)

If Cueball is listening to music, perhaps so does Megan and she doesn't actually hear him ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:57, 7 October 2017 (UTC)

The title isn't explicitly a reference to Animorphs/Yeerks, so I don't think we can claim that for sure (even though Randall has referenced it multiple times in the past). Hawthorn (talk) 14:33, 6 October 2017 (UTC)

Agree, and replaced "is a reference" with "may be a reference". Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 07:46, 9 October 2017 (UTC)

Alternative theory: the brain slugs don't like ear buds so they push them out 01:50, 9 October 2017 (UTC)

Would it be worth mentioning the Doctor Who episode Age of Steel, whose plot was about earbuds being used to mind control society? At the very least, it's a rather similar concept to that described by the mouseover text.

The thing is, earbuds totally don't stay in. Not here, at least. They fall out constantly. Are my ears shaped wrong?-- 02:32, 14 January 2018 (UTC)

I have pointed ears and have yet to find a good (read: compatible) pair of over-the-ear headphones or behind-the-ear buds. 21:05, 31 July 2018 (UTC)

Yeerks are jerks Z1mp0st0rz (talk) 15:27, 24 April 2024 (UTC)