647: Scary

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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.


Rob is telling his eight-year-old nephew a ghost story, employing such clichéd devices as a flashlight-lit face and stock ghost story endings. The boy is unimpressed, so Rob challenges him to come up with a scarier story. Rob's nephew merely states that he was born after 9/11, and yet he is already mentally developed enough to hold a conversation with an adult. This proves effective, as in the final panel Rob assumes a fetal position, gripped by existential dread.

There is no hidden meaning here, but this comic 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 realize that you are now closer to your death...

9/11 was a terrorist attack in the United States in 2001, on September 11th. Major events such as the assassination of Kennedy, the Moon Landing of Apollo 11 or 9/11 are easily memorable. It is often said that "everyone remembers where they were when they first heard...". In consequence, these events act as milestones in our memory. They are recalled more vividly, and seem more recent. Today this is maybe also topping the Attack on Pearl Harbor which happened 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-olds 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 both before and after this comic tried to make people feel old several times.


[Rob and his nephew (also drawn like a Cueball, but smaller) are sitting on the ground facing each other. Rob is holding a flash-light up to his face and leans back on the other arm, while crossing his legs. The nephew is sitting forward resting one arm on his lifted knees and leaning back on his other arm.]
Rob: But they never found the ghost's head!
Nephew: Lame story, Uncle Rob.
Rob: And you could do scarier?
Nephew: Sure.
[Rob has removed the flash-light from his face and the nephew leans more back and has shifted a leg down so only one knee supports the arm which are now more straight.]
Rob: Try me.
Nephew: 9/11 happened before I was born, yet I'm old enough to have this conversation with you.
[Rob has dropped the flash-light. The nephew has taken the other arm down to the ground. Beat panel.]
[Rob has curled his legs up to his chin and wrapped his arms around them while the nephew relaxes even more.]


  • Since 2017-11-05, the time between 9/11 and this comic has been smaller than the time between this comic and the present.
  • Since 2019-09-11, some babies born after 9/11 are old enough to vote

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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)

Warning: it is not a good idea to consider how much further we are from this comic, than this comic was from the events it describes. -- 18:26, 23 September 2021 (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)

I just saw this comic (again) today, and also a highlighted German wikipedia article regarding a photography of the smoke clouds. The look/stlye of the people in it (their appearing carelessnes was also discussed in the article) made it clear to me again how LONG this was ago. People looked as in "Full house" or "Friends". (Another take - not related to the photopgraphy - is, that the time between the fall of the Berlin wall, and the attack on the WTC was far less than the time since the attack.) --Lupo (talk) 09:02, 24 January 2020 (UTC)

A comment on the actual comic instead of the passage of time ... nobody mentioned Cueball's skull imploding in the last panel? Nitpicking (talk) 11:58, 8 May 2022 (UTC)

I read it as a furrowed forehead. Albeit that a non-linedrawing head does this with mostly just by wrinkles that emerge as the face frowns, the options for portraying this with Randall's penmanship of semi-ovoid heads (surprisingly expressive, you can get the direction and attitude from the sweep of the 'brush'!) requires something different.
As an 'early' comic, I think it is different from how contemporary ones would do it. Some 'grizzle' lines emanating from the character's head, or floating punctuation. Perhaps even finer forehead lines on the (already more nuanced) head-space?
Though modern Cueballs don't tend to face the 'camera' as much as this one does. With exceptions, they tend to be more in profile (however much up and down they may face, it's often more left/right than here). I have an image in mind of a "straight towards the reader" cueball head... I can't remember which comic it might have been, but it was early-to-mid era and not at all recent. 14:26, 8 May 2022 (UTC)

I was born after this comic, yet I am old enough to read (and edit) this comic. Greetings from the future! SilverTheTerribleMathematician (talk) 17:52, 6 December 2022 (UTC)