0338: "Future"

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby raulcleary » Mon Nov 05, 2007 9:21 am UTC

I really like
Masuri wrote:Maybe he refuses to accept that she chose to be with someone else.

He is the one that's looking back, hoping she changes her mind. She's not stuck in the past; she is firmly rooted in the present, in love with another man, and our bald stickman keeps imagining a future for them in which she's already declined to participate.
but it wasn't my first thought.

I read it as a nice nerdy paradox being metaphorical for her being stuck in a past relationship. "I can't" rather than "No" sounds like she's participating in a current relationship while stuck in the past rather than that she rejected him and now he's stuck in the past.

But I suppose that if he's imagining the future, he could also be imagining her cowardice, so he's projecting his inaction onto her (his fear of the present -- the past relative to his imaginary future -- being "cramped" by competition). That seems unnecessarily complicated, but crushes sometimes are.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby SimonSwift » Mon Nov 05, 2007 9:30 am UTC

Very awesome. I like how poetic xkcd has gotten lately.

I wonder if the man in the first frame was supposed to be the same guy as in the third panel. To me, it seems like that's what it would be. Partially because if it was "some other guy," the guy would probably have a hat, and not hair, so the lack of hair in the third frame would show aging, instead of differentiation. That and if you think about it, it makes sense like this: he's alone in the future, and he's with her in the past. He's already in the future, almost as an apparition there, saying, "Come on, let's go!" and she's not ready, so he's all alone way up there in the future, when she's back with him in the present, not even thinking about the future.

Hm.

Definitely a thinker. I like the recent work, Randall. Very excellent.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby exarch » Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:25 am UTC

Yeah, I think people are reading way too much into this.
I just interpret it as the typical timing problem. The moment the guy wanted to "explore the future" with this girl, she was (stuck?) in a relationship. We don't know anything else beyond that, except that the guy is apparently still single at some point in that future which he wanted to explore with her.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby ohki » Mon Nov 05, 2007 10:57 am UTC

Just as funny as the first time I saw it way back in late '07.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Moo » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:00 am UTC

lol @ ohki
Proverbs 9:7-8 wrote:Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. So don't bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby NVShacker » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:47 am UTC

The way I interpreted it leaves the identity of the guy on the left ambiguous: the guy on the right is asking her to explore the future with him and she says "I can't" because there is no future with him.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Moo » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:57 am UTC

But the point is, we don't know that he asks first and then she answers! Looking at the title, the asking probably happens in the future. You can even see that from the fact that her speach bubble is layered over his where they cross. It's a time paradox: he asks but she's already answered but if he didn't ask then she wouldn't have answered.
Proverbs 9:7-8 wrote:Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. So don't bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby schrodingersduck » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:58 am UTC

While we're on the subject of various Webcomics speaking through time, Dinosaur Comics Issue 1074 (and to some extent, 589) both seem relevant.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby LittleMikey » Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:23 pm UTC

My understanding of this comic:

Future guy: Lets call him XKCD ;)

XKCD wants to have a future with *GIRL, however, *GIRL has someone else.

Think about it without the time paradox. Thats just Randall messing with us ^_^;

Imagine this were taking place in a train station. XKCD was standing on one platform, getting on a train, and *GIRL was with *GUY getting on another train (for sake of art the trains were going in different directions) XKCD asks *GIRL to come with him (Because he still loves her even tho she is with another guy) but by the time she replies the train has already left.

Another theory of this comic:
*GIRL has moved on from XKCD so quickly it makes him feel like she is in the past and he is in the future? Just a thought.

I really love reading XKCD's about romance. I'm a usually-far-too-romantic guy who wants the happy ending, marriage and making babies sort of happy ending. Mind you i'm only 19 so still have a way to go. But yeah, its nice reading someone who clearly has simmilar values in live. Quite unlike the common guys I know who would much rather use the "Get in, get off, get out." way of handling girls... cant stand them >_<

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Moo » Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:29 pm UTC

I can't believe that people would not think that Randall would work a time paradox into a comic called "Future". This is XKCD, people!

What is XKCD about a guy standing there asking a girl to be with him and her saying no!?

Even his romance comics are funny/geeky/at least more poignant than that. I think that all the elements of romance everyone is seeing are there to be interpreted if you want to, but still set within a time paradox which is funny in of itself.
Proverbs 9:7-8 wrote:Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. So don't bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Prole » Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:36 pm UTC

Very good.

Not immediately laugh out loud funny.

But one to dwell on.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Dave » Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:54 pm UTC

I have to agree with Moo. You can't ignore the fact that the comic is called Future and is styled the way it is. If it was just a 'come with me, yes or no' comic, there would be no need for the divided boxes, the long drawn out speech bubbles etc.

In my opinion it is clear that the guy on the right is in the future, calling back to her and asking her to go with him. She says she can't (and I totally agree with the whole can't/won't point from earlier - she wants to, but shes being held back by her other man).

I guess the point of comics like these, as is the same in other art, music etc, is that you can have your own take on it and make it relevant to you. But it seems to me like its not us reading too much into it - some of the other theories arent reading enough into it. 8)

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby crazdgamer » Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:05 pm UTC

There are so many ways to interpret this.

The first thing that came to my mind was this: it sounds like the guy (I'll call him "our hero") is in the future (since he alone is in the third panel), asking the girl to explore it with him. As in, to jump ahead to the future. She's in the past with "other guy".

Does it mean that our hero knows that she and other guy won't be together in the future?

The second thing to come to my mind is that this has nothing to do with time travel at all. It's simply our hero asking the girl to explore the future with him, from the present, and she saying she can't.

Then again, I got poor marks in middle and high school English for thinking about things too literally, so this is probably wrong.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Camphlobactor » Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:28 pm UTC

__Kit wrote:you're thinking about it too much


Bleh. This is one of the reasons why xkcd is so awesome.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Aviatrix » Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:35 pm UTC

I sense a lot of feeling from the responses so far that if she says "I can't" rather than "I won't" or "I don't want to", folks think she means "I want to but am stuck in this (time or relationship) where I don't want to be." It is indeed possible to be physically, emotionally and curiously attracted to more than one person at one time, and to choose for whatever reason to be monogamous and do the whole building-a-future thing with the one you're with. I don't buy the whole "there's only one perfect mate" thing that my mom tried to sell me.

I read it as "At the time boy2 was interested in girl, girl was happily with boy1, and regretfully said no, I can't. Girl continued on to a happy life with boy1. Boy2 remembers with whatever level of wistfulness, affection, depression or whatever that you want to read into it."

Close to 30 years ago I was in the middle of a 5-year long relationship, when an absolutely wonderful guy asked me out. "I'm sorry, I can't, I'm in a steady relationship." I've googled him because I still remember the simple fact that he asked me out, and I regretted having to say no although I was very happy in the relationship I was in. Here's the future story: I'm married relatively happily, he's married and sounds relatively happy, the guy I was involved with back then never married and is relatively happy (spoke with him on the phone recently). One could think of a worse outcome, no?

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby DragonHawk » Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:39 pm UTC

Moo wrote:I can't believe that people would not think that Randall would work a time paradox into a comic called "Future".

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

I don't see that it *has* to be a time paradox or any other kind of skiffy "time travel". *Could* be, sure. But not has to.

It could be the separation between the first and last frames is a metaphor for the emotional separation between girl and no-hair-guy. "Future" could refer to the fact that no-hair-guy wants to explore the future-to-come they could have together, but girl does not want to leave the relationship she has with has-hair-guy. (Whether girl is just happy with her relationship with has-hair-guy, or unhappy but can't leave (or thinks she can't leave) for other reasons, is another interpretation question.) "But the past was much too cramped" could be no-hair-guy pointing out that girl's relationship with has-hair-guy is really not that good, and she should leave that relationship for the potentially better future-to-come with no-hair-guy.

In the above interpretation, I can totally relate to no-hair-guy (baring the not having hair part). Been there, done that, got a freaking closet full of T-shirts. :)

The theme of "the future" really starting at the instant after "now", and the fact that we're "traveling" into the future with everything we do, has come up before. "Kayak" and "Nihilism" being the most prominent examples. I especially like the "So they kayak travels through time?" "Sure, just like everything else. It also goes over water." exchange. Sheer brilliance!

Or it could be time travel. As someone else pointed out, it could even be no-hair-guy and has-hair-guy are the same guy, pre- and post-baldness. Heck, maybe girl is *also* the same person, and she's actually from the further future after a sex-change, and she can't explore the middle future because the time machine can't cross it's path. ;) "All You Zombies" FTW!

It seems this comic has many possible interpretations. That's cool. I wonder if that was Randall's intent. xkcd is often subtle and multi-leveled, so I'm thinking it was.

Or maybe Randall will lurk on this topic and think to himself, "Geez, people, it's obviously $THIS. You're all weird.". ;)
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby RollingSamus » Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:59 pm UTC

I'm enjoying the fact that this comic, like so many other xkcd comics, is just a rorschach test for the people who read it and then go into the forums to argue about it. Pretty awesome.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby shash » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:32 pm UTC

She can't, because she can't come to the future as she is in the past when his message back in time reaches her. ;)
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby joeythehobo » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:40 pm UTC

Yeah, I am definately of the sect that believes this is not time-travel related. I totally felt that the space in the middle was spatial, not symbolic for "across time". I mean, not that its for sure, it could be, that's just not how I viewed it.

The bald one isn't in the future, he just wants to go there.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Banksy » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:44 pm UTC

I love this.
Being a regular reader of XKCD and Cyanide and Happiness, I noticed how C&H had a little fun at XKCD's expense just the other day.
Did not expect Randall to fight back, as cross-panelling is something the dudes and C&H do a lot.
Brilliant. :D
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Tedius » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:45 pm UTC

The real problem with time-travel is the difficulty to represent it in art. Douglas Adams made this point specifically relating to the grammar of time-travel. (should she say "I couldn't" or "I will have not been able to" or simply "I can't")

I prefer to believe that the comic is effort to represent this elusive concept in an amusing way. The reason the girl is in a relationship is that it gives her a reason to say "I can't." The comic would be lame if after 2 frames she says, "okay."

My question is *how* is the guy asking her to explore the future? Is she prescient? Is there some communication device that the time-traveler has?

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Moo » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:55 pm UTC

Tedius wrote:My question is *how* is the guy asking her to explore the future? Is she prescient? Is there some communication device that the time-traveler has?
'Zactly. Time humour.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Sprocket » Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:57 pm UTC

Geekthras wrote:I agree on the kind of confusingness. Doesn't look exactly like a change in time.
And no making out with them selves in any way! Le gasp!
Hee hee. You know, she COULD disappear at any moment. Better, that guy she's with could disappear at any moment, and who knows how far in the future our hero is? He could just be moments away as well.

I heard this statistic when I was but a lad, that males report not getting married to the person they loved most or felt most suited to be with, but to the one who they were with when they decided they were ready to settle down. I mean jesus christ do I/did I find that depressing. That could account for the massive failure of marriages these days. It could also be that they're misconstruing their feelings. There is a certain enjoyable intensity to an imperfect relationship. The feelings seem stronger when you're constantly fighting to maintain something. So perhaps they don't realize that in fact, their interest in settling down is coming from the fact that they are for the first time truly in snuggly comfortable, non-intense, love. ::shrug::

I was really getting in to the fact that the protagonist (I feel like we need to name him, and calling him Randall just feels like we're being presumptuous, even though we know it's not precisely Randall, it's a being that oft. expresses Randall's thoughts and feelings...we could call it Jack...no let's not do that.) is the blank, bald, markless one. He generally exists and goes on through each comic, but it is his blankness that keeps him recognizable, everyman I suppose, easy for us to put our own faces on to perhaps?
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Moo » Mon Nov 05, 2007 3:04 pm UTC

CatProximity wrote:He generally exists and goes on through each comic, but it is his blankness that keeps him recognizable, everyman I suppose, easy for us to put our own faces on to perhaps?
Brilliant.
Proverbs 9:7-8 wrote:Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. So don't bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.
Hawknc wrote:FFT: I didn't realise Proverbs 9:7-8 was the first recorded instance of "haters gonna hate"

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby thirdgencubfan » Mon Nov 05, 2007 3:21 pm UTC

I'm going to label the characters as thus:

Guy in Frame 1: Adam1
Girl in Frame 1: Eve1
Guy in Frame 3: Adam2

There are two "perspectives" here, the perspective of Adam2, and the perspective of Eve1.

From Adam2's perspective, Eve1 is asking Adam2 to explore the future with her. Adam2 feels he can't, probably due to commitment issues. He's on the threshold in a relationship with Eve1, and is likely seeing a possible future there where he settles down and has grown longer hair in a "conservative" manner that Adam1 has.

From Eve1's perspective, Adam2 is asking Eve1 to explore the future with him. Eve1 feels she can't, probably because she has another person in mind and from her perspective, Adam1 is a different person than Adam2. She can't make a firm decision so she falls back on the comfortable, and decides to stick with what she has now.

In both cases, each of them can't commit- and so neither will have the other. Not happily ever after.

I just simply thought of it as a special theory of relationship relativity. X = K/CD^2, or whatever.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Meraki » Mon Nov 05, 2007 3:22 pm UTC

My instinct is to say it really is about time travel, but don't forget the kayak comic.

Also, anyone else feel that Randall can read lives/minds? Wasteland updated exactly at the right time for me to talk to a friend about his failing relationship (mid-conversation and all) and this one at exactly the right time for me to use as an answer to one of my own.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby DragonHawk » Mon Nov 05, 2007 3:29 pm UTC

CatProximity wrote:I was really getting in to the fact that the protagonist ... is the blank, bald, markless one. He generally exists and goes on through each comic, but it is his blankness that keeps him recognizable, everyman I suppose, easy for us to put our own faces on to perhaps?

Or maybe it's just that a featureless stick figure is the default stick figure. :)

I'm with RollingSamus; the act of interpreting xkcd appears to tell us as much about the interpreter as it does about the comic. And that's cool.

For the record, I do like CatProximity's interpretation above. That's far deeper than my own simple one. It's just that reality has taught me that even though I might prefer romantic ideas, I should not expect them to be true.

Then again, sometimes wanting something can make it real after all...
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby space_raptor » Mon Nov 05, 2007 3:37 pm UTC

DragonHawk referenced "Kayak", which I think is the appropriate reference here.

Xkcd man is talking about going forward, exploring their world. This chick is stuck in the past, stuck in her old relationship, and she is unable to embrace her future with xkcd man. Triste.

The space between panels symbolizes distance, both physically and emotionally. I don't think they are speaking through time.
I think the presence of "jerkface hair guy" emphasizes the romantic/emotional nature of the comic.

Still, I find it interesting that there can be this much discussion over the meaning of a comic with three stick people and two speech bubbles. I am also down with the xkcd man is Everyman comment.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby tehlaser » Mon Nov 05, 2007 4:19 pm UTC

Here's how I'm interpreting this:

The left panel is the past. The alt-text implies this.
The right panel is the future. Future-guy implies this.
The middle panel, therefore, is the present.

(edit: whoops, got that backwards)

There is no time travel going on here. Future-guy and Past-girl are talking normally, in the present, where the bubbles cross. They aren't drawn there because Past-girl is living in the past (with Past-guy), and Future-guy is living for the future, trying to move on too soon.

Past-guy, on the other hand, might actually be in the past. He's holding Past-girl there. The past was "crowded" because Past-guy was still in the picture.

I think there's something to the fact that nobody is living "in the moment" in the present here.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Moo » Mon Nov 05, 2007 4:41 pm UTC

I agree with you totally. I never thought there was TRAVELING through time going on, but surely some COMMUNICATING through time?

Also, nice "living in the moment" remark. Insightful and stuff.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby joeframbach » Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:18 pm UTC

tehlaser wrote:There is no time travel going on here. Future-guy and Past-girl are talking normally, in the present, where the bubbles cross. They aren't drawn there because Past-girl is living in the past (with Past-guy), and Future-guy is living for the future, trying to move on too soon.

Past-guy, on the other hand, might actually be in the past. He's holding Past-girl there. The past was "crowded" because Past-guy was still in the picture.

I think there's something to the fact that nobody is living "in the moment" in the present here.



I second this.
They are talking in the present. Guy2 says "Come explore the future with me," and the girl says, "I can't because I'm not yet over a past relationship."

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Eleyras » Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:32 pm UTC

tehlaser wrote:Here's how I'm interpreting this:

The left panel is the past. The alt-text implies this.
The right panel is the future. Future-guy implies this.
The middle panel, therefore, is the present.

(edit: whoops, got that backwards)

There is no time travel going on here. Future-guy and Past-girl are talking normally, in the present, where the bubbles cross. They aren't drawn there because Past-girl is living in the past (with Past-guy), and Future-guy is living for the future, trying to move on too soon.

Past-guy, on the other hand, might actually be in the past. He's holding Past-girl there. The past was "crowded" because Past-guy was still in the picture.

I think there's something to the fact that nobody is living "in the moment" in the present here.

Wow, that makes sense now. Thanks. I'd have to agree with you.

This has interesting implications to how I talk to my ex, actually. He's got me pictured in the left panel with him, I'm in the right panel with someone else.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby evan » Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:34 pm UTC

Maybe its just not that funny.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Moo » Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:38 pm UTC

I think Randall needs to get in here and clarify! It's driving me nuts not knowing! I think I'm right but then so does everyone else (because if I'm wrong then yeah, not that good a comic).

And don't give me that "the comic is what you interpret it to be" crap, I want to know what he meant by it.

Please?
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Katastrophy » Mon Nov 05, 2007 6:02 pm UTC

RollingSamus wrote:I'm enjoying the fact that this comic, like so many other xkcd comics, is just a rorschach test for the people who read it and then go into the forums to argue about it. Pretty awesome.

YES!! You have come up with my favourite interpetation so far. I find the comic itself to be less exciting than this forum full of theories on what it really means. I don't even remember my first impression.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby thirdgencubfan » Mon Nov 05, 2007 6:04 pm UTC

Moo wrote:I think Randall needs to get in here and clarify! It's driving me nuts not knowing! I think I'm right but then so does everyone else (because if I'm wrong then yeah, not that good a comic).

And don't give me that "the comic is what you interpret it to be" crap, I want to know what he meant by it.

Please?


I disagree that Randall should come in to add clarification. How do you know a certain piece of art (webcomics included) is good? When you have multiple viewpoints that all seem valid from those observers PoV.

When "American Pie" came out, Don McLean refused to give explanation of the various metaphors/imagery in his song, or of the song's whole message. He said "You will find many 'interpretations' of my lyrics but none of them by me..."

Here, if Randall came in and explained this comic or any future comic, it would be akin to Deus Ex Machina and ruin the artful impact of the comic or its message.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Moo » Mon Nov 05, 2007 6:26 pm UTC

thirdgencubfan wrote:I disagree that Randall should come in to add clarification. How do you know a certain piece of art (webcomics included) is good? When you have multiple viewpoints that all seem valid from those observers PoV.

When "American Pie" came out, Don McLean refused to give explanation of the various metaphors/imagery in his song, or of the song's whole message. He said "You will find many 'interpretations' of my lyrics but none of them by me..."

Here, if Randall came in and explained this comic or any future comic, it would be akin to Deus Ex Machina and ruin the artful impact of the comic or its message.
I don't want Randall to explain every subtle nuance, but surely the "time paradox or not?" question is worth answering? It's like an artist painting a flower and everyone thinking it's supposed to be a windmill. I just want to know if it's a flower or a windmill.
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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Dave » Mon Nov 05, 2007 7:02 pm UTC

RollingSamus wrote:I'm enjoying the fact that this comic, like so many other xkcd comics, is just a rorschach test for the people who read it and then go into the forums to argue about it. Pretty awesome.



Indeed. Although I'd argue(!!) that its a discussion, rather than an arguement. 8)

I'm sticking with my original theory, similar to Moo's, although I had initially thought that the left panel was the present with the right being the future, but perhaps I'd be persuaded that the middle is the present and the left is the past. The alt text certainly backs that up, but perhaps the alt text is from him perspective, whereas the comic is from hers; sort of like him justifying why she should come to him, rather than him come back and be with her.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby DragonHawk » Mon Nov 05, 2007 7:12 pm UTC

Moo wrote:And don't give me that "the comic is what you interpret it to be" crap, I want to know what he meant by it.

What if Randall *meant* for the comic to be ambiguous and for it to make you wonder and to stir up discussion? I can definitely see him doing that.

And since we're waxing philosophical: It is indeed crappy that sometimes we lack nice, solid, "correct" answers, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

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Re: "Future" Discussion

Postby Sprocket » Mon Nov 05, 2007 7:13 pm UTC

DragonHawk wrote:
CatProximity wrote:I was really getting in to the fact that the protagonist ... is the blank, bald, markless one. He generally exists and goes on through each comic, but it is his blankness that keeps him recognizable, everyman I suppose, easy for us to put our own faces on to perhaps?

Or maybe it's just that a featureless stick figure is the default stick figure. :)

I'm with RollingSamus; the act of interpreting xkcd appears to tell us as much about the interpreter as it does about the comic. And that's cool.

For the record, I do like CatProximity's interpretation above. That's far deeper than my own simple one. It's just that reality has taught me that even though I might prefer romantic ideas, I should not expect them to be true.

Then again, sometimes wanting something can make it real after all...
I wasn't so much suggesting this was intentional, at least initially, just that it seemed to be the result.
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