Zbicyclist: Is this some sort of “Putting Descartes before de Horse” joke?

Cidu Bill on Mar 13th 2017

ithink.PNG

Filed in Bill Bickel, CIDU, Dark Side of the Horse, comic strips, comics, humor | 31 responses so far

31 Responses to “Zbicyclist: Is this some sort of “Putting Descartes before de Horse” joke?”

  1. Arthur Mar 13th 2017 at 12:08 am 1

    The first question I have has to do with “DAM’”. Did he want the
    word “dam”, or was he afraid to (or not allowed to) use the word
    “damn”?

    If the former, is the doorway acting as a dam, keeping his
    thoughts (thought balloon) from following hime?

    If the latter, does it have anything to do with the study (a few
    years back) that shows that the act of going through a doorway
    can make you forget what you were doing?

  2. RyanE Mar 13th 2017 at 12:22 am 2

    Arthur (#1),

    Pretty sure it’s that last one.

    Well-known observation that passing through doorways can cause you to forget things.

  3. woozy Mar 13th 2017 at 01:33 am 3

    And now we know why. The door blocks our thought balloons and they get left behind.

  4. Gyuss Mar 13th 2017 at 01:54 am 4

    The male parent of a horse, a stallion, is commonly known as the sire and the female parent, the mare, is called the dam.

  5. James Pollock Mar 13th 2017 at 02:15 am 5

    He’s not referring to a “dam”. The speech bubble says “dam’!”, indicating that a letter is missing. There are a number of possible candidate words… dame, damp, dams being feasible alternatives, although “damn” fits best.

    He’s walked through the door, which has interrupted his thinking process. This is illustrated using conventions of comic strip visual signaling, but not in the usual way it would normally be presented, and that subversion of the norm is the intended joke.

  6. Stan Mar 13th 2017 at 03:05 am 6

    It takes a bit of a leap to go from focusing on the Descartes quote to getting to the point that he’s forgotten something because he’s walked through a doorway. If this is the case (and I certainly can’t think of anything better), wouldn’t a quotation with the word ‘forget’ or ‘remember’ in it make it more clear? Like, “but men are men, the best sometimes forg…dam’”, or “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but…dam’”

    Maybe that’s the point though…intentional obscurity. I don’t know. I’m wondering if there’s another explanation.

  7. Proginoskes Mar 13th 2017 at 03:29 am 7

    They can’t all be zingers.

  8. Stan Mar 13th 2017 at 04:02 am 8

    “They can’t all be zingers.”

    Fair enough, but they can be clear enough for them not to end up here.

  9. James Pollock Mar 13th 2017 at 07:18 am 9

    “Maybe that’s the point though…intentional obscurity. I don’t know. I’m wondering if there’s another explanation.”

    It’s a two-level joke, with most of the intended emphasis on the meta level.

    The basic joke is the substitution of “dam’!” for “am”, which is why a famous quote about forgetting something doesn’t work.

    The meta joke is that the fact that he’s forgotten something isn’t indicated the way “normal” comics visual cues would be done. That would be to have the words in a thought bubble in one panel, and the other panel having a thought bubble that is empty or with a big asterisk in it, thus directly narrating a loss of thought. Instead, we have the thought balloon “literally” being scraped away by walking through a barrier the thought bubble won’t fit through, leaving poor Horace bereft of same. This subversion of the usual comic strip visual language is the “real” joke.
    It’s similar to a fourth-wall break in a TV show, movie, or play.
    Think of the famous ending scene of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (”What, are you still here? The movie’s over. Go home.”) Everything Matthew Broderick says in the scene is factually true, and isn’t funny in itself… rather, it’s the fact that he does it in character while directly addressing whatever remains of the audience, that makes it funny.

  10. Bob in Nashville Mar 13th 2017 at 07:20 am 10

    More than one layer to it. There’s the mocking of comic conventions as in the thought balloon getting scraped off going through a doorway. The expectation that he would disappear when his “thinking” was gone, but that expectation subverted by a separate thought on the thought balloon scrape-off. Finally, the punchline of rhyming the last word of the saying with an expletive over its interruption.

    So that’s three comedic approaches in a two panel strip and it’s still not funny to everyone.

  11. Mitch4 Mar 13th 2017 at 09:58 am 11

    Kudos to zbicyclist for the headline!

  12. Brian Mar 13th 2017 at 11:27 am 12

    I think the main joke is that he has lost his train of thought and so is no longer sure if he exists.

  13. James Pollock Mar 13th 2017 at 11:47 am 13

    “So that’s three comedic approaches in a two panel strip and it’s still not funny to everyone.”

    Nothing is funny to everyone.

  14. larK Mar 13th 2017 at 12:09 pm 14

    (shamelessly lifted off the internet:)

    Descartes walks into a bar.

    The bartender asks, “Would you like a drink?”

    Descartes replies, “I think not,” and promptly disappears.

  15. Kevin A Mar 13th 2017 at 01:27 pm 15

    Bob in Nashville buried this point in his wonderful 3 layer analysis. I noticed that just as I was about to submit (and did a slight rewording).
    After the collision, Horse has completed the famous quote with a rhyming “DAM’!” instead of “AM.”

  16. Kamino Neko Mar 13th 2017 at 04:59 pm 16

    I’m surprised that this one was confusing to anyone.

    Even without the context of the fact that Dark Side of the Horse regularly plays with concretized comics elements, the thought balloon is pretty clearly shown blocked by the doorway, IMO.

  17. larK Mar 13th 2017 at 05:13 pm 17

    It’s not, because of the lack of background details, I think — the effect is as if there were one static background, and the panels are depicting points of time along the same background. Hard to explain, a picture is worth a thousand words:
    https://theperiodicfable.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/mokf2-cat.jpg

    So what wasn’t clear here to me was that it was two distinct panels with self-contained backgrounds in each — the thought balloon looks like it continues on into the next panel, making it look like the two panels share one continuous background.

    I think had he shown the door in the first panel, it might have helped. Borders around the panels might have helped too, or something to separate the two instances of the thought bubble more, so they don’t seem like one continuous one.

  18. Kamino Neko Mar 13th 2017 at 07:48 pm 18

    There’s a panel break and repeated text…it’s impossible to make it more obvious what happened.

  19. MarkD Mar 13th 2017 at 08:31 pm 19

    The doorway is a metal detector. The horse goes through it and his shoes (clearly displayed in second panel) set it off. The horse’s train of thought is broken and he thinks “dam’” (I set off the detector) intead of “am.”

  20. Stan Mar 13th 2017 at 08:40 pm 20

    “I think the main joke is that he has lost his train of thought and so is no longer sure if he exists.”

    I like this one. This would mean the ‘meta’ joke here, is that it’s true…he doesn’t exist as an entity. He’s a drawing of a horse, not a real one, merely a conjuring of an artist’s mind and pen whose thoughts can literally be blocked by a doorway making him forget things and coming up with hilarious/risqué rhymes for ‘am’. Tip of the hat, Brian. A good explanation without the waffle.

  21. larK Mar 13th 2017 at 09:14 pm 21

    “it’s impossible to make it more obvious what happened”

    Wow, strong claim. And we’re 19 comments in proving the opposite…

  22. James Pollock Mar 13th 2017 at 10:05 pm 22

    ““it’s impossible to make it more obvious what happened”
    Wow, strong claim. And we’re 19 comments in proving the opposite…”

    Huh? Which of the 19 comments prove that there is a way to make it more obvious what happened?

  23. Waferthinmint Mar 13th 2017 at 10:17 pm 23

    The “doorway effect” is a well known phenomenon in psychology. It will make everyone happier if you all google it now.

    (extra points if you keep forgetting why you’ve open a new browser window)

  24. Stan Mar 13th 2017 at 10:29 pm 24

    “The basic joke is the substitution of “dam’!” for “am”, which is why a famous quote about forgetting something doesn’t work.”

    “but men are men, the best sometimes…frig it!”

  25. larK Mar 13th 2017 at 11:04 pm 25

    James @ 21: The very existence of this thread means that the joke was poorly executed, ie: at least two people didn’t get it and needed it explained to them. The fact that the thread is continuing shows that it wasn’t just some obvious missed thing, but that it continues to be obscure for some people. I believe in the possibility of improving and honing; unless you’re saying the world sucks, and this (poor) execution is the best that can be achieved, I maintain that this strip could have been done better, and that it was poorly done to begin with. Thus, to me, it is not impossible that this strip could have been done better, as the existence of this thread is proof to me that it wasn’t done well to begin with.

    Some people seem to have gotten the strip right away, and some of them are either fatalists or are implying that anyone who didn’t get it must be somehow defective, because it is to them impossible that the strip could have been done better. Ie: it is impossible that the strip could have been done in such a way that, for example, I, would have gotten it right off the bat.

  26. Mark in Boston Mar 13th 2017 at 11:51 pm 26

    “I drink therefore I am.” — Monty Python

  27. James Pollock Mar 14th 2017 at 12:25 am 27

    “James @ 21: The very existence of this thread means that the joke was poorly executed”

    Your comment is at 21, so I’m assuming you meant to refer to 22.

    Pointing out that the joke is poorly executed, clunky, vague or prone to misinterpretation doesn’t imply that there is, in fact, a better way to do it. It may mean that best possible implemenation is poorly executed, clunky, vague, and/or prone to misinterpretation.

    “I maintain that this strip could have been done better,”
    Then do it better. That would be conclusive proof that it could have been done better. Pointing out flaws, without pointing out improvements, is not proof that it could have been done better.

    The fact that some people didn’t get it, or don’t appreciate it as is, doesn’t prove that it could have been done better. It’s a cartoon that plays with the visual cues of comics for its main effect. The surface-layer joke is pretty weak. The meta-layer joke requires an appreciation for subversion of comic norms.

    (Note: Please pay attention to the difference between “you’re totally wrong, you stupid jacka$$”, and “you may or may not be right, but you haven’t proved your case”, because only one of the two is being claimed, here.)

  28. Meryl A Mar 14th 2017 at 02:33 am 28

    Husband - who is degreed in and works in psychology has never heard of the doorway effect - is it new in the last 35 years?

  29. Grawlix Mar 14th 2017 at 10:19 am 29

    I wonder how many of you aren’t regular readers of Dark Side of the Horse. Those strips play with the conventions of comic strips, and sometimes need a second reading to get (and that’s OK). I admit I didn’t quite get this one at first but once I did, I liked it. I was trying to make the doorway into an airport passenger scanner. It didn’t seem to belong to a wall. However an actual wall would have made the thought bubble area smaller. Would it have been clearer if Horace was shown standing in the second panel, as if coming to an abrupt halt with the realization he’d forgotten why he was there? In the end I think the cartoon is a fun play on words.

    @#28: I’d say a lot has happened in the last 35 years. Apparently there was a scientific study carried out in 2011. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-walking-through-doorway-makes-you-forget/

  30. larK Mar 14th 2017 at 10:55 am 30

    (The comment numbers seem to be a moving target on this thread, as people’s comments come out of moderation, so bear that in mind…)

    James @ 27: My comment at 17 did, in fact, make suggestions as to how it could have been done better. I am in fact aware of certain norms of comic convention, and in my critique in 17 pointed out that one of the main problems of the strip for me was that the way it was drawn unintentionally made it seem like he was using a specific technique which he wasn’t, which confused the issue. I took time to think about why the strip didn’t work for me, I tried to explain it (I even used visual examples), I laid it all out. No, I didn’t draw a better strip, but that’s a facetious argument that would bar the field of criticism.

    It bothers me that the response to my observations and suggestions is “it’s impossible to make it more obvious” (which I know wasn’t you). (In fact, I don’t recall having seen your response yet when I made my comment @ 17 — I think it was in moderation?) I understand that some people have an affinity to some strips, and some people might get their favorite strips more readily than others, but that doesn’t mean that other people legitimately don’t have valid criticisms about the way the strip was executed. I gave my side (see 17), I expect a better response than, “you’re wrong; the comic is perfect.” (Your response — which is not the one I’m referring to here — seems to be at least partially “it may not be perfect, but it is executed as well as is possible” is subtly different, and one I’m willing to accept as a reasonable response to my critique.)

  31. James Pollock Mar 14th 2017 at 12:07 pm 31

    “I took time to think about why the strip didn’t work for me, I tried to explain it (I even used visual examples), I laid it all out.”
    OK. And that’s when I viciously attacked you for having an opinion that differs from mine?

    “that’s a facetious argument that would bar the field of criticism.”
    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, become critics.
    You find “produce an example of something you say exists, and that will concretely prove that it exists” is “facetious”, but I can’t buy into that. Sorry.

    “It bothers me that the response to my observations and suggestions is ‘it’s impossible to make it more obvious’”
    Understandable. But that’s not what you said the first time. Well, it’s not ALL that you said.

    “I understand that some people have an affinity to some strips”
    I don’t have any affinity for this comic strip, if that’s what you’re saying. I read it when it appears here, and that’s all.

    “Your response — which is not the one I’m referring to here — seems to be at least partially ‘it may not be perfect, but it is executed as well as is possible’”
    My response was “you may or may not be right, but you haven’t proved your case”

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply