337: Post Office Showdown

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Post Office Showdown
That track ('Battle Without Honor or Humanity') -- like 'Ride of the Valkyries' -- improves *any* activity.
Title text: That track ('Battle Without Honor or Humanity') -- like 'Ride of the Valkyries' -- improves *any* activity.


Action movies, such as "Kill Bill" by Quentin Tarantino, sometimes feature elaborate fight scenes in mundane environments. In such environments, combatants may make use of everyday objects for defensive or offensive purposes. In this comic, Randall, represented by Cueball, explains that he often daydreams fantasy scenarios in which he is involved in such a fight, and that the strangers around him are his opponents. This references another trope in action and spy movies, where enemies dress in ordinary clothing and conceal or stash weaponry in order to ambush the hero, forcing them into an immediate and deadly fight for which they are unprepared.

First, Cueball imagines that the old man (an old version of White Hat with a cane) pulls out a crossbow, and that his response would be to throw the postal scale at him. This would be an effective countermeasure if Cueball could pull it off, but it may not be feasible - postal scales are usually quite heavy, and assuming that the crossbow is already ready to fire, it would likely be faster for the man to pull the trigger than for Cueball to lift and throw the scale. Additionally, if it is an electronic scale, it is probably plugged in, which would prevent Cueball from easily removing it.

Cueball's next action would be to dive backward behind the stamps machine. This would be a good place to take cover, as the stamps machine is large and heavy and may be able to block a crossbow bolt or other fire. He then considers that the old lady (Hairbun) may have a katana, a Japanese sword, in the box she is carrying (and apparently preparing to mail). The box does indeed look the correct size and shape to fit a katana, although it is unlikely that an old lady would own one or need to mail one. Nonetheless, Cueball readies his iPod to play the Kill Bill fight theme in anticipation. Katanas featured heavily in Kill Bill, and the centerpiece of the first movie is a long fight scene with dozens of fighters armed with katanas. Cueball is presumably anticipating a similarly extended and overblown fight. This comic's premise is similar to the My Hobby series, in which Randall expounds on his various hobbies of dubious utility.

The title text refers to two songs: "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" from the soundtrack of Kill Bill and "Ride of the Valkyries" by Richard Wagner, the latter being associated with battle scenes because of a famous sequence in the movie "Apocalypse Now" by Francis Ford Coppola. He notes that these two songs will absolutely improve any activity, not only fight scenes.


[Cueball is in a post office wearing earphones connected to his iPod. There are several other people, including an old version of White Hat at the counter with a cane and Hairbun with a long narrow box entering the office by the door. Behind the counter, Ponytail stands together with a Cueball-like guy. Another person is obscured by the lowest of the three connected thought bubbles emanating from Cueball to the left. A fourth thought bubble is below Cueball to the right. Above all this is a caption:]
I spend a lot of time mentally choreographing elaborate fight scenes with strangers around me.
Cueball's thoughts: Okay - if that old man pulls a crossbow,
Cueball's thoughts: I'll throw the postal scale at him and dive backward behind the stamps machine.
Cueball's thoughts: But what if the lady by the door has a katana in that box?
Cueball's thoughts: Better set my iPod to the "Kill Bill" fight theme, just in case.


This is the first xkcd comic featuring Hairbun.

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One activity not, apparently, improved by "Ride of the Valkyries" is driving; supposedly, listening to it makes people more likely to crash. ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I wonder if the post office setting is an allusion to the "going postal" expression? (After some number of incidents in the 1980s and 90s, where employees started mass shootings at post offices, the expression 'going postal' entered American slang, meaning out of control anger, possibly violent, in a workplace environment.) Mountain Hikes (talk) 04:56, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

Good thing I have been taught the basics of sparring (IRL)! SilverMagpie (talk) 04:54, 8 June 2018 (UTC)