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Smithson Thus Far... ·


And a new storyline begins! I remember finding the title and concept of "David Cronenberg's The Geek" inordinately funny at the time, which probably means this stuff isn't amusing to anyone but me. Allison Lee, one of my friends and roommates in college (and the namesake of a gerbil way back when), was extremely fond of David Cronenberg's The Fly, to the point that she often went by the nickname Brundlefly, after unfortunate scientist and Jeff Goldblum character Seth Brundle. So this storyline is for her.

As soon as Dave and Helen went through the teleporter together, readers started speculating that it would probably cause trouble, but I put off the reveal for a while.

Dave has really unfortunate hair in the second panel.

I still like this gag. It's so dopey. I drew Helen's cigarette smoke all fancy, but it doesn't really have any special significance. I was just bored.

In the foreground of the first panel you can see a couple of mad-science journals, Thanagnosis and the inimitable New Journal of Malology. Also some carnivorous plants. The New Journal of Malology has this weird evil-eye logo on the spine; the logo of Thanagnosis is, naturally, a skull.

I think that's the HTML code for reflected in Helen's glasses.

This would've been better if I'd spelled something out with the binary code. Sadly, I didn't. Not this time.

Helen's discipline--genetics--and Dave's discipline--computer programming--aren't entirely different. They both involve a whole lot of code. I think this was the first strip I wrote for this storyline.

A lot of the art this week is pretty good by my standards. There's Helen's beat reaction in the third panel here, and that nice shot of Artie from the back, and what more do you want from me, anyway?

The thing Artie's sitting on looks like a cross between a gel electrophoresis setup and a Sea Monkey Seaquarium. Man, I drew that thing into a lot of strips.

I totally totally dig Zork.

Obviously the flannel is a key genetic Dave trait. This all makes perfect sense. Anyway, Helen looks pretty cute dressed as Dave, if I do say so myself.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Heh.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

I feel compelled to congratulate you on this strip - not only lampshading Dave's consistent role as mad science victim, but subverting it entirely! (And dragging down the mighty all-knowing Helen, to boot!)

But, as with many such events in this comic, a moment's consideration will reveal this direction to be, yes, intensely logically necessary. Consider the converse: we can't have Dave (geek) turning into Helen (nutty scientist), because, as the last storyline so delicious hinted, that's already happening! Secondly, there's an aesthetically pleasing symmetry in Helen being transfigured by a mad invention of Dave's, in contrast to vice versa. And finally, by figuratively and literally bringing Helen down to Dave's level, these two characters are drawn ever closer together, as they are so destined.
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: Dave's hair in panel 2 is windblown by the sudden entrance of a panel-spanning jumbo rant balloon.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "On Top Of Old Smokey", traditional)

Now Helen is smokin'!
Her problem is plain,
She'll turn into Dave soon ...
A fate worse than sane!

ribbles (ribbles) says: This storyline and "Unstuck in Time" are the real Dave revealers.
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

She's absorbed some of Dave's attitudes, too.

She doesn't want to make out with Seth, either.
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says: Would citing scientific evidence of the dangers of smoking to a scientist who smokes (Mad or not) be redundant?
James Wolf (wolfmanjames) says:

Edwin- I went on a date with a scientist who smoked.  What's more, she was a cancer researcher.



Justin Grubbs (the_purple_knight) says: James, of course she smoked. All the more inspiration to find a cure.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Uh-oh...
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

"The 500 Cigs of Bartholemew Narbon."

Already this storyline is parodying various unquestioned aspects of Dave's character. Not a moment is wasted here at Narbonic!

I prefer to think that Helen's cigarette smoke is, by nature of its owner, five times more Art Noveau than Dave's.

What is up with that eyebrow in panel 4? We all thought you'd got all that out of your system by now.
Leon Arnott (l) says:

Also, now's a good time for me to recommend "While A Cigarette Was Burning" by Charles & Nick Kelly (1938) for the Narbonic song list. Yeah, I'm surprised I know about it too.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

OK, this one's pretty obvious ...

Poing the Magic Drag-On
Raised quite a stink;
It fouled the air, and made Mell glare
Down inside Narbonic Inc.!
Poing! That magic ciggy
Perched on Helen's lip,
Turned her lungs green with nicotine
In spite of filter tip!

(Do they let kids sing "Puff The Magic Dragon" in school these days, or is it still considered a metaphor for drug use?)

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Helen's cigarette smoke is undoubtedly pink.
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says: So if Helen has picked up one of Dave's character traits, what has Dave gotten from Helen (that he couldn't have gotten from the transgendering coffee)?
Jason Summerlott (melkarion) says:

What's more... why does Helen suddenly smoking have anything to do with Dave? 

I mean, if she were to start coding, or playing DnD, or wearing a flannel, sure... but Dave doesn't smoke.

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Simple. The teleporters use technology similar to that used by the time machines, and they actually project their subjects outside of causality to get around a few nagging information entropy issues. But as a result, sometimes they grab extra information from alternate timeline versions of the subjects.
Paul Anderson (pmanderson) says: But everybody knows that people who share teleporters tend to get mixed; we're lucky there wasn't a fly in there. (Or a gerbil; but Helen would enjoy being part-gerbil.)
Joshua Holden (doctorhook) says: @Paul:  That's why there was a "no flies" sign on the teleporter!
Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

Jason Summerlott says: "(...) but Dave doesn't smoke."

Go back through the archives, Jason. Dave smokes like a chimney. His lungs are probably blacker than Dick Cheney's evil, cynical, shriveled heart.

Dov Mittelman (silentspeaker) says:

Dave smokes like a chimney.

Only when you hit him with a death ray.

And that crack about Dick Cheney is malicious slander. Dick Cheney has the heart of an innocent child. He put it in to replace the shriveled one years ago.

Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: Jason: "...but Dave doesn't smoke" is an in-joke, based on where the story goes later.  It's kinda a spoiler if you haven't read through the entire archives.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says: C'mon, guys, keep your timelines straight. We're still in the timeline Mell will have created now. Dave hasn't never smoked yet.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Pah, I say! HTML doesn't count as code! It isn't even Turing complete! What kind of nerdgeek comic for dweebs is this?
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Ooooooh. BRAIN SWAP!
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Polythene Pam", The Beatles)

You should read HTML!
It's kinda jumbled but it's sexy as hell!
I've got strange mental powers
'Cause I've been reading for hours
And understanding it surprisingly well!
(Yeah yeah yeah!)

Grant McCormick (grantcmccormick) says: Shouldn't the reflected code in Helen's glasses be mirror-reversed?  Or is inverting the left-right settings of her display a sign of her madness?
Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: Leon: It probably has some Javascrikk in it.
Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says: Before Helen can be checked out, she has to be checked in.  What version control software does Dave use? 
James Mirkle (jmzlost) says:

@ sleepyjohn

 Version Control?  What part of "Mad Science" didn't you understand?  Next you'll be expecting mnemonic variable names and embedded comments in the code.

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

HTML: "Hard To Make Legible" or "Hate This Mother****in' Language".

(Yeah, I made these up before I finally figured out it's intricacies.) 

Kevin (ofscience) says:

@ James


Or backups.  No respectable mad scientist would keep backups or do version control.

Ralph Hartley (rlhartley) says:

The firs time I saw it I misread the title as "The New Journal of Malacology" Malacology is the study of mollusks.

That somehow seems scarier than the actual title.


John Campbell (jcampbel) says: Hey, Madblood kept... oh, you said "respectable". Never mind.
Simcha-Yitzchak Lerner (tgif) says: Now you tell us!  (A warning when the strip originally ran would have saved many of us hours of wasted effort.)
Chris Brunner (cjbrunner) says: Seriously!
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: 01001111 01101000 00100000 01100110 01110010 01110101 00101010 01101011 00101110
kicking_ k (kicking_k) says: OK, does anyone know if the last comment spells something in binary?
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"Okay, I tried ASCII, I tried SIXBIT, I tried ISO-8859 and UTF-8. What is it? EBCDIC?"
--Metal Fatigue, 30 Aug 2002.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Again, our author sadly reveals herself to be an outsider to the completely legitimate and honourable profession of computer science, simply by virtue of making Helen and Dave speak in binary in the first place. In reality, the seasoned computerist would use the most efficient and universally compatible representation: 68 65 78 61 64 65 63 69 6D 61 6C 20 61 73 63 69 69.

Speaking of base-16, here's a mandatory in-joke: 09 f9 11 02 9d 74 e3 5b d8 41 56 c5 63 56 88 c0.

Old land mines? What on earth are those doing in an abandoned sewer system?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says: @Leon: Obviously, so they can blow up s**t.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Proud Mary", Credence Clearwater Revival)
(But you can imagine it in Tina Turner's voice if you want)

Left my biology research;
Making cyber-virus is much more fun!
Underground I'm scheming,
Now the bits are streaming!
This is my command, "Zero zero one one!"
Helen's hair is stylin' ...
Binary keeps compilin' ...
Coding!  Coding!
Coding on the bit stream!

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: Java trivia - Java class files start off with the following binary pattern (in hex) - CAFE BABE.
Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) says: A55 FACE!
David Harmon (mental_mouse) says:

Ed:  *rimshot*


Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says: Someone must have put a hex on Helen.
Art Dahm (strangelove) says: It's very appropriate to say *rimshot* after A55 FACE
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: *
kicking_ k (kicking_k) says:

I am not clever enough for this comments thread!

But, Artie from the back. Very very cute.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

I still don't really know what gel electrophoresis is. Thanks to Narbonic: Director's Cut, I now feel great shame in this fact.

I always preferred Colossal Cave Adventure, myself.

Silent PenWHOAtimate panels: 11.
Eve Elliott (stroth) says: You know, knowing now what Helen knows about Dave's repressed mad science side brings a whole new layer of context to her horrified reaction here. How much of that is "Oh no, I'm turning into a geek" and how much of it is "Oh no, I'm turning a mixture of what may be the two most dangerous people on the planet"? or maybe it's just five in the morning and I'm reading to much into it.
ribbles (ribbles) says: No one wants to be Dave, including Dave.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Walk Like A Man" (how appropriate!) by Frankie Valli)

Walk like a Dave!
Talk like a Dave!
Rock like a Dave
At Zo-o-ork!

Is not OK!
I'm becoming a Dave!
Oh fo-o-ork!

Myrddin ap Taliesin (myrddhin) says:

Leon : 1) chop DNA into tiny pieces with enzymes

2) Put chopped DNA into holes on one side of slab o' gel.

3) Hook + side of battery to one end of gel and - to other

4) Wait while DNA slithers through gel due to the electric field you set up.

5) Stain gel to see where fragments are. Small pieces travel farther. (Usually, one or more "holes" have marker DNA of known fragment sizes.)

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Eve: Yeah, it's kind of hinted at in later strips in which Helen becomes aware that she's losing her particular intellectual abilities but gaining Dave's. It's kept pretty vague, though.
Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: The thing I wonder about is how Helen's crush on Dave - already alluded to before this point - is interacting with all of this. I guess that this isn't quite what she had in mind in terms of getting close to Dave...
Leon Arnott (l) says:
"Wait a second! Whoa whoa whoa! We go from Helen wearing a sexy sarong to her wearing flannel!!! Oh Shaenon, you are evil incarnate!"
--rantarn_hellsbane, 1 Sep. 2002
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: NOOOOOO!

Although, Helen does look cute in flannel, too.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

I know at least once I accidentally read Mell's "Dude" as - ahahahahaha - "Dave".

Gee, now I'm beginning to feel a little bit sorry for Helen. Maybe not even hypnotising Dave, zombifying him, leaving his head on a bus, changing his gender, tape-recording his thoughts, wrecking two of his cars and extinguishing 46 of his cigarettes is really worth this kind of karmic blowback.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Like A Rock", Bob Seger)

Deadly danger, yeah I've had me some.
But this is stranger; where did it come from?
Now I'm a changer ... look what I've become!
I'm a Dave!

I'm wearing flannel; I've got a cigarette;
I've just re-written the whole damn Internet;
My chest is shrinking, my groin just grew a set;
I'm a Dave!

I'm a Dave!
I've become a nerd!
I'm a Dave!
This is just absurd!
I'm a Dave!
New four-letter word!
I'm a DAVE!
(twang twangity twaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnggg...)

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says: If you think Helen looks cute in flannel now, just you wait!!!
Mark H- (eyeharvester) says: One wonders if, had Helen kept on turning into Dave for a long enough time, she would have been invited to join the Dave Conspiracy. Or if the Dave Conspiracy was so powerful that even Dave's own genes thought of him as a "David".
Karl Greenley (pyrtolin) says:

All Zork lovers should keep their eye on this:

The Great Underground Empire looks like it's still got a little kick left in it yet. 

BlackWolfe Coyoten (blackwolfe_coyoten) says: I'm not 100% sure, but I think this is the story I jumped into when I first started reading.  Either way, it's still one of my faves.
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile