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Smithson Thus Far... ·


New storyline! "Lovelace Affair" was pretty scary to write because it sets the plot of the rest of Narbonic in motion; after this, we're heading into the endgame. I second-guessed myself many times over the course of this fairly long storyline. But in the end, what the hell, it turned out pretty good.

Nobody wears headphones like those anymore. It's kind of a shame.

It irritates me that I didn't draw the flames on Artie's tail trailing behind him. Thanks to that, I can never fully enjoy this strip. Still, strips with lots of sound effects are cool, and I always liked "Those chemicals are either flammable or inflammable." So please enjoy Mell's triumphant return to Narbonic after three months away. Thank you.

When my cousin Kim went through basic training, I was really envious of her ability to do one-handed pushups. That was pretty much my entire reason for drawing this strip. Because I think it would be cool to be able to do one-handed pushups.

When I worked as the receptionist at Viz, I was in charge of sorting the mail, and those nerds had so much Netflix. Bavarian poison paper is a reference to the classic Michael O'Donoghue essay "How To Write Good," from which I learned nearly everything I know about writing. I would comment more on this strip, but suddenly I am run over by a truck.

The basic concept of a mad-science conference was among the first storylines I came up with for Narbonic. It went through massive rewrites before somehow reaching the screen as "Professor Madblood and the Lovelace Affair." Originally there was this whole plot about a booth-babe rebellion and the transmogrifier, it's not important now. It all got ditched.

I guess I could have come up with a funny name for the Symposium, but I was feeling kind of over funny names at the time. The Symposium works pretty well.

For all Dave gets picked on about his social life, he managed to get into a relationship before Helen. Not before Mell, though; she's been quietly dating Caliban since the end of "Demons."

Still, even Artie is amused by this turn of events. Poor Dave.

Hilary Bruce (cameoflage) says: Headphones like what? The kind that go over your ears? I wear headphones like that. They're red and awesome.
Jason (hactar) says:

I see those almost every day on the New York subway.  Worn by hipsters, but still, they are around.  They're always the really nice ones, the DJ variety.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Those drop caps are quite a fine way to start a storyline.

Fourth-wall gags: 59.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

What I like is that Dave takes the headphones off to talk to the narrator and/or audience.

Jake Alley (googleshng) says:

I am actively, at this moment, wearing headphones like that.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "If I Fell", The Beatles)

If there's Dave in happy mood,
Then we know that nothing good
Will come from ... this affair!
And when crazy stuff goes down,
Dave will soon begin to frown
And pull out his hair!

When this sto-ry arc ... begins,
We see Dave sing
Like a mea-dow-lark ... he grins,
Because some-thing
So nice ... has now come into his life!
But soon,
Lupin Madblood comes to bring ... pain and strife!

But for now, we see ... a sight
That might appall!
Man, this is-n't right!
And Dave ... is breaking that fourth wall:
"Can't I have one day at all?"

Kathy Moon (flipkat) says:

Does it count as a silent penultimate panel if he's humming?

Rodford Smith (stickmaker) says:

The only headphones I use are Beyerdynamic DT880s, which look a lot like those. Wonderful sound. They don't cup the ears, but fit over them, laying pretty flat. They barely muffle outside sound, so they aren't for use while jogging in traffic or whatever.

M Mishalak (mishalak) says:

In my people watching I would say that three types of people wear headphones like that. Hipsters, gheto DJs, and people who are more concerned about their hearing than appearance.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

It'd be pretty great if Dave was a ghetto DJ.
Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

I'm also wearing 'phones like those....

Sean Riedinger (ariamaki) says:

I've got a set of noise-cancelling headphones identical to those like 5 feet away.

I wear them on long car trips or airplane rides-- Really soothing, easier to fall asleep or rest while listening.

Also, huzzah for happy-Dave :D

Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

I too wear headphones much like that. Earbuds hurt and the weird disconnected ear-cradlers always get destroyed.

M Mishalak (mishalak) says: And I think this is my moment to say that I too wear giant headphones when they are not broken by my own inattention. Maybe I should use my credit card points to get some Bose headphones.
Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

I noticed that the comments from Sunday's strip disappeared.  It happened the Sunday before as well, but those reappeared.  This Sunday, not so much.  Anyone know why?

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

Anything can open a dimensional portal nowadays. Dem walls of reality are made of wet crêpe paper. But this is probably the first time I saw chemistry intruding on what is undoubtedly physics's domain.
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says:

...I hate to ask this, but is this a joke or how flammable and inflammable mean the same thing? If so, I don't get it. :\

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

Flammable and Inflammable mean the same thing, but there's often confusion on the point. Strunk and White explains that one should always use "inflammable" unless one is driving a gasoline tanker "and hence are concerned with the safety of children and illiterates..."

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Fwoooooo!
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Adam: It's the same way that [SPOILER] Dave and Helen find themselves in both a delicate and indelicate situation at the same time.

Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

I want to know how something can be either flammable or inflammable - the exclusivity thing and all. Unless the point is that Helen can't currently remember which is correct, or some such.

N B (daveclone7) says:

Of course, this is *mad* science.  There may be a distinction in this case.

Lenore Hoyt (landsnark) says:

I disagree with Strunk & White on this one.  When I see the word "inflammable," it's not enough that I know what it means; I also have to count on the person using the word to know what it means as well.  It seems to make much more sense to eliminate the ambiguity and simply use "flammable" and "nonflammable."

Mad Andy (andrew_c) says:

@Jon W. & Adam: It's simple, really. It either just combusts or it combusts AND opens a portal to Hell at the same time.

Bill O\'Lading (billolading) says:

I always thought of "flammable" as something that can catch fire, like wood, while "inflammable" as something that catches fire violently, like a fireworks factory.

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

@ Kay Gilbert: I asked Shaenon about that and she says that she had to re-load the page, which deleted the comments -- apparently permanently. I don't know if she got to read them beforehand.

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

"Inflammable" would seem to me (logically) to denote something which can become "inflamed".

I don't think that logic is involved in this case, however.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Yeah, I'm afraid that if I have to re-upload a page on WCN, it deletes the comments for that page. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes I fiddle with the Sunday features and lose stuff.
Rob (rrreed) says: I always thought that chemicals that could combust and simultaneously open a portal to Hell were infernable...
il biggo (biggo) says:

To me, it would be cool to be able to do machine-aided push-ups.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

Is Helen sucking on the eraser end of the pencil?? (Doesn't she like the cool refreshing taste of graphite?)
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "The Army Goes Rolling Along")

Mell is here!  Holy cow!
Back from basic training now!
Her assignment is now [classified]!
Doing drills!  Doing harm!
Doing push-ups with one arm!
Her assignment is now [classified]!

With her ap-ti-tude,
Our enemies are screwed!
With joy, the JCS all cried,
"Hot damn!"
And she brought gifts, too!
Some anthrax, just for you!
Her assignment is now [classified]!

Carl Fishman (carlfishman) says:

@Ed; I still think of that song as "The Caissons Go Rolling Along".

Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

@Leon: She could be just tapping it against her lip. I do that sometimes. Nothing to do with the inside of the mouth.

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: Huh. Guess Mell's hair has had time to grow back in over the summer. Wonder what she would have looked like with a crew cut, anyway?
Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

I'm guessing they classified Mel as a 'weapon of mass destruction' and let it go at that....

Brandon Gorley (bowtothebard) says:

Serious Mell is serious.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Carl: It was originally "The Caisson Song" ("For it's hie hie hee, in the field artillery ..."), then the lyrics were adapted to make it suitable for all the Army.  One reason I don't put a writer's credit after this title is that there are too many writers to list them all.

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Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

Token efforts to eliminate one's competitors at every opportunity are one of the signs of true mad scientific merit. In mad science, every stranger is a nemesis you haven't met.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Come Sail Away", Styx)

Mell's back in her chair,
Reading Helen's mail, in their evil lair!
They want her to come
To Mad Scientific Symposium!

Discussing the tricky
Tinasky case ...
Now Mell's feeling sicky,
She makes a face!
On her thumb
There's poison from ...

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Just wait till she finds out what licked the envelope.

Jennifer Rutherford (jenfullmoon) says:

Waaaait a minute. Something bad happened to Mell?!?!?!

David Harmon (mental_mouse) says: Jennifer: Well yes, she's still a henchman!
Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

It needs a Significant Pause.  You know: ...the Symposium.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

Dave being this gloriously happy is surely a sin against reality. And, as it turns out, destroying his happiness is the primary conflict of this entire storyline.

Silent Penultimate Panels: 29.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: A booth-babe rebellion! I would have liked to see that.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Do You Hear The People Sing", Schönberg, Boublil & Kretzmer)

Do you hear the booth-babes bitch?
Bitching about their line of work,
Where they get ogled, groped, and hit on
By each self-important jerk!
They're demanding higher pay,
Dental insurance, health, and more!
You'll try to chat them up all day,
But you'll never score!

Was there something else besides how they all stood around and bitched?
Was our Dave transmogrified, or was he simply gender-switched?
It wasn't worth seeing, it ended up all being ditched!

Do you hear the booth-babes bitch?
It doesn't matter, now it's gone!
(You should have called up Lar DeSouza,
See, on Twitpic, what he's drawn!)
Please don't treat the girls like trash!
Standing all day, their feet get sore!
They want to just go home and crash,
So you'll never score!
No ....
You'll nev-er scooooooooooooore!

Matthew Mather (madtinkerer) says:

"Originally there was this whole plot about a booth-babe rebellion and the transmogrifier, it's not important now. It all got ditched." Or... maybe it happened on previous or subsequent years? Isn't the The Symposium an annual event?

Rachel S. (masamage) says:

Knowing what I know about Tinasky, I love that Helen's reaction is a thoughtful "Oh, dear."

Rob (rrreed) says: (panel 3)

:: duh duh DUHHHH ::
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Annual except when the organizing committee is ironically destroyed by their own creations.

Speaking of irony and the Tinasky Study, if dramatic irony is when the characters make ironic statements because they're unaware of things the audience is aware of, what is it when the characters make ironic statements because they're aware of things the audience is unaware of? 'Cause whatever it is, we've got a lot of it coming up.

Rob (rrreed) says: In the wrong hands, I've seen the "opposite of dramatic irony" described as a lazy narrator, lazy writing, and M. Night Shyamalan's modus operandi. Here, though, it obviously falls under a subcategory of foreshadowing.

Perhaps the "opposite of dramatic irony" ought to be termed "dramatic shyamalany"? <grin>
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Dag nab it.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

My goodness! The panels, they are so wide! I can see everything! I know everything! Oh!

I'm going to assume Artie isn't shouting that announcement in panel 3 in quite the same gentle mocking tone as the ladies.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "If I Needed Someone", The Beatles)

Dave is happy, with a big smile ...
Haven't seen this in a while
From him ...
Dave has got a girlfriend!

Helen, Mell, and Artie thinking,
"We know Dave's not stoned or drinking,
So ...
Dave has got a girlfriend!"

Man, this scene is such a trip!
Our nerd in a relationship!
Dave, you stud!
He says, "Oh, crud."

Dave is happy, cheerful, singing ...
Sure sign of the End Time, bringing
Dave has got a girlfriend!

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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile