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The guys in the third panel are based on a couple of scientists I met at Fermilab. I think Phil Foglio likes to draw them into his comics, too, so I'm not being too original here. Oh, and there's my husband peering through the hole in the wall in panel one.

The best part of the strip is easily Artie's irritation at being blithely ignored in the ongoing Helen/Dave drama. Poor Artie.

Few things make me happier than guys with giant bug heads. Remember when Superman flew through some red Kryptonite and his head turned into a giant red ant head? And then it turned out he could communicate telepathically with ants? And this turned out to be useful? Superman comics used to be great.

All I can say about strips like this is that David Cronenberg's The Fly must have made a deeper impact on me than I thought. Also, please note that the characters are drinking Ellmann's Dry.

People actually made this thing! Like, last month! Look! (Thanks to my friend Drave for the link.)

I mean, I knew it was on the horizon, but I thought science would at least wait for me to finish my Narbonic commentary. But noooo. Science is so impatient.

This is pretty generous of Dave, but, you know, he likes building things.

Yeah, I ended up doing a lot of 2001 references around Lovelace, most memorably in the climactic storyline. I'm not even that big a 2001 fan. My favorite Kubrick movie is The Shining, although I'm not entirely sure why. I think I just like haunted-house movies.

Obviously, the best part of this strip is the background of the third panel, where the fly-head guy from Thursday's strip is licking the head of the cyborg girl. Flies are awful, aren't they?

Oh, man, another candidate for Most Obscure Reference in Narbonic. When this strip first ran, several scientists wrote to me to say that they did, in fact, work in evil laboratories in McLean, Virginia. This wasn't too surprising, since McLean is home to the CIA headquarters and other high-level government research stuff.

I chose McLean as the purported location of Tinasky's lab as a reference to my favorite pseudonymous writer, sci-fi author James Tiptree, Jr., a.k.a. Alice Sheldon. This strip was drawn well before Julie Phillip's wonderful 2006 biography Tiptree: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, and it was a bit of a challenge to find out where Sheldon had lived. I ended up finding a copy of her obituary with the information.

My Tiptree obsession is probably obvious by now, or maybe not. I can never predict what people are going to pick up on.

The girl dragging Titus away is Imogene Frog, a teenage girl genius from the 1950s catapulted into our time through a mad home ec experiment gone wrong. Unfortunately, thanks to my limited art skills, she looks a lot like the blonde girl who sometimes shows up at Manganello's Irish Pub, but rest assured that they are different characters. One has glasses and the other doesn't, after all. What more do you want from me?

Imogene has apparently been watching Buddy, the zombie dinosaur created by Phoebe from Jeff Wells' story Mundementia One. Phoebe and Buddy appeared briefly in the crowd scene at the beginning of this storyline.

And again my irrational love of Kevlar rears its fire-resistant head.

46 comments:
Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

It took me two readings to even notice that Artie was in the comic. So, well played.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

"In tonight's debate, God exists by two falls to a submission."

Johnn Reynolds (sleepyjohn) says:

Artie's a bit of a front-runner, isn't he?

Wayne (wayne) says:

@Ed: LOL!  I've always liked tht sketch.

My wife spent some time at Fermilab as a grad student completing her PhD, she accidentally kept her ID card/security clearnance that's supposed to be turned in when she left.  Yep, I married a bad girl....

Hmmm.  She has a doctorate, and she sometimes get mad, did I marry a mad doctor?

Jon W. (kd7sov) says:

Perhaps it's because I've been reading Kaja Foglio's LJ archives recently, but when you mentioned including your husband in this strip I started looking for someone in a bowler hat.

Dave Sullivan (davex) says: Hi Shaenon! It was a huge surprise and pleasure to meet you and Vincent yesterday at the comic strip show opening. Thanks so much for the autographed book. I'm enjoying it immensely. Hope you enjoyed Boston!
Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

I sometimes work as an editor, so I was just dying to see the Narbonic filename story properly punctuated and formatted as a short story.  I posted the result at www.scribd.com/doc/56668599/Narbonic-Filename-Story.  I hope I've done justice to Shaenon's story.  Let me know if I should correct anything.  By the way, does it have a real title?  "Narbonic filename story" isn't nearly as exciting as the story itself.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Hi, Dave! It was a great show, wasn't it?
Adam Underfoot (unnatural20) says: Kay: Almost perfect timing on that story, too; if you'd managed it on Saturday...
JP Chabot (speedball) says:

Did the bald henchgirl ever show up again?

Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

That poor lady's got prosthetic legs, right? Please tell me those are prosthetic legs.
David Given (dg) says:

Is that Laverne from Day of the Tentacle?

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Mack The Knife", Brecht & Weill)

Hanging out now ... with the henchmen ...
And we're drinking ... Ellmann's Dry!
On the right, there, did I mention,
There's that henchman, Steve the Fly!

There's a girl with ... legs like matchsticks,
In her head's a ... metal plate!
And what Steve does makes her retch, ick!
"Steve, don't drink the ... veggie plate!"

Got his champagne ... in a flute there!
Shows he's such a ... classy guy!
I could use him for my wingman!
Go out cruising ...
With Steve the Fly!

Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says:

Did anybody else see this and think, "King of the Hill?"

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Henchgirl there looks like some kind of twisted bizarro-universe Mell.

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

@Shaenon: Superman comics used to be *deranged*.  I think they were plotted by guys who had memory loss from too much LSD.  How else can you explain that entire era?

And what was up with Jimmy Olsen and dressing in women's clothing?

Sam Daniel (samhdaniel) says:

The first panel always makes me LOL....

Jason (hactar) says:

What is Ellman's Dry? (My google foo is lacking.)

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

            The extent of Dave's generosity sort of depends on the ferocity of the men's room inhabitant.
            The bendy phone is way cool (although it's not a quantum bendy phone), but in the real world it will just mean more butt-dialing, pocket-dialing, backpack-dialing, etc.  I'm also not sure I've ever looked at my iPhone and thought, "Gee, I wish I could fold this in half."  Flip side, I have thought that about the iPad.

Jason Summerlott (melkarion) says:

Man, I always though that prof from Monday looked like Professor Zygmunt.  Who let all the undergrad call him Zyggie.  And totally did all his research work at Fermilab...

Coincidence?  Probably.  Can't read too much into the presence of a balding, enthusiasitc physicist...

Totally looks like Zyggie though.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Dave!
somgeij black (somgeij) says: five fingers kso Five Fingers vibrams
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

First was the tele-phone.
Then the cell-phone.
Now the gel-phone ...

Next: the smell-phone.  Just insert it in your nostril, and you'll never be without it!

Good points: 1) The reception is so good, it'll take your breath away.  2) It works with all major networks, so you can pick one.

Bad points: 1) Every time you sneeze, you call Uzbekistan.  2) It's expensive; you end up paying through the ... I'm sorry, I just can't.

Pete (westrider) says: I would not want one of those flexi-phones. I fiddle with stuff all the time, would totally end up turning it off in the middle of calls and stuff.
Wayne (wayne) says:

I can't picture Narbonic Labs having seperate men's and women's restrooms: there's only three of them plus Artie.  I've worked for larger companies that had just a single bathroom with a lock on it.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

Wayne: No, no, the men's and women's rooms are labs where Helen keeps spare body parts to build men and women.  You know how Dr. Frank-n-furter said, "In just seven days, I can make you a man"?  Helen can do it in just seven minutes!  (Dave will soon discover this.)

Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

The implication of Lovelace's cold phrasing is, presumably, that her courter couldn't quite remember what the song was called and was describing it as "that song the computer in 2001 sings". (And that isn't quite what the song's actual name is, either.)

I can't help but feel a bit embarassed when I see that Lovelace is on some feeble little trolley, her only banner a mere A3 printout sticky-taped to the wall, 10 degrees from square.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: "Elmer, Elmer, here is my answer, do,
You're half crazy if you think I'll marry you!
It won't be a stylish marriage
You can't afford a carriage
And I'll be damned if I'll be crammed
on a bicycle built for two!"
Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says:

Best bit of foreshadowing in the whole of Narbonic!

To the tune of I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) by Meat Loaf

I would do anything for Dave,
And I'd self-destruct my evil lab.
I would do anything for Dave,
I'd betray my master that's a fact,
But I'd never sing "Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do"
No way!
I would do anything for Dave,
Oh, I would do anything for Dave,
I would do anything for Dave,
But I won't do that,
No I won't do that!

If anyone want to continue this, they're welcome, but Jim Steinmann is always on the edge of self-parody to start with.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Michelle", The Beatles)

Oh, hell ... I yell,
"No, I won't sing ***ing 'Daisy Bell'!
Go to hell!"

I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!
They treat me like I'm "Hal" ...
I'm such a lonely gal ...
But from all these nerds,
The same old words
They'll ask, I can tell ...

They smell ... as well!
All my cooling fans cannot repel
All their smell!

I hate them, I hate them, I hate them!
I really need a break ...
They make my software ache!
And I wish that Dave
Would come and save
My hardware as well ...
Gosh, he's swell!

Wayne (wayne) says:

@Ed: Lovelace's problem is that cooling fans have to suck in air to move it over the CPU's to cool them, so she'd definitely know if they smalled.  This is also why cooling things in space is difficult: there's no air circulation to move heat from the components.

@Aarie: almost bought it as an ignorant link until I saw the Accounting Assignment Help.  I don't recall Helen undergoing an IRS audit, might have better luck then.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

tune: "Hollaback girl," Gwen Stefani & Pharrell Williams (Gwen Stefani, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., 2004)

Uh-uh, it's a trick
No Tinasky evil lunatic

His staff's not on our mailing list
So I'm pretty sure that he does not exist
There is no Milo Tinasky!
There's no Milo Tinasky!
[2x]

Noooooo evil lab, evil lab
[4x]

I heard the panelists drone on
They're too dim to see that they're just his pawns
People just bloviating, and they don't know what it's about
But we had a little look in the telephone book
And we made a trip to McLean, Virginia
No evil lab in town, it's the henchmen who found out

His staff's not on our mailing list
So I'm pretty sure that he does not exist
There is no Milo Tinasky!
There's no Milo Tinasky!
[2x]

There is no Tinasky
T-I-N-A-S-K-Y
There is no Tinasky
T-I-N-A-S-K-Y

Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

Is that... a giant serpent winding through that doorway behind them?
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine", MacDonald & Carroll)

In the streets of ol' McLean, Virginia,
There's no trace of an evil lab!
There's no madman's lair
That might ensnare ...
No mad scientist is lurking there!

I've searched ... ev'ry acre of ground!
I've researched ... no Tinasky I've found!
In the streets of ol' McLean, Virginia,
There's no trace of an evil lab!

Wayne (wayne) says:

I read Tiptree's Screwfly Solution just a few months ago.  WOW.  Note the lack of exclamation mark.  What a story!  Sad ending to her life though.

Diane Castle (deecee) says:

@Kay: Awesome.  I had to go watch Gwen rock that song on YouTube just so I could sing along using your lyrics.

Thomas Levy (ergonomytch) says:

Shaenon, please do not kill Andrew and yourself.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

            Diane: Thanks!  I'm remodeling a house, and the contractors keep making promises and then breaking them, so I often end up singing this song at them.  'Cause I ain't no hollaback girl!  Kinda freaks them out, though.
            Ed: I had to YouTube this song, because I wasn't familiar with it.  Laurel and Hardy, for the win!

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Thomas: That's what Andrew keeps saying! No murder/suicides, no murder/suicides, nag nag nag...
James Rice (jhrice) says:

Fun Fact involving Kevlar.  The climbing rope Speedy carries with him is actually Kevlar paragliding cord.  It *really* could be used to hold up a person. 

Sam Ashley (evilmidnightlurker) says:

Which gives me the opportunity to ask, yet again: What exactly is the Blonde Girl Who Sometimes Shows Up At Manganello's Irish Pub's name?  Did she get tagged "Helen Gamma" or manage to avoid that fate?

John Doty (johndoty) says:

@Kay, re the filename story: I did much the same thing, although I lack your professional qualifications. I was just trying to make it look pretty, and making and excuse to play with typesetting. :)
http://friendlyhedgehog.com/NarbonicStory/story.pdf
I really wish there were a canonical version, although we must be close enough. (Either that, or Sarge is just weeping silently whenever she seens another mangled version of her story.)

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Now I can't but imagine BOTH Helen and Imogene as Pinky Pie from the latest My Little Pony series.
Wayne (wayne) says:

Just don't rely on kevlar body armor in a knife fight, you might not live to regret it.

Kay Gilbert (kaygilbert) says:

John: Your version looks great!  I like "A Killer Pesto" as the title.

Amy Fiori (amy82986) says:

Given Dave's last comment in this strip, I always thought Imogene was drawn to look like the blonde girl on purpose.

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