Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved: August 9-14, 2004

I really like Dave’s pose in the first panel and his comment in the second. So this is a really good strip for Dave. Good work, Dave.

One of the underlying concepts of Narbonic is that most people have some degree of trouble dealing with really weird stuff, to the point that a significant number just block it out. Dave is a lot better at coping than most, but there’s a reason for that.

The energy drive, a prototype of which appeared in the first Dana/Zeta storyline, will be important later on. By this point I’d decided what the ending of Narbonic would be and figured I’d better start to drop some foreshadowing.

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Dr. Noah was named after a friend of mine who’s a dedicated Objectivist, so I put in a lot of Objectivist stuff. At some point I settled on the idea that gerbils are left-wing and hamsters are right-wing. There was no good reason for this.

I read The Fountainhead in high school in an attempt to win an Ayn Rand Foundation scholarship. I never heard back from the foundation, and in retrospect I’m not sure if they really give out a scholarship, or if it’s just a plot to trick kids into reading Ayn Rand instead of edifying authors like Terry Pratchett. I mean, doesn’t giving out scholarships go against Ayn Rand’s entire philosophy? Maybe they give the scholarship to the kid who writes an essay decrying the scholarship system for supporting social parasites and declaring that you shouldn’t be allowed into college unless you can pay your own way with the fortune you made as a railroad baron.

Like Zeta, I had a wholesome Midwestern upbringing. Now I live in Berkeley and draw cartoons about talking Objectivist hamsters. You see what it does to you?

After introducing Bill at age seven in the time-travel storyline, I decided I wanted to work him into the strip as an adult. So here he is. As you can see, he looks almost exactly like Dave did at the beginning of Narbonic, before he got a better haircut. He smokes, though, which Dave never did. And he wears contacts.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time deciding what kind of pastry Dave, Zeta, and Artie would pick up as an offering. I think Andrew suggested Entemann’s. Where I come from, those glazed Entemann’s cakelike assemblages materialize at most, if not all, gatherings, whether or not anyone brings them. This is another thing that comes with a wholesome Midwestern upbringing.

Dave’s expressions are really good in this strip. I just want that noted.

In this and the other strips in this sequence, I think I did a pretty good job drawing a perfectly unremarkable home for Bill. It’s mostly full of stuff that was in my own apartment at some point. Please take special note of the Domino’s pizza coupons on the fridge.

Bill’s brand of beer was another subject of intense debate when I was writing these strips. Also whether he would call it “MGD.”

Aw, geez, I still have that lamp. I bought it ten years ago and it broke immediately and I still carried it through three moves to date. It’s in my basement now. It really sucks as a lamp, but as a background prop in a comic strip it looks pretty darn good.

I still adore the concept of Dave idolizing his older brother out of all proportion to his actual features and accomplishments. It’s one of my favorite things in Narbonic. Not only is it entirely appropriate to Dave’s warped sense of self-worth, it plays upon one of my favorite comedy tropes: vicious rivalries in which only one party is aware that a rivalry is even going on. Rimmer’s hatred of his cool alternate-universe counterpart, Ace, in “Red Dwarf” was a definite inspiration here.

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41 thoughts on “Mad Science Is Decadent and Depraved: August 9-14, 2004

  1. Monday:

    Zeta’s defensive wall of ironic disaffection is only finite. This world around her seems like a vast joke whose punchline will never arrive, where no laughter will come and send it all away. But soon she’ll have to accept that it is reality that is the joke – that the bounds of law and science and humankind are merely a jest to bring its audience to maniacal cackling.

    For, indeed, those who find themselves rent from reality are those who were only ever its guests. To behold the weirdness is to behold what is only your birthright.

  2. I don’t think Dave would be a very good web designer. He’d be too busy figuring out how to abuse XmlHttpRequest to give the toaster sentience to actually make a stupid login form display correctly on Internet Explorer for the 17 billionth time.

  3. @Leon: “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”  – Voltaire

    It’s a concept that’s been around a lot longer than Sunnydale Syndrdome.

  4. But what about Dana’s hippie that she used to ride?  Where did he end up?  Wandering around San Francisco?  The beach in Mexico?  Congress?

  5. Polite, yes; comprehensible, apart from “be interested in this thing I’m linking!”, not so much.

    Callous though it may seem, I tend to be in favor of the world as a whole being happy, over any individual member of a normally nonsapient species being happy. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

  6. @Jon W. : Have you read “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula LeGuin?  It’s a short story; you can read it in 5  minutes.  Do a google search, read the story, and ask yourself if you still feel the same way.

  7.             @Ed: Thanks—I love Le Guin, but I didn’t know this story.  I wonder if she really sees walking away as a moral stance, since it does no more to help the child than does staying.
                And, in fairness to Jon, he did specify “normally nonsapient species.”  Of course, when such species become sapient, as here or with the robots in Mark Stanley’s Freefall, I think you have to stop regarding them as less worthwhile than the “normally sapient.”

  8. That does it; I’m firing up the time machine and getting Gavrilo Princip thoroughly drunk the night of June 27.

  9. Ed: Keeping Dana from having her fun wouldn’t be inflicting suffering on her for the sake of building a happy world. It would just be applying the same standard of morality to her as we apply to everybody else (except Mell.)

  10. If you win an Ayn Rand Foundation scholarship, does she applaud you personally?  What is the sound of Ayn Rand clapping?

  11. Objectivism strongly disapproves of lying, so I would think the scholarship is legit.

    As for Objectivism opposing gifts: not at all. The motive for the gift, however, is important. It should be to someone who has earned it (and earning it by winning your love is OK), and the act of giving should reward the giver (making the giver happy is sufficient or, in the case of the scholarship, advancing the Objectivist movement).

    Gifts should not be given because someone has guilt-tripped or coerced you into doing it. That, Rand would say, is destructive.

    BTW, I am not an Objectivist. I have problems with some parts of the philosophy. But I hate seeing it so widely misunderstood.


  12. The real question, in my mind, is why rodents seem pre-disposed towards some form of Progressivism.  After all, Rand (and her manly heroes and masochistic heroines) share quite a bit with the other branches of Progressivism.  (Socialism, Facism, Marxism, New Dealers, Great Societers, etc.)  They have the same contempt for tradition, especially traditional mores and religion; the same distrust for “ordinary people” making their own choices; the same desire to institute “Heaven on Earth” through force; the same reliance on rule by an elite; the same willingness to be extremely ruthless.  Thus they have far more in common with Marxists, National Socialists, Cromwellian Puritans, 1930s New Dealers, etc. than they do with traditional Conservatives.  The only major difference is that the Randites distrust government, and favor a self-appointed (or Darwinally selected) elite over a government-selected gang of experts. 

    Maybe it’s the hope of cheap alfalfa?

  13. Duly noted.  Everyone’s expressions are really good in this strip, in fact, which really pulls it together.

  14. AndI just noticed, after all these years, that you spelled “Entenmann’s” wrong.  Picky picky picky …

    (TUNE: “Raining Men”, The Weather Girls)

    Our enemy’s closing; we gotta hide out, lay low!
    I don’t want to do this, but there’s just one place to go …
    Tonight, we can stay here, catch a few Z’s and then,
    Then tomorrow, at breakfast time, we’re gonna have Entenmann’s!

    It’s Entenmann’s!  Holy moley, it’s Entenmann’s, my friends!
    It’s delicious!  I don’t care that
    It’s full of calories and fat!
    It’s Entenmann’s!  Holy moley, it’s Entenmann’s!  What a scent it sends!
    Apple, cherry, cheese,
    Any filling that you please!

    Boy, this stuff is tasty!
    Other pastries pale!
    At Seven-Eleven,
    They had a whole shelf on sale!
    It’s got no nutrition, and goes right to your waist!
    But who cares about that nonsense, we only want the taste!
    It’s Entenmann’s!

  15. Those chocolate-coated donuts are to die for, which, oddly enough, is what will happen if you eat too many of them….

  16. Well, Bill might notice Artie, and have no problem with being introduced, he’d just ignore or re-attribute anything Artie says or any non-normal-gerbil behavior.

  17. (TUNE: “ABC”, The Jackson 5)

    Dave’s driving through the USA
    And says he’s SOL,
    Well, you can stay with me today
    (And on the Q.T. as well!)

    There’s ESPN poker,
    Or golf on NBC …
    It’s fine if you’re a smoker
    (But please, no THC!)

    I bought at the A&P!
    List’ning to R&B!
    Come and have a beer or three!

  18. @confusador: Bill refers to Zeta by name at one point, so I guess he guesses it’s a name gonzo journalists give themselves.

    (Insert inevitable Gonzo –> Oscar Zeta Acosta pun here)

  19. @Joel: Certified Public Accountant (Chartered Accountant to the Brits) and Miller Genuine Draft.  Shaenon was right—no one calls it that except in the ads.

  20. @Dvandom, re: your most recent comment: Remember, Bill has the most advanced form of weirdness censor.  He doesn’t see Artie or the Madblood robots at all, blocking their existence out completely.

  21. There’s a saying that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.  Dave has never head this saying.

  22. (TUNE: “You’re The Top”, Cole Porter)

    Bill’s the best!
    He’s so nice and funny!
    He’s the best,
    He’s got looks and money!
    He grew up to be a successful CPA!
    And he’s smart, you know,
    Got a four-point-oh
    For his GPA!

    Bill’s the best,
    He’s the coolest-looking!
    Knows Italian cooking!
    And he’s certified,
    ‘Cause he passed the state-wide test!
    He was first, so I’m the worst,
    And Bill’s the best!

  23. “One of the underlying concepts of Narbonic is that most people have some degree of trouble dealing with really weird stuff, to the point that a significant number just block it out.”

    And how is this different from the so-called “real world”, nyao?

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