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Eric: Drunken insight.

Something Positive
(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Oh Fuck!)

Necessary caveat. I am at least as drunk as I have been since I was...



Twenty-two was an interesting age. We used to go to the Rongovian Embassy to the United States, and drink beer from around the world, while listening to Blues. Particularly Pete Panik. But my big friend Frank remembers that.

Anyway, my level of inebriation, while profound and pervasive, is secondary.

We need to talk Something Positive.

You have to understand something, though, before we begin.

You have to understand that January 27 was my birthday. And for the first time in years? It was terrible. A truly horrid birthday.

And therefore, understand also that this snarking was performed when I was literally as drunk as I have been since I was twenty two years old. At the aforementioned Rongovian Embassy. Or the Rongo, as we called it.

Frank? I am drunker than I was after your bachelor party, just for the record.

Which is about right, for Something Positive today.

You see, we had a really cool -- and horrid -- thing happen.

See, Randy built up our expectations. He really did. He let us realize that Fred is going to be the tragedy of the strip. He's going to develop Alzheimer's. He really is. And that builds an expectation.

Only, expectations never pan out. They really don't.

Take me.

My entire life, it's been a given I would get my doctorate in English Literature.

Only, I'm not going to.

I'm thirty eight, as of January 27, 2006.

And I won't get my Doctorate. Ever.

See, if I started on my Masters at the earliest possible convenience, I would be forty before I got it.

Man, I'm drunk.

And then, given the average time from a Masters to a Ph.D., I would be 46 before I got that.

And then? 5-10 years of "adjunct faculty" before I could even get an assistant professorship somewhere. Which mean, if I'm lucky, my new career would start when I'm 52.

Fifty-fucking-two. Thirteen years before I'm supposed to retire.

Which means it won't happen.


I live my fucking life for critical discourse, and I will never, ever have a Ph.D.

Happy fucking birthday, Eric. This is why you're so fucking drunk. That and the combination of banality and pyrrhic effort that is critical discourse in webcomics.

Seriously. I spend the majority of my life in the critical discourse, and I will never, ever have the minimum qualification to be even marginally qualified to teach a class or be. Instead, I do my best to write stuff here, to inspire discussion. To make a difference somewhere.

And in the end, what does it mean? It means I get made fun of by Fleen. For taking myself too seriously. For being.....

Whatever the fuck I am. Besides drunk.

I don't know. I don't care.

And weirdly enough, it makes me uniquely qualified to discuss today's events in Something Positive..

See, here's the thing. The one person Fred knows he can count on.... the one person he trusts, even though he knows he's losing his own critical faculties, He's losing his mind. All Fred can count on is Faye.

Randy faked us out perfectly. Because Faye is a saint. She has the strength to deal with Fred's growing dementia. She can deal with his anger and his resentment and his dark ways of showing love.

And now... Fred has lost Faye.

We have lost Faye.

If you look at her cast page, she's been reclassified to flashbacks only. Just like Scotty. Just like Rose.

Fred has lost Faye. She's now in the past. She's dead.

It's like we've been hit by an anvil.

Understand, I'm thirty eight years old and drunk off my ass. I've had a glass of cabernet sauvignon with dinner, two shots of Speysdale (my god, it sucked), 2-3 shots of General John Stark Vodka, 2-3 shots of Laiphroig (which puts the lie to the harshness of Speysdale), and 2-3 shots of Talisker.

Understand also, a single shot of the above is enough to get me drunk.

I am emotionally and alcoholically prepared to discuss Fred and Faye.

You see, none of us are ready for death. None of us. If we're told someone is going to die, we can begin to prepare. But death doesn't punch a timeclock and time doesn't care what plans we had. It nails us even when we're happy.

And here, we're being nailed. Hard. Intensely.

I'm glad I'm drunk, or I'd have to drink heavily.

Randy Milholland gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Now, I just have to deal with all this liquor in my system and no prospects.

Man, I'm closer to Somethng Positive than ever.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at January 28, 2006 2:09 AM


Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at January 28, 2006 3:01 AM

Dang, I don't even read the strip and this one hit me hard. I can only imagine what you true believers are feeling right about now.

Comment from: Phil Kahn posted at January 28, 2006 3:04 AM

I cried. It took reminding myself that it is still a webcomic and not real people to shake me from the terror I was feeling.


Comment from: Shelby Reiches posted at January 28, 2006 3:05 AM

Wow, that makes two of us who are at least reasonably drunk and have read Something Positive tonight. Of course, I was not imbibing such quality liquor, and if anyone actually considers Milwaukee's Best (the title of which makes me dread anything lesser from the state and Miller company) quality I shall be forced to defenstrate him or her with great rapidity.

Here's to Jeph and his wonderful, quotable dialogue.

This may be the first event in a webcomic that has driven me to words of simultaneous anger and praise. I sent a rather virulent e-mail to Randy before the snark was up that I'm sure will end up in the spam bin, but it's not all bad because, hey, I was still praising him and his evil, malevolent goodness. Not that that makes sense.

This hits hard. It hits really hard and I don't know if it's because of the suddeness and the unexpectedness or just because it's Faye, but it hurts. If I could, I would join Fred in crying because I feel that loss.

Milholland, you magnificent bastard, if this isn't one of the best comics I've ever seen I don't know what is. Bravo.

Comment from: Coff posted at January 28, 2006 3:09 AM

Reality does not make me cry. I am not a hugely emotional person. Family tragedy will find me acting as a man of stone, upon whom others can lean. Fiction, however, can reduce me to a sobbing wreck.

I thought, at first, that what was happening was that Fred's Alzheimer's was starting to show symptoms, hence his look of confusion on seeing his sleeping wife. That didn;t make sense to me. So I went back, and I read it more closely. that's when it hit.

Oh shit


Faye is dead.

And I cried. I cried and I made one of those "Dammit, Millholland, you made me cry" posts on the livejournal feed. Then I checked here, to see if there was anything posted. This is when I found out that Faye was now in the "only in flashbacks" section of the cast page, and I admit that set me off again. So much that I'm replying here as well, which I don't normally do.

Randy is GOOD.

Comment from: Aerin posted at January 28, 2006 3:10 AM

I'm not drunk. I just read that comic. I need to get drunk immediately. Jesus.

Comment from: JSigala posted at January 28, 2006 3:20 AM

Man. ....man.

Comment from: Ray Radlein posted at January 28, 2006 3:38 AM

If I had only been a little more patient, my cry of desperation would have been unnecessary. But then, this is not the sort of situation wherein patience and desperation can stand to be in the same room, much less work together.

Well, now Faye doesn't have to watch Fred dwindle away at least.


Comment from: arscott posted at January 28, 2006 3:53 AM

I just called my mom. Where I am, it's currently 12:30 AM, and my mom is the sort of person who goes to bed at nine or ten. I just woke my mom up at twelve fucking thirty at night, to tell her "I love you".

After reading that comic, I covered my mouth and began to scream. I spent five minutes screaming, suffocating that scream. Then I spend half an hour, staring at a computer screen.

Then I called my mom, and now I'm writing this.

I have a paper to write for intro to shakespeare. I have to prepare for an RPG I'm running tomorrow. I have to sleep.

But I won't. I'll just spend hours staring at that little spot of white wall above my closet door. I'll be laughing. I'll be weeping horrible little tears of laughter, wishing that I was happy enough to cry.

I will never be able to watch an absurdist play again. Every time I see a lady buried up to her waist in garbage, or two clowns waiting near a bench, I'll just stand up and scream "It's Fake! You're doing it wrong! You're not making me scream and laugh and cry and stare at the wall and write random fucking messages on the internet! You're not doing it right. It's Fake. It's fake."

Damn you, Randal Keith Milholland.

Damn you.

Comment from: W. I. Shane M. posted at January 28, 2006 4:13 AM

Eric- You have more influence over more writers then any career-academic Phd I've ever met.

SP deserves that biscuit. It's more real in my mind then most of the days I've actually lived through. Now that's good art, and quite deserving of biscuits.

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at January 28, 2006 4:23 AM

Oh bleep.

No, let me rephrase that.

Oh fuck.

It's interesting how Something Positive seems to be one of those truly unique webcomics out there. (Well, for me, anyway. If anyone knows of something comparable, please let me know.) It's one of the few comics I really have any emotional investment in. Sure, I like many and love slightly less, but only a handful can just stop me in my tracks like this. I suppose it's that I see myself in Davan, only a few years in the future. (Not in situation, mind you, but in personality. In thought.) I am cynical. Very much so at times. I can see myself turning into Davan, given the right circumstances. And that scares me. Because I know what I would be missing if I did. But I'm not blind enough to not know how rare those things are. And how hard it can be to find. But I want to see Davan find happy. I want to know he can, if you will, come back. We all do. We want to know he can come back so we have hope that we can come back as well. None of us are stupid. (With the exception of some ;) We can see the world and how it chips away at us. And we want to know that it can be repaired. Davan can come back. We can come back. I can come back.

Well that came out of nowhere. I can't tell if that's insightful or just rambling. Maybe both. And I'm not even drunk.

Comment from: William_G posted at January 28, 2006 4:28 AM

Eric, I realize it's the booze, but you're sounding as if you regret your life.

Which is a crying shame. But it's also a good time to remember that birthdays are just another day, and as long as you're alive you just gotta keep on keeping on.

Comment from: lark posted at January 28, 2006 4:32 AM

I saw it coming. No, really.

Randy loves turning things on their head. The moment I read the first sentence of this sequence, my gut told me what to expect by the end.

Sometimes, I hate being right all the time.

On the bright side, at least she doesn't have to endure watching her husband descend into Alzheimers. Speaking from experience, that's a piece of mercy in and of itself.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at January 28, 2006 4:32 AM

So, does he, like, totally HATE his characters or what?

Comment from: Denyer posted at January 28, 2006 4:37 AM

I think I'm thrown slightly by having misread character ages so much. The other part of my mind is chipping in with "yes, this (or things like it) are going to happen, so why worry about it?"

Despite fantastical elements, s*p is unquestionably real when it comes to characters. Maybe that's why I've switched to working out what to do to help the situation, and am now mentally wandering around somewhat aimless because there isn't anything to be done, on account of it being pixels on a screen.

This is the first thing
I have understood:
Time is the echo of an axe
Within a wood.

Hmm... now would be an excellent juncture to seize hold of a purpose.

Comment from: Denyer posted at January 28, 2006 4:41 AM

And... er, Eric? Pieces of paper. Fuck 'em. People are all that's important.

You make a difference.

Comment from: Dragonmuncher posted at January 28, 2006 4:46 AM

I've been drinking a little also, and while I may not have had any sort of depressing realization, I'm still depressed enough, for various reasons, at 4am to have this hit me right where it hurts.

From a purely technical standpoint, of course, this means some big changes in the Texas world. Monette's gone AND Faye's gone. The only friends of Davan's parents have split up, and seem to be drawing away from them. Davan's sister is finally on her own (if down the block). So not only has Fred lost the woman he loves and lives with, but he's lost the straight (wo)man for his sarcastic remarks- his daughter is caustic enough to be like Davan, and Fred is already enough like a gentrified Davan to make the interaction not as interesting. Faye was, as Eric said, a saint.

From a viewpoint OTHER than the purely technical... I can't even begin. A gasp, followed by an intense sadness, might be the best description of my reaction. But actually, it was closer to Fred's reaction- dawning realization, mixed with shock. I'm sure grief will follow soon after. And I sincerely doubt that Fred will survive his wife long- probably not suicide, but just that apathy towards surviving that affects many surviving spouses.

I think the thing I like the most about S*P is that it's a sitcom in the sense that the characters have defined roles, and the strip is about how the characters interact with each other and the world around them. In other words, it's about the characters, not the events.

The other thing I love about S*P is the sense of change. Most characters grow (except that guy that looked like Jesus- whatever happened to him?). Their situations change. Aubrey's a business tycoon in a stable relationship, PeeJee neither lusts after a gay man nor is in a relationship with an idiot, and even if Davan has only matured slightly, he's changed houses repeatedly, jobs, girlfriends, and pets.

I just get the feeling that when S*P is finally over, and you start reading from the beginning of the archives, you're going to go, "Ah, Davan, that sucker. He thinks life sucks... wait till he sees what happens next."

Psh, I've started rambling.

Erm... it's hard to say this in a way that's not all gushy, but don't feel too bad about not getting a doctorate. I honestly think you've had more effect on my life than any teacher has. Your essays on webcomics completely opened up a world to me that I had originally thought was occupied only by Penny Arcade, Megatokyo, and CRFH. Your other essays I read simply for enjoyment, as the best essays should be.

And besides, "Dr. Burns" sounds vaugely evil, like it should be a character in Narbonic.

Before you go getting excited, remember that if you were a character in Narbonic, you'd probably get turned into a girl and then be eaten by some new kind of flesh-eating Ooze.

Comment from: miyaa posted at January 28, 2006 4:49 AM

Wow. If there was that little tell-tale sign that something really bad was going to happen, I think it was how Fred could never get Faye to stop doing or talking long enough to get her to realize the problems he would start to fall into. And then the talking brought back good memories for both of them, and it helped made the playing hooky day very pleasant for both of them, to the point where Fred either forgot or didn't want to bring up his oncoming dementia.

Now the real tragedy is just beginning. He never had a chance to tell her. And I'll bet Fred's health, attitude, and mental state will just completely go downhill. Freefall, even. Now that Faye's gone, there isn't any real reason for Davan to go back home anytime after the funeral. Heck, this has the potential to be a family breaker, even as dysfunctional as this one is.

I've noticed that often the couples who are the closest, most tight-knitted friends and lovers throughout their entire lives together, are the ones who have the closest period between their deaths. It's really the essence of the phrase "waiting for the second shoe to drop." Which is what I'm going to expect now with Something Positive. Fred will develop full-blown Alzhemer's really quickly now and will either die from this or a broken heart before this year is over.

Man, Randy should start writing award winning novels for a living.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at January 28, 2006 4:51 AM

Ten bucks says Fred lives on for a surprisingly long time, if only because it'll be that much more depressing that way.

Comment from: Abby L. posted at January 28, 2006 5:01 AM

I think real people suffering is more important than fake people suffering. Eric, I'm sure you'll probably feel silly about this post in the morning, and who knows, maybe you'll delete or lock it. But it's apparent that you were really upset when you wrote it, and I just want you to know that it's NEVER too late. I mean, don't you think it would be worth getting your doctorate if those fifteen or twenty or whatever amount of years you were able to be a professor were the happiest years of your life?

My mom had to quit college, because she got pregnant with me, and last year she went back to school to be a nurse. She gets better grades than I do! She thought she would never get to do what she wanted to either. I don't know whether that actually means anything to you, but I know that when I think about it, it inspires me.

You of all people should know that nothing is impossible, having been given a new lease on life. Please don't give up.

Comment from: Gavin R. posted at January 28, 2006 5:19 AM

You want to know how long I've been waiting for this post to come up, knowing this post would have to come up, [i]needing[/i] this post to come up, so that I could get some sort of....not closure, but just notice that this had happened? I saw this comic [i]before Randy had gotten around to moving Faye to flashbacks[/i]. Hell, before he'd gotten the LJ feed set up, even. I looked there trying to find the dialogue about this comic, the one I knew was coming.

Why the hell that matters I have no clue. All I know is that it's hitting me hard and hitting harder now that the dialogue is open.

And I'm not one to get this drawn into the lives of people not real as we judge real in this world.

Hell, save humor, I can only think of two other times when fiction grabbed me hard enough to [i]care[/i] if the characters got hurt: Hitchcock's [i]Psycho[/i] and the book [i]Les Miserables[/i] (damn, did the Thernardiers piss me off!).

Anywho. It's 4 A.M., and I'm ranting because I've been up for quite too long and because there's likely some Malibu Rum still haunting my system (I, too, have been hitting the sauce tonight). Gonna get some sleep, and see if this can be more cogently dealt with in the morning...

Comment from: Merus posted at January 28, 2006 5:48 AM

So, does he, like, totally HATE his characters or what?

I get the feeling that Randy is not particularly pleased with his life, and you know what they say about how every character has a bit of their creator inside them.

But this is beside the point: Eric? You've been made fun of by Fleen. Almost no career academics get made of, and yet, all sorts of people get torn a new one by Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show every week.

You might be feeling that you're not doing anything valuable with your life, but you know you've made it when people take comfort in jeering at you and it's not Something Awful doing it. In the histories of webcomics, you'd probably be down as the first intelligent, well-spoken, eloquent person to sit down and take webcomics as they are seriously. Scott McCloud kicked the thing off, but he was all about potential. Holkins and Krahulik perfected the technique, but they don't take what they helped create especially seriously. But you! You've almost single-handedly make it okay for webcomic creators to look at what they're doing now, and drove home the idea that this isn't merely amateur hour on the Internet, there are other people, more intelligent and well-read people, and they care greatly about what you are doing, and they will write about it and dissect your work with incredible preciseness, so don't goof off.

And look where webcomics are now! They're arguably healthier than an industry that's been established for nearly a hundred years, with more experimentation and more opportunities, and there are people who are actually jumping ship from print to Internet and succeed. Webcomics aren't too far off being a Big Deal, two or three years, and who, exactly, is one of its foremost authorities?

I recently gave up my degree in Comp Sci because I couldn't find anyone who said that it was actually relevant to the work they were doing. It's a piece of paper, and it will cease to thrill. You've got certification in the hundreds of readers and creators that care what you have to say.

And how many college professors have a Wikipedia entry?

Comment from: Doc posted at January 28, 2006 5:51 AM

I was another person who originally assumed Fred, of course it makes a lot of sense for it to be Faye (beyond of course 'Hey why just kill a character or give one Alzheimers when I can do BOTH?') since Faye isn't as established a character as much as Fred (not that I'm sure Randy couldn't make her so following Fred's death).

My call for where this is going is that ultimately (I anticipate some back and forth with Davan living in Texas for a while) Fred will move to Boston, probably selling his house (which will provide Davan with money for a new place, he is still living with PeeJee isn't he?) but will attempt to take himself out of the picture somehow as his condition worsens but before it gets too much worse (not suicide, more checking into a hospice or something anonymously).

Probably the truly ironic (where ironic = fashionable but not at all accurate use of the term ironic) thing is that Faye died happier than she had been for years. Fred's death, while tragic, would have solved problems Faye's can only create them.

I wonder if we'll get to see Davan's immediate reaction on hearing the news. Millholland normally skips that sort of thing but this is a special case. First frame: Davan happy with choking girl, Second: gets phone call, Third: reaction, Fourth: Jesus/Rippy the razor pointing and laughing his arse off (or maybe Issac Newton? 'Equal and opposite reaction BITCH!').

Eric, For all that the opinion of an anonymous (and admittedly young) poster counts: Your words are being heard and respected by many (if not most) of the people in the industry and that doesn't count for nothing.
I think you've got to figure out why you want a Ph.D, if it's so you can communiate your ideas to others, as I mentioned above you are a big freaking voice in the industry, that's influence. If it's because you want your words to be published and therefore more permanent then why not get your Ph.D? Sure your career in the field might not get very far at that age, maybe not even to assistant professorship, but you'll get to publish *something* which is more than if you just decide it's too late.
And for the love of pete, what's wrong with the Fleen guys making fun of you? Fleen was assembled to be an objective, serious webcomics criticism site and they poked fun at *you* as being too serious. Think about it man, in certain circles you basically are webcomics criticism. You have reached a point where if anyone talks about webcomics criticism they will mention you, no question. That's not nothing.

Anyway that's my slightly more sober, but not nearly so eloquent, rant.

Comment from: TRS-80 posted at January 28, 2006 6:58 AM

Two points:

1) At first I thought Faye had committed suicide, for some not entirely clear reason, because Fred was holding an (odd-looking) bottle of pills.

2) Eric: if there's anything working in the computer industry has taught me, it's that qualifications do not matter.

Comment from: Ghastly posted at January 28, 2006 7:26 AM

On the internet you don't have to have qualifications, you just have to be really persistent.

Comment from: Meagen Image posted at January 28, 2006 7:31 AM

Randy hates his characters? What do you mean?

Let's look at this from Faye's perspective. She spent her last day in the company of the man she loved. She remembered all the good times they had had. They told each other "I love you". They shared one last kiss.

And then she died in her sleep. Peacefully, with no suffering, something just gave out inside her and she never woke up.

That's probably my #1 way I'd like to die, right there.

S*P has always been a changing strip. People grew up, assholes became slightly maladjusted geeks, people moved out and people moved back in. Why is it suddenly such a big deal that someone's died? People die. Especially old people. If there's one recurring theme in S*P, it's that sometimes shit happens and you just need to deal with it.

I think this has the potential to bring the family closer together and make Davan stop whining about how life has it in for him especially. They'll grieve, of course, but grief passes. And it's not like any of them has had a row with Faye that they're going to regret forever - they parted on fairly amicable terms.

Maybe it's a sign that S*P Had Me and Lost Me, but I'm not seeing a "holy fuck" moment here.

Comment from: VetEpiGirl posted at January 28, 2006 8:12 AM

Degrees . . .

I'm currently 26. I've been in school since I was 5. Straight! No more than a summer off in 21 years (almost 22). My goal (only possibly achievable) is to finish by the time I'm 30. And this is just to begin to qualify for the job I want. Eric, I think I know what you're feeling.

Part of me wants to say: forget it, move on, look at what you've done with your life. Me, I've got a pile of debt, no savings, and a piece of paper. And no one calls me Dr. You've got, well, respect and a following.

Then again, if I didn't think it worthwhile, I wouldn't be doing it. So, what I will say: if you really want it, do it. If you only feel that way when you're drunk, don't do it.

Comment from: Canuck-Errant posted at January 28, 2006 8:39 AM

So you need a PhD to teach people now? To have an opinion, to be able to give your views to the world?

I dislike any system that says you can't have an impact on the world before you're at least 22.

Comment from: Kail Panille posted at January 28, 2006 8:43 AM

I don't have anything to say about Faye's death that hasn't already been said.

On the parallel thread: Man, I wish Fleen would make fun of me.

Comment from: Escushion posted at January 28, 2006 9:09 AM

"Reality does not make me cry. I am not a hugely emotional person. Family tragedy will find me acting as a man of stone, upon whom others can lean. Fiction, however, can reduce me to a sobbing wreck."

I'm really the same way, and often I feel guilty about not feeling the way I should feel. I think we have a different relation to fictional characters than real ones.

This one just shocked me. I didn't see it coming at all. I was almost in tears when I read it and was too stunned to do anything for a little.

I also hope Eric regains past confidence and soberness.

Comment from: quiller posted at January 28, 2006 9:20 AM

I'd say I'm in a similar position to Eric, but I'm not. I pretty much gave up on doing graduate work in Physics my Junior year of college, and I think at this point in my mid thirties, if I get any graduate degree it will be something where a masters is good enough.

So here's what I have to say to Eric. Think of how many comparative literature professors out there are yearning to be writers. And here you are, a writer yearning to be a comparative literature professor. Yearning to spend a whole lot of money on graduate work so you can be qualified to get a job that doesn't even pay all that well. Whereas here you have validation that you are a writer. You are invited to speak at conventions on Web comic criticism, because you are a pioneer in the field. Maybe you aren't making a living at writing yet, but you are published, and you know that when you do get a longer work published you'll have a much bigger audience than the average 'first time' author.

I understand the pull of the academic life, but I think if you take stock of the things you have instead of things you don't have, you have a lot to be satisfied with. Bah, I'm not you, but forgive me if from my perspective being the pre-eminent critic of webcomics, being able to get paid for writing stuff for games, having a cool girlfriend (even if she doesn't allow comments on her coolest websnark post ever!) and the admiration of a good number of your webcomic peers is something that might be envied rather than scorned. Call me crazy and naive, but sometimes Websnark makes me feel like I'm at the Algonquin roundtable of webcomics and general geekdom.

Here is what today's SP tells me with regards to you. The comic reiterates that the world of webcomics is a unique world of its own where fine art is being created on a daily basis, and commented on with that same immediacy. And at the forefront of analysis of this world, is a guy with a bachelor's degree, an IT job, and a web log. And that seems right to me on the web, where a person is judged by what they can do, not how many letters they have after their name. A world where works by high school students with ideas and a bit of free time are judged alongside those of long-time professionals. And ... dear god, I need to get to bed. Umm, Randy = bastard, Eric = depressed drunk who is luckier than he thinks, I = someone who'd better get some sleep now.

Comment from: sinless posted at January 28, 2006 9:30 AM

Sorry your birthday wasn't any good.

I think the PH.D. is still worth going after, even if you never teach with it.

My feelings on S.P. have been expressed elsewhere, but I do have to say that Mr. Milholland should watch out for his shins if he shows up at Zeus Comics for free comic day again. :P

Comment from: vilious posted at January 28, 2006 9:42 AM

Abbe L. is smart; real people matter most. Eric, sixteen years ago a smart, able young man with the same name as you looked at the prospect of getting his PhD. and decided that something else was more important. He was just as smart as you, and he was much more in touch with his current situation than you, looking back, can be.

Eric Burns at 22 made the right decision. Wanting him to have done something else is wanting to go back in time and replace him with Eric Burns at 38. This is logically absurd, but even if it were not, it would be wrong. That young man had things he wanted and needed to do, and it is wrong even to wish that he had been someone else wanting something else. What he wanted and needed to do was well worth while. This is evident merely by reading his creation, Eric Burns at 38.

Oh, and you can get that PhD. any time. What you probably can't do is have an academic career, but that is a different, lesser thing. It is education that counts, not status.

As to Milholland. Past a certain age, one wakes up with dead people every morning. Sometimes it is the people one could have been; sometimes it is one's loved ones. My grandfather said once that every night he dreamed my grandmother was still alive, and every morning had to realize again that she was dead. It was a mercy when his memory started to go, and he thought that she had just stepped out of the room for a minute.

Those three repetitions of "Oh" are the best-timed things I have seen in a strip. Timed? Spaced? Whatever it is that serial artists do. Mr. Milholland has forgotten more technique than most artists will ever learn.

Sorry to drop so much text under your nose when you are hung over, but it was a fine, passionate post.

Comment from: roninkakuhito posted at January 28, 2006 10:09 AM

Eric. First, I suspect that you can find a PhD program that skips the Master's Degree. A lot of them switch from Masters to PhD in the second year with time at masters counted toward the doctorate. You ought to be able to get funding for it, so there is no massive debit issue. As an established writer, you might be able to get some/a lot of "experience credit" and even possibly start teaching while you are working on your dissertation. Hell man, go for it! (Says the guy who is on extended hiatus on his own degree.) And I don't know, yeah, you'll only have 15-20 years to teach unless they let you start teaching early (and if you go to a smallish private school, they probably will let you teach real classes before you have the PhD. One of our family friends essentially headed the Botany dept at his university on the strength of years as a park ranger and a Master's Degree.)
I'd look into it. Seems to me that it would be worth it to get the piece of paper, and maybe even more worth it to be one of the subset of people with the paper who also actually I don't know, write.

Comment from: Mario posted at January 28, 2006 10:12 AM


That is all.

Comment from: Sundre posted at January 28, 2006 10:27 AM

I sensed the looming anvil of doom, but it didn't land until the clock changed and there was still no response. After I finished reading it last night, I came over to Websnark and the snarkoleptics community and realized that I had absolutely no idea what to say. I was rendered speechless til sleep found me some hours later.

Ray, I know your desperation precisely. I need to get my roommates to read some of the webcomics so I can go omg at them when SP or Narbonic break my brain. And yes, omg can be a verb.

It hurts, but it's a good hurt. Faye got a perfect farewell. How often does that actually happen?

I called my Mom this morning to tell her I loved her.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer posted at January 28, 2006 10:40 AM

"Abbe L. is smart; real people matter most."

Up here in the tundra, we know how to take care of people (which usually pisses them off if they are on a diet, since we do so with food).

Eric, getting a Ph. D. should have nothing to do with getting a job as a professor. Education is not simply about employability. If you want the degree, get it. As expensive as graduate school can be, Eudaimonia and/or peace of mind are worth an aweful lot. If it isn't important to you (and I think that it shouldn't have to be), don't bother with it. It only has the value that you ascribe to it. Discourse is not like medicine, you don't need a terminal degree to practice. The only thing graduate school does is put you in close contact with people skilled enough to help you improve. You've done well enough without, and garnered more respect within your chosen subfield than most people with Ph. D.s. Face it, you're the 800 lb gorilla of webcomics critique, else why would fleen want to lampoon you?

On S*P, I'm rather surprised that something like this happened so soon after Monette left. She's just starting her life in California, but it'll be incongruous if she doesn't try to go back to take care of Fred. Randy will have to work quite hard to make sure that seems realistic.

Lastly, we all know, "2-3 shots" means, "3 shots," so Erik had twelve drinks and stayed up until two in the morning. It's what, 10:30 over there now? Could someone with a key to his place (if any read this weblog) go over and make sure he's still breathing? That'd be a good plan.

Comment from: mr k posted at January 28, 2006 10:46 AM

I feel a bit foolish adding something after what everyone has said, but I'm going to. I don't rhink anyone ends up where they expected. And I imagine most who do are a little disappointed. Nothing ever turns out how you want it to, nothing is ever how you imagined it. So rather than focusing on the opportunities you've missed, we have all missed, which will necessarily be many, and legion, why not look at everything you have succeded in? As many have noted, you have made a name for yourself- it seems likely to me that your name will be bandied about for a long time, and heavily respected. You have had a lasting effect on many people, and not everyone gets to say that.

And you know, life does not end at 60- it does not end at 38. If you feel the doctorate is something you need, then go for it. I dunno if my words will mean anything- I'm just some guy with the internet, but I hope you get something out of it.

As to something positive? See, this is why it is EASILY my favourite webcomic, and indeed comic. I want print versions, damn it.

Comment from: abb3w posted at January 28, 2006 10:52 AM

In regards to the degree, it's not too late to get a PHD. You may be right, that it's a bit late to be chasing it as a token towards a university tenure track position... but not impossibly so. The real question is, what do you want to do with your life, and will chasing a PHD help you achieve that? I'll not waste time on all the details of my story, but by interesting co-incidence I expect to be 38 when I finish my BS in computer science. I need the degree largely as a way to get through the resume cut -- I'm already working in the field while I finish getting the degree, but this isn't a position I want to stay in forever.

I'll also note, a PHD is *NOT* an absolute requirement for teaching at a university. A master's degree is usually enough for an adjunct position, prior to embarking on a tenure track run. They will often let people in with a mere bachelor's degree to teach introductory courses... IF they have significant practice in the field. Not all schools admit this up front... but almost any English department would jump at the chance to give someone like Kurt Vonnegut an endowed chair and a few classes.

So, if you want a university position at this point, you have two routes: the standard (MA)/PHD/Tenure path... or, (1) become the absolute leader in the field of webcomics criticism, (2) place your position completely beyond challenge while (3) getting academia to take that field seriously. Gee, you're partway through step two on "Plan B"....

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at January 28, 2006 10:58 AM

On Faye: I confess I wasn't that affected. This may seem odd from the man who topped the comments on the West Wing snark with the story I told there. But I did watch Jonathan Kent die again this week, I may be saturated. Plus, I'm with Meagen, above. This is even arguably the way Fred would have wanted Faye to go if God or Randy had asked him first. And if he pines away for her instead of living through his degeneration, perhaps that's a net gain in his own overall happiness and his family's.

Eric, the people arguing against your emotional investment in the degree you desire have a point. I only have an A.A. in commercial art, and I've never been dissed by anyone bigger than Something Awful, but I draw a cartoon every day which is read by people all over the world and that's all I really wanted since I was sixteen. (Say, that's thirty years.) With the advent of the Communication Age, the evolution of the measure of accomplishment is in full gear. When you're over your hangover, remember what it is you feel when you're driven to write about the advent of the new medium that is webcomics, or about the cool kids thinking you're the cool kid, or about how a polite barista is an aesthetic affront.

On the other hand, I'm doing school part-time. I may not get my comp.sci. B.S. till just before I retire, but if I hadn't been in World Lit last semester I couldn't have called out Dr. Judy Shoaf on the Arthurnet mailing list this month on something she'd misquoted about Inferno. Is the degree all you're after, or do you also value the process?

The gripping hand is, my wife just got her J.D. at 47.

Seriously, dude, check in when you wake up, 'kay?

Comment from: Remus Shepherd posted at January 28, 2006 11:11 AM

Eric, it's never too late. You and I are the same age, and I have also missed out on getting a PhD (in Physics). We may be gettin' old, but we are way too young to give up on improving ourselves.

Are there jobs out there for Masters in your field? If not, and you must get the PhD, go for it -- but do it because it's what you love, not because it'll be an easy career choice. In the end that's the most important thing. You can do it, man.

Re: Something Positive...meh. Too much deus ex machina for me, and too little of the funny. But that's just me.

Hope your birthday is better next year. My advice is give yourself a half-birthday in six months, if you're still feeling down.

Comment from: Bruce K posted at January 28, 2006 11:17 AM

You want the degree. You're pushing towards the degree. Are you sure that's the only road towards the degree?

I got my bachelor's. Never spent a day working towards a master's. Spent a few years working menial jobs and went to a fairly prestigious school at night and ended up with a J.D. and a bar card. Some of my classmates were older than Paul Gadzowski's wife. At least one came into class one day to announce that he'd just become a grandfather.

Then there's my father. Bachelor's, Dartmouth '52. Went straight towards working towards his Ph.D. in physics.

Never got there.

Got sidetracked on the way to his thesis, and got hired on by a laboratory at the Rockefeller University. Never completed his doctoral work at Cornell, just kept going with the work at Rockefeller. Became a professor. Became head of the prestigious Biophysics Laboratory, which originally bore the name of its founder, the Nobel lauerate Keffer Hartline, and now is the Knight Laboratory.

He's a tenured professor at Rockefeller now, starting his forty-sixth year at that institution, and people call him Doctor Knight because people just assume. On a bet, I'd say he's the only tenured faculty member there not to have a Ph.D.

Just a measly bachelor's from 1952.

Don't know if this helps. Don't know if it makes a damn's worth of difference.

Comment from: Aufero posted at January 28, 2006 11:32 AM

Just read Something Positive. I've been reading it for quite a while, but this year I've been glued to it - I think it's because (among other things) Milholland seems willing to make changes to his universe to advance a story line. Faye dying is a huge shock from any perspective, and it's going to have interesting results on the story.

On the degree... I'm 44 and bipolar. I think I finally realized last year I'm not getting that doctorate I had in mind at 18. It wasn't a pleasant realization, but it doesn't invalidate any of the other things I've accomplished, or will do in the future. (And I suspect I'm going back for a bachelor's in a different field in a couple of years, when my kids go off to college. Not for career goals, for satisfaction - because, dammit, I worked my ass off two separate times in college and never got that piece of paper, and I still want it.)

Oh - happy birthday.

Comment from: Robin Z posted at January 28, 2006 11:51 AM

You know, reading this, today, makes me think of something you posted last year. I don't know if you remember it.

She leaned forward. "And if you never exceed the limit you've reached? Remember, Robert Burns died at 37 -- the very age you just turned. You could die tomorrow. Or be hit by a bus on your way home today. Or you might just never 'make it.' No one might want to publish Trigger Man or Theftworld. Are you okay with that?"

I half-smiled. "You know something? I write a blog that gets more visitors in a day than read the original printing of Thomas Paine's Common Sense. I have a million words sitting in internet archives for anyone who takes the time to read them. I've corresponded with artists and fans and editors and writers. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, that's good enough for me. Because through it all, I've enjoyed doing the writing. Isn't that enough?"

Calliope half-smiled. "Yeah. That's enough."

Comment from: Doublemint posted at January 28, 2006 11:52 AM

Eric - My current American History discussion group TA, a charming woman who possesses a frieghtningly stringent grasp on the Compromise of 1877, didn't even start her Masters until she was in her early forties. She was a housewife and part-time substitue teacher who had a mid-life crisis and decided to say, "Screw it. I'm going to get my doctorate." Now she's in her mid 50s (53, I think) and near the end of her grad program. She's happy with her lot. I never seen a person more cheerfully explain what she'll do to plagerists.

If you want it, go for it. If not for the teaching or the certification, then for the knowledge itself. Better to have 13 years of what you know in your heart that you want than to have a lifetime of wishing you were a young again.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 28, 2006 12:01 PM

I'm going to see Randy Milholland in a webcomics panel in less than two hours. Man, of all days to choose to wear the "I Aggro drama" shirt...

As for your birthday... well, the only thing I can say about that is it reminds me of the many reasons I don't tell people anymore when mine falls. I find it easier that way.

But for accomplishments... screw them. Don't follow what Fleen tells you. Don't let yourself be restrained by the rules people insist upon. It's madness, I know. But somewhere, beyond the threshold of madness, is inspiration and brilliance. If you can bear the scorn of those who don't understand, and there will be many, and if you can accept the growing loss of connection with what you knew; then, then you can find greatness.

Don't be true to the rules others put on you. Be only true to yourself. Even when it means people despise you for it, never look back. If you hate the system, the only recourse is to change it.

Comment from: Robin Z posted at January 28, 2006 12:04 PM

Stuff and bother! Curse that formatting!

I'm sorry you didn't have a good birthday, Mr. Burns. I could tell you that you're my single favorite contemporary writer, that Ursula Vernon listed Websnark first on her list of four sites visited daily, that you are almost certainly the single individual most responsible for making the idea of critical commentary in webcomics popular, that you're an inspiration to thousands (or, at least, me)...

I wish I could do something besides try to give an ego boost, I do. To quote one of your favorite webcomics, "I just wanted to say I'm sorry, and if I could magically make your pain go away, I'd do it in a heartbeat."

Comment from: mckenzee posted at January 28, 2006 12:09 PM

Mr. Burns,

In the past year and a half, I have not attended a single convention, webcomic discussion panel or even had an extended conversation about webcomics in which your name was not mentioned... usually not by me :)

I never hear anyone talk about my professors.

Besides, you (and Mr. Ellis) are only 6 months older than me. What hope do I have of catching up?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 28, 2006 12:14 PM

I was a bit too drunk to clearly develop my secondary point -- which, after all, was a realization that the expectations I've always had for myself... well, aren't going to go the way I expected.

The Fleen comment was an attempt at a bittersweet joke at my own expense. ;)

Here's the thing. I could get a PhD. I really could.

It's just that I won't. Not and lead to the academic lifestyle I've always had in the back of my head as an eventual destination. Not without something radical happening, and if it did it would be a bad thing.

It's practical reasons driving this. I'm thirty-eight. I'm contributing to a 403(e) retirement fund every paycheck. I have a cat. I have a lifestyle. I have a life.

To go and get a Master's and a Ph.D. would put that into upheaval at best. First off, let's assume from the outset I've got Assistantships or Fellowships for the whole process... because there's no way on Earth I'm dumb enough to go into nigh-crippling Student Loan debt going into my forties. There's no way I could pay it off and still save for the nadir of my life.

If I did that, I won't be getting enough to continue my contributions to my retirement. I'll have to give up all the amenities I've become accustomed to. I'll have to go into deprivation mode for years. Possibly a decade.

At the far end of it, I would have a Ph.D. in English Literature. Just like hundreds of other graduating Doctors in that class.

And then, I would need to find a job. And freshly minted Doctors don't get to march out of University and into a tenure track position. Not in this day and age. It'll be several years of adjunct faculty and lecturing. And then, probably going into my fifties, I might find an assistant professorship somewhere.

At which point, it's nigh impossible I'll ever make Full Professor... well, anywhere.

You see... it's not that I'm incapable of getting the degree. It's that I can't get it within the boundaries of a life and eventual retirement that I would enjoy properly.

Nor is it a claim that I'm insignificant. I'm not. As someone (very kindly) pointed out above, I have more impact on critical discourse right now than I'd have publishing articles in journals read by three hundred and ten people just like me. And Hell, I could submit articles to those journals right now, if I want.

This is not despair.

This is recognition.

Understand, there are two things I have known with certainty since I was... well, at least ten. Possibly earlier.

The first is that I would be a writer. I just would. I write. It's....

Well, it's what I know how to do.

The second is that I would be an English Professor. Doctor Burns.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped making the choices that led to the latter. I always had, in the back of my head, that when I grew up I would be an English Professor.

Yesterday, in the midst of a pretty crappy birthday, it hit me.

I'm not going to do anything "when I grow up."

I'm here. I've grown up.

And I have a fantastic life. I write, and people read it. I make comics. I make stories. I write essays. I edit. I'm a systems administrator. I have respect in both my chosen professions. I'm coming off a truly great year.

But I'm not marking time until I grow up. I've grown up.

And that is a bittersweet realization. And in my drunken haze, I identified with Fred for a moment -- because Fred assumed there would be a tomorrow. There would always be a tomorrow, with Faye. And he would tell her about his oncoming degeneration, and she would be his rock.

And now, suddenly, he realizes that it's not going to be the way he always expected it. He and Faye would not be retired together. She would not care for him moving forward. She's gone.

She's gone.

And Fred will have people who love him around him. He will be taken care of. He won't be alone. I think that's very, very clear at this stage.

But it won't be the way he thought it would. That time has passed.

Anyway. When you're drunk and depressed, you see a correlation in these things.

Comment from: Amadan posted at January 28, 2006 12:33 PM

I was writing a long-ish post until I read your follow-up, Eric. I can sympathize, in a lot of respects. I'm almost exactly the same age as you, and I am gearing up to go for my PhD. Life and financial circumstances are different for me, but I see where you are coming from.

Still, if being a Professor of English Literature is something you have always wanted and is part of your self-image, if "Ph.D." is something you'd really like to have included in your epitaph, I still think you should find a way to go for it. You wouldn't necessarily even have to go into an academic career. Stranger things have happened than SysAdmins becoming PhDs in English Literature but remaining in the IT profession.

Comment from: larksilver posted at January 28, 2006 12:42 PM

I'm a little late to the party of encouragement here, but still. Your post strikes a serious chord with me, Eric. I think I know what you're feeling, when something you always wanted seems impossibly out of reach, just because time has passed it by.

I'll never sing Opera. I'm too old. I was too old when I began to study voice - not that I knew that at the time. The female voice, particularly the lighter soprano voice like mine, just doesn't have a long enough prime to last long, and no program in the world is going to bring a (at the time I stopped studying) 28-year-old woman into their apprenticeship knowing that she won't have more than about 5 years of professional life before her voice starts to go south. Well.. it does happen, but the voice has to be extraordinary, and I know mine is not. It's a good voice, and I take joy in it, but it's not extraordinary, so no Apprenticeship, which means no Professional Career.

The realization, at about 28, that I'd spent so many years working toward a career that would never happen, broke me inside for a while. It took several years to rediscover joy in music, much less in my own singing. But somewhere along the way, what I wanted changed.

I'm not sure if it was that way all along, but what I really want is to find a way to have my creative efforts be something I'm proud of.

You, sir, should already have that. I've read your writing, not just here, but also The Recluse and some of your other essays. Websnark has a profound and ongoing impact on the critical discourse about webcomics, and has in fact inspired a great deal of discourse about criticial discourse in webcomics. You have an impact. Every day, you impact the world around you, often in a profound way.

So I guess what you need to decide is this: do you want the Ph.D. because it will validate your critical discourse in the eyes of the universities in the world, or because you want to teach with all your being? If you want to teach, then for goodness' sake get your degree. Start promptly, and work your arse off.

If what you really want is to make a difference? Dude, you're already doing it. In fact, you're touching the lives and creative processes of people who would never sit in your class - in fact, who would never otherwise engage in critical discourse at all. That's pretty damn special, right there, isn't it?

Comment from: siwangmu posted at January 28, 2006 12:42 PM

Dammit, Burns, you couldn't have posted that before I wrote you a big long e-mail having read it incorrectly as despair?

You totally suck. (Glad you seem to be fine after the alcohol)

Comment from: Tice with a J posted at January 28, 2006 1:32 PM

There are good reasons to want a Ph.D. I intend to get one. However, a Ph.D. does not mean as much as it ought to mean. Case in point: E.E. "Doc" Smith, Ph.D. You can find better science in a bowl of cereal than in any of his science fiction, and his writing is seriously overdone (the famous "coruscating beam of lambent force" being good evidence for both charges). You do not need a Ph.D. to write well.

I, on the other hand, do need one, because physics is my chosen path, and in this modern world if you don't go all the way in physics, you'll never know enough to contribute anything worthwhile.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at January 28, 2006 1:36 PM

there's no way on Earth I'm dumb enough to go into nigh-crippling Student Loan debt going into my forties

Ah, well, you got me there.

Say, it's good to know that those of us picking up the despair vibe were wrong.

Comment from: Jonathan Rosenberg posted at January 28, 2006 1:43 PM

Not bad. Not quite Hunter S. Thompson, but I found it fairly entertaining. I give it 8 out of 10 and a swift kick to the shin.

Try ether next time!

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 28, 2006 2:23 PM

I wish I could hit Hunter S. Thompson.

Mmm... ether.

Or glue!

Comment from: AlexanderD posted at January 28, 2006 3:01 PM

First off, let me just say that S*P was not the comic to read just before going to bed last night.

As to the notion that Milholland hates his characters...seriously, I don't think he could possibly have written this sequence with greater affection. I've never been more convinced that he loves these characters. And just a little something about writers--those of us who write about death almost always kill off the character we love the most.

As for you, Eric...well, I'm not worried about you. You're alright, and I think you know that, drunken birthday ramblings aside. I do understand, though. I also spent most of my life with every expectation that I would someday be "Dr. Danner," but have since set that plan aside. I understand that this has nothing to do with the piece of paper, and everything to do with the loss of the person you meant to be. Even if you're happy with where you are, that other person is still gone, and that *does* matter. I just turned 30 last week, and I left the country as part of my effort to stave off this same sort of crisis.

Comment from: Recovering Extrovert posted at January 28, 2006 3:04 PM

So....have you been to an English Department in some university (let's say, oh, the University of California at Davis)? Really met the people who teach there? Have you ever heard of a woman named Pam Houston? She writes short story books and has a tenured position because she is a famous author, not because of any degrees she may have (I have never heard mention of any, really). In fact, many of the faculty I meet here are here not because they have some sort of degree qualifications but because they have PROVEN themselves, time and again, to be excellent writers and worthy of the position. The Cowboy short story writer, for example. Or the ex music reviewer. The college wrestler who just finished his doctorate at age 54. The feminist writer who obtained a faculty position for her husband merely because the university wanted her so much that they gave them both a job. If you are an excellent writer (exhibit A: websnark.com, a repository of writings that you do to -amuse yourself- and are still excellent), then it doesn't matter what degrees you have. No one would ever say, "Gee Mr. Prizewinning author, we'd love to hire you, but you don't have a Ph.D or a master's...Sorry." And if you don't think you compare to these people, then why do more people know of you and read your work, not for its entertainment value, but for what you have to say. So don't be so closeminded about what's left in your life. You're not even halfway done. Hell, I thought writers would be the first ones to be thinking outside of the box.

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 28, 2006 3:24 PM

I find it oddly appropos (and ironic) that both of us were drunk last night while writing snarks/tangents on S*P's latest bombshell, Eric.

But you know what? Fuck it. If you want to get a PhD in English... do so. Do it for you. Do it because that's your dream. Not because you want to teach in a college (you can with a Master's degree, after all!). Not because you want to be a professor. Do it because that was your dream and you are going to make that dream come true.

Because you know something? Those dreams of ours are what make us something more than just an animal. It gives us purpose and meaning. It gives us something to strive for.

Fight for your dream, Eric. Seize it, and make it yours. It doesn't matter if you're taking one course a semester and if it takes until you're in your 80s before you get that PhD... fight for it.

It's for a worthwhile cause.

Though Panel2Panel is down, naturally S*P was tangented soon after I noticed it. Think I actually got this up before you did by a matter of a couple of minutes. *chuckle* Anyway, once P2P is back up, you can find my tangent on it here. (Screw it... you know, Panel2Panel took a wonderful time to crash. It's updated on my Livejournal backup site as well.)

Take care, Eric. Don't stop dreaming.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews

Comment from: Archon Divinus posted at January 28, 2006 3:33 PM

I only just now read last nights S*P, and after the shock wore off, I immediatly came here. It just seemed the most rational thing to do.

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 28, 2006 3:59 PM

Sad thing is, only took 2-3 glasses of scotch on the rocks to get me drunk as a skunk. Well, rather the equivilant to 2-3 shots, with ice added for the first one. (Actually had another shot before bed but that was to fall asleep.)

Seriously, Eric. Seize your dreams. Do what YOU want to. Myself... I want to write. I want to write for a living, writing novels. And I need to finish editing that first novel... and I know it will get published because I've the hubris to know it's good and once it's edited it'll be %(#&ing better and they publish complete and utter trite shit out there and this is #(&%ing better than that crap they call writing.

You can do it, Eric. You can do whatever you put your mind to.

Rob H., who is resisting the urge to get drunk right now

Comment from: Brendan posted at January 28, 2006 4:17 PM

Holy FUCK...

After this strip, I have no choice but to listen to Blue —yster Cult on repeat until I either cheer up, kill myself, or start doing Walken impressions.

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 28, 2006 4:20 PM

Gee. My mood is such that I need to listen to Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. Cheerful music just makes me want to throw something at the moment.

Rob H.

Comment from: Denyer posted at January 28, 2006 4:43 PM

I recommend Eels for the best of both perspectives... any of the first three albums. Lemme rephrase that... the first three albums in sequence...

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at January 28, 2006 7:31 PM

I was kinda joking about him hating his characters, drawing off of the fact that lots of bad things tend to happen to them very often.

Comment from: Remus Shepherd posted at January 28, 2006 7:39 PM

Tice with a J:

You do not need a Ph.D. to write well.

I, on the other hand, do need one, because physics is my chosen path, and in this modern world if you don't go all the way in physics, you'll never know enough to contribute anything worthwhile.

Not really true, and you might find yourself in despair if you go on believing that.

There are career options at all points along the education ladder. The higher you climb, the better the career, but even bachelors can contribute a great deal to human knowledge. I'm sure the same is true in Literature. And, as Eric has shown, brilliance will bust itself out no matter what your official education.

Comment from: Ojin posted at January 28, 2006 8:39 PM

Glad to see you feeling beter, Eric. ^-^

As for S*P... It seems I'm one of a few people I know that didn't get truly depressed by todays comic. (My roomie didn't either, and we seem to be on a similar wavelength about this.)

The sequence that precedes todays comics have been about love. Deep, very true love in all it's froms from the sweet to the grumpy. ;p

And then it was taken, and that -is- sad. But the ending was not, and nor was the trip, and that's what we were just shown.

(There is, of course, someone out there in the world that I love. Totally. Very, very deeply. And if that person were to be torn away from me tomorrow, I would be devestated... because there has been so little between us so far. But no matter what happens, someday it -will- end, and given that it has to... then I want it to be, in some way, like the sequence of strips we just had. To finish as this has.)

Faye's last day could so easily have been one of normal work, coming home annoyed, going to bed and never getting up. Or it could have been one of worry and fear over what would happen to her husband.

Instead, her last day on Earth was the best day anyone could ask for. A day spent happy with the man she loves most of all. Spent looking back at a full and good life.

To die happy isn't a terrible thing. To loose a loved one -is- sad, but to loose them with things unsaid is worse. As with so many things in S*P, this isn't terrible, it's bittersweet.

Randy is a master, to my mind, of telling a story with feeling, where a sequence of bad things -does- happen, but it's never, ever 'teh drama', because he isn't focusing on misery, but life. people die. people have bad things happen. But there is good -too-, and even in a moment like this, the bad can still meet with the good.

Once again, Randy managed to make everything feel -right-.

The man is some kind of genius, I swear. ^^;

Comment from: J.A.K posted at January 28, 2006 9:38 PM

Glad to hear Eric's OK.

What's interesting is that Fred, after having Monette and Faye there a month or two is alone. Which is going to hurt, no matter what. What's the bet's that Davan goes back now, to look after his father the way he promised he'd look after his mother?

Comment from: Abby L. posted at January 28, 2006 10:42 PM

Well, jeez. Now I got all worried for nothing. In closing, be happy, Eric, no matter what you do. Because lots of people care about you.

Comment from: Ford Dent posted at January 28, 2006 10:56 PM

I didn't want to comment about this snark originally: After all, it seems like what needs to be said about S*P has been said.

I didn't take it too hard myself. Yes, it was sudden, and yes, it was unexpected. But that's how everyone I've known has gone out, so I'm used to it. I can sympathize, yes. Who couldn't? It's an awful thing to have happen--I lost a friend...well, that's not relevant. We've all been there before--and if you haven't (to play the jerk for a moment) you will.

As for the second part, the more personal part of the post, I wanted to wait. I know what being drunk and depressed is (again, I'm fairly certain we all do), and a sort of silent observation without trying to awkwardly provide some sort of comfort seemed better for me, because I haven't been around for long here and figured others could say it better.

They could.

That being said, well, I just thought you should know something: You sir, are an inspiration to me as an aspiring writer. No really! I started reading Websnark originally as a way to keep up on webcomics, but now I read it to see how you write--and I observe your style, how you frame arguments, describe feeling, then I try and write something really good myself. Reading a Websnark post makes me want to push myself so that I can get my own writing to the level you occupy (and let me tell you, it's a high level in my estimation). So yeah, I know you didn't need more support, but you get it anyway.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at January 28, 2006 11:07 PM

Weird and interesting note: I think some evidence of your point, Ford, is the post itself. "paragraphparagraph and figured others could say it better.

They could."

I loved that bit, stylistically, and while I could be wrong, it seems quite possible that you picked that up from Eric, because it's very, uh, Erician as, um, a pacing device. I dunno! Not the lit person! But I thought it worthwhile to note that I enjoyed reading this comment, the content of which was about learning from Eric, for reasons that may have been learned from Eric.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 28, 2006 11:13 PM

Okay, back from Vericon for the day. Randy actually addressed this sidelong, because only four or five of us in the room had read the comic, so we didn't want to spoil it.

However, two things spring to mind. First, Randy has said that around 60% of S*P is personal happenings to him and his close ones.

Second, when talking about the storyline, Randy today said that it was a difficult storyline to write as it was very personal.

"It took reminding myself that it is still a webcomic and not real people to shake me from the terror I was feeling."

I really wish you were right, Phil. But this time, I think you aren't. Sorry, Randy. I was a bit too nervous to say it earlier today, but I'm sorry.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 28, 2006 11:28 PM

I can say, definitively, that no matter how intense this storyline is for Randy Milholland, it does not reflect direct autobiography in his immediate family.

It's not really my place to say such things, I realize, but I figure this is a rumor that should be shut down as quickly and forcefully as possible.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 28, 2006 11:37 PM

Fair enough... still, it obviously comes from something personal. I can tell that much. I won't speculate beyond what I know - and I know things have been difficult, and he has my condolances.

Comment from: Rachi posted at January 29, 2006 12:06 AM

I thought the comic was... really sweet, in a way. It would have been so much worse if she had gone to work and died that night. It's nice that Fred has those last moments with her when she was happy and still in love.

The tragedy will be when Fred forgets that she's died and Davan or someone else will have to remind him.

Comment from: Kirath posted at January 29, 2006 12:22 AM


I skip one day of checking S*P and this is what I miss until Saturday night. Now *I* need a drink. Did I expect a curveball? Yeah. Did I expect *this*? Not even a little bit. Damn you, Milholland. You made me cry.

The tragedy will be when Fred forgets that she's died and Davan or someone else will have to remind him.

It *is* probably the best way for her to go, though... she had a really good day, and died in her sleep. Speaking as somone who has seen a family member go through advanced Alzheimer's... it's for the best.

What will happen next? I can't say, but thinking about it, I give even odds that Fred will set his affairs in order, and then kill himself. I only say that because, were I in his shoes, it's what I would do.

Comment from: P.hd.Schme.hd. posted at January 29, 2006 12:50 AM

Great, thanks Eric. I've *enjoyed* being a lurker here. Then you had to get drunk and post. And Randy had to write a poignant comic on the same day, and I had to feel like there was something moreto be said.

See, I've got the Ph.D. (And at least four shots of Balvenie in me.) I'm in PostDoc limbo as a prelude to that mystical faculty position at University X. And this is in fact where I envisioned myself being when I was fourteen. Is this what I want to do with my life? Dunno.

I do know the angst of "what do I really want to be", and how that affects the decisions you do and don't make as you move along one second at a time. If this is about validating the teenager in you who wants to be faculty, that's one thing. If this is validating that teenager by having the terminal degree, that's another. But my gut says that what you want is validation for the you that is today, and some part of that validation requires either a "here Mr. Burns, have that Ph.D. and/or faculty position that just opened up for you, how's that tasty biscut?" or a "hey, I have a good life and do what I want and if all I'm missing is the established academic dogma, nuts to dogma". Your work with webcomics can easily be parsed into a faculty job once the university system recognizes the validity of the field (and your work right now serves that purpose nicely) in 10-20 years. And it won't take more than another five years from now to have work from you and others, from this site and others, be mainstream enough to justify a book credit of some sort.

All choices suck because of the doors they close. Enjoying life comes by loving the opportunities which come from the doors that are open.

And I have every hope that this is merely a rehash of words coming in person from people who do more than lurk through your life.

Comment from: Shelby Reiches posted at January 29, 2006 1:14 AM

See, since the confusion over your aforementioned "secondary point" has been cleared up, and for the better, I might add (the less people I respect are depressed the happier I am), I really probably shouldn't be jumping back to it.

I am, though. In spirit.

I'm a Computer Science major. I go to Drexel University in center city Philadelphia. I'm on co-op working at Unisys, testing VMware on ES7000 servers.

What I am not is a writer. I am not at a school that generally puts out writers. I don't know that an education in the humanities is even feasible here.

God do I want it.

When I was younger, like four or five, I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted when I grew up. I knew, however, that it would involve video games. I assumed, after a while, that I'd be making them since I don't have the skill to play them competitively for a living and testing sounded like an exercise in frustration. Computer Science seemed like the perfect degree- learn how to program, get into the gaming industry. I was the science and math dude. Meredith, my older and brilliant sister, was the humanities type.

Except now I want that English major. I want a BA, not a BS, and Meredith is going for a PhD in Biological Anthropology. At Harvard. This is after she received a BA in Comparative Literature between French and Italian and another in Italian from Brown. She's just racking up those Ivy leagues.

That was unnecessary because, hey, I'm not bitter. I swear I'm not bitter. I love my sister and I respect her. I just want to know what I should do.

So, back to how my assumptions fell through. First, I did horribly in Precalc in high school, taking away my chances at getting into an AP Calculus course. This was a minor blow as I was able to, in my mind, shift most of the blame to the teacher. God forbid she actually grade homework, giving us a chance to mitigate not-so-stellar test grades! Of note, the one quarter in which I actually did do my homework resulted in a reasonably high grade, so I didn't fail the class.

The SATs was another thing that didn't go as expected. I took it twice, the first resulting in a reasonable score, wherein my Verbal and Math were virtually matched. I'd expected my math to far outstrip the verbal score, so I took it again. My score this second time went to "holy fuck" levels, but the math hardly changed at all. The verbal jumped. They say the SATs don't mean anything. It's a standardized test and the numbers are just to get you into a college, so I ignored it and just looked that the combined number, pursuing my choice in colleges.

Drexel is an engineering school, first and foremost. Oh, sure, it has humanities and science degrees. Heck, it even has a college devoted to Media Arts and Design. Still, I thought it'd be perfect for me. A CS degree, over five years, with a year and a half of combined work experience in the "real" world? Sign me up! So what if I had to skip my summers?

I ended up hating programming. I hate math even more, now. Once again, I feel it's the teacher. He was able to confuse me when it came to concepts I'd already learned and knew by heart. The science courses bored me as well, but the English classes, basic as they were, ended up being a heck of a lot of fun.

So, here I am, hoping to become an English major with a minor in Digital Media. This brings up the question, though, of "how do I catch up?" I spent a year and a co-op, fifteen months total, as a CS. If I do english as a five year co-op, that may result in six years at this school, total. Scratch that, seven at the least because I'd be starting mostly anew a term behind. So what if I drop to four year? Well, that's still five and I'll miss out on all my co-ops, but still have to give up my summers.

And then, there's the fraternity.

I'm a proud member of the Delta Rho chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi. For those not in the know, AEPi, as we're known in a pinch, is a national Jewish fraternity. That's actually what got me involved with them- another thing I didn't expect, coming to college and ending up involved with a fraternity, much less one that actually makes me want to be more religious than I've ever before been. Also, my dad, who's never been in touch with his roots due to events in his childhood, has been repeatedly remarking that, "Shelby, you should be a rabbi." So there's some pressure, and even consideration, there.

Confusion makes for an entertaining bedfellow.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer posted at January 29, 2006 2:07 AM

"As to the notion that Milholland hates his characters...seriously, I don't think he could possibly have written this sequence with greater affection. I've never been more convinced that he loves these characters."

I think the best way to say this is that Randy loves his characters too much to make them immortal. You see, characters that cannot die do not live. Garfield exists in his world, Davan lives in his. Think about it, what was the single most poignant Calvin and Hobbes strip in the series? The one where they find the bird that hit the window, and a little bit of mortality crept into their timeless, eternal childhood.

"I understand that this has nothing to do with the piece of paper, and everything to do with the loss of the person you meant to be. Even if you're happy with where you are, that other person is still gone, and that *does* matter."

I remember when this happened for me. I was 20 and had just dropped out of college for the second time. I realized that even if I beat all of the mental issues, and personal problems, and even finished my education, that I would never be a world famous doctor receiving worldwide accolade for curing cancer (hyperbole deliberate to showcase what our dreams look like at 20). I simply don't have the drive, passion, and selfless discipline to acheive such things. I really thought that if I couldn't be the greatest ever in my chosen path, that my life had no possible meaning (it didn't help that my brother had gone into computer science and at the age of 20 was working for George "geek's dream job" Lucas).

Of course now I have new goals. First and foremost among them is a life that makes sense to me. That's why I can understand how a secure retirement can sound sweeter than finally accomplishing a goal set two decades ago. That doesn't make the realization that one has truly put aside one's former "future self", any less of a loss. Old dreams don't die, they simply gnaw at the confidence in one's current state of affairs like an old scar. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm proud of my scars. They remind me what it took to get where I am.

Eric, I can see both sides of this here (if there are sides at all). In a perfect world, you'd get to have the best of all worlds. Since you don't live in a perfect world, I'm glad your happy with what you've gotten. Be proud of those scars. Remember what it took to get where you are, and remember what you've gained from your sacrifices. You haven't won the battle or lost, you've just changed fields.

Comment from: Freemage posted at January 29, 2006 2:12 AM

Ye gods... I saw this strip almost as soon as it went up, and I'm still trembling.

Mulholland should've been a boxer. All the strips talking about Fred's condition, and setting his affairs in order, have been like small, right-hand jabs. They aren't meant to seriously hurt, or even wear you down. They're meant to fixate your attention on that right glove.

So that when the left hook comes out of nowhere, you're not even certain what happened.

I don't think Fred will commit suicide. He might've, except that so long as he's coherent enough to put such a plan into action, he'll also remember the effect Scotty's suicide had on Davan, and on Scotty's parents.

No, he won't do that. So yeah, I expect him to end up in Boston, with Davan caring for him, on funds from the sale of the house, and most of the furnishings and possessions, for that matter.

Comment from: Ford Dent posted at January 29, 2006 2:35 AM


I loved that bit, stylistically, and while I could be wrong, it seems quite possible that you picked that up from Eric, because it's very, uh, Erician as, um, a pacing device. I dunno! Not the lit person! But I thought it worthwhile to note that I enjoyed reading this comment, the content of which was about learning from Eric, for reasons that may have been learned from Eric.


Woah, I didn't notice that. I suppose that yes, that bit of... pacing, I suppose you'd call it? That is the sort of thing I've picked up from reading Websnark.

It's like some sort of circular thing where I talk about how I'm trying to learn bits from Eric's style in uh... Eric's style-ish. I've just confused myself, so I'm gonna stop now.

Comment from: Prodigal posted at January 29, 2006 10:13 AM

I wish I could hit Hunter S. Thompson.

Mmm... ether.

Or glue!

Your own personal bat country is interesting enough that you don't have to try taking us through someone else's.

Comment from: javac posted at January 29, 2006 10:21 AM

People start new careers that late. My Mom recently did just that. After spending 20 years as a teacher in the quagmire of the public education system she finally finished her PhD last year. She's now a college professor, doing things she really enjoys.

If it's something you want, work toward it. It took her a long time, but she's enjoying it now at 57.

Comment from: MatthewRossi posted at January 29, 2006 11:23 AM

Hey, if it makes you feel better, I'm 34 years old. I wrote my first book two years ago: it tanked. I doubt my second one will get published. I have a short story in a collection and that will probably be the last published work I ever do.

At 34, I'm washed up. I have your time beat by four years, and unlike you, not one damn person in the world has heard of me or would care enough to comment to contradict that statement.

You have how many posts on this thread? How many of them stopped to comment to directly contradict your self-loathing?

I have friends who are teaching right now, with their doctorates, and they hate it. If you enjoy what you do, you'll be ahead of the game.

Comment from: Brendan posted at January 29, 2006 11:47 AM

Okay...after about 200 of Don't Fear the Reaper and 100 of Queen's Who Wants to Live Forever...okay, I'm okay now.

Eric...come on! Sure, you're not sitting behind a desk grading pretentious plays and gregarious short stories, but...you're Eric freaking Burns! Everyone with an Internet connexion knows your name. Everyone with a webcomic dreams of getting so much as a passing mention on your blog! You're the man now, dog!

Comment from: kirabug posted at January 29, 2006 11:57 AM

If the only effect that Faye's death has is that each night I hug my husband a little tighter and tell him I love him before we go to sleep, it will all be worth it.

Comment from: Daerv posted at January 29, 2006 12:22 PM

Yesterday I bought and read Common Grounds. My world is a better place because of Websnark :).

Comment from: Mr Myth posted at January 29, 2006 12:44 PM

There isn't much I can say that hasn't been said by others here already. I can empathize with the shock of discovering oneself grown up; though a youngun myself, only a paltry year or two out of college, that transition itself was pretty intimidating.

I do have to say that, even drunk, you write a damn fine essay, sir. The words are a bit more forceful, the tone a bit more intense - but it remains stellar reading nonetheless.

I can see the allure of being a professor, being part of that life - teaching people, sharing your love of writing, language, literature.

But in many ways, I think, you already have that. Many people have learned a lot from Websnark. Many people have been inspired by it - I know I have, in my thinking, in my writing.

I have seen several other sites like this arise since its conceptions, and I wonder how much Websnark gave them the thought, the drive to do so: to share their thoughts on webcomics, on the world of webcomics and the culture...

If all that you sought was to teach, then that is something that I think you have done. If what you dreamed off was the specifics of academia - well, that may be beyond your reach, or more effort than it is worth.

But if what you sought was something more primal, something more dealing with the concept of the professor - the drive to spark a yearning for knowledge, to impart the wisdom gleaned from your own writings and readings... then that, I think, you have already attained.

Comment from: thok posted at January 29, 2006 1:06 PM

I just figure that every time somebody posts on Websnark, a fictional angel gets its wings.

(If I was a better person, I would have made that rhyme. But I guess the main point is the reference. Do fictional characters get a chance to go to heaven?)

Comment from: larksilver posted at January 29, 2006 1:47 PM

Well, shoot. I must have been writing my big honkin' "buck up! It's okay that your life's direction has changed!" post about the same time Eric was posting his clarification.

Ah, well, glad to know that you're okay, and that the night o'recognition/disappointment has passed, and sorry about my (completely unnecessary) epic post up there.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at January 29, 2006 1:57 PM

I just figure that every time somebody posts on Websnark, a fictional angel gets its wings.

HAHA! Burn in hell, fictional angels! Burn in hell with me and my inability to make it through six weeks of freshman year! BURN IN STUPID PEOPLE HELL WITH ME!

Now fetch me cabsav carmenere! ON FOOT!

Comment from: Brendan posted at January 29, 2006 1:57 PM

On another note, seeing today's S*P, am I the only one who thought "Cerebus Syndrome"?

Comment from: ebullientsoul posted at January 29, 2006 2:03 PM

The small bit of joy is that Faye at least died in her sleep (presumably without pain) after having one of the best days of her life.

I suppose we can thank Milholland for small miracles.

Comment from: Mr Myth posted at January 29, 2006 2:06 PM

See, it would be hard for S*P to pull a Cerebus Syndrome - as this has been par for the course for the strip since its inception.

It is about the turns life takes, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. And it is about showing the dark side of positive things... and the positive side of dark things.

As someone mentioned, Faye's death could have been far, far worse - she went about as peacefully as one could go.

Was it a *happy* event? Certainly not. But it was hardly drama for drama's sake, nor was it an attempt to insert drama into a lively humor strip.

The darkness in S*P has been there from the beginning - and this specific case of 'seriousness' was developed so skillfully that it *wasn't* just there for the ratings. It was part of the story, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was something in the wokrs for a long, long time.

Comment from: neongrey posted at January 29, 2006 2:38 PM

Thing is, she doesn't seem to have died in her sleep. The first two panels are dialogue, she's saying she's slept in, then he says no, they both did.

And -then- she goes. It's still a pretty peaceful death, but she does seem to have been awake.

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 29, 2006 2:50 PM

No, that's him saying that.

If she'd died just after waking she'd not be so pale. And he'd probably be performing CPR at the moment. No. She's been dead a little bit. Rigor mortis hasn't set in yet, but that could also be due to her being under the covers with him, so her body retained warmth enough not to stiffen up.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to shower after thinking of waking up next to a dead spouse and... *shudder*

Rob H.

Comment from: Amadan posted at January 29, 2006 3:24 PM

I loved that bit, stylistically, and while I could be wrong, it seems quite possible that you picked that up from Eric, because it's very, uh, Erician as, um, a pacing device.

Yup, Eric definitely has a noticeable writing style. Although, you know all the sentences that end with a question mark? To put just a bit more emphasis on the pregnant pause that follows?

A bit overdone.

But that's just IMNHO, and while I've edited Eric, he's published a heck of a lot more than I have and gotten far more writer's cred so whaddaheckdoIknow? ;)

I really don't get why people think Randy is being cruel to his characters, though. I think the poignant irony of the entire sequence, ending in a final mercy, was splendid. Fred was trying to tell Faye all day about his Alzheimer's. His attempts kept getting derailed. If he had managed to tell her, then instead of going to bed in a state of bliss and contentment, she'd have been filled with anxiety and dread and sadness. By putting it off until the next day, he spared her that, and she died the best way anyone could hope for.

Fred has been fated a long journey into darkness. Faye wouldn't have been able to do anything to make it better, she could only have suffered alongside him.

Comment from: miyaa posted at January 29, 2006 4:37 PM

Something to think about other than the "who's getting screwed this week on Something Positive" tangent: the aftermath.

Last week, Todd and Penguin, back from its break, started a story about the aftermath of the stillbirth. I've think as good as the actual impact of the event is good, the immediate aftermath is also important. We've seen Faye's death only through Fred's emotions. Now we're left asking how will others react to it and how will it change everyone.

And I think Todd and Penguin is showing a pretty good example of carrying the sudden impact of tragedy beyond the immediacy of Todd's emotions and how it affects everyone else. Even Jessika and Oscar have to bravely smile. Life sucks, but not as much as it is right now.

Now, I'm going to be interested to see how Faye's passing affects Davan. Especially if it ends up with some sort of family nuclear war.

Comment from: Eric the .5b posted at January 29, 2006 7:37 PM

I'm surprised no one's mentioned the captions below those comics. The last one being, "Sometimes it's about fear."

I know I dread the thought of my mother dying. In a way, presenting Faye's last day as something happy and her death as peaceful could be RKM's way of addressing that fear.

Comment from: Brendan posted at January 29, 2006 7:48 PM

The thing is, though, that it hasn't been dramatic from the start. At first, there were a few situations that could have been dramatic (Scotty's death, Pepito, etc.), but they were played for schadenfreude. After the first year or so, there was the occasional deadpan, dramatic strip or story, but they never really drew that much attention. It's only recently that the strip's been making waves, and this installment has the whole webcomic community dropping everything over a character of a strip that started out as a guy and two girls abusing ex-lovers and making fun of faux-lesbians.

Comment from: neongrey posted at January 29, 2006 8:59 PM

I dunno. "... I overslept..." "Actually, we overslept" doesn't sound like just talking.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 29, 2006 9:04 PM

I think that was a monologue.

"I overslept -- and by me, I mean we. Remember, we agreed to get up at the same time...."

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 29, 2006 9:05 PM

And I don't believe this counts as a Cerebus. If S*P did the Cerebus shuffle, it did it years ago.

Comment from: neongrey posted at January 29, 2006 9:38 PM

Well, I could easily be wrong, I'll allow. But my initial, and most of my subsequent readings interpret it as dialogue.

Mind, it does make more sense in almost all other respects if it's monologue. So... yeah.

Comment from: Canuck-Errant posted at January 29, 2006 10:16 PM

I wish I knew where I wanted to go in the next 10 years. I'm about 1.5 years into a Psych degree, and I don't know if that's something I really want to do as a profession...

Then there was the guy who told me I could probably make it in the music industry - probably not as a major lead singer, but make a living anyway...

I just want to do a little bit of everything, that's all.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 29, 2006 11:10 PM

You know, for Cerberus Syndrome, maybe there needs to be a set time limit that has to be observed before a comic can go for it. Basically, how long does something have to be more light-hearted and gag-driven before it can go into Cerberus Syndrome, as opposed to the author getting comfortable in the role?

Though in all fairness, I think S*P has been making waves about touchy subjects from early on - not necessarily the first comic, but when it started making people debate some very touchy subjects.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 30, 2006 12:08 AM

Though in all fairness, I think S*P has been making waves about touchy subjects from early on - not necessarily the first comic, but when it started making people debate some very touchy subjects.

The first comic featured Davan sending a coat hanger as a baby shower gift.

You're saying that wasn't a touchy subject?

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 30, 2006 12:46 AM

No, I'm saying it didn't really engender any debate or discussion. It was mostly shock, a "how could anyone do that!" sort of thing.

However, here, you've got some serious discussion on the meaning of loss, of cruelty and kindness, and of the best and worst ways to die. You have to admit, the first comic certainly didn't do anything even remotely like that.

Jarring and funny, yes. But that doesn't make waves so much as sticks in a person's mind. A comic like the 1/27 comic - that makes waves.

Comment from: Alexis Christoforides posted at January 30, 2006 1:49 AM

32 - If we are still defining the Cerebus Syndrome using its namesake, then events don't need to send shockwaves through the readership. Cerebus went from light-hearted, action-packed 20-page adventures to much longer, much more elaborate storylines. Characters didn't just start dying and drama didn't just spill all over the place.

Although, now that I think about it, I'd like to politely ask Eric to clarify: Did the original Cerebus Syndrome, according to you, occur with High Society, Church & State or even Mothers & Daughters? I inferred that you were talking about High Society (and Sim's decision to do 300 issues), but I could have had the wrong definition in my mind all along.

As for Something Positive, I'm rather embarrased to say that I had tears in my eyes. It is perhaps because of the emotional stasis of my life (besides the fact that my life is, in all other respects, quite interesting) that I find myself caring excessively for fictional characters. Oh well.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 30, 2006 8:22 AM

You're splicing two different threads of thought, Alexis. My question as to whether or not Cerberus applies here is due solely to the age of the comic. S*P started with some serious stuff presented for more than just laughs fairly early on. I'd say around when Scotty died, although some will disagree. When Drama starts off that quickly, I don't think the strip establishes another voice sufficiently to have Cerberus really happen.

My comment about making waves was in response to Brendan, and that has to do with the impact of S*P on others, not on whether or not it's undergoing Cerberus. After all, a comic that stays gag-driven its entire run (The Far Side, for instance) can make plenty of waves.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at January 30, 2006 9:08 AM

One R. The aardvark only has the one R, thus the syndrome's name. Cerberus Syndrome would involve some serious genetic issues.

One R.

(Mind, I suppose a strip with this much death does have a slight case of the Styx, too. But. See. One R.)

Comment from: Jennifer the Chaos Queen posted at January 30, 2006 12:08 PM

Oh man, this kills me.

On the one hand, good for Faye for missing out on the special kind of hell.

On the other hand, having 3 out of 4 grandparents go this route, thinking of what this is going to do to Fred and family hurts. Especially since someone (i.e. Davan) is going to have to move back to Texas ASAP to be the caretaker, with no help. And Alzheimer's is not a disease that kills quickly. It takes years and years. You don't die of the broken heart, but it pulverizes everyone else's.


Between that and Eric's saying that he's already grown up, I want to drink myself into a stupor now.

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