Em oi! #435: The Consolations of Philosophers



It turns out that there are now Em oi-canonical ways to draw some philosophers, since they have appeared a few times in the comic:

Also it turns out I have drawn a lot of comics about anxiety. Hmm. This one will be filed under B808.63 L86 2018, for Philosophy  (General)–Modern (1450/1600-)–Special topics and schools of philosophy–Anxiety.  (If you’re just here for the philosophy, feel free to peace out here.)

As I was scanning this comic, I was wondering what I was going to write for my little essay here. The time between initially writing this and finishing it was so long that if I initially had any additional thoughts, they have now gone away. But in the meantime, it is young Hal’s birthday!

Isn’t he adorable?

Anyway, I have been trying to think of some things about having a kid that I wish I had known before he was born. Honestly, most of the things that are coming to mind are not necessarily things you can know beforehand. Like no matter how good you are at putting your baby to bed, you’ve only learned how to put your baby to bed–you can’t know ahead of time how to do it, because your baby has his own personality and likes and dislikes, and you can’t help anyone else, because all babies are pretty different. But here we go.

1. Be careful when sneezing after a c-section. I don’t know why, but although I started back to running about five weeks post-op and was fine, I pulled a muscle or something sneezing just before six weeks. That was weird. And uncomfortable. I also managed to pull a muscle in my trapezius muscle while lifting the baby, and that hurt on and off for weeks. And occasionally my wrist and thumb have been angry. So maybe I should say just be careful generally–lifting a tiny cannonball four hundred times a day turns out to do a number on you. It wasn’t until I stopped pumping that my body actually started to feel like it was totally normal again (and that lasted for a few days before I started training for a marathon, so, uh).

2. Convert distances from kilometers to miles before you sign up for a race and don’t sign up for a 10 miler eight weeks after your c-section. This goes without saying, I think. I think I did the actual signing up in early September (so two or three weeks post-op), meaning I was off any drugs…so we’ll blame this on sleep deprivation.

3. Emotional labor is for suckers. Emotional labor is the process of using your emotions in order to provoke or prevent a particular emotional response from people. And it’s just not worth it–you can’t tell someone news that will upset them in some perfect way so as not to upset them. You cannot hint at things you’d like people to do. Don’t say, “Um, do you think it’s time for the baby to take a nap?” Say, “I need to put him down for a nap now.” Don’t say, “Well, it was nice of you to come.” Say, “Get the fuck out of my house now, I’m tired.” (J/k, maybe don’t say that.)

4. You will become the expert on your baby. This is the best advice I got before Hal was born (it came from my sister-in-law and friend Claire Wahmanholm, doctor of poetry). So when you figure it out, feel free to (assertively, if need be) show the various grandparents/sitters how to put your baby down for a nap, feed him the way he likes, whatever. Do remember that over time, they will develop their own relationships with him and figure out what works for them in that context, but at the beginning they may need to be told.

5. As my mom put it, women don’t largely get to debrief after giving birth. I’m not a trauma theorist, but it doesn’t take a ton of psych to realize that when you go around talking to people about their kids and birth stories, you’ll sometimes get this sense that they are retelling their story in a way that is mean to make them feel better about whatever happened to them. Similarly, people get very insistent on the things they can control, like what they feed their infant or what kind of diapers they use, because it makes them feel better about all the millions of things they can’t control. This can lead to people saying things that sometimes come off as quite shirty about how their “thing” (exclusive breastfeeding for two years, cloth diapering, attachment parenting, whatever; not vaccinating is one of the more extreme and harmful examples of this) is so much better than whatever else. The best thing to do is not get involved.

6. The reason people fall into more sexist roles after having a baby is that the only people anyone has watched parent up close is their own parents, and thirty years ago it was a lot less typical for men to take on 50% of the parenting. If this works for you, fine. (It doesn’t work for me.) But at least be conscious about what you’re agreeing to.

7. Like most experiences, it’s hard to appreciate how amazing having a baby is until you’re not inside the experience anymore. Just smile as best you can at the old lady who corners you at the cafe. And when you see other people who are earlier in the process than you are, just reassure them that it gets better.

8. It is okay to buy some earplugs and wear them while you’re doing time holding a fussy/colicky infant. You’ll be more relaxed, and everyone will be happier because of that.

9. When in doubt, make art. Any type, doesn’t matter. It’ll make things better.

Em oi! #434: (Phone Hand Gesture) Call Me

Not too long ago, my brother Daniel recommended a podcast to me called Philosophize This! After briefly trying to argue with him that, basically, no podcaster guy could possibly be as good as my current research system of 1/ watching videos on YouTube, 2/ reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (and also Wikipedia), and 3/ reading one page of Foucault’s History of Human Sexuality per night, I gave up and became a fan. And that was how I met the Frankfurt School. And now I am reading The Dialectic of Enlightenment at a rate of one page per night. So, you know.

Okay, back up. Who were the Frankfurt School? They were a group of neo-Marxist thinkers from Frankfurt, Germany (natch) who started wondering in the mid-1920s why there hadn’t been a really good Marxist revolution and how they could potentially maybe fix up Marx’s theory to deal with that fact. In part because a bunch of them were Jewish, they moved their operations to New York during WWII, and discovered that we are terrible wrote a lot of rather damning things about American monopoly capitalism and the culture industry. They have been in the news a bit because there’s a booming industry in this country right now of people who explain to white men how they are really the ones being oppressed, and part of that narrative is about how Marxism/socialism are oppressive and bad and capitalism is awesome and don’t you miss those glory days when you, a white dude, could work really hard and be rewarded with money and chicks[1]. And if that kind of person hates the Frankfurt School, you know they have to be pretty good. Up until now, the member of their group I was most familiar with was Walter Benjamin. Here, I am looking at two other members–Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse.[2]

I wanna talk about the culture industry for a moment.

Basically, capitalism tends to commodify whatever it touches, and in this case the thing it has commodified is (drum roll) ART. Which art? Whatever you have on hand–film and TV, so-called fine art (paintings or what have you), magazines, music, books, whatever. Essentially, with the advent of capitalism, the commercialization of art becomes really obvious, and art is suddenly being created to net its creators money. Thus the art that is created is art that is marketable, which means that it in some way reinforces cultural narratives (and thereby pacify the populace, preventing the formation of class consciousness and ultimately REVOLUTION). For example, shows like COPS, Rescue 911, NCIS and its ilk, and so on are all created to depict police officers as heroes.[3] I don’t believe that there has ever been an episode of COPS where one of the eponymous cops shot an unarmed 11-year-old boy. Could you imagine the public outcry if a story like that were produced? Instead, better to say that the officer involved in the shooting was either one bad egg amongst a lot of hard workers, or that it was an honest and reasonable mistake, which are somehow things people actually believe and say out loud without thinking that they are in some way bad people for thinking/saying those things when a kid gets shot.[4]

Another way this can work is by taking something that is revolutionary (the podcast used the example of NWA’s “Fuck the Police”) and amplifying it in popularity to the point where all meaning is drowned out by the commercialism (see also my forthcoming “Frankfurt School Powerlifting Team / Reps for Marx” t-shirts). Finally, of course, advertising has become integrated into media products, and it exists to essentially tell you that you have a problem and their product is the solution.[5]

Okay, so right now you’re probably saying two things:

  1. Em, what did he think art was before capitalism though?
  2. This idea of a “culture industry” is kinda neat, but who are these people? Em, you’ve been a part (albeit a very small one) of the culture industry for a while. While it’s pretty clear that any given editor or producer would probably sell all of their loved ones to the ravenous bug-blatter beast of Traal for a shot at a major deal, no one of them in particular is sitting around saying, “Okay, uh, we’re gonna need three rom-coms to reinforce all the heterosexual-monogamy norms, um, maybe a couple horror flicks where the non-white people die first to remind everyone that it’s best to be white, and then…oh, the oil and gas industry wants a sci-fi dystopia this year that reminds people that technological advancement is dangerous and we should stick with what we have.”[6]

And yeah, I think these are legitimate critiques of the idea. Per #1, I have only taken one art history course, but it’s pretty clear that most (all?) capital-A ART (the type you see in a museum like the Met–anything from like the Renaissance on) was created for what we would call capitalistic purposes–much of it was commissioned portraits of family members for wealthy merchants, or religious scenes commissioned for private contemplation. And artists painted these not because they had a particular yen to do one more gold-leaf painting of Jesus, but because they needed to eat and feed their families and buy paints and canvas. And yes, I know there’s some overlap between the late Renaissance and the beginning of capitalism. But also we could say that before the Renaissance, a lot of art was created at the behest of the church, which also was a way for artists to earn a living.

To point two, I don’t know (yet; I’m still reading) how Adorno would answer this. Foucault would suggest that this is a power system–it’s simultaneously no one pulling the strings and everyone doing it, because that’s how capitalism works on people.

When I first heard the episode that talked about the Frankfurt School, I was struck by this critique of modern life–and also I felt quite guilty, because even though I am generally someone who doesn’t shop a lot, doesn’t buy things for pleasure or whatever, I had been feeling depressed and I had tried to snap myself out of it by buying myself a new pen and a truly startling number of ink samples. And I was still feeling depressed and still kind of telling myself I just needed to think of a good present for myself.

Anyway, if this sounds a lot like some of the other theorists I’ve talked about–Chomsky’s media theory, many of the ways Zizek critiques modern capitalism, even old man Marx himself, well, it seems I have a “type” when it comes to philosophers. And also these philosophers, when taken in a more chronological order rather than piecemeal, start to seem as though they’re building on and responding to each others’ work. I quite enjoyed my little trip through 20th/21st century philosophy (I started with Schopenhauer and worked my way through to Derrrida, and now I’m messing around with Hegel).

I have now spent more time working on this than I have on the latest novella for almost three days. I guess I know too many Marxists who are likely to correct me about the stuff I’ve got wrong here (it’s actually more complex and nuanced theory, so go and explore it). I’m calling this one done at any rate. Let’s file it under HM467 L86 2018, for Sociology–History of sociology. History of sociological theory–Schools of sociology. Schools of thought–Special schools–Frankfurt school.


Notes:
[1] Ways in which men are arguably oppressed: society frowns on them when they want to do something other than be a wage-earner, like if they want to be a stay-at-home dad. Straight men’s sexuality is arguably pretty rigid–a lot of people still see women as able to experiment, but men aren’t given that permission. Men are looked down on if they express emotions other than happiness/love and anger (only white men can express anger publicly). During divorces, women are typically given primary custody of their children unless they are provably super incompetent (e.g., addicted to substances) or they agree to give their exes more access. Ways in which men are not oppressed: women having jobs; women being able to pick their own romantic partners; jobs being given out without regard for race or gender (and often in ways that encourage those who are non-white/non-male to apply for them); everyone having access to health insurance. What will fix men’s oppression: feminism, which argues that women and men are equal and should be treated as such by society. What won’t fix these issues: saying that “if women were required to sleep with them, men wouldn’t shoot up women/drive trucks into crowds for being forced to be celibate.” (Editor’s note: We’ve removed a lengthy rant about a writer who will not be named here; the content of the rant can pretty much be derived from first principles. Ms. LM is resting comfortably.)

[2] Technically, The Dialectic of Enlightenment is by Adorno and Max Horkheimer. But the way I draw people, they look way too similar to each other, so I decided to use Marcuse. Also, Marcuse was the one writing about the ways in which capitalism is oppressive, so some of the ideas here are his.

[3] In fact, I believe some groups like the FBI and CIA offer incentives to films that want to showcase agents in them in some way, along with consulting on procedure and other nuances. Of course, these films have to depict the agents in a positive light.

[4] Right now, of course, you are thinking to yourself–wait, what about fan fiction? Is that a reappropriation of cultural touchstones by the people now devoid of folkloric heroes, or simply the mealy mouthed re-recitation of the same tropes endemic in the original media? I don’t know! It’s very exciting, isn’t it.

[5] One of the weirdest things that I’ve noticed lately is not just product placement in films, like ET eating Reeses Pieces, but characters from films appearing in commercials for the products that are sponsoring the film. But maybe this is pretty normal at this point and I just never noticed.

[6] Even if the rom-coms don’t reinforce the cultural narratives about marriage etc., they still act as escapism and prevent their viewers from focusing on the true issue–REVOLUTION. Oh, and also that the Enlightenment was bad. So. You know.

Em oi! #433: National Poetry Month

I don’t usually take any swings at my own artwork, because if I did I’d never get to the rest of my commentary, but I do kind of feel like I didn’t do too much justice to either poet here. In reality, John Keats had a lovely romantic look to him, and TS Eliot looked a bit like Angry Thin Stephen Fry.

Eliot’s line is from “The Waste Land,” of course. Keats’s line is actually from a poem called “To John Keats, Poet, at Spring Time” by Countee Cullen. For various reasons, I reread it and the poem “Oatmeal” by Galway Kinnel every spring. Both poems are about Keats, but a lot of Keats’s writing was not about things like spring, which seems like too tame a season for him, but about this wild, fantastic nature that is lush and verdant and just a little bit dangerous. His writing is for me I guess evocative of the paintings of Henri Rousseau. Which is maybe appropriate, because both were critically derided during their lives and then recognized as geniuses after their deaths.

On the other hand, Eliot is very intellectual and clever–I was saying to B the other day, his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” continues to have some of my favorite lines in English poetry in it, although some of the rhymes are kind of (probably intentionally) trite. “The Waste Land” begins with this line quoted above about “April is the cruelest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land…” Which at first glance, you wonder–what’s he talking about? It’s actually a rather Buddhist sentiment, this idea that there is cruelty in rebirth–in the West, especially in eschatological religions like Christianity, the idea of life continuing after death is greeted as a positive. They look forward to the afterlife as a sort of perfection of life as well as an extension. In Buddhism, the cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) is seen as a negative thing, since it represents the continuation of suffering. While there are some heavens available to the virtuous, and you can even be reincarnated as a deity, the true goal of the religion (inasmuch as religion has goals) is to reach a state of nonexistence. So by this logic, the return (reincarnation) of the lilacs after the winter (death) is cruel, because they will have to suffer again the following fall and eventually die.[1]

All of which is to say, there are things to recommend both of them as poets–I don’t want to sound like I’m selling anyone short. (Although OKAY so did Eliot get his introduction to Buddhism from Ezra Pound, who was kind of an Orientalist? But was anyone in the West of that era NOT an Orientalist? HM. And I’ve always kind of suspected Eliot would be kind of a jerk if you met him at a party, where at least it would be fun to go bird watching with Keats or something like that.) Anyway, go read “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.” And then feel a little sad that you didn’t write it. And then feel happy that you got to read it.

We’ll file this under PN1077 L86 2018, for Literature (General)–Poetry–Relations to, and treatment of, special subjects–Relation to philosophy, ethics, religion, myth, etc. Religion and theology of the poets.

Notes

[1] I don’t know if this is an “official” interpretation of this line/the poem. Just something that struck me. It’s probably best not to cite me/this in your English paper.

Em oi! #432: You’re going to be Mister Finn again

During a rather wide-ranging talk with a friend, it was suggested to me that I should try reading Finnegans Wake aloud to young Hal. Of course I tried it the next night. Much of Ulysses reads aloud very well, and I have gained a new appreciation for the Telemachiad that way. And I have heard it said that reading the Wake aloud is also a great way to catch the double meanings. But. Um.

Honestly, reading FW aloud feels a little like developing some type of aphasia. And the double meanings (I hesitate to call them puns) are, well–

Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war…

The word I’ve bolded here is extremely typical of the type of reference that’s supposed to become obvious when the text is read aloud. “Passencore” = “pas encore” = French for “not yet.” Sir Tristram had not yet returned from North Armorica. (Armorica is one of those words that makes you feel like you’re having a stroke–it’s really an ancient term for part of northern France, but I think it is used intentionally to also seem to reference North America, since later in the paragraph there are references to the city of Dublin, Georgia, USA.) Anyway. If you read the text aloud with the proper Dublin accent (not a secondhand attempt to mimic some great aunt’s County Down accent), and possibly also you knew what you were looking for, you might make sense of passencore. Or, as mentioned in the comic, “ostrygods gaggin fishygods” = Ostrogoths gagging (fighting with) Visigoths. But you’d probably have to figure that out from context as much as anything else.

I have started slowly picking my way through a few good books on the subject (A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake by Campbell because I recall my dad having a copy…and A Reader’s Guide to Finnegans Wake by Tindall, because it was recommended by one of the websites that came up while I was researching this). They are helpful and put things in some context–more so than, for example, this site, which aside from having been designed in approximately 2003 contains more information than can ever possibly be useful. Anyway, the short answer to the question you’re all probably asking (“What on Earth…?”) is that the book depicts a man (probably HCE? although I don’t know if there’s a good reason to assume the character inside the dream is the same as the one outside) who falls asleep and dreams the history of the Earth and its repetitions as described by Giambattista Vico in The New Science.[1] The fall of Tim Finnegan and his revival, as depicted in a Dublin street ballad (“Finnegan’s Wake“[2]), becomes the prototype of every fall (the fall of man, e.g.). HCE becomes the Duke of Wellington, Adam, Osiris… (Yeah, another significant influence was the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which leads to my new PhD thesis, Colonialism, Orientalism, and Intercultural Mimesis in the Works of James Joyce.[3]) Other characters (HCE’s wife and sons) are similarly used symbolically to represent recurring figures throughout history. If you’re confused, you might want to check out The Skin of Our Teeth, by Thornton Wilder, which does basically the same thing except not in dream language.

One other fact I recall: Joyce spent a good portion of his life on this book. So while he was working on it, his daughter Lucia (who was fairly ill-used in many respects) was going mad. Carl Jung, who treated her, apparently observed that while both Joyce and his daughter were “submerged in the same water,” “…where [he] swims, she drowns.” So there’s that.

We’ll file this under PR6019.O9Z5 L86 2018, for English literature–1900-1960–Individual authors–J–Joyce, James, 1882-1941–Biography and criticism–General works. Also please note that this is one place where the classification falls a bit flat–this is the English literature category; there’s also an American literature category, as well as Canadian literature. During Joyce’s lifetime, Ireland went from being a colony of England to an independent country. But there’s no Irish literature category. And yet Joyce is inevitably defined as an Irish writer. (Also/however, c.f. the following quote from Ulysses.)

–I am a servant of two masters, Stephen said, an English and an Italian.

–Italian? Haines said.

A crazy queen, old and jealous. Kneel down before me.

–And a third, Stephen said, there is who wants me for odd jobs.

–Italian? Haines said again. What do you mean?

–The imperial British state, Stephen answered, his colour rising, and the holy Roman catholic and apostolic church.

Haines detached from his underlip some fibres of tobacco before he spoke.

–I can quite understand that, he said calmly. An Irishman must think like that, I daresay. We feel in England that we have treated you rather unfairly. It seems history is to blame.

Notes:

[1] I used to reject the idea that history was at all cyclical. Then we elected Nixon II as president. (I am sure this has something to do with Nixon becoming a somewhat funny pop-culture figure rather than an evil motherfucker in the meantime, but–first as tragedy, then as farce, right?)

[2] The Gaelic word they mention, “uisca beatha,” comes from the Latin word “aqua vitae” translated into Gaelic in the Middle Ages.

[3] The extremely genius part of this is that most people haven’t read the Wake and aren’t going to, so you can make almost any claim you want about it and people will believe it. C.F. this blog post.

Em oi! 431: One Sunday

Hourly comic day is technically February 1st, I think. It started back in 2006 when John Campbell, who once drew the comic Pictures for Sad Children (and then later set a bunch of stuff on fire and maybe quit the internet, I don’t know anymore) would draw an hourly comic every day for the month of January, and then invite other artists to join them on the last day of the project. The only rule is typically that you have to draw one panel for every hour you’re awake depicting something that happened during that hour. Technically you’re supposed to draw them AS THEY’RE HAPPENING but I never manage that. These were done during naps. Here I have in some cases done multiple panels in order to provide more of a narrative. Unfortunately it didn’t scan as well as I would have liked. I used to draw them on index cards (1-2 panels per card per hour). Perhaps I’ll try that again.

I’ve actually drawn these before (in Thai too), but not for quite a while. This one happens to cover last Sunday, which was the 4th of February. It was an atypical day around here in a lot of ways… we were recovering from a party the night before and B was struggling with a stomach virus that had been bugging him for a few days, so I did maybe more baby care than I might usually have and also we ate lunch at three in the afternoon. I think I maybe left out one wake up with Henry at 2ish? I don’t remember. Sunday is currently the day that I don’t run, so that’s also different from the quotidian, but that’s probably why I had time to draw this. Oh, and Henry spit up (on me) a few times more than usual. I have only depicted some of the bodily-fluid-related events here. It turns out that as babies get older, they tend to spit up less. Except when they’re fussy, they can swallow air that can lead to more spit ups. Henry got his first tooth last week. So you can maybe guess. Anyway. The lucky part is I didn’t give him the bright red Tylenol until after the last spit up. (Pro tip: If you are holding a baby and you feel his tummy suddenly kind of rumble in a bad way, point him away from you.)

Also, ignore Henry’s skepticism about Night Vision. It really is an excellent book. He is too young to really understand poetry.

File this one under PS3612.U686Z46 2018 for American literature—Individual authors—2001-—L—Biography and Criticism—Autobiography, journals, memoirs. By date.

2017 by the Numbers

Some numbers that defined the year:

  • Books read: 12
  • Plays seen: 14 (this number includes musicals and operas)
  • Pounds gained / lost: +27 / -42
  • Miles run: 1,634.21 (because of the way I track my running, this also includes walking intentionally for exercise and elliptical use)
  • Total mileage since I started tracking in 2012: 13,402.92*
  • Yards swum: 46,500 (almost all after I was six months pregnant)
  • Miles biked: 0
  • Races started in 2017: 10
  • DNFs / Finishes: 1 / 9
  • Longest race: 10 miles (Black Hawk Ridge 16k, Oct 22, 2:02:41)
  • Shortest race: 5k (Freeze for Food 5k, March 4, 29:15; Berbee Derby 5k, Nov 23, 29:39)
  • Highest place in a race: 5th (Freeze for Food 5k)
  • Worst place in a race: 19 of 19 (Black Hawk Ridge 16k)**
  • Babies had: 1
  • Comics drawn and published on blog: 9 (yeah, there were others that were sketched but left unfinished for various reasons)
  • Concerts attended: 1 (Foo Fighters)
  • Quilts completed: 1.75 (still putting the finishing touches on the second one)

* Table of running:

Year Miles
2017 1,634.21
2016 2,313.02
2015 2,388.25
2014 2,384.58
2013 2,163.86
2012 2,519

** This is actually a bit hard to calculate–is 19/19 worse than 25/28?

Finishing the 2018 New Year’s Day Dash at -5 degrees F. Never again.

Numerical Goals for 2018:

  • Running: 2,300 miles
  • Races: at least 6 (currently I have completed one and am registered for one in May), with a sub-2 half marathon in the mix. Hopefully this would be the IAT half, but that’s a pretty tough course, and I don’t think I’ve ever run it that fast, so we’ll see.
  • Books to read: 15
  • Lifting: get the deadlift to 200 lbs, squat 185 lbs (with reasonable depth I guess), bench press over 100 lbs.
  • Comics: 10
  • Quilts: 1.25 (gotta finish the aforementioned one)

Bonus: I talked to this guy and he gave me a few of his resolutions!

  • Laugh more, scream less.
  • Grow some teeth. Not too many, maybe four or five.
  • Figure out some mode of personal locomotion, such as walking or crawling.
  • Spit up on people other than Mom.

Maybe the last one is just a pipe dream of mine.

Em oi! #430: The Ravell’d Sleeve

The kid started daycare this morning. So there’s that. The upshot is that I have a few minutes to think about comics. Apparently I finished inking this one on October 10th, which means it took me nearly a month to erase the pencil lines and scan it. Oops.

If you are going to ask me, “Hey Em, why have you been so obsessed with Heidegger lately?” The answer is I’m not sure. I watched a couple of entertaining videos about him last month (example 1; example 2). (I spent a lot of the last twelve weeks sitting on the sofa with a fussy/hungry/just cuddly baby, watching videos about philosophers.) Heidegger’s ideas about learning to live authentically through being aware of our temporary, fleeting lives are interesting in the same way that Buddhism’s ideas about samsara are interesting. And in fact a long time ago I edited a book of essays about Asian philosophy that discussed the similarities between Heidegger and Zen Buddhism. But at the same time, as I’ve been spending time watching our dogs and the kidlet, I’ve become somewhat convinced that the way to live authentically isn’t to live with an awareness of one’s own mortality, as Heidegger would have it, but more to live in the present. Of course, the rejection of “noise” (das Gerede) is probably a good idea to help us learn about the value and connectedness of life (das Sein).

There’s also the problem that Heidegger was kind of a Nazi. A lot of sites that talk about his philosophy gloss over this or sort of apologize for it, but he never really did so. I should note that I have mixed feelings about that article’s seeming removal of culpability from Arendt by saying she was “in thrall” to him. Dude wasn’t a vampire; she made a choice to defend him. But that also raises the question of why, which is not satisfactorily answered.

Simone de Beauvoir’s remarks are influenced mostly by my understanding of her quote about “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Her meaning is about socialization, I believe–being a woman is essentially a social construction. Times of upset in one’s life that require a reorganization, like marriage and births, are times when one can feel one’s socially assigned role shifting significantly, sometimes whether one wants it to or not. There are certainly a lot of people who have told me sort of soppy, annoying things about motherhood (e.g. don’t come up and tell me I’m the most important person in my son’s life, I am not his only parent and I don’t want that kind of pressure), but the “mom shaming” one hears so much about has not really been a problem.

I have been approached by a lot of old people who want to look at the baby though. What’s up with old people?

For more on Donald Winnicott’s ideas about motherhood (or parenthood, if he were writing today), you can see the book Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. She goes into it much better than I could. Or Wikipedia has a summary here. Basically, “meet the child’s needs, and it’s okay to fail a little bit.”

All right, I am going to spend the last twenty minutes of my lunch break with my head down, since I slept 4.75 hours last night. Whee.

We’ll file this under RC547 L86 2017, for Internal medicine–Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry–Psychiatry–Neuroses–Sleep disorders–General works. Because there doesn’t seem to be a call number for “sleep deprivation torture caused by having a newborn around.” Also, why is psychiatry cataloged under “internal medicine”? If internal medicine just means “stuff inside the body,” it arguably contains (as a category) all branches of medicine except maybe parts of dermatology. Weird.

Em oi! #429: The Weight

Hey guys, I remembered how to draw. Sort of.

For those who are totally confused by the set up described here, basically the jogging stroller has an attachment that holds the car seat, and the baby rides in that. I didn’t give this much thought before he was born, but the whole thing adds up to quite a bit of weight. I have found I’m getting faster going up hills when I’m not pushing H though. This past Saturday at the Indian Lake trail run, I got up the Hill (you know which one if you’ve been out there) faster than ever before. Of course I ran the rest of the course at a fairly slow pace overall, but I was proud of how many people I passed scrambling up that hill.

Also, babies are hard to draw. I just want to say that. And by the time I master what he looks like now, he’ll look different.

Bonus panel:

This one is going to have a shorter chat than usual because, well, someone just woke up from his nap I think. In the meantime, we’ll file it under RG801 L86 2017, for Gynecology and obstetrics–Obstetrics–Puerperal state–General works. I admit that this feels like a bit of a cop-out, but while there’s a subject heading that seems relevant (postnatal exercise), there doesn’t seem to be an obvious call number associated with it. There is an obvious call number for prenatal exercise though, which reinforces the idea that once you give birth, you’re not that interesting anymore (medically or otherwise). Seriously, we got sent home from the hospital with only a few lame self-care instructions given that I’d just had what I’m told was major surgery (like “don’t drive for a while.” I asked, “How long is a while?” Nurse: “I don’t know, you need to ask your doctor.” What, really, you don’t know how long after a c-section I should avoid driving? Don’t you do this ALL THE TIME?).

I could rant about that all day, but I won’t. People are idiots, we already knew that. Anyway. Hope you’re all enjoying the nice fall weather. I am. Talk to you all later.

Em oi! #428: Male Bonding

This is based on actual conversations I had back when I was still going to aikido (something I did up to about 20 weeks). It surprised me when I was talking to guys about pregnancy–and I mean guys who have kids–the two things they know about pregnancy are 1) there is a lot of puking, and 2) get an epidural.[1] Actually, after making this observation, a friend pointed out that most people don’t spend as much time with their spouses/significant others as I do on a day-to-day basis, so the vomiting and labor may be the biggest parts of what most men remember about pregnancy. That and cravings, I guess. But just like I didn’t actually throw up until I got the stomach flu in March, I didn’t really have any exciting cravings beyond granny smith apples with peanut butter.

So when I originally drew this comic, I messed something up–I drew and inked another comic on the other side of the page, and the ink bled through. Fortunately, B was able to save the art with Photoshop. He also produced this version, which I actually think is in many ways much better than the original, betraying a good sense of comic timing as well as an acute awareness of, well, Em (Em qua character and Em qua me):

I’m filing the first comic under HM1161 L86 2017, for Sociology–Social psychology–Interpersonal relations. Social behavior–Interpersonal attraction–Friendship. The second comic will be filed under BJ1491 M48 2017, for Ethics–Special topics–Hedonism and asceticism. Renunciation.

I wanted to add a few notes about running during pregnancy, since I have pretty much finished running[2] (though not working out) at this point, and since I anticipate that in a few weeks, the topic won’t be of too much concern for me anymore but that I may want to retain the information for posterity.

I have run seven races while pregnant[3]:

Race / Distance Date Time Place
New Year’s Day Dash (5 mi) 1-1-17 45:09 54th of 144 in age group
Freeze for Food 5k 3-4-17 29:15 5th in AG
Freeze for Food 10k 3-4-17 (directly after the 5k) 59:21 15th in AG
44-Furlong World Championship (about 5.5 mi) 3-18-17 54:15 11th overall (of 18 women)
Donald Dash (12k-ish trail race) 5-6-17 1:36:18 25th in AG
Ice Age Trail Half Marathon 5-13-17 DNF DNF
Blue Mound Trail Race (10k) 6-3-17 1:32:30 20th in AG (of 20)

I think this kind of paints a picture. The weather is always a major factor for any runner, but it’s especially a big deal during pregnancy. For example, the Ice Age Trail race was extremely humid–in another year, I would have finished, although slowly (I was on pace for a three-hour half–significantly slower than I’ve ever done on that course–but of course in another year I would have probably been a little faster too). But this year, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and ended the race after the first 6.5-mi loop.[4] In fact, “more” is basically the watchword for running during pregnancy–you need more water, more calories for a given distance, more bathrooms,[5] and eventually, more time.

The situation is not quite as 100% clear-cut as I’m making it sound here, though. Here’s a chart of my pace from November until July (click to embiggen):

As you can see, I have gotten slower, but things are uneven. On the other hand, this is skewed by the fact that I moved my training inside as of May and took to the elliptical only as of mid-June. The moving average is set to a period of five because typically I run five days per week, although since I switched to elliptical only it has been 4 days / week elliptical, 3 days / week swimming.

So here, briefly, is a list of my advice for running during pregnancy. Standard disclaimers apply–this is basically what worked for me, but it may not work for you, or even be feasible.

  1. Read Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James Clapp.
  2. During the first two trimesters, running was a lot easier when I was running with others. The further along I got, the more true this became. Getting up in the morning in time to meet my running groups got harder and harder though.
  3. Bring water. Also, bring more snacks than you would normally.
  4. You can get a support belt that will help prevent your uterus from bullying your bladder. This belt was most helpful between about 13-20 weeks.
  5. Eventually, moving the workouts inside, where there is climate control and easy access to bathrooms, is a good idea.
  6. Expect recovery to take longer than usual.
  7. Don’t run down a mountain–you will eventually have to run back up. This might be good advice for any time, honestly. I did this around twelve weeks, at altitude (in Colorado), and nearly passed out later that evening because I didn’t refuel well–just downed a coffee and a bagel and took a nap. So if you do decide to do something stupid like this, eat two bagels.
  8. Just because people often compare going through labor and running a marathon doesn’t mean that you have to show up for labor ready to run 26.2 miles. Similarly, it’s okay to switch to elliptical when your joints/organs can’t take the impact anymore. Just keep moving.
Photo courtesy of Blue Mounds Trail Race.

The funny thing about this photo is I remember feeling so victorious as I crossed the finish line. But in reality, I look incredibly toasted (and covered with mud). And eight months pregnant. Some things are unavoidable.

[1] It is perhaps unsurprising that men who have watched their partners go through labor both with and without an epidural will say, “Get the epidural.”

[2] My current workout regime is ~25 mi/week on the elliptical, 3,000-5,000 yards of swimming, and 3-4 days of lifting weights. I can still deadlift 115 lbs at this point, but I’m getting some funny looks from various gym bros (suck it, gym bros).

[3] Technically I was pregnant during the 2016 Burbee Derby, but I didn’t know it yet, so I’m omitting that here.

[4] I’m still kind of disappointed in myself about this. I’d never DNF’d a race before. (For those who aren’t runners, DNF = Did Not Finish.)

[5] One highlight of the IAT race was stepping off the course to pee in the bushes and discovering I’d chosen a thorn bush to crawl into. Good job, me.

Em oi! #427: Media Is Misfortune


I cut this up into panels for easier viewing. Click here to view the original.
A few notes and sources:

  1. Chomsky didn’t develop this theory (properly called the “propaganda model”) alone–he co-wrote the book with Edward Herman. Wikipedia suggests that the theory was more Herman’s than Chomsky’s, but everyone seems to call it Chomsky’s theory. Here is a video that explains it in more depth than one panel of a comic can do. As a (former, I guess) southeast Asianist, I have mixed feelings about Chomsky…he seems to be generally accepted on this point, but he was so, so wrong about a number of things (specifically, the Khmer Rouge)…
  2. Here is the main interview with Zizek that I referenced. I do enjoy the contrast between the well-dressed BBC host and the Ziz, who always looks like he has been awake for about 43 hours and hasn’t done laundry in a week.
  3. Foucault’s stuff about the power structure and revolution was touched on in this earlier comic.
  4. Fitzgerald has a weird face. Sorry, dude. Of all the real people I’ve tried to draw, he is the weirdest. And this is including J-P “Walleye” Sartre.
  5. Chomsky and Foucault didn’t get along either.

Chomsky was, (possibly) surprisingly, on the side of Hillary Clinton during the last election, while Zizek wanted people to vote for Trump–not because he supported Trump; in fact, he views DT as immoral and terrible, in many ways a total disaster. But he believed that by electing DT, the left would see some galvanization and would begin to reconstruct itself, not just to offer opposition but to offer a viable alternative that did not include neoliberalism/late-stage international capitalism/what have you. Interestingly, I think he was right to some extent. I knew a few people involved in local activism while Obama was in office, but I now know many, many more people who are calling their senators and congresspeople regularly, going to rallies, and actively supporting various campaigns to change the country for the better.

As I’m writing this, however, DT has pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord.* What this will actually mean for the world in the long run is difficult to say at this juncture, since it was a largely symbolic voluntary agreement that many (well, Honduras Nicaragua [ed: damn it]) claimed didn’t go far enough. But I do think that without the governmental impetus, the solution to global warming will wind up coming from the business community–that capitalism will eventually have to save us. If the idiotic old men in power can’t see the writing on the wall, the entrepreneurs can, and in this country money speaks a lot louder than treaty obligations. Which is ironic, because I think that the revolution Zizek had in mind was not essentially the renaissance of cultural capitalism in the role of savior, but (of course) socialism (“the good old welfare state,” as he would put it). To paraphrase Oscar Wilde (or, really Ziz quoting Wilde in the video linked just there), it feels like a bad idea to use private industry to lead the mitigation of the environmental disaster caused by private industry, because their motives will always be profit-driven rather than altruistic, and that means that people not living in the first world are going to wind up getting screwed somehow. On the other hand, as someone who is worried about the environment, I guess I’ll take what I can get at this point?

Circling back to the Ziz’s point about the president as the motive for revolution: the problem is that Trump is a good enemy but ultimately inept. The left doesn’t really have to do anything–they (we) just have to stand there and he’ll turn his administration into a dumpster fire. It’s been less than six months and there’s already been talk of impeachment on the floor of the House by Republicans. Thus, while the base is fired up, the democrats in congress don’t seem to be doing much in the way of providing alternative leadership or pivoting to embrace the more liberal Sanders wing or the multicultural Obama wing–they don’t have to.

And this is where the lack of objectivity I mentioned begins to bother me–rather than seeing any individual action the administration takes as the flailing of an inept and failing regime, the leftermost voices seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on interpreting how this is going to lead to fascism/autocracy/A Handmaid’s Tale/insert your particular fear here. I suppose this is the reverse of Obama, or perhaps more accurately the flip side of it. I discussed a few posts back seeing voters in 2008–especially African American voters, since I was in a heavily African American area of Philly–reconstructing Obama in their own image so that he could serve as a vehicle onto which they could project their ideas/hopes/dreams. Now on the other side, we have the left projecting its fears onto DT–perhaps because of a lack of transparency on his part that keeps him feeling like a remote and unknowable figure, or perhaps because this is how people always deal with their leaders–just as we must imagine that we live in a community filled with others who are basically the same as we are in order to become a nation, we must imagine the same thing about the leader who we will likely never meet in person–that he or she is a specific type of person that either is like us (for those leaders we like) or totally foreign to us (for those we hate).

To provide a possible counter-point to my own point here, I’ll add that while I was sketching out this comic, I found this video on Jacques Lacan,** about whom I know very little (he is widely admired by many of the continental philosophers I mention here, especially Zizek, but not widely discussed in the [undergraduate] philosophy curriculum, possibly because he’s largely still seen as a psychologist? Or because undergrad philosophy is kinda naff in a lot of ways). Anyway, the video quotes Lacan as saying, “What you aspire to as revolutionaries is a new master. And you will get one.” Lacan meant that what people want, from the time of infancy, is basically an “ideal parent,” someone who can make everything okay, and we carry this desire into who we vote for. Whereas it is better, following Sartre’s idea of radical freedom, to accept that no leader is going to be able to do these things, and instead to embrace the fact that if we want something to happen, the best way is to make it happen ourselves. Go out and break glass ceilings, clean up the environment, make art–do what you need to in order to be awesome every day.

We’ll file this under P95.82 U6 L86 2017, for Philology. Linguistics–Communication. Mass media–Special aspects–Political aspects. Policy–By region or country, A-Z. This allows it to sit next to the original being referenced, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media, at least at my alma mater.

Footnotes:
* When I say “pulled out,” it’s not clear how Bloomberg / the individual states and cities saying they’re still going ahead with the Paris Accord requirements plays into this argument. Bloomberg is of course a total centerist neoliberal (and so on and so on).

**  Yes, I watch stuff like that for fun.