Em oi! #361: The Yolk’s on Me


When I showed B this comic, he said, “I think you have to do some kind of penance for the title.”

Luckily my friend Rowan was the one who suggested it. 🙂

So the thing about eggs is that there are two kinds of eggs you can buy: Cage-free cruelty-free various-other-things-free free range happy chicken eggs, or cruelty-containing eggs. In the first case, you run the risk of having fertilized eggs (at least if you’re getting them from legitimately free-range chickens), because if the chickens are running around…well, sometimes they meet a rooster. This typically shows up as tiny blood spots on the yolk, and is only really a problem if you are trying to keep a Kosher kitchen, which my friends and I were doing during my undergraduate years. On the other hand, cruelty-containing eggs come from chickens that are confined to tiny cages and given no opportunities to meet with any other chickens of another gender, so all the eggs are unfertilized. BUT the addition of cruelty to the eggs makes them problematic for most vegetarian, especially those who are sympathetic to animal rights.

It’s a conundrum, I tell you. Anyway, this comic is why I don’t buy extra-large eggs (and why there was a long period of time wherein I didn’t eat eggs ever).

I’m filing this comic under TX745 .L86 2012 for Home economics—Cooking—Food of animal origin—Eggs. Incidentally this is the second comic this month that I have filed under TX7nn, the other being TX767.C5 L86 2012.

Also, happy anniversary to my cousin Jesse and her husband Keith, who got married one year ago today. Many happy returns, guys! 🙂

Letting Saigons Be Bygones: Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola reviewed

Friedman, Kinky. Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993. 300 p. 0-617-86922-1.


I don’t know about writing prefaces to books. I used to just not read them. In academic books they are primarily a place to name-drop the other academics who served as your advisors, gave your tenure committee good reviews of your work, who had informal conversations with you that probably inspired part of chapter six, or toward whom you feel some sense of obligation since you teach in the same department. Once you start getting into a small sub-field (like Theravada Buddhist studies of Southeast Asia) you start to notice that there are groups who all thank each other in little cliques. When they all start thanking your professor, you’re in trouble.

Fiction being a bigger world, it’s unusual to see a name I recognize. But in the Acknowledgements, Friedman thanks Don Imus, referring to him as “my longtime friend and spiritual and sexual mentor.” Imus, you may recall, was the subject of a scandal in 2007 when he made some racist comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. It turns out that he’s done that on more than one occasion…he also runs a charity for kids with cancer, has been clean from drugs and alcohol for 20 years, and has been battling prostate cancer since 2009. He and his wife are vegetarians. I imagine that, like Kinky Friedman (who wrote the song “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore” that contains pretty much every racial slur I’ve ever heard), Imus thinks of himself as someone who can deploy unsavory language as a way of drawing attention to our incorrect assumptions about the world, someone who in some sense fights to repair the power imbalance created through the use of racially charged language. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t; maybe he doesn’t deserve to have his whole life tainted by one ill-advised remark. Or maybe he does. At any rate, when I saw Imus mentioned, I thought twice about reading the book.

But then I read it anyway, which is why I’m writing a review. Now you know.

So, Kinky Friedman. The Kinkstah writes books about himself and his friends and his cat, who is always referred to as “the cat.” Kinky’s friends have names like Ratso, Rambam, the Bakerman, McGovern, and so on—one name names, most of them. They solve mysteries. Frequently these books are set in New York, though a few of them are set in Friedman’s home state of Texas. They are written in the tones of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett and contain innumerable references to other works of detective fiction. Detectives referred to include Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Maigret. Other literary references abound—for example, he writes, “Emily once wrote, ‘Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.’ Well, hope was flappin’ like a November turkey at the moment” (78). Emily here being, of course, Emily Dickinson. On the previous page he introduces two dogs named Pyramus and Thisbe and makes some lewd references to the story of Lot’s wife. You could say I find these books amusing because they are a chronicle of my misspent youth in the humanities.

Kinky has his own language and his own rhythms. The telephone is a “blower” and it usually gets “collared” when it rings. A cab is a “hack.” A “Nixon” is…well, I won’t tell you, but it’s something a cat might do in the shoe of its enemy. All of one’s nutritional needs can be fulfilled with Jameson’s whiskey, espresso, and cigars. And like Nero Wolfe, he rarely seems to leave the apartment, letting the clues come to him. The other things you need to know to understand the Kinkstah is that he served in the Peace Corps in Borneo (Malaysia) in the 60s, that he was raised Jewish and toured with a band called “Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys,” and that he once ran for governor of Texas under the slogan “How Hard Can it Be?” He also runs an animal rescue (I believe it is funded by a line of salsas he sells—the salsa is, to my recollection, pretty good).

Am I painting a picture here?

This is a book from another era in some sense: In 1993, no one has a mobile phone, so Kinky spends a lot of time “collaring the blowers” on his desk. He smokes everywhere, including in restaurants. The New York in which he lives has probably begun to undergo the decrease in crime written about by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point and by the Stevens Levitt and Dubner in Freakonomics, but it is still a tough, gritty, dangerous place. In short, he lives in a world that is very much divorced from the safe, politically correct, liberal city I inhabit. But while Friedman peoples his environment with gritty people who use unsavory language, I am continually attracted to his desire as a satirist to subvert everyone’s assumptions about the individuals they meet. For example, in one scene Kinky gets into a hack and remarks that the driver’s “appearance and brusque behavior clearly indicated that he came from a country that began with an ‘I’” (40). He believes the driver hates, him noting the way the man’s “curry-colored eyes [glare] at [him], shifting with evil intent like the sands of distant dunes” (40-41). On arrival, he asks the man where he’s from, and gets the response “Tel Aviv, man” (41). Kinky thinks, “Country did start with an ‘I’” (ibid.). This desire to show people how their assumptions may be incorrect is at the heart of all good satire, and it is what makes a book like this really different from off the cuff remarks made by people like Don Imus.

So, to this book in particular: At the Bakerman’s funeral, the guy’s father asks Kinky to find a documentary film about Elvis impersonators that Baker was working on when he died. Kinky promises to do this; however it seems that Baker’s assistant (Legs) had the reel and he’s not answering his phone. Meanwhile, a former girlfriend (Downtown Judy) comes back into his life just as another girlfriend (Uptown Judy) is kidnapped. Then Legs is found dead—in his apartment, as in Uptown Judy’s, was Kinky’s phone number written on a pad of paper. Kinky and the Village Irregulars will go through a few more murders (and one beating courtesy of a local mob boss) before they find the film and figure out how all these things are connected.

This book was less funny than the other Kinky Friedman novels I’ve read (Armadillos and Old Lace and The Mile High Club are the others)–Baker’s death at the beginning casts a pall over the fun, and one does come away with the (probably legitimate) sense that the book is less about the mystery than about the journey, the process of walking around NYC in the winter in a cowboy hat, mourning the death of your friend.

That feels a bit perfunctory—I have written now about 950 words of introduction to the series and only two paragraphs concerning this particular book. Maybe that’s because overall I enjoyed this book less than I recall enjoying The Mile High Club (which, if you’re looking for a hilarious book about cross-dressing Mossad agents, is the book you are looking for).

Anyway, the book is a good, quick read.

One other thing—a post-script on the book’s post-script, as it were: Friedman writes a very short paen to his cat (“the cat”); it seems her undisclosed name was Cuddles, and she was his companion for fourteen years. A macho, cigar-smoking, hard-drinking cowboy who names his beloved cat Cuddles is basically as good a summary of the inherent contradictions of Kinky Friedman as I can come up with.

Em oi! #360: Everyone is Wrong on the Internets

Filing this under PE145 .L86 2012 for English philology and language—Anglo-Saxon. Old English—Language—Grammar—Orthography and spelling.

I feel I would be remiss in posting this without linking to these two things:

  1. Alphabet by Randall Munroe.
  2. Blackadder.

Book Review: Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

Horowitz, Alexandra. Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. New York: Scribner, 2009. 978-1-4165-8340-0.

Worldcat. (This link may not work for everyone.)


I grew up with cats, although I spent much of my youth desperately wanting a dog (specifically, a cocker spaniel I would name “Wolfgang,” precocious little shit that I was). In retrospect, it’s a good thing I didn’t get one, since I would never have suspected how much work dogs require in order to keep them happy.

Almost as soon as I got my first apartment, I got my first personal cats. It wasn’t until last March, over ten years after moving out of my parents’ house, that I finally got the dog I’d longed for (not a cocker spaniel, thank goodness). There is still one resident cat in the household, and I like it that way. I would not define myself as either a cat person or a dog person—someone who prefers one animal to the exclusion of the other—but more of an animal lover in general.

(Full confession: As I write this, the cat and dog are wrestling, an activity that provokes a lot of yowling, and I am rethinking my desire to have pets.)

Anyway, at my age everyone has either a dog or an infant, or (in the case of some unlucky souls) both. I find infants tedious*, so it’s nice to have a good reserve of dog facts in case I need to one-up some oblivious acquaintance who persists in explaining how intriguing her spawn actually is.

Alexandra Horowitz is an unabashed dog person, and also a Ph.D.-holding cognitive scientist with experience studying a variety of mammals, including humans, rhinoceroses, and dogs. In Inside of a Dog, she gives a brief overview of research on dog cognition, behavior, and umwelt—the “subjective or ‘self-world’” (20). For example, humans are primarily visual creatures. Dogs are far and away primarily olfactory-dependent. What does this mean for how they perceive the world in which they live?

In exploring these and other questions, Dr. Horowitz gives a comprehensible but not overly complex review of the current literature regarding dogs. Her tone is conversational and lightly humorous (no surprise to anyone who recognizes the source of the book’s title as that old Groucho Marx line, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”). While a few of her sentences fall short (in particular, one retelling of an old Woody Allen story made me wish for my red editor’s pen), she’s a competent writer on the whole and the book is a quick and delightful read.

As an academic, I’m used to making my way through somewhat more complicated works—the stuff published by university presses with a hundred pages of bibliographic notes and a full index in the back, to say nothing of analysis of the statistical data in the referenced studies. Here, there is none of that—although some (probably most) papers and books she referred to are listed by topic at the end, there are no in-text citations or notes. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not leveling accusations that something vital has been omitted, but I could have handled (and would have enjoyed) a slightly more scientifically rigorous book.

Horowitz’s book is not about dog training, but it does contain some information on how to train a dog. Ms. Horowitz here differs from the majority of trainers in that she feels that teaching too many commands to a dog somehow loses part of the dog’s dogness: “When come here has been learned, a good argument can be made that there is little else by way of commands that an ordinary dog needs to know” (286). She also does not approve of punishment (much like B.F. Skinner, the father of operant conditioning) and suggests that inappropriate behavior should be allowed to die out through ignoring it—what Skinner called extinction. There are problems with this, however. For example, when one’s dog is playing too rough with the cat, simply ignoring the behavior is not sufficient, since the cat’s response to the behavior is rewarding to the dog (not to mention that, depending on the size of the dog, the cat may risk physical harm from unrestrained play). Some better way of terminating the behavior is necessary. However, Dr. Horowitz makes a good point when she says that we have to allow

"Wait...inside of a what?"

for the dogness of a dog in training it, and recognize that regardless of how well trained a dog is, it’s still a dog, not a tiny furry human.

An anecdote: My dog, a shiba inu got from a rescue in northern Illinois, knows fewer than ten commands. She does the usual sit, stay, prone [i.e., “lie down”], down [i.e., “off the sofa”], and up [“jump into the car”]. More interestingly, despite not being formally taught that the cat is referred to by the word “cat,” and despite not having any herding instincts (I mean, shibas were originally bred for hunting small game), when we say, “Maya, where’s the cat?” she will run and find the cat and herd her to us. So how does that happen? Horowitz offers a few clues: When sheep dog puppies are raised with sheep (which they have to be, in order to become good sheep dogs), they come to believe that the sheep are essentially other dogs. So the dog may believe that “cat” is just a name applied to this other dog in the household. After all, they both have pointy ears and whiskers. She had also seen us go through the motions of looking for the cat (and of evicting the cat from the bedroom, where she is not allowed to go). The first time Maya noticed the cat trying to go into the bedroom, she herded her away from the dog. Our laughter and periodic praise for this kind of behavior probably led to her understanding, in some way, that we like it when she responds to our inquiries about the cat by finding the cat (dogs are keen observers of human behavior; while Derrida felt discomfort at his cat’s gaze reminding him of “the animal that therefore I am,” the gaze of a dog is more of an inquiry into our humanness, an evolutionary attempt to bridge a gap between two species that have long lived together). So without conscious effort on our part, we suggested to the dog that her assistance in surveilling the cat would be appreciated. If only we could train her to bark when she wants to go outside or something.

Dr. Horowitz brings the book to life with little drawings and descriptions of life with her dog, Pumpernickel. Somehow these descriptions wound up being really touching, instead of just illustrating various points she was trying to make. I’ll admit it, at the end of the book, when she talked about Pump’s inevitable old age and death, I cried. I’m a soft touch when it comes to animals, though. I can’t help but take this as an important warning delivered in an almost Daoist way: over and over again, Horowitz implores us to pay attention to our dogs. Look at them, really see them. Apart from the benefits in understanding canine behavior, it really drives home the point that, although now you have a partner, a dog, a cat, a child, eventually things will change and you will not have these beings anymore. So pay attention–they’re standing right there. Do you really see them?

At the end, Inside of a Dog has at best whetted my appetite for more information. I have a lot of questions about the evolution of companion animals, both dogs and cats, and what we can expect to see in these terms in the future. But unfortunately, neither this work or others is likely to answer my questions regarding my dog—Why does she bark at cardboard boxes? Why the phobia of paper towel rolls? As Dr. Horowitz points out, there’s a lot of individual variation among dogs, things that cannot be accounted for on the basis of breed or genetics. Just because there are some dogs out there that understand more than 200 words doesn’t make my dog a genius. It just means that some dogs are really smart.

* Also ugly. I am vaguely acquainted with one woman who seems to spend an incredible amount of money getting professional portraits of her infant every few months, and it’s not helping. I assume that parents are compelled to post photos and declare how adorable their offspring are on various social networking sites almost from the moment of birth by the twin demons of sleep deprivation and oxytocin, because really there’s no other explanation. I should also add that if you’re reading this and you have kids who are over the age of, say, two or three, I do find them pretty interesting and you shouldn’t take this personally.

Em oi! #359: Saucy

"Quick! Taste this chocolate sauce!" This is uttered more frequently in my house than you might think.

We’ll class this under TX767.C5 L86 2012, for Home economics–Cooking–Baking. Confectionery–Recipes for special food products, A-Z–Chocolate. The recipe in question I was making is here, on David Lebovitz’s blog. It’s fantastic.

And in case you were wondering, it turns out a bottle of corn syrup will last pretty much indefinitely.

A few things: the About page has been updated, as has the Index of Comics. I have also added a Frequently Unasked Questions page. If you have anything you’d like answered on it, please email me (ehluptonATgmailDOTcom).


Yesterday I did the 26th annual Verona Hometown Days 10k. Because I’ve been doing a lot of speed work lately, and have seen (or imagine that I have seen) my times get slightly better, I thought I would do a little 10k to see how I am doing. There is nothing like a good race to really show you where you’re at. But the problem is, I am training for a long bike ride, so I cannot exactly put that aside and taper for a week. So instead, my training schedule last week looked like this:

Sunday: 32.2 mi bike ride, 6.3 mi run.
Monday: 8 mi run
Tuesday: 6.1 mi run (AM), 4×1000@4 min (ha) plus warm up and cool down for a total of 4.5 mi (PM)
Wednesday: 10.2 mi run, yoga
Thursday: 34.9 mi bike (includes commute), weights
Friday: 31 mi bike, yoga, weights
Saturday: 46.5 mi bike

So is this the best way to taper? Right. So. Also I went to bed quite late on Saturday and got up early on Sunday, even though Verona is only about eight minutes from my house.

When I got up, surprise, my quads (which had been very tired the previous day) felt fine, and my calf muscles felt all right. B took the dog out and I went off to Verona, arriving around 7:30.

It was already on the warm side (about 70 degrees), although my “heat training” (I do Bikram-style yoga–really, I do hot vinyasa yoga; I will explain the difference sometime) meant that I wasn’t feeling it as much as I might otherwise have been. Instead of bibs, we were given little strips with our names and a colored sticker indicating age group. This proved to be helpful (somewhat) during the race–I quickly ascertained that my age group was marked with a pink circle.

Since I live and run in the area, I knew the first mile and a half would be pretty flat, then hills through to mile five, then mostly downhill to the finish. Accordingly, I planned to: Go out as hard as I could, try to keep my pace steady on the hills but run conservative uphills if necessary, then really push it on the last 1.2 miles. (This is basically my strategy for every race, actually: Run fast, don’t stop.) A book on racing that I’ve been reading says the key to a good 10k is to run strong intermediate miles–it’s easy to find motivation at the start and finish and easy to get distracted in between. So that was another key to my strategy: Don’t falter between miles 2.5-5.

At 7:45, they shouted “go” and we took off, right up a hill. I passed a speedy-looking woman with purple KT tape on her back and, arriving at the top of the hill, realized I was the second place woman and probably fifth or sixth runner overall. The other woman was somewhat ahead of me and seemed to be moving comfortably. Our pace for the first mile was 7:15, which is not sustainable (I was shooting for 7:30s). So I decided, instead of grinding it out at the start, to wait and see if she would over-extend herself later in the race.

At mile 1.5 or so, another woman in a Berkeley Running Co. shirt passed me, and I had to let her go, settling into third place as we turned to go up the big hill next to Verona Area High School. I could see that there were some people back there, but it wasn’t until mile 3, when we headed out Northern Lights Road for an out-and-back section that I realized how far ahead I really was. The turn-around confirmed that I was pretty far ahead of the next woman, and so I ran a bit more conservatively on the way back through this section, which was very hilly. At mile 5, 9 Mound Road was a bit hillier than I remembered, and I had to push to keep my times up. It was getting very hot by this point, and there was not a breath of air to be had. I could see one (older) gentleman ahead of me, and if I turned I could pick out a man in a bright yellow jersey behind me, but basically I was alone. So basically I held onto 3rd place until the finish, where it turned out that neither of the women ahead of me were in my age group (I’d known about the first place woman, but the second place woman wasn’t wearing her strip where I could see it).

I won my age group with a time of 48:21.03. My splits were: 7:15, 7:45, 7:48, 7:59, 8:04, 8:01, 7:36 (pace over last .2 mi). This is an overall pace of 7:48, or about 14 seconds/mile faster than a tempo 10k run I did two weeks ago at track practice. So I’m pretty satisfied, although it is about what one would expect given my last 5k time and the bad weather.

In terms of lessons, I wish I’d tapered a bit better, slept more, and that the weather had been better, or that I’d had more time for yoga lately because that might have helped too. But overall, a solid performance. And really, I was not going to catch the first two women, and the next woman was not going to catch me, so I ran about as fast as I needed to.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, I think we can all agree that last night’s gubernatorial recall here in Wisconsin was a total travesty and a terrible insult to all women, LGBT persons, union workers, and all thinking persons more generally.

Have I missed anyone?

B and I have long joked, with minimal seriousness, that if candidate x (initially John McCain, but Walker in the most recent election and Romney in the upcoming presidential one) were to win, we would head for country n (Canada, Sweden, or France, take your pick).  When hearing of this plan, a relative quipped, “You’d leave us all to suffer, and not try to help defeat candidate x?”  To which we’d replay, “Well, no,” because typically in the US these candidates have a lot of money and power, while we have (comparatively) little, so what the hell can we do, anyway?

But that got me thinking–what is the obligation of a citizen when her government has ceased to represent her interests?  (And I do feel, for a variety of reasons, that the government of Wisconsin and the Republican party more generally are not governing with my best interests–which are to say the interests of a woman academic–in mind, and that given the opportunity they would prefer for me to drop out of the workforce entirely and stay home and have babies.)

I tried talking philosophy to the dog and this is what I got.
Unrelated photo of my dog and cat, because really, with what could I illustrate this post?

John Locke says that if you don’t like it, you can lump it: “But since the government has a direct jurisdiction only over the land, and reaches the possessor of it, (before he has actually incorporated himself in the society) only as he dwells upon, and enjoys that; the obligation any one is under, by virtue of such enjoyment, to submit to the government, begins and ends with the enjoyment; so that whenever the owner, who has given nothing but such a tacit consent to the government, will, by donation, sale, or otherwise, quit the said possession, he is at liberty to go and incorporate himself into any other commonwealth; or to agree with others to begin a new one, in vacuis locis, in any part of the world, they can find free and unpossessed: whereas he, that has once, by actual agreement, and any express declaration, given his consent to be of any commonwealth, is perpetually and indispensably obliged to be, and remain unalterably a subject to it, and can never be again in the liberty of the state of nature; unless, by any calamity, the government he was under comes to be dissolved; or else by some public act cuts him off from being any longer a member of it” (Locke, section 121, italics in original, bolding mine).

Of course, Locke also says later that if legislators act “against the trust reposed in them,” then the people living in that society are within their rights to change the government: “[R]evolutions happen not upon every little mismanagement in public affairs. Great mistakes in the ruling part, many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the slips of human frailty, will be born by the people without mutiny or murmur. But if a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people, and they cannot but feel what they lie under, and see whither they are going; it is not to be wondered, that they should then rouze [i.e., rouse] themselves, and endeavour to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the ends for which government was at first errected…” (Locke, sections 222-225, italics in original, bolding mine).

To what issue will this come? It seems inconclusive. The addition in the first quote of the parenthetical notation “before he has actually incorporated himself in the society” and the phrase “tacit consent to the government” make me worry that Locke was in fact referring to a situation such as: You are living in the middle of an ungoverned place (i.e. in the state of nature). Suddenly some people come along and start up a government. You didn’t ask for the government, therefore you’re allowed to leave. Which seems okay in theory, but go tell that to the American Indians and see how hard they laugh.

The first quote, even taken at face value, raises a larger problem of privilege. We could probably afford to sell our house and move to Canada. I think we have a sufficient amount in savings to get green cards and B has a job that he can do in Canada, which would also be a big plus for immigration officials. Also, I speak French, the result of a long and expensive education that allowed me time to focus on relatively useless things (like learning multiple foreign languages) instead of getting a job.  There are a lot of Americans who don’t meet any of these qualifications; in fact, a lot of people have underwater mortgages and can’t afford to sell their houses at all, let alone have the necessary savings to immigrate to a different country.  If all liberal, upper middle class Americans start migrating to other countries, America is left with the poor (both Dems and Repubs) and the Wealthy Republicans who, let’s face it, don’t really have economic incentive to make the country a great place for the working class.  So in the same way that we have a responsibility to fight for rights because we might need them “someday” (e.g., healthcare, abortions) or because people we know might need them (e.g., gay marriage and associated rights), we could say that there is a responsibility among those who otherwise might leave to stay and provide a balance to those who would choose to exploit those who cannot leave.

I’m uneasy with this responsibility idea. It smacks of “white man’s burden”-type bullshit–surely the people who remain in the US after this purported exodus can look after themselves! And yet citizens have a responsibility to vote, don’t they?  To voice their opinions at least when society requires the selection of a new government.  So perhaps I’d restate this a different way: to abandon the US would require not just becoming an expat but a naturalized citizen of another country, since to retain the advantages of US citizenship while living abroad would enable one to shirk the responsibility one has of being an active participant in society, essentially the responsibility (at minimum) to vote and protect both one’s own rights and the rights one believes others deserve.

The second quote is suggestive of the conclusion that one should not quit the country; since rebellion (or call it simply changing the status quo) is permissible when one feels the government is no longer working, and there is some inherent responsibility citizens have to take part in society, it is better to stay and fight than to flee.

[I wish to add belatedly, footnotedly, that Locke’s use of terms like “the people” suggests that he sees all individuals in a society as agreeing on what the correct course of action is, in opposition to their government.  In the absence of unison, which is certainly the case in WI presently, I suspect he would accede to the majority’s opinion and tell me, as a member of the minority, that I cannot go about instituting rebellions just because I feel slighted.  However there is always something to be said for being the loyal opposition, because when the majority is making choices that are (morally, ethically) incorrect or unsound (as arguably they are), someone needs to speak up for the oppressed–see, for example, the abolition movement before the Civil War.]

My other favorite political theorist, the late, great Robert Nozick, does say, when speaking about a replacement for society that would be, essentially, small communities of individuals under minimal government, that, “After a person has spent much of his life in a community, sent down roots, made friends, and contributed to the community, the choice to pick up and leave is a difficult one. Such a community’s…seriously changing its character, will affect its individual members in something like the way in which a nation’s changing its laws will affect its citizens” (Nozick, 324, italics his) and that “Anyone may start any sort of new community…they wish.  For no one need enter it.  Modifying an already existing community is held to be a different matter” (ibid.). His suggestions–that people who disagree with a proposed change should be compensated in some way, e.g. (this is very particular to the libertarian project he is working on)–are impracticable in US society as it stands, but he does seem to argue strongly for the “if you don’t like it, you can lump it” point of view.

Nozick’s work on communities does suggest one other solution: flight need not be international. If one’s state has changed politically, one is welcome to move to a state more in line with one’s views. There are fifty of them, plus several protectorates/colonies; surely one will match one’s views. This is a slightly less privileged action (though it still requires some liquidity of funds that not everyone has at hand) and allows residents of a divided country to assort themselves in ways that please them.

But after all of this reasoning, I still feel conflicted.  There are reasons beyond the political to stay in Wisconsin, and reasons beyond the political to go. Ultimately, I think Nozick is right when he writes that the goal of a society is to allow its members to “individually or with whom we choose, to choose our life and to realize our ends and our conception of ourselves, insofar as we can, aided by the voluntary cooperation of other individuals possessing the same dignity” (334). Wherever I go, or if I remain, if I can do that, I’ll be satisfied.


Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Edited by C. B. Macpherson. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 1980. (The unedited text is online here.)

Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. [United States]: Basic Books, 1974. (A previewable version is available at Google Books here.)

Em oi! #358: Kiss Me Deadly

Arguably, Batman should be on this list somewhere.

You can click to embiggen this, though I’m not sure why you’d want to, it’s already so large.

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with superhero comics. I really enjoy the frequent assertion that just having immense power, muscles, intelligence, etc., doesn’t make life a smooth sail–Spiderman may be able to defeat Doc Ock, but he can’t ask Mary Jane to the prom, and good luck Clark Kent getting Lois to look at you instead of Superman. Bruce Wayne may be quite a catch, but when a lady realizes her boyfriend is spending his nights driving around town with a young lad in a sports car, well, maybe she begins to think the romance is gone. The stuff that makes superhero comics interesting, in short, isn’t what makes them super, but what makes them human.

The Authority was a comic that attracted my attention in about 2005 or 2006 because it turns a lot of common comics tropes on their heads. It’s about a group of super heroes (Jenny Sparks/Jenny Quantum, Jack Hawksmoor, the Engineer, the Doctor, Swift, Apollo, and the Midnighter) in the style of the Justice League who live on an interdimensional space craft and save the planet frequently. Instead of having secret identities and living normal lives when they’re off duty, the Authority act like rock stars, getting drunk, getting laid, using drugs, going to parties, showing off…basically exactly what you might act like if you had super powers. They are quite violent and often act like they are above the law, including interfering in global politics (one issue shows them forcing the Chinese to withdraw from Tibet, among other things, and at one point they take over the US government as a junta). Their basic strategy is not something along the lines of, “Humanity needs to be protected from alien threats so it can reach its full potential,” (a la Superman), but more like “We know what’s best for you.” Needless to say, this doesn’t always work out.

Anyway, they have several female team members who are real members of the team and not just along to balance out the demographics, and also two gay men who happen to be an early gay superhero marriage, as I mention above. I can’t over-emphasize though, the Authority was always, if not badly drawn then really unevenly drawn, and after Ellis left the writing was pretty uneven too. The Midnighter later got his own comic which was entertaining if you enjoy watching people kick the heads off Nazis, for example.

And in some ways, that last paragraph encapsulates what I dislike about superhero comics: frequently badly (and unrealistically) drawn, in a style I find very difficult to replicate, with uneven writing, few realistic female characters, few characters of any ethnicity other than Caucasian, and terrible plots. I would hardly be original to observe that many comic artists draw female characters as though they’d never really seen a woman before, but as a woman I have to say that tendency bothers me. But while doing some reference drawings of Apollo last night, I realized the male musculature is just as abnormal.

I’ll class this comic under PN6232.C6116 L86 2012, for Collections of general literature—Wit and humor—Collections on special topics, A-Z—Comic books, strips, etc.

And here as a bonus is the first comic I ever did with Superman in it:
For better or for awesome

I remember when I drew this, I knew my actual wedding dress was going to be red, so I drew the dress in the comic blue to throw everyone off. This was totally important at the time.

Filing this one retrospectively under: P96.S94 L86 2009, for Philology. Linguistics—Communication. Mass media—Special aspects—Other, A-Z—Superman—General works.