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.

Em oi! #426: Genetics

Necessary background to this: OB functions at my medical practice happen in Monona, about 25 minutes from here. There’s also a clinic with a lab in Middleton, which is maybe 5-10 minutes away.

So. This feels a bit like whistling in the dark, to be honest.

Tay-Sachs is a degenerative nerve disease, invariably terminal, that is inherited in a recessive pattern on chromosome 15. It’s much more common in a couple of ethnic groups–it was first spotted amongst the Ashkenazic Jews (i.e., Jews with an Eastern European heritage), but I believe it’s also somewhat common among French Canadians and Cajuns. Originally, there was a hypothesis–I think it was called the Jewish Fur Trader Hypothesis–that had all these groups being connected somehow, but in fact it turns out there are different genes that are more prevalent in each group, all of which produce the same symptoms.[1]

Anyway, a test for Tay-Sachs was first developed in 1971 (one of the first such tests available), and since then because of the push for genetic testing, rates have dropped precipitously, even among the ultra-orthodox.[2] There are actually places in the country you can get tested for free (like Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philly), and they used to run drives to get people screened at the Hillel Foundation on campus, if I’m recalling correctly. So it was always kind of in my mind that I would have to get tested if I married someone of Ashkenazic heritage, and I assumed that most people who could be affected would know that. But perhaps not. I was later told, after the encounters chronicled here, that most people don’t walk in to their first appointment and request to be tested for certain conditions–even though the nurse actually asked me specifically if there was anything I wanted to be tested for. This encounter also led me to determine a law, which I formulate as “The more time you spend around medical personnel, the more likely you are to realize that they have as high a rate of idiots as any other profession.” That same nurse pictured in the first panel also advised me not to lift more than 25 lbs. I didn’t ask her what pregnant people who already have a toddler do (other questions not asked: For what lift? Do you mean with one arm, like a dumbbell curl, or like don’t deadlift over 25 lbs? Do you realize how weird and Victorian that sounds?).

Anyway, come back Monday, we’ll do politics.

Let’s file this under RG580 G45 L86 2017, for Gynecology and obstetrics–Obstetrics–Pregnancy–Obstetrical emergencies. Diseases and conditions in pregnancy–Other diseases and conditions in pregnancy, A-Z–Genetic disorders.

Notes

[1] Which, by the way, is kind of interesting in itself–that there isn’t a one to one correspondence between genetic issues and diseases, because in most (all?) cases, the disease was observed first, based on the symptoms, and then a genetic test was developed for it later. We’re only just beginning to use this knowledge to our advantage in treating some conditions, like cancer. Somewhat relevant PhD Comics comic. This is also why the whistling in the dark comment–when you get your results back, they say something like, “We can say with 92% certainty that you’re not a carrier,” because there’s a tick box on the form where you note your background and they look for those genes, so in theory you could still be carrying a gene they didn’t test for.

[2] The ultra-orthodox tend to be anti-selective abortion, which is weird for various reasons of Jewish doctrine that I won’t get into, as it relies on my somewhat untutored understanding of Talmudic doctrine. Also I should note that rates of out-marriage increased significantly in the twentieth century (probably not among the ultra-orthodox), which would lead to lower rates of Tay-Sachs as well.

Em oi! #424 + 425

Things everyone knows about pregnancy: there will be voms.
Things I had no idea about: the cramps.

Apparently, it’s not uncommon (and totally normal) to get cramps–pretty severe ones, strong enough to wake me up–during the first trimester. I was unaware. Luckily, that stage lasted only a few days or a week, in my recollection. But really, there’s nothing more disconcerting than being awoken from a sound sleep by pain.

Now that I’m well into the second trimester, all is fine on the cramps front, but my life has not become magically more dignified. For example, yesterday when we were replacing our dryer, I bent down to clean some lint out of the vent pipe and nearly dislocated a rib. It turns out that having my uterus taking up a lot of my torso (and I’m 5′ 3″, so there’s not a ton of space there) has made me a lot less flexible.

Tant pis.


The photo in question:

Photo via White House twitter (https://twitter.com/ObamaWhiteHouse/status/660548212768399360)

Regardless of where you stand politically, I think we can all agree that Obama was amazing in so many ways.

The end.

RG551 L86 2017b and RG551 L86 2017c.

Em oi! #423: Introducing the Kwisatz Haderach

So a thing happened. Some time ago, actually, though I wasn’t quite ready to discuss it publicly before now (case in point: I drew this comic thirteen weeks ago, and I didn’t expect I was going to publish it here, so I didn’t give it a number). I’m currently twenty-five weeks pregnant, as of today. Or maybe as of yesterday. I actually lost count recently and had to do some math to figure out where I was again. As far as I can tell, I’ve basically been pregnant forever and, with fifteen weeks to go, I will continue to be pregnant forever. People keep saying, “August will be here before you know it!” That is not true. Now that I have entered this world of measuring out my life with coffee spoons, I can say with certainty that August is an impossible amount of time away.

It’s actually not that bad, pregnancy. Or rather, I’m somewhat aware that a lot of my discomfort is the result of my own stupid choices. For example, my muscles all hurt; a reasonable person might choose to run less or lift less weight at the gym, but I have not made that choice. I have heartburn, and a reasonable person might choose to not eat curry a minimum of three times per week, but that is a future I am not prepared to face.

A few notes on the comic:

  1. The “gaze” being discussed is not really a Foucauldian thing–it’s closer to Lacan’s conception of gaze or Laura Mulvey’s concept of male gaze. Though Foucault did talk about the medical gaze, his bigger point about bodies was about the shift from people who look like x can do x to “we can create someone to do x” (so instead of looking for a strong young man with good posture etc. to be a soldier, find a young man and train him to be strong and have good posture and do the soldiering). But in many ways Foucault has become the philosopher-muse of the strip, so I decided to put him in.
  2. This might actually be the first comic that both Bryan and Foucault show up in the same panel together. So we have conclusively proven in the Em Oi! universe that Foucault is not Bryan in disguise. Just in case anyone was wondering?

Up until now, Em oi! has served as both an occasional journal comic as well as a somewhat joke-based comic. I’m afraid, for those who are uninterested in pregnancy, that there will be a number of comics on that topic forthcoming. But fear not, I’ll get back to making fun of philosophers eventually.

We’ll file this one under RG551 L86 2017, for Gynecology and obstetrics–Obstetrics–Pregnancy–General works.

Em oi! #422: Useful to Rise Up?

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This comic was begun in December and finished about ten minutes ago. It has taken forever. In real life, it’s 10″ x 16″; it was originally intended for a print publication, so that’s why. The top panel would have looked like this:

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The Foucault essay can be seen here in French and here in English. The translation above is my own. After significant discussion, I decided to translate “les hommes se soulèvent” as “humans rise up” rather than “men rise up,” even though the latter is more accurate. I made this decision for two reasons: one, I think given other things I’ve read that Foucault said I think he recognized that revolutionaries were both male and female–stylistically, it was very typical to assume the masculine when he wrote this, so I’m not convinced it’s an exclusive term; and two, because I initially envisioned this being published in a feminist zine for the upcoming Women’s March on Washington, and I thought that using a more gender-neutral term would go over better. A bit self-serving, I realize. But the whole essay is to some extent Foucault’s last middle finger toward his critics following his controversial coverage (and support of) the Iranian revolution, so perhaps let us not get into what is self-serving to whom. The second-to-last panel Foucault speech is from The History of Sexuality volume 1, p. 95 (Vintage Books edition, published in 1995). What he actually says is this:

Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power. […] [Power relationships’] existence depends on a multiplicity of points of resistance … [that are] present everywhere in the power network.

(It goes on. The whole section is recommended.) Depending on where you stand, this is either good or bad. Either he’s saying that resistance always exists in a diffuse way, and since the would-be revolutionaries have access to power they can coalesce their resistance in order to affect change, OR he’s saying, as the Who would put it, “Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.” You can never be outside of the system because everything is a part of the system.

At any rate, I did not come to lecture, just to voice some thoughts I’ve had recently.

This comic was actually pretty entertaining for me, despite the amount of trouble it has caused. Drawing so many historical personages was fun. The hardest to draw was Mao, since thanks to Andy Warhol, his face is pretty well-known (at least until we get Sojourner Truth on the new $10 bill). Also, in case you were wondering, it turns out that Sojourner Truth was 6′ tall, while Karl Marx was only 5′ 9″. Also, I regret that I had to omit so many august personages–the original draft of this comic included, among others, Alexander Hamilton, Sun Yat-Sen, VI Lenin, and Corazon Aquino. Here’s a fun clip of Jeremy Clarkson hating on Cromwell from QI.

We’ll file this under JC491 L86 2017, for Political theory. The state. Theories of the state–Forms of the state–Change of form of the state. Political change–Revolutions.

I’ll leave you with this final quote from Travesties, by Tom Stoppard:

I learned three things in Zurich during the war. I wrote them down. Firstly, you’re either a revolutionary or you’re not, and if you’re not you might as well be an artist as anything else. Secondly, if you can’t be an artist, you might as well be a revolutionary… I forget the third thing.

The Election, and a Few Notes on Pacing

My blog got a bunch of hits the day after the election, as though someone was hoping I’d have something to say. And– I don’t know that I have anything to add to the ongoing fury, but I do have one observation.

In 2008, I went to an Obama rally in Philadelphia. It was October, not long before the election, and after eight years of Bush I didn’t feel especially optimistic that he was going to be able to bring us the change he was promising. My friends and I walked a long way through Philly to get to the rally, and then waited in line for a long time.

I live in a liberal area, but also a very, very white area. So while I knew Madisonians were enamored of Obama, it wasn’t quite like it was in Philly. As we waited under the hot noontime sun, I looked at an array of t-shirts featuring the senator dunking, the senator in African colors, the senator looking senatorial in that iconic HOPE image, Obama as Lincoln, Obama as a Russian comrade. They were different aspects of the man, different avatars. I began, dimly, to realize that all of these were ways in which the community–of democrats, but also of African Americans–were projecting themselves onto the man who was shortly to become president, convincing themselves that he was one of them, that his concerns were the same as theirs. This is like the imagined communities that Benedict Anderson wrote about. People imagine themselves into the political community of the nation; regardless of what the politician actually says, they find the ways in which it’s relevant to their lives.

It wasn’t until the current election and the selection of Hillary Clinton for the democratic nominee that I understood what was going on. The job of a leader is to lead, but to really inspire the populace, a leader has to provide a somewhat blank canvas for people to project something of themselves onto. I realized this even as I was doing it myself, feeling moved and significant to be voting for the first-ever woman who had a ghost of a chance of winning. I even own a magnificent t-shirt similar to those I saw back in 2008; this one features Hillary as George Washington and Bill as Martha.

The flip side of this, of course, is that we project our fears onto the opposition. Notwithstanding the fact that our current president elect has done and said some terrible things (for which, G-d willing, he’ll answer someday), I think the current hysteria in the liberal press is a bit overly dramatic. Trump is not the Antichrist; he’s just some guy. Are bad things happening? Yes. There have been some hate crimes committed this week. But those are still illegal. Let’s not lose sight of this fact: we are not living in a dictatorship. This isn’t the Philippines, people can’t just walk into your house and shoot you for free right now. He is not going to dismantle every liberal advance of the last fifty years. I don’t think he can. Is he going to be embarrassing and tone-deaf? Yes. Is he going to start a nuclear war? I don’t believe it.

We’ve had good presidents and bad presidents, and the country has always survived them. In fact, the country has pretty consistently alternated between liberal and conservative leadership for the last forty years at least. The majority of Americans don’t make their decision based on much more than how they feel they’re doing when they step in the voting booth.

We may not be happy with the results–those protesting are justified in doing so, in my opinion, and I think we need to abolish the electoral college–but running around shrieking (and reading five hundred think pieces about how this happened) is not going to help anything. Instead, try to be kind to each other, and continue to speak truth to power wherever you can, stand up for the downtrodden wherever it is necessary, and consider getting involved with local politics. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Parks and Recreation, it’s that being an angry person at a local committee meeting can sway the motion of the wheels of power.

For the majority of voters, this was not a referendum on the state of the soul of the nation. It was two crappy politicians making half-believable promises. I desperately want to believe that it is not the case that 50% of the (voting) country is composed of racists, sexists, bigots, anti-Semites. They’re just people who are frustrated with the current administration. I’m actually willing to place a bet that most of them did not vote against Clinton because she was a woman, or because they have some complex view that boils down to reasons why women cannot be president. If anything, the handful of liberals who have confessed, “I wasn’t that happy with Hillary” is the reason for why she lost–she was inspiring to me, but a moderate neo-liberal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and a lot of them would just rather not make the effort to go vote for her. Hillary will always be president in my heart, and let me be clear–I cried when I realized she was going to lose–but the truth is, a lot of people think about the whole situation and shrug.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Stop reading the news, you’ll be happier. Get off social media and go outside. The moon is nearly full. Look at the stars and think about how small we all really are. And also this.


Okay, who wants to hear about pacing?

Last Saturday I joined my friend Sandy in Kettle Moraine State Park for 18.2 miles of fun after dark. For four and a half hours, we hiked, jogged, and occasionally fell down over wide trails that occasionally grew rocky and hard to navigate. The stars were magnificent, the temperature was chilly, and the woods are dark and terrifying.

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I tried not to let on to Sandy the tenor of my thoughts, but it’s basically like being in every horror movie ever made. When you’re pacing, the person you’re running with has been running for 50+ miles, which puts one in an altered state of mind. It falls to the pacer to try to create reality for them, specifically by not introducing weird ideas about the terrible things that could just jump out of the woods at you.

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Foxes make noises that sound like screams. A whole bunch of foxes can sound like children screaming. It’s a really weird thing to hear in the middle of the woods. Coyotes sound like you’d expect. And then we came around a bend and realized we could hear a sort of humming noise, like traffic at a distance. But we were in the middle of the woods out past Whitewater, not a spot known for heavy traffic patterns. In fact, when I looked at a map later on, I was fairly sure that we weren’t even near the meagre one-lane road that ran past the park. I told her I thought it was traffic anyway, because all my other ideas about what it could be ranged from the outré to the mildly macabre.

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In the dark, it’s hard to get clues from the environment in the way you normally would. For example, you can’t see the horizon or in many cases tell if you’re going up or down a gentle slope. Your internal proprioception can begin to fail and you find yourself running in all sorts of weird positions.

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As I was leaving, Sandy got her hiking poles out and went off to spend the next seven hours hiking alone through the woods (and then another six hours with her next pacer). I am staggered by the amount of commitment and mental fortitude that an event like this requires. It feels superhuman. I shivered halfway home, eventually stopping to buy decaf coffee, chocolate milk, and cheesy popcorn at the only 24-hour gas station I could find. Then I stuffed popcorn into my mouth the rest of the way home. #noregrets

Occasionally I’ve been asked if I was going to do a longer ultra–something 50+ miles long. I always say “maybe.” It’s certainly daunting. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel up to it. Pacing for a 100-miler was awesome though. I’d totally do that again.

Tomorrow I’m off to the Richard Bong State Recreation Area to try and run 28-ish miles and not get shot by hunters. I am overly enthusiastic and under-trained. Should be fun!

Running

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This comic panel is the result of me 1) drawing a seven-panel comic about a race, 2) inking the first four, and then 3) deciding they were lame and this was the only salvageable one. I’ve actually done a bunch of comics lately, then discarded them because not funny. Maybe because the looming election is taking up such a large place in my thoughts. We’ll see how soon I can get my act together.

Here are all the races I’ve done since August, in brief:

  1. Madison Mini Marathon (13.1 mi). Normally I wouldn’t do this race, but a coworker asked if I wanted to run it with him. He did it in 1:30ish. I did 2:07:22. First race back after being off for more than a month for a poorly diagnosed IT band-related injury. 93/256 in my age group.
  2. Safe Harbor Labor Day Dash (10k). Did it on impulse when I woke up in time to bike to the starting line. Took the first three miles to really warm up. 55:24. 26/56.
  3. North Face Half Marathon (13.1 mi). Hilly course, wasn’t feeling it. 2:18:19. 14/15.
  4. Indian Lake Trail Race (12k). Supremely hilly course, and I ran it better than I’d ever done it before. 1:07:49. 17/32.
  5. Fall 15k. Ran far, far harder than I expected I would. 1:19:14. 3rd in age group, 4th woman overall.
  6. McCarthy Park Trail Race (18k). Spent a lot of the race trying to figure out how far 18 kilometers actually was (spoiler: about 11 miles). It was cold and rainy. 1:39:46, which although a good deal faster than the 18k I ran in June (Blue Mounds, 1:55:24), was only good enough for 9/14 in my age group, or slightly more hideously, 28 of 35 overall. Oh well.

With the exception of my exciting finish at the Fall 15k, I haven’t been placing well (and annoyingly, the Fall 15k only did prizes for the top person in each AG rather than top 3). But my times have been good and my races have felt fairly strong.

I wanted to race five different distances this year. So far, I have raced one 5k, one 5 mile, two 10k, one 12k, one 15k, two 18k, one 20k, and four 13.1 mile races. This coming weekend, I am pacing a friend through about 18 miles of her 100 miler, and then the following weekend I’m doing a 28-ish mile trail race as the finale to my season. After that I may take it easy for a while.

Andre is totally over listening to the builders knock out drywall downstairs.
Andre is totally over listening to the builders knock out drywall downstairs.

A Weird Sensation

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I found this when M. André knocked over a pile of papers in my office the other day. After some research, it became clear that somehow I’d drawn it in March when I had my last dentist appointment but never posted it. So here you go: a found comic. I have my six-month appointment Friday, which means that I’ve successfully put off getting the tooth pulled that they told me to get pulled for an entire half year. Good show, me.

Not much else to report. I’ve been off running with an injury (sciatic nerve issues) for the past week, but today I ran five miles. It was amazing. Now I’m starving and I want to go get a snack, but going from my office to the kitchen seems like a long, possibly painful trip, and so maybe I’ll just stay here. . . .

I’m informed that the pretensesoup.com address will now redirect to ehlupton.com properly. Huzzah.

Em oi! #421: The Scottish Pronunciation

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This particular line has always bothered me. I’m not even sure “Macbeth” and “heath” count as slant rhyme. They’re just something that looks like a rhyme if you see them written.

I don’t usually do two comics in a week, but Madison Shakespeare Company‘s Macbeth opens TONIGHT, so I wanted to get this up. If you are busy tonight, that’s just as well–they’re sold out. But they still have shows tomorrow at 18:30, Saturday at 14:00 and 18:30, and Sunday at 18:30. The shows are at the Edgewood College amphitheater and are bring-your-own-chair. $12 suggested donation. Check it out; there will be swords.

(Aside: Are there any words other than “amphitheater” in English where a “ph” appears but the letters are pronounced separately across a syllable boundary instead of as a pair? How odd.)

Anyway, the witches are Cynthia, Gladys, and Azaelia. Of course.

I was thinking about the appearance of supernatural entities in Macbeth and in Shakespeare’s other works more broadly this morning, specifically the elements that would today probably be referred to as magical realism today, as they appear in otherwise realistic plays. In other words, the witches, the ghosts, and the dagger. In most productions of Macbeth, the show is typically produced with the witches and Banquo’s ghost (played by the actor who played Banquo) on stage, but the dagger speech is done without an actual dagger. There are likely practical reasons for this–it’s relatively easy to slop on some blood and send a glassy-eyed Banquo up to stand among the dinner guests, but it’s a lot harder to get a dagger to appear and look reasonably good just hanging there, especially when a show is being done en plein air, as this one is. But this creates a curious dichotomy–the dagger can be conceived of as being just Macbeth’s hallucination (he is under a lot of stress), while the witches and Banquo’s ghost are there in a more objective way. This brings a consistency to the behavior of the ghosts of Banquo and that of old Hamlet in his eponymous play; both seem to wander as they wish and appear only to whom they wish (for example, Horatio and the other guards see old Hamlet’s ghost, but later Gertrude does not).

We’ll file this under PR2823.W5 L86 2016, for English literature–English renaissance (1500-1640)–The drama–Individual authors–Shakespeare, William–Separate works–Macbeth–Criticism.

Em oi! #420: I HELP

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If you follow my Instagram (or if you are one of the myriad people I’ve chattered at in the last week and a half), you have probably guessed that I spent a couple of days in Manhattan after my meetings last week. As part of this, I got to go for a run in Central Park, fulfilling a long-time dream. Several people warned me that the interior of the park has a lot of paths, and that it was easy to get lost, so when I saw a map (this was the only one I saw), I went over to have a look, and found myself in company with a number of other tourists. In my view, coming up behind people and unexpectedly knowing their language is probably the best part of knowing a second language. I have done this with Mandarin in a bunch of places, including a money-changing office on the border between Cambodia and Thailand and a cab in Singapore. This might be the first time it really came in handy in the US.

I should note that despite the best efforts of my long-suffering teachers, I still speak with a strong Beijing accent (these tourists had a more refined speech sensibility). 对不起, 我的朋友!

Anyway, the map in the photo is a rough approximation of what Central Park looks like in my mind. The big circle is the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, which is about 1.58 miles in circumference (I ran one lap) and in which I think I saw a merganser (a weird-looking diving duck). The thing that looks like a bird’s nest is the Ramble. I first encountered the Ramble in the play Angels in America, which mentioned it as a place where gay men meet to have anonymous sex.[1] The sign at the entry didn’t mention that (surprisingly!) and instead described it as a place for bird-watching. I thought it might be a nice place to run some trails, but I was worried that I would get lost and freak out my cousin. Or interrupt something awkward. So I didn’t go in. But it was very pretty. Apparently, when you are at the Bethesda angel (which also plays a major role in Angels) looking north, you are seeing the rambles across the lake.

The rambles is basically the tree stuff behind the fountain.
The rambles is basically the tree stuff behind the fountain.

I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Central Park, truth be told, even though I did nearly nine miles that morning (so seven in the actual park). Later, my cousin and I power-walked through on our way from the Met to Lincoln Center and I got to see the John Lennon tribute in the area called Strawberry Fields, complete with unwashed guy playing guitar.

I could keep writing about New York for ages, because I went to so many areas and my cousin just knows a ton about the city, so now I know a ton about the city. But it’s getting late, so I will bring this to a close.

We’ll file the comic under P118.2 L86 2016, for Philology. Linguistics–Language. Linguistic theory. Comparative grammar–Philosophy, origin, etc. of language–Language acquisition–Second language acquisition.

If you normally access this blog through the pretensesoup.com domain name, I should have forwarding fixed on that in a day or two, so you will be able to find the new blog whichever URL you prefer.

[1] According to Wikipedia, they have been used for this purpose since 1920.