Em oi! #440: Dreamland

I feel the need to begin with the disclaimer that Hal has been sleeping through the night for more than a year now. The thing is that babies toddlers are loud sleepers–I often wake up briefly in the middle of the night, readjust my pillow, maybe put on an extra layer of t-shirt or take one off depending on whether I’m warm or cold. H tends to wake up, fuss briefly, and then pass out again. We don’t usually get all the way out the door before he goes quiet, but it does happen sometimes.

I noticed early in the Hal years on that when you’re wandering in and out of the bedroom at odd times of the night, you can occasionally catch your partner at certain points in their sleep cycle where weird reactions are more likely. I’m actually really good at this. The most extreme example of this is the time when, returning to our bedroom at about 3:30am, I managed to startle B and he leapt all the way out of bed with a resounding kiai and assumed a fighting stance, all without really attaining consciousness. (It’s hilarious now to think about; at the time, I just stepped backward and closed the door between us. About two seconds later I heard, “Huh? Em? Em, are you okay?”)

The conversation recorded in comic #440 was somehow related to B’s current obsession with a game called Europa Universalis IV, which involves conquering the world. But sadly it was topped by a conversation we had the other day as I was coming back from the bathroom:

B: (Inaudible) boss.
Em: (Getting into bed) What?
B: Tide pods.
Em: What?
B: Tide pods: The universal currency.

Then he passed out again. I don’t have any explanation for that one.

We’ll file this one under BF1073 S58 L86 2019, for Parapsychology–Sleep. Somnambulism–Special topics, A-Z–Sleep talking.

Em oi! #439: O Magic Talking Skull

I have been working on this one for a loooong time (I found the reference photos of the skull in my phone history from early May, and I think I started drawing it before then (the relevant episode of David Tennant Does a Podcast with came out on April 8th). In the time since I started the comic, I have gotten about ten rejections, so that’s kind of what’s been going on around here. I don’t know if this feeling is at all universal among creative types or not. I guess I kind of hope so.

(Also, footnote, highly recommend the podcast, if that’s not obvious.)

Anyway, this comic demonstrates something I do quite frequently, which is spin out philosophically when I find myself confronted with a problem. Can’t figure out a path to success? = What is success, actually? Yorick (the skull) shuts that down pretty quick, but this happens a lot.

The trope of “I was about to quit and then I found success” seems to happen a lot in literary circles, including for Madeleine L’Engle (I know I’ve read of other major authors having the same thing happen too).

Actual photo of Yorick. She unfortunately doesn’t have very good teeth.

I’m going to file this one under BF175.5.W75 L86 2019, for Psychology–Psychoanalysis–Special topics, A-Z–Writing, because it is about the psychology of the writer, I think.

And that, I think, is all for today. Next time we’ll go back to a style with less pencil where I actually draw panels instead of doing randomly sized drawings on one piece of paper and trying to crop them with my camera. Yes.

Em oi! #438: Snow Kidding

Long time no talk! Astute readers will note that I’ve skipped a number… I actually got involved with another (six-panel comic) that was very funny, but it got a bit overwhelming with the amount of edits it needed and I don’t know. It has been a few years since I had really bad seasonal depression, and–I wouldn’t exactly call this depression, but while I’m normally at the best of times something of a suitcase full of anxiety and neuroses held together by coffee and running, the winter has reduced me to a quivering ball of anxiety with a constant disaster film playing in my head reminding me that all my choices are meaningless because we’re all going to die in twenty years, and ultimately I guess I’m a terrible person for having made said choices (instead of other, different choices? I don’t know).

Talking about it out loud has actually been really helpful in reminding me of the absurdity and irrationality of my thoughts. I guess that’s called reality testing. I’m also trying to sleep more,* taking vitamin D, and sitting in front of my happy light more regularly.

During my off-time, I’ve been doing a figure drawing class, where I’ve learned a lot, like that the way I’ve done shading in this comic is not correct (too many gaps between the strokes). Also, I’ve learned that being in a room with a naked person is awkward. Like–I feel very Midwestern saying this, but it’s weird.

Uh, so also it has snowed a lot. When we were flying back from Alaska a week ago, I mentioned to the Alaska Airlines personnel who were checking us in at the airport that it had just snowed another four inches back home. They said, “Wow, four inches,” and exchanged a look reserved for people who live in a place where they average 75″ of snow per year–about twice what Madison gets (43″). But what I meant was–four inches on top of already “so much snow that our smaller dog can’t make her way around the yard and has resorted to following in the big dog’s wake. And also four inches when my in-laws were watching the kid, and lovely people though they are, we don’t have a snowblower and they’re not prepared to shovel the driveway… (spoiler: it was fine). Right now, looking out the window, there’s about a foot of snow on top of the bird bath to my left, and we’re forecast to get more later this week! Our driveway has turned into basically a trench. We could probably survive an attack from the Hun by sheltering there. We will see the lights along the edges when it all melts. And the snow we couldn’t manage to get up on the top of the piles is forming peninsulae that are making it harder and harder to get either car out, but especially mine because it doesn’t have a backing cam.

Also my garage door froze shut twice (at least; it might be frozen shut now) and my car battery died. I wasn’t going to finish/post this comic because we had a day last week (Friday?) when it was 36 degrees out and I thought that maybe it would all melt, but instead only a little of it did, and then it re-froze, and then Saturday we had freezing rain all day. So in summary, I’m done with this shit. So. Done. So this is maybe catharsis, a little.

Wishing you all an early spring.

File this under BT135 L86 2019 for Doctrinal theology–God–Divine attributes–Individual attributes–Providence. Divine intervention.

* I sleep like…6.5 to 7 hours per night. Having had a child has 100% fucked up my sleeping. It’s not that he’s waking up; it’s that my sleeping is just not great. I don’t know.

Em #436: The Cat Furniture That Therefore I Am

True story. Hal sleeps relatively well, but often wakes up between 5-5:30, or about an hour before I’d like him to be up. Most of the time when this happens, I put him back down in the guest room downstairs after a bottle, just so any comments he has on his situation won’t disturb B. Then I lie down on the sofa. And the cat…goes a little nuts. For some reason, he really likes to sit on people’s chests. Preferably with at least one foot on their windpipes. And he weighs fourteen pounds.

We’ll file the comic under SF446.5 L86 2018, for Animal culture–Pets–Cats–Behavior.

I ran my first marathon ten years ago this fall. (Fun fact: my first date with B was the evening of the day I did my last 20 miler for that race.) That year, I finished the Twin Cities marathon in 4:41:10. It rained for 90% of the race and I think I swore I’d never do another one. (Since then, I have run at least fourteen other races of 26.2 miles or longer; actually, I think there might be others? This number was reconstructed using various results websites.) My road marathon PR is 3:59:59 (set at Lakefront in 2012) and my road 50k PR is 4:57:58 (set at the MadCity 50k in 2011); it’s difficult to give a number as a trail event PR because trails have really different conditions that make them hard to compare. This past weekend, at the Endurance Challenge WI, I ran my first marathon in almost two years—I had run a trail ultra of about 29 miles in November 2016, and then spent the rest of 2017 pregnant and recovering from pregnancy. This means that a lot of my life over the last decade has been spent preparing for marathons, planning my various events in order to get ready for a marathon, and recovering from marathons. (Or sometimes getting injured two weeks before my marathon and not running it. Boo, 2010.)

And I just want to say: while I have gone into events with some half-assed training, I have never signed up for a race knowing that I was going to half-ass my training as much as I did this time (and knew that I was likely to do).

Rather than recounting the race in blow-by-blow detail, which I think would be boring, let’s try an exciting Q-and-A format.

Q. I understand you have a one-year old. How does that effect your training?
A. He effects it both more and less than I expected pre-baby. On a day-to-day basis, I often run him to daycare (about 8 miles round-trip), plus a lunch or post-work run with B (anywhere from 3–7 miles), giving me midweek totals of 8–15 miles per day, and anywhere from 50–60 miles per week. This is on par with or a bit more than what I was running before I got pregnant. On the flip side, my long runs on Saturdays have suffered from a lack of sleep and drive. Rather than training to 18–20, which is normal for a marathon, my longest single run was 16.4 miles. In my defense, I planned to do a 23-miler, but there was some major flooding in Dane County that led to its cancellation. But I didn’t make too much of an effort to replace it. I also didn’t do much trail running since June, because of a bad poison ivy experience and mosquitoes and the flooding and, you know, going to brunch instead.

Prior to the race, still optimistic.

Q. Given that, how happy are you with your results?
A. I am. All things considered, I think I was in shape for about a 4:10ish road marathon. Maybe 4 hours if the weather was good and I found someone to pace off. Instead, I ran a 5:07 trail marathon, about 37 minutes slower than the last time I ran this course (2014). But that said, my goal pace (4:30) was picked because I wanted to place in the top five in my age group, and I placed third (ninth woman overall!), so I’m actually pretty pleased with that (although if I’d run a 4:30 again, I would have won outright as first overall woman). There are also the conditions to consider: the race had somewhere between 1,300–1,800 feet of climbing (my Garmin gave the first number, Strava the second); many of the ascents (and descents) were covered with a scree that made climbing them at a run quite difficult; the weather topped out at about 82 degrees and humid AF, following directly on about a two-week stretch of cooler weather during which I rather lost my heat acclimation.

Trails.

Q. Did you learn any important lessons?
A. Yes. It’s important to plan for both the race and the ride home. I had to drive myself home, and my blood sugar started to crash around the time I got back to the car. I stopped at a gas station to pick up a coffee and a chocolate milk, and wound up sitting on the floor waiting for the people buying a million lottery tickets in line ahead of me to get done so I could check out. In a more ideal world, I would have ridden home with someone who had their shit a bit more together.

Pursuant to that, I think my nutrition strategy was generally pretty good (it was: grab something to eat at each aid station plus bring a gel to eat about two miles before the next one, and salt tabs at 1.5 hours, 2.5 hrs, and 3.5 hrs), but I waited until mile 6 to eat anything for the first time, and I think I should have had a gel a bit earlier. Also, it’s better to grab something with a bit of protein/fat (peanut butter) than just to stuff a bunch of M&Ms in your mouth. Also, I ran out of water at mile 16 with the next aid station at mile 18. That was gnarly. Wish I’d planned better for that.

Also, finally, I learned (again) that time on your feet does more than just prepare your muscles for the race–it prepares you for the pain. Like just the feeling of your socks on your feet can hurt after thirteen or fourteen miles of rough terrain.

Q. Any final thoughts about racing? 
A. I’ve had a tough time getting my racing mojo back since Hal’s birth. Primarily because if he’s going to have a bad night, it will usually be a Friday night (it’s like he KNOWS), and I often have wound up on the starting line wishing I had more flexibility to shorten my run or move the time up. Recently I’ve realized that just running races to run them (or to get a t-shirt I guess) is not exciting to me. This marathon, with the competition aspect, was exciting. So next season, I think I may try to structure my season more like a pro might, with an A race, a couple of B/C races as prep, and then most of my time spent doing my own thing. (Full disclosure, smart people have been telling me to do this for a long time. I just learn slowly.) Going into the marathon, I had some plans to use it as a springboard for something bigger in the spring, but I’m not sure I’m really feeling that now. Twenty-six miles is a lot when it’s hot and you’re undertrained. Maybe I shouldn’t push my luck. (I’m sure I will though. I seem to crave challenges. We’ll see.)

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.

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.