Em #447: There Will Be No Retweets

In Heidegger’s lingo, “das Gerede” refers to the distractions sort of generally. It also means “talk” or “chatter.”

I wrote the script for this comic on May 21st, which is to say I wrote it down on May 21st–it had definitely been kicking around in my head for much longer. The “everything is reminding me I’m going to die” line was originally about COVID-19. It…still feels really relevant, but for different reasons, and as usual I feel weird for using Heidegger… so let’s talk about Heidegger. It feels like a good time to talk about white supremacy in philosophy![1]

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was a Nazi. I’ll lead with that, because even though his big masterwork Being and Time was written well before any of the stuff I’m about to talk about happened, his Nazism tends to feel like such a central fact to his life that I think I need to put it in front. I’m going to say in a minute that he was a more complicated guy than that appellation usually permits, but let’s not lose sight of it. Philosophically, he’s sort of loosely associated with both phenomenology (the study of consciousness from a first-person perspective[2]) and existentialism; he was a student of Husserl. His academic career benefited from his association with the Nazi party, as he was elected rector of Freiberg University, and either implemented or allowed to be implemented some of the party’s political policies, depending on who you ask and how generous they’re feeling–he may have stood up for some Jewish colleagues and helped them keep their jobs, though others claimed he denounced colleagues and blocked them from jobs, and he certainly denied student aid to non-Aryan students. During his time as rector, he made several speeches tying his philosophy put forward in Being and Time (aka Sein und Zeit) to Nazi ideology. He stepped down from his rectorship in 1934 and thereafter distanced himself somewhat from Nazi politics, although he didn’t leave the party. After the end of WWII, he was banned from teaching until 1949 as part of a denazification campaign. He became a professor emeritus in 1950 and I suppose did whatever it is that retired professors do until 1976, when he died.

This comic touches on a small piece of his philosophy, but there is a lot more. In an excellent essay in the New Yorker, Joshua Rothman writes,

Heidegger had developed his own way of describing the nature of human existence. It wasn’t religious, and it wasn’t scientific; it got its arms around everything, from rocks to the soul. Instead of subjects and objects, Heidegger wanted to talk about “beings.” The world, he argued, is full of beings—numbers, oceans, mountains, animals—but human beings are the only ones who care about what it means to be themselves. (A human being, he writes, is the “entity which in its Being has this very Being as an issue.”) This gives us depth. Mountains might outlast us, but they can’t out-be us. For Heidegger, human being was an activity, with its own unique qualities, for which he had invented names: thrownness, fallenness, projection. These words, for him, captured the way that we try, amidst the flow of time, to “take a stand” on what it means to exist. (Thus the title: “Being and Time.”)

I don’t believe he’s widely taught in undergraduate philosophy departments; certainly when I was a student at UW-Madison, he was not being taught, as far as I am aware[3]; I see now he is included in a class on Existentialism that also includes Kierkegaard, Sartre, Camus, and de Beauvoir, which is…an interesting combination there. I think his lack of inclusion is due at least as much to the fact that he’s extremely difficult to parse as his politics (although I should point out that every philosophy department routinely teaches Kant, you can’t NOT teach Kant, and he’s also difficult). On the other hand, he seems pretty popular in the amateur philosopher world–Philosophize This! did three episodes on him, A Partially Examined Life did three episodes. If you look on YouTube, there are plenty of videos like this one, which informed this comic (I count at least five other introductory videos). My rival, Existential Comics, has done a LOT of really funny comics about him.[4]

So why do we amateurs, who are not bound by the rules of academia[5] keep returning to Heidegger? Probably because his ideas have a certain resonance with us as people living in the exhausting modern world. It’s easy to see that we genuinely do immerse ourselves in distractions that keep us from thinking about the reality we’re dealing with; our experiences are rarely unmediated, whether it is because we are continually viewing things through our phone’s cameras or reacting to things online rather than engaging with them in real life. Being and Time was written in 1927, but it still feels very contemporary and relevant. As an environmentalist, I wholly support the idea that people need to get more in touch with nature in order to get more in touch with their authentic selves (at one point, Heidegger recommends taking long walks in the country). As a specifically difficult text, it also probably engenders a certain amount of satisfaction in the readers that leads them to want to talk about it, which may also account for some of the fascination. Or, quoting Rothman again, “You don’t spend years working your way through “Being and Time” because you’re idly interested. You do it because you think that, by reading it, you might learn something precious and indispensable.”

Heidegger also has the advantage of having been defended, pretty ardently, by Hannah Arendt (this is the complicating part of his biography), who was herself a pretty legit philosopher and also a German Jew. She was also a student of Husserl’s who briefly studied under (and had an affair with the married) Heidegger before completing her PhD in 1929 (Germany was a pretty cosmopolitan place at the time); she then fled Germany in 1933. She defended him post-war, even knowing that he had been a Nazi. This is sort of where his biography gets tricky, because both their relationship and the extent of his Antisemitism weren’t really known about until after his death. He also wrote some stuff in his last book, Only a God Can Save Us, that suggested he was at least disillusioned with Nazism by the end. Of course, with him being dead for like 40+ years at this point, we can’t exactly ask him to weigh all of this and explain, and even if we could, what credence could we attach to his explanations?

Is Heidegger really such an important part of the history of philosophy that we need to keep talking about him? This question comes up a lot when dealing with former Nazis, and in a lot of cases the answer has been, “No, we should chuck the Nazis out”–but coincidentally, this seems to be the choice when the results of whatever research they were doing is rubbish. For example, the medical community doesn’t pay any attention to what Mengele did[6]. On the other hand, Wernher von Braun actually…designed the Saturn V rocket. So, you know. In a broader sense, this is a question that comes up again and again with reference to what has been termed “cancel” culture, whereby a mob will publicly shame someone, typically a celebrity, for real or imagined crimes, and then basically try to ignore that person, cutting them out of society. Does the person get to resume their livelihood? When, if ever? No one is quite sure yet.

For me, the question could be framed more specifically as “Why do I continue to return to Heidegger?” There are ultimately a few reasons. First, there is something compelling about this tiny piece of his philosophy that speaks to me, just like it speaks to so many others. Second, I take a perverse delight in co-opting the philosophy of someone who would have been unhappy about the idea–Heidegger blamed a lot of the modernization he hated on Jews, and saw them as “uprooted from Being-in-the-world”–i.e., incapable of authenticity (Rothman’s quote and summary), so for a Jew to demonstrate the same anxieties and concerns with modernity that he does has a certain ironic appropriateness. Drawing him providing advice to me, someone he probably would not have had time for in life, is extremely funny to me. Third, I like to use him to remember that even smart people can be seduced and make extremely terrible decisions, and that it is a good idea to stop and think things through once in a while.[7] Reading more about him, Heidegger is basically the banal kind of evil you meet every day, a bureaucrat looking for an edge more than a guy personally shooting babies, just rules-bound enough to make life a little more difficult for everyone. But at the same time, I have to feel like maybe there aren’t any innocent Nazis, just like there aren’t any good cops.

But. More and more, watching the George Floyd protests, I’m reminded that a lot of normal people in Germany were probably like Heidegger–secure in their privilege, and not very brave. No one, on a day-to-day basis, stands up to the police, because there’s no accountability, so people have literally taken recordings of people getting murdered in front of them and yet done nothing to intervene with the actual murder. I don’t know if we can exactly blame anyone for not wanting to put their own lives on the line; in part, perhaps it’s a demonstration of how afraid people are. The cops aren’t going to come over here and start busting heads, so we can film them, but if we try to intervene, well–who knows what amount of restraint they’re willing to exercise. (Having written this and then watched a week of protests, I can tell you the answer is “none”–it doesn’t matter who you are, the police will beat you if you get in their way.) You might have called these people collaborators in Nazi German, but looking at the way people in the US have been about, for example, the Trump Concentration Camps at the border, ICE abuses, the long-time abuse of civilians and especially Black people by the police, etc., etc., I think that might be a little strong. Collaboration implies active participation or approval in some way. Heidegger was, arguably, in the weakest sense, a collaborator. Instead, I think we could say that these problems are so big, pervasive, difficult, and frightening that instead of facing them (for longer than a few news cycles), people tend to retreat into das Gerede–the chatter that distracts us all from the Real. Now that the typical outlets of das Gerede (Twitter, Instagram, FB, Reddit, Imgur, etc.) are all full of images of protest and conflict, we have nothing to distract us. The problems will be faced; they must be faced.

Whenever big protest movements come up, people seem to think in terms of the things they would lose were the movement’s ideals to be enacted, both explicitly and not. Defund the police? Then who will find our stolen cars? Give women rights over their bodies? Then how will we be able to keep them powerless at home? If I told you to stop teaching Shakespeare, you might rightly protest that there would be a huge gap in the curriculum, leaving out some of the greatest works of literature in English. But because any class has a limited number of hours per week, limited weeks per semester, and students have a limited number of semesters in the time they spend at school, leaving things out can also offer the opportunity to add things in that are now overlooked. Already any philosophy curriculum suffers from history–there are so many philosophers from Thales onward. Who could we include if we didn’t spend time on Heidegger? What level of excellence would it have to attain to be worth the trade off? 

There’s a kind of false argument people often bring up when affirmative action comes up that suggests that if you decide you’re going to try to hire someone nonwhite, someone nonmale, you’re somehow giving them the job out of pity, because they couldn’t possibly just be the best candidate for the job. But I think one thing we’ve learned is that they often are the best candidate, and without diversity initiatives we would have overlooked them and hired another mediocre white guy. So I want to start a diversity initiative in philosophy, and make the claim that just because there are a lot of smart white guys, maybe there are some philosophers who also have interesting, illuminating, even genius things to say who are different from the milieu. This is my modest proposal–no matter how much we are willing to smooth over Heidegger’s crimes, no matter how much of a singular genius he may be (and I think more and more that this is a myth, there is no such thing as a singular genius), maybe we could do better.

It has been difficult for me, sitting at home, to not be able to protest. I feel like words are no longer useful (who needs another think piece? The answer is always “no one”), but words are all that I have to give (I mean, you can give money too–see this next footnote for some resources[7]). Words about the way philosophy is studied are the smallest potatoes imaginable; it’s just an area I feel like I have a little bit of something to say about that maybe other people aren’t already talking about in a better way. So I press on against the current, borne ceaselessly back into the past.

Join me next time, we’ll do Fanon.

In addition to Joshua Rothman’s article linked above, this essay benefited from:
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Heidegger
Martin Heidegger on Wikipedia
Heidegger and Nazism on Wikipedia
Hannah Arendt on Wikipedia
Hannah Arendt on Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The title is from Amanda Palmer’s album There Will Be No Intermission, aka the album most likely to make me break down in sobs in front of my computer. Saddest song. Favorite song

[1] After I started working on this, I realized I had a lot to say about the “canon” of philosophers as taught in normal classes (or even as philosophy afficiendos, the philosophers we most pay attention to), who are pretty much exclusively white and male until you get into the late 90s and after, and then still like 90% white and male, as well as the deficiencies of my undergraduate education in general. But this essay is already over 2,000 words long, so I have not said every thought on the matter. 

[2] Other major phenomenologists include Hegel and Kant.

[3] I took mostly classes on Philosophy of Science, so studied philosophers like Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Godel, as well as a fair amount of Plato. So it’s possible they were doing classes on Heidegger and I just wasn’t interested at the time. Side note–other major philosophers mentioned here who are not being taught: Husserl and Arendt, both of whom were Jewish. And I do not recall reading any texts by major philosophers of color during my tenure there (we barely read any women–only in my ethics course, really). Side side note, it’s interesting how almost every concept in philosophy is attached to the person who thought it up with the exception of the trolley problem, which is very widely known but most don’t know it as the brainchild of Philippa Foot. Interesting.

[4] Just kidding, we’re not rivals. They’re great.

[5] Rule one: thou shalt stir up benign controversy so people will cite your paper

[6] This is what I have been told, anyway. I have not been able to discover any articles with a cursory search.

[7] It’s worth noting that Heidegger’s disenchantment did not come from, like, the mass murder parts of the Nazi philosophy, so even smart people can make relatively huge errors in judgement.

[8] Free the 350 Bail Fund is the bail fund for Madison, WI. And this site lets you split a donation among several different worthy organizations. And there’s always the ACLU.

Em oi! #442: La luce fantastica

Hal (pointing at spray paint on a sidewalk): Mama! Draw!
Em (crouching next to Hal): What color is it?
Hal: Um, purple.
Em: I think it's blue, friend. 
Hal: Why?
Em in center of panel with different images indicating her thoughts surrounding: above, light leaves the sun and bounces off blue paint into the eye. An image of an eye with the words "rods" and "cones". The term "Rayleigh scattering." A color spectrum with 470 lambda (nanometers) pointed out. On her right shoulder, Derrida says "Maybe there is no objective reality." On her left shoulder, Kant says, "Remember the noumenon!"

I started this one long enough ago that, among other things, Hal still apparently was speaking in one-word sentences and didn’t get colors right all the time. But when I finally finished it, I updated the drawing to look like he looks now, because small children are super hard to draw (the proportions are very different from adults).

The other thing that happened was I inked this comic with a fountain pen (my fine-tipped markers are in need of replacement) and it turns out the ink it was filled with (Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-guri, which I think means “wild chestnut”) is not waterproof. I figured this out when I was halfway through the process of watercoloring the comic. So if you noticed the bleeding in some panels, that’s why.

I decided to try and draw my hair the way I often wear it, which is halfway between Gibson girl and bitchy librarian. The Gibson girl hairstyle (as far as I can tell, anyway) works really well with my normal curly mess, but it’s worn much higher/farther forward on the head than I’m used to, so I often wind up with it a bit low, forming what is closer to a typical librarian bun. I think I could have made a pretty good Edwardian though, had I been afforded the opportunity. Sigh. Born too late to be an Edwardian, too early to explore the stars, as the saying goes.

Okay, so there was an XKCD about this (actually he’s done quite a few about color), but just saying “how can you really know what someone else is seeing” doesn’t really touch on how weird color actually is. See, there are a couple of factors that influence what you see. First is the actual wavelength of the light that reaches your eye. Then there’s the way your rods and cones function. Finally, there’s the visual cortex, where everything gets interpreted (Oliver Sacks wrote a lot about how that piece can go wrong). But what this can all add up to is non-spectral colors–basically, when you see wavelengths of light that trigger both the red and blue cones in your eye, your brain knows the color you’re seeing is between those colors, but that it’s not green, because the light would trigger the green cones. So your brain kind of makes up purple. Super weird.

Anyway, let’s do some 2019 numbers to round out last year:

Books read: 18 (about 6,000 pages)

  1. All Systems Red, by Martha Wells. Delightful.
  2. Redshirts, by John Scalzi. Amusing without really being great. I…don’t get why so many people lost their shit over this.
  3. The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live, by Heather Armstrong. Oh Heatherrrrrr….A little bit more science and a little bit less “just caring for my children makes me so anxious that I have to spend my time crawling into my closet and crying and also I cannot hold down a normal job because I am a bloggerrrrr” would have been nice. Since reading this I have learned that electroconvulsive therapy (which is not like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) actually has relatively good results for long-term depression that is not responsive to drugs, and while Heather sort of implies that the experiment she was a part of is better or potentially the only available treatment, that’s really not the case. So I don’t know how to feel about this book. On the one hand she super went through something. On the other hand, her understanding of what she went through is different from mine. Also, I have a really hard time when people are like “I have a life that you would have killed for but I gave it up/walked away/whatever.” I’m glad it helped, at least.
  4. Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells. Still fun, although not quite as awesome as the first.
  5. Good Bones, by Maggie Smith. Claire said “she writes about motherhood without being…you know.” And she’s right.
  6. Dawn, by Octavia Butler. Soooooooo…. This was creepy.
  7. Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right, by Jamie Glowacki. (Me now in 2020 writing this list) did I really read this back in (checks) March? Arg.
  8. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. This was awesome and I loved 90% of it so much that I can forgive the 10% that comprises the facts that this has almost no women and a sort of dubious love story. I don’t think I will ever say this about a 900-page book again but I wish it had been longer.
  9. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb. Gosh, this book has a terrible title but it was a really engrossing read and it got me back to therapy, which really helped, so.
  10. Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool, by Emily Oster. There’s not a ton of data but what there is is reassuring for the choices I have made. 
  11. Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer. I don’t know if I 100% buy the thesis that Mormonism is a violent religion but I definitely see them in a new and less fluffy light.
  12. ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body, by Stacy Sims. This book was so awful that I’ve been thinking about getting it from the library again to make sure it was as bad as I thought it was.
  13. Reaper Man, by Terry Pratchett (reread). Masterful.
  14. Babel-17, by Samuel R. Delaney. Fantastic. Delaney is a master. The pervasive sense of dread was difficult to deal with though.
  15. Rogue Protocol, by Martha Wells. Still charming.
  16. Starless, by Jacqueline Carey. The first 2/3rds were amazing and the last third should probably have been a second book in the same series. 
  17. Nine Princes in Amber, by Roger Zelazny (and about half of the second in the series, The Guns of Avalon). Manly men doing manly things with swords. 
  18. Exhalation: Stories, by Ted Chiang. What technology does to us. What we do to ourselves. 

Poems published: 7 (plus one more accepted, thought it will be out by the time I finish this blog post)

Rejections: 35 (includes poetry and fiction)

Miles run: 2,323 (goal: 2,300; biggest month: May, with 215; smallest month: February, with 15); this breaks down into 79.92 mi on the elliptical, 165.92 on the dreadmill, 96.07 miles raced, 296.27 miles run as long runs, 832.63 stroller miles, and 820.61 “normal” (not otherwise categorized) miles

Fastest race: Labor Day Dash stroller 5k (25:38)–1st place

Slowest race: New Glarus Woods 10 miler (1:46:43)–11th in age group, 56th overall

Comics posted: 4 (yikes)

That’s all the numbers I have.

We’ll file the comic under B105.C455 L86 2020, for Philosophy (General)–Special topics, A-Z–Color. Special thanks to B for the title.

Hal sitting in a box, watched by a large orange cat.

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 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! #410: Ça suffit


Click to embiggen. I had already written this script before the attack on Paris last Friday, so I decided to just go with it.

I actually have been reading Being and Nothingness[1], and contrary to my expectations (and it’s reputation, I guess), it’s not a depressing book. At least in the part I’ve read so far, Sartre is mostly concerned with setting out his view of ontology, refuting most of the philosophers who preceded him (everyone from Descartes to Kant, anyway). I’ve done this drawing illustrating the history of philosophy to show you what I mean:
history of philosophy

I hope that clarifies things.

What I really love is the feeling that all the stuff I was dragged through as an undergrad–Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Spinoza, Kant, probably a few others I’m leaving out–seems to be summarized quite elegantly here and then rejected in favor of a philosophy that seems to better describe my intuitions about how my mind/reality work than, you know, Berkeley or anything. I am surprised courses on existentialism were not offered at my university. Or perhaps they were and I didn’t take any–in those days, my focus was more on epistemology (somewhat) and logic, so I read Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein, among others. The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus remains one of my favorite books I read during this period.[2] And of course, this was the time during which I discovered Foucault, but I came to him (and Derrida) through the English department rather than the philosophy department.

Here are a few other appearances of these philosophers:

  • Descartes
  • Derrida
  • All other philosophers (inclusive)
  • Bonus other comic with Camus:


    We can file this comic under B2430.S34L86 2015, for Philosophy (General)–Modern (1450/1600-)–By region or country–France–By period–20th century–Individual philosophers, A-Z–Sartre, Jean-Paul, 1905-1980–Biography, autobiography, criticism, etc.–General works.

    In other announcements, if you’re out and about, please consider buying a copy of The Joy of Fishes at A Room of One’s Own (not signed, but we can arrange it) or Mystery to Me (pre-signed). They have been very nice to take a few copies on consignment, so perhaps we can help them move them–you’d be helping not just an indie author, but a local indie bookstore as well. Huzzah.

    [1] It’s not really a dreadmill book, so I’ve been reading Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle on the elliptical. I’m currently on book three. Each book is about 800 pages, and unfortunately they often seem to take about the first 100 to 150 to really get rolling. But if you’ve ever been interested in the enlightenment, it’s worth it. I don’t actually think he’s mis-characterizing enlightenment ideals or anything, for the most part. Maybe I’ll talk more about that when I do a review (in a million years when I actually finish it).

    [1] I also did a lot of ancient philosophers, especially Plato. Modern philosophers included Philippa Foot, Robert Nozick, and Peter Singer.