Em oi! #397: It also Means “of the Greatest Importance.”


Here is something interesting I found out about cardinals: If you are a priest who is ministering somewhere that it might potentially be dangerous for you to be made a cardinal, the pope can make you a cardinal in pectore, which means he makes the appointment but keeps it secret (from everyone, including the apointee). Later on, he can reveal the appointment. But if he dies (or retires from the papacy, I guess?) before it is revealed, the appointment expires and the cardinal goes back to being a priest (or bishop). This kind of blows my mind, but I guess it is related to how the college of cardinals functions–not surprisingly, for a group that is full of old dudes, seniority is important.

Our yard might look like this picture if any of our trees (save the evergreens) had any leaves on them yet. Also we sold the swing set, it is not there anymore. And Edgar has dragged about a dozen sticks (many of them as big around as my forearm and longer than he is) out of the woods and piled them up in the middle of the lawn. He seems quite pleased with himself. If they start building ramparts, I’m going to get worried.

We’ll file this under ND1329.3.C37 L86 2014 for Painting–Special subjects of painting–Portraits. Group portraits. Self-portraits–Special subjects, A-Z–Cardinals. No, I am not sure why this is a call number.

Happy Pesach everyone! I hope you had a good seder (or seders if you are more ambitious than I am) and that you are having a good week of not eating bread. I have not had any bread in several days now, yes indeed! Although I must admit I have eaten some tortillas. A line has to be drawn somewhere I guess.

(Ok, actually the rabbis drew it on the side of don’t eat things with flour in them other than matzos during Passover. But they never had to go out to dinner in a non-Jewish city during Pesach.)

I guess this comic is somehow timely because Easter is coming up this Sunday. Happy Easter to all my priest relatives (and priest-to-be somehow-related-by-marriage people)! Actually, this is not a joke, I have one relative who is a priest, and also two of B’s relatives are priests-in-training. That’s a lot of priests for a Jew to be related to. It seems unusual. I also have a relative who studies the medieval Church although she isn’t herself Catholic. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but I can get questions of dogma answered all over the place.

After Easter though, comes the holiday we’ve all been waiting for: Cadbury-Creme-Eggs-Go-on-Sale-Monday.

You were waiting for that too, right? (Cough) I just started training for a triathlon, so I’m trying to stop buying junk food. I’m trying to eat less sugar. I’ll let you know how that works out. Right now I am very hungry and have been eating like it was my job. Probably because I can’t fill up on bread all the time.

It’s, um, Wednesday. Pesach ends Monday at sundown, I think. Be strong.

Em oi! #396: Airplane Hell


This was on a flight from Salt Lake City to Denver. Let me just say that I am super paranoid about my headphones–not only do I worry about disturbing others, I worry about damaging my hearing, so I keep music/podcasts turned down REALLY low. Evidently this guy didn’t give a fuck if everyone could hear his music or not. He’ll probably go deaf, serves him right I guess. Or that’s about what I was thinking. But at the end, when we got up to get our luggage, I started to lean over the seat to vent spleen on the guy. As I did so, I saw some of the stuff he was texting to a friend on his phone (well, we were on the ground, I guess). Essentially he was in his 30s or 40s, on his way to visit a woman his family disapproved of (they believed he was a sinner because he was going to see her, and she had posted some “mildly sexy” photos of herself on the internet), his family also disapproved of his lack of religiosity… I just lost steam. Poor guy was old enough that he should have a life for himself, but he was so totally caught up in his family’s feelings.

It would have been easier if he was just the stupid teenager I’d assumed he was. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a terrible person. But I didn’t yell at him; his life seemed rough enough already.

Anyway. We’ll file this under BJ2139.L86 2014, for Social usages. Etiquette–Etiquette of travel–Special topics–Airplane travel.

I went out to Black Earth to run the Black Earth 10 Mile Race today. It was quite entertaining–I knew about a third of the field, it felt like, or they were friends of friends. It was especially funny to hear people say “Here come the fast people” as I approached with my friend R. Not sure how long I’ve counted as a fast person. We kept a pretty steady 8:00-8:30 pace for the first 9 miles–it was an out and back course, very flat, so it was relatively easy to keep pace, and I knew when we hit the turnaround that I was in 9th place, so it was easy to drive just a little bit harder on the second half to move up a few spots to 7th. Just shy of the 9 mile marker, two people we’d passed earlier (a man and a woman) came up behind us looking to make a move. I dropped the hammer and took off. For a while, I was running about a 6:40. It was amazing, I was flying.

My hands started to tingle. I realized that I could only hold that pace for a limited amount of time, and the clock was running down. I was very shortly going to have make a choice between passing out and slowing down.

I finished, I believe, in 8th place. I didn’t win the free shoes gift certificate. But I learned something new about how fast I can really push myself to–maybe if I start doing intervals once a week (my PT suggested this), I will actually be able to hold a 6:40 pace for a little while longer.

That’s enough of that. Here are some pictures of dogs and other animals I took.




Macalester, or Mac for short.

Macalester, or Mac for short.

Edgar is happy when Bear is around.

Edgar is happy when Bear is around.


Bear, who stayed with us for a week while his person traveled.

Bear, who stayed with us for a week while his person traveled.

Kali and Bear go on adventures.

Kali and Bear go on adventures.





Bear, lying down.

Bear, lying down.






Smile nice for the camera, guys.

Smile nice for the camera, guys.

Smile, I said.

Smile, I said.

Guys, come on.

Guys, come on.

Anyway I think my SAD is over so I will try to post more frequently now. I still have a couple of reviews in queue and a few more to write, plus I’ve recently fallen down a post-colonial studies rabbit hole and I’m excited to talk about that (everyone in real life is tired of listening to me talk about it, actually).

Em oi! #395: I Kant Believe It


This started as more notes to myself on the noumenon, because I have been reading The Parallax View and had to look it up. I dragged through A Critique of Pure Reason in college and also parts of Critique of Judgement and (if I’m recalling correctly) The Metaphysics of Mortals, but I can’t say Kant’s theories ever really resonated with me. Yet since reading First as Tragedy, I’ve had a new respect for him. In particular, I was struck by this passage:

The recent Revolution of a people which is rich in spirit, may well either fail or succeed, accumulate misery and atrocity, it nevertheless arouses in the heart of all spectators (who are not themselves caught up in it) a taking of sides according to desires which borders on enthusiasm and which, since its very expression was not without danger, can only have been caused by a moral disposition within the human race.

Which is to say, while “actual history is confused” on the question of whether or not true [i.e. ethical] progress is possible, spectators across Europe were remarkably sympathetic to the French revolution (Zizek, First as Tragedy, then as Farce, 106).

I think now that this quote is less affecting out of context. Anyway, the remarkable thing was for me that I looked up the noumenon, made my notes, and then suddenly understood exactly the point Zizek was making and sailed on through another several pages. (Then he came to some argument rooted in Hegel and I got bogged down again.)

Anyway I should add that according to Wikipedia, the conflation of the noumenon and the ding-an-sich is not quite so straightforward as the Ziz makes it seem. But you probably already suspected as much.

At any rate, having read my comic, perhaps you are now in a position to appreciate this one by Zach Weiner.

Ok, I have now somehow passed an hour looking at pictures of cats on imagur. Probably time to call it a night.

We’ll file this one under B2799.N68 L86 2014, for Philosophy (General)–Modern (1450/1600-)–By region or country–Germany. Austria (German)–By period–Later 18th and early 19th centuries–Individual philosophers–Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804–Special topics, A-Z–Noumenon. Before you say “Don’t hurt yourself on that topic heading there,” I just want to let you know that PT2100.K3 is German literature–Individual authors or works–1700-ca. 1860/70–Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1749-1832–Biography and criticism–Biography–Personal relations–Relations to friends and contemporaries–Individual friends and contemporaries–Other friends and contemporaries, A-Z–Kant, Immanuel. So just be careful what you wish for.

By the way, I posted two reviews lately that you might have missed: this one of the play Red and this one of First as Tragedy. More reviews soon!

Okay, wait, I just remembered something I have to tell you about Kant. It’s a story my father told me when I was a kid: (and just to ruin it, I have forgotten the setup but) there is a guy in a neighborhood in Germany (well, Prussia). Every day he goes out for a walk at the same time. Every day he comes back at the same time. One day, his neighbor is raking leaves in the front yard and sees this guy walk past, and he has one foot on the sidewalk and one in the gutter. And half an hour later, sure as clockwork, back he comes, one foot on the sidewalk, one in the gutter. And that was Immanuel Kant. Later on, Dad told me that Kant broke philosophy, because he thought of it all. I don’t know if that is exactly true (philosophy has certainly continued after Kant, and gone down a lot of new and interesting alleys), but it perhaps explains to you what a huge and insurmountable obstacle he is in the study of philosophy. You Kant get there from here without going through him.

. . .

Ok, now I’m really going to bed.

Red: In which I review a play without discussing the acting

Note: This was written (originally as sort of a joke) for B’s younger brother, who is a theater person and has a a blog of his own filled with excellent play reviews. I realized when I got to the end that I’d not reviewed the acting so much as the play itself. (Or rather, I tried to avoid talking about the acting at all costs.) I guess this is what happens when you send a novelist to the theater.

Logan, John (author). Red. Directed by Laura Gordon, Forward Theater Company, Madison, WI. 2014.
Starring Jim DeVita as Mark Rothko; Nate Burger as Ken, his assistant.

Mark Rothko immigrated to the US from Latvia at a time when it was still part of the Russian Empire (1913) to avoid conscription into the Imperial Army (the same reason my ancestors left, at around the same time, actually). His parents settled in Portland, where he grew up one intellectual Jew in a big colony thereof. He attended Yale but dropped out. Nevertheless, he was extremely well-read. He was among the most important artists of the post-WWII era; along with such painters as Jackson Pollock and William De Kooning, he launched a movement termed abstract expressionism (by the critics, of course). In the later part of the 1950s, Rothko accepted a commission (to the tune of $35,000) to provide a series of murals for the (then under construction) Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. Drawing inspiration from a stairway designed by Michelangelo, Rothko said he was going to create a series of earth-toned paintings that would produce a claustrophobic effect and ruin the digestion of every son-of-a-bitch who dined at the restaurant. After completing some forty paintings, Rothko called the project off and returned the commission. Twelve years later, in 1970, he committed suicide.

Most of this I learned from Wikipedia,[1] but I also learned it from the play Red, which attempts to solve the riddle of why Rothko called off the Four Seasons project and returned the money. As is clear from the play (and from Wikipedia), Rothko knew when accepting the commission what the restaurant would look like, what its clientele would be like, and so forth. So why did he finally decide that it wasn’t the right spot for his works? That is Red‘s central mystery; although it attempts an inquiry into other things, such as how an artist’s life might influence his work, the commodification of art, the shifting of art movements, or what exactly abstract expressionism even really means (as a movement, to the viewer, etc.), the solution to the Four Seasons question is really its unique contribution to whatever myth may have sprung up around Rothko, if there is one.

Much of the dialogue, at least on Rothko’s part, seems to have been lifted directly from things he said, and from all of that he seems to have been an extremely intelligent, well-read and well-spoken individual. The parts that aren’t so lifted fall a bit short of profundity—it is a bit insipid, in the middle of a dialogue about color choice in abstract art, to have the characters fall into a shouting match wherein they both name things that are red. I know that roses are red—I have looked outside from time to time. Instead, tell me what it means. And, as an aside, lobster aren’t red. Cooked lobsters are red.

Rothko’s assistant Ken is a fictional character, although Rothko did have assistants, and it was one such assistant who found him dead when he killed himself—there is a scene in the play with red paint that nods and winks at this fact, but the play stops short of delving too deeply into Rothko’s emotional life. He says, “I do get depressed sometimes.” Everything else is intellectual discussion. Ken’s life we see a little bit more of, but the central story of his character—that he was born in Iowa, his parents were murdered when he was young, he went through several foster homes and wound up in New York because he wanted to be a painter—is not sufficiently used, except to give Rothko a few moments to play Freud. In addition, it feels like the background of a fictional character–something created to be dramatic.

This lack of emotional connection is frustrating, because the play really does begin to feel like watching two people talk about art for ninety minutes. One feels, looking at his biography, that Rothko’s wife Mell may have been a not insignificant part of his life; he dined at the Four Seasons with her right before deciding to give up the commission, and committed suicide not long after they separated. There is a lot of potential in the story right there, without the need to introduce a fictional assistant. But she, and indeed his marriage, children, and family, is never mentioned. That said, it is nice to have characters who are emotionally resilient and don’t take the slightest criticism as an excuse to dissolve into melodrama. Imagine if after one fight we were treated to how depressive and potentially suicidal Rothko could be—this would be terrible.

Jim DeVita plays Rothko. He’s quite thin and manic, which . . . DeVita seems to be thin and manic in most of his roles. But I think this was a good fit for him. He has shaved his head—an odd choice, since I don’t think Rothko did that, but in context it works, although in combination with his glasses it looks a little bit Breaking Bad for my taste. His Russian accent was so subtle that I wondered at times if I were imagining it. Ken, played by a guy from APT whose work I have somehow totally missed, is a good actor, but his costumes did not strike me as sufficiently period. In one scene, he wears a t-shirt that looks like it came from the Land’s End catalog last season, not from 1958, when the play is purportedly set. But whatever he’s wearing, Ken carries off his role fairly well, refraining from lapsing into mawkish sentimentality in the scene wherein he recounts his parents’ murders. (Although perhaps he doesn’t avoid it altogether—in my notes, I see the words “My parents are dead!,” suggesting I found something hilariously Batman-like about the scene in question.)

I can see why this play won awards.[2] It is trying very hard to be smart. Having cribbed much of its material from a very smart guy, it largely succeeds at that. Perhaps in the end, its intellectualizing of the artistic process is its downfall. Rothko’s stated reasons for turning down the commission are emotional; however, since we have no access to any of his interiority, and lack an emotional connection with him, it is hard to take his feelings about/toward the paintings as seriously as perhaps we should, and it is hard to really evaluate his reasons to determine if he’s even telling the truth.

Bottom line: As we were walking into the theater, we met a friend of Bryan’s who is a professor at UW. This fellow said something like, “Well, I’ve done my sixty, sixty-five hours this week; I’m ready to have a beer and go sleep through a play somewhere” (except picture this in a charming New Zealand accent). The play was involving enough that for a fledgling art nerd like myself, it was interesting, and for someone looking for a relaxing evening, it was probably not overly taxing.

[1] I don’t mention Wikipedia here to suggest that the play is superficial in its treatment of Rothko’s biography, or not exactly. Rothko’s Wikipedia page was clearly written by someone(s) who was/were very deeply interested in him as an artist, and consequently it has a lot of information. But somehow, I had hoped that the play might provide something more in-depth than what I could have learned from skimming the wiki on my phone right before the curtain went up. On the other hand, I do wonder that this may not be a totally valid criticism, because obviously there’s only so much that can be known about someone’s life.

[2] It won the Tony award for best play in 2010, and also five other Tonys, although a few of them were things like scene design and lighting design that impact the performance and are not as pertinent to the text of the play itself. It also won a 2010 Drama League Award and a Drama Desk Award.

And yet, I am left with the feeling that we are still doomed: Slavoj Žižek’s First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

Note: I started a new job last week, which has temporarily reduced my available time for drawing. Also I am doing battle with the wallpaper in our first floor bathroom, so that is taking up a lot of my time. I hope I’ll have a comic next week. In the meantime, please enjoy a few of the reviews I write.

Žižek, Slavoj. First as Tragedy, Then as Farce. London and New York: Verso, 2009. 978-1-84467-428-2

So here are the things you need to know about Žižek: First, if you decide to write about him, his name is kind of a typographical clusterfuck for the English keyboard. Second, he’s a Marxist. Third, he’s essentially an intersectionalist[1], but because of point two, ultimately all the systems of discrimination are caused by capitalism. Fourth, he is extremely entertaining and charismatic, albeit in a weird way. He is often referred to as the rock star of modern philosophy.[2] He personally divides his books into the easy stuff (nothing books) and the deeper philosophical works (like The Parallax Effect). This book is one of the easy ones—it is a straight-up Marxist critique. Finally, he takes a psychoanalytic perspective toward his philosophy, with a particular focus on Lacan. This means the book is filled with terms like objet petit a and subject supposed to know. Don’t worry about it.

Ok, so the book: ostensibly, Žižek is comparing 9/11 and the 2008 financial collapse. But in reality, he’s mostly focused on the financial collapse and the implications for global capitalism. Basically, the story is that capitalism is inherently exploitive. Since 1968 we have this thing called cultural capitalism, which is where we pretend that capitalism is not totally bad because we can come up with these market-based solutions to our problems. Like Starbucks sells water and donates five cents per bottle to giving people water. Or fair trade coffee. Or organic (and nowadays, non-GMO) foods.[3] Essentially, there are these stories we tell ourselves about how we are not being terrible people because when we spend our money, we are affecting positive change as we simultaneously get ourselves a latte. But we are still lying to ourselves. When we buy bottled water, Starbucks is still taking the resource from somewhere and essentially screwing the people who live there out of their water, and they are exploiting the labor of the barista who is standing there making your triple-pump caramel macchiato heated to one hundred and eighty degrees. Organic foods have no real benefit other than costing more money but they make you feel like you’re doing something good for the environment. You are not really being an anti-consumerist rebel because you are still consuming things, but you can fool yourself into believing that you have done something good and anti-consumerist.

Ah, hell, go watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpAMbpQ8J7g. I’ll wait here.

There are a lot of things wrapped up in capitalism that are bad: It is inherently exploitative of workers. It is inherently greedy, and that greed is now so out of control that we are allowing the wholesale destruction of the planet to the point where we may render large chunks of it uninhabitable. Probably the 80/20 principle is the best example of this—the idea that twenty percent of the workers produce eighty percent of the profit. Because eighty percent of the profit actually amounts to more profit when you only have to pay twenty percent of your workforce with it, companies have (since the crash) taken up cutting down employees significantly, which is why we have so many damn unemployed people who can’t find a job, and meanwhile the stock market goes up when a company announces layoffs because even though the stupid fuckers who are buying the stocks are probably also workers and thus at risk of getting laid off if these trends continue, the having of more profits to share with stockholders is considered a net positive. We have poverty, disease, ever-increasing class divisions, anti-Semitism[5] and other forms of xenophobia, homophobia . . . more than that, we have a political system which is essentially built to make politicians more concerned about getting reelected than actually doing anything useful or effecting any real change in the world, and yet we continue to vote and pretend that we think that somehow, change is possible, that somehow this time it will be different.

The solution, of course, is communism, because these harms are not harms that can be rectified by the system—they are harms that are embedded in the system itself. (And also, I suppose, because if you’re giving a Marxist reading, you have a certain responsibility to follow him along.) The Ziz places the blame for the failures of early twentieth century communism squarely on the shoulders of Stalin (with Trotsky sharing a little bit of it for refusing to take over for Lenin and thus opening the door for Stalin and his followers). His argument seem to be less of “this time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything” and more “try again. Fail again. Fail better.” At least he’s realistic.

I am willing to accept communism as the solution to our current problems. Not without some reservations, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that the Ziz is right and communism is the answer. So now we come to another issue: changing is difficult. In fact, it is very, very difficult. To judge from the sheer number of commercials, it is incredibly difficult to even get someone to change their breakfast cereal,[6] so how do we convince approximately 314 million people to change their government? Spoiler: You can’t.

Or at least, according to Foucault, you can’t.[7] According to Foucault, the way the power structure is set up, you can’t ever really change things, because the system is essentially set up to be self-producing. For example, truly revolutionary politicians can’t get elected—if they do, it’s because they moved their views into line with what the majority of people in the electorate think. The Ziz is somewhat dismissive of Foucault, leaving him behind early on after an argument about Freudian analysis, but he even provides evidence of the system doing this himself. Key quote:

Those who hold power know very well the difference between a right and a permission. . . . A right in a strict sense of the term gives access to the exercise of a power, at the expense of another power. A permission doesn’t diminish the power of the one who gives it; it doesn’t augment the power of the one who gets it. It makes life easier, which is not nothing. (Quoting Jean Claude Milner, Žižek, First as Tragedy, 59)

After a lot of revolutionizing (i.e. the 1960s), we have what Žižek terms “the permissive society” that allows for “divorce, abortion, gay marriage, and so on” (ibid.) without actually giving anyone more power or rights. The system shifted enough to relax the protestors, thereby preserving the system without ever really changing in any meaningful way.[8] This tendency of the system is something the Ziz doesn’t really deal with, which is too bad. The problem of how to change a system that is willing to bend to acclimate revolutionaries without actually changing is a big problem when one wants to be a revolution. The closest that he comes to resolving this difficulty is in the aforementioned Beckett quote: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” While it would be a stretch to suggest that each successive (Communist) revolution came closer to the workers’ utopia that Marx originally envisioned, it is possible that the sustained movement toward a goal (i.e. successive failed revolutions) might be a way to begin to improve the situation gradually. Maybe.

I personally, as I think I’ve said, find this convincing enough. I am certainly willing to give it a try, anyway. But where to begin? To paraphrase Žižek at the outset of this book, perhaps it is time to spend a moment in thought before blindly rushing off (c.f. p. 11). I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Postscript: When I showed a draft of this essay to a friend, he asked if this was my attempt to make myself feel better about capitalism. It’s not; I don’t really “feel good” about capitalism. But when I wrote this, I didn’t have a job; now I have one again. So I feel a little better about the system, now that it’s working for me again.

[1] I just tried to read about Marxist-feminist theory and I had like a seizure or something because it was so boring. Whatever. I think this term is probably being used correctly here.
[2] Better him than Peter Singer, I guess.
[3] The single most hilarious joke of the twenty-first century is that someone has convinced a certain segment of the population that eating GMO food is bad for them. Organic foods are like the second most hilarious joke of our modern era.[4]
[4] There was a footnote here that I’ve decided to omit, but I don’t feel like renumbering the other notes.
[5] And/or anti-Islam sentiment, depending on how much you want to go with Said in defining anti-Semitism as being anti-all Semitic peoples or not. I just had an argument about this with one of my brothers.
[6] To be fair, breakfast cereal is an important decision.
[7] I think these arguments are in Discipline and Punish. But also in basically everything he wrote.
[8] The Ziz actually views social issues as a smokescreen that politicians (in particular conservatives) use to distract the people from what’s really important—this is essentially why low income voters so frequently vote against their own economic interests. I have mixed feelings on this point—of course he’s right, but social issues are also important (even if only in a tautological way).

Em oi! #394: Secret Messages

To write “sum chees” I used my right hand. I’m not sure if this proves that my right hand handwriting is as good as my left or that my normal handwriting is that terrible.

Anyway, this is based on an event that actually happened, sort of. As proof, here is the piece of paper that Edgar was actually toting around (click to embiggen):
I saw an article yesterday that alleged that black dogs are adopted at a lower rate than dogs of other colors. It’s the Daily fail Mail, fair warning. But I’ve heard the allegation elsewhere before. I don’t know if I believe it–I certainly see a lot of black labs around the dog parks–but if it’s true it’s quite sad. Black dogs are awesome. Their fur blends in to any color of carpet that’s not white, and who wants nasty white carpet anyway? Sometimes they hide in the shadows and you don’t see them! And all they really want out of life is to hang out with the cat and maybe get belly rub:



That’s my public service announcement for the day. It looks like there is no LC number for secret dog messages, so I’ll file this under SF422.33 L86 2014, for Animal culture–Pets–Dogs–Communication of information–General works.

In theory I am depositing my thesis tomorrow. (It was going to happen today, but then Kinkos decided to be a bitch.) I have promised copies to several people, so I will email those out soon. Also I need to send copies to my other committee members and to, uh, a couple of journals. Also need to apply for some jobs, finish a massive copyediting project, get hair cut, take dog to vet for annual checkup, do laundry, vacuum every horizontal surface in house, learn good method of removing wallpaper, order shower curtain, watch some old episodes of Dr. Who, finish novel, finish applying for unemployment, contact guitar teacher, contact a bunch of other people, decide if I can run a 50k this spring, develop positive outlook on life, get enough sleep, and put some stuff up for sale on Craigslist.

Piece of cake, right?

I keep thinking about starting a tumblr for my comic, but then my readers wouldn’t be subjected to these entertaining little chats–they’d just see the comic. And that would be sad, wouldn’t it?

Em oi! #393: Domestic Dog Comics

The Great Sock Battle

Cul de sac problems

A few scenes that didn’t work exactly right on their own, so I thought I’d put them together. I have one more dog comic to do and then I’ll get back to drawing comics about philosophy and suchlike. And yes, Maya does actually stick her entire face into the snow and seem to be sniffing it. What is she smelling? I ask myself this constantly. What can she smell under there? 

We’ll file these under SF427.45 L86 2014, for Animal Culture–Pets–Dogs–Exercise and amusements.

Anyway, it’s the new year, and I have to admit that if another website I’ve had passing interactions with sends me a year-end summary, I’ll…delete it and be quite cross. (I mean, it’s an email, what can you do?) But to provide a few exciting(?) facts for you, my dear readers:

  1. This was the most popular comic of the last year.
  2. I ran 2,163.86 miles, biked 396.6 miles, and swam 291,425 yards (165.5 miles) last year. I missed my goal of 2,500 by just a bit, probably because of the whole plantar fasciitis thing.
  3. I ran nine different distances of race last year. The top times were: 24:40 (5k), 54:41 (5 mi), 50:25 (10k), 1:56:41 (20k), 2:00:07 (13.1 mi), 3:21:41 (20 mi), 4:08:43 (26.2 mi), 5:09:44 (50k). I placed in the top ten in five races, or in the top five in four!

That’s all my interesting things at the moment. Currently I have one race for the spring I’m actually signed up for (The Ice Age 50 mi/50k/half marathon [I'm doing the half marathon]), and two other races I’m pretty sure I’m going to do (the new duathlon and the Mad City 50k). My big goals are to hit 1:45:xx (or even 1:40!) for the half marathon and go sub-5 hours at the MC50k. And don’t get injured. Right.

The rest of my life is spent alternately searching for jobs and convincing myself that getting a job makes me an exploited tool of capitalism. So I guess actually I’m searching for jobs and alternately I’m reading and fomenting rebellion. Fun times. It has been cold here, but it turns out that I can run on the dreadmill and read at the same time, so I’ve been enjoying myself.

Em oi! #392: Such Truth

em 392b

I should clarify straight away that “Lupton Fact” is the term B uses for claims that I (and my brothers) claim that occasionally turn out to not be true, or not be entirely true.

Usually when I do comics about history or philosophy I fact check them pretty closely. This one, I did not–mostly it was a good story that I wanted to transcribe. To be honest, the word “mystery” in the term “Mithraic Mysteries” (or “Mysteries of Mithras”) means that you didn’t get to find out much about the rituals and so on until you had been initiated into the religion–it’s the modern-day equivalent of Free Masonry. Or Scientology. No writings from the Mithras cult survive, as far as I know, and all of what we know about them is based on supposition drawn from artworks, artifacts found in caves (where they held their rites), and a few contemporaneous writings, including one early church father. In short, we don’t really know what they believed or who they stole from. They were contemporaneous in time with Christianity, certainly, but whether they were contemporaneous in geography is a question. It seems that at least some of the similarities between Christianity and the Mysteries of Mithras may have been drummed up by the New Atheist Movement to score points on Christianity.

That said, it’s a good story.

I wanted to make this chat longer, but I’m really tired, so I’m just going to file this under BR128.M5 L86 2013, for Christianity–Relation of Christianity to other religious and philosophical systems–Special, A-Z–Mithraism. And now to bed.

OH, by the way. If you read my book, and you happen to be on Goodreads, it’s on there–you can leave a review! Exciting, eh?


Sean messaged me this morning to provide an alternate account of the connection between Mithraism and Christianity. It goes something like this:

  1. The religions of Rome were very ritual-centric, rather than focusing on belief in a specific deity, so much so that late empire writers complained that no one understood the meaning behind or origin of the rituals yet had to fulfill them.
  2. When Rome adopted Christianity as its religion, these people might have brought some of their rituals with them to Christianity.
  3. A lot of religions make a connection between their deity and the sun [For perhaps obvious reasons, since you'd want to connect a life-bringing deity with the life-bringing sun.--Ed.]. In Islam, for example, the angel Gabriel appears to Mohammed (BPuH) as a giant in the sky. In the Hebrew Bible, G-d is frequently described with solar/light-related metaphors.
  4. A lot of Roman cults had resurrection myths. But Jews (and especially the Nazarites) did sin offerings. [Ok, there are appearances of offerings all over the Hebrew Bible--for example, the "scapegoat" thing in Lev. 16:8 or Hannah dedicating her son in 1 Sam. 1:24. So I don't know if this was just especially a Nazarite thing or what--Sean didn't specify. Jews in general made offerings.--Ed.] It’s not a big step from an offering one person makes to clear one person of sin to an offering made to cleanse all of humanity of sin. So Christianity could certainly have picked up a lot of its beliefs from extant Jewish mythology.
  5. In summary, certainly a bunch of the harmless stuff, like bunnies that lay eggs, Christmas trees, lights, etc. probably came from Roman cults. But the rest, it’s hard to say, and harder still because some of the people who are interested in propagating this train of thought are doing so to discredit Christianity as a religion. [Whatever that means. I don't see the fact that a religion has particular sociocultural/historical roots as incompatible with believing in it, but even in my religious days I was never a literalist.--Ed.]

Em oi! #391: One Forty Point What?

Tin roof: Rusted.
It didn’t initially seem fair to me that I should get laid off the week after Thanksgiving, three weeks before Christmas. Although I neither celebrate nor enjoy the latter holiday, it seemed like the scene out of The Christmas Carol that Dickens couldn’t stand to write. But I guess that the culturally mediated significance the greater United States places on these few weeks are no match for capitalism–and what is Christmas anyway but a holiday whose cultural meaning has long been surpassed in the minds of most Americans by its attached capitalistic values. In other words, as Marx would say, capital really does drive change, and no one, not even a corporation that makes a pretense of having “values” and caring for their employees, is going to let some religious nonsense stop them from doing what’s good for the bottom line, especially as Christmas is religious nonsense pasted on top of previous levels of religious nonsense (or, if you prefer, folkloric nonsense), itself probably resting on previous levels of superstition, all of it drummed up to assuage the old monkey brain fear that the sun is going to go out and the cold winter is going to last forever.

In other words, to quote Ford Prefect, “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”

In other words, bah humbug.

I was carrying out my main Christmas tradition this evening, which is making fudge for my husband’s relatives while sulking, and I decided to listen to This American Life’s episode “Christmas and Commerce” (no. 47). It has the long version of David Sedaris’s “The Santaland Diaries,” which if you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor and listen. I am going to listen to it every year from now on. Anyway, the third act is David Rakoff talking about playing Freud in the window of Barney’s department store in NYC, and he says, “If psychoanalysis was late 19th century secular Judaism’s way of finding spiritual meaning in a post-religious world…retail is the late 20th century’s way of finding spiritual meaning in a post-religious world.” I think that sort of sums up what I’m thinking about.

The decision that I (and several of my coworkers) was laid off came down nearly three weeks ago, and I suppose I should be done with my sulking and on to the next step of the process, finding a new job. But I’m lingering. I don’t know why, exactly–probably the stress from thesis and other things. And, well, “as happy as a Jew on Christmas” is not an expression for a number of very good reasons–this is a difficult time of year, in short. And I’ve been reading Žižek, that doesn’t help.

Filing this under HD5708.5 L86 2013 for Industries. Land use. Labor–Labor. Work. Working class–Labor market. Labor supply. Labor demand–Unemployment. Unemployed–Layoffs. Plant shutdowns. Redundancy–General works.

Here’s a picture of my cat Kali and Edgar the dog chilling out together. Gaze upon it and repeat to yourselves, as I do: It’s only a job. Life goes on.

"Act casual."

Em oi! #389 and #390

I still am, but a little less.

Words (rule the world)

In honor of defending my MA thesis (successfully), two comics about the final throes. I have discussions in the vein of #390 with those who copyedit my fiction as well. Hm. We’ll file these two under LB2385 L86 2013c and LB2385 L86 2013d for Theory and practice of education–Higher education–Academic degrees-M.A. You can also check out LB2385 L86 2013a and LB2385 L86 2013b. You know, for all that I seem somewhat frustrated with my advisor, he’s really been a good fellow to me, and given me a lot of space to make my own discoveries, which I’m kind of glad about. He said some really nice things about my thesis during my defense, and we shook hands. I guess that’s, finally, a détente.

I’ve recently seen a spike in traffic, probably all you crazy people who bought my book. What fun! But looking over the blog, I see that like 99% of the posts I’ve written since July have been about how terrible it is to be in graduate school. And…to some extent this post is not a change from that. Whoops. Sorry. Next week I will have comics that are not about being exhausted and stressed out. I promise. I already have them drawn, even!

Anyway, the big news can be seen in this photo:

No, not the copy of House of Leaves in the background. The postcards are here! If you want a signed one, send me your snail mail address to ehlupton+postcards(AT)gmail(dot)com [ehlupton plus sign postcards at sign gmail period com]. As you can see, I have a lot of postcards, and I believe thus far only three people have asked for them, so get your order in!


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