Moving Blog

Hello, loyal readers! This is just a note that PretenseSoup is now accessible via ehlupton.com. This site will no longer be updated.

For those who accessed the blog using the PretenseSoup.com domain name: I am still working out how to forward that domain to the EHLupton.com domain. The forwarding tools available at my host site are very intuitive, but not super helpful in explaining why the forwarding isn’t happening. Eventually that URL will point to the new site. Until then, please use EHLupton.com to access the blog.


Em oi! #418: How to Summon Cat


The new cat is named André and he is part cat, part Muppet. Behold his magnificence:


This comic was actually done with a type of paint I have only recently discovered. It’s called gouache, and it is similar to watercolor but more opaque. I am still learning to manipulate it as a medium.

So the dangers of drawing from memory: As I was sketching this, I was sitting on the ground floor on the sofa because the upstairs does not have good air conditioning and it was 90 million degrees out. Later I went upstairs and realized that the floor boards actually run in the other direction and the door opens to the hallway. The weirdest part is that the floorboards actually run in one direction and then switch midway down the hall. The reason for this is that our house was put together by a madman. 20160614_224945(I left the weird closet out of my drawing because it would be visually confusing.)

File this under SF442 L86 2016, for Animal culture–Pets–Cats–General works.


Em oi! #417: Poor Bastards


Ooh name that book. Or film. The film was also excellent.

Anyway, TWO COMICS IN ONE WEEK? I should pace myself better. Oh well. This actually happened–I didn’t hear the woman’s explanation to her offspring. I do wonder what she said. Okay, let’s bad segue into a quick discussion of the 2016 LMR 20k! (Link to last year’s race report.)


Year Time Pace
2009 1:53:39 9:09
2010 1:41:24 8:10
2013 1:56:41 9:23
2014 1:45:53 8:31
2015 1:50:45 8:53
2016 1:48:47 8:46

LMR20K 2016 micro race report: I ran in a circle that started at the Monona Public Library and went around Lake Monona. My 5K splits were pretty even at 27:11, 26:57, 27:31, and 27:08.

Finish line

Finish line. Those women behind me threw up their arms and shouted “woo” at every photog we passed and honestly I think I could have like punched them and been justified in it.

I was faster than last year, which was my goal. I didn’t beat anyone else in my running group, which was my other goal. This coming week, Saturday May 14th, I have a trail half marathon (the Ice Age half marathon) in La Grange, WI. I was hoping to use the LMR20K to predict my pace for the next race. If the two courses were similar, I would expect a 1:55:xx based on this performance. But they’re not–the trail race is a seriously harder course. And the weather may be quite a bit warmer. So we’ll see.

It was nice to race, though. I put off signing up for many races this spring because of stuff going on in my personal life and I have been missing it. In addition to the upcoming half, I’m also in for the Blue Mounds 18k and the half at Dances with Dirt. Depending on how things go health-wise, I would also like to do something crazy in the fall–maybe an ultra of some sort. Earlier in the spring, I was having some ankle pain after running distances farther than about 16 miles, so I’m going to wait and see if that has cleared up. Surprisingly, swimming helps keep my ankle tendons flexible when these things flare up.

We’ll file this under GV1062 L86 2016, for Recreation. Leisure–Sports–Track and field athletics–Foot racing. Running–Distance running–General works.


Em oi! #416: Blunder Pressure


White coat syndrome is when you get freaked out at the doctor and your blood pressure / pulse go up. I have it, and at least one of my siblings does too. Kind of funny, given that we come from a family of physicians. Although at home my resting pulse is about 60, at the doctor it’s more like 80 beats per minute. Actually, true story: Once when I was in college, I went to student health for a problem that was freaking me out. My bp was so high when they measured it (I don’t know what it was, they didn’t tell me), that the nurse huffed and said she that if I didn’t calm down, she was going to check it again in ten minutes. I told her that threatening me wasn’t going to make it better.

Apparently what happened, as near as I can piece together, is that at some point someone decided that the appropriate number wasn’t 120/80, it was “under 120” and “under 90.” So a ton of people who once had perfectly normal blood pressure are no “pre-hypertensive.” Basically the goal posts got moved. Or else the person who programmed the computer to append the pre-hypertensive warning used “>= 120” rather than “>120” as the firing criteria. Interestingly, I had two appointments last week. At the first, my bp was 120/80. After seeing that warning, I decided not to add salt to my food until the next appointment and see if that changed anything. My second appointment was where I got 120/60. I also hadn’t had any coffee that morning; wonder if that made any difference.

Anyway here is a comic about the dangers of setting up automatic triggers in your EHR. You’re welcome.

File this under RC685.H8 L86 2016, for Internal medicine–Specialties of internal medicine–Diseases of the circulatory (cardiovascular) system–Diseases of the heart–Individual diseases of the heart, A-Z–Hypertension.


Em oi! #415: Em oi! Presents: Book Reviews

You will almost certainly need to click to embiggen.

What it says on the tin. Kali is sleeping on my lap right now as I write this, and talking about her medical problems feels almost like a betrayal to be honest. A HIPAA violation or something. But having visited a few different people with healthy cats this weekend, the toll the cancer has taken is really obvious. She seems comfortable at the moment at least. Because she hangs out in my office, we’ve basically been together 80% of every day for the last seven or so weeks since the cancer’s return was diagnosed. That also means I have plenty of time to observe her behavior and obsess over what she’s doing / not doing / eating / not eating.

I haven’t been dealing with the stress super well. Currently I’m running around 45 miles per week, and at this rate I might hit 200 miles for the month of March (I’ve got 180 so far). I have a lot to do, but it’s hard to focus on. In addition, I’m trying to finish up a play which is really stressing me out as well (the subject matter is a bit dark). If anyone has any suggestions for light reading, I’d be excited to hear them. After my adventures with Chast and Bechdel, I’m down to reading Good Omens for the fifteenth time. Anything funny / romantic / escapist would do.

Let’s file this under PN6714.D4 L86 2016, for Collections of general literature–Comic books, strips, etc.–Special topics–Other special (not A-Z).


Em oi! #414: The Quest


The struggle is real, guys.

So while I was finishing this comic up and getting it posted, news of Antonin Scalia’s death broke. This has been a rough week for me–after traveling back from Montana, I’ve been dealing with some credit card fraud issues and with Kali’s health issues. So I don’t have really too much to say, funny or serious. I’m tired.

Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if yogurt has gotten sweeter overall (not just coffee yogurt) over the last few decades. I drew this comic while we were up in St. Paul two weeks ago. Daniel tried to get me some coffee yogurt at their local grocery, a brand not available in Madison, but then we went out to brunch instead of staying in so I never actually tried it.

I’ll file this comic under HD9283.7 A2 L86 2016, for Industries. Land use. Labor–Special industries and trades–Agricultural industries–Dairy products–Yogurt–General works. Does it make you happy to know there is a preexisting call number for general works on yogurt under which you can search for all your yogurt needs? I feel just a little safer, personally. LCC got my back.


Mini Comics Roundup

If you don’t follow me on Instagram or other social media platforms, you might not be aware of my new hobby of posting mini comics over there. So here’s a roundup, plus a new one I somehow didn’t get scanned/posted before now.

These were all scanned using the CamScanner app, so if they look kind of cruddy, that is why. I ran them through Photoshop (okay, GIMP), but some of them, this was as good as I could get them. Or conversely, if you think they look awesome, that’s also why.

From Jan. 11, 2016:
business travel_1

Like a lot of people, I sometimes struggle with feeling like a total fraud. At this point, I’m pretty comfortable with my frauditude. I observed to someone a few years ago that it has been a long time since I went into a job confident that I could do all the parts of it flawlessly without issues. If you are reading this and also struggle with feeling like you are faking your way through life, I urge you to not worry about it. Nearly everyone feels like this. Just roll with it, you’ll be fine.

I went on my first business trip (to Long Island) since 2008 the week of January 11th. That previous trip happened to be in early February of a leap year too (to Houston, TX), and was chronicled in this comic:


It’s weird that eight years later, I’m back in healthcare IT after a long jaunt into different various fields. I no longer worry about feeling like a corporate stooge–for one thing, I work at a much less corporate place, and for another, I have come to the realization that art and making a living both have to have a place in my life. At least until the singularity.

From Jan. 14, 2016:

Security at LGA_1

This actually happened on my way back from my trip–there was a fire alarm as I was coming through security. No one seemed concerned. Certainly not the TSA agents.
Feed me_1
On the way out, I left the morning that David Bowie’s death hit the media. I actually woke up to an email from B telling me about it. On the way back, I was sitting in LGA waiting for my flight when the news that Alan Rickman had died broke. It was a weird week. At the gate, the agent was making announcements noting that it was not necessary to “slam” one’s bag into the bag sizer, and if we persisted in doing so, someone would get hurt.

From Jan. 28, 2016 (ish):

mixed grip

Deadlifting with Daniel during the St. Paul trip. I didn’t feel like inking it, and it looked better in pencil anyway.

Mixed grip means one hand palm up and one palm down. It is the best; I don’t care what you say.

From Feb. 3, 2016:
I sketched this out basically on the back of an envelope to amuse Daniel and Claire while we were in St. Paul for a wedding after I ran from their house down to the Mississippi River. Then I decided to go back and draw it out for everyone. It got three likes on Facebook. That is probably about what it deserved.

From Feb. 4, 2016:

I get anxious about travel.

From Feb. 6, 2016:


We went out to a company event in Montana for the weekend. After spending a few hours cross-country skiing (skate skiing, actually), I dashed out of the rental shop just to see the shuttle back to the lodge leaving the parking lot. Luckily, one of the women was heading back to pick up some trekkers, so I managed to get a ride and didn’t have to wait two hours for the next shuttle. We talked about wildlife on the way back.

From Feb. 7, 2016:


Another one from my skiing experiment, and one from the hotel. A bit behind the times, I guess, but no worse than the Joyce one, right? XKCD did the same thing a while back, except much better.

That’s all for now. I’m done traveling forever until April, but I may do a few more of these periodically. I enjoy the somewhat instantaneous feedback aspect (i.e., people clicking the little heart icon on Instagram), and it’s usually a lot faster for me to do these little ones than to think up a joke and draw 4+ panels. But we’ll see. I have another longer comic sketched and partially inked that I might be able to get up this week if I’m lucky.



Em oi! #413: It’s Only 43 Leagues

150 miles is 43 leagues or 211,000 ells.
As ever, if you’re having trouble reading, click to embiggen. I’ve had this comic sitting on my desk since before my trip to Long Island last week. I only just got around to scanning it. Oops. I was playing around with some different inks and Speedball pens. I have mixed feelings about how the art came out.

Recently, I was sitting around working while B was playing a game called Shadows of Mordor. It’s a surprisingly good game, and we found ourselves getting drawn back into the whole Tolkien thing. First, we watched The Hobbit (the Tolkien edit, not the full version–also, our copy was corrupted, so I missed the battle of the five armies).[1] Thereafter, I started re-reading The Lord of the Rings. At first I was only going to read FoTR . . . but I’m about to finish TT tonight. I’m surprised by how much my memory of the book has been overwritten by the film version, which I saw approximately 100 times (each section). I had forgotten, for example, that Faramir doesn’t try to drag Sam and Frodo back to Osgiliath(?) only to be attacked by a Nazgul. (Now I’m not even sure I’m recalling the film correctly.)

I’ve also become obsessed with the distances everyone is traveling in the book. In many sections it’s hard to tell, but in general I get the feeling that before the splintering of the fellowship, they are walking about twenty miles per day, more or less. That’s twenty miles in eight to twelve hours. At one point, when traveling with Glorfindel, this is referred to as a very long, difficult day’s march. The above comic was my immediate reaction. Of course, terrain counts for something, and they were frequently not on trails but just sort of out in the middle of the country, but still. (Maybe it was Bill the pony slowing them down?) Somewhat surprisingly, both groups (Legolas / Gimli / Aragorn and Sam / Frodo / Gollum) move much faster after the splintering than before it. But seriously, if I can run 31 miles in six hours, they should be able to go a little faster.

Another thing that interests me is that at least up to the point where Sam, Frodo, and Gollum enter Mordor, Sauron’s evil is very remote. The surroundings, even into Ithilien, are described as beautiful and the weather is quite fine. If one takes the tales of Sauron’s evil as provided by such luminaries as Gandalf, Elrond, etc. as tales (opinion rather than necessarily fact), it’s easy to begin to see Sauron as just a (hated) political leader. The orcs, for example, as seen during the scene of Merry / Pippin’s abduction, are quite like men in many ways with their conflicting loyalties and drive for glory. Sauron also employs regular men for his cause. In fact, when Faramir and his troops ambush a bunch of soldiers heading to Mordor, Tolkien offers us the following surprisingly sympathetic passage:

. . . Suddenly straight over the rim of their sheltering bank, a man fell, crashing through the slender trees, nearly on top of them. He came to rest in the fern a few feet away, face downward, green arrow-feathers sticking from his neck below a golden collar. . . .

It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace… (646)

Tolkien was, of course, a veteran of the First World War. This paragraph speaks to me of perhaps a memory of his battlefield experiences and the trauma he may have experienced. But it also raises for me the question of Sauron–the ever-unseen Big Bad, who is noted to be fixing the roads outside Mordor, who is apparently able to convince a lot of people, including Sauramon, to join him–can he really be as bad as Gandalf et al tell us? But beyond that, even despite the themes of good and evil, Tolkien doesn’t necessarily view these battles as righteous or valiant, and he doesn’t necessarily lionize violence.

At this point, B looked over at me and said, “Are you arguing that Sauron is all right because he made the trains run on time?”

Well, maybe. Don’t look at me like that. My favorite characters from this rereading are Smeagol / Gollum[2] and Galadriel, so.

If you’re interested in this “LotR is a story told by the victors and Sauron was framed” idea, you may want to look into The Last Ringbearer, a Russian parallel novel exploring that side of things.

There is clearly a lot more to talk about in LotR (I mean, it’s over 900 pages long), including world building, the role of women, the peoples and the North / West versus South / East thing, the colonial(ish) myth of empty places for colonization, etc. But I’m not going to touch on those here–feel free to comment with your thoughts though. And tell me I’m not alone in liking Gollum and hating Sam.

We’ll file this comic under GV1065.17 T65 L86 2016, for Recreation. Leisure–Sports–Track and field athletics–Foot racing. Running–Distance running–Marathon running–Special topics, A-Z–Tolkien, works of.

Tolkien, JRR. The Lord of the Rings. New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994.

[1] I still really want to see the Dol Guldor part. I love Galadriel and am a longtime fan of the actor who played Radagast.

[2] I actually feel like Gollum is rather hard done by. He certainly doesn’t deserve much of the shit he gets at the hands of Frodo and Sam. Sam is especially pretty cruel to him–there’s another paragraph where Gollum finds the two hobbits sleeping, and Tolkien writes that “could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, and old starved pitiable thing” (699). That passage very much made up my mind about him. And he is a much more interesting and complex character than a lot of them.


Reading List for 2016

I read a few books in 2015:

  1. Hawksmoor, by Peter Ackroyd. Review.
  2. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon. Review.
  3. Relentless Forward Progress, by Bryon Powell. Didn’t review.
  4. Dune, by Frank Herbert. Review.
  5. Gligamesh (John Harris version; audio book). Didn’t review.
  6. Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. Didn’t review.
  7. Blind Descent, by James M. Tabor. Review.
  8. Touching My Father’s Soul, by Jamling Tenzing Norgay and Broughton Coburn. Didn’t review.
  9. Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem. Review.
  10. The Martian, by Andy Weir. Review.
  11. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein. Review.
  12. The Confusion, by Neal Stephenson. Maybe when I finish the next one I’ll review the series.
  13. The Fellowship of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Reread, so didn’t review.
  14. Racing Weight, by Matt Fitzgerald. Didn’t review.
  15. World War Z, by Max Brooks (audiobook). Review.
  16. Blueshift, by Claire Wahmanholm. Not going to review, but I’ll say that if this doesn’t get picked up by a publisher, the world will be a sadder place.

That’s ten fiction books in various genres and five nonfiction. I also read
about 3,500 pages of books as an editor (one 300-ish page novel and twelve non-fiction books, several of which were highly academic). There may have been a few more that didn’t make it onto the list, plus let’s not even mention the various books that I picked up, read a chapter of, and put down again. (I am an annoyingly peripatetic reader; my tendency is to leave books here and there, never finishing more than a chapter at a go. Sometimes it can take me a long time to read things.)

I think my favorite of this group was Dune. That is a hard determination to make; many of these really spoke to me in deep ways, and as a writer I learned a lot from many of them. My love for The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is very profound, I should add. It was a close race.

This was also the year that my book came out in paperback. So far, of the initial one hundred copies I purchased, I have twenty left. I didn’t get a website up yet, but soon. I know I’ve been saying that for several months now.

This is my preliminary reading list for 2016. Some of these are carry-overs from last year, and I have to look at them again and determine whether or not they’re still something I’m interested in. In a few days when I have solidified it, I’ll move it to the navigation bar above. If you have any books to recommend for me, feel free to let me know and maybe I’ll add them to the list.

    • The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer
    • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
    • Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
    • A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, by Eimer McBride
    • Viviane, by Julia Deck
    • The Way of Kings, by Branden Sanderson
    • Rock ‘n’ Roll, by Tom Stoppard
    • Being and Nothingness, by Jean-Paul Sartre
    • Dhalgren, by Samual R. Delaney (I did a little excited dance when this came in the mail)
    • Emma, by Jane Austen (How have I not read this before? I have read P&P, S&S, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey.)
    • The Parallax View, by Slavoj Zizek
    • The System of the World, by Neal Stephenson
    • The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • The History of Human Sexuality, by Michel Foucault
    • “The Library of Babel,” by Jorge Luis Borges (yes okay, it is a short story)

Em oi! #412: Foucault’s Elf

I was surprised, but also not surprised when B told me about this conversation. After all, about a month and a half after we met, I went on vacation to Philly and sent him a postcard from the Eastern State Penitentiary, a panopticon prison based on Bentham’s ideas. And he decided not to dump me. Yay. I should have guessed that after all these years, my madness has rubbed off on him.


To be fair, that employer was kind of surveiller et punir. Click to embiggen.

It still kind of shocks me that the “elf on a shelf” thing has become, well, a thing that people do. I find it kind of creepy. But then I’ve always found Santa creepy too, even when I was a kid and desperate to have Xmas so that I wouldn’t be different from all the other kids in my class. I look forward to having children so I can forbid them from celebrating Christmas.

We’ll file this week’s comic under GT4991 L86 2015, for Manners and customs (General)–Customs related to public and social life–Festivals. Holidays–Special days and periods of time–Christmas–Special customs–Elf on a shelf. This isn’t explicitly listed, but it fits into the categorization right between “Pistol shooting” [GT4990] and “Santa Claus” [GT4992]. If you are about to say, “Em, what the hell is up with pistol shooting being listed under special Christmas customs?,” well, I want to commend you for asking the right (tough) questions.

Here are a few other Foucault comics for your reading pleasure. I would guess there are others, but I can’t lay hands on all of them right now.

There is some sort of philosopher threesome joke to be made here, but I ain't doin' it.

This was drawn three days before we got married! My hair has changed a lot since then. Bryan’s hasn’t. He can bench press a lot more now though.


I think this one is B’s favorite. It’s based more on The Birth of the Clinic.


My favorite comic ever. Also more Birth of the Clinic.


I don’t remember what happened here. Also, I drew this on notebook paper and tried to turn up the contrast to get rid of the lines. Good job, Em of eight years past.


Philosophers love cake because they understand the true meaning of life.