Em oi! #418: How to Summon Cat

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

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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.

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Em oi! #417: Poor Bastards

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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.)

Results

Year Time Pace
2009 1:53:39 9:09
2010 1:41:24 8:10
2011
2012
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! #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

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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:
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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:

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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:

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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.
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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):

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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:
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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:

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I get anxious about travel.

From Feb. 6, 2016:

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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:
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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.

Cited
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.

Em oi! #409: Impatient

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I actually cannot tell if I named this comic “Impatient” or “Inpatient.” Both seem appropriate.

As you can see, I wrote this in early October, just a week or so after Bryan’s operation–this actually did sort of happen during the operation. But I got it uploaded only now because life kind of got away from me last month, a month during which I took care of Bryan, did one marathon and one half marathon, worked on my novel, and changed jobs, or rather job responsibilities, and went from working a kind of weird schedule that could vary from zero to eight hours or more per day depending on what work was available and needed doing to a more typical full-time work week.

Anyway, I’m hopeful that things will calm down a little more in November. Bryan is a lot more mobile and in less pain, my running schedule is calming down so I am less wiped out, and I am maybe getting the hang of some of my new responsibilities, so I am not lying in bed worrying that I will be retroactively fired or something most nights. I have a couple of scripts written that I am itching to get drawn. However, in order to get this stuff done, I may be a bit light on the various social media you typically see me on, so if you need me, drop me an email. (Note to relatives: Email means email, not voicemail. It is not impersonal to send an email. It is helpful.)

No other real news to report, other than since I last posted my novella came out in paperback and you should totally buy a copy. It i s currently held in the Yale library and in the Madison Public Library system and will shortly be available at several local bookstores such as A Room of One’s Own as soon as I can get my act together and drive them down there. Yiss. If you buy a copy and want it signed, or want a signed postcard, see the book tab above and follow the directions to send me an email.

I have a race report for the last two half marathons (I did one this past weekend as well), which I will try to upload tomorrow or Wednesday.

Let’s file this under P301 .L86 2015, for Philology. Linguistics–Language. Linguistic theory. Comparative grammar–Style. Composition. Rhetoric. Usage–General works.

Em oi! #408: Kierkegaarding

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You will probably have to click to embiggen, I’m afraid.

I am forced to begin this week’s lengthy and possibly unreadable commentary on the comic with an apology: I am somewhat misconstruing Kierkegaard here.

Here’s the deal: Kierkegaard wrote a book called The Concept of Anxiety, which is the basis for the ideas that form the underlying framework here, but in the book, Kierkegaard is actually not talking about how difficult your problems are. Instead, he was talking about the responses of different religions to the idea of original sin.[1] That is, he seems to be making an argument like this: 1) Original sin happened, but there were/are people who don’t know about it because they’re not Christian (pagans) or they’re Jewish (??). 2) These groups experience anxiety in different forms (turning outward, in the case of the pagans; turning inward, in the case of the Jews, which is more correct but still unable to come to any resolution, which can only be reached by Christians because Jesus. 3) The angst as freedom of choice is still in there.

If all this sounds a little weird, well–Kierkegaard was kind of a strange guy and his philosophy is a little bit aphoristic. And this is one of his most difficult books.

These anxiety-to-outside/inside relations were distilled by another fellow, Stephen Dunning[2], into the framework that underlies the first three panels (anxiety-in-itself, anxiety-for-itself, and anxiety-in-and-for-itself), and then further distilled by another writer (whose book I cannot name yet, since it hasn’t been published) into yet another form that I’ve adapted here.

In other words, this is based on some secondary materials that somewhat (in my mind) misconstrued the original argument. Le sigh.

Also, I hadn’t used these markers with this type of paper before, and I am disappointed by how it absorbed them. It doesn’t look really as nice in person; I had to do a lot of fixing, some of which is sadly visible. Tch.

I’m currently trying to taper for the Twin Cities Marathon, which is coming up in just over a week. But B is having knee surgery on Monday, so we’ll see how well that goes. My training has been pretty average, but consistent, including consistent speed work, and my ankles are holding up really well (knock on whatever), so I’m guardedly optimistic. If I can get a good taper and decent weather, I hope to hit sub-4. I’ve been running sub-2 hour half marathons in practice, so I have a feeling I can do it. If I don’t get a good taper, I’ll see what I can do. The goal is 3:55:xx, which requires an average somewhere between 8:50 and 9:00 minutes/mile (okay, 8:58 to be precise); of course, the fact that I can sustain that for 13.1 miles is rather meaningless when we’re looking at twice that distance.

Until then, I’m sort of swamped with work, but I will still try to have a new comic up next week as well.

For the nonce, let’s file this one under B4377 L86 2015, for (deep breath) Philosophy(General)–Modern (1450/1600-)–By region or country–Scandinavia–Denmark–By period–19th century–Individual philosophers–Kierkegaard, Søren, 1813-1855–Criticism and interpretation.


[1] Side note: He says, among other things, “Jewish anxiety is over the possibility of guilt, rather than ‘the positing of an actual [guilty] relation'” (Dunning, 153). This is clearly false; Jewish anxiety is over many things, but most of them involve the possibility of disappointing your mother and whether or not this tickle in the back of your throat is going to turn into pneumonia or not.

[2] See Stephen Northrup Dunning. Kierkegaard’s Dialectic of Inwardness: A Structural Analysis of the Theory of Stages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985. Retrieved from Google Books: Link

Em oi! #406: Why I Am Still Awake

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Hat tip, as ever, to XKCD for panel 6.

About panel 5: My cat is in late middle age (she’s 12 this year) and she is fine. She has a bladder stone, but other than that she’s in good health. It’s just that after the sudden death of a loved one, I have developed the neurotic idea that anyone I love can die at any time, so I tend to be a little weird about her. At least I’ve finally recognized that my neuroses are what’s getting in the way, rather than anything in particular about her.

I bought a new sketchbook (from what is apparently the kids’ aisle at Target, because why would adults want art supplies?), and it has both watercolor paper and regular pen and ink paper in it. I accidentally grabbed some pages out of the watercolor section for this comic, so I decided to pull out my brush and sit down with a bottle of India ink and make them pretty. I think I succeeded–a few of the panels are some of my favorites I’ve ever done. It was less time-consuming than I thought it would be, too, taking just a little more than one episode of QI. The uploading was a bit fussier–it’s harder to edit watercolor paper things because of the texture of the paper and whatnot–but all in all I’m pleased.

Anyway, life around here is mildly chaotic. B’s leg is recovering well. And this week we’ve had workmen removing all the insulation from our attics in order to air seal the house. When it gets done, it will be great, because our drafty old house will finally be actually warm (and cool, in the summer). Unfortunately, it was about 40 degrees yesterday with a few flakes of snow, and today the high is 49. Thanks, Wisconsin. I’m wearing four shirts right now.

The other thing is that we decided on Sunday to start letting the dogs sleep with their crate doors open, for a number of reasons but mostly that they’re adults and unlikely to destroy the house without our direct supervision. And it turns out that our neighbor leaves for work at about 5:30 in the morning–I know this because Monday morning and Tuesday morning he woke up (and woke us up) barking very loudly at just about exactly 5:34. When I went down to comfort him, he decided he wanted to go out, and so by the time I got back to bed I was wide, wide awake and had a hard time falling asleep again. This was especially icky since I’ve been getting over a bout of stomach flu and really, really wanted to be asleep and not vertical. Then today, I figured I’d just get up to run early-early (I thought we had to leave the house at oh-my-G-d o’clock so some of the work could take place). I figured Edgar would wake me up, but I set a backup alarm for 6:00 anyway.

You can guess what happened, can’t you? Edgar did not wake up at 5:30. But I did.

I think there’s something in the Geneva Convention about this, Edgar.

We’ll file this comic under RC548 .L86 2015, for Internal medicine–Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry–Psychiatry–Neuroses–Sleep disorders–Insomnia–General works.

Edgar relaxing on his new bed.

Edgar relaxing on his new bed.

Passover Comix

I wanted to get these up here before Passover ended and they became irrelevant for another year.

I have been toying with the idea of drawing comics to submit for publication (not in a newspaper, but maybe in a well-known national magazine), and if I had gotten some of these drawn a few months ago, maybe I would have sent them (well, potentially one of the three). But I didn’t. So whatever.
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I should explain that we often substitute a carrot for a shank bone because we have never been able to successfully figure out where to get a shank bone. Also, um, gross. The hardboiled egg is actually supposed to be a roasted egg, but…I don’t know how to roast an egg. I had to look up how to hardboil one.

This last comic is part of a (now) long-running joke between B and I that began somehow when I took a boot over to a local place called Cecil’s Shoe Repair. I cannot explain more than that because like so many things, I don’t really understand what has happened. But if you need your boot fixed, I recommend Cecil’s.

schmaltz shack

The menu here says:

Menu
Shmaltz
-Hun [chicken]
-Gandz [goose]
-Pareve*
-Mit onions [with onions]

* “Pareve” means something that, according to the laws of kashrut, can be eaten with both meat and milk dishes. Usually it can be thought of as vegetarian, but that’s not always the case–for example, gelatin and rennent are both considered pareve (because they are too far removed from the animals to really be animal products by kosher standards) but they are strictly speaking not vegetarian. Also fish are considered pareve. I don’t really understand why, but hey, I’m not a mashgiach.

Also I should state up-front that I’m not actually sure if “hun” means chicken in the sense of the animal or chicken in the sense of the meat. Some languages have two words for the two items (like how farmers raise cows but people eat beef). I did this using Google Translate late at night. I don’t actually speak Yiddish.

What else. Oy. I have had a really hard week. I’ll say it. And yeah, I know people who are having actual hard weeks, and I feel really bad using language that might equate my life with theirs, as if having to go to Walgreens at 9pm to buy extra half-price Easter candy were really “difficult” in some way.

Easter candy shame

Easter candy shame

But I do feel just…ground down, unable to concentrate, tired, distracted…part of it is that I am a mammal, and I guess I need to actually take sleeping seriously instead of EVERY NIGHT setting my alarm for six hours after I go to bed, as if somehow I will suddenly (re)manifest the ability to get out of bed at that hour, which happens to be my current strategy. Then I lie in bed for an hour questioning my life choices. It’s fun.

I have been upping my mileage running, and also eating a lot of matzo**, which is lower in calories than my usual breakfast, so that might account for the low energy as well. (Although I have been also upping my Easter candy consumption.) We’ve also had a parade of contractors through our house as we prepare to fix some insulation issues, and then on Tuesday during the first rainstorm of the year, a window suddenly began leaking. We relatively quickly found the source of the problem and kludged together a repair (okay, B climbed a ladder [during a storm–eek] and pushed the flashing back into place). Since then it has continued to rain, meaning that it hasn’t really had a chance to dry out so we can fix it permanently. Also, B is having knee surgery next week, and I’m nervous about it. More nervous than he is, actually.

Okay, I’m pretty tired and I still have to take the dogs out so I’m going to wrap this up. Happy Passover to those who celebrate it, Happy Easter to those who celebrate it, and also Happy Ostara, and any other holidays I’m missing that might have happened. Happy National Poetry Month too. My favorite poem used to be “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” but I’ve been getting a lot of rejection letters lately and it’s becoming harder to keep an ironic distance from the narrator. So, uh, let’s go with “Personal Ruin” by Claire Wahmanholm, which is in some respects on a similar theme but a lot more hip. What’s your favorite poem?

** I accidentally for various reasons bought five pounds of matzo. As of right now, one week from the first night Seder, I have eaten…one box (one pound). That’s with the people at the Seder helping me, and also with a friend coming over and eating some.