As they say, What happens in Harrisburg ... no one gives a shit.
This comic was inspired by the recent Pennsylvania budget: Article here.
I am currently wrapping up what I hope to the first in a series of historical graphic novels. Having never taken upper level history courses when I was in college, all information was pulled together from my own research of going to the library. The process of research and illustration I fell into is not something I would recommend to anyone who wants to quickly complete a comic project.
The idea was to try an put together information and images from a more interdisciplinary or sociological point of view during a time period, this project follows the lives of the first generation of English colonists to New England in the 17th century, beginning at 1588, this being the first page.
Aside from drawing and gathering information I was left with having to decide how to arrange the information through page design. This may sound strange, but selecting the text and the images left me with my philosophical questions about what is the meaning behind pages, which can take a long time. Needless to say, contemplating relativism (that is how does this history relate today) drives me a bit nuts. My goal was not to say something about today, simply make an artistic interpretation based on what I read and learned about the period. But of course me, living today, is very much part of the process, and I needed some time to figure out my own footing on this historical perspective.
Aside from lining up different sources on the same time period, I had to choose what were going to be some of the relevant themes. From my own, very American perspective, I thought that economic history needed to be one of the important drivers of the narrative. The economy matters to most people. The difficulty in talking about economic history is that I sense many people are unaccustomed to talking about it. From my understanding, economic history is a history of complicated trade offs that create a variety of changes. It involves a discussion of wealth and class, which can be difficult for people to have unemotional conversations, especially if you're talking about fairness. Also most economic actions range from practical to shrewd to down right unfair. I've always said that money isn't everything, it's what helps me get through all of this stark economic information that involves the struggles of common people.
Little Ice Age - The early to mid 17th century includes The Little Ice Age, from what I understand, the jury is still out on how exactly global temperatures can affect a society. I'm not sure, but right now I'm considering the changes of a society internally instead of externally. Learning about different histories, there is a long history of aggression/war on other groups. Internal conflict is a different matter and I contemplate the internal stresses within a society or community when resources become more scarce.
Everything all at once - Going through the process I was able to find a lot of different perspectives on the same period and consider all of their relationships, but it is a lot, over all I wonder if I'm emphasizing the right things, or giving a clear enough indication that the finished book is more about giving people context, not a definitive last word, history never had a last word.
As bold and fearless executive director of The Development Committee, I have to say, sometimes drawing and learning about the colonial affairs of the 17th century depresses me a little. To cheer myself up, I went 200 years back, when all that violence and other human atrocities doesn't mean as much (right?).
I have been following David Crowther's History of England podcast for several years now. The illustrations above is my tribute to a particular episode. There are some other illustrations inspired by his podcast I have been trying to put together in an illuminated manuscript but not quite there yet.
I have been hesitant to post too much of my historical illustrations lately. It's not like people really view my blog, which is exactly why I work through it and share from time to time. Other wise I can just post dumb political cartoons. Learning history is learning a story from many different perspectives. There is a bit of anthropology to help give some humanizing perspectives, rather than just cold long-range facts. I forget who said it but some smart person said "Anthropology is studying two cultures, your own and the one that you're studying." Meaning that we compare and contrast our selves and our own culture to the one we are studying (consciously or not) a lot when we look at Anthropology - or so she says.
I like learning about African history and current event, but I understand that it can be a very emotionally charged thing for other people and that is why I want to be careful of what I say about the whole matter. It's still important to me though. As much as I would like to see the Kings and Queens of Medieval Africa as I would those in Europe, I know I am aware of the limitations of that. At least learning a name with a big personality attached to it is a beginning to understanding the diversity of culture throughout the the continent of Africa. I can at least know that I did not make up any convenient theories without acknowledging that sometimes that there are a limited number of perspectives on those topics.
I wanted to share some illustrations I based on that Tim Hashaw book I read over my birthday this year. In many ways, I liked the book so much that I had to question for myself if it is true or not. I would like to incorporate these illustrations into a broader historical narrative at some point, but I feel like I need a little bit more research before I go off publishing something I didn't put enough thought into. I might have to put my energy toward putting together an early history of Virginia after the one on New England that I am working on.
Also, when doing image searches on the Internet for references to illustrate, well ... I didn't like most of them. A couple that I drew just felt too much like stereo types of Africans and the others just showed the horrors of slavery. It's not that I want to acknowledge those things, but the questions important to me are not about that.
Hashaw's book is about the first generation of African Americans. After reading his book, I realized that my own Thanks Giving myth has gun toting Angolan-Catholic John Pedro at the dinner table. Pilgrims might know a thing or two about cattle husbandry but Pedro also has some tricks up his sleeve. I know, it's santa-clausie, but I'm sure it's not the first time approached history like that and I don't mind leaving it there for now.
I've been working on a history comic, it should be done soon. I made the mistake of listening to the news and wanted to make a comic about the importance of keeping guns away from myself, knowing me, I would trip on a pancake and the whole thing would be over. I know people say that a study would be just one more study, but the only thing we have to lose is money.
To be serious for a moment - If the United States wants to have a safer society with less gun lobbies, responsible gun owners need to be a part of the conversation. The NRA (in Washington) has shot down any kind of bipartisan study to even understand the relationship of gun sales and violence and how gun violence could be reduced, I guess that just have too much money to lose in the matter, and from an outsider perspective, tell common NRA members that big government that wants to take away all of their guns.
I have heard a bit of chatter also that the gun debate/gun control should include conditions on mental health in terms of gun ownership. There of course are no easy answer, hence why a study with broad support is needed toward creating reasonable gun ownership laws.
Like all creatures, I can error toward my extremes. One of my extremes is following the news. I am just one of those creatures that enjoys hearing debate and different opinions. Government, in concept, is meant to be the realm of mediating disputes. As a media consumer, sure I develop opinions, but seeing everything in terms of "yes or no" "right or wrong", "innocent or guilty" can only take someone so far in understanding situations.
Let's talk history. Historians sometimes (or always) look back at the past and days of old, historical understanding was relayed heros and villains. The Great-Man who shaped with your national history and the Great-Men who shaped your enemies, or other groups histories. The more I read about history, the more the concept of agency comes up. Now I don't know watch a lot of television, because I'm boring, but if you are familiar with television, you can understand the concept of agency in shows like Games of Thrones or The Wire or something like that. The story is less reliant on protagonists and villains in conflicts and resolutions, and more about see different groups with varying relationships and how those relationships change.
As a media consumer, I think it's helpful to have this understanding of agency. If there is one book I would recommend that really puts the idea of agency into perspective, it's Getting to Yes. As a media consumer and a voter, I want to try to understand the ecosystem of government more than place value judgements. The above chart is meant to symbolize the five stances one can taking when having to negotiate. I think it is important for media consumers to understand this concept, to understand the process and the dynamics if one wishes to imagine optimal solutions. I know it's just Animal Farm all over again, but I am not an economist, I want to make cents.
Explaining the chart - First of all, the point is not to pick a spirit animal and just act like that. The animals are simply metaphors and if inclined, you could make your own chart with your own animal metaphors that is much better than the above one. The point is to know thy self within the context of other people who have different interests than your own and how one can seriously consider trade offs.
The dark horizontal line at the bottom represents an agents self interest when it comes to making an agreement. At the bottom left of the chart (by avoidance and the donkey) the agreement between you (the agent) and your negotiated counter part has an out come with with a low value. The Donkey is good at saying no and the donkey is stubborn in my metaphor, the donkey can pass up a good deal because they had their mind made up before anything was even said. But the donkey is also prudent, cautious and know when to quit. The ostrich is an extreme donkey.
Running horizontally from Donkey we can pass by the lone wolf to the fox. The cunning fox loves to play the game. Foxes loves reading Machiavelli and the Art of War. The fox always thinks, what am I getting out of it. The fox understands the importance of knowing your (interests, rights and powers) and tries to ensure that they know much more than anyone else. There is no need fox bash, foxes are a part of the ecosystem too. What may be much harder to accept than the fox is the crab and the octopus.
Crabs are complainers who have no real plan for making deals, they only see in two dimensions and like everyone to be just as miserable as them. Octopus are conspiracy theories. New Books in History, recently did an interview with an author that discusses the history of conspiracy theories in America. Conspiracy theories are a very difficult topic and I thought the interview was helpful in understanding how an individual might think about it.
The vertical bold line on the left represents how much the needs of the agents counter part in the negotiation. The sheep is the ultimate accommodator. In a political sense, of course there are plenty of sheep parables one can draw on on how sheep are gullible victims of foxes and other predators. But let's not forget they're still part of the ecosystem. Sheep cultivate patience and trust as fragile as they may be. They need sheep dogs around.
The beaver is the compromiser. I had trouble picking out an animal for compromise, but we'll say that beavers are builders but they can see over the horizon very well. Democratic government requires that its agents know how to make agreements and compromises.
I originally put the owl at the collaborating agent in our ecosystem, but they are birds of pray, I suppose they error more competitively but also look far into the horizon.
I decided to have a tree of knowledge be the unobtainable win-win deal one would hope people are reaching for. The tree to me has more to do with knowledge than interest. Robert Wright's book Non Zero take a look at the history of non-zero sum gains. Collaborate is the best, but collaboration also takes a lot of work an investment. Collaboration requires mutual respect, intelligence to make the best strategic decisions and a shit load of struggle to make it grow.
Well, that is my political rant, an illustrative inquiry into understanding relationships on a high-stakes level.
This is a sequential illustrated tribute for Tim Hashaw's book The Birth of Black America. This book was an enjoyable read, I read it over my birthday, and I am blessed to have my birthday during Black History Month. I do have to say that some of the book has a bit of embellishment, or at least I wonder how Hashaw drew some of his conclusions about the personality of the first Malungu generation's different personalities through dingy court records. But a lot of what is treasure about the past is really just a myth we hold in our hearts. A strong recommendation for this book if you want to you know a bit about Black or Colonial American history and would like another unique perspective. So much of African American history is about slavery, or starts with slavery, that's undeniable. But can one have a conversation about these people beyond property and torment. The book doesn't ignore these things but certainly adds from a lot of dimensions around it, in terms to the economic and political structure that surrounded these people. The information about cattle raising and economic contributions toward Jamestown were the most interesting to me. I think they should make it into a movie by 2019, when it will be the 400th anniversary.
Shout out to the one person who reads my blog, you know who you are.
I have been reading and learning a lot, especially history, and generating picture-paper-idea-things. The above image where some illustrations I did a while ago, that I arranged as a little cartoon about the conversation James Whitman had on the New Books in History Podcast. I think it's a worthy listen for anyone interested in trying to understand global conflict.
Some of what he talked about with the ancient history of declaring war reminded me of Herodotus, of course.
Anyway, maybe a bit of a rusty and arcane blog post but I just wanted to stretch the mussels.
Welp, thought I would make a political cartoon and in the spirit of social media I will whine about it. The other day on FB, WW posted that they (with the rest of national media) turn their attention toward covering potential presidential nominees for 2016 ... woof.
Well I ran into Mitt Romney at Papa John's and it inspired me to make this comic. I have been working on becoming a snide intellectual up in my tower and the matters of political personalities is far beneath me. Then I remembered that I am a cartoonist, and when Republicans are trying to impress one another is the golden hour for making political cartoons - time for partisan zingers. I tried to do it justice, I drew the trees just the right height and featured Mitt with his binders full of women.
Also, I'm posting more historical illustrations on the tumbler blog. Posts a more frequent.
Context of the Comic
The comic is in my vernacular from Aubrey de Selincourt's translation of Herodotus' Histories (Book IX, Chapter 16). If you are familiar with the recent 300 films, those movies proceed this comic. The movies cover the battles of Thermopile and Salamis, the final great battle is Plataea, which the above comic takes place before. The Thebans were Greeks allied with the Persians against the Spartan and Athenian coalition.
Herodotus is was titled the Father of History and later The Father of lies. Having read is book a few times, my own title for him the father of creating a genre without realizing it, but there are probably lots of scholars who can translate ancient Greek that would probably disagree with me, the commonly held belief is that Herodotus used sited Thersander to perpetuate a prognostication. If he knew he was writing history he only had epic poetry as a guide. The other logographer's before him, their work did not survive so there is little context to go on how much he was inventing history and how much he was espousing propaganda for Pericles during the Golden Age of ancient Greece.
By today's standards, Herodotus' work is about as historically accurate as the movie 300. There are a lot of weird and goofy stories that initially drew me to his narrative and are clearly false based on 21st century knowledge. Today, I mostly hear his named mentioned in news articles along the lines that go something like "We don't know much about (said topic) but Herodotus says ... (something that is clearly false)"
The above passage is a little unique for Herodotus because it sites the person who told him the story, there are a couple of other examples. Historians have typically considered these sorts of citations as ways justify a lie but in my own understanding I don't know why he would tell a story that draws sympathy for the enemy. I knew I wanted to illustrate this passage because when I read it, it gave me chills, the best I can say is that I felt truth in it. The passage reminded me of some more contemporary examples of well meaning people being trapped in doomed situations.
If understanding begins with imagination as Ibn Arabi and Karl Jung have said, to understand history can take a great deal of imagination and one always have to be skeptical in understanding the past. "Humans are meaning seeking creatures" though, history, whether scrutinized by the rigors of skepticism and cross examination or based on faith, plays a critical role in how the living understand the context of their lives in the grand scheme of things.
Reading the Parthenon Enigma by Joan Connelly, one thing I was surprised to learn was that both Marx and Hitler admired ancient Athens, I had though Western democracies applied their origins to the ancient past. We all want to think that we're on the right side of history and can cherry pick the facts to make us correct and truthful.
With that caveat, I below are some podcasts and personal reflections that I see a relationship similarities to the above comic.
Working on this comic, I think about my friend who is a page designer with a big imagination, veterans who've been willing to tell me a little bit and a few people I've know with ptsd. My maternal grandfather died over in Vietnam when my mom was a child, she took us in 2010 to see his name on a wall in Washington DC, among many other names. She tried her best to steer her boys away from military service, not letting us play with GI Joes when we were little and throwing away the military recruitment cards when we were in high school.
In Herodotus' story the King Cyrus takes over a city and raises the young people as artists so they would not be strong enough to rebel, that's me, not the kind of person you want physically protecting you. I never totally bought that the pen is mightier than the sword, I don't think either has a monopoly. The sword can lead to dangerous cycle of destruction. The last time, from what I understand, that western civilization was in full blown war was World War 2 and today we are reaching a point where no one has any living memory of it, some have even theorized that history repeats itself once the majority of people who remembered that event die out. These are also the people who say that Mellenials are the same as the Greatest Generation. Today, many say that is not the case and with good reason, but it wasn't the older generations calling crowning the World War 2 generation "The Greatest Generation", is was the people born afterward, never knowing their parents and grandparents naive youth.
My own opinion on predicting the future I am left quoting the father of lies "Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects." - Herodotus
"Count no one happy until they're dead" - Herodotus.
As much I try to look as I like to take in all kinds of perspectives and see things from as many view points as I can humanly imagine. The first two about World War 2 and the last about the Rwanda Genocide, that's 10 year anniversary was largely dismissed by the American media, but dismissing Africa is a popular/unrecognized pastime for the West.
This podcast reminds me of Herodotus' quote "In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons."
A podcast by Dan Carlin - Logical Insanity The description is After many listener requests, Dan examines the issue of the morality of dropping the Atomic Bombs in the Second World War. As usual, he does so in his own unique, unexpected way.
Dan Carlin's podcasts are my horror movies, they scare the shit out of me, the scariest part of all is that they actually happened (as much as someone can describe the past and maybe not always in chronological order). His podcasts remind me of the quote "Men trust their ears less than their eyes." - Herodotus. Carlin does not call himself a historian, I would call him an epic poet.
C-Span Podcast on Rwanda Genocide - These least exciting podcast but still worth the listen. Jarod Diamond's book Collapse has a chapter that discusses the environmental/resource dimensions that ultimately escalated into the genocide.
I have been working on this blog entry for some years. I started at an extremely low point in my life (a great time to be motivated to do something new). I thought and thought about history and tried to take more in, and thought and thought about all of the suffering that has happened again and again. I wrote this entry and then deleted it. Then I sent it to my brother for someone to bounce it off of. He has better things to think about like starting a family, he just had a daughter, a new generation in my family. It wasn't until I sent it to him and he told me the subject matter was "heavy" that I could begin to have some kind of desire to provide a solution, so he wouldn't feel as weighed down by the past as me.
After this very long post and some very long pod casts linked to it I wanted to talk about the title, Calliope. I worked on an abstract painting by the same name and both times working on a project with that name I felt that I was opening myself up to some very intense psychological forces, trying to understand the greater context of my place in the world but still knowing I am trapped in my own head. I had to accept some very extreme emotional highs and lows, something I don't know if everyone would be able to handle (I know I could barely handle it), I wanted to see the world beyond myself but know that to do so is all in my imagination. I wrote this blog as a draft and then deleted it. Then I rewrote it, left it up for a week until the balloon burst in my head. I went a little crazy for a week (probably from listening to Bob Sheer too closely and a line from Sun Tzu's Art of War about spies)."History is written by a mad man" as I have heard Dan Carlin say several times in his podcasts.
I don't have any real solutions other than some general advice about deal making and that countries like the United States need to embrace the primary value at All are created equal. Something my father said to me after years as a counselor is that "basically everyone is messed up." No one is perfect but everyone is deserving of some degree of dignity. Once people write others off is when they stop listening. Once you stop listening you stop communicating and begin inventing your own imaginary reality where everyone else is the problem and things will not be better until everyone sees the world as you do (whether that's thinking everyone should believe in global warming or everyone should be born again) and from my understanding of history that is when the sword over-powers the pen.
My conflict resolution professor said something that has stuck with me "trust is a difficult thing to build and an easy thing to destroy" - in more or less words (that was the best class I ever took), it taught me the real components, based on game theory, to make working collaborative solutions that often - being brave, being a good listener, being comfortable with your own values, not being threatened by others' values and using creativity to make mutually beneficial deals. I guess I'm an optimist though that really tries to see the best in all people (something that can be a lot of work at times) but knowing how the worst in people can come out.
Anyway, I have more than a million thought and perspectives but this project needs to come to an end. I would like to learn about and regurgitate to the best of my ability, but have to shut up at some point. I realize this is a long entry, long enough that my editor didn't even want to bother reading it (in fact I got 6 views when I posted it and I doubt anyone bothered to listen to my curated podcasts) but it is always helpful for me to have an open exchange with people (it helps me be refine and enhance my ideas), it's what gets me out of dream land and up in the morning. If you have any thoughts or opinions I encourage you to leave a comment.