This February newsletter features the latest and best of johnmiedema.com:
IMAGE. The Art of Unboxing. I am thrilled to have a second collaboration, this time with my philsopher-poet son, Sasha Olthof.
I collaborated with my philosopher-poet son, Sasha Olthof. He wrote the poetry, The Art of Unboxing, and I painted the image above. His poem was a statement about toxic masculinity. Having stepped in the training ring last year, I suggested to Sasha that, in my experience, boxers do care for one another. I am thrilled to have this second collaboration with my art, and hope for more.
I am deep into the rough drafts of my first graphic novel, Literary Device, about a sad woman and her encounter with a cheerful chatbot. I am developing the work as part of a course at the Ottawa School of Art, Graphic Novel Illustration, taught by Don Dimanlig. The work is a pilot for the graphic novels I intend to publish as the final products of my After Reading essays.
Heads up. I will be sending a free digital copy of Literary Device to subscribers of my newsletter. Tell your friends to subscribe; they will get one too. Mind you, the work will not be published till 2019.
TEXT. A political spin on my face-to-face essays.
My writing has quieted down now that I have been focusing on developing my imagery, but the After Reading content continues to churn in the back of my mind. I have been thinking a lot about the face-to-face essays, with a political spin. Just after Trump was elected, I wrote my first comic strip, The Sky is Falling. It was therapy for my shock, but I do not joke about Trump anymore.
Later I started reading and talking and listening, trying to understand what happened in the US election. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild was a helpful in explaining the rural voters who elected Trump. Pundits continue to observe a growing rural divide in Canada. It is good to listen and understand, of course, to understand people who are different, but here’s my shift — are we really so divided?
I have lived in both urban and rural settings; most of us have done so, or have close family or friends there. I am not always liberal or conservative; even politicians can often appreciate the opposition’s view. I am neither rich or poor; both affluence and poverty have visited me. I am not just white or black; genetics informs us that we all have a varied inheritance. I am not just male or female; we are learning to appreciate the fluidity of gender. I am not just an atheist or believer; there is too much mystery to settle firmly on just one set of beliefs. We already connect with and understand each other to a significant degree. We just need to look into the eyes of our fellow humans, and remember. Only our connection will save us from our tribal politics.
I reviewed Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas, a memoir that I place in the emerging genre of books on neurodiversity. I was fascinated with the passages on the sociopath’s lack of a sense of self. “First, I didn’t really have a self at all. I was like an Etch A Sketch, constantly shaking myself up and starting over.” I accept the statement, but I struggle to understand it. How can a sociopath have a weak sense of the self while also having a very strong self-interest?
CODE. Piloted a Gatineau River webcam.
I live on the Gatineau River in Wakefield Quebec. I have painted the River, and now I have piloted a webcam. It was only live for half-an-hour, but a very special surprise to come, hopefully next month.
I cannot express how deeply I am churning the next iteration of my chatbot, Phaedrus. It is all algorithms at this point, Also, my work in comic art is feeding this development in unexpected ways I am not yet ready to write about. More to come.
Catch you next month!