Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kant Comics: 5 of 5

Don't ask me to draw any more of these things for a while. I remember now why I didn't study philosophy.


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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kant Comics: 4 of 5


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Friday, August 24, 2012

Kant Comics: 3 of 5

I seem to be getting better at drawing these devils.


To enlarge, right click on the picture, select either 'open link in new tab' or 'view image', and then you should be able to zoom in and read the text.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kant Comics: 2 of 5

I feel like I should preface this with some sort of apology, but I'm not going to.


To enlarge, right click on the picture, select either 'open link in new tab' or 'view image', and then you should be able to zoom in and read the text.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kant Comics: 1 of 5

Kaliningrad's main claim to fame is that Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was born there and taught at its university into his old age, putting the city (then Königsberg) on the map of the European Enlightenment. I am not a philosopher, and I have been informed by various people and book introductions that Kant is one of the most important and relevant Enlightenment thinkers, and also one of the hardest to understand. Having made some forays into his work, I can confirm both of those points.

Kant is clearly a monumental figure in Kaliningrad today (the university is named after him), and while questions of his relevance to the city's current identity are perhaps better left until I get there, I suspect I have an obligation to understand the basic tenets of his thought. As I have been wading through his very dense chapters and the slightly less dense explanations of those chapters written by people who seem only marginally more able to express an idea clearly in words, I have found that the best way to make sense out of it is by distilling my copious notes and then distilling them again. The result is gold label 80 proof Kant.

Because I'm bored and cooped up all day, this seemed like a good time and source material to jump on a project idea that I've been toying with for a while. I present to you the first of five forthcoming Kant Comics, starring myself and trusty Immanuel, with special guest appearances by other stars of the Enlightenment.

Philosophy is very serious.


To enlarge, right click on the picture, select either 'open link in new tab' or 'view image', and then you should be able to zoom in and read the text.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Shape of a Beginning

Kaliningrad is a mystery. Founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1255 and christened Königsberg, it was a major regional trading hub, the capital where the Prussian kings were crowned, a bulwark of Germany, center of Nazism, and top-secret Soviet naval base. Today it is none of those things. It is an exclave, an isolated chunk of Russia separated from the motherland by now-independent Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Both the city and province of Kaliningrad perch atop Poland and cling to one of the few things that has not changed over the centuries: the Baltic Sea. Kaliningrad is neither European nor Russian proper, German nor Soviet, civilized nor despotic. Perhaps it is all of the above.

I am not so arrogant as to imagine that spending nine months in a city is enough to know its soul, but I am curious enough to try. I am a historian by training, a traveler by circumstance, and a writer by disposition. I expect this blog will reflect all of those. After all, what is an answer if it does not include a bit of history and mythology, poetry and literature, economics, philosophy, fine art, politics, recipes, and the grime on my boots? My research question is a simple one. What is Kaliningrad, and what does it mean to live there now?

In place of an introduction, you'll have to make do with this. I am an Oregonian by birth and residency, in recent and distinguished possession of a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. My major course of study was history, with minors in political economy and Russian language. There is no good reason why I decided to study Russian in college, except that I watched too many Cold War-era submarine movies in my adolescence and was bored with high school French. I studied abroad in St Petersburg, Russia, for four months in 2010, and while Piter is the kind of city dreams are made of, I am ready for a new adventure. My sense of humor and intellectual inclinations will have to make themselves apparent with time and words.

My travel and living expenses are being funded by a grant from the Fulbright program to promote mutual understanding between Americans and the rest of the world. Specifically, I will be an English Teaching Assistant at Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, in Kaliningrad, Russia for the 2012-2013 academic year. As for my more particular duties, I doubt I'll know them until I arrive in mid-September.

Until then, I languish at home, making packing lists, frequenting English-language libraries while I still can, and eating the last Tillamook extra-sharp cheddar cheese for what will soon be several thousand miles. Is there a word for preemptive nostalgia? I have it for Mexican food and my cats.