A Haiku For Monday, September 16th

The sky is no clock.

My body wants to obey

its demand for sleep.

Posted in Poetry, Rachel Swirsky's poetry | Leave a comment  

Claiming The Politics of My Survival: A Male Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse Tells His Story

In March of 2018, as part of Nassau Community College’s Sexual Harassment/Assault
Awareness program, I was invited to give a talk about my experience as a survivor of childhood sexual violence. I received my copy of the video of the talk just last week, and since there may be readers of Alas who are interested, I am posting it now. (I also posted the text of the talk here.)


Posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Men and masculinity, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues, sexual assault | 3 Comments  

Haiku Round-Up #5

Time for another round-up of my recent Haiku! (Here is an explanation of why I’ve been writing and posting haiku.)


A startle of wet

briskly awakens my skin.

I am thinking flesh.


The willow droops black

against a lavender sky,

a still precipice.


Dripping, drooping, weak.

The skin and the rain: both grey.

An unrestful sleep.


In early dimness,

a quiet, unmoving sky

chills, waiting for dusk.


Waiting in the cold,

trying not to let my mind

rush when all is calm.


Returning, the cold

breaks against the bedroom glass.

Wild-eyed, the cats watch.


Afternoon, evening,

merge as the sky stops dancing,

parting from the clock.

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Three blue watercolor cranes. Text says “Birds”I’m honestly mostly amused that when I drew this in my notebook, I felt the need to label it “birds.” In case I was confused later

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Cartoon: It’s Excessive Occupational Licensing, Charlie Brown!

Help me make more cartoons by supporting my Patreon! I make a living through $1 pledges.

This cartoon is a collaboration with Becky Hawkins.  Becky and I have done other political cartoons together, and we also collaborate on our webcomic SuperButch.

As you can see, our approach on this strip was very influenced by Charles Schulz’s seminal Peanuts comic strip.  Becky says, “It was fun. I read a lot of Peanuts (and Garfield, Family Circus, Calvin & Hobbes, and [don’t tell] Dilbert) when I was learning how to draw, so I felt very at-home.”

I’m not against all occupational licensing requirements. But it’s hard to ignore that many requirements seem to be more about limiting competition than about consumer safety. And, as you’d expect, these occupational licensing abuses always benefit the haves over the have nots – which means, on average, advantaging white people and disadvantaging minorities.

Vox has an explainer summarizing the issue, written by James Bessen.  From Bessen’s article:

Jestina Clayton learned traditional African hair braiding as a young girl in Sierra Leone. In 2006, after immigrating to the US, Jestina started a hair braiding business in Utah to help support her family while she and her husband attended college. But after a few years, the state of Utah told her she needed a cosmetology license in order to continue her business. That would require 2,000 hours of training, little of it related to hair braiding.

These kinds of barriers to the workplace are known as occupational licensure, and they have gotten increasingly common in recent years. In the 1950s, only 70 occupations had licensing requirements, and these accounted for 5 percent of all workers. By 2008, more than 800 occupations were licensed in the various states and they accounted for 29 percent of all workers. Licensed occupations include everything from barbers and interior designers to nurse practitioners and physicians.

At a time when too many Americans are out of work, excessive licensing regulations create a serious barrier to economic opportunity for workers. While licensing is important for some occupations, excessive regulations also tend to raise consumer prices and reduce access to services, including access to healthcare.

Because each state has its own licensing requirements, the rules can also make it unaffordable for people to move – even when moving would otherwise make sense.

This is one of those issues where I have to go off brand by saying the libertarians are right. There is too much government in this area, and we’d be both freer and wealthier as a country if we could pare the regulations back. (Of course, if your knee jerk reaction to every problem is to say “cut back government and regulation!” by sheer chance you’ll be right once in a while.)



This cartoon has four panels, plus a small extra “kicker” panel below the bottom of the strip. Each panel has the same setting – a green field with blue sky, and a childish booth, drawn to resemble Lucy’s “psychiatric help, the doctor is in” booth from the comic strip Peanuts. But this booth says “State Legislature, the Senator is in.”

Behind the desk is a white man with gray hair and a conservative suit and tie.

Panel 1

The Senator sits behind his booth, listening with his head resting on one hand. A Black person with braided hair has walked up to the booth and is talking to him.

BRAIDER: I’m starting a business braiding Black people’s hair. But the law says I can’t until I’ve taken two thousand hours of training in styling white people’s hair.

Panel 2

The Braider keeps on talking, getting a bit more passionate. Behind them, a grinning man wearing a v-neck shirt and a blazer, with a full beard and carefully styled hair, walks on, waving “hi.”

BRAIDER: Even becoming an Emergency Medical Technician only takes thirty three hours of training! This makes no sense!

SENATOR: This is Bob Johnson of the State Hairdresser’s Association. What do you say, Bob?

Panel 3

Bob leans his elbow on the Senator’s desk, oozing confidence. The Senator listens like an attentive schoolboy. Behind Bob, unnoticed, the Braider looks angry and appalled.

BOB: It’s far too dangerous to permit competit- I mean, to permit unlicensed hair braiding.

BOB: On a completely unrelated note, we’re increasing our donation to your re-election campaign.

Panel 4

The Senator, with a satisfied air, leans back on his chair, hands behind his head and feet on his desk. Bob grins and makes a “hand gun” gesture towards the Senator. The braider raises her hands into the air, and has a huge open mouth of despair and objection as she yells.

SENATOR: After careful deliberation, I’ve concluded unlicensed braiding would be a grave threat to public safety.

BOB: Thanks, Jeff. Lunch?


Small kicker panel below the bottom of the strip.

The Senator is talking to the braider.

SENATOR: If you don’t want to buy thousands of hours of training about white people’s hair, aren’t you the real racist?

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Economics and the like | 13 Comments  

A Haiku For Monday, September 9th

The sky is no clock.

My body wants to obey

its demand for sleep.

Posted in Poetry, Rachel Swirsky's poetry | Leave a comment  

A Haiku for Friday, September 6th

Afternoon, evening,

merge as the sky stops dancing,

parting from the clock.

Posted in Poetry, Rachel Swirsky's poetry | Leave a comment  


Fluffy white cartoon kitten with large blue eyes and bushy tail. Text reads “Meep”.Meep is a character I drew for a role-playing game I was sketching out called Cats and Dogs Living Together.

Strangers rarely glimpse Meep, a shy, four-pound, six-month-old kitten with a fluffy mass of white fur, enormous blue eyes, and a perpetually perplexed expression. Though quick to startle and flee from anything new or surprising, once Meep has a chance to get comfortable, he’s boisterous and bold. When he’s not sure what to do, he compensates for youthful naivete by copying older animals.

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A Haiku For Wednesday, September 4th

Returning, the cold

breaks against the bedroom glass.

Wild-eyed, the cats watch.

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: What I Wish I Said / What I Said

If you like these cartoons, help me make more by supporting my patreon! I make a living because lots of people support me with $1 pledges.

Although I draw this strip from the perspective of a fat man, I think everyone who is in any marginalized group has experienced moments like these. Moments where someone says something that stabs you a bit, and then you have the choice. One option is to be the party pooper: To speak up and bring down everyone’s mood and make people uncomfortable.

And it’s hard! For me, it goes against my strongest social instincts, to get along, to make things easy for people, to try and be liked. I think a lot of people share those instincts.

The other choice is to just swallow what I might say, and withdraw from the situation, either in my head or (like the character in this strip) by walking away. And I do this a lot – not (just) out of cowardice, but also out of self-preservation, conserving energy, picking my battles.

The art for this was fun to do. To draw three characters in full-figure in four panels is actually significantly more work than, say, if I had made panel 2 a close-up of the fat character’s head with no background. But I’m happy with how it looks. I’m especially pleased with panels 1 and 3, because both of them have foregrounds, middle grounds, and backgrounds, and I really enjoy that feeling of a world with depth.

The bad part of that is that the more extraneous stuff that’s in a panel, the more likely readers are too just find it a mess visually. I just have to hope that I’m skilled enough to keep that from happening!


This cartoon has four panels, plus a small panel underneath the strip. The first and last panels are colored in shades of purple; panels 2 and 3 are colored in shades of blue-green. All four panels show three people walking through a hilly park. There’s a thin short man in a striped shirt; a thin woman with glasses and black hair in a ponytail; and a bald fat man wearing a button-down shirt.

Panel 1

Stripes and Glasses are cheerfully chatting, and Baldy looks back at them, looking concerned.

STRIPES: I ate too much on vacation and now I’m so fat and gross!

GLASSES: I know just what you mean! Let me describe my new diet in mind-numbing detail!

Panel 2

A large caption at the top of the panel says “WHAT I WISH i SAID:”. The three of them have stopped walking; Baldy has turned around and is talking to Stripes and Glasses, who are listening.

BALDY: Hold on a sec. Neither of you are fat. But I am. When thin people call themselves fat and gross, what does that imply about me?

Panel 3

The three have resumed walking as they talk. Glasses is thinking as she speaks, a hand on her chin; Baldy has his hands spread in front of him as he talks, Stripes, looking perhaps a bit nettled, is raising a finger to make a point.

GLASSES: I hear you, but isn’t this just how an anti-fat and misogynistic society has conditioned us all?

BALDY: But it still feels like you’re co-signing anti-fat bigotry. And I’m sure I’m not your only fat friend you’re making uncomfortable.

STRIPES: That’s not what I meant to do….

Panel 4

This panel has a large panel at the top, which says “WHAT I SAID:”. In the background, stripes and glasses are happily chatting with each other. In the foreground, Baldy is walking away, with a hand on his stomach as if he’s got an upset tummy.

STRIPES: Diet talk calories lifestyle change blah blah

GLASSES: Carbs keto diet talk blah blah blah

BALDY: Gotta go. Bye.

Small “kicker” panel under the bottom of the strip

Barry the cartoonist speaks directly to the reader.

BARRY: The funny thing is, at one time or another, I’ve been all three of these characters.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Fat, fat and more fat | Leave a comment