Cartoon: How The Climate Change Hoax Works

If you like these cartoons, please support my Patreon! A $1 pledge helps keep me drawing cartoons.

I drew this one back in June, but as far as I can tell, I never got around to posting on “Alas.” Oops!

“I die and the spirit of science dies with me!” cracks me up, but I have no idea if readers will find it funny or not.
The debate over climate change exhausts me. Because while we should be debating what’s to be done about climate change, or how to mitigate climate change, we’re instead stuck endlessly debating if climate change exists or not.

And I always wonder – what do climate change deniers believe is happening among climatologists? Why, in their view, has virtually the entire scientific community in this field chosen to mislead the public and perpetuate a hoax?

Artwise, this was a fun one. I amused myself by sticking nonsensical “science stuff” in the backgrounds – a reel-to-reel tape recorder, a big lever, a portrait of Al Gore (I swiped the “celebrity photo in the background” gag from the beautiful comic strip Bloom County). The mad scientist character’s design looks unlike my usual characters and I really enjoyed that (I had a “eureka! moment when I realized how much better he’d look if he had no neck or chin).

I’m especially pleased with how the dude in the final panel came out. I’m usually pretty conservative with how I use coloring, but for that dude the coloring is really carrying the drawing, and (to my eyes at least) it looks good.

Transcript of Cartoon

This cartoon has four panels.


Two scientists are talking. We can tell that they’re scientists because they’re wearing lab coats and there’s sciency-looking equipment in the background. Also a reel-to-reel projector and a photo of Al Gore. The Young Scientist is talking animatedly to the Older Scientist; Young’s eyes are wide and naive.

YOUNG: Doctor Goldberg, I know it’s my first day on the job, but I found data proving that global warming is a hoax!


Older Scientist holds a hand high in the air, gesturing towards a brighter future. Young Scientist turns away, looking up in a noble fashion, his left fist clasped over his heart.

OLDER: It’s true, we made it all up! But play along and you’ll be rich!
YOUNG: Never! The people have a right to the truth!


OLDER has produced a handgun and shoots YOUNG in the back; YOUNG is in great pain and looks like he’s about to fall over.

OLDER: What a shame.
YOUNG: AAAGH! I die and the spirit of science dies with me!


Two completely different characters, a man and a woman, in a completely different scene. (We know it’s different because there’s no longer science stuff in the background, and because the color scheme has changed). The man is telling a story.

MAN: …So that’s what I think happens.
WOMAN: It does sound more likely than global warming being true.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Environmental issues | 27 Comments  

Abortion in Jewish Law

I started to write a response to this comment by Limits of Language (LoL) on the A Record 102 Edition open thread, but my response got so long that I decided to make it a separate post. LoL wrote:

My suggestion is that the actual end state of a liberal and free society may not actually be the legalization of very late abortions [in the absence of medical necessity: do I have that right?] but instead that very late abortions are quite immoral and support for it is indicative of very dangerous rationalizations that also enable (other) human rights violations.

LoL is, of course, entitled to this belief, and I respect it, but it is, in the end, rooted in the notion that there comes a point when the life and personhood of the fetus takes precedence over the life and personhood of the person in whose body that fetus resides. I don’t know whether or not LoL is Christian, but, in my experience, this belief–even when held by non-religious, secular people–devolves from a Christian understanding of when life begins and what it means to be considered a fully human person. There are other traditions, also deeply rooted in a moral concern for human life and the nature of personhood, that see this issue very differently. The one I am most familiar with is the Jewish tradition.

What I am going to write below is based on my reading of two books that I would highly recommend to anyone who is interested: David M. Feldman’s Marital Relations, Birth Control and Abortion in Jewish Law (Schocken Books 1968) and Rachel Biale’s Women & Jewish Law (Schocken Books 1984). (There may be newer editions of both books; I have linked to the editions I have on my shelf.) I am going quote a little bit from Biale’s book, but for the most part I’ll be summarizing. So, for those who are interested, the relevant pages are: Biale, 223–225; Feldman, 289–294. These pages discussion what Jewish law has to say about non-therapeutic abortions, but that discussion is rooted in the “clear distinction [Jewish law makes] between the woman and her child: the woman is a living person…and anyone who…kills her [has committed a capital crime]…The fetus is not a person in this sense” because the fetus has not yet become an individual; it cannot live independently outside the womb and so is not understood to have the same status in legal or moral/ethical terms as the mother (Biale, 220).

Regarding non-therapeutic abortion, the relevant text can be found in Tractate Arakhin in the Babylonian Talmud. There, the rabbis perform a thought experiment, and I want to stress that this is a thought experiment designed to allow for a discussion about the status of the fetus, not a discussion about death-penalty policy. Imagine, they say, a pregnant woman who has been sentenced to death. Should her sentence be postponed until her child is born? Or should it be carried out immediately, essentially murdering an innocent child for her crimes?

The rabbis’ answer–and I am skipping over a good deal of discussion here–is that the sentence should be carried out immediately, unless the birth process has started, because “at this point the fetus has become ‘a separate body’ (notice, not yet an independent life!) and is no longer part of its mother’s body” (Biale 224). Why, with that exception, shouldn’t the sentence be postponed? Because

a delay between sentencing and execution is a form of torture, innui ha-din [a concept in Jewish law which prohibits] delay in carrying out the sentence [so as not to add] unwarranted anguish to the punishment. A person sentenced to execution should not be tormented psychologically by having to await and anticipate his end. (Biale 225).

In other words, respect and compassion for the doomed woman’s humanity/personhood, i.e., she should not be subjected to torture, takes precedence over respect and compassion for the fetus (as long as it has not yet descended into the birth canal). She is understood to be an individuated person; the fetus, with that one exception, is not.

There are a couple of points worth further clarification: This ruling holds only when the woman’s pregnancy is discovered after her sentence has been pronounced. If she is known to be pregnant beforehand, the sentencing itself is postponed until after the birth. “In this case, waiting is not considered innui ha-din because the woman can hope for acquittal or a lesser punishment” (Biale 225). I also don’t know what the ruling would be if the condemned woman were to ask to be allowed to give birth before being put to death, but even if the ruling were that her desire should be granted, note that it would be granted out of respect for her choice, not the status of the fetus.

Biale goes on:

The practical importance of the ruling in Arakhin is not of course for cases of execution, but for cases where the mother is in great distress due to the pregnancy. It is possible to deduce from Arakhin a general principle that a fetus may be aborted to avoid mental anguish (any condition analogous to innui ha-din or disgrace to the mother. (225)

Now, this is not to say that there is in Jewish law an argument for anything resembling what we understand when talk about a pro-choice position, much less abortion on demand right up to the moment of birth. In fact, in practice, women who follow Jewish law would need to obtain a rabbi’s permission to have an abortion. (Indeed, there is in one episode of Shtisel, which is on Netflix, a very interesting scene in which the rabbinic approach to abortion and the contemporary pro-choice approach come into conflict.) My point in writing this very long response to LoL’s comment is simply to demonstrate that there is an argument for legalizing very late term abortions—no less rooted in a moral, religious tradition than the Christian or Christological argument against the practice—that is not, as he suggests, “indicative of very dangerous rationalizations that also enable (other) human rights violations,” but is instead rooted in a deep sense of compassion and respect for the humanity of someone who is pregnant.

ETA: There is one other point that I think is worth adding about the status of the fetus in Jewish law. One of traditional Judaism’s strongest prohibitions is against violating the Sabbath. Indeed, one of the only reasons such violation is not merely permitted, but required, is in the interests of saving a life. It is important to note, therefore, that Jewish law does not simply permit, but requires one to violate that Sabbath in order to save a fetus that would otherwise die. In other words, the fact that Jewish law privileges a pregnant person over the fetus that person is carrying does not mean that Jewish law treats the fetus, as LoL said elsewhere, as “mere bits of tissue.”

Posted in Abortion & reproductive rights | Comments Off  

Mash It Up, an excerpt from my class on How to Write Retellings

Explicitly or subtly, writers are always building on the stories that came before us. For a couple of years now, I’ve been teaching a class on retellings at Cat Rambo’s Academy. It’s always a good time to see what people come up with.

Here’s an excerpt from the class, on one of the many strategies for retelling stories — the mash-up.

Craving some hard science fiction spaceships, or some Western cowboy hats? You don’t have to move your story into space or a ghost town and write completely in that new genre—you can do both at once. Sometimes you have to get that chocolate into that peanut butter. Mix things because you love them, or because they go together, or because they should never go together, or because they went together in that weird dream you had the other night.

Some combinations play up the contradictions. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is funny because it makes you imagine all those staid regency ladies juxtaposed with B-horror movie makeup. The retelling thrives because the combination is both ridiculous and delightful.

Other match-ups are about synergy instead of clash. A common blend is fairy tale characters who are under criminal investigation. Fairy tale characters have made many appearances in court room dramas. These days, I mostly see the combination as fairy tales written in a Noir style. Although the genres don’t pair well to me, they appeal to many readers. Perhaps it’s a way to tease out the motivations and complexities of the original, simple stories. The author wants to know “why did this happen?” and poses a fictional detective to find out.

You can mash up whole genres–but you can also just mash individual stories. When superhero comics have big crossover arcs where characters from different parts of the universe all interact, they aren’t changing genre. They’re still superhero comics, just ones without their normally distinct lines.

It’s entirely possible to mash together as many genres and stories as you want. More doesn’t usually mean better–but it can.

If this sounds interesting to you, consider signing up for my class this Saturday, or checking out the On Demand version.

Posted in classes, old tales into new | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: Forced Kidney Donation

If you enjoy these cartoons, help me make more by supporting my Patreon! A $1 pledge really helps.

In 1971, the philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson wrote “A Defense of Abortion,” in which she used the example of a person waking up in a hospital, with medical equipment attaching them to a world famous violinist, to illustrate a point: Even if we accept that a fetus is a person with rights (which I don’t), it doesn’t follow that enforced childbirth is morally acceptable. It might be nice of me to allow the violinist to use my body for nine months, because that’s the only way to save the violinist’s life, but a world in which such extreme charity was enforced would be a nightmare.

This cartoon is an attempt to make that nightmarish aspect of what pro-lifers want visceral. It’s ironic, of course, that one way to make the nightmare clear is to imagine a man being put in the position that pro-lifers want to put women in.

* * *

This cartoon was written in a swimming pool. I usually go to a aqua fit class at a gym two or three times a week, and one of the ways I pass the time while exercising is to try and write political cartoons in my head.

Usually it doesn’t work; aqua fit isn’t really an ideal environment for brainstorming. (The best place for me to think of ideas is sitting on a public park bench watching kids play; because of that, it’s easier for me to write in warm weather. Seriously!) But sometimes an idea comes to me, and this is one.

I remember I described the idea to Emily, who I think is a patron here (hi Emily!), and from her reaction I thought it could be a good idea.

An idea isn’t enough, of course. There’s a lot of editing and refining. In this case, I got very far along in the process – actually finishing the pencils – before I decided to restructure the cartoon in a major way. Here’s the earlier version of this cartoon:

At first I was tickled at how much I’d managed to fit into just six panels. But then it started feeling cramped to me. And I couldn’t help thinking that the final panel should somehow be different than the others.

Then I thought about longtime patron Bonnie Warford (hi Bonnie!) commenting that she likes it when I break out of the grid. So I started to think of how I could do that with this comic, which eventually led to the idea of the first six panels being a giant word balloon, indicating that this was a story being told by the main character in the final panel.

The way the cartoon is set up, I think this cartoon will “work” even for readers who miss the “giant word balloon” aspect. But for me, that aspect adds a lot to this cartoon, visually.


This cartoon has seven panels, arranged in a grid of six small panels (three across, two down), followed by a final panel which is quite large.

Panels 1-6 are colored in a minimalist color scheme featuring shades of brown and yellow.


Panel 1 shows a close-up of man with a van dyke beard with his head on a pillow, snoring. A voice speaks from off-panel.

MAN: Zzzzz…
OFF PANEL VOICE: Wake him up.


Panels 2 and 3 have a continuous background, showing a bedroom. In panel 2, Man is still asleep in bed, but a man in a solider-or-guard-like uniform is standing over him, with a hand on his shoulder.

SOLDIER: Get up! You’re going to the hospital!


The man is now out of bed, with another soldier handcuffing him. The man is dressed only in a tee shirt and underwear. In front of him, a middle-aged woman, wearing a jacket and skirt, with a bun and a clipboard, is addressing him.

CLIPBOARD: We’re taking your kidney.


A close-up of Man and Clipboard. Man is wide-eyed with shock and fear; Clipboard is officious.

MAN: What? WHY?
CLIPBOARD: Your son is ill. He needs your kidney to live.


We’ve changed locations; Man is now strapped won to an operating table. His tee-shirt is gone, and he’s yelling, futility. Two people in surgical gowns, gloves and masks – one of whom is Clipboard – stand over him. Clipboard is pointing to something on her clipboard.

MAN: But I don’t HAVE a son!
CLIPBOARD: You do. He’s from a one-night stand 20 years ago.


No dialog in this panel. We see Man’s terrified face and, in the foreground, a gloved hand holding a scalpel.

The bottom border of the above six panels forms a word balloon, which is pointing to MAN in panel 7, indicating that the first six panels are a story that Man is telling in panel 7.


The same man from the first six panels. He is now standing in a parking lot in front of a building, cheerfully telling a story to another man. Man and his friend are both holding signs that say “PRO LIFE” in big letters. They are surrounded by at least five other protesters, both men and women, also holding “PRO LIFE” signs.

Unlike the first six panels, this panel is in full color.

MAN: And that’s when I woke up. Thank goodness it was only a terrible nightmare!

Posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc | 29 Comments  

Fosta-Sesta and The Art Of Not Listening

If you like these cartoons, please help me make more by supporting my Patreon! A $1 pledge really matters.

This is sort of a “guilty obligation” comic.  :-p

By which I mean, it makes me furious that our pundit class – particularly those who pat themselves on the back for their commitment to free speech – spends an enormous amount of time worrying about the threat to free speech of wealthy campus speakers facing rude student protesters, while ignoring far more dire threats to marginalized groups, like undocumented immigrants, prisoners, and sex workers.

But then I had the thought, “have I actually done any cartoons focusing on free speech threats to  undocumented immigrants, prisoners, and sex workers?” A line of thought which eventually led me to this cartoon. (Doing cartoons about free speech and undocumented immigrants, and free speech and prisoners, remains on my “to do” list.)

As a Democrat, it’s embarrassing to me that every Democratic senator aside from Ron Wyden voted for Sesta.  It’s a terrible law, that assaults free speech on the internet and hurts those it claims to help. And because the group it’s attacking is so marginalized, who knows when or if the damages will ever be repaired.

Really, I could have done this same cartoon (or a very similar one) about either prisoners or undocumented immigrants. A danger of putting any group outside the law is, there’s very little motivation for politicians to think about, or care about, their well-being. That’s why the free speech rights of sex workers is so easy to crush – while the free speech rights of people like Christina Hoff Sommers and Charles Murray, while important, are not in any substantive danger.

And that’s what the “kicker” panel below the strip is about. The problem isn’t that politicians don’t know better. It’s that, even if they did know better, they still wouldn’t have any incentive to care.

When I see pundits get into a free speech panic over Charles Murray being protested, while people actually being shut up by the law get ignored, it’s hard not to see this as what Noah Berlatskycalls “chattering-class solidarity.”

When pundits denounce student speakers, they are engaged in a kind of chattering-class solidarity. Free speech, for pundits, often is indistinguishable from a call for free speech for pundits. They are saying, in so many words, People like me should be able to talk without interruption from people like you.

Pundits can easily imagine themselves being in Charles Murray’s shoes, but can’t imagine being an undocumented immigrant, a sex worker, or a prisoner. And that makes the very mild threat to Murray’s free speech seem much more urgent, to pundits, than the objectively much greater threat to the free speech of marginalized people.

From a technical standpoint, what worried me the most, drawing this cartoon, was establishing character recognition. The cartoon simply wouldn’t work if the senator in the fourth panel wasn’t recognizable as the same character from the previous three panels.

That’s why his head is odd. In the original drawing (see below), I drew him with the same globe-shaped head the other characters have. For me, globehead style is a very easy, natural and fun way to draw characters. But I decided to change his head shape entirely, to make it easier for readers to pick up on him being the same character. That’s why his head is shaped like a finger in the final cartoon.

I also wanted to draw sex workers that looked more like real-life sex workers I’ve seen interviewed on TV, than like the sex workers on TV dramas – in other words, not 100% young, white and thin.


This cartoon has four main panels, plus a tiny “kicker” panel below the bottom of the cartoon.

Panel 1

There is a large caption saying “THEN“.

Three women — one wearing a hoodie, one wearing a leather jacket, one wearing a pony tail and a “casual nice” office outfit – are talking to a middle-aged white man at a desk, who is wearing a vest and necktie. The women are of various ages and races, and are all looking at the dude in the necktie, who is a Senator. The Senator is holding up a finger in front of Pony Tail in a “wait just a sec” gesture, while he turns in the opposite direction and speaks to someone off-panel.

PONY TAIL: Senator, if the Fosta-Sesta bill becomes law, it’ll harm sex workers like us – the people this bill is supposed to protect!
SENATOR: Julie, bring me a sandwich, please.

Panel 2

The same set-up, but now Hoodie is speaking.

HOODIE: We use the internet to avoid pimps and screen clients. Fosta-Sesta will censor all that. Some of us will be forced onto the streets.
SENATOR: Make it roast beef.

Panel 3

Same set up, but now Leather Jacket speaks, looking angry and holding her hands extended, palms up, in a “come ON!” sort of gesture. The Senator is now holding a sandwich, which he eyes warily.

LEATHER: Fosta-Sensa will make more vulnerable to predators of all kinds. This bill will help pimps and traffickers!
SENATOR: Julie, there’s no mayo on this, is there?


There is a large caption saying “NOW“.

The Senator is pictured on his own, reading a newspaper. We can see a huge headline on the front page – “Report: Fosta-Sesta Helping Pimps and Traffickers.” The Senator, with a mildly distressed expression, has turned his head and speaks directly to the viewer. (The newspaper’s masthead says it’s called “The Useful Trope.”)

SENATOR: No one could have known this would happen!


The three women are again talking to the senator, the women looking stern, the Senator responding cheerfully.

HOODIE: So NOW will you listen to sex workers before making laws about us?
SENATOR: Definitely not.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics, Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., Prostitution, Porn and Sex Work | 11 Comments  

Writing Round-up and Eligibility Post for 2018

It’s that time of year again! Old snow, down coats, tenderly nascent blooming new year’s hopes which will inevitably be both fulfilled and disappointed… and year-end “here is what I wrote this year” posts.

This is both a list of my recent work, and also a list of my pieces that are eligible for the various awards like the Hugo and the Nebula.

I’m really glad to be writing more again. I mean, for one thing I’m writing at least twelve pieces of poetry and/or flash fiction a year, because of Patreon. (Obligatory plug: You can get one new piece of my work each month for $1!) Some of my work has been noveling, and some isn’t out yet, so it’s not all visible in this list– but I am really happy to enjoy prose again.

This year, I’ve been thinking a lot, and writing a lot, about disability. I feel like my interests right now are moving into this really internal, psychological place.

Here’s what I’ve written that is eligible this year:

Short Story:
“Birthday Girl” (2,800 words) in Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, Sept 2018.
A bipolar woman attends her niece’s birthday party a year after her sister cut off contact.

Read the story here.

Bella and her sister stood awhile in silence, toeing the dirt. Her sister crossed her arms over her chest. She kept trying to smile, but awkwardness wiped it from her face.

Bella’s sister spoke first. You didn’t make her sick.

Bella snapped back. You’re the one who said I did.


“Seven Months Out and Two to Go” with Trace Yulie (8,400 words) in Asimov’s, Feb 2018.
A pregnant rancher mourning the loss of her husband has an alien encounter.

The story is not online, but Trace and I did a Q&A about our collaboration here.

“Red, what are you doing out here in the dark? How did you get out? Is the calf in trouble? Get back to the barn so I can look at you.”
Big Red turned toward her, and impossibly, her silhouette morphed and bloated. Legs absorbed into a huge, gelatinous ovoid taller than Kate. Light pulsed within its mucus-like, translucent flesh, rippling and glaring and burning.
“Home,” said a voice, or perhaps voices. The strange, distorted sound was an uncanny chorus. Kate’s heart drummed in response.


I’ve also been posting short stories, flash fiction, and poetry on Patreon. Anyone who pledges $1 a month gets new words every month and access to all the previous content. The stories I’ve posted in 2018 include:

“When I Sit on the Fish Tank” Parts One and Two: A cat and her obsession.

Love Is Hot and Brief”: The star-crossed romance of coffee and cup.

The Diary of a Woman Outside Time”: Life, fragmented.

The Stubborn Granny”: Sometimes the Grimm fairy tales are too grim. A rewritten tale.


Cartoon: Debate THIS, Libtards! (Or, The Difference Between Effective and Marginal Tax Rates)

If you enjoy my cartoons, please help me make more by supporting my Patreon! A $1 pledge really matters to me.

So earlier this week, new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was interviewed on 60 Minutes. In the course of the interview, Cortez laboriously and correctly described marginal tax rates:

Once you get to the tippie-tops, on your $10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60% or 70%. That doesn’t mean all $10 million dollars are taxed at an extremely high rate. But it means that as you climb up this ladder, you should be contributing more.

Many Republicans seized on this as “the Democrats want to take away 70% of everything you earn!” This included comments from highly placed Republicans, like Steve Scalise, who tweeted:

Republicans: Let Americans keep more of their own hard-earned money
Democrats: Take away 70% of your income and give it to leftist fantasy programs

Congressman Scalise is the House Republican Whip – the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.

Does Scalise really not know the difference between effective and marginal tax rates? Or is telling the truth just completely alien to his value system?

And why does being either dishonest, or an ignoramus, seem to be a formula for rising high in the modern GOP?

The “kicker” panel at the bottom more and more reflects how I’m feeling, alas.

Ocasio-Cortez’s suggested 70%, by the way, is both moderate and reasonable policy.

Usually I avoid doing cartoons based in the current news cycle; I prefer to do cartoons that will last. But this one is both; it’s got a story in the current news cycle, but the underlying issues will remain relevant for years to come.

I’m pleased with how this comic came out. It’s very basic, visually, but often the very basic comic strips are the ones that look best. Looking at it now, the only thing that makes me wince is that I drew the guy’s left arm in the same pose in panels 1 and 4; I usually try to avoid that, since having them move around from panel to panel makes them look more lively.

Although it’s not important to the strip, the woman in the strip is visually based on  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and that was fun; I don’t often do caricatures in my strips.


This cartoon has four panels, plus an extra fifth “kicker” panel, with much smaller artwork, below the bottom of the strip.

Panel 1

Two people, a man and a woman, are standing inside some sort of building, talking. He has neatly combed and blow-dried blonde hair, and is wearing a polo shirt. She has dark hair combed back into a bun, and is wearing a simple pale dress with a dark belt. He is grinning in a somewhat mocking way; she is responding seriously, arms spread a bit.

POLO: I hear liberals want to raise income taxes to 70 percent! How stupid can you guys be?

BUN: I know it sounds strange, but top tax rats of 70 percent or higher were normal until the 1980s.

Panel 2

A close-up of Bun, with a bit of the back of Polo’s head in the foreground. Bun is smiling and holding one palm up in an “explaining” gesture.

BUN: The 70 percent rate we’re talking about would only apply to the ultra-rich. And even the ultra-rich would pay much less than that on their first 10 million dollars of income!

Panel 3

Another closeup on Bun, who is still talking with her hands, and now has a serious expression.

BUN: When top tax rates were at 70 percent – or even 90 percent – the rich didn’t stop working or flee the country. Anyhow, shouldn’t billionaires start paying their fair share?

Panel 4

A shot of Polo and Bun. Polo is laughing. A third man, wearing a necktie, has come in and is talking to Polo while pointing at his watch. Bun is startled by what Necktie says.

POLO: Ordinary workers can’t live on 30 percent of their income! You’re stupid!

NECKTIE: Congressman, sorry to interrupt, but you’re due on Fox News in ten minutes.

Kicker panel below the bottom of the strip

Bun speaks to Polo.

BUN: I should go, too. I’m getting “do not engage” tattooed inside my eyelids.

Posted in Cartooning & comics | 46 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, A Record 102 Edition

  1. 2020 election: this child tax credit expansion could slash poverty – Vox
    A $3000-per-child child allowance is being proposed by some Democrats.
  2. Trump’s reign of corruption will now face real opposition. Here are three things to watch. – The Washington Post
  3. US enters new phase as women change the face of Congress | US news | The Guardian
  4. I’m fine with women in power, just not this one specific woman currently in power – The Washington Post
  5. Cops Force Doctors to Anally Probe Drug Suspect, Bill Him $4500
    Sickening. The word “rape” is never used in the story, but I don’t see why not. Thanks to Grace for the link.
  6. Deported to Honduras, an asylum seeker who feared MS-13 was murdered. His children are fighting to stay in the United States. – Washington Post
  7. Scott Wiener’s SB-50 could fix California’s housing crisis – Vox
    The bill is designed to encourage development in rich areas, and to avoid gentrification (by not allowing new construction to replace current rental properties). Interesting.
  8. The 10 most wonderfully weird SNL sketches from 2018, ranked – The Washington Post
    It’s hard to beat the lobster sketch, but I also really liked the Barbie interns and the fallen down teacher.
  9. Alice Walker’s Conspiracy Theories Aren’t Just Anti-Semitic – They’re Anti-Black – The Forward
  10. And if you need context for the above link: Alice Walker’s controversial endorsement of David Icke, explained – Vox
  11. Dan Savage has a good rant here about Tumblr’s adult content ban.
    Thanks to Mandolin for this link.
  12. Meet the Woman Who Invented Cosplay – Racked
  13. Seth Rudetsky takes 23 minutes to go over all the things he thinks are cool in Hamilton’s ‘The Schuyler Sisters’ song.
    The song itself is three minutes and seven seconds long.
  14. The best argument against kidney sales fails | Journal of Medical Ethics
    The author argues that kidney markets can be set up in a way that will avoid creditors and others pressuring poor people to sell their kidneys.
  15. Sanatan Dinda – An Indian Visual Artist
    This artist does the best body painting I can recall seeing.
  16. A Veteran Supreme Court Justice Cited a Debunked Planned Parenthood Smear in an Opinion
    Specifically, Judge Thomas apparently believes the debunked accusation that Planned Parenthood “engaged in ‘the illegal sale of fetal organs’” enough to cite it in his official Supreme Court dissent (although, to be clear, he did say “alleged”). Or, alternatively, Thomas knows that it’s complete bullshit, but is cynical and partisan enough to cite the “alleged” organ sales anyway. In either case, it indicates the major problem with the Republicans today – that completely batshit and evil conspiracy theories are bought into, sincerely or cynically, at the very highest levels. (See, also: climate change. See, also: Millions of illegal immigrants voting.)
  17. Doomrocket’s choices for the 30 best comic book covers of 2018.
    I don’t agree with every choice, but I still love looking through these sorts of features (and many of the covers are stunners). Bill Sienkiewicz has three (!) covers on the list.
  18. The $400 Rape – Jessica Valenti – Medium
    An alleged rapist pleads to a lesser charge and is let off with a $400 fine. Content warning for sexual assault, obviously.
  19. One Woman Who Knew Her Rights Forced Border Patrol Off a Greyhound Bus | American Civil Liberties Union
  20. On Weight Loss Surgery And The Unbearable Thinness Of Being – The Establishment
    Content warning for, well, discussion of anti-fat bigotry.
  21. Germany: The first basic income experiment in Germany will start in 2019 | Basic Income News
    It’s an experiment, not a country-wide policy, comparing their usual system (which has sanctions if people fail to do things such as look for work) to a basic income scheme.
  22. Florida Sheriff Worked With ICE to Illegally Jail and Nearly Deport US Citizen | American Civil Liberties Union
  23. Why is Everyone Blaming Vice Admiral Holdo? – Purple Serpents In Her Hair
    Holdo was right not to tell Poe the plan!
  24. Thundercats reboot, Steven Universe & CalArts style insult explained – Polygon
    This article was written before the new “She-Ra,” which is approximately 1463x better than the original, premiered, but I’ve seen the same meaningless “CalArts style” criticism of that show, too.
  25. CBS Paid the Actress Eliza Dushku $9.5 Million to Settle Harassment Claims – The New York Times
    The network introduced tapes of Dushku (Faith on “Buffy”) swearing on-set to suggest she was fired for being unprofessional, rather than because she asked the lead actor to stop making sexually suggestive jokes about her. The network didn’t recognize that the tapes also contained the lead actor acting exactly as Dushku described – a ten million dollar mistake. Good for Dushku.
  26. J’Accuse…! Why Jeanne Calment’s 122-year old longevity record may be fake
    Essentially, if this theory is right (and although we’ll never know for sure, I find the arguments persuasive), the real Jeanne Calment died at around age 60. In order to avoid paying inheritance taxes, the wealthy family claimed that Jeanne’s daughter had died, and the daughter took on Jeanne’s identity. The rich really are different!
    ETA:I’ve looked into this more, and although I stupidly didn’t save the links, I’ve also seen arguments for Calment NOT being a hoax, which I also found persuasive. Controversies I honestly don’t care about either way can be so much fun to read. I’m going to continue to think it’s a hoax, but only because I think that’s a better story.
  27. Steve Stewart-Williams on Twitter: My Top 12 Favourite Perceptual Illusions
  28. Mankato professor taking heat for tweet that God is guilty of #MeToo violation –
    The tweet said “The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen. There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario. Happy Holidays.”
  29. Are Scandals About Illegal Abuse of “Rescued” Sex Workers In India, Distracting From Legal, Systematic Abuses? | openDemocracy
    “Those who are held against their will in ‘protection homes’ – lawfully under the ITPA –resort to escaping, rioting, and self-harm in an attempt to regain or at least assert their own agency.”
  30. DeVos’ Proposed Changes to Title IX, Explained | National Women’s Law Center
    Some of the changes – such as the requirement that accused students have access to the evidence against them – strike me as fair and positive changes. But many of the changes are terrible and will leave stuydent rape victims with less recourse.
  31. How one man repopulated a rare butterfly species in his backyard – Vox
  32. I should be in bed right now but instead I’m reading this twitter thread of funny things from Tumblr, and it’s super cracking me up, and I have to quit reading these and go to bed but I can’t.
  33. What is TikTok? The app that used to be, explained. – Vox
    I’ve never heard of TikTok before, but it’s apparently bigger than Twitter or Instagram, and hoooo boooy is it goofy. Fuck the youtubers making fun of people for having fun.
  34. Massachusetts federal court rules you have the right to secretly record cops.

Posted in Link farms | 128 Comments  

The Trans Story Journalists Love To Tell

If you like these cartoons, please help me make more by supporting my Patreon! A $1 pledge really matters to me.

Some of my cartoons are what I think of as – oh damn this might sound pretentious, and I don’t mean it that way, but oh well – “eavesdropping” cartoons. Cartoons that basically don’t come from me; instead, they come from me listening to what a particular group of people is talking about and thinking “how can I translate this into cartoon form?”
When I do an “eavesdropping” cartoon, the great test is when the cartoon is shown to people from the community I eavesdropped on. Do people from the community smile and nod in a “yeah, exactly” manner? Do people from the community share it on Twitter, saying “this”? No cartoon will every be loved, or even liked, by everyone – within any community, there are always a range of reactions, because people are individuals. But if I see a bunch of individuals from a community reacting as if the cartoon is on target, I feel like the cartoon has succeeded.

Some of the “eavesdropping cartoons” I’ve done in the past have succeeded. Hopefully this one will, too. (It’s already passed the “smile and nod” test with a couple of trans folks I’ve shown it to.)

* * *

The thing I like drawing the least, on the human figure, is feet or shoes. Some cartoonists don’t like drawing hands, but I’d happily draw hands all day long – but feet! Aaargh! They’re made of weird shapes that my brain refuses to absorb.

So panel three of this cartoon was definitely one of those times artist-Barry looks at the script writer-Barry provided and goes “what the hell, man? What did I ever do to YOU?”

(Maybe I should have asked Becky to draw this one. :-p )

Panel 3 also dictated the form of the entire cartoon. In my initial script, this cartoon had a standard 2×2 grid layout, like most of my cartoons. I like grids for political cartoons; they’re simple, sure, but because they’re simple readers parse them without even noticing them, hopefully letting the point of the cartoon shine more clearly.

But the “rumble” panel just wasn’t fitting into a square; it wanted to be a long horizontal shape, and kept looking small and inconsequential as a square. So I broke away from the 2×2 grid, and – to my eyes at least – that made the finished piece look more like a comic book page than a political cartoon.

That’s the sort of thing I can decide to do, because I’m being supported by patrons, rather than having to fit every cartoon into a magazine’s preset mold.


This cartoon has four panels. The first two panels are more or less square shaped; the third and fourth panels are wider than they are tall.

Three people – A dapper man wearing a bow tie and suspenders, a woman with a bob haircut and a hoodie, and a woman with tattoos and a skirt with a donut pattern – are walking along a path on a grassy hill. Behind them we can see clouds, a tree, a house. The guy with the bow tie is cheerfully reading something aloud from his cell phone. The woman with the donut skirt, also smiling, is hitting her forehead with her palm in a “duh!” gesture. The woman with the hoodie isn’t smiling.

BOW TIE: Another study ahs found that transitioning improves life for nearly all trans people.
DONUTS: Well, duh. Transitioning turned my life around.

The three have come to a stop, as Hoodie speaks, looking a bit nervous, shrugging and scuffing the toe of one sneaker into the side of another. The other two are a bit surprised by what she’s saying.
HOODIE: Not me. Honestly, I’ve found the whole experience miserable.

A long horizontal shot of a crowd of legs, in various types of clothing and shoes, all running fast in the same direction. There is a very large sound effect.

The largest panel in the cartoon shows Bow Tie and Donuts looking very surprised as Hoodie is suddenly surrounded by a crowd of at least 16 reporters, all holding out their cell phones towards her to record what she says. Hoodie, looking left and right, is shocked and panicked. The reporters are yelling out questions and offers.
REPORTER 1: I’m a reporter – can I interview you?
REPORTER 2: Me first!
REPORTER 3: …write a profile of you?
REPORTER 4: …write a column for the Times?
REPORTER 5: …TV segment?
REPORTER 6: …appear on our podcast?

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 2 Comments  

Why I Write in Cafes

A cup of coffee with latte art and a notebook with a pencil

I’ve been writing a lot in cafes recently. Well, mostly one cafe, but I’ve dallied with others.

It’s a nice cafe. It’s located next to a bus stop that has a route to most of the places I want to be, which makes it easy to get there and to leave. The round tables are a bit small for a large laptop and a drink, but you can’t have everything. I drink iced tea, and sometimes I order a grilled cheese sandwich with tomatoes, and the friendly staff have gotten used to my order. The number of customers waxes and wanes with the season and the light and the weather. Sometimes it’s hard to find a pair of empty tables so I can sit with my writing partner, but mostly it’s doable.

I like the art on the walls. It’s not always to my taste, but it’s cool seeing displays of the local artists. If nothing else, it keeps my critical skills for visual art a little more sharpened than they would be otherwise. Do I like that? Yes? No? Why? I wonder what kind of art I’d be producing for the walls if I had continued on the artistic trajectory I was on at eighteen.

I like most of the background noise, including the loud conversations from strangers nearby. I like voices. The music is often not my taste, but only occasionally too annoying to deal with. The worst times I’ve had are when people are having breakdowns in the cafe. A woman sobbed on one of the couches near me for an hour or so, once. I wanted so much to go hug her.

Sometimes someone overhears me and my writing partner talking about writing and wants to talk about writing with us, which is usually okay, unless I’m heavily absorbed in working–in which case I probably wasn’t talking to my writing partner in the first place to attract attention. I like meeting new people.

A long time ago, a prominent SF writer grumbled that people who write in cafes aren’t really writing — it’s more for show than work, he said, a way of playing the writer in public. I think that’s a real phenomenon– I’ve definitely both seen people do that, and probably been the person doing it (at least on days when I just could not get my brain to cooperate).

I don’t mean to belabor the argument from that old post–it’s just that I think of it sometimes when I’m getting more done at a cafe than I can elsewhere. It makes me ponder why the cafe is a useful space for me.

Some of my thoughts about why:

Having a space dedicated to fiction means that I’m less likely to end up doing administrative business.

There are a lot of components to maintaining a writing career, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed, I try to organize things, and I can get caught up just doing administrative work, or other kinds of tasks that seem (or are) urgent, but don’t get the creative work done. Those tasks can be easier to approach because there’s usually a done/not-done state at the end, where writing is long, continuous, and hard to predict.

Having a routine.

Like many other freelancers and self-employed folks, I find that time management can be tricky. It’s easy for days to blend into one another, and slip away before I can manage to get traction. When I was living somewhere without many writers around, that was particularly difficult. Here, where there are masses of artists of all varieties, I have a lot of people that I can meet to work with. Having a set time and place to work, and a set person I’m working with, encourages me to develop habits that make my time more efficient.

I always accomplish something, or prove I can’t.

Because I’m at the cafe with someone else, and we are there with a purpose, I always spend at least some time trying to write. Some days, nothing comes. More often, even if I feel creatively dry, I can scrape up something, whether it’s a bit of editing, a paragraph or two, or the beginning of a story (which I may never finish). On my own I can get depressed over those days when the writing doesn’t work, and it makes me avoidant for a while afterward. With a writing partner, there’s a set time to try again.

Having a writing partner.

When I’m at the cafe, I’m with someone I know well. We can commiserate over failed work attempts, and celebrate the days when words come easily. We often write in timed bursts. If I can’t get anything done in the timed burst — usually thirty or forty-five minutes — then I have a check in time where my partner and I can try to refocus each other, so there’s less possibility of never getting back to work. Writing can be lonely. With a writing partner, you have company (while often still being lonely; that can be the nature of the work).

There’s bustling noise around me.

I’m comforted by having sounds around me. I like the sounds of people particularly. In a cafe, I get to hear people around me in a pleasant buzz that I can tune out well enough to work. Since they’re mostly strangers, I’m less likely to end up distracted than I would be if I were writing with a group of friends.

Having a reason to leave the house.

As an introvert, if I don’t actively find reasons to leave the house, then I’m likely to just sit at home with the cats. (The cats appreciate this.) Writing at the cafe with a partner gives me a time and place where someone expects me. If I don’t go, it inconveniences them. (The cats don’t appreciate this.)

Forming a community connection.

Not only does the cafe get me out of my house, but it also prevents me from spending all my time with my friends at their houses. It forces me to participate, however minorly, in the public life of our city. I meet people I haven’t met before, and see people I’ll never formally meet at all. I get to see slices of the vibrancy around me.

Peer Pressure

This is similar to “having a writing partner,” but there are other ways to accomplish it, like reporting word counts on social media or a message board. I’m accountable to someone, even though it’s informal, and there are no penalties. I can think, “I should work… Lee is working.” And Lee can think (direct quote), “Must set a good example for Rachel.” A little bit of social approval goes a long way.

(This post first appeared on my Patreon. Thank you to all my patrons!)

Posted in Writing Advice | 3 Comments