Scragamuffin: A New Chapbook on Patreon

Today, I’m sending my patrons a new chapbook–Scragamuffin.

I didn’t intend to write another chapbook; it just sort of happened. Unfortunately, we lost another one of our cats, and this one was only nine. So, it’s been kind of a bummer.

Scragamuffin, Poems about Pete by Rachel Swirsky brown cover image with white cat sketchI wrote a bunch of poems about Pete, and also started drawing pictures based on photographs of him. I lucked into a style I like a lot so I’ve been drawing other animals–pets and otherwise–since.

This Patreon chapbook contains about twenty poems, about twenty illustrations, and the rules for one game (which can only be initiated by a cat).

I hope folks find it fun or funny–or at least furry.

All of my patrons receive premium content every month. Donations of any amount are gratefully appreciated. Every little bit helps. (Especially, alas, as my husband has been laid off again. Poor Mike.)


Posted in art, Cats, Drawing, Poetry | Leave a comment  

One Of Chappelle’s Best Friends Is Trans

If you enjoy these cartoons, help me make more by supporting my Patreon! A pathetically small amount of money ($1! $2!) turns into a living for me when multiplied by a whole bunch of readers.

I’m about halfway through drawing a cartoon about city budgets, but the new Dave Chappelle stand up special on Netflix, which premiered six days ago, diverted me. Chappelle’s special was full of misogyny and transphobia, but the transphobia was perhaps more central to his show.

Chappelle closed the show with a long story about a transgender comedian he was, he said, close friends with (although he also said he didn’t know his friend has a daughter until after her death). It’s a sad story, and I’m sure Chappelle really did love his friend. But it was also a transparent attempt to excuse the transphobia of his show by saying “look, I have a trans friend!”

Normally I’d hesitate to do a cartoon about a stand-up special which most people won’t remember a few months from now. But the “one of my best friends” will, sadly, continue being relevant long past Chappelle’s use of it, so that seemed to justify doing the cartoon.

When I was a child, “some of my best friends are Jewish!” was already a cliché. And one that was obviously ridiculous – of course someone could both have a Jewish friend (or a Black friend, or a trans friend, etc etc) and still harbor some bigotry towards the group. It’s commonplace.

The “some of my best friends are _____” excuse implies a model of bigotry in which bigots are always overwhelmed with anger and hate towards whatever group they’re bigoted at. In this model, it’s impossible for a bigot to be nice to, or to feel fondness for, a _____, because apparently they can’t even be in a room with a ______ without trying to punch them or something.

But in real life, that’s not how it works. Bigotry isn’t limited to blind hatred; it can come out in more subtle ways. And people are full of contradictions, including the contradiction between being bigoted against ______ while still liking a particular ______, who is considered “one of the good ones.”

Think about how many misogynists nonetheless love their wives or their daughters.

While I was drawing this strip, I came across this wonderful response to Chappelle by Mx. Dahlia Belle, a standup comedian here in Portland.

Again Dave, some of us are Black, and when I was growing up in the midwest, there was never a shortage of racist white dudes to tell me about their Black friend, who gave them permission to say “nigger”. I hear you, Dave. I hear you holding up our fellow comedian Daphne Dorman as the Good Tranny, who never made Dave feel bad for being transphobic.

My character in this strip is based on Chappelle – both what he says and his appearance.

But I didn’t sweat making the drawings into a recognizable caricature of Chappelle, since this cartoon isn’t just about Chappelle. I just look at some photos of Chappelle and did the drawings, and figured however they came out is how they’re meant to be.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t work the drawings – but I worked, not on creating a resemblance to Chappelle, but on things like expressions and body language and finding ways for four drawings of a guy just standing there to not all be the same.

Incidentally, for me to get this cartoon done only six days after the premiere isn’t exactly a record for me – but it is much, much faster than I usually work. I sometimes suspect I’m the world’s slowest political cartoonist. (But I get there eventually!)


This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows a good-looking black man with a shaved head – let’s call him, oh I’m just picking a name at random here, “Dave.”  Dave is wearing a gray leather suit-style jacket buttoned over an off-white tee shirt. He speaks directly to the reader.


Dave speaks to the reader, but with his face turned a little bit to one side. His expression is interested but also a little weary.

DAVE: I had a friend who’s a transgender lady. But she wasn’t like those other transgenders.


Dave now grins, speaking more directly to us, and holding out a hand palm-up in a friendly fashion, like he’s speaking with his hands while telling a story.

DAVE: When I joked about trans women’s bodies and p******s and called them “dudes” and said “yuck,” she just laughed long and hard.


Now Dave looks annoyed, looking down a bit, as he thinks of his critics.

DAVE: She didn’t criticize me or make a fuss about “pronouns” or use made-up words like “TERF” like other transgenders do.


Dave is looking at us again, smiling, arms spread wide.

DAVE: She was a good one.

DAVE: In conclusion, I had a transgender friend, so nothing I say can ever be transphobic. Take that, transgenders!

This cartoon on Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 6 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Keep Yer Damned Mask On Edition

  1. The naming of dogs – language: a feminist guide
    The names we choose for children, and for dogs, are gendered – but in opposite ways. (Thanks to Mandolin for the link.)
  2. Instacart Shoppers Will Stage Nationwide Strike
    Instacart shoppers are asking customers to delete the instacart app entirely (#DeleteInstacart). I’m looking into Dumpling as a possible more ethical alternative.
  3. The Limitations of FIRE’s Database | Just Visiting
    FIRE’s exclusions tend to give a pass to right-wing attacks on academic speech. “The database also does not include incidents such as Boise State University suspending dozens of sections of a diversity and equity course over a report of bias against a white student that it turns out did not happen. It does not include mention of the recent vote by the University of Nebraska regents on a resolution to ban the teaching of critical race theory.”
  4. If You Think Progressives Won’t Compromise with Centrists, You Have It Backwards
    Written by uber-centrist Jonathan Chait.
  5. The Actual Human Stakes of the Reconciliation Bill Are Being Ignored in Favor of “Left vs Moderate’ Horse Race Coverage – by Adam Johnson – The Column
  6. Urban sprawl costs the American economy more than $1 trillion annually. Smart growth policies may be the answer. | USAPP
  7. Review: Dave Chappelle’s ‘The Closer’ Netflix Comedy Review
    “It’s too on the nose that in this analogy a person only joins one group at a time. These intersections are blind spots for Dave. He speaks about Black and queer struggles as if they are strictly in competition, not always entangled.”
  8. Victory for WMU Student Athletes with Religious Objections to Vaccination –
    But it seems to me, reading the ruling, that all the university has to do is stop offering religious exemptions, and the reasons for ruling for the students will evaporate.
  9. A Tale of Two Resignations | Daily Nous
    “Two philosophy professors recently announced their resignations from their respective universities. Both say that their administrations failed to adequately defend their freedoms and protect them from harassment and threats. But there are some differences between the stories that affect what might be learned from them.”
  10. COVID-19 Killed My Husband in Jail. So Did Democrats’ Indifference ❧ Current Affairs
  11. Four Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn’t Exist. Almost Nothing Happened to the Adults in Charge. — ProPublica
    This story is simply infuriating. “They would eventually estimate that kids had been wrongly arrested 500 times. And that was just for kids arrested by the sheriff’s office. This estimate didn’t account for other law enforcement agencies in the county… As for how many times the juvenile detention center had improperly locked up kids through its “filter system,” the lawyers estimated that number at 1,500.”
  12. Sesame Street Is Part of the Prison Industrial Complex Now
    Sesame Street has formed a partnership with a really scummy profiting-from-prisons corporation to make videos for kids of prisoners. The making videos part is fine, but…
  13. Murders spiked in 2020. More police is not the solution.
    “Even if more police reduce crime, given its various collateral costs—and benefits!—is policing the best place to spend another dollar? One study suggests that a dollar spent on policing reduces crime by ~$1.60—which may seem effective, until we note that a different study indicated that a dollar spent on drug treatment reduced the social costs of just crime by ~$4—on top of the health benefits of treatment…”
  14. Photos accompanying this link farm are by Pascal Riben and Deleece Cook.

Posted in Link farms | 4 Comments  

Cartoon: These Kids Today Have Always Sucked

If you like these cartoons, help us make more by supporting my Patreon! Small donations from lots of donors are what makes it possible for me to keep doing these cartoons, and keep paying Becky for her work.

This cartoon is another collaboration with Becky Hawkins, doing the variety of costumes and environments that she excels at. Here’s a screenshot of what’s in Becky’s folder for this cartoon, just to show you all the research images she used.

Older generations believing that the new generation is uniquely lazy or squalid or worthless seems to be a human universal. When I thought of this cartoon and started doing the research, I was worried about if I’d find enough quotes; instead I found more quotes than I could use.  Which is definitely where you want to be with a strip like this one. So I mainly chose the quotes for having some element that amused me – complaining about nick-names, or using the word “fribbles.”

It took me a long time to decide if this cartoon should start with the present and move backwards, ending with the caveman, or if it should move forwards and end with the present day. Either way could have been a good cartoon. But then I remembered that Becky and I had done a caveman punchline fairly recently, in “Feminism Used To Be Good,” so it would be better to avoid repeating that here.

I had to radically shorten most of the quotes to fit into this format. Aristotle’s quote, for example, is actually “Young people are high-minded because they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of circumstances. They think they know everything and are always quite sure about it.”

The caveman is named “Thag” as a reference to the great “Thagomizer” Far Side cartoon.

Who knew nick-names were once considered offensive?

“Fribbles” is definitely my favorite new-to-me insult word of 2021, so thank you, anonymous letter-writer to Town and Country Magazine in 1771.

I hope Dr. Jean Twenge won’t be too cheesed off if she ever sees this cartoon. The quote is my attempt to thumbnail an amazing 4399-word rant about millennials Dr Twenge had published in Time Magazine, which includes every imaginable cliché in the “these young people today” genre. (To her credit, Dr. Twenge was self-aware enough to begin the article by saying “I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow.”)


This cartoon has nine panels, arranged in a three-by-three grid. The central panel (panel 5) has no image other than large, friendly, 3-D styled lettering saying “THESE KIDS TODAY HAVE ALWAYS SUCKED.”

Other than panel five, each panel features a single figure speaking, with a caption at the bottom of the panel identifying who they are.


A cartoon caveman sits alone in a cave by a campfire, angrily ranting.

CAVEMAN: Hrrr hrrr. Urg! Grumble grrr huuuh grunt!

CAPTION: Thag, 20,000 BC


A bearded man in ancient Greek dress holds a scroll and rolls his eyes as he speaks to the readers with an irritated expression.

ARISTOTLE: Young people think they know everything! And they’re soooo sure about it!

CAPTION: Aristotle, 4th Century BC


A monk, wearing robes in the style of the Muromachi period of Japanese history, sits in front of a low table, where he’s writing on a scroll. He has paused in his writing to look at the reader.

YOSHIDA KENKO: Modern “fashions” are more and more debased! And their language nowadays is so coarse!

CAPTION: Yoshida Kenko, 1330


A sour-looking man wearing a long wig of white curls looks directly at the reader, raising a forefinger in an admonishing way.

ROBERT RUSSELL: The towns and streets today are filled with lewd wicked children! They curse and swear and call one another nick-names!

CAPTION: Sir Robert Russell, 1695


This panel has nothing in it but the title lettering. In large, friendly, 3d styled lettering, it says THESE KIDS TODAY HAVE ALWAYS SUCKED.


A man in an upper-class 1700s suit sits at a writing-desk, leaning back with his feet on the desk. In one hand he’s holding a quill pen, in the other a bottle of some alcoholic liquid. It’s dark, and a candle on the desk is providing light.

MAN: Whither has the manly vigour of our forefathers flown? Youth today are effeminate, self-admiring, emaciated fribbles!

CAPTION: Town and Country Magazine, 1771


A man with thick gray eyebrows stands in a hilly field; we can see a village in the distance behind him, and sheep in the field. One of the sheep is standing next to him, placidly eating a plant. The man is wearing a brown Irish flat cap and carrying a walking stick, which he is shaking at the reader.

FALKIRK HERALD: Young people are so pampered nowadays that they have forgotten there was such a thing as walking!

CAPTION: Falkirk Herald, 1951


A professionally-dressed woman, with long wavy hair and a blue suit, is sitting behind a table with books displayed on it (one of the books is entitled “Kids 2day” and has a frowny face on the cover; her other book’s cover has a picture an iphone with devil horns and a smiley face). A TV camera is pointed at her, and a microphone is pointed at her. She smiles as she speaks to the camera.

JEAN TWENGE: Millennials got participation trophies growing up! So now they’re fame-obsessed, narcissistic, stunted and lazy.

CAPTION: Dr. Jean Twenge, 2013.


A smartly-dressed woman with spiky white hair sits at the counter of a coffee shop, thumb-typing on her smartphone. She’s got big teardrop earrings and a necklace with a large stone with a spiral pattern. A word balloon points at her smartphone, showing us what she’s typing.

AUNT: And don’t even get me started on Gen Z!

CAPTION: Probably your aunt or something, just last week.

This cartoon on Patreon.

Posted in Cartooning & comics | 20 Comments  

Haiku Roundup for September 2021

The cats cuddle close
wanting the warmth of my skin
offering their fur.

No leaves sprouting yet,
but the warmer, longer light
promises they’ll come.

Crowded coffee shops
overheated in the
rain  of broken voices.

Sunset mid-evening
lights over the pier are twinned
in water, dawning.

Reasonable dawn
glows white outside my window,
strange swaddled morning.

sunset mid-evening
lights over the pier are twinned
in water, dawning

Brightly overcast
where the sky, this morning, wept,
like all seasons here.

A note about Haiku: A while back, I decided to write one (or more) haiku a day about my life. These are semi-traditional haiku: I used seasonal imagery to explore my transient experiences, but I didn’t follow any other content rules. I also used English syllables instead of Japanese morae.


Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment  

Check Out “Wake Up, I Miss You” in Apex

Wake Up, I Miss You - Woman at Window Image

Terra stands alone in the middle of the room, staring at nothing. She moves sometimes like someone dreaming, but never reacts.

My poor sister, locked in her own world.

Read more.

Poppy’s sister, Terra, is lost in a dream world. All Poppy can do is visit the hospital and watch.

When a strange man grabs Poppy’s hand, he warns her that something is coming for Terra in her dreams. He urges her to find a way to wake Terra quickly before it gets them both.

Apex Mag Issue 125 CoverHow can Poppy succeed where medicine has failed, and resolve the dream mystery keeping her and her sister apart?

Wake Up, I Miss You” is now live in Apex Magazine! Surreal, weird–maybe even a little funny. Plus, tons of references to Les Miserables and The Babysitter’s Club. Happy to be back in Apex’s TOC after too many years.


| Leave a comment  

Off to MileHiCon!

Headed to MileHiCon in Denver as a Guest of Honor this Friday!

MileHiCon 53 IconHere’s a reminder of my schedule:
  • 6 pm — Opening Ceremonies 
  • 12 pm — Gender Beyond the Binary Panel, a panel
  • 1 pm — An Hour with Rachel Swirsky
  • 4 pm — Art as Resistance, a panel
  • 5 pm — Starfish Out of Water, a panel about alien biology

I hope to see some of you there!

Posted in convention, Events, Guest of Honor, MileHiCon | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: An Enduring Plan

If you enjoy these cartoons, help me make more by supporting my Patreon! I make a living from lots of people supporting me with small amounts, and that thought makes me happy.

I don’t think there’s an issue in the U.S. more crucial than voting rights. Because addressing the other big issues is contingent on protecting voting rights.

For example, making progress with climate change mitigation – as hard as that is with Democrats – will become much harder, if not impossible, if the Republicans succeed in making a permanent minority government.

With the new Supreme Court and ever more extreme levels of gerrymandering, Republican success is seeming inevitable. The only way I can maintain any optimism, when thinking about voting rights, is to remember things like the Berlin Wall falling, or (ugh) Donald Trump’s election. That is, I have to remember that things that seemed impossibly unlikely sometimes happen. We don’t really know what’s in the future, and even the smartest among us (let alone someone of decidedly more ordinary intelligence like myself) has been wrong. Sometimes that’s a good thing.

This one was really interesting to draw. Period clothing is always a fun challenge.

But by far the biggest challenge in drawing this has to do with a change in software. For many years, I’ve been drawing my cartoons in Photoshop. But I’ve begun teaching myself a different program called Clip Studio Paint. Photoshop has some excellent drawing tools, but it was created for processing photos. Clip Studio Paint was created for drawing comics, and it has tools that Photoshop lacks.

One such tool is the perspective ruler. With this tool – this explanation may not make sense if you don’t know anything about drawing perspective, sorry – I can tell the program where I want to set the vanishing point(s) and horizon line. Then I can draw freehand – but as I’m drawing, the program forces all my freehand lines into perfect alignment with the vanishing points.

The backgrounds here were improvised by me in Clip Studio Pro. It took me a long time – partly because I was teaching myself the tool as I drew – but it was also so much fun. It doesn’t make me great at drawing backgrounds – but it drawing backgrounds at my own skill level much easier and more fluid.

The Victorian street is drawn in one-point perspective (meaning there’s just a single vanishing point, which all the perspective lines point to), and the office is in two-point perspective (meaning that there are two vanishing points, one to the left and one to the right). You can see that I skipped drawing one of the decorative panels on the desk front, since I knew that part of the desk would be blocked by the judge.

Speaking of the judge in panel four, he’s what I think of as a “semi-caricature.” Meaning that I had a particular person in mind while drawing the character, but it doesn’t matter to the cartoon if the caricature can be recognized by readers, and consequently I don’t spend any time “working” the caricature to make it resemble its source – however it comes out, is how it comes out.

In this case, the face I had in mind was John Roberts.

It’s hard to tell which is the real Justice Roberts and which is a drawing, right?  :-p


This cartoon has four panels. The first three panels are colored in sepia tones, to resemble old photographs. They show two white men, dressed in upper-class Victorian suits, chatting on the street. One man has huge sideburns and a bowler hat; the other has glasses, handlebar mustaches, and a shiny black top hat.


Bowler Hat has a huge grin as he lifts a hand, eagerly getting Top Hat’s attention. Top Hat cheerfully pays attention, leaning forward and steepling his fingers.  (The expression “I’m all ears,” by the way, goes back to the 1700s.)

BOWLER HAT: I’ve got a plan to stop negros from voting!

TOP HAT: Swell! I’m all ears!


A close-up of Bowler Hat as he explains, his grin huge, his hands waving in the air a bit.

BOWLER HAT: We’ll make up new laws for voting which we’ll pretend are “protecting the vote,” but actually will make it harder for negros to vote. Like “literacy tests” and “grandfather clauses.”


A longer shot of the two of them. Bowler Hat puts a hand on his chin and looks concerned, while Top Hat, also with a worried expression, speaks and shrugs.

TOP HAT: I have doubts… Perhaps this plan could work for a year or two. But could a plan so obviously dishonest last decades? Or even a century?


A change of scene – and of coloring. Instead of being colored like old photography, this panel has bright, modern colors. Two well-off looking middle-aged white men are in a nice office (rug on floor, large window with curtains open showing trees outside, framed photos on the wall, an American flag on a pole in one corner) talking cheerfully. One man, wearing a modern suit and tie, is holding out a red folder to the other man. The other man is wearing a judge’s black robes and giving a thumb’s up.

SENATOR: Our new laws are definitely about protecting the vote, and it’s just a wacky coincidence that they all make it harder for Black people to vote!

JUDGE: I believe you!

This cartoon on Patreon.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics, Race, racism and related issues | Leave a comment  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Kaleidoscopic Madness Unfolding Edition

  1. Bell v Tavistock quashed on appeal – Gendered Intelligence Blog
    Some extremely good news from the UK.
  2. The EU is Praised for Vaccine “Donations.” Behind Closed Doors, It Quietly Blocks Poor Countries’ Efforts to Increase Vaccine Manufacturing. – by Sarah Lazare – The Column
    “’Global vaccine apartheid’ isn’t some theoretical future danger. It is the most accurate way to describe a situation where the U.S. is debating booster shots while only 3.27% of the entire continent of Africa has been fully vaccinated.”
  3. COVID and the moral panic over obesity – Lawyers, Guns & Money
    As is usually the case, the actual numbers are much more nuanced, and show that the large majority of fat people have – well, not nothing to worry about, Covid is still frightening, but no more to worry about than non-fat people.
  4. On Voting Rights, There Are No Moderates in the GOP – Democracy Docket
    I’m so much more appalled by the GOP’s anti-voting-rights stance, then by their many other horrific stances, because it’s so foundational. Without democracy, it’s hard to see how ANY issue can advance without violence.
  5. What if the US didn’t go to war in Afghanistan after 9/11? – Responsible Statecraft
  6. Whitest paint in world created at Purdue, may help curb global warming
    “The paint reflects 98.1% of solar radiation while also emitting infrared heat. Because the paint absorbs less heat from the sun than it emits, a surface coated with this paint is cooled below the surrounding temperature without consuming power.”
  7. The evidence for violence interrupters doesn’t support the hype – Vox
  8. Eyebombing Bulgaria (7 photos) | STREET ART UTOPIA
    An artist and a group of schoolkids look for shapes that can be improved with eyes.
  9. The heritability fallacy
    “Contrary to popular belief, the measurable heritability of a trait does not tell us how ‘genetically inheritable’ that trait is. Further, it does not inform us about what causes a trait, the relative influence of genes in the development of a trait, or the relative influence of the environment in the development of a trait.”
  10. One Woman’s Mission to Rewrite Nazi History on Wikipedia | WIRED
    “When she goes to the cited page, she finds a paragraph that appears to confirm all the Wikipedia article’s wild claims. But then she reads the first sentence of the next paragraph: “This is, of course, nonsense.””
  11. The Roberts Court Has Normalized Racism in America | Balls and Strikes“As Roberts and his colleagues have normalized this insidious racism, too many Democrats have remained deferential to the Court, fearful of “politicizing” an institution that, in reality, has always been political, and has led the charge in right-wing, partisan warfare. We can’t delude ourselves any longer.”
  12. A Pennsylvania community is divided over anti-racism book ban at school board meeting; – CNN
    “The fact that all the banned materials are by or about people of color is just a coincidence, according to Jane Johnson, the school board president.” Gosh, what a surprising coincidence that is.
  13. Texas GOP sees Haitian migrant border crisis as a political opportunity – But it’s actually a humanitarian disaster exacerbated by Biden.
    The racist fear-mongering by the GOP is unsurprising. Biden’s continuation of Trump’s cruel policies is just as disgusting, though.
  14. A Modern Feminist Classic Changed My Life. Was It Actually Garbage? Rereading Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth 30 years later.
  15. US officials to probe whip-like cords used against migrants | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera
  16. Opinion | It’s All or Nothing for These Democrats, Even if That Means Biden Fails – The New York Times. And an alternate link.
    “What is true of both explanations is that they show the extent to which moderate Democrats have made a fetish of bipartisan displays and anti-partisan feeling. And in doing so, they reveal that they are most assuredly not the adults in the room of American politics.”
  17. The art accompanying this link farm comes from Jack Kirby’s comics adaptation of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Posted in Link farms | 31 Comments  

I’ll be at MileHiCon as a Guest of Honor!

I’m a Guest of Honor at MileHiCon in Denver in two weeks–the weekend of October 1. I’ve got a packed three-day schedule with lots of interesting panels.

  • 6 pm — Opening Ceremonies

  • 12 pm — Gender Beyond the Binary Panel, a panel
  • 1 pm — An Hour with Rachel Swirsky
  • 4 pm — Art as Resistance, a panel
  • 5 pm — Starfish Out of Water, a panel about alien biology
It’s exciting–and a bit intimidating!–to be going to a convention in person again. (Don’t worry, I’ve got a mask, my shots, and doctor approval.) It’s kind of hard to believe there’s even still a world outside Portland. Well, really, it’s kind of hard to believe there’s even still a world outside of like a couple miles from my house!

Is anyone going? Any experiences from MileHiCon to share? Any thoughts on what I should make sure to cover on my panels? I’d love to hear it all.

milehicon53 banner, rocketship in left corner, october 1-2-3 2021 and additional information in right corner
Posted in convention, Events, Guest of Honor, MileHiCon | Leave a comment