Eva Creek: Creation of My First Graphic Novel

On June 1, 2020, I began work on an online graphic novel development course offered by the Sequential Artists Workshop, or SAW. Our instructors, Tom Hart and Emma Jensen, have put together a fabulous course full of resources, and have established an online community through the Mighty Networks platform.

My graphic novel is entitled Eva Creek. The plot started out as a road trip featuring two elderly lesbians (and their cat and dog) who, exhausted by city life, set off on a road trip to Alaska. But after viewing the resources provided by the SAW class, conversations among my classmates about their own work, and completing the initial assignments, the plot has morphed considerably. Now, (writing on June 27), the plot centers around five women who meet each other while on the road to Alaska. While on the road, each recounts their experiences with institutionalized sexism and the trauma caused by patriarchal social structures. Around the campfire one evening, our five protagonists determine they need to do something about patriarchy, like toppling it. Once in Alaska, they discover an old, abandoned mining camp in the historic village of Eva Creek, Alaska. There, they found a free, feminist school for girls and, in the process, transform the local community around them.

In this space, I plan to share my journey of creating my first graphic novel. The course lasts for six months, through the end of November, 2020. I welcome you to ride along with me.

And yes, there will be plenty of sociological fiddling!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gag Cartooning

At the height of the COVID-19 crisis of Spring 2020, I signed up to take an online gag cartooning class with Emily Flake, who creates for The New Yorker. Gag cartoons are single panel cartoons. The class was through the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW), a grassroots organization that, until COVID, offered the majority of its courses in face-to-face classes in Gainesville, Florida. But with the nation-wide stay-at-home orders, SAW instructors saw the opportunity to expand its classes to online.

Here are some of the cartoons that I created. These came from prompts given by the instructor, e.g. cave painting, cat and mouse, God, and asking for directions. We were to twist the original meaning of each word or phrase. These were great fun to do. Two of them are Alaska specific; folks who do not live in Alaska, or are otherwise unfamiliar with our fish and other wildlife, may not get the gag, so I will provide hints.

Occasionally, male supremacists drop by my site to leave nasty comments. I hope this cartoon pisses them off.
The prompt was to re-purpose the classic cat and mouse relationship.
A sheefish is a type of fish found in Alaska waters.
Arctic caribou migrate across vast distances in northern Alaska and Canada. They do not, however, migrate to Southern California. This cartoon was created after we learned design, e.g. with objects in the drawing pointing to the main action. Hence the hair, shadows, smoke, eyes, and surfboards all point to the unfortunate Hal.
The prompt was to recast an angel. My fat angel is sweet and pretty, and she refuses to feel body shame.
Since COVID-19 locked down my workplace, I feel like I have been trapped inside Zoom meetings. The person in the fourth quadrant has found a way to escape.
Several of my classmates drew COVID-related cartoons. Four of us got together and submitted our work to the Penn State University Press for their COVID cartoon anthology. This is one of the ones that I submitted.
This cartoon originated last year when I took a cartooning class with Jamie Smith. I did a whole series of cartoons for his class about cowboys’ obsession with black coffee. I revamped it for Emily’s gag cartooning class after learning some new skills.
Many of these are true stories. Barking dogs, cat tails blocking our view, and questions about whether or not participants are wearing pants.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Dunleavy Disaster of 2019: Editorial Cartoons

was it good for you tooEarly in 2019, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy unleashed his budget disaster on our state. In February, he announced a 41% cut in state funds to the University of Alaska, for a total of $136M in cuts. The cuts would have decimated the University, requiring us to lay off 31% of faculty and staff, close campuses, sell off assets, shutter many student services, terminate the academic bureaucracies at the three universities. and consolidate as many functions and programs as possible. But the university was not Dunleavy’s only target. Also included was a massive cut to schools, dramatic increases to the rates elders pay to live at state Pioneer Homes, elimination of the Marine Highway, cuts to social services, cuts to Medicaid, cuts to dental care for poor people, and seizure of local municipal property taxes on oil lands. Although the Alaska State Legislature later passed a reasonable budget that restored the majority of the cuts, Dunleavy used his constitutional authority to line item veto nearly every one. The legislature tried to override the vetoes, but was unsuccessful.

The mastermind behind the budget cuts and the austerity budget was Donna Arduin, a Republican budget hawk who has assisted many other right-wing governors to cut state budgets. Google her. You will certainly cringe.

Hurricane DonnaBut meanwhile, over the summer, as the budget drama unfolded and as the majority of university workers, students, and the general public agonized over the state’s future, I took a cartooning class from Jamie Smith . The class met four nights a week for three hours each. Class meetings were a blessing for me. For three hours at a time, I could forget that my university was imploding, that people were worrying themselves to death, that my colleagues and students were leaving in droves. And then, about the middle of class, Jamie introduced us to the art of the editorial cartoon. And so I learned how to draw cartoons better, to have more action, to have stronger and more pointed ideas.

Jamie also taught us how to do French cut mini comix. These are eight cartoons on a regular sheet of paper, folded and cut to be a little booklet. I found mini comix to be a wonderful tool for analysis.more adventures of bobblehead dunleavyAbout mid-summer, a group of Alaskan started work on a recall campaign. Over the rest of the summer, the campaign really took off, with nearly 50,000 Alaskan registered voters signing the petition to apply for a recall. The group obtained 10,000–nearly half of the required number–in the first week or two. Dunleavy started to soften his blows on the state shortly thereafter. For example, he made a deal with the University of Alaska Board of Regents to cut only $70M, and to cut that over a three year period. The recall campaign was working.

bobblehead dunleavy strip for FB
Then Dunleavy suddenly fired his chief of staff, quickly followed by terminating Donna Arduin. Or, rather, reassigning her to a lesser paid position out of the way. Even though Dunleavy insists that the recall campaign did not affect his decisions, clearly it did. Power to the People, ya’ll.

Bobblehead Dunleavy--the Goodbye Donna Edition




Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

PFD Fury

pfd--national guard with duct tapeThe alt-right thrives in certain parts of Alaska, specifically in the Mat-Su Valley region just north of Anchorage. And lately, the alt-right posts on Alaska social media have gotten downright scary. Mat-Su is a Trump stronghold, and has also emerged as a stronghold for ultra-conservatives who make up Alaska’s alt-right. Results from the precincts in the 2016 president election document that between 75% and 86% of Mat-Su voters voted for Trump. Alaska’s Governor Mike Dunleavy, an ultra-conservative Republican, won 80% to 90% of the vote in 2018.

As documented by journalist and blogger Dermot Cole <https://www.dermotcole.com/>, as a candidate, Dunleavy ran on a platform of a balanced budget and no cuts to state services or institution. But once in office, Dunleavy submitted a budget that decimated nearly every state agency, institution, and service. For example, the University of Alaska, where I am employed, would see a 41% cut to its state funding. Adding salt to the wounds, the governor has insisted that the state pay Alaskans a “full” PFD this year–$3000—instead of funding state services. This would shift the costs of services to municipalities, boroughs, and to individuals, and would result in mass layoffs, closures, and the elimination of programs, offices, and services.

The pushback against the Dunleavy budget has been fierce, with rallies and protests, upstart advocacy organizations, and plenty of blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts. The Alaska legislature ended its regular session without a finalized budget. In its first special session, the Alaska legislature undid the vast majority of the Dunleavy austerity budget and then gaveled out before passing a bill that set the amount of the October 2019 PFD. Governor Dunleavy immediately utilized his constitutional powers to issue a proclamation for a second special session, and in an unprecedented move, proclaimed that the legislature would meet in Wasilla Middle School, in Wasilla, instead of at the capitol building in Juneau. He set the only agenda item as passing the $3000 PFD.

pfd--support arrestThe alt-right in the Mat-Su area, and apparently in other hot-red precincts in Alaska, reacted with glee to the idea that the legislators would be meeting in their home town. There are several extremist pro-PFD Facebook sites, and their members quickly got busy to agitate the masses. And this is where social media about the topic got particularly scary.

In the first week after the legislature gaveled out after passing the operating budget, one of the more extremist pro-PFD Facebook sites urged Alaskans to “go general [sic] Sherman” on Alaskans who support the compromise budget instead of a “full” PFD. Sherman, of course, is the famous civil war general whose scorched earth tactics brought the South to its knees. Suggestions included harassing individual Alaskans who voted for legislators who voted for the compromise budget, including picketing individual businesses whose owners voted for them. Calls went out for the home addresses of legislators so that “the people” could protest in front of their homes. On the extremist pro-PFD sites, there is commonly talk of armed rebellion, tar & feathering legislators, and hanging politicians who voted in favor of the compromise budget. Ultra conservative Representative David Eastman and Governor Dunleavy, both from Wasilla, are hailed as modern day heroes. Moderates, liberals, and other Alaskans and Alaskan legislators are mocked and subjected to angry, invective filled rants and veiled and not-so-veiled threats of violence.

pfd--rogues in handcuffsA poster on the FB group, Alaskans Against the PFD Theft, initiated a “call to arms” the following week, using militia language. He wants 300,000 Alaskans to storm the capitol, to physically seize the legislators, and to arrest and to imprison them. Other posts call for legislators to be hanged, to rot in hell, to be tortured in hell, and to be locked up as criminals, crooks, liars, and thieves. Tarring & feathering continues as a common theme. State Senator von Imhof, who suggested that the majority of Alaskans are not as obsessed with the PFD as the legislature is, has repeatedly been called the c-word and the b-word. There are active recall petitions for Imhof, Senate President Geissel, and others who voted for the compromise budget. On another post, a participant urged people to physically surround individual legislators and to shout at them to let them know that the people are “angry.” A suggestion was floated to drench Juneau in oil and to set it, and its people, afire. That post even has its own hashtag, which I will not cite here because I do not want it to get hits.

This past week, the state legislature defied the governor’s proclamation that they meet in Wasilla, and instead announced that they would hold floor sessions in the capitol, their regular meeting space, and schedule committee meetings in Anchorage at the Legislative Information Office (LIO). The following day, the state attorney general issued a statement that he says authorizes the governor to send Alaska State Troopers out to round up the legislators who do not report to Wasilla as ordered. The alt-right rhetoric about the legislators increased dramatically on Alaska social media as a result. One fellow, for example, fantasized about the governor sending the Alaska National Guard to rappel down the outside of the Capitol Building, to storm the legislative meeting, to arrest the wayward legislators, to bind them with duct tape, to corral them in Blackhawk helicopters, and to carry them to Wasilla Middle School. Other posters call for all of the legislators to be imprisoned in a local correctional center and not to be released until they had funded the “full” PFD. Yet another poster suggested a mass camp-out at the Wasilla Middle School parking lot so that the legislators could be harassed upon entering and leaving legislative sessions.

Many of the persons I have talked with about the alt-right rhetoric on Alaska social media scoff at my concerns, stating that the threats are being made by keyboard warriors. However, several of the last incidents of American domestic terrorism were conducted by alt-right keyboard warriors who then acted on their terroristic threats. Additionally, the very fact that the rhetoric exists should be a cause of great concern. The rhetoric is anti-elite, anti-government, anti-intellectual. The true believers agree with the governor’s budget that decimates the state university system, defunds the public school system, shuts down the Marine Highway, shutters many of the health and social services, raises the rates on elderly persons living in the state retirement homes, and seizes borough property taxes on oil lands to put into state coffers. Perhaps most frighteningly, the calls for the governor to seize, to arrest, and to imprison his political opponents pass over the border into full-fledged fascism.

We are living in dangerous times, my friends.


How Alaskans voted in 2016 president election https://www.adn.com/politics/2016/11/19/interactive-map-precinct-by-precinct-presidential-results-show-a-deeply-divided-alaska/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The meeting

manterruption 2.0The long-awaited, but hastily scheduled meeting started ten minutes late. Tensions were high, and hostility quickly escalated as a New Idea was tentatively floated. One or two of my male colleagues have quick tempers and tend to interrupt women, even when women ask them not to. Later, after the meeting, another male colleague came to my office to tell me that he admired me for being feisty. I accepted his compliment, even though the word, “feisty,” is fraught with meanings. Oxford’s online dictionary definition for example: “Adjective of a person, typically one who is relatively small, lively, determined, and courageous.” It is a crying shame that women have to be “courageous” to advocate for their ideas, or that we have to be “determined” to stop men from interrupting us. Plum Kettle (heroine of “Dietland,”) is right. Patriarchy sucks.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“There will be enough women on the Supreme Court when there are nine.”

Earlier this week, I saw the new film, “RBG” at a favorite local theatre. RBG, of course, is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. The film documents her life’s work as a super smart feminist who strategically uses the legal process to dismantle gender discrimination. One of my favorite scenes in the film is a replay of remarks she made in 2017 at Roosevelt University: “There will be enough women on the Supreme Court when there are nine.”

And so, another cartoon was born.US Supreme Court 2022

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Compassion Fatigue and Insurance Adjusters

crawlspace 01

Fuel oil spilling into the crawlspace made eerily shifting shapes that looked like monsters.

Social scientists have been studying compassion fatigue since at least the 1980s. The term refers to the psychological state of feeling numb or uncaring as a result of an overload of caring. Workers who commonly experience compassion fatigue include social workers, nurses, teachers, child and adult protection workers, hospital chaplains, and veterinarians. You can probably think of many other jobs that would make workers’ sense of compassion fade away over time. Maybe you have even had that kind of job yourself. For example, I worked for a law firm that specialized in bankruptcies. At first, I loved the job, and I really liked my co-workers. But having to cope with the tragedy of bankruptcy week after week, month after month, proved too much for me. The problem was not that I stopped caring, or that I had compassion fatigue to the point where I became numb and uncaring; the problem was that I couldn’t stop caring. Every week, a grown man would sob in my office. Every day a person would call and beg for relief from creditor harassment, e.g. constantly being called at work and late at night. People who had loans for mobile homes and who had defaulted would come home from work to find their clothes and the kids’ toys thrown out on the lawn, and their home gone. The suffering was too much for me to bear, and so after two and a half years, I called it quits, moved to Iowa, and went back to college.

My experience makes me wonder if social scientists might need to tweak the term a bit. Feeling fatigued and exhausted because of constant compassion is different from being at a point where the compassion valve is simply turned off. I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

There was a heating oil spill at our home in April, 2018. A chunk of ice fell off the roof and severed the line to the fuel oil tank, which sits just outside of the house. About 160 gallons of fuel oil sprayed onto the cabin logs and flowed into the crawlspace beneath the house. My spouse and I were/are devastated. We had to move out of the house, and we are living in marginal circumstances in a rental cabin that is dangerous for our blind dog, and which has steps that are so steep that I cannot use them to do laundry, medicate the cat (he lives mostly downstairs), or clean the cat litter. I have spent hours and hours on the phone and meeting in person with the insurance company, mortgage lender, attorney, tax accountant, oil spill responders, dirt contractors, and construction companies. Everyone has been super sympathetic and kind. Everyone, that is, but the insurance adjuster.

You know those insurance ads on TV where a smiling insurance adjuster calms an upset client? For example, Flo (Progressive), driving in a rainstorm to reassure her client who has just had an accident. Not our adjuster.

At first I thought he was just a jerk. A patronizing mansplainer with bad customer service skills. He’s aggressive and rude. He constantly interrupts me when I am talking. He told me that the insurance company will not cover the mitigation costs outside of the footprint of the house. The state of Alaska requires that clean up, and the best bid I’ve gotten so far is $78,000. When I told the adjuster that we could not afford to pay this, and that the state would require the cleanup, he told me I should get a loan from the bank to cover the cost. When I told him that the credit union refused to lend money because the property was contaminated (remember the oil spill, the reason I am on the phone with you, I asked?), he just directed me to the exception clause in the insurance policy.

Just a jerk, right? Just an uncaring guy who has no concept of how much our home means to us. Clueless about how to talk with a woman who has had to abandon her home. A mean man with bad customer service skills. But then, I realized something. He takes calls all day long from people like me: people whose lives are turned upside down by loss. Fires that destroyed their homes and killed their cats. Trees that toppled into houses and smashed them to bits. Floods that saturated homes and ruined treasured family mementos. And fuel oil spills.

In our second call, the adjuster told me that he had been doing this for twelve years. He knew what he was doing, he said. He had experience with just this type of claim. Now I am beginning to understand that he may not be a jerk after all. He may just be exhausted by having to deal with upset customers like me, and so he has figured out a way to cope.

Earlier this week, another contractor came out to the land to work out a bid. He is a friend, a former student of mine, a super nice guy. He said something innocuous to me, I don’t really recall what he said, but I just burst into tears. That tiny bit of kindness was just overwhelming for me. So now I am beginning to understand that perhaps the insurance adjuster strategically deploys a non-compassionate style to avoid customers’ expression of grief and upset. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism for him, a way of avoiding burnout. Perhaps he has just turned his compassion valve off.

Or, he could just be a mansplaining jerk.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments


manterruptionThere is plenty of scholarly and anecdotal evidence that men chronically interrupt women. They interrupt women at home, at work, and at social events. When women protest being interrupted, they are accused of being bossy, bitchy, and emotional. In the small group setting, such as meetings, the more men are present, the more likely it is that the women in the group will be interrupted.

I have experienced this first hand, and I have studied the phenomenon. In the 1980s, while I was a student at University of North Carolina Greensboro, I was super lucky to be awarded an undergraduate research assistantship to work with sociologist Dr. David Pratto (1938-2002). Dr. Pratto had access to videotapes of thousands of hours of small group diagnostic meetings of medical students. As part of our study, I chose a stratified random sample of the recordings, and watched them, coding for any recognizable patterns. At the time, we did not know what we were looking for, so we went mining for data. Almost immediately, I recognized a few things. First, there were relatively few women in the groups. Back in those days, only a few women went to medical school. Second, the men in the groups talked more than the women. And third, the men frequently interrupted women and talked over them. The men often scoffed at women’s ideas and were openly scornful.

I noted these phenomenon to Dr. Pratto, and he was intrigued. So were the other (nearly all male) sociologists in the department. My next task was to read the existing literature on gender in small group discussions. There was not much to find in the early 1980s, but Deborah Tannen’s work stood out. Tannen is a linguist who identified the interruption patterns, and has since branched out to study other gendered aspects of oral communication.

Fast forward to 2018 and the phenomenon now has a popular name: manterruption, defined as a social phenomenon present in small group conversations (including dyads) when men chronically and intrusively interrupt women when they are speaking. Fast forward to today, and the phenomenon is written about in social media, scholarly work, and news papers. And fast forward to now, and women can affirm that manterruption continues to negatively affect them in meetings, social conversations, and at home.

Many of the meetings I attend as a faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are gender balanced. However, some meetings are skewed towards women, and some skewed towards men. In the past couple of weeks, I have been a participant in meetings where there were more men than women. When emotions run high–as they often do in meetings tied to budget cuts, program discontinuations, fiscal crisis–manterruption became a significant problem that spilled over into email conversations.

And so, a sociological cartoon was born.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments

White Male Fragility

white male privilegeRecently, there has been a lot of attention paid to white fragility, a term coined by Robin DiAngelo (2011) to explain how white people are triggered to hyper-react to even low levels of racial stress. DiAngelo notes that white people typically are protected from situations of racial difference, and usually have little opportunities for meaningful interaction within racially diverse social spaces. They hold racist views and racist assumptions, and generally do not recognize their beliefs as racist because they have been insulated. The protections for whites from uncomfortable racial situations renders white people incapable of tolerating racial stress, even when the racial stress level is quite low.  In short, when insulated white people are confronted with situations in which race is an issue, they become triggered and react defensively with anger, silence, or by walking out of the situation. Lopez (2017) analyzed the recent protests, riots, and violence in Charlottesville as an example of white fragility, noting that the pro-white marchers are angry and upset because their racial privilege is being challenged by the Black Lives Movement and other recent events.

Media images of the Charlottesville incidents demonstrate that the vast majority of the white nationalists are men, many of them quite young. So what happens to white fragility when race–whiteness–intersects with sex and gender?

One of the earliest masculinities studies scholar was R. W. Connell, now Raewyn Connell. Connell developed the concept of the patriarchal dividend, defined as the set of privileges and advantages that accrue to men over their lifetimes (Connell 1996). On average, and apparently throughout history, men as a social group are wealthier than women, have more social power, have higher status, and have more control over resources both material and human. Men rarely recognize the existence of the patriarchal dividend, understanding their situation as being “natural” and “just the way things are.” In other words, men who benefit from the patriarchal social system are generally not aware that they are accruing a lifetime of dividends. Like white people who are insulated from issues of race, men from dominant groups are often insulated from issues of sex and gender.

So if we take the two concepts–white fragility and the patriarchal dividend–we can create another concept: white male fragility. When white men who are privileged and advantaged by their race and sex status are called out by others on their racism and sexism, white male fragility causes them to hyper-react. The incident with police captains Carri Weber and Scott Arndt of the Plainfield, Indiana police department provides an apt illustration.

The incident took place in early November, 2017. The Plainfield police department held a training workshop on trans issues and violence. Members of the police were there, as were some local town and school district officials. As one of the trainers was describing the statistics about anti-trans violence, a white male police officer–Arndt–interrupted to challenge the trainer. He denied the relevance of the statistics that show that trans people are over three times as likely to be victims of violence than non-trans people. Weber, a white woman who is a prominent LGBT activist as well as a police officer, told him that the reason he did not realize the reality faced by trans people is because of his “white male privilege.” Within moments, Arndt was shouting at Weber, the trainers, and the head of the police department. The trainer and others urged him to calm down, but he continued to shout, then angrily marched to the front of the room to shout some more, and finally walked out of the room. Clearly, his behavior demonstrates that he was triggered by Weber’s pointing out that it was his white male privilege that obscured his understanding.

The next day, police captain Carri Weber was put on paid administrative leave and put under investigation. Arndt filed a discrimination complaint against Weber. Then today, December 7, Weber went before the ethics board for her city. She was reinstated to her job, but was reprimanded for speaking out. For his part, Arndt was suspended without pay for two days.

Is this justice? Was Arndt truly victimized by Weber’s remark that he could not see the reality of anti-trans violence because of his white male privilege? Was Weber out of line to point out white male privilege? Arndt claimed in his complaint that Weber discriminated against him because of his race and his sex. What do you think?

You can view the video of the incident here:



R. W. Connell/Raewyn Connell. 1996. “Politics of Changing Men.” Australian Humanities Reivew http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-Dec-1996/connell.html

Robin DiAngelo. 2011. “White Fragility.” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3): 54-70. https://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/viewFile/249/116

German Lopez. 2017. “The Charlottesville Protests Are White Fragility in Action.” Vox August 12, 2017. https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/8/12/16138558/charlottesville-va-white-fragility

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Wrong Thinkers Anonymous

After Charlottesville, I was one of the few people in my circle of acquaintances who refused calls to “punch Nazis.” I do not believe that meeting violence with violence will stop further violence. Instead, I try to understand why people are violent. Not by using individualist explanations, like mental illness, but by using sociological tools. One of sociology’s greatest gifts is the understanding that people are social creatures, and that our behavior, our ideas, our belief systems, our actions, our emotions, etc. are shaped by society. So I have tried to understand hate groups and ideologies of those groups and the movement(s) they spawn. Hating the individuals in the movements, and calling for violence against them, only makes them defensive and more dangerous. It was this realization that prompted the cartoon, Wrong Thinkers Anonymous in the days after Charlottesville.wrong_thinkers_anonymous

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment