The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for July, 2013

Digital Housekeeping

A couple items of note regarding my various online activity portals. First, I have finally finished making this site fully-functional! The “Order a Print” button actually enables you to order a print, and the illustration portfolio now contains more than just a few items for your perusal. I’ll be adding more content and features as time permits.

Secondly, I now have a new Twitter handle, @JenSorensen, thanks to a very kind Jen Sorensen in Colorado who gave me hers. Apparently she was getting a fair number of tweets about my cartoons. Back in the early days of Twitter, I came close to grabbing the handle myself, but decided not to because everyone misspells my name, and how important could this Twitter thing be, anyhow? Now I see the error of my ways, and consider myself lucky to not be named Zach Galifianakis (although I’d take his job).


The Right to Bear Bags

I happen to live in a city (Austin) that passed a bag ban, but not without pushback from the American Chemistry Council, the benignly-named lobbying arm of the nation’s chemical manufacturers. The group has a penchant for meddling in local efforts; it also successfully fought California’s attempt to list BPA as toxic.

Here in Austin, the transition went smoothly, and commerce continues as usual. Not that you’d know that from the bloviations of a Texas politician (R, natch) calling for a Shopping Bag Freedom Act. Speaking for myself, I have enough canvas tote bags for a year’s worth of groceries.

More on New York’s unsuccessful efforts to reduce plastic bag usage here.


Comic on Immigrant Activist Danilo Lopez

Danilo Lopez comic
I’ve been meaning to share a one-page comic I drew recently for Vermont’s Seven Days altweekly, which publishes a cool annual cartoon issue full of stories rendered in comic format. I teamed up with News Editor Andy Bromage to create this piece about a local activist for undocumented farm workers, Danilo Lopez, whom you could justifiably call the Cesar Chavez of Vermont.

Danilo was ordered to self-deport by July 6. Not long after the comic was published, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted him a “stay of removal” that postpones his deportation for at least another year. While I doubt that the comic affected the ICE’s decision, I’m right proud of it nonetheless.


Color Blind

Reference material for this cartoon: this ThinkProgress post detailing the “Top 12 Conservative Freakouts After Obama’s Race Speech.” The tweet in the first panel is real; the tweet in the second panel is taken verbatim from former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), substituting “MLK” for “President Obama.” The other two I made up, but frankly it’s hard to get more extreme than this marvel of vacuousness from Breitbart.com’s John Nolte:

“I like living in a country where a black president elected twice complains about racism.”

I read these comments before I got around to watching the actual video of Obama’s remarks. Far from being inflammatory, the speech was sober and circumspect. There’s simply no hope for anyone who found it “racist” — they are lost at sea. And anyone trying to twist this sad story around to make Trayvon the aggressor: really? I guess only certain people are allowed to stand their ground when they feel threatened.


RFK Journalism Award

I’m incredibly honored to announce that I’ve won a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for political cartooning. Known informally as “the poor people’s Pulitzer,” this award is especially thrilling because you learn of it through a phone call from Ethel Kennedy herself. I happened to be in a flooring store trying to find something to replace an ugly carpet in my house when the call came. Let’s just say Ethel Kennedy was one of the last people I expected to be at the other end of that unrecognizable phone number. Afterward, I completely lost my ability to focus on carpets.

The award is due in part to my comic for Kaiser Health News, “An Open Letter to the Supreme Court About Health Insurance.”  Many thanks to KHN for giving me the opportunity!

I’m looking forward to meeting Mrs. Kennedy at the awards ceremony on September 26 — and shooting the breeze with the great economist Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Book Award.


An Ugly Decision

The Trayvon Martin decision was announced just a bit too late for my deadline this week. As it turned out, I was already working on a cartoon about a different court case — less tragic, but similarly mind-boggling in its outcome. The Iowa Supreme Court, which you can see in all its demographically-limited glory here, actually ruled for the second time that a male dentist could legally file his female assistant because he found her too attractive. Via TPM:

“Coming to the same conclusion as it did in December, the all-male court found that bosses can fire employees they see as threats to their marriages, even if the subordinates have not engaged in flirtatious or other inappropriate behavior. The court said such firings do not count as illegal sex discrimination because they are motivated by feelings, not gender.”

Maybe in the past attractive people have had advantages in the workplace, but no longer in Iowa!


Paycheck Swipe

I had no idea this payroll debit card nonsense was even happening until recently, when news broke about the McDonald’s employee who sued because she wanted another payment option. (The McDonald’s franchise targeted by the lawsuit has since agreed to offer a choice.)

Also quoted in the NYT piece is another employee:

Devonte Yates, 21, who earns $7.25 an hour working a drive-through station at a McDonald’s in Milwaukee, says he spends $40 to $50 a month on fees associated with his JPMorgan Chase payroll card.“It’s pretty bad,” he said. “There’s a fee for literally everything you do.”

Even if a worker managed to avoid incurring fees at that rate, $150 a year skims 1% off the income of a minimum-wage employee bringing home $15K annually. Just when you thought our current gilded age couldn’t get any worse!


AAEC 2013 Post-Mortem

So I’m back from Salt lake City. Have been for nearly a week. My experience of this year’s meeting of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists was somewhat marred by a freelance deadline and the fact that I had to leave a day early.

I’d hoped to finish the freelance job before I left, but no, I wound up working on the road — penciling furiously in the Denver airport, inking on the flight from Denver to Salt Lake while surrounded by an unsettling number of babies and toddlers. Inking on planes sucks, especially having to work around turbulence and beverage carts, but it is possible.

Despite my mobile cartooning heroics, I still wound up spending too much time in my hotel room working, which involved a dramatic climax in the form of a busted travel scanner. I knew my scanner was on its last legs, so I’d borrowed one the night before from The Economist cartoonist Kal Kallaugher. Kal had kindly lent me his whole portable studio, including Wacom tablet and pen. After my scanner failed the first time, I tried Kal’s, but the driver would simply not install. Sweating profusely at this point, I switched back to my old scanner, which kept making an ungodly buzzing sound. Eventually, after smacking it repeatedly with the Little America Hotel information binder, I managed to get a couple scans out of it. Honestly, I don’t know how I get myself into these situations.

Salt Lake City itself was lovely, with more hip bars and tattooed young’uns than you’d expect. They also have some sweet light rail. Prior to the convention, host Pat Bagley had featured me as a guest cartoonist in the Salt Lake Tribune, which was nice. I managed to drink with everyone I’d hoped to drink with, and met some new folks as well. I missed last Saturday’s grand finale because it was my anniversary, although I wound up stuck in the Denver airport for several hours because it was too hot for planes to take off in Phoenix (where my plane was coming from), so I missed my anniversary too. At least I didn’t miss my deadline.


New Gig: NSFWCORP Comics

NSFWjenI”m taking part in a cool new project: a comics page in the print edition of NSFWCORP magazine, a.k.a. “The Future of Journalism (with Jokes).” As of the current issue, the subscription-based monthly features exclusive comics from several creators, including Scott Bateman, Matt Bors, Brian McFadden, Ryan Pequin, Ted Rall, and myself.

The comics page is edited by Matt Bors, who has a press release up on his blog. The mag also boasts some smart writing, not to mention a great doodled balloon-dog mascot.


Giving Gas a Pass

I’m glad Obama gave a speech about climate change, but his ringing endorsement of natural gas development was disturbing. While a good portion of the speech was devoted to praising and defending natural gas, not once did he use the word “fracking.” He allowed that “sometimes there are disputes about natural gas” and said something about “modernizing” the infrastructure, but unless he has some radical new technology up his sleeve, this was a pro-fracking speech. Perhaps he hasn’t seen the devastating documentary “Gasland” yet. Having just watched it myself a few days before the speech, I’m having trouble squaring his statement “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing” with the irreparable mess being made right now.


Jen Sorensen is a nationally-syndicated political cartoonist whose work has appeared in The Progressive, The Nation, Daily Kos, Austin Chronicle, NPR, Ms., Politico, and many other publications. The recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, she tweets at @JenSorensen.

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