You might think my cartoon in this week‘s New Yorker is a copyediting joke to appeal to the punctuation police, the nerds who are always getting upset about these things. That view is dangerous, because it overlooks the fact that punctuation can be objectively bad. They get away with it, because most of the time they’re so small that we don’t notice what they’re really doing. But if you are able to zoom in on your screen or with a pair of magnifying glasse’s ( <see what I mean? Stupid apostrophe inserted himself in there when i wasn’t looking) you will often be shocked at how horrible apostrophes really are:
And it’s not just apostrophes. Quotation marks can be just as repellent:
Or, as T.S. Eliot wrote:
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a misplaced semicolon;
I have a bunch of fellow Red Sox fan friends, all Massachusetts residents at one time or another who now live in or around NYC, and we kept a lively group text message thread open throughout the entire postseason. We are all expert analysts, naturally, and if we were allowed to manage the games there would never have been any incorrect substitutions and especially no lame national anthem singers. Also, Haffenreffer would be sold at Fenway Park, Lou Reed would have been allowed to pinch hit for Stephen Drew, and something about Color Me Badd. Below is a more or less random sampling of out-of-context texts from the six games of the World Series. I think if you read them through it’s essentially a perfect narrative of what transpired in each of the six games. I don’t even know why we need coverage from places like ESPN anymore.
Security cameras: they’re everywhere, right? You’re probably starring in a security film right now. There are people whose job it is to stare at security footage all day and night, and so for my cartoon that appears in this week’s New Yorker I had the idea to essentially take that scene – people staring at a bank of security screens – and give it a caption that made it into something different. Kind of like I did with this, a few years ago:
Below is the sketch that I had initially drawn. If you can read my scrawl you can see that I had written that the security guy was not, in fact, on the job watching security footage, but was in the break room watching noir films. It made humorous sense to me that the folks who watch grainy footage of dimly lit hallways and empty parking lots would, in their free time, be drawn to films with shadowy interiors and darkened street corners. But my fellow cartoonist Paul Noth suggested to me that it made even more humorous sense that they would be watching “classic” security footage instead, for whatever reason.
I knew Paul was right. Not just because he sits around in his own free time and watches hours of classic security videos on the Hidden Camera Channel, which he often does, but also because he’s got great comic instincts. And so I went with that. I hated the first draft of the finished art work that I did
so I did another version that I was a lot happier with, and voilá:
I’m just saying.
The last decade has not been a kind one for illustrators who prefer hand drawing. With the obvious exception of New Yorker covers, illustrations in print and digital media have often been pushed out in favor of infographics, photographs, or various things you could just put under the category of Things That Are Not Illustrations.
The world of criminal justice still needs artists, though. We’ve still got to have people who can quickly render a mugshot of a suspect or sketch out a courtroom scene. This has always been fascinating to me: artists doing the work of the law. I don’t imagine the 21st century artistic temperament being a great fit for this field. I mean, who are the people who are drawn to doing this kind of art for a living? (I used to draw on gravestones for a living, so I can ask these questions.) I look forward to news coverage of courtroom events because it’s the one time when we get to see real live art, and it’s not always pretty. Have you ever looked at courtroom art? There is a good sampling here. Some is great and some is outright terrible. A lot of it is what I’d call “fittingly uncomfortable.”
Once, in my college newspaper, I used a real police sketch in a cartoon. The face of this breaker-and-enterer was photocopied and plastered all over campus, so it was instantly recognizable to everybody. I had him breaking and entering into my cartoon panel. I probably didn’t have any other good ideas that week. >
I’ve tried a few times to publish a cartoon that captures the awkwardness and/or absurdity of an artist in the courtroom. There’s this one from a few years ago, which is kinda stupid (and is too similar to this one which I already had published and which I like a whole lot better):
And more recently this, which misses the mark:
But in the cartoon for for this week’s issue I was more on target, although you can see that my original caption was different. The Zimmerman verdict had been handed down the week that I was drawing this, and the experience of people trying to make sense of the trial helped give me the language for the caption that seemed more appropriate.
So this is the one that finally made the cut. And in case you’re wondering, yes: the pineapple is currently in the witness protection program.
My editor, Bob Mankoff, did a talk for TED that’s now making the rounds. This is perhaps an edited version for the internet; Bob has done a lot of work around the psychology of humor and how people read and interpret cartoons which is fascinating. If you’ve never seen one of his lectures, you should.
Bob nicely refers to me (roughly the 4:40 mark) as one of the cartoonists that didn’t “fade away.” I don’t like being pigeonholed, so you bet your ass I’m going to fade away the first chance I get, just to show that I can.
My friend recently told me I had too many apps on my phone. Maybe, I said, but no harm in that. If you use it, even just once or twice, you might as well keep an application on there, right?
But there’s a word for it, he said, which is “overapplicated.” It means you’ve got too many for your own good. I disputed this fact, but he doubled down on me, saying that no, I was pretty much a textbook version of it. “You’re so effing overapplicated it’s not even funny,” were his exact words.
Then I started to read the icons on my phone and I said whaddya know? Guilty as charged, man, Guilty. As. Charged.