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September 22, 2013

The New Yorker’s redesign: A retreat from text?

The New Yorker has done it’s first major redesign since 2000, although it’s so far only been rolled out to the front of the magazine.

Personally, the return to a more highly stylized typeface is welcome. But I am disappointed that they’ve made the magazine look like more like everything else in the racks. It’s not a lack of originality that bothers me. Rather, it is the retreat from text.

There’s no less text and so far the writing style seems to be the same. Rather, the previous design presented a wall of text, broken up with occasional insets of text, with empty spots filled with text. For example, “Tables for Two” used to be a small, two-column insert into the Goings On section. The type size was the same as the directions on a tube of toothpaste. Now it’s a single column that takes up the entire right-hand three-fifths of a page, in a perfectly readable font, with a quarter-page color photograph at the top, as if to say, “Well look at us! We have so much room that we’re filling it up with a merely pleasant photo.”

There are at least two results in how we take that page. First, “Tables for Two” has turned from a lagniappe into a column. Second, the magazine doesn’t feel like it’s so bursting with things to write about that it had to shoulders goodies into whatever nooks it could find or force.

Sections now are headed by a graphical emblem (e.g., a Deco knife and fork on a plate for the Food & Drink section) that signals that the New Yorker thinks the section titles themselves are not enough for us. Really? What part of “Food & Drink” does The New Yorker think we don’t understand? Why does the New Yorker now believe that mere words are not up to the task?

The New Yorker used to be for people unafraid of climbing a sheer wall of text. It demanded we make judgments about what to read based solely on the text itself; this was even more the case before Tina Brown put the authors’ names at the beginning of the article instead of at the end. But now it’s pandering to the graphical-minded among us. The graphical folks have plenty of other magazines to thumb through lazily. The New Yorker was a text-based trek that had to earn our every footstep.

Don’t go soft on us, New Yorker! We’re not afraid of words. Bring ‘em on!


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May 20, 2013

The New Yorker Caption Contest is making me an embittered, broken man

My offering has once again been passed over by the cruel gods that rule the New Yorker Caption contest.

The cartoon shows Noah’s ark filled with giraffes. Noah is talking to what seems to be a young woman. (I describe it because I can’t find a unique url for it.) The selected entries are:

  1. “I wouldn’t say ‘favorite’ animal.”

  2. “Mistakes were made.”

  3. “I have trouble saying no.”

Here’s my rejected caption:

“That’s ok. Everyone has trouble with Excel at first.”

Ok, it’s not so great. But head to head against number 2 above, no?

Someday, Caption Contest, someday…!


January 30, 2013

I wuz robbed by The New Yorker!

The current finalist punchlines for the New Yorkers’ Cartoon Caption Contest have been announced, and mine was not among them. The only possible explanation is that Big Money — you know, the Boss Men, the Ward Heelers, the Gang of 50, the Backstreet Boys — have wielded their influence to lock me out once again.

For this week only you can see the cartoon in question here. For the sake of posterity and in the name of eternal justice, allow me to describe the set-up comic: A mob boss, Godfather-style, is sitting with three henchmen at a table. Standing right behind them, more or less also at the table, is a horse dressed in a suit, ridden by a NYC-style mounted policeman. All are facing forward and all seem to be listening to the boss. High-larious just by itself!

The three finalists are:

  1. I smell a horse

  2. I hope they don’t crack. The cops are riding him pretty hard.

  3. Because PETA said we can’t whack him.

As the quality of the finalists show, this was not a fecund cartoon. Indeed, there is, of course, only one correct punchline, which I courteously supplied:

“And the last item on the agenda: We have to look into this new Preakness Protection Program we’ve been hearing about.”

Look, I’m not saying that The New Yorker owes me anything. No, it’s Justice, Truth, and Science that are saying so.

In any event, I’m voting for #3.

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