Towards a taxonomy of New Yorker cartoons

The New Yorker wouldn’t be The New Yorker without the cartoons. I rarely read all, or even half, of the articles (like many people I suspect) but without doubt every subscriber sees every cartoon.
And like many people I wonder what to do with the ever growing piles of magazines, so hard to throw out yet so impossible to return to when there’s another 50,000+ words waiting in the mailbox each week.
Call it Covid-desperation or inspiration, it occurred to me the other day that I might collect together some examples of one of my favourite recurrent themes: cavemen/women/prehistoric creatures reflecting on one or another timeless condition of existence.
Which led me to think about themes in cartoons generally. Think of how many times you find these scenes: couples at home, two people standing at a cocktail party, jogging or visiting the art gallery/museum, talking animals, furniture or appliances, parent to parent or parent to child or child to parent, between women, between men. There are specialized themes too: doctors and other professionals, magicians, prehistory (as mentioned), military, historical…
Which led me to consider going through my stacks of New Yorkers to test this hypothesis: that NYer cartoons can be meaningfully grouped or categorized.

Caption: An example of “self-referentiality” in New Yorker cartoons. Most cartoonists reflect on themselves and their art from from time to time. This example remarkably engages more directly with the reader than most, playing physically with the caption (requiring no small effort, one imagines, in terms of digital typesetting). I would have liked to see some other words/letters already missing from the caption or even some letters scooped up from the surrounding article!

The Upside

I’m too pessimistic to participate in the kind of wishful “this is going to change the world” thinking that’s going on right now in left-wing and other progressive circles. If this pandemic is over within a few months, everything is going to roll back to just the way it was, and worse. The Donald will see to that.
Still it is fun to dream; I’ve been meaning to start writing some of these hopeful things down:
I’d like to see all those empty city streets covered with grass.
I like not seeing a plane in the sky and when there is one, thinking its on an important mission, delivering essential goods and saving lives.
I like that there are fewer cars and fewer accidents and virtually no highways deaths. (At the end of the day, the CoVid might save more lives than it takes.)
I like that the air is cleaner and the animals are coming out of the forest. This summer we might see the butterfies and bees surging back.
I like that advertising has no meaning right now. We don’t need it and maybe never did.
I don’t miss shopping. Malls are stupid. Curb-side pick up is awesome.
I like that I’m minding my pennies, or at least trying harder.
I’d like to see the end of cheap exotic travel, which has always been bourgeois and yet uncritically accepted by every kind of person.
I like that the supply chain is getting stripped down to essentials. If only we could keep it like that.
I like hearing from the PM and the Premier every single day. I like their sincerity and positive messages. Isn’t this what politicians are supposed to be like? Instead of carping finger wags or mean-spirited nogoodniks.
I like not seeing people and keeping my distance. (I’m an artist and that just kinda comes naturally; I actually feel kind of ‘understood’.)
I like cutting my own hair and then asking someone who has no experience to fix it.
I like that there’s a lot of thinking going on around aging and the vulnerable. Maybe we all don’t all need to self-isolate, just test a lot and figure out how to protect the vulnerable, paying them some really phenomenal attention and care, like elders deserve.
I’d like to see the government nationalize the banks. Those f_rs are unbelievable.
And the Basic Annual Income of course.

Fwd: For ‘immediate’ release

This is pretty funny, in a dark time. Definitely got me.

{CAPTION}Apr 1, 2020, New York – In a surprising turn around on his position criticizing New York City for the spike in corona virus cases, US President Donald Trump has donated the centrepiece of his real estate empire, Trump International Hotel, to the City of New York, to help in the battle against the COVID-19 virus.

Calling on his many friends in the construction industry, the top 25 floors of the hotel were converted virtually overnight into state-of-the art hospital facilities with ventilators in every suite. Minimal renovation was required to the lower floors which are being used to care for patients considered to be terminal.

“I felt I should do what I can,” the President said in a press conference announcing the donation. Accompanied by New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio who had been pleading for assistance, the Mayor remarked on the turn around, “There are many people in the 1% who are able to help. It is gratifying to see the President leading by example. Who knows, maybe he’s growing as a person.”

“The hotel industry is taking a beating with this thing anyway,” Trump said, “we were dying. Nobody knows where this is going. After it’s over, if it’s ever over, the City can give it back. We’ll fumigate and be back in business in no time. It’s a win-win.”


Virus Diary 1

Another week passed. Notch on the post. Line on the prison wall. It’s going to be interesting. Why is it that we “schadenfreude” people seem to perk up when the skies darken? “Rainy day? Well, isn’t that just swell!”