Monday, February 27, 2017

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #558

Don't neglect my entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #558 for February 27, 2017. Everyone thinks the magazine is looking for urbane, sophisticated humor, so I went with a potty joke. The drawing is by the precocious Benjamin Schwartz.

"No, not Pampers. I said I need change."



These unused captions, much like Pampers, are disposable:
"It's time you got the next What to Expect."
"I think you can stop worrying about the terrible two's."




March 4, 2017 Update: The Semifinalists
https://www.research.net/r/558MCA



March 6, 2014 Update: The Finalists



March 13, 2017 Update:  I didn't vote this week, which goes along with my forgetting to enter Contest #560. I'm partial to the second caption.


March 20, 2017 Update:  Winning Caption




Note:  Last week, cartoonist Harry Bliss gave us a taste of original sin. My caption didn't tempt anyone. Fall into Contest #557.

If only I had more caption contests by Benjamin Schwartz, I would put them all here.

Or do I mean Mick Stevens? Can we get a fact-checker in here?

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

James Stevenson: Introductions

The needless proliferation of wait staff is the subject of a 1983 New Yorker cartoon by the late James Stevenson (1929-2017) that comes absurdly close to reality. The long caption doesn't lead to a traditional punch line. Rather, it establishes a serving hierarchy in which Don, the waiter who is speaking, gradually reveals himself to be totally superfluous. In a sense, the kicker is at the beginning of the caption, not the end, but that isn't immediately apparent to the reader. So look at what the New Yorker's editors, subtly wielding the power of the punctuation mark, have done. They have changed Mr. Stevenson's very reasonable opening "Hi, my name is Don" to the front-loaded "Hi. My name is Don." Full stop. Bam!

Why is that important? The caption already works fine without it. It's important because it makes the gag work even better than fine. It's subtle and stealthy. Scarcely one in a hundred readers might even notice. The careful writing and editing that permeates the entire magazine is at work in the cartoon captions as well. In how many magazines is that the case?

Remember that rule in photography, the one where you don't want a pole or a tree appearing to come out of anyone's head? Well, it's a rule in cartooning too. Stevenson's restaurant is a crowded place with lots of heads and at least four vertical beams. Look at the care he has taken to use the beams as framing devices particularly around the heads of the two principle men. This is not an accident. It is also not an accident that both the darkest and lightest shades are reserved for the main figures in the foreground while the background is more or less a series of gray wash tones.

Swann Galleries, in its January 2016 sale, noted the New Yorker's copyright stamps affixed to the back of the frame and came to a perplexing conclusion: "Proposed, but apparently unpublished cartoon for The New Yorker, 1983."

Check, please!

"Hi, my name is Don. I'll be introducing you to Mark,
who will be taking your drink order, and after that
to Gloria, who will be your waitress."
James Stevenson, original art, The New Yorker, October 3, 1983, page 50

Swann Galleries, January 28, 2016 Illustration Art, Sale 2403, Lot249
Hammer Price


With the Buyer's Premium. A steal.


"Hi. My name is Don. I'll be introducing you to Mark,
who will be taking your drink order, and after that
to Gloria, who will be your waitress."
James Stevenson, The New Yorker, October 3, 1983, page 50

http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=1983-10-03#folio=050


Note:  To celebrate the life and work of the late James Stevenson, I would like to hear from readers with original artwork, correspondence, or photographs to share. Punctuation counts.

Quick Links to Attempted Bloggery's Archives
James Stevenson (1929-2017)
Original New Yorker Cartoon Art

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

My Entries in the Moment Cartoon Caption Contest for January/February 2017

Here's hoping my entries in the Moment Cartoon Caption Contest for January/February 2017 don't get a chilly reception. Moment Magazine calls itself "North America’s premier Jewish magazine," so I took the liberty of using some Jewish terminology in my captions. A minyan is a Hebrew term for the quorum of ten men age 13 and older—not children—required for public worship. Frum is a Yiddish expression meaning pious or observant. The drawing is by Benjamin Schwartz.
"Let's find enough kids to make a minyan."
"I think I'm getting the cold shoulder."
"I made him frum, but he could still drift."


March 23, 2013 Update:  The Finalists


April 22, 2017 Update:  I voted for the first caption.


May 20, 2017 Update:  Winning Caption


Glossary:  A kippah is a skullcap or yarmulke.


Note:  This blogger has now entered many cartoon caption contests by Benjamin Schwartz, more than enough to make a minyan.

Would you like to learn from my captioning mistakes? Right now you can search high and low through every single cartoon caption contest I ever entered. Alternatively, it might be easier for you to search just the Moment Magazine contests. 


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Friday, February 24, 2017

Fun with James Stevenson

A cartoon for the New Yorker's January 5, 1987 issue exemplifies the best qualities that the late James Stevenson (1929-2017) brought to the art form. Here there are exquisite subtleties in tone and substance conveyed through solid draughtsmanship and caption-writing. Somehow his quick, sketchy ink-and-wash rendering conveys the architectural grandeur of the throne room, the formal intimacy of the royal couple, and the self-absorption of the king. The caption, neatly divided into two parts, goes suddenly from the formal to the informal, from the serious to the frivolous. The two halves are separated by an ellipsis in the original art and by an em dash in the published version. The overall effect appears effortless.

The original art was in the collection of publisher James H. Heineman (1917-1994) who evidently kept collecting into his seventies. In 2010 it was offered for sale at $1300 by James Cummins Bookseller. The artwork measures 13 1/2 x 15 1/2 inches. According to Mr. Heineman's notations on the verso, the original was exhibited at the Art Institute in Houston in 1990, at  the International Cartoon Festival in Knokke-Heist, Belgium from June 6 to September 27, 1991; and finally at the American Cultural Center in Brussels from November to December 1991. The cartoon dates from the Reagan years and the mention of greed may have had ongoing resonance as the S&L crisis unfolded.

"Pomp, greed, conquest, intrigue ... it's been a fun year, hasn't it?"
James Stevenson, original art
The New Yorker, January 5, 1987, page 23

Detail of the queen and king

Detail of background

The caption

James Stevenson's signature

"Pomp, greed, conquest, intrigue—it's been a fun year, hasn't it?"
James Stevenson, The New Yorker, January 5, 1987, page 23

http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=1987-01-05#folio=022

Thirty years after this drawing's publication, I am still not prepared to accept the word fun as an adjective in my own writing. Still, it's hard to fault Mr. Stevenson or the New Yorker's editors for publishing a caption that reflects the way people actually talk. Ultimately fun will succeed as an adjective if it hasn't already because it meets an expressive need and there isn't an easy substitute. I resolve to continue to tilt at grammatical windmills because that's what curmudgeons do.

Note:  Thanks to David from Manhattan for providing these photos of the original Stevenson artwork as well as the information about it. Other readers are invited to contribute scans or photos of original artwork by James Stevenson,


Quick Links to Attempted Bloggery's Archives
James Stevenson (1929-2017)
Original New Yorker Cartoon Art
The Collection of James H. Heineman
We are not amused.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

James Stevenson: Morning Reprieve

The second original cartoon by the late James Stevenson (1929-2017) shown at the Westport Historical Society on April 25, 2014 during the exhibition "Cover Story: The New Yorker in Westport" presents a scene of uncertain domestic tranquility. Stevenson has placed the kitchen window in the center of the composition, allowing the couple to be backlit from opposite sides.

"Good morning, my dear. Could that look mean I'm not on your hit list?"
James Stevenson, original art, The New Yorker, July 20, 1981, page 29



"Good morning, my dear. Could that look mean I'm not on your hit list?"
James Stevenson, The New Yorker, July 20, 1981, page 29



Note:  With the passing of cartoonist James Stevenson (1929-2017), Attempted Bloggery would like to hear from anyone with original artwork, photos, or signed books that shed light on this essential New Yorker artist.

Quick Links to Attempted Bloggery's Archives
James Stevenson (1929-2017)
Original New Yorker Cartoon Art
Westport Historical Society

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

James Stevenson's Windfall

Two original cartoons by the late James Stevenson (1929-2017) were shown at the Westport Historical Society on April 25, 2014 in conjunction with the exhibition "Cover Story: The New Yorker in Westport." The first refers to the Windfall Profits Tax which was enacted in 1980 but much discussed during the previous year as a result of the oil shock. This tax was a response to the abrupt spike in oil prices brought about by the OPEC oil embargo in 1979 and the resulting increase in revenues to oil producers. The idea was to collect more taxes from oil producers based on their supposed increased profits from the sale of crude oil. That idea from the Carter years is the basis for the corporate banter in Mr. Stevenson's original cartoon art. Note the atmospheric effect of the artist's delicate use of wash. The light source is on the right and behind the two main figures, an unusual choice which results in both men having their faces largely in shadow.

"I say 'Give me a windfall and I'll talk windfall tax.' What do you say, Harry?"
James Stevenson, original art, The New Yorker, May 28, 1979, page 29



"I say 'Give me a windfall and I'll talk windfall tax.' What do you say, Harry?"
James Stevenson, The New Yorker, May 28, 1979, page 29


Note:  With the passing of cartoonist James Stevenson (1929-2017), Attempted Bloggery would like to hear from anyone with original artwork, photos, or signed books that shed light on this essential New Yorker artist.

Quick Links to Attempted Bloggery's Taxing Archives
James Stevenson (1929-2017)
Original New Yorker Cartoon Art
Westport Historical Society

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

James Stevenson at the Opera

In the setting of Verdi's Aida, the grandest of grand operas, the late James Stevenson proposed an age-old question about composition. In this cartoon rough, the particular opera can be readily identified from the inclusion of elephants in the grand pageant.

James Stevenson, "Which comes first—the music or the lyrics?"

eBay Listing Ended June 23, 2013
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Original-Signed-Captioned-James-Stevenson-New-Yorker-Cartoonist-Rough-Sketch-/271225281976?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f26495db8&nma=true&si=VJo29%252F7WbHpl1SY9gWmnl4%252FkT80%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557

James Stevenson, "Which comes first—the music or the lyrics?"

The scene Mr. Stevenson has depicted is the Triumphal March from Verdi's Aida. The march, as it happens, is a second-act musical interlude with no lyrics. Once upon a time, it was performed by the Met with live elephants, but no longer:
Triumphal March from Aida by Giuseppi Verdi
The Metropolitan Opera, 1989


Mr. Stevenson's idea was very likely not sold to the New Yorker, but a related idea from cartoon editor Lee Lorenz was published:
Lee Lorenz, The New Yorker, June 2, 1975, page 45


Note:  With the passing of New Yorker cartoonist James Stevenson (1929-2017), Attempted Bloggery would like to hear from anyone with original drawings, photographs, or correspondence that shed light on this important cartoonist.

Quick Links to Attempted Bloggery's Triumphal Archives
James Stevenson (1929-2017)
Lee Lorenz
Cartoon Roughs
Giuseppe Verdi

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Monday, February 20, 2017

James Stevenson: Unease with the Office of the President

Original artwork for the July 8, 1961 New Yorker shows how the late James Stevenson (1929-2017) extensively reworked his gag in preparation for publication. We can see the meticulous cutting and pasting he did to get not only the image of the president playing paddle ball just right, but also the two gentlemen discussing their concern for him. This was in 1961. Today where could we find a president whose erratic behavior is perceived as cause for grave concern?

"Just between us, I'm beginning to feel uneasy with Blackwell at the helm"
James Stevenson, original art, The New Yorker, July 8, 1961, page 24
Detail with paste-ups

James Stevenson's signature








eBay Listing Ended March 28, 2013

eBay Item Description
http://www.ebay.com/itm/JAMES-STEVENSON-CARTOON-framed-B-W-1961-Storyboard-ORIGINAL-Signed-NEW-YORKER-/200908686568?_trksid=p2047675.l2557&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEWAX%3AIT&nma=true&si=VJo29%252F7WbHpl1SY9gWmnl4%252FkT80%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc


"Just between us, I'm beginning to feel uneasy with Blackwell at the helm"
James Stevenson, original art, The New Yorker, July 8, 1961, page 24



"Just between us, I'm beginning to feel uneasy with Blackwell at the helm"
James Stevenson, The New Yorker, July 8, 1961, page 24

"Just between us, I'm beginning to feel uneasy with Blackwell at the helm"
James Stevenson, The New Yorker, July 8, 1961, page 24


Note:  The world is just now absorbing the passing of New Yorker cartoonist James Stevenson (1929-2017). Attempted Bloggery would like to hear from anyone with original artwork, correspondence, or other mementos that shed light on this important cartoonist.

Quick Links to Attempted Bloggery's Archives
James Stevenson (1929-2017)
Original New Yorker Cartoon Art

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #557

It's time to serve up my entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #557 for February 13, 2017. The drawing is by Harry Bliss.
"Wait a minute—like WHOSE
mother used to make?"



February 23, 2017 Update:  The Semifinalists
https://www.research.net/r/557mcab


February 27, 2017 Update:  The Finalists



March 6, 2017 Update:  I voted for the first caption, the closest to my own.


March 13, 2017 Update:  Winning Caption



July 1, 2017: Harry Bliss's syndicated daily cartoon Bliss for June 30, 2017 revisits familiar territory. It is tempting to think Mr. Bliss has restored the cartoon's original caption here, but the wording is suspiciously close to that of the first of the finalists.



Note:  Last time, cartoonist P. C. Vey cooked up a space opera. My caption couldn't fire its booster rockets, but you can still launch into Contest #556.

The blog archives have yet more temptation from Harry Bliss.

Adam and Eve—we've seen them here before.

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