Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Cartoon, Part II

Piling through all those 'New Yorker' cartoons looking for the one by Charles Saxon that I thought for sure I would find, but didn't, did take me past plenty of cartoons I remember. A little bit of a greatest hits moment.

At one point in my life I was really ambitious in preservation and organization and in 1967 saved all the cartoons and covers from the 'New Yorker' and put them in a sort of scrap book. It was the only year I did this, and thinking back it was a time in my life that I was somewhat without direction.

I came across one that has always been one of my absolute favorites, a 1967 Ed Koren drawing showing a demolished bar with unconscious patrons all about. There is someone at the doorway on the right explaining to someone else: "It all started with a friendly discussion about gas versus oil heat."

Perhaps you had to be there, in the 60s, when the discourse of gas versus oil heat did become, well, quite heated. There was plenty of advertising extolling the virtues of each. Oil settled on "Oil Heats Best." Gas didn't seem to have a good tag line, other than you didn't need to rely on a truck to deliver it through the snow. It came to you in your gas line, no matter what the weather was.

Thinking some more, perhaps gas also advertised it was cleaner. No soot building up in your furnace. Of course, this was countered with stories of gas explosions. And there have been some doozies, whole homes turning into matchsticks because the owners monkeyed with the gas lines.

Oil's slogan seemed a little vague to me at the time, because if you were getting heat, wasn't keeping warm the objective no matter which one brought you the warmth? It certainly was in my house growing up. We had oil heat, but only when my father bothered to buy the oil to put in the tank. Or, what I should really say, only when my father's check would be accepted by whatever oil company was willing to take a chance on a check that had lottery ticket odds of clearing the bank.

BTU's. cubic feet versus gallons, it was all very hard for a typical person to really determine which one really was the better one to use. For the most part, homeowners didn't have a choice of choosing one over the other. It depended on their furnace. There were no residential burners that could use either oil or gas. It was one or the other. Comparisons were nearly impossible. So, opinions held reign.  And of course, the drunker the opinion makers got, the more prone they might be to create a John Wayne bar room altercation.

The whole oil vs. gas argument neatly pre-dated the Miller Lite beer commercials between Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner: "Tastes Great. Less filling."

You can well imagine if those two guys started talking about oil versus gas heat the place would look like an Ed Koren drawing.

But how about updating the caption? I know from my waiting room visits for a physician in Manhattan who seems to have the best magazine selections I've ever encountered, 'The New Yorker' now has a caption contest for a cartoon that has none. A single panel cartoon is presented and you're encouraged to submit your take on what the caption should say. The winning caption is published, and you're considered to be a star.

I think I've read that the magazine's cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, has been quoted as saying your chance of having your caption declared the winner (and I think they now acknowledge the top three) is also of lottery ticket odds, or, in my case growing up, of my father;s check clearing the merchant's bank.

I've read that there are those who are slighted (Garrison Keillor? Steve Martin?) that their submissions are turned down. They submit several captions and complain. Pout, might be a good way to put it. In some cases, it seems their celebrity status carries weight, and aha, they win.

But how about updating a caption? Any alert readers willing to take a stab at the one above?

How about, "It all started over a friendly discussion of what signs should go on the bathroom doors."

My posting. I win.

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