Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


In which various Emdashes contributors note what we liked in last week’s issue.

What a world! This issue was chock full of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Who knew that Oliver Sacks was a ferner? (No, I don’t mean someone born abroad, although he is that too.) I forwarded Yoni Brenner’s chortle-worthy Shouts & Murmurs “Aesop in the City” to every NBA fan I know. Aesop knew his hoops.

Tom Mueller’s engaging Letter from Italy exposes the thriving fake olive oil syndicates. My mother is an avid consumer of extra-virgin olive oil, and I’m contemplating burning the issue to ensure that she never finds out. Meanwhile, I just love thinking about Italy’s crack olive oil tasting squad. Jane Mayer deserves credit for reminding us of the misbegotten legacy of Presidental Medalist of Freedom George Tenet, who has given us a C.I.A. now more associated with overseeing black sites abroad than for not foreseeing the fall of the Berlin Wall! This is not your older brother’s C.I.A.! (I also salute Guy Billout for his haunting and iconic artwork for that story.)

And holy cats, was Richard Preston’s Annals of Medicine about Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome a riveting, disturbing read, or what? Jim Murphy’s sister’s explanation of how she handles it when her brother curses at her (“I just say, ‘I love you, too.’”) tore me up inside, in a good way. I also really loved the section where Preston quotes H.A. Jinnah at length to show that the even such a hyper-liberated “imp of the perverse” as this isn’t necessarily the affront to human instincts it might first appear to be. This might be the story in this issue that will stay with me the longest.

Finally, I have a question about Michael Maslin’s caveman cartoon. Isn’t it even funnier if the man is speaking? I’d appreciate if any funnymen or -women out there could help me on this one. I’m counting on you, too, Daniel Radosh.

—Martin Schneider


Isn’t it even funnier if the man is speaking?

Yes, and I had the same thought when I read it. I almost think some fact checker made him change it on the grounds of historical accuracy (though of course that assumes that the listener didn’t tell the speaker to fuck off).

Re: Isn’t it funnier if the caveman is speaking?
No, it’s not.
Re: “I almost think a fact checker made him change it…”
Fact checkers aren’t schoolyard bullies.

One of the great pleasures of this week’s issue is Nick Paumgarten’s TOTT piece, “Home At Carnegie Hall.” I enjoy Paumgarten’s bemused, easy-going style. I got the feeling he was completely in his element as he toured the concert hall apartments and spoke to to their splendidly eccentric occupants.

I have to disagree—I thought the cartoon was so funny just as it was originally captioned. Look at the drawing again; every time I look at it I laugh. The way the women’s so glad to get rid of her spear, like an icky toilet brush; the woolly mammoth standing hilariously close by, slightly dopey but pissed and ready to start a quickie stampede; the Thurberesque cavedude whose posture says “Uh-oh, nothing she’s suggested so far has gone well for me”; the volcano that’s spitting out tiny beads of anxiety on his behalf. I love it!

Fact checkers don’t make anyone do anything! I’m sure they’d be glad to hear people think they have that kind of power though.

And no, I think it’s perfect as is. Not only that, it’s a good insight into how clever womankind is. Thank you Michael Maslin!

A friend today successfully explained to me why the caption is correct as is. The idea is as follows: My idea (man wusses out) implies the act of one random caveman on one random day. The original idea is more like, not so much just any woman but the specific woman that irreversably changed the course of hominid history. See? After her the women smartly stayed out of harm’s way (men are stupid). This does make sense to me. I still kind of think my version is funnier, but the original does seem more correct and profound now.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree