Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Before it moved to The New Yorker:
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Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Martin Schneider writes:

A new issue of The New Yorker comes out tomorrow. A preview of its contents, adapted from the magazine's press release:

In "The Kindest Cut," Larissa MacFarquhar looks at the reasons that some people decide to donate organs to total strangers. "Does it seem crazy, giving something that precious to someone for whom you have no feeling, and whom, if you knew him, you might actually dislike?" she asks.

In "Cocksure," Malcolm Gladwell looks at the concept of overconfidence and the role that it played in the recent economic crisis. "Wall Street is a confidence game, in the strictest sense of that phrase," he notes: a delicate balance must be maintained between inspiring others' confidence in your firm and being delusionally self-assured.

In "Renaissance Man," Rebecca Mead profiles the recently appointed director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas Campbell. Although he is an expert in Renaissance tapestries and curated two successful and ambitious shows at the Met over the past ten years, "Campbell did not strike anyone as a director in the making" before his appointment last year, Mead writes.

In Comment, Jeffrey Toobin examines the significance of the questions posed and answers given at last week's Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Sonia Sotomayor.

In the Financial Page, James Surowiecki explains how fiscal federalism stands in the way of reversing the economic downturn.

In Shouts & Murmurs, Andy Borowitz imagines Britney Spears's diary entries during her conversion to Judaism.

Calvin Trillin recounts the story of the 2008 murder of three teenagers at an outdoor swimming hole in rural Michigan.

There is a late-night sketchbook by Barry Blitt.

Nicholas Lemann looks at the history of K.G.B. activity in America.

Joan Acocella traces Michael Jackson's evolution as a dancer and recalls some of his most memorable moves.

Anthony Lane reviews Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and In the Loop.

There is a short story by Kirstin Valdez Quade.


I am a dreamer, I suppose; one who is constantly looking for windmills with which to tilt. Thus my obsession with the Caption Contest.

But even a would-be captionista has his limits, and more importantly, questions. I can accept that a nobody from Feds Creek, Ky. might not wind up as a finalist, but I cannot imagine the criteria by which the entries are judged.

For instance, what if duplicate entries are received? Contest 189, the one with the acupuncturist who is bristling with his own needles, and the patient with the guilty look, and the winning caption “Gesundheit”? I submitted the same caption, but was told that I had submitted no entry.

So, are the duplicates eliminated? Heck, I finally came up with one that was good enough to win, and someone else who had the same idea gets the glory. Winning vicariously sucks. Why didn’t every entry of “Gesundheit” get mentioned?

And contest no. 198? The winner reads “”That’s smart, Eddie. The first place cops look is in the trunk.” Second place? “The instructions should have mentioned that you need a body of water.”
Third? “What do you mean you don’t remember? Either he sleeps with the fishes or he don’t.”

Okay, it may be that I am prejudiced, but I think that my caption is easily funnier than, say, no. 2. Why does this make sense? The driver is looking to the rear, and it is obvious that a police car is pulling him over, for equally obvious reasons. So any caption should take this into account. That is the only reason the winner makes some sense, except that to make a remark like that if the cops are after these two takes something 0f a stretch. And please, explain no. 3. What would the driver had said to have elicited that response? It makes no sense.

On the othe hand, my caption- “Of all times to get pulled over. You weren’t speeding, were you?”-takes into account that the two are being stopped, that they have forgotten to put the victim into the trunk, and that they are oblivious to this.

I’m not saying this was the funniest caption you received, but… . So, how do you select the finalists? Any comments?

mike phillipsJuly 29, 2009

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