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Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor of The New Yorker, has culled through thousands of drawings to select the best, the funniest, and the most illuminating cartoons on technology for this collection of 126 cartoons. Readers can also look forward to Mankoff's witty introductory essay.
As an added bonus, the book comes with a bound-in CD-ROM, so that readers can e-mail their favorite cartoons via their computers (PC or Macintosh).
From "portable phones" that were anything but to tiny cell phones, from room-sized computers to handheld wonders, from faxes to e-mails, the brilliant artists of "The New Yorker" have seen and drawn it all. Now the magazine's cartoon editor has culled through thousands of drawings to present 126 of the best.
BY ROBERT MANKOFF
Welcome to the Introduction
to 'The New Yorker Book of
Please press any key to continue.
ALERT! Error Code 006#!%!!—No Key Pressed—Human Error—You. That's right, you. We know all about you. Our sophisticated tracking technology has been sending us your data ever since you purchased this book. And everything seemed OK until you refused to press that key. Now it appears you have an antitechnological tendency that has to be dealt with. My advice: get over it, move on—technology already has.
The essence of technology is change. In fact, the world of technology changes so fast that by the time you finish this introduction the first part of it will already be obsolete. Fortunately, an upgrade is already available and can be downloaded at www.bythetimeyoufinishthisintroductionthefirstpartofitwillbeobsolete.com or at its mirror site: moc.etelosboeblliwtifotraptsrifehtnoitcudortnisihthsinifuoyemitehtyb.www
If downloading the upgrade fails, upgrading your download software may be required. However; if that exceeds the meager bandwidth of your wetware, versions of the introduction's upgrade are also available offline at fine NotDot-Com stores everywhere in CD, DVD, and the increasingly popular BVD formats (S, M, L, or XL).
As you may have guessed by now, I'm a technophile. Look, it could be worse. I could be a Francophile. Actually, it's more complicated than that; I have a love-haterelationship with technology—I love it when it works, and I hate it when it doesn't. But even when the technology works, I often find myself resenting it. Like when my communications center tells me I have no voice mail, no pager messages, no e-mail, and no friends. Or when my Global Positioning System, which is constantly tracking my exact spot on Earth to within fifty feet, suggests that really, I should get out more. Or when my computer cannot find a chess level low enough to play with me and recommends a "smart" appliance as a suitable opponent. (Or when the appliance wins.) At moments like these I find myself quickly changing from a mild-mannered technophile to a wild-mannered technopath.
But these technocidal impulses never hold sway for long. And before you can say "dot-com," I'm plunging ever deeper into a world where Murphy's Law combines with Moore's Law to insure that everything that can go wrong will go wrong, but at twice the rate that it did eighteen months ago. Example: I've got a new electronic organizer clipped right on the back of my cell phone. And the phone has been tweaked to function as a wireless modem for my laptop, which can now transfer e-mails back to my organizer, which, of course, causes it to run out of memory. Now, I could get more memory for the organizer, or I could wait for the next product cycle to spawn an updated version that could handle the increased message load. This new organizer would undoubtedly require me to replace all the other equipment in my high-tech scheme, but frankly, it's about time I got rid of all that old junk anyway.
The absurdity of all this is not lost on me. As soon as I put my e-check in the e-mail for the latest e-thing I'm thinking, "Egad! I've become desperately dependent on an army of devices that I don't need." It makes me wonder: if, as all the information-age pundits tell me, technology is my servant, how come I've become its slave?
I'd like to place the blame for all this on the new economy, the new media, the new paradigm, or that new e-thing I just bought, but the real culprit is just plain old me, as this fifteen-year-old, very autobiographical New Yorker cartoon of mine attests.
Basically, I never met a consumer technology I didn't like. You build it, and I'll buy it. Why? Well, if this pocket genome decoder of mine is correct, it's because I'm hardwired for it.
Other cartoonists are wired a bit differently. The ones in this book represent a continuum with me over at one end (some would say the deep end) while on the other end are guys like Charlie Barsotti and Jack Ziegler, who view any technology later than that of the technical pen with suspicion. Although they use computers and their ilk, their attitude, as expressed in the self-portraits done for this introduction, is that the computers are using them.
But if Ziegler and Barsotti think that a cartoonist needs cutting-edge technology as much as a fish needs a bicycle, Tom (Borg) Cheney clearly envisions a day when a bioengineered flounder wins the Tour de France.
Other self-portraits, like those of Mick Stevens and Marisa Acocella, evince a vague sense of foreboding, bringing to mind Yeats's prophetic quote from The Second Coming, "Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Nor can he page him." Acocella's drawing further suggests the question "If this is the information age, how come we can't retain any?"
In fact, I happen to know the answer to that question. Or at least I know the database the answer is stored in. Now, if only I could remember the password. Clearly, we have become dependent on technology. We can't live without it. How it feels about us, however, is another matter addressed by the one cartoonist I know who actually draws his cartoons on a computer.
Gregory may be right. Time is running out for cartoons done by humans, or even looked at by humans. But don't despair, the carbon-based life-form is still in the driver's seat, even though—as Frank Cotharn's portrait shows—it's getting a little crowded up there.
Meanwhile, my advice is to enjoy the ride, no matter how bumpy. The jokes are on us, about us, and for us, and all you have to do to access 110 of them is to press any key below.
On second thought, just turn the page.
INDEX OF ARTISTS.
Bruce Eric Kaplan.