Friday, January 23, 2009


"This is a robbery."
"My wife just left me."
"Nice bow tie."
"I bet that readers of the New Yorker would look smilingly upon my zany predicament."
"My other tunnel goes to Mexico."
"There are no stools here."
"I guess I won't find the stool pigeon here."
"I guess I won't find the stool pigeon here, as there seem to be no stools."
"It's funny that I am looking for the informant, or stool pigeon, who sent me to prison, and I wind up in a bar that is completely lacking chairs, or stools."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

firing squad

My caption: "Et tu, Sparky?"
Winning caption: "I guess my wife couldn't make it."
2nd place caption: "Frankly, your brochure is a bit misleading."
3rd place caption: "Gee, you guys are really having trouble meeting your recruitment quota."

I consider this my best caption to date, although the judges still deem it worse than the unadulterated garbage that populates the winners' circle this week. The winning caption made my lip twitch slightly--so a lukewarm success. The second place caption is childishly senseless in a somewhat British manner, whereas the third place caption is nothing short of a catastrophe.

In brainstorming my caption, my keen eye for incongruousness noted that there is a dog among the firing squad members. That is an unusual thing, I thought. Indeed, closer inspection revealed that the firing squad members--which include an octogenarian, a suited person, a doctor, a cowboy, and a child--form a community of sorts. But then the dog. Why is the dog there? Is his or her paw anatomically capable of grasping the trigger to fire the shot? Probably not, which lends the dog's presence something of a poignant sincerity.

But how could a dog turn against a human? Are dogs not "man's best friends?" Indeed not in this cartoon, in which the normal state of things has been turned completely on its head.

I think that, for most people who attended prestigious universities, a situation like this brings to mind the assassination of Julius Caesar, a man whose own community turned against him. Indeed, amongst the conspirators who planned Caesar's death was Caesar's own friend (his "best friend?") Brutus, a fact that inspired what are often said to be Caesar's last words: "Et tu, Brute?" (Of course I realize that Plutarch does not corroborate this as Caesar's last utterance, but I don't expect the obtunded cartoon caption judges to have enough sense to realize this.)

My first thought, therefore, was to simply write "Et tu, Brute?" as my caption. But this seemed too easy. Surely others would submit the same caption, and if this occurred, I realized, my odds of winning would be reduced to a simple coin toss. So I changed the name of the dog from Brutus, certainly an uncommon pet name, to Sparky, the acme of canine cognomen. I am aware that the use of the name "Sparky" disrupts the grammar of the Latin somewhat.

a preternaturally large bird

My entry: "You must be the early bird."
I reference a popular proverb: "The early bird catches the worm." The first recorded use of this proverb was John Ray's "A collection of English proverbs," 1670. Only at that time the phrase was rendered slightly differently: "The early bird catcheth the worm." My allusion to the rich history of the English language was apparently lost on the judges.