De Interpretatione

From the New Yorker issue of 8/14 (arrived in my mailbox yesterday), two cartoons about interpreting what we perceive — on what we see, a Stephen Raaka cartoon on the perils of pointillism; and on what’s been said, a Will McPhail drawing paired with this issue’s winner in the caption contest, with a text about literal vs. figurative understandings.

The Stephen Raaka cartoon. On interpreting what you see:

(#1) Sunday in the park with George, and a lot of bees

From the 86 Logic site’s page on Raaka (obviously from his own hand), who’s fresh on AZBlog:

Stephen Raaka is a cartoonist living in Brooklyn. He loves his mustache, his Juul [AZ: for smoking e-cigarettes], and saying the phrase “are you even industry, brah?”. Just kidding, he’s a humble bartender who hopes to see more equity in the future of bars and restaurants. His drawings have appeared in a few Desert Island Publications (Resist!, Rescue Party) and on some clothes (

(He seems to be 35 years old.)

Will McPhail’s drawing, plus the winning caption. (There’s a Page on this blog about McPhail’s cartoons.)

(#2) Ordinarily, I have a million relatives would be understood as figurative — as entertainingly hyperbolic — but coming from a giant ant, it probably should be understood as the literal truth; the Argentine ants that occasionally afflict the buildings in my condo complex are part of a colony that does indeed extend all the way south to Argentina, encompassing many millions of individuals

A note on drawing a giant ant. Ants are insects, with six legs. If you propose to draw a giant ant sitting in an airplane seat, you’ve got a problem with all those legs. A frequent solution is to truncate the leggedness, to four, which can then be configured as two human-like arms — which the ant in #2 is using to hold the book it’s reading — and two human-like legs — which the ant in #2 has crossed, boldly taking up lots of space on the plane.

(I remind you that creatures in cartoons almost always exist in two parallel worlds: the world of creatures of its sort; and a more fundamental world of human beings and their practices and interactions.)


One Response to “De Interpretatione”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    It’s interesting is that the two “arms” appear to both be on the right side of the ant’s body, suggesting that the other two are somehow missing or concealed.

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