Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
February 16, 2006 - February 9, 2006

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

In Honor of Valentine's Day:

The Carschach Test

Inkblot #1: Is this the one that turns you on?

A SCOOP FROM THE XOFF REPORT. For generations now, the psychology profession has used inkblots to tap the subconscious minds of human beings. It only took 50 years or so of data collection and tabulation to discover that whenever you show someone an inkblot, he always associates it with sex. To Dr. Gerhard Carschach, this phenomenon suggested that it's time -- for doctors and patients both -- to stop pretending that inkblots are houses or insects or cats on the mantlepiece. This just wastes time and muddies the waters. That's why he has developed a new set of eight blots that he regards as complete and sufficient for all psyches.

"Now that we know we're all of us always looking for sex in abstract images," Dr. Carschach explained in a recent interview, "we can ask a question much simpler than 'What does this make you think of?' We can ask, rather, which one of these blots turns you on the most? Sexually, I mean."

InstaPunk readers can experience the absolute insights of the new inkblots for themselves. The procedure is simple. Study all the blots on this page, including the one above, and after careful review and comparison, select the ONE that seems to you the most sexually suggestive and appealing. Then click on THAT inkblot for a detailed analysis of your sexual persona. But please don't be hasty. The results are correct 99.9 percent of the time, and the psychological damage can be immense and permanent if you inadvertently become one of the 0.01 percent of those who choose too quickly.

That small warning given, have at it and enjoy your voyage of personal discovery.

Inkblot #2

Inkblot #3

Inkblot #4

Inkblot #5

Inkblot #6

Inkblot #7

Inkblot #8

Needless to say, we picked the best one.

Bye for now.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cartoon Contest Results

REWORK THE CARTOON. On Groundhog Day, we started the ball rolling:

(W)e're sponsoring a little contest. Above you'll find the inoffensive image from the original [Tom Toles] cartoon stripped of its names, labels, and words. We invite you to fill them in however you think appropriate. You can copy the image and Photoshop it yourself, or you can email InstaPunk with the text content you want.... We will choose a winner sometime next week... After we've published the worst you can do, we will fail to apologize for any offense taken by your targets. How's that for a prize?

It's taken us longer than anticipated to collate and consider what turned out to be a big pile of entries. Our apologies for that, but not for anything that follows. Yes, we know that some of you were offended by the mere fact of the contest; for example, here are the thoughts of commenter "Sean":

I found the WaPo cartoon beyond vile. I believe your little contest is no better, although I'm ashamed that it's coming from my side of the blogosphere.

Several of the contest entrants also identified the original blank version we created as the only variation from the original they could stomach submitting. We understand their sensibilities, but there is value in carrying out a live attempt to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. While many of the entries are clever, none succeeds in rising above the repugnant image to become truly funny. In short, the collected entries prove that regardless of Toles's attempt to depict the original as a harmless conceptual construct, his drawing  is truly offensive. His error is very much like that of writers and filmmakers who insist on using the F-Word in their work to achieve verisimilitude. The effect of that word in print and on film far outweighs its effect in casual conversation. Toles conceived an idea that was abstract in its imagined form, but far too real and resonant in its emotional impact. His cartoon and all the reworkings of it we received are in bad taste.

Focusing on one exceptionally clumsy example reminded us that Toles and other political cartoonists are especially susceptible to this kind of misstep. There is a wide gulf between political cartoons and New Yorker cartoons -- i.e., cartoons that are honestly meant to be funny. Political cartoons are self-conscious allegories rather than slices of life, and their images are almost exclusively symbolic. They do not refer to authentic human experience except by (usually unfortunate) accident. They are at best witty, and at worst a deadly expose of the artist's own pretensions. We are forced to the conclusion that political cartoonists make up the bush league of both the art and humor worlds.

Most of our entrants understood this and acknowledged, explicitly or implicitly, the impossibility of extracting real humor from the Toles drawing . A few did not. Despite our admonitions, quite a few lefties offered submissions that retained the identity of the patient as the U.S. Army or a soldier in that army. A couple of thoughtless righties did the same. We were surprised by all instances of this.

We are getting to the winners, but just a few more observations first. We offered entrants the opportunity to submit text rather than filled-in cartoons, but this resulted in almost nothing usable. Particularly with regard to lefties, the text versions turned into sentences and even paragraphs of lecturing rhetoric. These are never funny, and they are almost always directly counter-productive to their authors' purpose. You can see many examples of such leaden non-starters in the Comments section of the Contest announcement page, where it should be obvious that as a group the lefties have no emotional connection of any kind to the troops they affect to save through surrender and appeasement. They don't see the soldier in the bed as anything but a chess piece in their attack on Bush. Are you listening, Tom Toles and WAPO editors? Of course not.

Now for our (dis)honorees. We selected this one because the submitter went to the trouble of revising the drawing on his own, and it does succeed in tapping into a culturally shared image that's less real and repellent than the original.

(Dis)Honorable Mention

Our Third Place winner represents the best attempt we received tying the Toles controversy to the Muhammed cartoon controversy. Inexcusably -- and therefore irresistibly -- it dares to depict Muhammed himself.

Third Place

Next comes the cartoon that first occurred to us, and we freely concede we didn't have the nerve to work it up ourselves. But we do have the gumption to publish it.

Second Place

The entries as a whole did fall naturally into a number of categories. The most popular targets were Democrats and liberal ideology, the mainstream media, Islamists and their apologists, and predictably, the most deserving target of all. Here is the best of that last category.

First Place

You can also see a larger percentage of the total entries, broken out by category, on a separate page here. If you choose to go there and look, don't bother telling us how offended you are. You looked.

There. We did what we promised, and also as promised, we have no prizes to give other than continuing anonymity for our contributors and a stubborn refusal to apologize for this object lesson. Thanks to all who participated.

Thursday, February 09, 2006



THINGS CHANGE. Yeah, it's authentic. From Germany. Is there any remaining hope for the survival of western civilization against the barbarian hordes? No.

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