Saturday, February 16, 2013


Allow me, if you will, to get into just how completely annoying and overwhelmingly irritating every single website in the world is, with these user names and passwords and different rules for everyone of them so that  even where you have a system for passwords and user names the entire world seems to have conspired against you to make you constantly frustrated and #*#%$&$ off just trying to enter a caption contest on a website.

Because, you know, that's a secure thing.  We can't have just anyone entering a caption contest!  What if someone entered under my name?


Well, I mean, the world wouldn't change at all, but still: The New Yorker, which is increasingly getting me angry by their never accepting my poems to print and then never accepting my captions to win, is now really high up on my Enemies List

(Yes, I have one. Everyone should.)

because they have again changed their log-in and password system to enter the caption contest.

Here is the exact text of the email I got from the New Yorker recently:

This message contains graphics. If you do not see the graphics, click here to view.
This e-mail was sent to you by The New Yorker Advertising Promotion Department.
To insure delivery to your inbox (not bulk or junk folders), please add our e-mail address,, to your address book.

A Message From The New Yorker  
Dear Captioneers,
These days, there's not much you can do without a user name and password.
User name and password?
And that includes entering our Cartoon Caption Contest. You already know that, of course, because you've entered it. That's also why you're getting this e-mail. Because if you want to enter again, you may have to re-register your user name and password. Or create one, if you haven't used one thus far. We're merging our caption registration with our over-all registration, so one login will allow you to comment on blog posts and enter and vote on all contests, including the Caption Contest.
The easiest thing to do is to go to and create a registration—and that's it. Presto chango, you can now enter all future contests with your user name and password.
If you already have a user name and password, you can simply log in If you're having trouble with your password, please reset it here.
For more help, please contact customer support at 1-800-825-2510. I'm told they're very supportive.
Bob Mankoff,
Cartoon Editor

First of all the easiest thing to do is not require a name and password and log in just to enter a contest.  I get it that you want to create an email list and know who to market to, but do you really think that the caption contest is drawing in people who would not otherwise buy The New Yorker in the first place?

I would bet you a thousand dollars that every single person who enters the New Yorker Cartoon Caption contest knows about that contest because they already subscribe to the magazine, so what you are doing is not broadening your marketing base.  You are alienating your current subscribers by making it harder to enter a contest.

Here is exactly what I have had to do, so far, to comply with Bob Mankoff's easiest things to do, in order to enter a cartoon caption contest.

First, I put on the song "The Quiz" by Hello Saferide.

That is not technically a required step, but that song is peaceful and pleasant and soothing and I knew I would need it.

Then I went to their website.  When you go to the contest spot, you have the current cartoon:

And below it is a box, and two columns.  The box is to type in your caption.  The two columns are:

-- on the left: you can enter a bunch of information about yourself like your name and address and your display name so that if you win The New Yorker will put the name you want on the site ("Briane1213WisconsIN0012").

-- on the right is a login and password, which tells you AND I QUOTE

Log in below to avoid having to fill out the rest of this form. Your information has already been saved to your account.

So I went to the site and I typed the email for the login, and typed what I believed to be the most current version of the password I use, having just done this only about three weeks ago and so I was reasonably sure I know what password I am using now, but, of course, the password box doesn't remind you of whether this password needs a capital, or a number, or both, or none.

(Once, I spent 20 minutes trying to log in to my student loan account, getting more and more frustrated until I finally was able to recover my user name and then change my password, after which I realized that I was leaving off the number on the end of my password.  I was typing the password but had not typed 1 at the end of it.)

After putting in my user name and what I thought was my password, I was denied log-in because I had left some fields empty, including the caption box itself, and including all the demographic information on the left which I was told I didn't have to fill out if I just logged in.

As for the caption box, the reason I didn't enter my caption for that yet is:

(A) I don't have a caption yet, I haven't even begun to think about it, I'm still TRYING TO LOG IN and

(B) Sometimes, if you type your caption in and then log in and the login doesn't work you have to retype everything, including the caption, like a sucker.

STEP TWO.  Try again, this time using a capitalized first letter and adding a numeral after my current password.

This time, I am told to

Please log in with with your email and password.

The typo is theirs.

And also told that I must enter a username and a country, and my caption.  It is not clear if I have logged in, though, as the log-in box is no longer available for me to please log in with my New Yorker password:

So I picked my "Display name" and my country...

noting for the first time that

Any resident of the United States, Canada (except Quebec), Australia, the United Kingdom, or the Republic of Ireland age eighteen or older can enter or vote.
And I wonder: Why can't people in France vote?

Or people in Japan?

But this time it appears that everything is set except for my caption, so let's caption the bejeezus out of this cartoon.

So what I thought was a mountain in the background is a city, right? It's a bridge and some buildings.  Is this New York?  San Francisco?  Some other city with a bridge?  No other cities have bridges of note, so far as I know, beyond New York and San Francisco, and I say that as someone who has been in several cities.

Does the location matter?  Probably.  It's The New Yorker, after all, not The San Franciscoer.  Maybe I should go SF, though, only...


"Next time, I get to wear the outfit!
That seems almost too obvious.  If it came to me as I was actively thinking about something else -- I was pondering a Super Bowl-related joke -- then it would probably come to every Brooklyn hipster reading this issue at their locavore dentist's office (the hipsters are there to get their teeth crookedized.  I think the next big thing is going to be not-perfect teeth, because they will seem genuine.)

Probably too obvious.

Are the two out on a ride together? Probably not.  He's on a chopper, she's on a Vespa thing, and he's, of course, naked.  What if they are related, though?  What if


"I think you took my clothes when you left this morning."

That's okay.  That's on the right track.

"You've got my housekeys in your pocket."

That's even BETTER, I think.  Suggests that they spent the night together but they don't live together.  So the woman left him at her house, maybe? WOMEN'S LIB, amIright?  She is a sexy, confident, woman of the 21st century,  not afraid to pick up a biker and then head off to her job at a ... what kind of company would she work at? I want to say graphic design, but that's probably because we saw Side Effects yesterday and that was what Rooney Mara's character did for a living after Channing Tatum's character got thrown in prison for insider trading.

That's not a SPOILER.  It's the plot of the movie, in part, and you're told all that in the first two minutes of the movie.

You know what's weird? I cannot recall a single character's name from that movie except for Catherine Zeta Jones' character

who was called "Dr. Siebert."

So it probably doesn't matter what Vespa woman does.  Think think think.  Maybe a traffic-incident joke, something that the Vespa did that made the man lose his clothes?

All I've got is

"You cut me off back there," 

but that doesn't imply that he lost his clothes in the process, does it?

The man is definitely mad.  The woman appears to be ignoring him.

What's the story, here.  What has happened to make this man mad and this woman indifferent?

"I thought you said you had to be at work early today?"

Still on the "we slept together last night" theme, but a little better, maybe.

I really can't stare at that guy's body any longer.

But I can't not stare at it, either.

His eyebrows, for one thing, are really bushy.


Ordinarily, I do these things really quickly, but Mr F wanted to go for a ride, so we took him for a ride that lasted about a half-hour.  While we were doing that, I went over the ideas I had with Sweetie, and she liked the ones I had so far, so I am going to go with one of those.

Sweetie also clarified for me that in the movie Side Effects, Rooney Mara's character was called "Emily," and Jude Law's character was "Dr. Banks," only she knew his first name too and told it to me but I already forgot it.  She also knew that Channing Tatum's character was "Martin" and that Jude Law's wife's name was "Dierdre."

I was fine with just thinking of them as "Rooney" and "Channing" etc.

So I'm going with "You've got my housekeys in your pocket," because I like that one.

Let's go back and try to enter it.


So it took me only three tries to submit my entry, but I had to fill out the entire form anyway, and besides that, I've already forgotten the password that I used this time, which means when I enter next week, I am going to have to come back to this post to remember what I did to enter the contest.

Because, again, GOD FORBID someone enter a contest under false pretenses.  I can just see it now: some week, I will be watching Access Hollywood or the Academy Awards or the Nobel Prize ceremony and there will be a bunch of paparazzi surrounding some guy who will be walking around with January Jones on his arm and the people covering the event will say

"There's Briane Pagel, you know he won The New Yorker caption contest this week, and January Jones fell in love with him..."

And I'll be all yelling at the TV "Hey, that's not me, I'm me," but nobody will pay attention, and that guy will be living my life, and I'll have to shut up when Sweetie comes back into the room, but THAT GUY will be getting all the fame and fortune that comes with submitting the caption voted to be the funniest for a drawing of a couple of bears at a cocktail party talking about the stock market

OR, conversely, one day I'll come home from work all innocently,  hoping that Sweetie has made pizza for dinner that night (YES!) and I'll walk in and she'll hit me with a frying pan and when I say

"What was that for, and also did you, in fact, make pizza tonight?" she'll say

"I heard on the news that some guy named Briane Pagel won The New Yorker's caption contest and went on a date with January Jones! I'm leaving you!" and then she'll hit me again with the frying pan because we are in a Blondie comic strip.

So it's probably for the best that security is so tight around The New Yorker, but that is January Jones' loss.


PT Dilloway, Grumpy Bulldog said...

They really need to make it so you can use thumbprints or retina scans or something instead of all these stupid passwords no one can remember. Like yesterday my boss forwarded a voice mail to my box and I'm like, "Could you tell me what it is because I can't access my voice mail." Because when we moved to this new phone system you have to have a six-digit number and there are no six-digit numbers that are familiar to me. I mean zip codes are 5 numbers and phone numbers are 7. What's 6 numbers? Nothing. And you're not supposed to use 123456 like in Spaceballs. So basically I'd have to write my password on a Post It Note and leave it by the phone which pretty much defeats the purpose. That's internet security in a nutshell.

Roger Ebert says that every New Yorker caption could be "What an asshole!" That could apply for that one too.

Briane P said...

I should enter that every week until they give it to me just out of persistence.

XKCD pointed out once that you could have passwords be four four-letter words, and that system (no caps, no numbers, no weird symbols) is about 13,000,000 times harder to crack than what they do now, but way easier to remember.

You could just have "duck find book easy" and remember that and yet nobody could really crack it.

Andrew Leon said...

That can't be San Fran, because there is city on both sides of the bridge.

I have the same problem trying to pay my phone bill every month, and, every month, I end up having to reset my password, which means there is no possible way I will remember that password for the next month. It drives me freaking crazy.

Um... I had something else, but I've forgotten it.

Liz said...

Yes, they make those things way too difficult. I finally had to make a password sheet. It's a series of boxes that fit post-it notes, so the post-it notes can be removed when you invariably have to change the password. Again.

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

At C.E.S. in January, Google spoke about the pressing need to eliminate all passwords and usernames from the internet. With such a huge company behind it, maybe it will happen. I hope you win "The New Yorker" caption contest. I think it would be quite prestigious, and you're definitely up to it as you are smart, clever, and funny.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my book. Everytime you say something nice about it, it cheers me up out of the winter funk.

*hugs to you Briane!

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Briane P said...

Liz: Your idea is great, if a bit insecure.

Michael: I saw that picture of smog you posted. I can believe you get the winter funk.

Now I'm off to read more Oculus.

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