Sunday, January 18, 2015

Moving week at the office is traumatic for everyone, including "New Yorker" cartoon editor Bob Mankoff


In his current "Cartoon Lounge" video, Bob decides, while clearing out his old office, that there's no way he's tossing the album from his bar mitzvah in 1957 at the Hotel Pierre, where he "made out like a bandit."

by Ken

Would it be fair to guess that most readers have had the experience of an office move on the job? Offhand I can remember four of them -- two each on two jobs -- and while of course they're nowhere near as traumatic or exhausting as home moves, they can be pretty trying and tiring.

I bring this up in connection with a distinguished visitor to this space we had recently.

Back around Thanksgiving I wrote a post ("Breaking news: Bob Mankoff sheds light on the age-old New Yorker Question of Québec '"), in which I'm afraid I spoke rather harshly about Bob's new weekly Web video feature, "The Cartoon Lounge," which has basically replaced the weekly blogpost he has been doing for a while, which I thought was one of the great adornments of Western civilization.

It didn't help that I couldn't necessarily see the videos, owing to my general difficulty of access to the content of since the promised new paywall went up. The paywall was not supposed to exclude subscribers, but via both Safari and Firefox on the two different Macs that I use, I was literally unable to sign in. (If I click on what is presumably supposed to be the "Sign In" link, the screen refreshes, but instead of getting any sort of sign-in window, I simply lose my scroll bar.)

Still, from what I had been able to see of the "Cartoon Lounge" outings to date, I wasn't much impressed, and speculated that they had a lot to do with pressure from above to bulk up the website's video content, which I gather is thought to be of prime value to online-content shoppers.

Anyway, I was charmed to learn that Bob himself had added this comment to that post:
Hi Ken,

Bob Mankoff here. Yes, it's really me. Sorry you don't like the lounge but understand your point of view. I will be doing both a regular blog post and the video.

The lounge is a lot better when you can see the videos. But I agree the blogs can be much more substantive while being funny.
Why, thanks for visiting, Bob, and thanks for the update.

Never let it be said that I'm unwiling or unable to revisit a past judgment, and this seemed a good time, as I was intrigued by this week's subject as announced in Bob's weekly e-mail, "Moving On, Out, and Up," which begins:
We’re moving way up, because The New Yorker is packing up the whole kit and caboodle and, beginning next week, will be high above lower Manhattan in our new office at 1 World Trade Center. How high? Well, let’s put it this way: the cloud with which we cloud-compute is twenty floors below us.
As I suggested earlier, this subject of an office move resonates pretty strongly for me, and I guess I'm far enough out of the loop that I didn't realize -- or maybe just remember that I knew -- that The New Yorker was moving. So I opened up Google Chrome (this being the computer on which I have Google Chrome), even though I already had a Web browser open (which is also the one in which I'm writing and will post this post), and took a look, and I'm not sorry I did.

First I took a look at the "Borowitz Report," bearing the shocking news: "Republicans Accuse Obama of Using Position as President to Lead Country." I miss "The Borowitz Report," but if it means digging into my monthly allotment of free clicks (six, isn't it?), well, I just don't often do it, especially since I'm supposed to be getting it free as a subscriber. (More about this ongoing battle in a moment.)

I proceeded then to the "Cartoon Lounge" page, where I found one bit of additional information: "In this 'Cartoon Lounge' episode, I pack on up some of my own stuff and bid a tearful goodbye to an old vending machine."

And that's just what we see. (I tried, by the way, to embed the video, using the alleged embedding code provided, but as with most of my efforts to embed other-than-YouTube videos, I failed.) At the time the video was made Bob appears to have had a lot of packing left to do. "When you're clearing out after 15 years," he says, "you find a lot of things." And we see him sorting through some of that accumulation. He's able to chuck a couple of things, but then comes to the bar-mitzvah album documented at the top of this post, and that's a keeper -- too many fond memories. Then there is indeed a visit to a fondly remembered snack machine, which turns out -- like most of the building, Bob says -- to have had its contents already removed.

I don't know that I would have found this "Cartoon Lounge" outing clickworthy if I was on the clickmeter, but I enjoyed it. Come to think of it, if Bob does actually continue to write actual blogposts, I'll have to make the same decision.


Which brings me back to this problem. I've separated out this part in the knowledge that it will be of little concern to readers, but no, my problem with access is still in place, and I'm feeling alarmingly close to the point where I have to make a decision about the only action that seems available to me, which is to cancel my subscription.

I gave up communing with The New Yorker's dubiously titled Customer Care department when a Customer Caregiver finally acknowledged in passing that there actually was a "Safari problem" that was being worked on. This followed several rounds of being told by said caregivers that the solution to my problem -- my inability to sign into the website using my account was simple: just sign in using my account. In my follow-up queries I begged to be put in contact with a tech person, of which I assume there must be some, but no luck.

The most interesting response I got was from a reader who speculated that the sign-in function involves use of a pop-up window, and many of us specifically block pop-up windows. My commenter ventured that many developers fantasize that their pop-up window will miraculous penetrate the blockade. My chief reservation regarding this theory was that eventually I discovered that I could achieve link in via Google Chrome, a browser that I almost never use, and that in fact I don't (and can't) have on one of those two computers I use.

I notice also that The New Yorker now specifies that total website access is not automatically available to new print-edition subscribers, by which I understand that there are now two classes of magazine subscribers. (I guess new subscribers have to exercise the option to buy a print-plus-website subscription.) Actually, I should say that there are three classes, the third being those of us who have been subscribers for eons but still don't have website access.

And therein lies my dilemma. I'm still getting what I've been paying for all these years: the more or less timely arrival in my mailbox of every print edition of the magazine. So if you look at it one way, I haven't been deprived of anything. Except in real-world terms, I have been. There's a fair amount of content I've come to enjoy and value. Probably not enought to pay for it if it comes to that, but enough to feel deprived when it's taken away.

Maybe it's not much of a principle at stake, but it's a principle of sort, and given my now-bottomed-out hopes of any help coming from Customer Care, I can't think of anything to do other than pull the plug on the subscription. It will be a traumatic step, because I like the magazine a lot, and spend a lot of time with most issues. On the plus side, though, making the break will save me oodles of time.

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At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you tried Firefox with the NoScript plug-in? I think it's unmatched for browsing security and versatility. I first started using it on my old Dell and now I'm running it on my Mac. I only wish there was a mobile version for the iPad. I have to use Safari on the pad and it sucks mightily. I hate, hate, hate Safari. It can't hurt to try Firefox for the New Yorker site. Who knows? It might work.

At 8:21 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks for the tip! I'm not famliar with the NoScript plug-in. I'll have to look into it.

Safari actually works better for most of my (pathetically limited) purposes than either Firefox or Chrome. In our blog software, for example, graphics show up in "compose" mode in Safari but not Firefox. Of course pages load faster without the graphics, but I do kind of like to be able to see them!


At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Marcio Wilges said...

If it's just office removals, it's not a big deal I think. But when you and your family need to move too so you can accommodate the change in location, then there's something to shout about..

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous MarcioWilges said...

Office removals are never easy but it just takes a little while to get used to the new environment and get back into the groove of things.


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