Tag Archives: satire

Review 62: More Information Than You Require


More Information Than You Require by John Hodgman

FACT: The Declaration of Independence was not the original creation of Thomas Jefferson, but was instead inspired by the work of Mole-Man declarationists.

FACT: The true sport of kings, and the only one of which a professional gambler will avail himself, is that of hermit crab racing.

FACT: Andrew Jackson was the first president to wear a necklace of human skulls at his inauguration.

FACT: The first moon landing was achieved in 1802, when Napoleon Bonaparte stepped onto the lunar surface with his conquering army. The horse skeletons are remarkably well-preserved.

WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?

Well, now you are.

In his first book, The Areas of my Expertise, John Hodgman claimed that he had provided us with “an almanac of complete world knowledge” that related matters historical, matters literary, matters cryptozoological, and of course, hobo matters, among many others. A read through this book, an almanac of interesting facts that were in no way, shape or form what is commonly known as “true,” was a demonstration of why fiction is inherently better than reality in that it is usually far more interesting. By the time you finished reading the book, he suggested, you truly would know everything you needed to know, regardless of whether it actually happened to be true.

So if the previous book was an almanac of complete world knowledge, why write another book? Surely complete world knowledge can’t be added to? Well, Hodgman addresses that question right away. What it comes down to is very simply that, in the few short years since the publication of The Areas of my Expertisenew things have happened. I know it’s hard to believe, and you may want to sit down and think about that for a moment.

Not the least of these new things is that Hodgman has become a famous minor television personality, which has gained him all the fame, riches and power you might expect. Following the publication of that book, Hodgman became a regular on The Daily Show and, of course, starred in the now-famous Mac/PC ads as the fuddy-duddy PC who puts up with the douchebaggery of the Mac.

Yeah, I really don’t like the Mac guy. But maybe that’s just because I really like Hodgman.

He has come down from the luxury zeppelin he bought from Emo Philips in order to provide us with more world knowledge – this time touching on what he has discovered about the okapi, the secret history of the Mole-Men, and the secret cult that lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn – an exclusive neighborhood that can be accessed only upon having reached the status of famous minor television celebrity. It’s a paradise, so long as you do not antagonize the children, who are allowed to kill you at their whim.

As with the previous book, this is a good piece of entertainment. Its jokes loop back and forth on themselves, referencing passages not only elsewhere in the book, but also on the pages of its predecessor (and for the sake of convenience, the page numbering for this book picks up where that of the previous book left off.) Its facts (or “facts”) are conveniently bolstered with handy charts and striking black and white photography that makes for a fascinating afternoon’s reading.

The intricate creativity that has been poured into building a bizarre alternate history of the United States is one that earns only the most sincere respect from me. Anyone with an imagination fertile enough to come up with things like Your Twelve Month Spleencast (a guide to telling the future using pig spleens (tip: it’s going to be pretty awful)), a Teddy Roosevelt List that puts Chuck Norris’ to shame, and a complete table of Brushes of Fame (with Hodgman as the famous person) deserves every cent I can give him.

One of his great regrets, as he tells us in this book, is that The Areas of my Expertise was never made into a page-a-day desk calendar. Such a mark of true success has only been reached by such luminaries as Gary Larson and the Secret Cabal of Crossword Puzzle Writers who are battling the Jumblemancers for control of the United States. In order that his second book might escape such ignominy, Hodgman has provided an interesting fact for each day of the year on each page. So, if you tear out the pages after reading them, voila! You have a page-a-day calendar. And some of the bits are truly inspired. The listing for September 11th, for example, shows why that day of all days is truly unforgettable.

But that is not all! Not yet, anyway. He is planning to continue his work into a third volume, due out whenever he manages to finish it. I assure you, Mr. Hodgman, I will be waiting eagerly for it.

It’s a strange type of humor, but then Hodgman is a strange type of guy. It’s the sort of thing that only he could pull off, lying in such earnest detail that you wish it were true only because it sounds just so much fun.

———————————————–
“Despite the conspiracy theories you may have read, the mole-men have never interbred with the British royal family or the Bush dynasty with the goal of infiltrating the highest reaches of government so as to harvest the blood of our babies to power the spaceliners that will bring them to the next planet they plan to pillage from within. You are thinking of the Belgians.”
- John Hodgman, More Information Than You Require
———————————————

More Information Than You Require on Wikipedia
John Hodgman on Wikipedia
More Information Than You Require on Amazon.com
TheAreasofmyExpertise.com

Leave a comment

Filed under almanac, humor, John Hodgman, satire

Review 30: Fight Club


Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Well, now I reckon y’all have seen the movie, so there’s probably not a whole lot that you need to know about this book.

You know Tyler Durden.

He’s the Id, the unchained spirit that wants what he wants and he wants it now. He’s the voice in your head that tells you that everything is worthless, that chaos, death and the end of civilization would be better than anything our so-called “society” could ever create. He’s the one standing over your left shoulder, whispering “Burn it all down. It’ll be fun.” He acts in secret, he has an army of minions, and he has a plan.

Oh yes, you know Tyler Durden.

The narrator of this dark and strange cautionary tale knows Tyler all too well, and tells us of how he and Tyler tried to change the world. It all started very simply – with basement fight clubs where men could let out their rage and frustration on each other. There were very few rules to fight club, but that was okay. Rules were, in fact, the problem. The regimented society in which we live imposes constant rules on us – social rules, cultural rules, corporate rules – that tell us who to be and what to think. The rules of our society have sapped us of our strength and purpose, making us soft. Pliable. Weak.

But Tyler’s plan doesn’t end there – the fight clubs morph into Project Mayhem, a well-oiled anarchist movement, determined to bring down the very fundamentals of our society. With an army at his beck and call, Tyler is sure that his plan will succeed.

It’s a book with a couple of very powerful messages, one overt and incorrect, the other subtle and accurate. The overt message is Tyler’s message – we are a generation with no cause, no purpose. Our lives are governed by what we buy and what we wear, and none of us will die having done anything with our lives. In order to be Real Men, we need to strip away the veneer of civilization – our Ikea furniture, our make-work jobs and our cornflower blue neckties – and rediscover the inner core of ourselves. The brutal, unafraid, unapologetic beast that is Man.

This, to no one’s surprise, appealed to a lot of people when the film came out because it’s a very believable world view. Those of Gen X and beyond are reminded over and over again that the generations before us were the ones who actually did things. The Baby Boomers got herded into the slaughterhouse that was Vietnam, toppled a President, faced down the chaos of the Sixties and fought to change the world. Their parents, of course, were the Greatest Generation – a label that I have come to despise – who fought Hitler and freed Europe. Their parents struggled through the Depression, and their parents fought in the trenches of World War One.

What have we done? Until the beginning of the 21st Century, how had we suffered? What had we sacrificed? Not a whole lot, and I think a lot of us secretly believe that we’re not only not pulling our weight in the world, but that since we have not suffered, we’re not really adult. Our miseries have not been those born of chaos, war and destruction. Ours have been tiny, personal tragedies that are, in their way, insignificant.

I can see where Tyler Durden is coming from on this point – I do sometimes look around me and ask, “Where are our great challenges, our Normandy or our moon landing?” And I fear that without these milestones, my generation will never really be taken seriously.

Unfortunately, this is about where most folks stopped thinking and decided, “Shit, man, he’s right! I wanna start a fight club!” And short-lived fight clubs sprang up all over the country, lasting about as long as it took for people to realize that while Brad Pitt on the movie screen can get beaten within an inch of his life and still look cool, a normal human cannot. They missed the subtle message because it wasn’t one that they really wanted to hear.

The book is not about the triumph of nihilism over a consumer-driven culture. It’s not about being a Real Man. It’s not about being a unique snowflake or a space monkey.

It’s about overcoming both the desire to destroy society and the desire to be completely subsumed by it. It’s about the need for purpose, and the need for connection with other people, and what can happen when one is deprived of those things. Tyler doesn’t show up because the narrator is rootless or bored – Tyler shows up because the narrator has forsaken people for things. He has replaced personal achievement with material gain, and that’s not a very fulfilling way to live.

It is a cautionary tale for our generation – you are not your tragedies. You are not the club you belong to. You are not your scars. You are neither worthless nor undeserving.

You are what you make yourself to be, no matter what Tyler Durden wants.

—————————————————-
“If you could either be God’s worst enemy or nothing, which would you choose?”
- The Narrator, Fight Club
—————————————————-

Fight Club on Wikipedia
Chuck Palahniuk on Wikipedia
Fight Club on Amazon.com
Official Chuck Palahniuk Fan Site

Leave a comment

Filed under anarchy, Chuck Palahniuk, fiction, identity, made into movies, satire, society, terrorism