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The Areas of My Expertise

samzenpus posted about 9 years ago | from the know-it-all dept.

Books 174

Hemos writes "Most of the books sent to Slashdot for review have words like "Java", "hacks", or "802.11b" in the title, but occasionally an odd general book arrives after a publicist hits the wrong button on the keyboard. At first, I thought that John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise , was a mistake, but now I'm not sure. Because this is Slashdot, I'll spend the rest of the review wondering whether the Internet is really changing jokes, humor in general, and even all narrative form. But before that, I can tell you now that there's something sly, odd, and very funny about the book even though it is little more than a disconnected collection of lists and details. It's a coredump from a mind filled with 700 names of Hobos, the ways to use a ferret to rob a bank, the secret to winning every fight (use henchmen!), and the first draft of T.R. Roosevelt's famous command: speak softly and pierce their eyes with a golden hook." Read on for Peter Wayner's review.

Let me help the curiosity of the general reader before I get to the meat of the review where I reveal enough Internet-releated theories to satisfy the nasty trolls who like to wonder why Slashdot is wasting valuable bits on silly topic. As John Hodgeman is fond of promising on his book's cover: "THE ANSWER IS PROVIDED".

The book is said to be a relatively complete collection of all of the important expertise in the mind of John Hodgeman, the author referred to on the cover as "A PROFESSIONAL WRITER." There's one section that contains the "700 Hobo names you requested." ("Irontrousers the Strong", "Fleastick" are 55 and 79). Another includes random crap about the 50 states. The sections are all very silly and the humor emerges from a form of metaphysical misdirection. I still chuckle when I think about the list of jokes that "have never produced laughter." The jokes really aren't funny, but there's something insane in their very deliberate and plodding failure.

The book can be sampled like a box of chocolates. I tried to read it through directly to see if any grand arc emerged, but my mind couldn't extract any great signal from the cultural noise. For all I know, he wrote each bit on an index card and then shuffled the cards before typesetting the book. The gags are all about the randomness of the wrong information cluttering his minds and, to a large extent, the texture of the words.

Long ago, an editor would have thrown this guy out on his ear for even suggesting that 230 some pages of chuckles would be worthy of getting people together for a book publication party. I don't think the editor or the publisher let those worries get in the way.

Which brings us to the answer I owe you about why this is a post- internet book. As the non-funny "unified theory of the web" in Small Pieces Loosely Joined pointed out, the web is made up by many small pieces of information arranges with hyperlinks that join them, loosely if you will. Well, that's this book. Random pieces of crap, given an additional shuffle to make it seem all the more random. It's all very loosely joined.

Long ago, professional writers like John Hodgman included narrative arcs and well-wrought plotlines with their books. Perhaps we don't need them any more. Maybe the Internet has changed our brain and made us happy to graze from the bar without the need of a sitdown meal. To put on my PROFESSIONAL POSTER hat, I think that the Internet has made us accustomed to getting our stuff in loosely joined pieces.

In fact it's worse than that. Most bloggers write complete paragraphs, but many parts of the book are just a collection of tiny bits that don't even qualify as full paragraphs. Many of the entries are just lists and many of the items in these lists aren't even complete sentences. This modern approach to writing is everywhere. Even the old dead-tree-based print media is producing magazines filled with so-called stories that are nothing more than lists of cool things to do, watch, or eat. The high-toned magazines may even have two or three sentences per list item--enough, I guess, to qualify as a paragraph, but most are nothing more than lists.

Some folks seem to feel that this fragmented, attention-deficit- whatever life is a good thing. Steven Johnson, for instance, argues in his book that the jumpy plots made of many short scenes are evidence of an expanding intellect. Modern TV seems almost unwatchable to me. But I also find old Starsky and Hutch episodes to be terribly plodding. Won't they just get to the point and catch the killers? But, back then, the journey was 9/10ths of the fun. The point wasn't really the point.

But maybe I'm just making too much of it. Plenty of comedy has always been filled with short pieces. Steve Martin's Cruel Shoes , for instance, was broken into a number of very short bits, although there really were a few threads woven throughout the book. Absurdist comedy like Monty Python's Flying Circus was just a collection of wacky riffs, but they did try to come up with clever and even more absurdist segueways to carry the viewer from scene to scene. It was not usual to have a bunch of guys walk into the frame of a sketch and carry one or more of the characters off and into the frame of another set.

At this point, I sort of feel that I need to add what PROFESSIONAL WRITERS call a "kicker", some sort of question or twist that connects us with the top of the piece and gives the reader a sense of closure. They're hard to find and even harder to craft. Ones that are even slightly funny or insightful can get you promoted. But, given the spirit of the book, I feel inclined to invoke the spirit of a hobo, slack a bit, and steal the ending from the book itself. (I can do this without spoiling the book for you!) As Hodgman writes when he comes to the end of the deck of joke cards, "That is all."


You can purchase The Areas of My Expertise from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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FTFR: (4, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | about 9 years ago | (#14045764)

Random pieces of crap, given an additional shuffle to make it seem all the more random.

Yep. That'd be slashdot.

Re:FTFR: (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14045789)

1. list random crap
2. ?
3. profit

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046179)

Literature Teeters on the Edge of a 'Gr8 Fall'

Re:FTFR: (2, Insightful)

mmarlett (520340) | about 9 years ago | (#14046326)

I don't know. Does the book repeat bits on every other page?

Re:FTFR: (1)

Spackler (223562) | about 9 years ago | (#14046816)

Yep. That'd be slashdot.

(Score:6, Insghtfully Funny that made me laugh out loud)

(Note: Thats ROFL to you AIM dweebs)

T.R. Roosevelt... (-1, Troll)

creimer (824291) | about 9 years ago | (#14045766)

I thought he said: "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Back then, that actually meant something. These days it's "Speak loudly and carry a big rubber stick."

Re:T.R. Roosevelt... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14045800)

That's why I found a rubber stick in my girlfriend's purse.

Re:T.R. Roosevelt... (0)

creimer (824291) | about 9 years ago | (#14045865)

Could be worst... Might've been Bill Clinton's cigar. :P

Re:T.R. Roosevelt... (0)

Senes (928228) | about 9 years ago | (#14045853)

Or, speak loud verbose nonsense and wave a bigger stick around. Who ever said that everyone would be perfect?

Re:T.R. Roosevelt... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046050)

More like "speak softly and carry a wiffle bat."

Re:T.R. Roosevelt... (1)

B'Trey (111263) | about 9 years ago | (#14046820)

You're badly mistaken. The new phrase isn't "Speak softly and carry a big rubber stick." It's "Speak loudly as hell ('cause then nobody'll notice that you're lying) and lay about wildly with a great big stick (and make no plans for picking up the pieces afterwards)."

Sounds interesting (4, Funny)

nekojin (855341) | about 9 years ago | (#14045770)

But everyone knows hobos don't have names. It's always just 'That guy on the median at the intersection of Ironwood and Laneview St.'.

Re:Sounds interesting (5, Funny)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | about 9 years ago | (#14045840)

'That guy on the median at the intersection of Ironwood and Laneview St.'

I've since moved on to the corner of Ironwood and Edison. Better traffic flow.

Re:Sounds interesting (1)

edmicman (830206) | about 9 years ago | (#14046188)

Whoa, both from South Bend?

Re:Sounds interesting (1)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | about 9 years ago | (#14046331)

Indeed.

And I don't appreciate this [fiestyturtles.com] !

Re:Sounds interesting (1)

edmicman (830206) | about 9 years ago | (#14046664)

I'm a transplant to the area...and apologies for the pic :-) It was at the tailgate two years ago right before MSU neutered tailgating for good!

Re:Sounds interesting (1)

ezeecheez (931550) | about 9 years ago | (#14045899)

I suppose you think hepatitis C is funny, too, Robin Williams?

Buy it here cheaper! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14045777)

Save yourself $2.64 by buying the book here instead: The Areas of My Expertise [amazon.com] . And if you use the "secret" A9.com discount [amazon.com] , you can save an extra 1.57%!

At first, I thought... (4, Funny)

lampiaio (848018) | about 9 years ago | (#14045783)

At first, I though that everyone, knew how to use proper, punctuation. But, now I see, I, was wrong.

Re:At first, I thought... (0)

FuckTheModerators (883349) | about 9 years ago | (#14045856)

MOD PARENT UP!!!!!

Read it closely. He's William F***ing Shatner.

Or Adam West. Who knows?

Re:At first, I thought... (1)

MemeRot (80975) | about 9 years ago | (#14046012)

"At first, I though that"

Grammar nazi, watch out for the spelling nazis. Unless you really meant "at first I though that"?

Re:At first, I thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046089)

Unless you really meant "at first I though that"?

Isn't that suposed to end with a period? You know, it's not a question.

Re:At first, I thought... (1)

thepurplemonkey (814382) | about 9 years ago | (#14046087)

No. No. Its. The. James T. Kirk. school of. dramatic. pauses.

Re:At first, I thought... (1)

PopeOptimusPrime (875888) | about 9 years ago | (#14046568)

At first, I though that everyone, knew how to use proper, punctuation. But, now I see, I, was wrong.

I didn't know you frequented slashdot, Mr. Shatner!

Re:At first, I thought... (1)

gitchel (858517) | about 9 years ago | (#14046735)

He looks like he may, simply, have learned to write in the 60s. Back in those days, commas were cheap and plentiful, and we were taught to use them freely, as speed-bumps, curbs, and road signs. Now, of course, it's hard enough to get people to read, and you want to keep the terrain as smooth, simple, and clear, as possible. ':-)

GotNothin (-1, Offtopic)

zoloto (586738) | about 9 years ago | (#14045790)

I... can't... retort... with... anything... snappy...

**head explodes**

what kind of word is this? (5, Funny)

nganju (821034) | about 9 years ago | (#14045812)


and even more absurdist segueways to carry

is that pronounced seg-way-ways? Reminds me of the "ATM Machine" joke...

Re:what kind of word is this? (4, Funny)

op12 (830015) | about 9 years ago | (#14045838)

Whenever I try to use the ATM machine, I always forget my PIN number.


...another pet peeve :)

Re:what kind of word is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14045895)

If you stored your PIN number on the network, you could access it via your NIC card.

Re:what kind of word is this? (1)

Strange_Attractor (160407) | about 9 years ago | (#14045938)

You should check out the Austin Lounge Lizards' song "Big Rio Grande River" [amazon.com] (Amazon link, has audio samples if you use one of the supported players), just about the last word on this sort of repetitious, redundant, reiterated, and redundant circumlocution.

Oh, and "Grunge Song" on the same album (Never an Adult Moment) is pretty great, too.

Re:what kind of word is this? (3, Funny)

MemeRot (80975) | about 9 years ago | (#14046033)

"Whenever I try to use the ATM machine, I always forget my PIN number. "

This is Insightful? OK, every time I try to put on my shoes, I forget how to tie them.

Re:what kind of word is this? (2)

MojoSF (658720) | about 9 years ago | (#14046052)

Okay, if we have to explain the jokes to you, they're just not funny any more.

ATM Machine.

PIN number.

oh never mind. :)

sigh (1)

bluGill (862) | about 9 years ago | (#14046347)

Do we have to explain everything to you? The great-grandparent was obviously meant as a joke, yet it was moderated insightful. Strangely enough, the reply, which was just a quote of the grantparent was modded funny.

Not only are the mods stupid, the comments are too. I mean worse than normal - normally if something is modded up a few times it is somewhat intelligent.

Re:what kind of word is this? (3, Informative)

Omestes (471991) | about 9 years ago | (#14046343)

Wow.

Automatic Teller Machine Machine
Personal Identification Number Number.

Wow.

Re:what kind of word is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046057)

I'll send it to you in an IM Message.

Re:what kind of word is this? (1)

raygunz (577841) | about 9 years ago | (#14046590)

I always like to refer to a part number in emails to purchasing as "P.N.#No. 1234"

No one seems to notice the triple redundancy.

Re:what kind of word is this? (1)

TheLetterPsy (792255) | about 9 years ago | (#14046673)

I was SO tempted to mod this "Redundant" but I didn't want to:

a) needlessly harm your karma (since you get no bonus for +funny but get a penalty for -redundant)
b) make your post invisible since it is hilarious
c) waste mod points pointing it out, since my mod can't get meta-modded 'funny'.

Re:what kind of word is this? (2, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 years ago | (#14046701)

Most recent one I've seen:
"RTFA the article, moron!"

Surprisingly, it wasn't on /.

Re:what kind of word is this? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14045879)

and even more absurdist segueways to carry
is that pronounced seg-way-ways?

I don't know. Would you pronounce "league" as "leag-way"?

Re:what kind of word is this? (1)

lowrydr310 (830514) | about 9 years ago | (#14045936)

I prefer to be carried by a Segway [segway.com] .

Re:what kind of word is this? (1)

TRS80NT (695421) | about 9 years ago | (#14046200)

What's a segueway?

Oh, about 14 pounds.

Ba-dum, bam.


[pg down] (0)

ericcantona (858624) | about 9 years ago | (#14045822)

lol.
And my attention-span is soo long that I hit [pg down] three times when scanning this review.
Don't ya just wish books had [pg down] buttons...

Re:[pg down] (1)

'nother poster (700681) | about 9 years ago | (#14045978)

Dude, they do. They're called page edges, and you activate them with a thumb flip rather than a mouse click. HTH.

"Won't they just get to the point" (4, Funny)

C10H14N2 (640033) | about 9 years ago | (#14045844)

...I was thinking the same thing on about the third sentence of that review.

New English (3, Insightful)

saskboy (600063) | about 9 years ago | (#14045890)

I think the Internet will breed a new dialect of english, and I'm not talking about leet speak, or "how r u" abbreviations. I think it will permit english to be used in new ways where the reader isn't sure what the writer is getting at. Sound bytes will be more important in winning someone over to the writer's view, not a coherent argument.

New English Rulez! (for instance).

Re:New English (1)

pla (258480) | about 9 years ago | (#14046051)

it will permit english to be used in new ways where the reader isn't sure what the writer is getting at

That would completely defeat the entire purpose of language. Not to mention, it would make self-propagation of the meme rather difficult, if no one can decode the message.

Not to say that some of the deliberately incoherent or semicoherent work of authors such as Stein have no value... But their value lies directly in breaking the verbal mind out of its rut, rather than as a means of communication.


Sound bytes will be more important in winning someone over to the writer's view, not a coherent argument.

Unfortunately, that has held true for all of human history. I can't even count how many times I've presented solid arguments in a discussion, only to hear a "concession" along the lines of "I can't argue with your logic, but I still consider you wrong". If you really want to sway opinions, rather than minds, you'll do more by applying the "dark side" of Aristotelian logic than you will by avoiding fallacies.

Re:New English (1)

saskboy (600063) | about 9 years ago | (#14046395)

"Not to mention, it would make self-propagation of the meme rather difficult, if no one can decode the message."

Difficulty propagating is the point. If the non-target group doesn't "get it", then the language acts as a kind of encrypted language for the "in crowd" who does understand, or at least think they understand because it's so ambiguous that it means just what they want it to mean. Fox News of course excells at this kind of language, and so does Bush's speech writers. "We do not torture!" A sound bite that pleases the non-thinking, and placates because the President doesn't lie and he says America doesn't do a bad things. Only the thinking realize that if you look at recent history in Iraq or Cuba, or follow from his next line "we write the law, so anything we do to extract needed information is not torture by definition [or something to that effect]", realize that the words mean nothing. It's just a sound bite to win over support by appealing to what people want to hear. It doesn't have to be based in truth, or even make sense. It's better if it doesn't make sense, because people who "don't get it" might double guess why they don't get it and think they are being outsmarted when they are being "under-smarted".

Re:New English (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046103)

I think it will permit english to be used in new ways where the reader isn't sure what the writer is getting at.

Grandpa Simpson: We can't bust heads like we used too, but we have our ways. One trick is to tell them stories that don't go anywhere. Like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville; I needed a new heel for my shoe. So I decided to go to Moiganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em, give me five bees for a quarter you'd say. Now, where were we, oh yeah, the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions, because of the war, the only things you could get were those big yellow ones...

Re:New English (1)

carlos_benj (140796) | about 9 years ago | (#14046415)

Sound bytes will be more important in winning someone over to the writer's view, not a coherent argument.

Like, "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit"?

Titles? (2, Funny)

winkydink (650484) | about 9 years ago | (#14045908)

Most of the books sent to Slashdot for review have words like "Java", "hacks", or "802.11b"

I thought most books had the words "Google", "Apple", or that up-and-comer "Ubuntu".

Oh wait, that's articles. Never mind.

Sounds like the O'Reilly "Hacks" books (0, Offtopic)

tcopeland (32225) | about 9 years ago | (#14045957)

At least, in that they're filled with lots of random little suggestions on how to do things.

The O'Reilly books are incredibly useful, though - at least Linux Server Hacks [amazon.com] certainly was; I just used hack # 99 (the RewriteMap hack [blogs.com] ) a week or so ago to do some simple load-balancing. Very handy.

New Form of Book... (4, Interesting)

querencia (625880) | about 9 years ago | (#14045958)

Vonnegut tried to write Slaugherhouse-Five as "a novel somewhat in the telegraphic schizophrenic manner of tales of the planet Tralfamadore." In Tralfamadorian books, there is no story arc -- just a colleciton of clumps of symbols. "Each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message describing a situation, a scene. Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn't any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image which is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects."

Vonnegut tried to mimic this style by taking a traditional story arc and shuffling the pieces, but maybe this (or the new types of loosely connected symbols on the web) gets closer to the ideal by removing the story arc entirely.

It certainly seems like you get a sense of character from this book, even without any type of narrative.

Re:New Form of Book... (5, Funny)

Golias (176380) | about 9 years ago | (#14046029)

Vonnegut tried to mimic this style by

Uh...

He didn't really mimic anything, because there's no such place as planet Tralfamadore. He made it all up.

Sorry I had to be the one to tell you.

Re:New Form of Book... (1)

sgtrock (191182) | about 9 years ago | (#14046192)

Wooosh!

Re:New Form of Book... (1)

Golias (176380) | about 9 years ago | (#14046247)

Right back atcha, kid.

Re:New Form of Book... (2, Funny)

Gulthek (12570) | about 9 years ago | (#14046535)

Are you making the sound that went over your head?

That's what it looks like to me.

Re:New Form of Book... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046310)

He didn't really mimic anything, because there's no such place as planet Tralfamadore. He made it all up.

Sorry I had to be the one to tell you.


I know you were probably just being an ass, but can't you mimic something that is fictional?

And props to whoever modded that post "informative" -- you actually found it informative that we don't have any real alien books to study.

Re:New Form of Book... (1)

Golias (176380) | about 9 years ago | (#14046414)

I know you were probably just being an ass, but can't you mimic something that is fictional?

At least somebody caught on to the fact that I was being an ass. Sheesh! How far has Slashdot fallen that my making fun of a parent post which reads like he believes in aliens gets mistaken by some people as typical discussion?

You can mimic something that's fictional, but not if it's your creation, any more than you can cheat on a test by copying answers from your imaginary friend.

What Vonnegut did was pretend to mimic the style of his fictional aliens, as a means to illustrate the exotic way he imagined them to be thinking (which was obviously meant to be a reflection of the way we actually think, and a subtle indictment of the traditional narrative story-telling format.)

And props to whoever modded that post "informative" -- you actually found it informative that we don't have any real alien books to study.

I personally found it to be one of the more funny uses of moderation I've seen in a while. I'm certain that their moderation was no more serious than the post itself.

Re:Ok, Ok (1)

ricosalomar (630386) | about 9 years ago | (#14046748)

Now you've descended into the Department of Redundency Department. If it's a novel, it's pretend. So if one writes a novel in any type of narrative, mimicry or otherwise, the author is pretending.

You can mimic something that's fictional, but not if it's your creation

Why is that true? What would happen if I were to make up a character who has an injured foot, and then demonstrate his limp by imitating it? Does the Earth crash into the Sun? Do dogs and cats, well you know.

Re:New Form of Book... (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | about 9 years ago | (#14046757)

He didn't really mimic anything, because there's no such place as planet Tralfamadore. He made it all up.

I disagree. I'll have you know that I've been there forty years from now. /me goes back to playing the stock market.

Welcome to the new Dark Age (3, Insightful)

Morgaine (4316) | about 9 years ago | (#14045965)

It's been coming our way for a while now, and this book is very much in tune with the times.

We've had our renaissance and our golden ages of reason and intellectualism and humanistic idealism that gave rise to pro-people icons like the Constitution of the United States.

Now instead we have the encroaching 1984 of Blair, the religious fundamentalism of Bush, and a corporate-driven media culture which farms the brainless masses like cattle and teaches them the new values of disconnected speech. Who needs Voltaire when your mind can find fulfillment in Snoop Dog?

The book of TFA is mainstream in this new world of post-intellectualism. Welcome to the new Dark Age.

Re:Welcome to the new Dark Age (4, Insightful)

Golias (176380) | about 9 years ago | (#14046125)

I think you have it exactly backwards.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, the only people who had any time at all for reading was the idle rich. Writers of the time wrote specifically for that audience, meeting the demand for massive, flowery novels and lengthy all-encompassing screeds of political philosophy which the brightest and the best (by which I mean the very rich) could while away their long summer afternoons burying their noses into as they ate their picnic lunches on the riverbanks.

Today, nearly everybody is literate, including those of us who work 40-60 hours each week and don't have nannies, maids, and butlers to take care of our children and homes for us. We are very lucky to have time to keep up with a subscription to the Atlantic Monthly or National Review, let alone read "Anna Karenina" or "The Wealth of Nations."

So "light reading" is very popular right now.

Longer works are probably read at a much higher rate than they used to be. Meaning 1% of the population buys them, and far fewer actually ever finish reading them. At least these days we force our High School kids to get through "Animal Farm", "Huckleberry Finn", and maybe a Shakespear play or two. That's more reading than the average 18th Century factory-town kid ever got exposed to.

A new collection of Dilbert strips to read in the bathroom? Terrific! A new novel by Anne Rice based on the 7-year old Jesus Christ? Dude, I don't have time to read a review of it, let alone the whole book. Maybe I'll put it on my list of Things To Read After I Retire... but there will be a lot of other works way ahead of it on that list.

Re:Welcome to the new Dark Age (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046264)

Dude, I don't have time to read a review of it, let alone the whole book.

I see that you're a proud child of this age. You've just dismissed intellectualism on the grounds of not having time for it. :-)

Re:Welcome to the new Dark Age (1)

Golias (176380) | about 9 years ago | (#14046351)

More accurately, I called attention to the fact that reading novels has always been a pastime of the super-rich. It's just that these days, there's a massive middle-class who is prosperous enough to buy books, but not really interested in sitting down with an unabridged copy of "Moby Dick" anytime soon.

If "intellectualism" is to be defined as reading a lot of verbose prose on a regular basis, then yes. I'm too busy to be what you consider an intellectual.

I'd rather pay my mortgage and live the American Dream than ponder Steinbeck's critique of it.

Sorry if you think that means the Vandal hordes are storming the gates, but your city is due for a good razing anyway.

Re:Welcome to the new Dark Age (2, Funny)

Omestes (471991) | about 9 years ago | (#14046431)

Your statement, unintentionally, made me sad.

Perhaps my view of the world was skewed since I came from a family that read a lot, while working 8+ hours a day. And in my busy schedual I still manage to finish a book a week (of nonfiction, generally), not counting all of the other reading I must do in the run of my life, all the articals, forums, books, etc.

But then again I haven't turned on my TV for 3 months, and have started limiting my online times, because they were taking away from intellectual activities.

Re:Welcome to the new Dark Age (2, Interesting)

routerguy666 (926506) | about 9 years ago | (#14046407)

Yeah because other than the last ten years the world has been such a peachy place.

This is no Dark Age. In a lot of ways things are better than they were.

Orwell was bitching about corporations controlling the (print) media long before most Slashdot readers' parents were born. Want to stay in business? You need revenue. Revenue comes from ads. Ads come from corporations and they expect you to dance to the tune they play if you want them to spend their money with you.

Stalin had the 1984 thing working quite well. Your postulation that Tony Blair is in some way creating a totalitarian society in Britain is laughable/insane/ludicrous, etc.

Religious fundamentalism is certainly nothing unique to our lifetimes.

Brainless masses of cattle describes 95% of the populous at ANY point in history. There's never been a time when the world was full of genuises.

If current times strike you as 'post-intellectual' in nature, it could be that exercises in intellect have moved beyond you. Moo Moo my fine bovine friend.

Re:Welcome to the new Dark Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046790)

The Stasis of Society: Poststructuralist dialectic theory and rationalism
P. Rudolf Hamburger
Department of Sociology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Catherine R. H. von Junz
Department of English, University of Illinois

1. Gibson and dialectic neocapitalist theory
"Reality is part of the defining characteristic of culture," says Sontag; however, according to Finnis[1] , it is not so much reality that is part of the defining characteristic of culture, but rather the futility of reality. But Debord suggests the use of postcultural narrative to deconstruct hierarchy.

Foucault's model of Sontagist camp implies that class, surprisingly, has intrinsic meaning. Thus, Sartre promotes the use of rationalism to read and modify art.

If postcultural narrative holds, we have to choose between poststructuralist dialectic theory and conceptual desituationism. It could be said that many theories concerning a precapitalist whole exist.

2. Rationalism and Foucaultist power relations
If one examines semioticist feminism, one is faced with a choice: either reject poststructuralist dialectic theory or conclude that the goal of the writer is social comment, given that sexuality is equal to narrativity. Marx suggests the use of Foucaultist power relations to challenge sexism. In a sense, an abundance of narratives concerning poststructuralist dialectic theory may be revealed.

"Class is intrinsically dead," says Bataille; however, according to Drucker[2] , it is not so much class that is intrinsically dead, but rather the dialectic, and some would say the stasis, of class. The primary theme of Werther's[3] analysis of rationalism is the absurdity of neocapitalist society. Thus, several narratives concerning the role of the poet as reader exist.

Abian[4] holds that we have to choose between Foucaultist power relations and subdialectic nationalism. However, an abundance of narratives concerning textual situationism may be found.

Derrida uses the term 'rationalism' to denote the genre, and some would say the rubicon, of precultural sexual identity. In a sense, the main theme of the works of Madonna is the role of the artist as reader. The example of Foucaultist power relations prevalent in Madonna's Material Girl is also evident in Erotica, although in a more self-falsifying sense. Thus, if textual neodialectic theory holds, we have to choose between Foucaultist power relations and the semanticist paradigm of reality.

Bataille promotes the use of poststructuralist dialectic theory to read class. However, the premise of subdialectic narrative states that truth is used to entrench class divisions.

3. Madonna and poststructuralist dialectic theory
If one examines rationalism, one is faced with a choice: either accept conceptual neodialectic theory or conclude that discourse is created by communication. In Material Girl, Madonna deconstructs poststructuralist dialectic theory; in Sex, although, she analyses Foucaultist power relations. Thus, any number of deappropriations concerning not discourse, as Lacan would have it, but subdiscourse exist.

"Art is part of the stasis of sexuality," says Lyotard; however, according to Humphrey[5] , it is not so much art that is part of the stasis of sexuality, but rather the futility of art. Pickett[6] holds that we have to choose between rationalism and pretextual theory. In a sense, an abundance of desublimations concerning cultural socialism may be revealed.

"Sexual identity is impossible," says Derrida. The characteristic theme of Buxton's[7] model of poststructuralist dialectic theory is the role of the participant as writer. Thus, the subject is contextualised into a Foucaultist power relations that includes consciousness as a totality.

The primary theme of the works of Pynchon is a mythopoetical paradox. The main theme of de Selby's[8] analysis of poststructuralist dialectic theory is the difference between reality and sexual identity. It could be said that if Foucaultist power relations holds, the works of Pynchon are an example of neopatriarchial feminism.

The subject is interpolated into a rationalism that includes culture as a whole. In a sense, poststructuralist dialectic theory states that the significance of the artist is significant form.

Many discourses concerning the stasis, and subsequent fatal flaw, of textual truth exist. However, the characteristic theme of the works of Pynchon is not construction, but postconstruction.

The subject is contextualised into a rationalism that includes consciousness as a totality. Thus, McElwaine[9] implies that we have to choose between Foucaultist power relations and the structural paradigm of expression.

Any number of narratives concerning subcapitalist rationalism may be found. It could be said that the subject is interpolated into a rationalism that includes art as a whole.

A number of situationisms concerning a self-supporting reality exist. But Lyotard uses the term 'Foucaultist power relations' to denote not discourse as such, but neodiscourse.

4. Poststructuralist dialectic theory and the semantic paradigm of discourse
"Sexual identity is part of the meaninglessness of culture," says Lacan. The primary theme of von Ludwig's[10] critique of the semantic paradigm of discourse is the bridge between reality and society. Therefore, Sontag's model of precapitalist libertarianism suggests that class has significance, but only if rationalism is invalid; if that is not the case, we can assume that discourse must come from the masses.

In the works of Eco, a predominant concept is the distinction between closing and opening. Marx suggests the use of cultural neodialectic theory to attack outmoded perceptions of sexual identity. However, if rationalism holds, we have to choose between the semantic paradigm of discourse and Sontagist camp.

The characteristic theme of the works of Eco is not, in fact, appropriation, but preappropriation. It could be said that the subject is contextualised into a cultural subdeconstructivist theory that includes culture as a paradox.

The main theme of Bailey's[11] analysis of the semantic paradigm of discourse is the common ground between class and society. Therefore, the stasis, and eventually the futility, of rationalism depicted in Eco's The Island of the Day Before emerges again in Foucault's Pendulum. Scuglia[12] holds that we have to choose between the semantic paradigm of discourse and dialectic narrative. Thus, in The Heights, Spelling denies rationalism; in Models, Inc. he analyses the semantic paradigm of discourse.

An abundance of materialisms concerning rationalism may be discovered. It could be said that if the semantic paradigm of discourse holds, the works of Spelling are reminiscent of Lynch.

-
1. Finnis, E. ed. (1986) Rationalism and poststructuralist dialectic theory. Schlangekraft
2. Drucker, A. E. A. (1972) Deconstructing Marx: Rationalism in the works of Madonna. Panic Button Books

3. Werther, Y. E. ed. (1989) Poststructuralist dialectic theory and rationalism. Harvard University Press

4. Abian, N. A. V. (1974) Narratives of Collapse: Rationalism and poststructuralist dialectic theory. Loompanics

5. Humphrey, B. O. ed. (1997) Rationalism in the works of Pynchon. Oxford University Press

6. Pickett, N. W. L. (1985) Reinventing Socialist realism: Poststructuralist dialectic theory and rationalism. Loompanics

7. Buxton, B. C. ed. (1997) Postpatriarchial materialism, rationalism and feminism. O'Reilly & Associates

8. de Selby, E. Z. S. (1980) The Forgotten Key: Rationalism and poststructuralist dialectic theory. Loompanics

9. McElwaine, I. R. ed. (1991) Poststructuralist dialectic theory and rationalism. O'Reilly & Associates

10. von Ludwig, M. (1978) Realities of Futility: Poststructuralist dialectic theory in the works of Eco. Schlangekraft

11. Bailey, O. D. ed. (1994) Rationalism in the works of Rushdie. University of Illinois Press

12. Scuglia, N. M. Y. (1987) Reassessing Surrealism: Poststructuralist dialectic theory in the works of Spelling. And/Or Press

Re:Welcome to the new Dark Age (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046618)

New Dark Age? Come on. Nobody is going to accept such a negative-sounding term as that. You have to focus on marketting as much as substance. Everybody knows marketting is the most important element of any effort. So, rather than "new Dark Age", call it the New and Improved Age, or the Good Age, or the Good Thing Age, or something like that. I've heard the term New World Order bantered around too, but everyone knows that's no longer in fashion.

Keep up with the times, dude.

Re:Welcome to the new Dark Age (2, Insightful)

Dahlgil (631022) | about 9 years ago | (#14046675)

"Now...we have...the religious fundamentalism of Bush." Actually, there's nothing new about religious fundamentalism of Presidents. It has actually been the norm. Calling it "religious fundamentalism", now that's new.

Minds over matters (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 9 years ago | (#14046007)

"The gags are all about the randomness of the wrong information cluttering his minds"

Gack. I feel overwhelmed sometimes with all the info clouding my single mind, I wonder how he manages with two or more?

Re:Minds over matters (1)

Sabaki (531686) | about 9 years ago | (#14046062)

One of his minds is dedicated exclusively to managing the clutter in the others. One mind is for writing gags about the clutter. Another is dedicated to writing about cheese.

Isn't that a contradiction? (2, Insightful)

plaisted (449711) | about 9 years ago | (#14046015)

I still chuckle when I think about the list of jokes that "have never produced laughter."

If they made you chuckle then they no longer belong in that list, right? Kind of like the set of all sets that do not include themselves...

Re:Isn't that a contradiction? (1)

cbr2702 (750255) | about 9 years ago | (#14046173)

But it was the list that produced the chuckle, not the individual jokes, so we're fine.

Re:Isn't that a contradiction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046320)

I read this book. The individual ones are pretty unfunny too. Unfunny enough to be funny.

Re:Isn't that a contradiction? (1)

spectral (158121) | about 9 years ago | (#14046459)

Ow.

I was about to say "I don't see why a set of all sets that do not include themselves is difficult", but then I tried to think of a set that DID include itself, which is an impossibility (or requires placeholders and is still infinitely recursive).

(\x x x)(\x x x)

8/10 (1)

BronxBomber (633404) | about 9 years ago | (#14046040)

I guess book reviewer's a gamer too

Re:8/10 (1)

Tim Browse (9263) | about 9 years ago | (#14046222)

So...as good as Halo then?

Found in the Slashcode source code: (4, Funny)

CharAznable (702598) | about 9 years ago | (#14046058)

use constant REVIEW_SCORE => 8;

Uh ... it's a joke (3, Insightful)

Metamediarich (716847) | about 9 years ago | (#14046083)

The reviewer fails to mention that this entire book is a send-up - it's fiction - What this guy "knows" is like Stephen Colbert from the Daily Show - This is a physical manifestation of an observation Mark Twain is reputed to have made: "Our biggest problem is not what we don't know; it's what we know, that ain't so."

Re:Uh ... it's a joke (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046689)

If it's the same John Hodgman, the guy's a contributor [mcsweeneys.net] to McSweeney's [mcsweeneys.net] . Sounds like this material is very much in keeping with his work for them, and maybe some of it might have first appeared there.

Maybe Hodgeman was just really stoned? (3, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | about 9 years ago | (#14046101)

"The sections are all very silly and the humor emerges from a form of metaphysical misdirection. I still chuckle when I think about the list of jokes that "have never produced laughter." The jokes really aren't funny, but there's something insane in their very deliberate and plodding failure."

Sounds like a very baked-out idea to me. Plodding failure is a joke in itself.

PS what in the world is 'metaphysical misdirection?' is that like ending up in purgatory? Or getting lost on the way to church?

Reminds me of what Lord Byron wrote in Don Juan:
"Explaining metaphysics to the nation, I wish he would explain his explanation."

Re:Maybe Hodgeman was just really stoned? (1)

Omestes (471991) | about 9 years ago | (#14046457)

Metaphysics != religion.

Metaphysics [wikipedia.org] = a system explaining how the world is.

Compare with the word Ontic.

Sounds like Brittanica Guy (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 9 years ago | (#14046102)

Some guy recently bought a paper copy of Encyclopedia Brittanica and read through it. Then he wrote a book [amazon.com] about doing it. Amazon sales rank around 5000.

Maybe he was the inspiration for this guy.

Re:Sounds like Brittanica Guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046276)

Some guy recently bought a paper copy of Encyclopedia Brittanica and read through it.

I hate to be the one who spoils the ending for you, but the zygote did it.

amusing ourselves to death (1)

american_caesar (931581) | about 9 years ago | (#14046211)

Re:amusing ourselves to death (1)

american_caesar (931581) | about 9 years ago | (#14046307)

Hobo name #52: Boxcar Aldous Huxley

The web (0, Troll)

swillden (191260) | about 9 years ago | (#14046215)

the web is made up by many small pieces of information arranges with hyperlinks that join them, loosely if you will

...and ungrammatically, too.

Yep, that's the web, all right.

700 hobo names, as read by the authour (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046232)

1st draft (0, Flamebait)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 9 years ago | (#14046293)

Did anyone else find that hard to read?

Yes (1)

digitaldc (879047) | about 9 years ago | (#14046390)

I did, I still am trying to figure it all out lol

Re:1st draft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046633)

Read on for Peter Wayners' review.

No thanks I'm already worn out!

RUCKER - A LIFE FRACTAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046453)

John Allen Paulos mentioned a similar idea in his book Beyond Numeracy.

He reviews a fictional 3,200 page book about a mathematician. Every article in the book links to other related topics, creating a Fractal mesh consisting of pretty much everything he knows. Below is one paragraph from this section, the whole chapter can be found at http://www.math.temple.edu/~paulos/humcon.html [temple.edu]

"For example, Rucker idly picks his nose while thinking about his theorems, and if the reader chooses to follow up on this, he is directed to a page (on the disk version the alternatives are listed on a menu which appears at the bottom of the monitor) where Rucker's keen interest in proboscis probing is discussed at length. What percentage of people pick their noses? Why do so few people do it in public; yet, in the false privacy of their automobiles why do so many indulge? If you push even further in this direction, there is the memory from a few weeks previous when Rucker, stopped at a red light, saw the elegantly coiffed Mrs. Samaras seated in the BMW across from him, her index finger seemingly deep into her frontal cortex."

Does anybody really use (1)

assert(0) (913801) | about 9 years ago | (#14046468)

core dumps these days?

Listen to a good excerpt online (3, Informative)

Mechanist (10536) | about 9 years ago | (#14046562)

One section of the book-- "Secrets of the Mall of America"-- was read by the author as part of the September 23 edition of the public radio show "This American Life". The show is in their online archives for this year [thisamericanlife.org] . Or you can go directly to the stream of the show. [thisamericanlife.org] . Hodgman's part begins around 45 minutes into the show.

first plos7 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#14046563)

Perfect book for the ADD generation (1)

TimeZone (658837) | about 9 years ago | (#14046572)

Seriously. I think I'll check it out.

TZ

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