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Our Dumb World Paperback – October 27, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The first all-new publication from The Onion's stable of mad satirists since 1999's Our Dumb Century, this globe-spanning volume raises the bar for topical humor. Known for their savage, irreverent newspaper parody, The Onion staff delight in playing up stereotypes and skewering perceptions, and they have picked an enormous playground in which to do so; this skewed world atlas compiles enough fictional facts to tickle-and probably offend-just about everyone. Profiling every country in the world-from the United States ("The Land of Opportunism") to Greenland ("The Largest Land Mass on Earth") to "The Who Cares Islands"-this handsome parody is visually indistinguishable from genuine reference materials, but with jokes crammed into every inch, from topographical maps ("Largest Mayan casino in Mexico") and tiny vital statistics boxes (Syria's ethnicity: "Anti-Semitic Semites") to historic timelines (Ireland, 1387: "Luck of the Irish runs out") and photo captions ("Emergency shipments of food, water, and Bono reach Sudan"). The group's humor can demand a rarified kind of knowledge-as in the entry for Nicaragua, which revolves entirely around the now-ancient Nintendo game "Contra"-ensuring that some jokes will fall flat; for anyone with a cultural pulse, however, the hit-to-miss ratio will be high. Eminently browsable and compulsively re-readable, this is an essential book for fans of Stewart, Colbert and (of course) The Onion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Bottom line: Laughed my head off." -- USA Today
"Possibly the funniest book ever written." -- Miami Herald
"This is the best parody since the National Lampoon published its phony newspaper, "The Dacron Republican-Democrat," in 1978." -- Newsweek --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The talented writers behind the `The Onion' peel away layers to reveal a collection of nations that just might make you cry.
When is an atlas more than a collection of maps and dry data? When it is written and designed by the crazed minds behind The Onion, that's when. The Onion is the wildly funny and popular news satire Web, print and video efforts of a team of writers who are as intelligent and insightful as they are gut-busting funny. They definitely score again with "Our Dumb World", an atlas that carves up the Earth into easily digestible pieces of sheer madness.
The book is very well designed and the tone is pitch perfect, giving it a feel of seriousness and credibility that one would expect in a real atlas. It all works to bring to light the hypocrisy, stupidity and cruelty that blanket so much of the modern world. Rarely is it so easy to laugh at war, poverty, famine and rampant ignorance.
While most of the humor is low-brow and crude, virtually every page also includes some meaningful message about warped values and priorities. No one is spared, from the high and mighty nations to the struggling basket cases. All are given swift kicks to the groin in order to provide laughs and enlightenment for readers.
"Our Dumb World" is well stocked with photos, timelines, pie charts and other visual gimmickry that impresses people who don't like to read. I like the line graph that shows the frequency of line graphs used in the book. My favorite, however, is the color-coded "Bono Awareness Map". Each country is tinted in accordance with how much the lead singer of U2 cares about it.
Mindless patriotic robots beware. Your programming may be unsettled by this book. Here's an excerpt from the description of the United States: "America is a place where even the poorest immigrant can, through hard work and dedication, achieve the American Dream for his employer."
The writers of "Our Dumb World" do not shy away from calling it like they see it, no matter how hard hitting or unpopular their analysis may be. On Canada, for example, they offer this burning insight: "Living in the shadow of its southern neighbor, the nation of Canada will never be as great as the U.S. so long as it continues to burden itself with universal health care, refuses to drill for oil in federally protected wildlife reserves, and neglects its duty to blindly support unilateral invasions of Middle Eastern states."
Please do not think that this book is entirely mean, negative, ethnocentric and condescending. For example, while it calls Panama a "shortcut with its own national anthem" it does praise Cuba for perfecting communism by "creating a truly equal society where desperate poverty is distributed evenly among all citizens."
The beautiful Bahamas, according to "Our Dumb World", is an "all-inclusive, full-service nation" made up of "hundreds of luxurious, foreign-owned islands fully staffed with indigenous pool boys, bartenders, and bellhops. Millions of visitors each year enjoy the nation's turquoise waters, endless sandy beaches and lavish resorts, all of which are strictly off-limits to the Bahamas citizens."
China, though controversial for its human rights and environmental records, is hailed by the atlas as the world's largest mass-producer of Chinese, having manufactured more than 700 billion of them since 1892.
This is not just rude joke after rude joke, however. Social awareness and compassion for humanity pops up from many pages. On Indonesia: "While it has struggled with poverty, Indonesia's close relationship with such world powers as Nike and the Gap has allowed citizens to provide a much higher standard of living for Western consumers tired of low-quality T-shirts."
If political correctness is your thing you won't like this book. My advice is that anyone missing the humor gene should steer well clear of "Our Dumb World". Anyone who rates former U.S president George W. Bush as a great leader, for example, might want to pass as well. You either won't get the jokes or smoke will come out of your ears before you make it to page 15. I suggest you buy something by Ann Coulter instead. On second thought, however, the sort of people who wouldn't find any of this stuff funny are the very people who need it most. Maybe sometimes humor can reach where logic and reason can't.
The section on Africa is crafted to perfection. The writers hit the perfect mix of satire, ridicule and social commentary. As one who has been to Africa, written about poverty and violence there for many years, I was not put off by the humor. In fact, given the attention span of today's public, it could probably do a better job of raising awareness about Africa's problems than a hundred op-ed columns in the New York Times ever could.
This book is not delicate or respectful but it does entertain and inform. It just might even be able to improve some demented and negative worldviews. So, if you want a better world, one with a lot more compassion and common sense, then buy a copy of "Our Dumb World" today and give it to a jerk!
--Guy P. Harrison, author of:
Race and Reality: What Everyone Should Know About Our Biological Diversity
50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God
I've bought 3 more copies as gifts for family members. When I showed them mine, they so enjoyed leafing through they couldn't wait to borrow it and show it to others themselves. I doubted I'd get it back, though, so I got them their own. It's a terrific gift, as long as you're sure you won't be inadvertently stepping on tender toes.