Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, November 24, 2007
      ( 11/24/2007 03:24:00 PM ) Bill S.  

BOCTAOE: In a recent episode of Corner Gas (recent to the U.S., that is), Hank Yarbo, the Canadian sitcom's chatty doofus, launched his own web log as a forum for his less-than-deep ruminations on topics like who would win in a fight between werewolves and robots. The rest of the show's characters encouraged Hank in his bloggish endeavor since it's easier to ignore something on the Internet than it is some guy standing two feet away from you. No one actually read "Hank Talkin'" ("I spell talkin' with no 'g' - that shows I have attitude!"), of course. But perhaps if he was a world-famous cartoonist like Scott Adams, they would have. After all, the creator of "Dilbert" has enough of an online readership that he was able to convince Portfolio/Penguin to publish a 350-plus page hardback devoted to his old postings.

Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! is a set of 150-plus pieces that originally appeared on Adams Typepad blog (and have since, as the book's dustcover advises us, been removed from the archives). A free-floatin' collection of musin's - Adams doesn't drop the "g" but he could have - on whatever tickles his active brain cells, the book moves from quippy considerations of politics & religion to whale watching & the disadvantages of x-ray vision. Theoretically, Stick represents the pick of the postings, though as with any collection of miscellaneous writings, not every piece is a winner. Still, fans of Adams' corporate humor should find enough here to be amused.

Reflecting the piecemeal nature of blog posting, the collection doesn't always cohere as well as it could. Early in, for instance, Adams introduces a cheerfully inconvenient acronym (for "But Of Course There Are Obvious Exceptions") only to drop it after just a few uses. A later piece on the nature of the universe appears out of order since it refers to concepts that get introduced several posts later. Read too many of these in one sitting, and the writer's voice can grow overly familiar, so that some of his comic devices (the willfully grotesque comparisons, for instance) lose their zing. Placing many of the book's best one-liners in an appendix only compounds the problem

As a blogger, Adams works overtime to position himself as a full-blown skeptic - he's as doubtful about God as he is evolution - though there are limits to this self-professed cynicism. He's more likely to crack wise about left-wing loonies than he is their right-wing counterparts, for instance, but perhaps that's what his core audience of cubicle dwellers expects. To my eyes, the more enduring pieces are the more personally specific ones: the cartoonist discussing his struggles with spasmodic dysphonia, a puzzling affliction that made it difficult to talk above a whisper unless Adams was public speaking; a set of posts comparing censored "Dilbert" strips with their original versions; pieces about his impending wedding. At his best on these, Adams comes off like a good observational stand-up, hitting just the right note of Cosby-esque peevishness.

And, thankfully, there's also room in Stick for some cheerfully pointless blog silliness, as when our man ponders the age old question of who would win in a fight: Jesus or Santa Claus. You know, I'm thinkin' Hank Yarbo has a few opinions on that one.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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