Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hodgman essay on Massachusetts

Someone asked a bunch of writers to each write an essay about one of the 50 States for a collection called State by State.
John Hodgman was one of those writers, and he wrote a really nifty essay about Massachusetts. Here is an excerpt:
Boston has much to offer any visitor. There is of course a fine symphony orchestra, world-famous universities, and the Mother Church of Christian Science, which has a truly boss reflecting pool. However, if you do not like sports, Boston does not have much to offer you. The local sports teams –– which I am told are the Baseball Red Sox, the Football Patriots, the Basketball Celtics, the Hockey Bears, and of course the famous Boston Lobsters of the World Tennis Team League –– are an obsession.

When a game is on, it will be broadcast in every bar, home, and taxi cab. I once frequented an eccentric coffeehouse in a small town in western Massachusetts. It hosted literary readings and served vegetarian food and a small selection of wines. I loved it. It had a small TV that showed only a closed circuit feed of the baby eagles that had recently been hatched at a local bird sanctuary (which seemed perfectly reasonable to me). Unless there was a Red Sox game on, in which case, sports would preempt baby eagles.

In the finest restaurant the waiter will be checking the scores and passing the news of the game between the busboy in the kitchen and the Harvard professor at the table. The professor will tell you that, in a city largely stratified by class, race, and ethnicity, sports erases all those distinctions and reminds us of our common humanity and reties, season by season, the frayed threads that hold our community together. He will probably be wearing a baseball hat as he says it, one of those good-quality, fitted jobs. And if you tell this academic that you don't happen to like sports, he will ask what is wrong with you. And then he will punch you in the face.

The essay wanders across the history of Massachusetts, weaving in personal anecdotes in true Hodgmanic style. Hodgman fans will enjoy this essay.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Road Runner cartoons can teach us about the Hodgman Mac/PC commercials

In a brilliant explanation of why it makes sense for Hodgman's "PC" character to be so much more likable than Justin Long's "Mac" character, the Fishbowl blog points out that the PC character is analogous to Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons. This may be seen by considering the writer's rules for all Coyote and Road Runner cartoons:

  1. Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “beep, beep”.
  2. No outside force can harm the Coyote—only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products.
  3. The Coyote could stop anytime—if he was not a fanatic. (Repeat: “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” —George Santayana).
  4. No dialogue ever, except “beep, beep”.
  5. Road Runner must stay on the road—for no other reason than that he's a roadrunner.
  6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters—the southwest American desert.
  7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
  8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy.
  9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
  10. The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote.
  11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch the road runner.