The Boyfriend of the Week

August 4, 2008 [comment on this write-up]

It took me a surprisingly long time to get around to putting together this write-up on John Hodgman. Not because it was complicated or involved ANY research whatsoever (because: nope annnnnd nope!), but instead because I just couldn't think of anything profound to say. I'd sit down to get started and then only get as far as putting down the phrase "NERDS RULE" in 87-point font. Figuring I couldn't REALLY get away with a write-up that only consisted of two excessively-large-fonted words, I had to keep deleting that and starting over. And then deleting it again and starting over again, etc. etc., ad infinitum, as well as nauseum.

I was tempted to simply set John aside for the umpteenth time and get on with the other Boyfriends in the works at the moment, but I knew if I didn't get him up now, I'd never get him up at all. And what a loss to the world that would be! Because, damn it all if nerds don't totally rule, and that seems to be getting more and more true with each passing day.

Now is a good time, in other words. Before the anti-nerd backlash strikes and we go back to being parodied instead of demigodded. And yes, I do know that "demigodded" is not an actual word. That I can invent as many words as I do is just one more example of my own nerd-cred. As is the fact I once wrote a love poem in perl (a scripting language, yo).

Before I start to gush about John Hodgman's nerdy wonderfulness, though, I feel compelled to point out that I've been a fan of his for way, WAY longer than you have. Most of you probably saw John for the first time in now-famous Mac vs. PC ads (in which he plays the pasty, geezerly PC to Justin Long's hip, young Mac). Don't know which ads I'm talking about? Here's a favorite:

It should be noted here, by the way, that I am a dedicated PC user and have been my entire life. Well, wait, there were a few years in my early 20's when I owned a Mac Classic, but hey, we all make mistakes when we're young. I learned to code in BASIC when I was in grade school (10 PRINT "Hello World!" / 20 GOTO 10), and now that I'm all growed up, I can't imagine ever using anything else. Why in Pete's name would I want to spend twice as much money on a computer where the "close window" buttons are all on the wrong side of the screen? Not to mention the Mac's startling lack of right-click menus. And registry editors.

And, of course, there's my problem with Mac users in general. Well, actually, with Mac users in specific. Which is to say, specifically with snooty and/or proselytizing Mac users. Which is to say, pretty much ALL Mac users.

Try this out sometime: go up to a Mac user and tell them you not only use PCs but you actually LOVE PCs and see what reaction you get. Nine times out of ten, they will react to you in one of following two ways: 1) with the open disgust and horror of a vegan who has just been told you think bacon should be a food group all its own; or 2) with the apocalyptic doom of a Bible-thumping zealot who has just been told you think the Flying Spaghetti Monster guy is really onto something.

By the way, that I can use the word "proselytizing" without first having to look up how to spell it is just one more example of my own nerd-cred. As is the fact I've seen the poker/time warp episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation 19 times (and counting -- Best. Episode. Ever!).

But wait, where was I? Oh yes, Hodgman. In addition to his Mac/PC genius, some of you may also have gotten to know him recently as The Daily Show's "Resident Expert" (on everything). Haven't seen him in that? You have to watch the below clip, then, because there's nothing I love so much as a straight man who has to purse his lips and pause for a moment to keep himself from busting out the giggles (watch for it to happen right after Hodgman says, "No, if anything, it's NOT" and Stewart starts to snicker). This was the moment when I realized I truly LOVED John Hodgman, in addition to merely finding him brilliant. Because I've always wondered how those oh-so-serious Daily Show correspondents keep from laughing, and it was nice to learn that, in fact, they don't. Here it is:

Another, somewhat-less-fond memory I have of Hodgman comes from last summer, when his absolutely wonderful book, The Areas of My Expertise, was offered as a free audiobook download from iTunes just in time for me to listen to it while I prepped the siding on my house for painting. I was listening to the silky prose of Hodgman, discussing interesting facts about hobos, when I inadvertently gave myself second degree chemical burns on both my forearms. (The Hodge on Hobos: it hurts so good!)

The upside of that debacle was that I got to see what my own arm muscle looks like.

That was also, of course, the downside.

Nevertheless, at least it happened while I was learning fascinating new data about "Our 51 States," 700 hobo names ("Irontrousers the Strong," e.g.), and, my personal favorite, the long-overdue release of the first draft of one of Theodore Roosevelt's most famous lines, "Speak softly and pierce their eyes with a golden hook."

That I found that Teddy Roosevelt thing totally hilarious is, yep, you guessed it, just one more example of my own nerd-cred. As is the fact I once took the LSAT just because I wanted to spend an afternoon working on logic puzzles and have my aptitude for solving them be marked in some official way (please note: my LSAT scores kicked serious ass, but only sissies become lawyers when they could be librarians instead).

But back to what I was saying, which was that I knew John Hodgman's work before any of this stuff ever came out. It all started for me about four years ago when I came across his "Little Gray Book Lectures" series on the web: http://www.littlegraybooks.com/what.html. (Hodgman doesn't give all the lectures himself, it should be noted, but instead founded the series and serves as its hilariously-deadpan emcee.)

There are seven LGB Lectures available for download at the site, and the first one is definitely my favorite: "We Remember: How to Generate a Winning Character." Anyone who thinks spending over 16 minutes describing how to draft the perfect Dungeons & Dragons character is a good use of their time is definitely a man I know I will be a solid match with.

Why do you think I married my husband, after all? You might have assumed it was for his charm (to which I would like to reply: *snort*) but it was actually his stack of Monster Manuals that did me in. Well, that and the fact his legs looked crazy good when he wore combat boots with shorts. Combat boots and shorts is a combination that can only be carried off by a few men in this world, and if you ever come across one yourself, I strongly advise you marry him too.

Still not sure where you've seen Hodgman, but thinking he looks or sounds mighty familiar? Then it's probably because you've seen or heard him on his guest appearances on a variety of other shows, both TV and radio. He's been on episodes of Flight of the Conchords and Attack of the Show, for example, and has also contributed several segments to NPR's This American Life. His written work has appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, and McSweeney's Quarterly Concern.

And did you know he used to A) play the clarinet, and B) work as a literary agent? And did you ALSO know that one of the writers he represented as an agent was Bruce Campbell? And did you ALSO know he's married to an English teacher?

Seriously, people -- aside from the pasty skin, silly hair, goofy glasses, and pot belly, what's not to love about this guy? Especially if you, like me, actually LIKE pasty skin, silly hair, goofy glasses, and pot bellies?

John Hodgman, someday when we're both single again, I'd like to get together and reconfig your autoexec.bat file, if you know what I mean. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, SAY NO MORE.

That I just said that autoexec.bat thing is just one more example of my own nerd-cred, mais oui. As is the fact I followed it up with a line from a Monty Python sketch.

NERDS RULE!

MacGyver Factor Score: 95%. Points off for playing a PC on television, but BEING A MAC USER IN REAL LIFE.

I'm going to pretend I never read that, and we will not speak on this again.

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Boyfriend-Related Links

John's IMDb page
John's Wikipedia page
More Hodgman on The Daily Show
The Areas of My Expertise site/blog
Engadget interview with Hodgman


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