Books

Our Dumb Century: The Onion Presents 100 Years of Headlines from America's Finest News Source

Lara Killian

Our Dumb Century
Author: The Onion Editors
Crown
September 2007


Fans of The Onion, you know who you are. Our Dumb Century purports to represent the last hundred year's worth of front pages and headlines of the venerated news supplier. Presenting the best fake news stories from the 20th century, read headlines like “Death-by-Corset Rates Stabilize at One-in-Six” and “Congress Reduces Work Week to 135 Hours”. Watch out, your friends might grab your copy right off your coffee table.

Satirical news devotees will find nothing to be disappointed with in this hilarious collection of stories and images from "American's Finest News Source". Originally published in 1999, the editors define political issues as only The Onion can. The book is divided up into five temporal chunks that roughly outline the American eras of industrialization, war, the 'swell' middle of the century, more war (plus hippies!), and the golden era of television (i.e. the apathetic last two decades of the 20th century).

The Onion spares no fashion statement, consumer product, or political candidate in its broad survey of fabricated news headlines from the last century's worth of subject matter. Hindsight being 20/20, the writers take full advantage of their position at the very end of the 1990s when writing in present tense about subjects like the Campbell's Tomato soup can design, proclaimed on an October, 1962 (six years before Andy Warhol's painting) cover to be 'Brilliant' 'Pop Art' by art critics, while the Campbell's CEO maintains, "'It's just soup.'" Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Martin Luther King, Jr's 1963 proclamation that "'I Had a Really Weird Dream Last Night'" shares a page with the headline, 'Earth's Fossil Fuels Will Last Forever, Geologists Say'. Thirty years earlier, The Onion ostensibly reported that with the 18th Amendment repealed, "U.S. Distilleries 'Resume' Alcohol Production"; workers involved with the production of alcohol are now undertaking "the Olympian task of making it seem as if they are just now returning to production after years of prohibition-enforced inactivity." A small blurb in the opposite corner of this front cover lists a group of Hollywood celebrities whose 'Careers [were] Destroyed Today'; unsurprisingly more than a few of them were reputed alcoholics.

The editorial staff's attention to detail is displayed on every page, from the fluctuating cost of the broadsheet copies, to revamped insignia of the paper's name over time, to shifting typeface that reflects the date stated at the top of the page. Always relevant, always thought-provoking, this book is a great reference source about history and popular culture no matter what page you open it up to.

Rating: 8

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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9

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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7
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