An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by Me, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in the Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical; Matters Literary; Matters Cryptozoological; Hobo Matters; Food, Drink, & Cheese (a Kind of Food); Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels; Haircuts; Utopia; What Will Happen in the Future; and Most Other Subjects; Illustrated with a Reasonable Number of Tables and Figures, and Featuring the Best of "Were You Aware of It?", John Hodgman's Long-Running Newspaper Novelty Column of Strange Facts and Oddities of the Bizarre.
It is intelligent, absurd humour, and primarily a parody of Poor Richard's Almanack, written by Benjamin Franklin, and more broadly, a pastiche of almanacks and trivia books in general. In order to properly get every joke in it, you'd need to take a course. (In fact, one can imagine students in the far future doing so. ELL 321: Early 21st Century Comedy: John Hodgman).
The audiobook version, which in many ways is even more hilarious, is read by Hodgman in his trademark deadpan style. It also features Jonathan Coulton singing the book's theme song, the songs of the various American states, and generally acting as Hodgman's foil and straightman throughout.
Hodgman also gives us The Fifty-Five Dramatic Situations:
This book provides examples (and parodies) of:
- Alien Geometries: One house with a 666 phone number is described as having no right angles.
- Ancient Conspiracy: Subverted: The Skulls and Bones are said to have failed in their bid for world domination, and now spend all their time masturbating and tending to the pterodactyls on their private island. The Masonic symbols allegedly hidden in Washington DC's architecture are also parodied.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The Hoboes voiced their displeasure with the government by whistling behind the White House, writing illiterate editorials to newspapers, and summoning dust storms to destroy the midwest.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": There was a species of otter called a "lobster", now driven to extinction by the New Lobsters. There's also a joke about how during the 1920s, when "gorilla" was a slang term for tough guy, the term for an actual gorilla was "mega-chimp".
- The Con:
- One involves impersonating a Ninja and requires, as part of the con, the summoning of Mons.
- Another requires several thousand people and the cooperation of the subject's family.
- Another requires control of the weather.
- And one requires a ferret.
- And one involves three-card monte. With a collaborator posing as the table.
- Complexity Addiction: A common malady amongst conmen, given some of the schemes they come up with.
- Cool Airship: President Hoover's hoveryacht in the Caspian Sea.
- Eskimos Aren't Real: The Areas Of My Expertise has a running gag that Chicago is a myth, mostly as a joke on how very New York the author's sensibilities are. Revisited in the follow-up That is All, when the mythical city rises at last from the swamp during the End Times of 2012.
- Glurge: Invoked and parodied with the Six Oaths of the Virtuous Child, which start off unsettling and get gradually more bizarre as the Child fashions itself into a sharp-toothed, pious killing machine.Today shall not be wasted. I shall rise before the sun so that I may then watch my family as they slumber, with intent, waiting eyes.
I shall honor my mother today, and I shall tell father he is powerful.
Today I shall be clean. I shall not touch my teeth, knowing that the oils of my skin shall cause them to disintegrate. I shall instead hone them, with a good steel, twice after prayers.
I shall be a faithful child, and I shall ever make science my enemy. Also, eels.
At day, I shall perform my chores and duties happily. And if I see an eel, I shall kill it.
At night, I shall dream of more labor, and in my sleep I shall smile with sharpened teeth, knowing that today has not been wasted.
- The mountains of Colorado (state nickname: The Dwarrowdelf) are described as "large and fairly Balrog-free".
- When describing the correct manner of raising rabbits, Hodgman describes the phenomenon of El-Ahrairah worship
- When building a snow fort, "watch out for wampas."
- Repeated references to Doctor Who, including using a picture of Cybermen for "typical cyborg mischief".
- Repeated references to the Evil Dead series, such as the claim that George W. Bush has a chainsaw for a hand. John Hodgman was Bruce Campbell's literary agent, and Campbell is listed as an expert consulted on the subject of fake blood (likely not a joke).
- Joisey: Listed as the "Too-easy-to-Mock State".
- Long List: 700 Hobo Names. 800, in the paperback.
- Lost World: Hohoq (also known as "Ar"), the 51st state, also a floating plateau populated by thunderbirds, Magical Native Americans, and Germans, who appear to be "simply German".
- Mascot: Breakfast cereal mascots are discussed.
- Nonsense Classification: For example the column on "food, drink, and cheese", where there are "only so many kinds of foods to write about", namely "abs, polar bear steaks, chili, chili, and polar bear steaks."
- Pirate: Blackbeard pops up, briefly. There is also said to be a Utopian community that hopes to improve humanity through acting like stereotypical pirates.
- Planet of Steves: The ringtail cats, who, by a curious coincidence, are all named John McCain.
- Running Gag: The different varieties of werewolf, masturbation, eels, zeppelins, cheese, haircuts/facial hair, distrust for people who use pseudonyms, Henry David Thoreau, giant Brazilian monkeys, Alexander Graham Bell, Yale University, crabs and lobsters (although the term "lobster" originally referred to a type of sea otter), the non-existence of Chicago, getting either "very high or very autistic", common flammable gels, Percoset, and, of course, the hoboes.
- Shout-Out: "The Amazing Duo of Flansburgh and Goldwasser", Bruce Campbell, "Skywise the Sexual Elf".
- Shown Their Work: There's quite a bit of genuine facts interspersed with all the nonsense.
- Stock Ness Monster: Averted. The Loch Ness Monster is fairly small and roughly humanoid.
- Take That!:
- Parodied with the "attack ad" segments, in which he jokingly accuses Jonathan Coulton of being an awful catsitter, and another person of masturbating out a window on two separate occasions, while John Hodgman has only masturbated out a window once. Also, one of the Hobo Names is Nick Nolte.
- More Information Than You Require takes this even further. That is All brings the Nick Nolte Take That! to its inevitable conclusion declaring him a cosmic horror.
- Thunderbird: The 51st state, Hohoq, is a clouded floating plateau inhabited by airplane-sized thunderbirds that shoot lightning from their eyes.
- Weasel Mascot: Fig. 22: "Let's Use My Ferret To Steal That Diamond..."