Too Much Information – Reviewed

Too Much Information... or Can Everyone Just Shut Up for a Moment, Some of Us Are Trying to ThinkToo Much Information… or Can Everyone Just Shut Up for a Moment, Some of Us Are Trying to Think by Dave Gorman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good toilet book. I like Gorman’s style analysing popular culture systematically, to ridicule its values. This book reads like a literary extension of his TV programme – Modern Life is Goodish, unlike the TV programme which is mostly average, the book is more entertaining though it does have an undercurrent of the same sort of mischief he does in the show.

He calls out The Daily Mail’s abject voyeurism of celebrities and their children. The fallacy of “matching” outfits, which are no more matching than a reptile and mammal are matching creatures, being members of the kingdom of Animalia. His swipe at the gutter press, this means you The Mail, is appreciated as this shitrag is not even worth wiping your arse on, given that your shit is more noble and would be defiled by such an act. Mail online is all about getting clicks on their stories, veracity or content comes later. So this leads to a picture being on every story, even if it’s a picture of an apple, not even the same apple in the story, just a random one. Ok rant over.

I felt nostalgic on the section about Killing in the Name being downloaded to prevent the X Factor winner from getting the number 1 spot. I also felt slightly silly finishing this chapter as I was all for this scheme (I didn’t buy any records) at the time, but Gorman argues well that such an act is ultimately pointless and probably pushed up the sales of the rival single, more than they would have been otherwise. That aside, it was quite pleasurable delivering a “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”, to Cowell’s smug reptilian face.

I also liked his gripes with the make up industry, who use dodgy statistics to back up their spurious claims- something which I have also noticed. They small sample sizes which are rather strange e.g. 99 or 84 women. They probably massage the figures by removing women who didn’t like the product, improving the percentage. Often the surveys aren’t even backing up the products attributes but stating that women want a foundation that lasts long. Woefully, in one ad less than half of the women agreed that their lips were “voluptuous” after using some lipgloss.

I agree with his frustration at the “Buzzfeedification” of news sites . Journalists writing click baity titles and pointless ranking lists to attract those precious ad clicks. Spam and dishonest ads have definitely made the internet a lot worse.

As an aside the chapter entitled “Some Things Can Be Put to a Public Vote and Some Things Really Can’t”, was ominously prophetic (view spoiler), though here it is about choosing the most deserving charity. He concludes that’s it’s best not to acquiesce to people who ask you to retweet about their charity run etc. If he does them for one, he’ll have to do them for everyone. Otherwise he has to pick and choose the most deserving cause.

The best chapter is one about John Lewis releasing a preview for their Christmas advert. In essence, an advert for an advert as Gorman puts it. This advert has somehow become a staple of the festive season. What a vacuous time to be alive.

View all my reviews

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets – Reviewed

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical SecretsThe Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was quite easy to read. The first half is like a mathematical autobiography of the writers. The second half delves more into the Maths. Although at times it felt like, there were only tangential tenuous connections to maths, given that it’s a prime-time sitcom based around an American family you can’t really blame Singh for the content. I do feel as though Singh ran out of interesting material and decided to make it up with stuff about Futurama (Not that I’m complaining).

I really liked learning about the birth of Futurama, I always assumed it was Groening’s compulsion for another series but it was Fox who approached him. The Maths in these shows is not to be sniffed at. In fact a scene from Futurama, inspired a mathematical paper (Keeler’s Theorem).

I also got a couple really interesting book recommendations from it: Flatland, The Prisoner of Zenda and a film recommendation Two Lane Blacktop. There were some really funny quotes about statistics too, sounds like an oxymoron I know but here:

42.7% of all statistics are made up – Steven Wright

Then there is the man who drowned crossing a stream with an average depth of six inches – W. I. E. Gates

The average human has one breast and one testicle – Des Machale

There was also a rather bizarre revelation that Dave Bayer acted as Russel Crowe’s hand double in the blackboard scenes for A Beautiful Mind….

View all my reviews