Perhaps the clearest sign that Everything Bad has reached some kind of bizarre saturation point is the fact that major newspapers are now publishing parodies of the book and its argument. (File this under: be careful what you wish for.) It's tempting to be thin-skinned about these sorts of things, but they really have been very funny, and of course the book in question lends itself naturally to satire.
A while back Jason Kottke included Everything Bad in his hilarious "How To Order Food In A Restaurant":
Order anything made with lots of butter, sugar, etc. Avoid salad or anything organic. A meal of all desserts may be appropriate. Or see if you can get the chef to make you a special dish like foie gras and bacon covered with butterscotch and hot fudge. Ideally, you will have brought a Super Sized McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal into the restaurant with you. Smoke and drink liberally.
This week The Guardian's "editor's page" included a "digested" version of the book:
This book is an old-fashioned work of persuasion that aims to convince you of one thing: that I am one of the most influential social commentators of the 21st century. To this end I have decided to take the generally accepted premise that modern culture is dumbing down and argue the opposite, as this will guarantee me a lot of attention.
Take video games. The common view is that the people who play them are witless, atavistic sociopaths. Nothing could be further from the truth. Modern games have a free-form structure that constantly challenges the player to interact with the environment and make complex decisions.
By contrast, books deliver a linear narrative that rarely forces the reader to think. What book can teach you how to cut someone up with a chainsaw, hide their body in a dumpster and evade capture by crawling through a ventilation duct?
Finally, my favorite: a column written by the Boston Globe's Alex Beam, in which he imagines a conversation with his 12-year-old son about the book. I believe you now have to pay to read the article in the Globe archives, but basically, the joke is that Beam is trying to get his son to stop playing "Warcraft III" and his son keeps countering with quotes from Everything Bad. I particularly loved this bit:
''If not 'The Sopranos,' maybe we could watch reality TV, like 'Joe Millionaire.' Mr. Johnson says
those shows are full of 'collateral learning.' Or I could watch my 10,000th consecutive
'Simpsons' rerun. Johnson thinks reruns 'are responsible for making the culture smarter.' "
''They're not making you any smarter! You watch reruns and junk DVDs over and over again! It's
''You're so out of it. Movies today are worth watching over and over. Remember 'Finding
''That idiotic cartoon we saw on the plane?"
''The very one. Johnson writes that 'you can watch Nemo dozens of times and still detect new
information with each viewing, precisely because the narrative floats so many distinct story arcs
at the same time.' "
''He has little kids. Sleep deprivation has affected his judgment."
''Did you read The New Yorker review of his book, in which Malcolm Gladwell wrote that 'at the
elementary-school level, homework seems to be of marginal or no academic value'?"
''I asked Johnson about that. He said that was Gladwell talking. Johnson turns out to be very
''Really? You talked to Johnson? Does he have the Creep Jacking cheat codes?"