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Sunday, December 11, 2011
I freakin love Penn Jillette
Listening to:Penn Jillette reading. . .
Reading:God, No!
Weather:13, yes, 13 sunny degreees!
Nothing makes housecleaning more pleasant than having a wonderful audiobook blasting throughout the house while I do it. Yesterday, as I started making and canning applesauce from my bounteous tree, I downloaded Penn Jillette's new book God, No! from Audible.com I pay for a $15/mo subscription that lets me download one book a month, no matter what the cost. This works great for me because I hate abridged, and sometimes the unabridged books cost $25+ so I'd never plunk down unless I had this subscription making them cheaper. Although, granted, I doubt I would buy a book a month, so I'm probably not coming out net ahead, but I've successfully tricked myself so let's not examine that too carefully.

I'm a big fan of Penn. He's a wiseass atheist libertarian illusionist with long hair and a juicy voice. What's not to love? Well, some of the libertarian stuff, but let's skip that for now. He had a radio show for a while that was available by podcast, loved it. He had a biweekly videoblog on Rev3, loved it. He appears on various TV shows, including his series with quiet magic partner Teller (quiet modifies Teller, not magic) called Bullshit on a cable network, and whatnot. Love.

I'm only about 1/3 of the way through listening to this unabridged audio version of God, No! read by the luscious man himself, and I couldn't love this fucking book more. Clearly I was primed to love it, but I have literally laughed out loud a dozen times already while washing dishes or mopping or canning with this book on. OK, I haven't really mopped, my kitchen floor is pretty gross right now.

Even if I hadn't been totally ready to love this book, I couldn't help but love it once he got rolling. It's not a book about atheism, even though the chapter headings and title might indicate it is, it's mostly a memoire replete with hilarious stories of Penn's exploits and encounters. The circumstances themselves are hilarious. But probably what keeps me so connected and laughing with him is the perspective. He's coming at the world as an atheist, perceiving and getting perceived by people in a variety of situations as an atheist. Me, too! And we don't get a lot of this in popular culture, characters, real or imagined, who walk around with the worldview of not believing in the collective imaginary friend bullshit that most of the rest of the humans presume is as real as tooth decay. Or kittens. Yeah, there's Greg House and Sheldon Cooper and the dog on Family Guy, but those guys are mostly cartoonish and one-dimensional. Penn is the real deal, 360 degrees of smart, funny, sensual, longhaired dude.

It's so refreshing to just let your hair down and listen to a book without having that constant nagging pushback that I tend to have against characters who are believers in what I find to be silly nonsense. I can hardly describe this feeling of kinship I have with this big hilarious guy I'll likely never meet. Almost every word of this book I keep thinking, yes! Exactly! OMFG, me, too!!!! You have to have some backbone to be an atheist in america, even more so in wv, so I can clearly take being an outsider to all the deluded masses fighting over which tooth fairy is the real tooth fairy. But it's just so unexpectedly nice to hear a voice of reason and sanity and nonbullshit, even just telling a funny story about Extreme Elvis's fat naked ass performing in the pool or recovering Hasidic jews eating bacon cheeseburgers. It's exhilarating, a bonus feeling to get especially while hacking through the drudgery of housework.

A couple of things Penn has mused about so far have particularly hit home with me. One is this notion of proselytizing, and that if you're really a right-on dude, even though it annoys the living shit out of every victim you levy that crap on, if you really believe in it you have a moral duty to proselytize. And hard. He makes a great analogy: if you see some chumps on the track, and you see a train coming, wouldn't you be a huge asshole if you didn't get yell out "hey, get off the track, here comes the train!" And if they yelled back "yeah, we don't believe in your stupid train, Hitchens and Dawkins say there isn't even a track, so piss off," a really good guy would run over and knock them off the tracks to save their own sorry asses. Right? Right. So even though the JW's drive us crazy, at least they have integrity, as compared with the more typical churchy-for-holidays-and-funerals types walking around going along with crap they never even examine.

Another great metaphor he throws out there is that he thinks virtually all the believers even carry a kernel of disbelief around with him. Like Jackson Pollock or Philip Glass, he says he loves modern art and music but like a little pebble in his shoe he has a little ray of wonder whether his 3 year old could create something equally killer as those cats. Yes! Fuck, yes! I always thought most believers probably have this, too, but would NEVER admit it!

I don't want to give this whole book away, so suffice it to say I highly recommend this book to anybody, but particularly to any atheist out there who is not offended by copious use of the word "fuck," and who is looking for some light humorous reading dotted with crystal moments of shining truth. I also highly recommend the Brilliance audio version of the book, as it is read by the author, who is a great reader with a luscious voice.


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I freakin love Penn Jillette
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