November 7th, 2008


More Book Tour Than You Require

So, John "And I'm a PC" Hodgman wrote a(nother) book: More Information Than You Require

Several friends have commented that I remind them of Hodgman. Or Hodgman reminds me of them. At first, I found this troublesome. I found his schtick, the nerdy, tweedy, and WRONG, guy, I found that to be tiresome. I have little patience for know-it-alls. Especially when they're wrong.

But I relented. I read his book The Areas of My Expertise and enjoyed it. I listened to the MP3 of 700 Hobo Names. The comedy of that seemed to come as much from the sheer volume as anything.

So, now I subscribe to the RSS feed of both Hodgman's and Coulton's blogs. Coulton keeps touring far-flung places (London, Boston, it's all farther than I can go on a weeknight). When he does visit this area, it seems like it's mostly for PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo. I've never been to PAX, so I've never seen Coulton there.

A week ago or so, I stumbled across notification that Hodgman, Coulton, and a couple local performers would be appearing at Seattle Town Hall, I started collecting friends to go see them.

By the time that my friends Jeff, Kendra, and I got on the road, we were behind miles of bridge traffic, and we began to despair about getting there on time. Once we got off the bridge and onto surface streets, we began to despair that we didn't know our way around Seattle, and I had forgotten my GPS navigation unit. Once we found the venue, we began to despair that we couldn't find parking. Once we found parking and got into the Hall, we briefly despaired that we got there late, and we might not find seating. But it sounded like we had arrived during the introductions, and we got some comfortable seats without too much blocked sightlines.

Hodgman held forth on his experiences being a MINOR TELEVISION CELEBRITY, talking about coming up from being a poor freelance magazine writer, having to rent pants and not having the money for water for his ramen noodly biscuit. Now and then, things would be interspersed with a bit of Coulton singing.

At about halfway through, Hodgman launched into a bit about how he might have to fire Coulton and bring on a backup Feral Mountain Man Singer, at which point Hodgman brought John Roderick on the stage, who had a beard and a guitar, so seemed to be a suitable replacement for Coulton. Roderick played two songs (one which was a cover I didn't recognize, and the other might have been original, but I didn't recognize it, either). Coulton then admitted to having contingency plans of his own, and brought out Sean Nelson, in suit and tie, which would seem to make him an adequate replacement for Hodgman. Nelson performed "The Porpoise Song" from the Monkees movie "Head", followed by a duet with Coulton of Billy Joel's "Don't Ask me Why". Following this, Nelson and Roderick covered Simon & Garfunkle's "Only Living Boy in New York".

As an aside, Sean Nelson's voice impressed me in ways I don't have the vocabulary to describe. I may have to buy some CDs of his earlier work.

Seems like there was more singing involved at this point, but eventually Hodgman returned to the lectern and read from his essay on his trajectory to celebrity. This was something of a departure from his "Act I" presentation; in Act I, he was in his "Resident Expert" persona, while in Act II, he seemed to have dropped the exaggerated bravado and was giving a more-or-less unvarnished discussion of the bewildering path his life has taken these past few years. I had heard a version of this presentation on This American Life, ranging from an experience with a Charlie Chaplin impersonator to sending a SoHo Apple store into "General Freak Out".

As that reading concluded, Coulton performed "Code Monkey" and "Re: Your Brains".

To wrap up the evening, Hodgman pulled out a ukulele and all four performers sang "Tonight You Belong To Me".

Book signing followed.

My friend, Kendra, had her arm signed.

I sat next to Hodgman. He's the one on the left. My right.