Review: A Sticky Note Guide to Life, by Chaz Hutton

2016; HarperCollins

Unassuming Gold.
The often self-deprecating Chaz Hutton holds up a mirror to the banalities and paradoxes (paradoces?) of our modern behaviour and thinking. He covers social media, social interactions, everyday home and work life, and occasionally the philosophical. Charts and Venn diagrams are used in original ways to convey hiding-in-plain-sight truths. He occasionally reminds me (perhaps weirdly) of the great Gary Larson, even though their respective styles are very different: Larson’s work evokes stereotypical but often rich and sympathetic characters to tell simple stories of ridiculousness and the bizarre in a single frame (eg., absent-minded nuclear physicists, or psychoanalyst chickens). Hutton’s characters, on the other hand, are either us, or bland stick figures (usually both), and his simple stories of ridiculousness are vignettes of our everyday lives. Both are short, pithy, and often revealing of larger truths.

Of course one can take Hutton’s material simply at face value and enjoy it all rather superficially. (Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.) However, after spending some extended time with Chaz’s observations – both this book and his daily-or-nearly-daily Instagram material – I’ve begun to enjoy seeing a bigger picture statement come through in his work. His insights capture with honesty, but without judgement, the banality of our cultural priorities and responsibilities. While some of his pieces have a certain timelessness to them, the majority are ephemeral: They are very much of our current era, and might be frankly obscure to an audience in as little as 20 years’ time. And yet, this makes the work arguably more important, because it provides future historians with a succinct and flavoursome time capsule of our particular current state of postmodernism.

Having said all that, if Chaz himself were to consider any of this analysis, he might feel inclined to prepare an ironic sticky note summary that politely, but pointedly, deflates it (and, ultimately, himself).
5 sticky note flags.

Archer on Old Testament Law

In this post I produce a mashup – in the form of a short script – of two of my current interests: The irrationality of Christian belief, and my favourite tv cartoon show for adults: Archer.
The inspiration for this comes from the coincidental timing of this blog post elsewhere, and my current and ongoing enjoyment of the dialogue and characters in Archer.

[Warning: Contains adult themes and immature sexual references. And probably isn’t funny.]


Archer on Old Testament Law

Archer is made up as an archetypal Jesus, including a white cloak, long hair and a beard. Lana is Mary Magdalene. All other characters are dressed as peasants appropriate to the place and time, but reflecting their ‘normal’ characters. Malory reclines on various cushions and rags with an eye mask on, hugging a gourd to her chest.

Archer [Monotone as appropriate for a biblical reading]:
Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Cheryl:
You mean, like, throwing up?

Cyril:
What the hell are you talking about, Archer?

Archer:
That’s Jesus, Cyril.

Cyril:
Whatever. What are you saying?

Archer:
It means that what makes you a good person is what you say, not what you eat.

Ray:
Archer…

Archer:
JESUS!!

Ray:
Jesus… Isn’t what you do more important than what you say?

Archer:
I mean… Sure. If you’re going to take that attitude, then, I suppose…

Lana [as Mary Magdalene]:
Archer, it’s not like you’re telling us something we don’t already know.

Archer:
Goddammit, Lana – I mean Mary – will you please call me Jesus, or by my full title as your Lord and Saviour…!

Lana:
Oh, you have got to be kidding me.

Archer:
Gee, Lana, I guess it is easy to forget that I stopped you from being, ah… what was it again…? Oh, that’s right. Stoned to death!

Lana:
They weren’t really going to stone me.

Cheryl [Chuckling]:
They totally were!

Archer:
… And why, as a woman of loose morals, you put out for every uncircumcised moron this side of Judea, but you can’t bring yourself to do the horizontal crucifix with the one guy that saved you from a goddam psychotic, murdering, middle-eastern lynch mob?

Lana:
Because you’re an asshole.

Archer [Shouting]:
I’m the Son of God!

Malory:
Sterling, could you keep it down, please? I’m struggling with the fires of Nebuchadnezzar inside my brain right now and I could really do without all the shouting.

Lana [Laughing]:
What the shit are you talking about?

Archer:
Mother… Tell them. Please…

Malory [Lifting the mask from one eye]:
Sigh– I was young. I didn’t know what was involved. He plied me with [sipping from the wine gourd] alcohol…

Lana:
Didn’t know…? Plied you with alcohol? You were date-raped!

Malory:
Oh, there’s no need to go all social-warrior, Lana. I wouldn’t say “raped” exactly. I mean, this was an event of –ahem– Biblical significance…

Archer:
Mother!

Pam:
Wow – [giggling] Mrs Archer. Kudos to you. How do I get me some of that biblical action…?

Archer:
Can we please get back to what defileth thee?

Cyril:
OK, Arch- I mean, Jesus…

Archer [rolls eyes]:
Finally.

Cyril:
You said that which goeth into the mouth NOT defileth a man…

Archer:
Right.

Cyril:
Except for pork, oysters, and various water fowls, right?

Cheryl:
What about ocelots…?

Archer:
Well, no. Anything you eat ends up in your stomach, and therefore eventually gets “cast out into the draught”. So I mean, that means you can eat whatever you want. Ok?
But I wouldn’t suggest eating an ocelot. Ocelots are totally awesome.

Krieger:
But we’ve never been able to eat bacon and shellfish.

Pam [Gnawing a pork knuckle]:
Wait – is bacon bad or something?

Lana:
What, apart from being associated with stroke and congestive heart failure…?

Krieger:
Lana, it’s 32 A.D. There’s no possible way you could know that.
Pam, pigs are an abomination, as well anything else with a cloven hoof.

Pam:
What’s a cloven hoof?

Lana:
A camel toe.

Pam [Laughing, tugging her draping clothes upwards into her crotch, pork knuckle still in hand]:
Ha ha! Let’s keep a look out for some abominable ‘cloven hoof’ action, then…
[Pause.]
[No response.]
What? Nothing…?

Cyril:
The point is, Pam, that Archer – I mean, Jesus – is saying we can now eat bacon, even though it’s illegal.

Pam:
Bacon is illegal? Since when…?

Lana:
Only since God told Moses that, like, a thousand years ago.

Pam [Laughing]: Well, shit, there’s a memo I’m glad I missed!
Wait [hiding the pork knuckle behind her back] – the penalty isn’t stoning, is it? I mean, if we get to chill out and pass around a massive Bob Marley, I’m totally fine with that as a punishment. But if it means getting actual rocks thrown at your head, well…

Cheryl:
They’d tie you up first, right…?

Ray:
So, Archer, what about all that stuff you said before about not coming to destroy the law, but to fulfill it…?

Cyril:
Hey, Ray, that’s a very good question!

Archer:
What – Ray? No – Cyril – that’s not a very good question at all. In fact, it’s a very dumb question.

Krieger:
So… Are we keeping all of the laws about stoning people who work on Sundays, or aren’t we?

Archer:
No, Krieger, we are not stoning people who work on Sundays…

Cyril:
What about the laws about not wearing clothing made of mixed threads, or not sowing fields with multiple crops?

Archer:
Again, Cyril, no, these are not laws we need to enforce any more. People just went a bit too crazy with all that Old Testament stuff. I mean, like you said, it’s 32 AD. It’s not, like, the Bronze Age.

Cyril:
So if we’re not enforcing those laws any more, how can you be here to “fulfil” them?

Archer [Exasperated]:
Jesus Christ, Cyril, you’re the goddamn lawyer here. You tell me!
Maybe – just maybe – it’s because as the one and only human incarnation of the supreme, singular, non-contingent creator of all existence, I’m not about to – I don’t know – say that all the Old Testament laws were just mistakes and now we have to start from scratch again.
God. Doesn’t. Make. Mistakes!

Pam:
Err… I’m confused.

Cheryl:
Yep – me too.

Ray:
So am I.

Malory [Still under her mask, taking another swig from the gourd]:
Sterling, we’re all confused, including me, and I’m supposedly the mother of the Son of God.

Archer:
Please, mother, can’t you at least call me Jesus..?
Of course you’re confused. That’s why I’m here.

Lana:
Well, so far, you’re not helping.

Archer:
What? Not helping? I suppose you’d say that all of those blind, lame and leprous peasants I just healed were disgruntled now that I didn’t leave them anything to bitch about for the remainder of their short, miserable lives?

Lana:
So, what – are you now going to take away the earthly suffering of every single person in the world? Coz, you’ve kinda set up that expectation now.

Archer:
I mean, that’s not the point…

Cyril:
Well, what is the point, Archer? Because performing a few faith-healing miracles here and there, while giving us mixed messages about which of God’s laws we should obey and which we should forget about it isn’t exactly setting a consistent platform for theism.

Archer:
Well if you’d all just shut up and listen for five minutes, I’ll try to explain.
All of the laws of Moses are perfectly valid laws – for the time of Moses. Some of them we keep – like the 10 Commandments – and some we don’t have to worry about any more – like not eating bacon, or crabs. I’m here now…

Pam: [Snicker…]

Archer: [Forcefully]
I’m here now… [Calmly] to provide a transposition, or a refraction, of the old Moses laws for our current times.

Lana [Laughing]:
A transposition…?

Krieger:
What do you mean by a “refraction”?

Malory [Still under her mask]:
Sterling, what in the name of three types of hell and the holy spirit are you crapping on about…?

Archer:
Jesus! Look, it’s quite simple, you people. I was obviously put here to give all of humanity an updated perspective of everything that’s good. Think of me as a glass prism, that bends the light of the laws of Moses. The actual details of the old laws weren’t important. What was important was just that people obeyed them for God as well as for themselves.

Ray:
So really, the law that you’re here to fulfill is just that we should obey God.

Archer:
That’s right, Ray. Now you’re getting it.

Pam:
Even if God says you can’t eat camel toes?

Archer:
Pam, God doesn’t care about you eating camel toes, or anything else for that matter. I’m here to show that the obedience of humanity to God is a constant throughout time, and those old laws, which were appropriate for that time and place, are now refracted through my presence. It’s like everything else in the Old Testament – like the talking snake, the fall of man, the flood of Noah, and what have you – so that all of these things can now be seen properly. In the way they should be seen.

Lana:
As made-up stories.

Archer:
What? Goddammit, Lana! Haven’t you been listening? NOT made-up stories. True stories. Just…. refracted.

[Pause.]
[No response.]

Everyone but Archer: [Simultaneous collective burst of laughter]

Pam [Quiet aside]:
Cloven hooves! [snicker]