The Thinker

Welcome to Scott’s World

Scott would be Scott Adams, also known as the artist behind the very popular Dilbert comic strip published in newspapers and pinned to cubicle walls everywhere. The strip is now close to twenty years old, and has been popular for the last fifteen years. Scott capitalized on an emerging trend, which brought the strip enormous popularity and he a very comfortable life. In his comic strip, he chronicles the white-collar dysfunctional cubicle world where many of us spend the majority of our lives, and made us laugh at the absurdity of it all. Along the way he wrote a number of best selling books with the world Dilbert in the title, opened a few restaurants, became a vegetarian, married a woman named Shelly and makes extra shekels by doing the lecture circuit.

Life gives us few opportunities to really know someone. If for some reason you want to really know Scott Adams, then you need to pick up his latest book, Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! Just be careful for what you wish. By the end of the book (which I finished a couples weeks ago), you may find yourself like me wondering if you really wanted to know Scott Adams quite this well. Most likely, the answer is no. It is like discovering that man you so admire for his professionalism at work lives in a hovel with pizza boxes stuffed to the ceiling and breeds ferrets in the basement.

Scott is both intensely interesting and intensely peculiar. You can grasp this from his comic strip. When I finished this book, it was hard for me to escape the feeling that Dilbert is Scott Adams, minus the engineering degree. Okay, based on his picture he is probably more attractive than Dilbert. Moreover, since Scott is a vegetarian and a regular tennis player I doubt very much that he is also oval shaped. Other than that, I do not see much difference between the man and his character. This comes across in the numerous essays that populate this book, all of which first appeared on his blog. Scott is a strange enigma of a man. It is probably a good thing that he runs his own business. I suspect during his cubicle days he found it hard to refrain from being the sticky widget that gummed up the machine. He comes across as a natural gadfly.

How many of us who had a next-door neighbor who was a self-employed vegetarian atheist would want to get to know him? Would you invite him to join your for an outdoor barbeque? Suppose he was also the type of man who would amuse neighbors with stories about his male sexual organs becoming caught up in his briefs when he wandered around airports? You might laugh along but I suspect most people would discreetly forget to invite him the next time you were planning a barbeque. In his book at least, Scott comes across as this sort of person.

I strongly suspect that in real life Scott is not like this. Particularly now that he is married, I suspect he is house trained even if, like Dilbert and me, he has no dancing skills whatsoever. One of the benefits of blogging though is that, if you choose, you do not have to put on airs for anyone. Particularly if you are independently wealthy and self-employed, there is no need to present a false picture of yourself, as many of us do.

You may have noticed that my blog has a bit of an imperious tone to it. It comes naturally, as I grew up Catholic. Catholics are privy to all the great answers in life, so naturally even though I gave up that religion long ago, I remain a highly judgmental creature. The nice thing about Scott Adams though is he knows and is comfortable with himself, foibles and all. He has no need to put on airs because he has no one he needs to impress. This gives him a privilege few of us except Henry Higgins have: the ability to live his life precisely on his own terms.

I cannot help but admire Scott for his honesty. He lets it all hang out in this book, including his actual private parts. What we discover is not so much a man as a human being, full of foibles, interesting, peculiar, with many grand ideas but with little inclination to convince you of their validity. In a way, he is humble. He freely admits he may be completely off base with many of his ideas. Scott is equally comfortable reveling in life’s mundanities. Consequently, many of the little essays that populate this book are on subjects perhaps even too trivial for Seinfeld. Yet occasionally he generates a thoughtful idea. One I really enjoyed was: Who is holier, Mother Teresa or Bill Gates? With his foundation and fortune, he figures that Bill Gates will save the lives of 100 to 200 million human beings. Mother Teresa certainly did good work in relieving the suffering of the dying and desperate, but Bill Gates is saving lives by doing obvious things no one else will do, like providing mosquito netting to people too poor to afford them in places like Thailand. It is unlikely though that after his death Bill Gates will be granted sainthood. I doubt he is even a Catholic.

Scott’s opinions are universally strange and unorthodox. He has plans to live for hundreds of years. He has all sorts of solutions to the world’s problems, yet he cannot be bothered to vote. He does not care about issues like global warming, but does worry about stuff he knows is very stupid, like being unable to empty his bladder before he can get to a restroom. He wonders why it is okay to accommodate Mormons who feel the need to wear special underpants but it is not okay to accommodate a man who says his religion requires him to wear a stuffed rhino penis on his hat. He asks ethical questions like “If you had the body of a supermodel, would you sell our DNA for $100 million if you knew your clone would become a sex slave to a billionaire?” Scott’s brain is busy thinking about things like this and thanks blogging you now have the opportunity to think about them too.

Most of us Dilbert fans will continue to appreciate the strip, but probably do not want to know its creator this well. Nonetheless, if you do, then this is a must-read book. It remains a mystery to me how he ended up married. (His marriage to his wife Shelly is detailed in the book. It sounds like his first marriage.) The cynic in me thinks she married him for his money. Presumably, he is loaded. If they married for love, then thank goodness because Scott Adams probably found the one person on the planet who could love him for whom he is, in all his inglorious peculiarity.

 

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