I love maps. They're useful. They're pretty. And quite often, they're free. I love all kinds of maps—old, new, Mercator, treasure, you name it. And after poring over The Onion’s latest parody, "Our Dumb World: Atlas of the Planet Earth," I've decided that I like funny maps best of all.
The Onion's map of the United Kingdom, for example, shows the burial site of Mother Goose, a literature mine and the world's grayest building. Ukraine's includes the location of a "headless-doll factory." Like any regular atlas, "Our Dumb World" includes lots of facts, or "facts." Wales is the birthplace of the "oldest, longest, least pronounceable language in the world. When spoken, it sounds like a beautiful song, but when written, it looks like the alphabet just vomited."
This is the best parody since the National Lampoon published its phony newspaper, "The Dacron Republican-Democrat," in 1978. But The Onion's atlas is not merely parody. Coupling rage with humor, it transcends its own silliness with Swiftian satire. Take the entry on the Democratic Republic of Congo, which "has endured decades of brutal civil war, in which rebel forces have adopted the gruesome practices of raping women with machetes, decapitating babies, and even … they, they just … with their teeth, they … Jesus f––-ing Christ you don't want to know what goes on here." The Onion's picture of our world is skewed, buffoonish, raging, mocking and often ridiculous. It is not factual, fair or balanced. But it certainly rings true.