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Worldly-wiseguys

January 20, 2008|Kristina Lindgren

LEAVE it to the Onion to build a better atlas. The cover of "Our Dumb World: Atlas of the Planet Earth" (Little, Brown: 246 pp., $27.99) boasts "Curvier Latitude Lines," "Better-Veiled Xenophobia," a "Bono-Awareness Rating" for each country and, enterprisingly, "30% More Asia."

If it's true that the youths of America are woefully ignorant of the world beyond their iPods, that they get their news from Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and the Onion, then this new volume by the staff of the satiric online and weekly magazine could be just the ticket to attract young minds.

With irreverent -- OK, juvenile -- humor, "Our Dumb World" mocks global stereotypes with flippant "fact" lists and such country titles as "The United States: Land of Opportunism," "Panama: A Shortcut With Its Own National Anthem" and "Saudi Arabia: All Is Forbidden." Did you know that North Korea's leading exports are "glorious ideas" and "trace radiation"? Or that China's top import is "U.S. debt"? Or that in a timeline of U.S. history, the 1967 "Summer of Love" was followed by the "Autumn of Chlamydia"?

Not so funny: a photo of a Sierra Leone girl with stumps instead of hands, captioned, "probably waving hello"; or that after the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, his widow is "momentarily comforted by the fact that his blood matches her shoes."

Can't you just imagine the twentysomething copy writer who dubbed Lebanon: "To Hezbollah in a Handbasket"?

-- Kristina Lindgren

kris.lindgren@latimes.com

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