Fourat Janabi’s book is something you want to like to begin with – the biography of the author stating, “I am writer, a co-founder, an entrepreneur, a photographer, an explorer, and an idiot,” a sign that indicates a person on the right side of crazy, and therefore I looked forward to diving into this short and well laid-out work.
Janabi thankfully, given the subject matter, does not talk at the reader. It is written simply in the tone of a man at a dinner party, making profound use of his imaginary orange box. And the subjects are vast, uncomfortable, mutable even; he goes for the big guns: God, religion, the universe, heaven, nanotechnology, economics…ad infinitum – add any subject you ever discussed around a table after three bottles of wine on a work night.
It is in fact a discussion of the meaning of life itself with the author, a “fifty-trillion celled ape cousin writing this long diatribe, pretending to be an intellectual.”
What Janabi doesn’t realize is that this self-published work is actually head and shoulders above most of the dross out there on this very subject, especially many self-published works. Unassuming, universally written with sharp wit and charm, the first pages catch and you want to read on. Although Janabi never professes to be an expert, the book is written in a way to hit the balance between learning something and being told something, without it coming off as apologetic or arrogant, which, let’s face it, most books on the meaning of life do. This is not a lecture or a lesson: it is a conversation.
The subjects are approached briskly, lean and trim. Eternity in heaven? “If you have ever eaten more than five chocolate bars in a row, then you probably know what heaven will feel like – But take that feeling, multiply it by a really, really, large number, and you’ll get a taste as to how boring heaven would eventually get.” He tackles the Creationists square on, quoting Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “’Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.’ Here are the facts…”
Refreshingly, he launches into his information about nuclear energy, convinced that it is clean, safe and environmentally sound, “The reasons for our three meltdowns are primarily human error; not an inherent danger in nuclear fission technology.” And he seems to be correct when one looks at the succinct points he lays down.
In politics, his theory on how we vote is simple, “Since idle brainpower is usually spent entertaining one’s self outside of work, we make the quick, easy, and emotional decision when it comes to electing a person for office.” He paints an argument for a world without politics. It feels right.
His thoughts on economics are brilliant, I would have gladly paid for a whole book like this – Janabi’s strength lies here, and at last I understand money! He asks cheekily after this, “Raise your hand if you still think we are at apex of human civilization.” Yes. How embarrassing, I say to myself. The obvious stares us in the face, and even if you thought you were being the naysayer, you may find after reading this that your naysaying was rather amateur and uninformed. I did.
A standout chapter is that on the future of food, where I learned how margins are sheared by among other practices, gluing meat scraps with real glue and selling them as prime meat cuts due to issues with land and costs. I love the solutions explained in detail: Aquaponics, LED lighting for fast growth and indoor farming with figures and evidence to back up his ideas, some of which are already successfully in use.
Future technology is also discussed; “Technology sometimes has a funny way of being awesome” with 3D printers and nanotechnology as some of the applications Janabi is in favor of, as well as self-driving cars. It’s all great big fun in a nutshell.
He is without doubt a man comfortable in his own skin: he is after all an excellent observer in his day to day work as a photographer, and this surefire personality comes across in his chatty but erudite style. A very enjoyable, well-sourced work from a writer who took the trouble to pick the knots out of a very tangled world so that the rest of us can make sense of the mess we have as human beings managed to get ourselves into.
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About Cate Baum
Cate Baum is a filmmaker and writer of self-published book “The Bull and The Ban” (under the name Tosko) and contributed to "Ole!", a book about 21st Century attitudes to bullfighting with Ernest Hemingway's grandson John and New York Times writer Edward Lewine. She is also editor and co-founder of Filmmaking Review, the sister site to Self-Publishing Review. She is married to SPR founder Henry Baum and lives in LA.