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The Order of Oddfish

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The Original Belgian Prankster

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As a writer, I’m sometimes asked where I get my ideas. The answer is that all my ideas, no matter how ludicrous, come from the real world.

For example! The villain of The Order of Odd-Fish is a celebrity terrorist called “the Belgian Prankster.” He goes around the world doing insane stunts like filling the Grand Canyon with pistachio pudding, or turning the Eiffel Tower upside-down, or releasing 10,000 bichon frise puppies on the streets of Osaka. He’s like a whimsical Osama bin Laden with his own reality show. Here’s what he looks like, courtesy of fan artist Kathleen Simmons—a hulking giant always clad in a ratty fur coat, green ski goggles, and a rawhide diaper:

Although the Belgian Prankster is probably the weirdest character in the book, he is actually based on a real man named Noel Godin. (I’ve mentioned him before, but today I’d to dwell on him in loving detail.) Godin first came to my attention in 1998, when he smashed a pie in Bill Gates’ face in the streets of Brussels. Video here:

Strangely, as if they’d all agreed on this beforehand, every newspaper and TV reporter invariably referred to him as “Belgian prankster Noel Godin” or just “a Belgian prankster.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who found the phrase Belgian Prankster irresistible. It has a sinister lilt; it sounds like the name of a supervillain. (It’s kind of like how, during the 1989 US-Panama War, journalists would never say “Manuel Noriega,” but always “Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.” Panamanian strongman—go ahead, say it out loud! It trips off the lips.)

I thought, what if this Belgian Prankster graduated from mere pie-throwing to more insane, dangerous, and finally supernatural stunts? A man in pursuit of the worst practical joke, the most apocalyptic prank? And thus the “Belgian Prankster” of The Order of Odd-Fish was born.

As a fitting wrap-up to Avant-Garde Pie week, let’s take a closer look at this remarkable man, Noel Godin:

Godin

Apparently Godin, under the pseudonym “Georges Le Gloupier,” is notorious in France and Belgium for attacking pretentious public figures with cream pies. Targets include director Jean-Luc Godard, writer Marguerite Duras, and Nicholas Sarkozy. Godin has invented a verb for this, entarter (to attack with a pie). Each attack is a meticulously planned team effort; his accomplices (known as entarteurs) shout out “Gloup, Gloup, Gloup!” after a successful attack.

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Godin’s peculiar bête noire is French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, whom he’s assaulted five separate times. I find the relationship between Levy and Godin fascinating. Let me quote at length from The Observer Magazine:


“I flan people in the spirit of the abusive letters the Dadaists sent to worthless celebrities,” [Godin] said. “The aim is always to denounce them in some way. I do not want to slide into facile sensationalism. Every victim has to be thoroughly justified.”

Few have been more outstanding flanees that Bernard-Henri Levy, a man so sensitive that he was once credibly reported as observing that “when I find a new shade of grey, I feel ecstatic”. He has also famously remarked that he dislikes seeing a woman pay in a restaurant. “I think,” Levy explained, “that money does not suit a woman; or rather that I would not fall in love with such a woman.” His own varied talents constitute, by his own account, “a landscape which does not have a fixed place in the classic topography of culture.”

These are the kind of observations that guarantee the philosopher express deliveries of creme chantilly for years to come. “He is the worst,” says Godin, who, on the subject of Bernard-Henri Levy, tends to sound like Herbert Lom on Inspector Clouseau. “He is the worst this decade.”

Here Godin attacks a young Levy in 1985 (that’s a long-simmering grudge!). After the attack, Levy knocked down Godin, but Godin said later, “I didn’t even feel the uppercut, because I was so happy to gaze up from the floor and see the peak of French intellectual thought so thoroughly snowbound.” Levy shouts at Godin, “Get up, or I’ll kick your head in.”

(This is great stuff, but not quite as good as when Norman Mailer threw a drink at Gore Vidal, and then punched Vidal out, at a literary party in 1977. Vidal’s legendary response, delivered when he was still on the floor: “Words fail Norman Mailer yet again.”)

But what are the origins of this marvelous man? Consulting The Observer Magazine again (it’s really worth it to read the whole article), we learn about his first job, in 1969, writing a news column for Friends of Film, a cinema magazine published by the Belgian Catholic League:

“I started to print complete falsehoods—gradually at first, then routinely,” [Godin] recalled. “I invented non-existent films that I illustrated with snapshots of my relatives. I wrote face-to-face interviews with hundreds of artists, including Frank Capra and Robert Mitchum, without ever leaving my bedroom.”

Readers of Friends of Film were introduced to the work of imaginary geniuses such as Sergio Rossi, Aristide Beck and Viviane Pei, the Thai director of such films as The Lotus Flower Will No Longer Grow On The Shores Of Your Island. Pei’s acheivements, ceaselessly lauded in Godin’s column, were the more remarkable, he reported, in that she was “the only blind director in the history of cinema”. He enthused over Vegetables of Good Will (1970, Jean Clabau), in which Claudia Cardinale played an endive, and Germinal II, a Maoist cartoon featuring Jean-Louis Barrault as the voice of a cold chisel.

“The only blind director in the history of cinema”? Vegetables of Good Will? *Swoon*

In other issues, it was revealed that Roger Vadim (former husband of Brigitte Bardot) was “a DIY fanatic secretly obsessed with small balsawood aircraft,” that Marlene Dietrich led expeditions to hunt down the Loch Ness monster, and that Michael Caine had a motor that ran on yogurt. “I got away with it purely because I had a credulous editor and the magazine was not distributed outside Belgium,” Godin said.

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If Godin is to be believed, his grand crusade has only begun. One day their slogan (according to some websites, “Let’s pie! Let’s pie! Nincompoop guys!”) will be shouted from the barricades. Godin again:

“We are just beginning. We feel ready now. Ready to attack another sort of target. A genuine International Brigade Patisserie has been born. We believe that we are capable of achieving great things in the near future . . . No obstacle can stand in our way. Like Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Gene Tierney and Barbara Stanwyck in the old Hollywood films, we have a crazed belief in ourselves . . . I hope to brighten the lives of my British friends . . . Tell them to expect me when they see a cream-colored shooting star traverse their cheerless skies.”

Noel Godin, please, I beg you, come to the United States. You are our only hope.

Some new “Belgian pranksters” have even emerged, though they are not actually associated with Godin. For instance, one of them put the entire country of Belgium up for sale on eBay.

That said, there are some pretender Belgian Pranksters, some amateur Belgian Pranksters, who have tried to claim the title “Belgian Prankster” and failed miserably. Here’s a prank gone horribly wrong on a Belgian TV show. Frankly, it’s a stupid prank; the amateur Belgian prankster throws a weird little green net on his victim, a stranger at a shopping mall (why? what’s the point?). Unfortunately for him, one of the bystanders is a martial arts master:



If you look at it on YouTube, the comments are hilarious: “But you have to agree his stance is common in TKD not KF. That is a classic TKD form or stance for sparring and fighting but as I watch repeatedly, his kick is not an authentic TDK style.” Why do I have the creeping feeling this commenter knows neither kung fu or tae kwon do, but has just played a lot of Mortal Kombat?

Avant-Garde Pies Week, Part 2

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The auction for Evanston Public Libraries is over. They raised $39,000! My ridiculous “Night with Audrey Niffenegger as Played by James Kennedy” contributed a tiny bit. Two nights, actually: it sold for $60 to someone called “Mamaro” and for $65 to someone called “lmur988”. I really hope one of those people is secretly Audrey Niffenegger. Our dinner would be a total Niffeneggerammerung. Margo Gremmler has the wrap-up here.

Earlier this week I kicked off “Avant-Garde Pies Week” by featuring Mason’s drawings of strange pies from Odd-Fish. For Part 2 of “Avant-Garde Pies Week,” check out these amazing actual pies created by fifth graders at Near North Montessori! They’ve been reading The Order of Odd-Fish for class, using my Odd-Fish reader’s guide and curriculum. As a fun project, some students baked actual avant-garde pies from the notorious La Société des Friandises Étranges visited by Ken Kiang and Hoagland Shanks.

Above: a kind of video game pie. Deliciously brilliant. And they only get more avant-garde. I give you the “pi pie”–which is filled with baked apples cut into the shapes of the first ten or so digits of pi:

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That is seriously clever! I don’t think I even knew what pi was in fifth grade!

Next: have you ever heard of synesthesia? It’s when you can taste colors, or hear smells, or smell shapes–when the different senses get mixed up. I have a feeling that’s what would happen if we ate this rainbow pie:

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That looks gorgeous and tasty. But save room for the mud pie and the street pie!

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I love the Gummi worms poking out of the mud pie, and the traffic jam on the street pie. Great job, Near North Montessori! I think you all deserve a place in Mason’s “Order of Pie.” These fifth graders came on a field trip to the Order of Odd-Fish art show, so I recognize the faces in these pictures. I’m honored you did this.

Thanks again, and thanks to Cynthia Castiglione, one of the teachers at Near North Montessori, for setting this all up. What a great idea!

Avant-Garde Pies Week, Part 1

The Club of Weird Desserts by Mason

This week on the blog, I want to highlight Order of Odd-Fish fan art I’ve received that has to do with avant-garde pies. This first is by “Order of the Pie” founder (and eleven year-old) Mason, whose illustration of the La Société des Friandises Étranges chapter (above) was featured in April’s Odd-Fish fan art gallery show. I particularly liked Mason’s letter explaining his art, so I’m reprinting it below!

Bonus: Mason’s mother is children’s book author Deborah Diesen, whose hilarious picture book The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade is a favorite bedtime read of Baby Owl’s. Check out Deborah’s blog here!

OK, take it away, Mason . . .

I am a big fan of the book The Order of Odd-Fish. I decided to create this picture because in most fan art showcases, people usually draw stuff that’s important to the story, right? Well, I have decided to do the exact opposite because of this book’s dithering and bumbling yet captivating manner.

If I were doing fan art for any other book, I would have drawn the main character, or the most important part of the plot. Instead, I have done the exact same thing a knight of The Order of Odd-Fish would have done. I have drawn some of the pies featured in The Club of Weird Desserts, and come up with some pies to put in the drawing as well. I drew this because I am the founder of the not-so-secret-anymore organization, The Order of Pie.

The pies of The Club of Weird Desserts that I have drawn are as follows, from top left to bottom right:

Molten Money: The filling is made out of pure 24 carat gold.

Total Taste Sensation: This pie is made of a substance that activates dormant taste buds on the inside of your bloodstream.

Chocolate Hell: The filling is made of chocolate heated to a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun, and sealed inside the pie so that not even one degree of heat can escape from the pie.

The Calibrated Cataclysm: Juicy quinces and persimmons soaked in liqueurs measured out in single angstrom drops, served flaming in a dish of richest creams.

The Phosphorescent Fascination: Made out of an edible plastic made out of Neptunium, a radioactive material.

The Pie of Innocence Slain: This pie has dreams curdled for filling and the young’s dreams squashed into the crust. At the center of this pie is the rarest delicacy of them all: the pure and uncorrupted human heart. (But it still tastes like peaches.)

Mr. Kennedy, I liked your book because you could not count on it for anything. Of all the books I’ve read, this one is like no other. That’s a good thing.

Sincerely,

Mason, Age 11

P.S. The Order of Pie is an organization dedicated to making pies. I am currently trying to locate a headquarters for this organization, other than my Mom’s basement.

Thanks, Mason! Count me in as one of the charter members of the Order of Pie (and I think you might meet some other potential members later this week on the blog)! Don’t worry about relocating headquarters out of your Mom’s basement just yet. Remember, Sir Oliver’s rigorous training for dithering involved sitting for twenty years in his mother’s basement doing nothing at all. If it’s good enough for Sir Oliver…