Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Reversed Expectations

Sunday I felt like I'd been hit several times with a desk, so I rented two movies: "The Toolbox Murders" and "Dog Soldiers." I'd heard a recommendation for the former, and the latter looked fun in a bad-movie sort of way, so I prepared myself for an afternoon of good couch-potato times.

First, the good news. "Dog Soldiers" was about soldiers vs. werewolves, and it was a rollicking good time. I'm a sucker for werewolf movies, but this one surpassed my low expectations in terms of quality. The crown jewel of the film is when one soldier takes on a werewolf in hand-to-hand combat and kicks its hairy ass. Another werewolf had to intervene to save its packmate and finally take the guy down. How embarrassing is that if you're a werewolf? Can you picture the other werewolves gathering around the water cooler: "Did you hear Bill got his hairy ass kicked by a human? If Janine hadn't stepped in things would have gotten worse than they did, and you know the corporate office heard about it. Yeah...he'll be pack leader someday."

Now for the bad. "Toolbox Murders" was dreadful, just dreadful. No, it was execrable. I was wary of this film because "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was so bad, but I thought, "Nobody can make two entirely boring horror films." Wrong! I can accept plot holes and even unlikely methods of killing people, but these things should occur in an atmosphere of at least moderate tension. The only tension involved in this film was my finger pressing the fast forward button. I vow to never again pay to see a movie in which Tobe Hooper is involved. It's my small way of improving the world.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Job Interviews CAN be fun!

I was at a job interview yesterday, but since I was 90% sure I didn’t want to work for this company it was very low-pressure. Amazing how calm you can be when you’re facing something that has no realistic chance of working out. Anyway, this was a very interesting interview, and here’s how it went.

I met first with the HR rep, who not only asked me the same old out-of-the-book questions, but she asked them off a photocopied form. See, I didn’t even rate my own form. I have glowing letters of reference from my last two employers, but when I handed them over she didn’t even glance at them, finding the letters handier as scratch paper. Yep…she used ‘em to take notes. Another interviewer might have found it useful to review the written commentary of previous employers, but this one really needed scratch paper. Clearly, I was simply Candidate #7, which was OK with me as that’s often the treatment you get from the HR folks. It was brief, which was the best I could ask for the HR portion of the interview.

I was then interviewed by the department head, who had neat purple-tinged hair, big ol’ fish eyes, and an expression that would have made the Sphinx seem smiley. As you might remember from one of my previous posts, the Sphinx is a type of interviewer, and she certainly resembled one, but this one was actually closer in demeanor to the Adversary. She asked me some common trip-you-up sort of questions, most of which I’d heard before, although she did get me on one. I recovered fairly well, I thought, and then she asked if I had questions for her. At that point, something subtle and wicked came over me, something I’d never previously experienced. I knew by then I didn’t want this job, but I decided that I was going to make this bitch sweat. So I asked questions:

“What qualities does the ideal candidate for this position possess?”

This was just a setup, to lull her into a false sense of security. Then I went on to:

“Is this a new position? If not, what happened to the previous project editor?”

This is where she began to get uncomfortable, and, sensing blood, I pressed on:

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least stress and 10 being the most stress, what level of stress do you think the project editor experiences, on average?”

I hit home on this one, as evidenced by the nervous laugh the question elicited. She recovered pretty well, I’ll give her that, but I wasn’t finished. Oh no.

“You said previously that the project editor would not report to you, but to one of your staff. How would you describe that person’s management philosophy?”

She flubbed this one by admitting that the person in question was a demanding perfectionist, something you never want to admit to a potential employee. While she lamely tried to cover this gaffe, I lunged for the kill:

“What advice would you offer the new project editor on his or her first day on the job?”

She stammered out something fairly flat, and made obvious moves to end the interview by gathering up papers, picking up her pen, etc. I considered toasting her a bit longer, but I decided to let it go. After all, a victory is as good as a massacre, right?

On second thought…a victory may be as good as a massacre, but massacres are still fun, and I'm sorry I passed up this one. Maybe they’ll call me back for a second interview...

Friday, March 11, 2005

What's the Matter with America?

I’ve been thinking today about a book I read, called, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Written by Thomas Frank, this book is an insightful look into why Republicans have managed to win the votes of the very people their policies screw so manifestly. It’s a great book I highly recommend.

Anyway, Frank coins a term he calls the plen-T-plaint. Unlike complaints, the plen-T-plaint is a gripe that has no fundamental basis, although it certainly has a target. There are all kinds of plen-T-plaints, usually seen in terms of political correctness. A child sues his school district because he was assigned homework for the summer. A woman cries sexual harassment because she is complimented on the color of her sweater. An artist dunks a picture of Jesus in a jar of urine and wants public funding for doing so. As you can no doubt see, these gripes have one thing in common: They’re all examples of liberal outrages. The point of the plen-T-plaint is not to engender discussion, but to get voters riled up and, hopefully, voting Republican.

Are there bona-fide examples of liberal silliness? Unquestionably. However, this silliness is presented not as ludicrous and ignorable, but as a pernicious example of the corrupting influence of liberal philosophy on American society. Liberals have very little influence over the national government, which is solidly controlled by Republicans, and yet to listen to Bill O’Reilly you’d think the US was under the iron Birkenstock of the Berkeley crowd. It’s dishonest and distracting, but it’s a great way to reap a harvest of votes for Republican candidates, isn’t it?

Let’s be honest about these outrages. They mean little, harm almost no one, and affect nothing. However, conservative outrages, which do more harm, receive no attention from the Anne Coulter set. Want to write anti-gay discrimination into the nation’s founding document? Sure! Want to ban the teaching of a scientific theory accepted by every reputable scientist everywhere in the world? No problem! Want to give taxpayer dollars to religious organizations to fund jobs from which many of the taxpayers will be banned? Sign me up! Personally, I find these little crusades much more disturbing than the occasional frivolous lawsuit or a baseless accusation of sexual harassment.

I tend to have a pretty solid faith in humanity, but the plen-T-plaint, and the way it has resonated in modern times, has given that faith a nice solid shake.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Neat test

I took an online grammar test, and these were my results:

English Genius
You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 93% Advanced, and 83% Expert!
You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!

For the complete Answer Key, visit my blog: http://shortredhead78.blogspot.com/.