Worst Best Interview

scody relates this crushing story of acceptance.

When I graduated from college, I moved out to NY to live with my then-boyfriend and to try to break into publishing. The job market was terrible, and I was getting increasingly desperate for work. My resume (such as it was) showed that I had done “PR” for various cultural groups and political organizations in college (i.e., I wrote music reviews for the campus radio station publication and made fliers for various left-wing student groups); through my employment agency, this eventually landed me an interview for an entry-level assistant with “an emerging political media organization,” in the words of the agency rep. They wouldn’t tell me specifically who the interview was with; I was merely told to wear my interview suit (oh god, my ugly early ’90s interview suit) and bring a few copies of my resume to a specific midtown Manhattan address.

I must stop here for a moment and explain that I had been on a lot of interviews in that awful suit by that time — editorial assistant gigs, museum office assistant gigs, marketing assistant gigs for various businesses — and I had botched every single interview in one way or another. I screwed up the typing test (which is pretty much the main requirement for an editorial assistant), or I’d show up late after having left my resume on the train, or I’d be asked why I wanted to be a marketing assistant in a small manufacturing firm specializing in heating coils and I’d answer honestly that, actually, I didn’t want to do any such thing; I was on my way to becoming a Famous Writer but that I needed a job in the meantime to pay off my student loans. I did not get any second interviews.

So I show up in my terrible suit at the address. And it’s the Ailes Production Co.

Roger Ailes, for those not in the know, is the President of the Fox News Channel and all around weirdo. Esquire thinks he hates America.

Now, I was enough of a dyed-in-the-wool lefty at the age of 22 to know who Roger Ailes was; I was the kind of girl who had a Lee Atwater dart board in her dorm room, for god’s sake. I grew up in a household where, when I was a small child, I was told that it was Nixon personally throwing garbage at the feet of the crying Indian.

I considered simply not going to the interview, but then I wouldn’t be sent out for any other interviews by my job agency. So I decided that I would go in and fuck up. You know, just be so obviously poorly suited (and not just because of my bad interview suit!) for the job. Fine. It would be over, I would maybe go poke around the Strand for awhile, then go home. So I squared my shoulders, took a breath, and walked in.

The interviewer loved me. I was, he said, “refreshing and irreverent” — indeed, I was “exactly what we’re looking for.” I couldn’t lose. I kept putting all my money on double-zero and I’ll be goddamned it didn’t keep coming up double-zero. Finally, he stood up. Please let it be over, I thought.

"I’d like you to meet someone," he said.

"Oh wow," I said.

I was rapidly led through a corridor that included larger-than-life-sized portraits of various Republican icons, including Nixon and Reagan; I suspected but was being hustled down the hall too quickly to confirm that these portraits included eyes that followed you as you walked past. And then I was brought into the inner sanctum of Roger Ailes.

He extended his hand. Automatically (and to my immediate sense of self-loathing), I shook it. What could I say? What should I say?

"I hear you want to work for me!" Roger Ailes (ROGER AILES!) boomed.

"Oh, I don’t know if you want me," I laughed nervously.

"Aren’t you charming," Roger Ailes (ROGER AILES!) said. "You may be just what we need around here."

Inside my head a voice hollered think girl, think! There must be some devastatingly clever way to mention Willie Horton! Some brilliant monologue about saving democracy from the oligarchs to deliver!

"Oh wow," I said.

Finally — I don’t recall exactly how — I managed to escape. I got to the street and burst into tears right in front of the homeless guy I passed on the way in.

"Bad interview?" he asked gently.

"Great interview," I sobbed.

The MeFites loved this comment, and it eventually had it’s own glowing MetaTalk thread. She used the opportunity to answer some questions. The most important came first:

I want to know if the suit had shoulder pads.

Yes. Yes, it totally did. And not only that: it was a double-breasted yellow-and-white pinstriped suit with shoulder pads. I looked like a tall, tragic jar of mayostard.

Then she clarified if she actually took the job:

After I stopped crying I talk it over with the homeless guy. (Seriously, he was cool.) He agrees that it was a conundrum: I desperately need the money (and my boyfriend had just been laid off from his job) but it would be the dirtiest of dirty money. “But I guess beggars can’t be choosers, right?” I say. Pause. He looks pointedly at me. “OHMANI’MSOSORRY!” I say. Then he smiles. “Actually, sometimes beggars can be choosers,” he says mysteriously (I realize I am making him sound like Ladies and Gentlemen, In the Role of the Wise Homeless Man: Morgan Freeman, but… it sort of was like that). “You can choose to do with what comes your way.”

"I know what you mean," I say.

I have no idea what he means. But I thank him anyway and head home. By the time I arrive back at our apartment (in beautiful Paramus, NJ, where we moved after his layoff) I have resolved NOT to take the job. I have choices. Principles! Solidarity forever! We shall not be moved!

My boyfriend is livid. “Of course you are taking the fucking job,” he says.

Buh… buh… PRINCIPLES! Solidarity forever! We stood on the picket lines protecting Planned Parenthood and demanding our college divest from South Africa together, right, honey? It’s where we fell IN LOOOOOOOVE.

"We. Need. The. Money. I. Do. Not. Care. About. Politics. Any. More."

Now I am livid. “Well, I do!” I say passionately, finally working up to that speech I meant to give to Roger Ailes. “I will always care! I will always be on the side of the worker, the downtrodden, the oppressed! You were laid off because of the injustices of capitalism! As Paul Weller says —” (and I should point out that my bf at the time was as massive a Weller fan as I was) (well, almost) “— ‘They take the profits, you take the blame!’ You know what that means! It means we are at the mercy of capitalism and it’s, like, totally unjust! I have made a vow to topple our racist-sexist-classist-homophobic power structure if it’s the last thing I do, and AS GOD IS MY WITNESS —”

"Then. Go. Topple. It. From. The. INSIDE."

Silence. My eyes widen. It is a total Lucy and Ricky moment. “Darling! That’s a wonderful idea!”


Yes! It’s a marvelous idea! I will sabotage the system from the inside! I will feed Roger Ailes bad information, and smuggle out good information, and insert subliminal Marxist messages into newsfeeds to trigger a revolution, and Fred and Ethel will do an old vaudeville number and Paul Weller will want to hang out with us the next time he’s in New York and IT WILL BE AWESOME.

I eagerly await the phone call for the second interview, spending days flitting from room to room listening to Billy Bragg and laughing maniacally at my genius plan. Count your days, capitalism! For yea, surely they are numbered.

THE CALL COMES. They love me! They want to see me for a second interview! If they make me an offer, I should be prepared to sign a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement and to be prepared for stiff penalties (both civil and criminal) regarding the misuse of information! Also, I will need to pee in a cup for the drug test!

Oh wow.

"I’m sorry," I say. "I can’t make it."


A Christmas Mystery

Did I get forwarded a letter from eastern Europe, or is this the most beautiful gotcha ever?

timsteil heads to AskMe to ask this burning question, about a letter he describes as thus:

Obviously chewed up in the mail, and missing some pages, all I got was the last one. It is possiblly the most wonderful, genuine thing I have received in a long time. My address is clearly done with a printer, but the letter itself seems hand-typed with a blotty ribbon. the paper is crumpled, and coffee stained. […]

The return address is from Romanian MidAtlantic Postage Recovery, 82.5 S. Cicero, Chicago. Underneath that it says “We’re apologize for missing contents. Merry Christmas.” It has a foreign ( I assume Romanian) postmark, with a US stamp placed over it. With a large ink fingerprint on front and back of envelope. There is no such address, nor is that company listed anywhere I can Google. […]

The more I read it, there seems to be a lot of disagreement within it the letter itself. Using perfect English in one part, then writing in “an accent” as lacedcoffee noticed, and talking about nuclear factories and breadlines, then Marlboros and DVDs. Plus it just seems to hash up too many American stereotypes of eastern Europe. If this IS a Xmas joke, I have been frickin humbled by the sheer effort and creativity involved, and owe someone a beer. 

After initially leaving the text of the letter out, he ends up posting the whole letter. It is a must read.

…so other than problem with mule, it was good year.

Papa came home from hospital vit no spleen again. Last time doctor say not spleen but this time he got right. Viktor make bed in kitchen du papa und papa always complain about too much cabbage and greasy and smoking all the time. I tell poppa hey poppa, you smoking too like Russian car you smoke, but poppa he just drinking Svedya and laughing and go pee pee into coal chute.

Viktor joing army this year and specializing in petrol patrolling. Him and Yadvik go on patrol in uniforms finding tourist and stopping them and removing petrol and fining. It is not hard work. Is good work. He bringing home petrol for cooking and Marlboros from Americanjyiks. Viktor has girlfriend Janya working on soccer balll factory making soccer balls. She is one putting Spaulding on balls you play soccer and you play Spaulding ball is like you touch her hand. I don’t recommend touching her hand though as Viktor is very protective and we do not want to have to pay policia again. So best not to touch her hand. But soccer is ok.

Aunt YVania is living with us in parlour with Grigori. All the time with bitch and pencil penis is like watching cartoon from Americanj> Me and poppa in kitchen laughing like crazy and drinking Svedya. I go into living room and opening drawers and talking to self and YVania saying what do you need looking for? Why you cant say shush and I saying need a pencil. Just a little one — Wait as minute, hey Grigori, you got a little pencil? Grigori turn like tomato and coughing like in old days at factory. Says shutting up old woman and I say no cabbage for you lkittle pencil. YVania getting better from losing leg. Maybe stop bleeding next week. Maybe get new leg made by Uncle Pitor from Bdsxt. Pitor make fake Louisville Sluggers for sale to little leeg in Amerikanja. Even have great big lathe to make all kinds of turning thing and he make leg for YVania.Even put Louisville Slugger burn into wood so maybe YVania more lucky when she come to Amerikanja. You put her in basement next to second cousin Jeppa from Minsk.

Grigori is having a good year in the ministry. His beard almost long enough to be priest and we selling the black goat to get for him the silver and ribbon for making his beard ornament to make him official and also make him better than that fat priest Osvaldt, always come by and drinking Svedya but never say hello to poppa because poppa one time win his Malkta in card game. He can eat whole pot of cabbage and chicken and beer and still ask for coffee and cake. Is ok, though, he is going to Philadelphia and Grigori will take his place. Old disease from Ukranian ministry to girls factory dorms is getting better but he must pay too much for palimony and fee for lawyer. Still,he is good man. I hope he gets out of bed this year.

Little Arnaud is musician now. I did not go to education so I am sometimes not so sure about classical music or bbusiness but Arnaud sometimes maybe too much like TV for me. His room is black,his bed; his clothes,black;hius hairblack; his floors and walls all paint black. He sit in room smoking cigaraettes and listening to headphones and making computer music no hears. Always tells me get out! get out! but with love. He play me song and I smiling and saying good good but I tell you it sounds like an argument between a vacuum cleaner and a train. Squeak squeak squeak then boom! boom! boom! and then sound of traffic and crickets and Arnaud screaming about his boots. I dont understand but I try to tell Arnaud nice things and maybe become famous and get tan.

Vilchik the dog is doing much better but missing so much intestine now makes for difficult days sometimes. I keep a bucket in the shed anbd he lay there and listens to warning sirens from nucklear factory all day. I come out and his tail thumping on garage floor and I use turkey baster and feed him and hold him over bucket right away and mop. he is good dog. Not too much for fetch, but for saying look there is the dog he is perfect.

We are looking forward to good Christmas again this year. I got for poppa a pack of Pravda cigarettes still with the plastic and bread-libe ticket sealed inside. I have one match for each cigarette. For Grigori, I sold goat, like I said, and Orvinis is making silver hoops from old Soviet coffee maker and Aunt Slvekyik is making ribbon from retread fabric from Romanian dual walled tyre. Very pricey. For YVania I make two blue babuska from rice bags and stole a magazine from the hospital and for Arnaud I am pretending I don’t appreciate Christmas and for an hour I listen to his squeaky record and smoke and say right right right over and over. I think poppa giving me a handkerchief full of goat milk butter from Paschta. Her goat is very fat and the butter will be good and taste not too much from chemical from plant.

Well, sirens are insistent so we all going into basement again. I hope letter finding you welll and good. May god be with you and please sending maybe a pack of Marlboros of DVD.

Merry Christmases

Olga Crzmikksics.

For all those who care, the burning question of the letter’s authenticity was eventually answered.


They get things undone

Dear Tiger Woods, Christopher Lee, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Hugh Grant, Mark Sanford, and all other public figures who not only can’t manage marital fidelity, but fail on a spectacularly public stage:

There are people for this. Sometimes we’re called handlers. Or fixers. Body men. Executive assistants. Personal assistants.

It doesn’t matter what title you use, but the job description is the same: we run interference between your squeaky-clean reputation, and all the nasty little peccadilloes that you simply can’t stay away from which would otherwise ruin it.

We have what Martin Blank called “a certain moral flexibility.” We live for oppo. We have carefully cultivated access to the other important gatekeepers who can clean up messes and make things go away. And we have leverage with those people (often thanks to the oppo).

We create labyrinthine layers between you and danger. The messier and nastier your compulsion, the more complex the layers and further removed you’ll be. We know the wheres and hows of due diligence, alibis, pseudonyms, disposable phones, throwaway emails, and paper trail elimination. We drive non-descript cars. We have forgettable names and faces, although we remember everything. We have access to cash. We know which hotels have discreet staff, and which are never to be used. We know which of your habits need to take place in private facilities. Or other countries.

We have access to weapons, but we don’t need them, because the situation never gets that far. Chandra Levy and Mary Jo Kopechne were embarrassments to the profession. The joke about getting caught with “a dead girl or a live boy” is a boogeyman story but in reality, getting caught at all is amateur hour.

We are willing to die with our secrets because we don’t crave public power, preferring instead private respect. We’d rather be feared among a few than worshipped by thousands.

We get paid very, very handsomely. You think of it as hush money, and so might your spouse, and you might even resent the expense at times—but your dark urges are just too powerful, in the end. If you could quit, you could save that cash, but you can’t quit.

And neither you nor your spouse really want to give up that public persona and power and all that comes with it—the junkets, the headlines, the money, the cars, the planes. And frankly, our personal success rises with yours. We too are invested in you keeping your nose clean and your star rising.

So make the call: your urge, or your career. If you can’t give up the urge, hire a fixer. If you can’t afford a fixer, give up the urge.

But you can’t both satisfy the urge and succeed at the public career. You’re not that clever, and you’re too egotistical. You believe both that you can’t possibly get caught… and that if you do, you can minimize the fallout. You’re wrong on both counts. Stop embarrassing yourself, your family, and your constituents/fans.

Regards, Every political aide in the history of time, back to Henry VIII and the Caesar dynasty (#)
pineapple in a thread about the Representative who was found posting shirtless photos on Craigslist. In my humble opinion, the world would be significantly simpler and more awesome if people just didn’t care about stuff like this. Go fuck as many girls as you want, Chris Lee. Go get em!

Oh That Movie Industry

It seems that when you get unSane started on the Movie industry, like he was in this post about the current difficulties screenwriters have finding work, you can keep him on the topic for hours. This tour is about some of what he said, good reading for anyone wondering why movies are terrible right now:

Well, I dunno if I’m A-list, but I suppose I’m at least high B-list and I’ve had no problem finding work over the last couple of years, thank God. But the screenwriting world is currently fucked.

What happened was this:

  1. The writer’s strike. Not only did this mean you couldn’t earn while the strike was on, it killed every deal that had already been made stone dead. The industry took six months to get going again, which meant most of us were a year without pay. We all wrote specs of course, but the studios didn’t buy them.

  2. The crash. Just as we were getting back on our feet, the crash hit. The studios continued to make money, but their corporate owners demanded the same austerity measures they did from other divisions. As a result, D-budgets were cut or frozen. I was asked to turn a pirate movie into a space opera for the price of a set of revisions, which I did under protest. Then the studio asked me to do another pass for free, at which point we parted company.

  3. Avatar. This was the killer. Suddenly the only movies the studios were interested in were 3-D $200m+ blockbusters and low budget horrors/comedies. Dramas are dead and the numbers of projects under development are way down. This is the studios’ version of ‘risk averse’, but as they have discovered this summer, it is anything but.

It’s not all bad news because:

  1. This summer has been a fucking disaster for the studios. They’ve had a few hits but so many ‘sure things’ have crashed and burned. Studio heads have been reduced to touring round the agencies trying to get some ideas. The model is not working, and no wonder.

You have to understand the guys and gals who run the studios are not stupid or craven or idiots. I know several of them and they are mostly terrific people who care just as much about making good movies as anyone else. But they are working within the constraints of their corporate owners.

Screenwriting is as bad as it’s ever been. I pity anyone trying to break in right now. There are no spec sales. But… things always turn around. I know one head of production of one of the major studios who would love to do a massive family melodrama. They are desperate to find a way to do classic love stories. The massive over-emphasis on $100m + movies means there is a gap in the market for much lower budget material. Someone will exploit that.

It’s always darkest just before dawn, is my view. Things will turn. They always do. (#)

He continues on, responding to other people’s posts. Posts not by unSane are in italics.

Maybe if the pictures were a bit more peppy, the situation would be a bit less bleak. (#)

This meme that ‘if the writers just wrote better pictures…’ needs to die. Writers want to write fantastic pictures. The studios refuse to make them. That’s all there is to it.

Every A, B and C list writer has a pile of specs that you would just fucking adore if they were ever made into movies. Heartbreaking dramas, love stories, strange comedies, brutal war films, mindboggling flights of fancy, incredible personal stories. Shakespearian mob dramas, epic cop corruption tales, WWI ghost stories, fuck, I could go on and on and on.

The studios will not touch them with a barge pole. They are not interested. They want STRETCH ARMSTRONG, BATTLESHIP!, MAGIC 8-BALL (I am not kidding…those are all in development) and some more Twilight sequels. (#)

So why don’t all the screenwriters band together and start your own fucking production company? You’d not have trouble attracting funding, if every one of you has brilliant movies that everybody will love already pre-written, waiting to be made. (#)

Because our movies would not make money, given the current distribution system. If you really want to get into why the movies are like they are, you have to look at the fucked up way that movies make money, based on opening weekends in theaters, national advertising and so on. The studios have fought internet distribution tooth and nail because it would destroy this system, but the system may destroy them first.

Basically, it is set up so that only movies that appeal to 18-24 year old males will make money. You can make more money by appealing to more people, but that is your core demo.

18-24 year old males are 3.5% of the population. This is why movies suck, because that 3.5% of the population is all the studios care about. This is because revenues are driven by Friday and Saturday night box office at the multiplexes, and those young guys are the drivers there.

Studios are not irrational. They make shitty movies for a reason.

I don’t understand. Don’t more than that 3.5% go to movies? Don’t they buy tickets? Don’t some movies make a lot of money on the second, third, and fourth weekend, and sometimes even later when it comes out and becomes a hit in various other countries? (#)

In the current distribution system, the opening weekend drives everything else. The entire marketing budget is basically aimed at that three day window. The print budget defines how many theaters the movie can get into. Nobody cares how much you movie does on the second weekend if it didn’t win the first. This then becomes the metric by which every foreign sale, foreign advertising budget, DVD advertising budget etc etc etc gets judged.

18-24 yr old males drive the N. American opening weekend, and that drives everything else. Secondly, foreign sales are crucial, so nothing which is dialogue-heavy is going to travel. Plus, there are many great actors who don’t travel either. This is why Tom Cruise is such a dominant box office presence. In North America, we remember couch-jumping. In Laos, not so much.

So that 3.5% is half of the 7% of the 18-24 demo but has a much stronger influence on what is seen. The other demos typically do not go to movie theaters, so they belong to the (far less important) tail end of the revenue stream. Basically, if it doesn’t get into the multiplexes, it has almost no chance of making a bunch of money on DVD or streamed, because no-one has heard of it.

All of this changes if we get day & date releasing where the same movie is released in all territories and media on the same day. Suddenly that $5m heartwarming indie drama that even your mom could love can go head to head with STRETCH ARMSTRONG III: THE BREAING POINT.

Guess why studios are fighting it. (#)

"All of this changes if we get day & date releasing where the same movie is released in all territories and media on the same day" What’s stopping this? (#)

What’s stopping this is the old-fashioned way of dividing up territories and release windows. Basically, there is a hierarchy of exclusivities and each gets their bite at the cherry in turn. First, North American theatrical release. Then Europe. Then the Far East. And so on. Then first run cable. then DVD. Blah blah blah, probably got the sequencing wrong. But the whole industry is set up to respect this division and everybody knows how it works. If a movie makes X on its opening weekend, we can project our foreign sales, ad recoup, DVD numbers etc etc etc.

Day & Date is terrifying for studios because (1) they have no idea how to calculate the numbers (2) it involves rejigging all the contractual arrangements they have used for the last 50 yrs but most of all (3) once they are not in charge of the integrated distribution chain WHAT NEXT? HUMANS AND DOGS FUCKING IN THE STREET?

Let’s say you and I make a cute little $5m indie movie. Right now, our chances of getting it distributed are, frankly, nil. But in a world where every movie has to fight it out with every other movie on the day it’s released, on internet as well as in the multiplexes, well frankly it’s more of a fair fight. My indie movie vs. THE LAST AIRBENDER. O-Kaaay, let’s take some bets here.

The studios will not relinquish their power over the multiplexes until they are forced to by the internet routing around them. You though the MPAA thing was about lost DVD revenue? Are you kidding. The MPAA thing was about the whole business model.

Right now is actually a golden moment to pick up a camera and go make some movies. Honestly. (#)

"Guess why studios are fighting it." Errr, I don’t know! I can’t guess! Tell me! (please) (#)

Didn’t mean to be opaque. In the current multiplex model, exhibitors (movie theaters) will only show movies which are heavily advertised and likely to attract the multiplex audience. This mostly means they have to have 3000 prints on release day and an advertising budget in the $100m range. Your $5m will not compete, except for the sporadic breakout like PRECIOUS or BLAIR WITCH, the chances of which happening to your indie movie are slightly less than being struck by lightning every Thursday for two years.

Moreover, of a $10 ticket price, the exhibitor takes $5 and the distributor $2.50, before the production cost, prints and advertising start to be paid off. So to recoup a $100m movie with its $100m P&A budget at the box office, you need to pull in (100+100) x 4 = $800m in box office returns, DVD sales, merchandising etc etc etc.

Actually this is not quite right because all these things split out differently but you get the idea.

This is why we can’t have nice movies.

Now let’s think about the $5m movie. In the current model the problem is that almost no-one will exhibit it. It needs to recoup about $20-40m before it is in substantial profit. It has no chance at all of doing that unless it is a breakout, which (to say the least) you can’t count on.

However in the download model, it can potentially find an audience. It’s still going to be an uphill battle, but it is at least available. More importantly, it is available to and targeted at an entirely different audience. All those $100m+ movies are aimed at teenage boys. But the indie drama, let’s say, is targeted at the audience — people like you — who are not addressed by Hollywood’s current output. Think of all the people with home theaters and disposable incomes who never go to the movies because the films are shit. Those people.

Moreover, it can potentially go day & date (release in all formats and territories simultaneously) because it doesn’t have to navigate through the Gordian knot of distributor agreements and custom and practice.

Let me be clear: this model DOES NOT EXIST FOR A REASON. The studios are entirely set up to exploit the current model. They know how to make billions of dollars a year that way. They are terrified of the internet because they saw what happened to the music business. They do not want STRETCH ARMSTRONG XII: THE TWIST going head to head with CONVERSATIONS WITH MY INUIT GRANDMOTHER. Because they are afraid they might lose. (#)

This is what I don’t understand - suppose you have to play to the 19-24 yo male. (so you will have a big action movie with explosions and bikini babes) And suppose you decide you will only make sequels and tie-ins etc (so your action movie will be called Battleship).

Still, you could make a good movie within those parameters. It wouldn’t hurt your appeal to the all-important demo to make it have funny joke rather than unfunny jokes, to close gaping plot holes, etc. (#)

Unfortunately this alone would not make it a good movie.

It is VERY VERY HARD to write a good movie within the action/adventure paradigm. You need a compelling and original concept. You need to go operatic in an original way every ten minutes, and you cannot have extended dialogue sequences (by extended I mean more than a page — that’s one minute — long. Moreover, if it is supposed to be PG13 — which it IS, trust me — you can’t show blood and you can’t have any real cursing.

You also can’t do anything which is going to offend, upset or confuse the audience. Your protagonist must be sympathetic at all points. He (and it must be a he) must be physically attractive and proactive. He must have a romantic interest with a female who must also be attractive. Your movie must not be too dark. Your character must follow a well-trodden hero’s journey. There must be a ticking clock and an existential threat (a thing-which-will-destory-the world). America must not be painted in a bad light. You must not use any long words.

You MUST have an up ending. You MUST continually throw twists at the audience (one every ten minutes, like the opera).

Oh, and your movie must also be directly comparable to the last two or three smash hits in its genre. Currently, Avatar, Dark Knight, Star Trek, Iron Man, all cool with the studios.

Believe it or not, none of this would be too bad if that were all that was required. These things are at least quantifiable. Existential threat? Check! Operatic action? Check! Compelling and original concept? Check!

But your movie must also be fresh, and edgy. Above all, it must be marketable.

Guess what? Execudroids — even the good ones — have no fucking idea whatsoever what these terms mean. And neither do I.

So, do you understand? Your movie must be fresh, but follow exactly the same formula as every other movie in Hollywood. It must be edgy, but not offend anyone. It must be sexy without any actual sex.

Oh, yeah. And marketable. Which means it must have two A-list stars (change weekly), lots of shiny things for the trailer, a clear and popular genre (only scifi/superhero/heist and a couple of others need apply) and a whole bunch of other stuff that marketing pull out of their ass to project foreign sales.

Oh, yeah, and they need to be confident they can attract an A-list director. Raimi, Greengrass, Howard, Cameron, one of the Scotts, you get the picture. Kevin Smith and Tarantino need not apply.

And they need to see this IN THE SCRIPT, before anyone is attached.

If your script does not supply ALL OF THESE THINGS you will be sent helpful notes from Your Dear Leaders describing ways you could put these things in the movie. And you will go away and attempt to do just that, repeatedly, without destroying what only you know is the heart of the movie, and the reason you got involved in the first place.

Does your brain hurt yet? Good. This is why they pay you the big bucks.

The miracle is not that movies suck, but that good movies are still made. DARK KNIGHT, for all its faults, was one of those miracles. Ditto IRON MAN. Ditto, well you get it. (#)

Did I mention that it must also be 3-D? (#)


The Queen of Comic Sans

Metafilter has an abusive relationship with Comic Sans, a popular font that has received its fair share of abuse from many designed focused people. A few Metafilter users are like this, willing to espouse on their hate of the font when it comes up. This most fameously happened in this thread, a link to a rather essential article from the creator of Comic Sans on how the font came about. After a while mathowie, the creator of MetaFilter, came in announced that the thread was going to receive special treatment: the text of a lot of post was changed to Comic Sans. The MetaFilter wall of text set in Comic Sans was too much for some to bare. It’s a pretty funny thread for scrolling through.

But by far the best Comic Sans related Metafilter moment is this comment by garius in a thread about being overly sensitive to type:

I’m semi-obsessed with type. Indeed, myself and several other semi-obsessives (all of whom work in the publishing industry in some way) actually have an ongoing competition. The objective is to keep an eye out for the most unexpected or inappropriate instance of Comic Sans. Whenever one of us sees it used in a way we feel seta a new low, we grab some evidence (either photo or copy of whatever pamphlet or suchlike it was in).

Every month or so, we then decide who has spotted the most unexpected and/or inappropriate usage since we’d last judged it and they’re declared the current “King of Comic Sans” - complete with a certificate and free booze for the evening (yes, unsurprisingly, this competition is generally carried out in a pub).

Anyway, about three months ago now my mother passed away. She’d been battling cancer for about two years but it finally won. Mercifully, she lived a relatively full life until virtually the very end - it was only in the final month, after the cancer spread to her brain, that she detoriated seriously. Then, after a couple of days of serious pain, she slipped into a sleep from which she never regained consciousness and died about three weeks later.

As it happened, I was the only family member with her when she died - it was very early in the morning and we’d been operating a “shift” system during the nights to ensure there was always someone with her.

I took a a minute to compose myself (okay, maybe more than a minute) and then went and woke my dad and the rest of the family. Whilst they were having their own moments, I went to look for the little booklet that said what you had to do next. Towards the end, when it had become clear that she didn’t have much time left, the charity people had given her this - it said who to ring, what to ask for etc.

She wouldn’t show it to us at the time (said it was “too morbid”) but told us it was in the top draw of her bedside cabinet.

Now, as the others had their own moments, I remembered about the booklet and opened the draw. It was there, just like she said it would be.

It was a little A5 booklet with a Lily on the cover. I opened it up and inside it listed in great detail and in formal yet understanding language, who needed to be called and what could be done when.

It was also written entirely in Comic Sans.

Of course I wasn’t really thinking entirely clearly at the time and this completely passed me by. At least it did until the very last page. There, scrawled in the corner in my mother’s shaky handwriting, complete with an arrow pointing at the printed text below, were the words:

"Comic Sans!!!!"

My mother had known about the competition - I’d told a story about it last year during Christmas Dinner. She also knew that I tend to deal with grief by just getting on with things, and so probably guessed I’d be the person who read the booklet.

We don’t give out a certificate to the “King of Comic Sans” anymore. By unanimous decision we have a little plastic silver cup called “The Garius’ Mum Memorial Trophy.”

I think she’d like that. (#)


Let us come to respect one another

war wrath of wraith asks in this Ask MetaFilter post a question that seems to come up a lot on MetaFilter in general: “Can one truly respect an opinion that s/he disagrees with on a profound level?”

In learned, polite circles, we learn to agree to disagree, and respect the other’s opinion even if we don’t share it.

But is this really possible? One can of course respect the rights of others to express themselves regardless of what that opinion is (freedom of speech), one can accept that people have different preferences (“I think ‘Jersey Shore’ is a brilliant program” is really a statement of preference, not an opinion), one can certainly be civil with others that they disagree with, and one can even respect the person who holds an opposing point of view.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. Can a pro-abortion rights activist, for example, respect the opinion that women should not have this right? Or a libertarian respect a royalist’s political beliefs?

sallybrown gives a very nice answer a few answers in:

I’ve always thought “I respect your opinion” meant “I respect your right to have that opinion and your sincerity in holding it, and so I will not mock or denigrate it as though professing it makes you stupid or inferior to me and my opinion.”

I may (and often do) disagree, but I will assume you hold your opinion in good faith. (#)

But sometimes “agreeing to disagree” is a little bit messier than this. The biggest star in the thread is this comment from salishsea that shows what this kind of respect looks like in practice:

I actually got paid to do this.

For three years (from 1996 to 1999) I worked as a Public Information and Consultation Advisor for the Federal Treaty Negotiation Office in British Columbia. It was essentially my job to talk to angry and racist non-native people about the land claims settlements we, the federal government, were negotiating with First Nations.

One thing that helped me do this job was a story I heard Utah Phillips tell at the 1997 Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Seems one day he was told of an old cowboy in New Mexico who was dying. This old cowboy had ridden on some of the last cattle drives on the Great Plains in the 1800s and had scores of songs in his head about that time. Utah made an effort to go visit him on his death bed way out in the desert. When he got to the cowboy’s cabin, a nurse answered the door, said he was expected and asked him to wait in the sitting room while she got the cowboy ready for the visitor.

The cowboy was an avid reader and had many hundreds of books. As he was waiting Utah scanned the shelves and saw what was what. He was surprised and shocked to see tract after tract from the John Birch Society, a virulent right wing political movement that clashed deeply with Utah’s own hard left politics. Utah reflected on the predicament he was in. Here was this cowboy full of all of these songs, and there was this irresolvable political gap between them.

But thinking on it more, Utah realized that the REASON the cowboy had some many political books is that he didn’t actually KNOW much about politics. In fact if he were to ask the old man about politics, he knew the old man would only give him lies, stuff that he didn’t believe but that was recited out of the books. Utah Phillips noted that there was not one book on cowboys or cowboy music on the book shelves, and that’s what Utah was there for. He entered the bedroom of the dying cowboy and passed a lovely day trading songs and stories of the cattle drives of the 19th century.

In conclusion Utah said “You know, if you talk to people about what they know, they will always tell you the truth.”

That line stayed with me as I ventured in cowboy country shortly afterward. I was meeting with a group of loggers and ranchers in Williams Lake, in the interior of British Columbia and they were a hard crew. Every month we met and every month they told me that they didn’t want any land claims settlements with the “goddamn Indians” in their area. One guy, a man I’ll call Bob used to go on and on about “you can’t make deals with Indians, they can’t be trusted, they’re no good with their word…” That sort of thing.

Now I am Aboriginal myself, and this rankled after a while. But keeping Utah’s words in mind I challenged Bob one day and said, “Bob, you know, I’m Indian and I’m trustworthy and you can make deals with me. I know for a fact that what you’re saying is bullshit. It’s lies. So I’m not going to ask you about Indians anymore. Instead I’m going to talk to you about something you do know about, and that is logging. Why don’t you take me out to see your operation?”

Bob agreed and the next day I met him at 5:00am with a thermos of coffee and a box of Tim Hortons and we climbed into his F350 and headed out into the Cariboo Mountains. We drove for two hours and the whole time we talked about logging and what it’s like being in the business, what kind of markest he was trying to develop, and how much he loved his new machinery He talked about his new feller-buncher like he was a dad with a newborn. Gone was the intransigent racist and here beside me was an interesting man, telling me the truth about what he loved.

When we got out to the cut block where his crew was working, he radioed them in and they came down to get coffee and donuts. Of the 12 guys he had working for him, six were First Nations. I laughed when I met them and asked them if they knew Bob’s opinions on the trustworthiness of Indians. “Oh yeah,” One of them laughed. “He’s an old blowhard!”

But Bob countered by saying that THESE guys were great, that they had been with him for coming on 20 years. THEY were different.

We laughed. Really hard. We talked for a while about what THESE guys felt about land claims and they all had different opinions. Respect arose in the space of nuance and reflection.

So many people parrot opinions. In fact opinions are so often just a front for something else, the yawning abyss of ignorance. Very few people hold fixed opinions about things that matter deeply to them. Instead the hold nuanced and thoughtful interests. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t claw your eyes out if you hurt my child, but that’s different from having an opinion on Tiger Woods or abortion or whether or not Obama is doing a good job. Most of us aren’t Tiger, a pregnant woman facing a choice or the President. Most opinions are shallow, and the holder of them guards their superficiality with outrage and emotion to prevent you from getting close and discovering nuance. People hold opinons out of fear or loyalty. But when it comes to something you really care about, it’s less about an opinion and more about the nuanced, many layered, complex fabric of knowledge, practical, theoretical, aspirational and emotional

From that day on, I never again talked to Bob and First Nations people, but he became a very involved person in our advisory committee because he had a piece of his heart staked in the process. I came to respect him very much, even though he continued to blow hard against my rookie colleagues and say stupid racist things that somewhere he must have believed. He did it just to put them off guard, to protect his own vulnerabilities and mask his fear. I came to respect what lay beneath the opinion, which was a real fear that land claims would ruin his logging operation. I dismissed the racism but respected Bob and what was really at stake for him. And I think he came to respect me too.

It was the best job I ever had. (#)


Advice for a 21 year old

I turned 21 last week and I want to know; what do you wish you’d known when you were 21? What do you wish you’d done but didn’t, or what did you do that you think was an unmissable experience?

In a similar vain to the last post about advice for going into your 30s, I now present advice for people going into their 20s from this MetaFilter thread on the subject. Polystark provides a nice list that many people echo later in the thread:

  • I wish I’d got into politics earlier. It feels like I missed out on a lot of background knowledge because I didn’t read the paper much.
  • It’s OK to make a fool of yourself. In any context including romantic and aspirational.
  • Occasionally daydream about stuff that you reckon would be quite fun (starting a band, making a film, kissing another girl, going hang-gliding)? Just do it. Really. Start immediately. If you need help, enlist interested people or your mates. Just start. Please. I didn’t and waited until six months ago and now I have a full time job and no free time. It would have been so much better to get cracking when I was a student with loads of free time.
  • Sex - experiment as much as possible. (#)

Some more advice follows:

I’ve always liked what Viv Stanshall said on this general subject, “If I had all the money I’d ever spent on booze, I’d spend it on booze.” (#)

Accept the fact that you’ll never stop growing up. When I was twenty I assumed I was as mature as I was ever going to be. Now I think back to how stupid I was and it makes me laugh.

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.

95% of everything is crap but that doesn’t mean people need to constantly hear about the awesome 5% you’ve discovered.

Stay out of debt. STAY OUT OF DEBT.

Learn about the magic of compound interest. Learn about the benefits of starting young. Start now.

Document the things you do. Take pictures, keep a journal. You may think you’ll remember everything you ever did but when you get older it’ll all blend together. (#)

Take lots of pictures, and as soon as you get them developed, write on the back of each one the names of the people in the picture and the date it was taken. I found some old photos at my mom’s house, and people who I saw every day like 6 years ago, I can’t remember their names. (#)

Take care of your teeth. Everything else is overrated. (#)

Self-discovery is great, but make sure you’re doing it for yourself, not to satisfy the impression you’d like to make on everyone else. (#)

grumblebee left a really long comment, and there is one part that I like a lot:

Learning is a muscle. Exercise it. This isn’t an issue for you now. You’re in college, so you’re forced to learn things. But most people quit learning when they leave school or soon after. They literally go through decades of their life without learning any new ideas or skills.

I know this is true, because I teach computer classes. Some of my students are people who come because they’ve lost their non-tech job and need to propel themselves into the 21st Century. They tell me that they hate computers, can’t read manuals and can’t learn software.

What I discover is that their problem has nothing to do with computers or manuals. It has to do with the fact that they’re 47 and the computer is the first really new thing they’ve had to tackle in years. It could have been anything. It just happened to be the computer.

So once you leave school, keep learning. You won’t have professors to give you assignments any more, and it’s surprisingly easy to get a job in which (after the first year or so), you can sink into a routine and never have to master anything new. Then, if you have kids, you’ll start saying things like, “I’d love to read, but I just don’t have the time.” And then, when you get the time, you’ll find that you’ve lost the ability to read — the book will just put you to sleep.

This advice is especially important NOW. We’re moving into a world that is changing REALLY fast. You will HAVE to keep learning to stay on top of things. Your kids will grow up in this world and it will be natural to them. But you were born on the cusp between that world and the old world, and you saw tons of examples of grownups who never had to learn anything new. Don’t be like that. (#)

Advice is weird. I can’t say that you should follow everything that I quote in this thread, but they are all worth thinking about. That especially goes for this comment by nixerman:

When I was your age I told myself: “If I live past 30, I’m a failure.”

Basically, now is your time to fail and fail spectacularly. Not little, “Why didn’t I tell her how I feel?” petty failures. The kind of failures that leave 11 dead and get you a FBI record. (Ok, that might be too big a failure.) Make as many mistakes possible, the bigger the better. If something ever seems like a “bad idea” or you can’t afford it or it’s just up and up impossible this is the best reason to do it. Pain is the best teacher. Live dangerously. Remember, the worst that’ll happen is your parents will end up flying across the country to tell a judge that you’ve got a good heart. And that’s not so bad, is it? (#)


What are your 30s like?

I really wish someone would have sat me down when I was 20 and told me some of the things to expect during that long, winding decade. I probably wouldn’t have listened, but I am all ears now. Most developmental advice is to teenagers, it seems, e.g., you will fall in love, but it probably won’t be forever. That sort of jazz.

What I am looking for is advice or wisdom that you wish the 40 year old you could tell the 30 year old you. What sort of challenges to expect, what sort of changes to anticipate, etc.

The first comment in this Ask MetaFilter thread asking for advice for someone going into their 30s gets right to the point:


If you are going into your 30s situation the whole tread is worth reading. I admit, I’m not even close to a time where I should be thinking about this kind of thing, but there some comments that I admire. Here are some little bits of advice that I like, cropped out of longer posts:

Realize that you’re a far less risky proposition for car insurance companies - especially with a few years no claims bonus and buy the bad boy you’ve always wanted without being stung for the privilege. I’ve got my eye on an Impreza.

Circumstances permitting, now you have both real skills and means you should be making regular contributions to charity (esp. in the US where I understand that they’re deductible for tax) and doing pro bono. For not for profits, a regular income stream is worth exponentially more than 20 bucks tossed in a bucket every so often - they can budget. (#)

If you play basketball, you will be retiring from the sport in the next 10 years.

You will feel a little less interested in socializing than in your 20s. Not a good or bad thing, just a thing.

NPR gets way more interesting,

Recovering from drinking too much takes 2 days not one morning. (#)

Ennui is no longer charming. (#)

Take care of your teeth. Everything else is overrated. (#)

When I turned 30, a 40-something friend told me, “The best thing is that you don’t have to try to be cool anymore.”. Now that I’m 43, I interpret that as meaning that a lot more of your self-worth comes from what kind of person you are, not what groups you associate with. (#)

Buy only very nice coats, they are investment pieces.

Take more photos of your friends, family and children. Print them out and put them in albums, don’t leave them on the computer.

If an argument goes on for more than 20 minutes with ANYONE and it’s not life-threatening or damn near… just acquiesce to the other person and walk away. Who gives a fuck if you’re actually right; can’t you use that time more productively?

Confront your prejudices and fears. (#)

Have lots of sex and look in the mirror with an appreciative eye. Can’t believe I ever complained about two wrinkles in my early 30s. (#)

Do not, DO NOT, any longer put off coming out if you’re gay and still in the closet. You will be wasting a fantastic decade of self-realization and wonderful relationships. (#)

While not as good as this thread, there are a few things worth looking up in an older thread about turning 30. Particularly…

Beats not turning 30. (#)


Investment Green is People!

A recent post on MetaFilter linked to a somewhat amusing news report of about Kjerstin Erickson, the 26 year old founder of a successful non-profit refugee support charity who is opening her life up for investment. That translates into 6 percent of her life’s income for $600,000.

The thread began with a couple of crude jokes (“Only if I get to pick the 6% rimshot (#)”) and silliness (“I could probably bundle together a couple of community college types and sell them off at the same risk level I’d get with one Stanford grad, right? (#)”). r_nebblesworthII brings up a good point: “This already existed for years, it’s called student loans; except they typically take much more of your income.”

Greg Nog takes this idea and runs with it.


Here’s what you get:

  • Rights to have me follow you around from time to time and when you say something witty I go “Ha ha ha, nice.”

  • When you ask “Am I losing my hair?” I playfully let my fingers dawdle upon your shoulder and whisper, “Not where it counts.”

  • I make a mean omelet.

  • Do you have a dog? I will pet that dog and maybe take it for a walk.

  • You know that old fence that needs painting in the backyard, well I will say, “Aw forget about that old fence let’s eat some olives” (NOTE: YOU MUST PROVIDE THE OLIVES).

  • maybe a jumping contest of some sort.



Shitting In A Death Thread

One of the strangest phenomenon on MetaFilter the obituary threads which are created to announce someone’s death. At their best also include links to things that they did while they were alive. While there are generally obit threads when people who are famous die, because the interests of MetaFilter members generally lean towards the obscure figures who aren’t necessarily recognizable yet lived interesting lives get obits as well. For a quick list of some of them, check out the ‘obit’ tag.

Obituary threads can be a little thorny, as death isn’t something that often leads to constructive discussion because people get so emotional about their sides of the debate. I can’t say that the discussion in the thread I’m talking about here leads to comments that are particularly great, and in the end I talking more here than the comments do. Still, this discussion has kind of wormed itself into my brain and I want to share it.

A recent thread was created in memory of Andrew J. Koenig, an actor who played a secondary charicter on the sitcom Growing Pains who went on to become a human rights campaigner. He originally showed up on MetaFilter when he was first found missing. That kind of thread isn’t normal on MetaFilter and not totally community approved; one commenter spoke for many when he pointed out that “Metafilter is not your Amber Alert.” The thread we are touring through is something of a followup to the original missing person thread once it was found that Koenig had committed suicide.

In this thread ethnomethodologist contributed a comment that was a little bit upsetting:

The only “victims” of suicide are the people left behind. Sorry. Cannot mourn suicides. (#)

Usually when someone posts something like this we can expect people to respond quickly, and they did:

But you had to shit in the obit thread? Damn. (#)

Maybe it’d be best to respect the feelings of the people left behind and just keep that to yourself, then. (#)

I can’t tell you how much I hate that tired attitude! It really pushes those with mental issues to hide them instead of opening up and maybe finding the help they need. (#)

Comments like these keep on going, and they probably would have gone on further if one of MetaFilter’s moderators hadn’t come in and discouraged discussion. After mentioning that she found the comment in poor taste, Jessamyn added: “I’d really suggest that people who want to fight about this go to MetaTalk [a part of MetaFilter where people can take disagreements like this] and everyone else just not engage if you’re not feeling like fighting.” While a few more people addressed ethnomethodologist directly, the comments eventually abandoned that subject and began praising Andrew Kornig’s Father, Walter Korning, for making a public statement about his sons death.

That leads us into the comment at the center of this post, a prosaic but very well stated bit of opinion from prolific MeFite Astro Zombie:

For me it helps to think of depression as a potentially fatal illness, like cancer, but the end comes, not with metastasizing cells, but with a gun or a rope or in water or with a fall. I’ve had a friend kill himself after a long struggle with depression, and I would never, ever blame him for that. The disease killed him, and I couldn’t blame him for that any more than I could blame my grandfather for the cancer that killed him.

And here’s the really important thing to remember about mental illness — because it’s your brain that’s sick, it’s not something you can really just reason yourself out of, or think away. The brain is terribly intelligent in this way. If you’re depressed and you start feeling the compulsion to end it, your brain is going to come up with all sorts of reasons that sound perfectly logical — even necessary — for suicide. Yes, it’s the survivors who deal with the pain and the mess left behind, but that’s true with all fatal illnesses, and it doesn’t help them to compuound their pain by heaping shame upon the loved one who died.

I was not familiar with Andrew, but, as a boy, I really responded to Walter’s performance as Chekhov, and have always really liked him as an actor and, to the extent that I have seen him away from the screen, as a person. It’s heartbreaking to see him in so much pain, and I must commend him on the exceptional courage it took to go public with that pain to ask that people who are depressed seek help and that people who know somebody who is depressed extend a hand. (#)

He continues by pointing out that “suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in America, and untrested depression is the leading cause of suicide,” as well as linking to a list of suicide hotlines, a list of online resources for those who are depressed, and a resource to help those who are depressed and don’t have insurance find a free clinic.

There are a lot of comments like ethnomethodologist’s that are somewhat hurtful and are kept on MetaFilter, and if it was deleted it’s removal could have been justified because it was out of place and was causing people to talk about something that didn’t necessarily need to be talked about. But it was kept in, and the moderator on duty saw it fit only to say that maybe it was a bad comment not worth dwelling on. This is the kind of light management that these moderators frequently employ.

There is a line on MetaFilter’s About page that I think is important to keep in mind when considering what is allowed on MetaFilter and what is not: “[MetaFilter] exists to break down the barriers between people.” Getting into arguments on MetaFilter is not encouraged, but disagreements are allowed to happen. The moderators generally disapprove of them when they do come up, which is probably for the best. Still, arguments on MetaFilter often do a great job of giving people the chance to fully express how they feel about something, and can lead to great comments like this.

I don’t want to give the impression that MetaFilter is a place designed to draw people into discussion and cause them to change their minds, but that is something that I’ve seen happen there. It’s often a beautiful thing, and the reason it can happen is because comments like ethnomethodologist are allowed to stand and be refuted.