Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Victim of Christian Distrimination

To day I went to an interview. The company is some kind of wedding/party service that needs attendants for the portable photo booths they rent out on weekends. I didn't sound like a great job, but I figure if I can handle a room full of college students without getting into trouble, I could probably deal with digital photo booth, and it would only be part-time.

When I entered the office, I was told to complete a form that consisted of several pages of  basic logic and mathematics questions. Things like "what relation is your niece's brother to you." I briefly considered writing in that my niece does not have a brother.

One of the final questions intrigued me. It read "How many of each type of animal did Moses put onto the ark?" The question was an easy one (I am an atheist but I greatly enjoy reading the bible so I could see that it was a trick. It was Noah who sailed the seven seas after the great flood, not Moses) But seemed to have little purpose other than to test my personal knowledge of Bronze Age literature. The test didn't ask anything about work experience or availability, but I figured those questions would come during the interview proper.
The interviewer's questions were as follows:

"why didn't you dress up for this interview?" (This took me aback a little. I was wearing a dress shirt and brand new jeans that fit properly, but I replied that I felt a middle course was best because I didn't know how formal the company atmosphere was).

"Describe yourself." (I described myself as a responsible adult who teaches English part time, loves dogs, and works hard).

"Have you ever been let go from a job because of performance issues?" (Now we're getting somewhere I thought. And no I never have been fired for performance and, if the interviewer had asked, I could have told him that I tend to stay at any job for at least five years, even part-time jobs)

"How do you see the world, is it black and white or are there gray areas?" (Now my spider-sense began tingling. Three of my passions in life are politics, language, and religious studies. To me, this question seemed designed to give me an opportunity, without actually demanding it, to express my abiding love for Him and His son. Something like "Well, sir, my faith in Christ compels me to view the world in black and white terms because the Bible is clear on this etc." I enjoy listening to crackpot radio preachers when I can't sleep at night so I could probably rhapsodize for at least an hour on the absolute authority of the Bible before my conscience compelled me to come clean.)

Instead I told him the truth, that, when I was young, I was more "black and white" than I am now and as I became older, I began to feel that it was wiser instead to acknowledge the limits of what I know and work very hard to learn as much as I can.

He ended the interview, thanked me, and I left.

So here's my question: Was I discriminated against or has it become normal to ask biblical and philosophical questions instead of specific questions about work history and current abilities?
If a private business wants only Christians, that's their choice and their right. But this was a new experience for me and I'm not sure whether I'm reading too much into it.

Has anybody else had this experience?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

From God, to Rush, to Carl

In the early nineties, when I considered myself a conservative, the movement had a different vibe. For example, Rush Limbaugh was actually funny. Back then, Rush presented his listeners with an upbeat and positive persona that belied the fact he was apparently blowing out his eardrums on prescription meds at this stage in his life. His lampoons of liberals and democrats, if not informative, were at least delivered with good timing and panache. Rush would eat steaks and smoke cigars on the air. His musical parodies were on par with the Daily Show or Colbert Report from our present time. My personal favorite spoof was a song called “sensitive 90’s guy”.  Musical comedy is not easy, and El Rushbo deserves credit for this if nothing else.
As with any hero, my friends and I tended to invest far more significance to the pronouncements that emanated from the golden EIB microphone than Rush’s limited scope and intelligence warranted. The biggest dittohead in my peer group, let’s call him Carl, was also the most conservative among us as well as being the biggest loudmouth I have ever met (those of you with right-wing friends will no doubt be familiar with this trifecta. If you are a conservative, and you don’t know a person like Carl, then you are probably that person).

Carl referred to himself as a born-again Christian. I say referred because, for Carl, Christianity seemed to exist mostly for the purpose of making Carl feel superior to others. In order to pick up on this, one had only to listen to Carl act out his trademark fantasy in which a pious Muslim or Hindu, or even a Catholic, would die and ascend to heaven to meet with God only to be told, in a southern drawl, that “That’s real nice buddy, but there’s just one problem, y’see, I ain’t Allah”( or Vishnu or the virgin Mary) before being dismissed to their eternal damnation.

After high school, Carl went to an evangelical college where, if my memory serves me, he majored in Napoleonic history. Once, while we were driving around listening to Rush on his car radio, I asked him what he hoped to do with a BA in this subject. Carl replied “Once I get my degree I WILL be given a PODIUM,” (you could hear the capitals). “Then I’m going to point out how the liberals are trying to turn this country into a communist regime through Greenpeace and the Democratic party.”
It all sounds ridiculous now, a couple of pretentious assholes trying to make themselves feel important. But we were young men. Neither of us had girlfriends, and the idea of defeating communism still resonated a little with my generation. At any rate, saving the country sounded a whole lot better than masturbating to a tits-and-ass movie on Cinemax, which was closer to reality.

Carl eventually got a divinity degree and worked for some time as a holy man of some variety. I once came across a youtube video of him teaching his flock that they could rest assured Christianity was true because so many of the early Christian fathers held on to their belief even when they were tortured and crucified. If it was a hoax, Carl’s argument ran, they would have admitted it in order to get out of jail. I almost looked him up then to point out that, if a willingness to die for one’s beliefs substantiates that belief, then he had probably backed the wrong horse since the attackers of September 11th were no doubt the most devout believers on that day. In Carl's video, there was a crucifix in the background, so I assume he has not converted to radical Islam, though if he did, I have reason to believe that he would find himself right at home in their midst.

A couple of years ago, I heard through the grapevine that, while he was ministering to the faithful, his wife left him and his parishioners fired him for being single. I’m not sure if he is still a minister or even a believer and I don’t much care.  A few weeks ago, I saw a clip of Rush on CNN. He was still ensconced behind the mic., but the panache was gone. He was giving commentary on the newest Herman Cain Accuser, Sharon Bialek, and his argument consisted of calling her “buy-a-lick” and making disgusting slurp noises into the golden microphone. I have long since moved on from Rush and his cronies, but I couldn’t suppress a twinge of sadness for the guy. Maybe he just hadn’t got his fix that day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Community College Confidential Part I

As I write this essay, I am looking at my high-school graduation tassle, which I have draped across the corner of my laptop. I found it the other day when I was looking for an old usb wireless antenna. I wasn’t surprised to see it. The faded red and white strands with their telltale “90” in gold colored plastic turn up from every now and then to remind me of how much time has gone by and how little distance I have travelled in the years since “90”.It’s funny that I should find it today though, as I have this very day decided to strike colors on my campaign to become a full-time college English instructor.

 I have begun instead to look for more “conventional” work. Though, when I embarked on this campaign, it was particularly because the idea of teaching college English seemed like a fairly conventional one. What I mean is, I should think that any mother would be, if not proud, at least satisfied, to hear that her son had grown up to be an English professor and, honestly, if you went back in time to 1990 and told my friends and family that I would eventually become a college professor, I’m sure that the consensus would be something like “yeah I could see that”. And yet, said career has not been forthcoming. 

In order to be truly fair here, I have to cop to the fact that this is partly my own fault. I am a born contrarian. More than once I have, like Christopher Hitchens, found myself vehemently defending positions in which I truly have no interest, just because everyone else believes differently. Coupled with that is the fact that I bristle any time somebody tells me what to do. I have ended friendships over such phrases as “Drive me to the store,” or “Don’t do that” (Not officially ended, mind you, just left to die on the vine like the big passive-aggressive wuss that I am. 

But I never shoot first. I’m not an asshole, I merely turn into one when some other asshole gets uppity. And, even then, I’m usually pretty cool on the outside. For example, when I was teaching at a certain community college west of Dekalb Illinois, I once taught a section of English 104. My class was immediately followed by another section of the same English 104, taught by a different instructor. This fellow was a full-time professor at the college and was somewhat revered in the hallways because he had published a work of “Christian fiction”. He had a nasty habit of standing in my doorway as I finished my lecture and storming into the classroom immediately upon the end of class, obstructing my own students’ exit. This was annoying and completely uncalled for, but, in the nature of his personal savior, I forgave him (actually at first I thought he was a noobie because he seemed incompetent and nervous). I never commented upon his actions one way or the other, despite the fact that my students were annoyed by the way he would begin fiddling with the projection screen while I was still fielding after-class questions. 

One time, near the middle of the semester, I decided to engage my fellow instructor in some chit chat and get to know him better. So, as he was fiddling with the projector, I queried him with “So what’s on your agenda for today’s class?” He replied by informing me, in front of my students, that “I’d rather be setting up than talking to you.” This Christian needs his face pushed in, I thought to myself. But all I said was “well, ok. As you like it.” Later, some of my students offered to beat the shit out of him for me, but I declined this and I don’t really think their heart was in it. Still, I probably should have beat the shit out of him myself. But I was trying to get along.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I murdered a family

I had been stalking them and I knew where they lived, just behind the water heater in a dark corner of the laundry room. I wasn't gonna murder them at first, I swear. Actually, I thought I had bought traps that didn't kill them. I had bought this same brand of trap once before and it hadn't killed any mice. The squeaky little rodents merely got held in the clutches of the trap, which allowed me to fling them out into the field. I liked this arrangement. I had always felt bad about breaking their necks (or even worse, those horrid sticky traps - what sick freak thought those up?). This way, they were at least out of the house, and my hands were clean.
Evidently that first trap was defective. I set the new one with some almond cheddar spread from Figis (mice just can't resist it and neither can I), and placed it, like room service, in front of the little hole where the heater pipes go into the wall. I had only to turn the lights off and wait a few minutes to hear the tell-tale snap of the little trap. Heh heh, gotcha little devil. I thought to myself,  it's back to the field for you.
For a second, after I flicked on the light, I could see his little legs wiggling and I assumed all was on track. But, as I picked up the trap and walked with it through the back door, I couldn't deny that he was...well not so much...anymore.  Sonofabitch, I thought, these traps are deadly! If I wanted to purchase a humane trap, I would have to drive all the way back to the hardware store.  I looked out across the field. The sun was going down.
The next mouse to die must have gone almost instantly because the trap caught him square on the head, before he ever even got to have a taste of Figis almond cheddar which, if it tastes as good to a mouse as it does to me, might almost make the game worth the candle. Well, there he was, my first willful murder. I washed my hands of the first mouse because I didn't know about the trap, but this one...
I had to face him, so I picked up the trap and I looked closely at this this mammal (who for all I know was female). I do not know the exact percentage but I do know that, in terms of genetics, there is very little difference between myself and the mouse who's life I had just taken with full knowledge of my actions.
His or her eyes were small and black. His head was not particularly attractive but one cannot look at another mammal and avoid noticing certain similarities to humans. The ears of the mouse, for example, were cute and I would guess, his hearing superior to my own, but I don't actually know. As I dumped his dead body into the garbage, I thought, I can't keep doing this. I've got to call a halt to these hostilities and go get some kind of humane trap, if they even make such a thing. But, after the first mouse, I had drunk a couple of vodka tonics to soothe my nerves, and in my heightened state I felt a certain sense of fate taking over. And my mother (it’s her house), wouldn’t sanction a ceasefire. She whooped with excitement bordering on the maniacal every time she heard the signature snap coming from the laundry room. “We got another one!” she would yell in a sing-song voice and command me to remove the offending animal.  As the ancient Greeks so often demonstrated, character is tragedy; tragedy is character.
After the third mouse, the cognitive dissonance began to set in. Mice are indeed disgusting. They smell bad and they don’t ask before coming in and trashing your house. They spread disease and, even though I feel dread harming another living thing, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a mouse give me some kind of god-damned plague bacillus.
By the time I managed to find a humane mouse trap on the internet the next day, the killing was over. We had “trapped” a total of five mice. My great fear is essentially that of karma. I worry about what will happen if a race of superiors shows up and judges us by how we treat those lower than us…those mammals who coveted nothing more than a warm place to eat and multiply. Who among us could fault them for wanting these things? But if a superior alien race were to arrive on our planet and examine its primary occupant, they might find that we clutter up the place and that our feces stinks like shit.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Free online guitar lesson

I am working on a set of online guitar tutorials, of which this is the first. This lesson will help you stretch your right hand and develop independence of finger motion.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Free Video Game

Hi everybody. This is just a quick note to tell you that I have finished my first ever video game, Krazy Planes. It is pretty much a copy of 1945 with a few changes.

You can download Krazy Planes from the BOX widget on the right side of the blog.

Use the arrow keys to move your plane.
Use the space bar to shoot at the enemy planes.

Please drop me a comment to let me know what you think of the game.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Amazon Mechanical Turk: Get Your Turk On

I am not so naive as to believe that the Internet could ever provide me with a "get rich quick" scheme. However, in these dark times (I'm too old to get a fast-food job and too dumb qualify for a good job...and my field of expertise, English Composition, is overpopulated by attractive young women) I often find myself surfing the net for "keep your head above water quick" schemes (KHW's). One of the more interesting KHWs I have clicked across so far is the Amazon Mechanical Turk

The Mechanical Turk is a web service where you can get paid very small amounts of money to perform simple tasks that cannot be performed by computers (Amazon calls these Human Intelligence Tasks or simply HIT's). For example, one common "job" requires you to look at a hundred digital photos and click on the ones that appear to have inappropriate content (note: you must be over 18 for that particular HIT). This job was kind of fun. I looked at a bunch of pictures and clicked the nasty ones. It took a minute or two and I earned  $.04.

HIT's range from simply going to a website, for which one usually earns a penny, to writing a 500 page article on a specific topic, which could net $2.00 or possibly a little more. For one job, I was paid seventeen cents to describe something unique about my home town (both the Unibomber and the creator of Little Orphan Annie have lived here). One HIT that I quite liked had the worker (or Turker) look at a digital photo of a business card and type the card's information into a preset form (name, position, company, etc.). This task only paid $.02 per card, but there were hundreds of cards that needed to be done. So, a Turker with high stamina and good eyesight could do this task all day long at two cents a pop.

I haven't tried a full day of "Power Turking" yet. But I did work straight through for a little over an hour yesterday and I made $2.05. This is not exactly the type of wage I had in mind when I went to graduate school. Like I said, it's not a get rich quick scheme, but it does seem to work as advertised. And, clocking in at 2 bucks an hour, a Turker who is persistent or desperate enough could at least supplement his or her income.