return to screencuisine

spinnwebe | zompist | brunching | lanceandeskimo

temporary insanity

Conversations With Clod
Field Guide:
Girding Your Loins
Deskless Jobs
Toys: Office Playground
Movie: The Temp
Fitness Week
Men's Week
My Desk:
Forked Up
Vision of the Future:
Smurf Rescue
Space Panic
Furious George
Roshambo Rampage
Other Stuff:
Interview:  MST3K's Mary Jo Pehl
The Temp Test
Kids Fun Page!
The Word of the Day
Office Playground

3-16-01 - ??

It sucks working with editors.  They're so critical.  Especially about grammar and typos and stuff.

For instance, I typed up a glossary of terms for a contract today, and got back some changes a little later from an editor.  One of them looked like the example below:

Okay.  So.  I left a 'D' off the first 'APPROVED.'  It's a simple typo.  Does that call for double question marks?  I hate double question marks.

See, a single question mark says to me:  "What is this?

A double question mark says:  "What the HELL is this?"

I picture the editor sitting as his desk, leafing through the pages, and then suddenly WHAM!!  Doing a complete double-take at the error, absolute baffled!  Thinking: "Whuuuuuhh??  What in the WORLD happened HERE??  I can't even CONCEIVE of how this HORRIBLE ERROR came to PASS!!  Is this even ENGLISH??  Does our temp have a BRAIN?  I submit to you that he does NOT!!"

Sheesh.  It's not a friggin' mystery.  I left off a 'D.'


Coming next week:

An all new Vision of the Future!

A special two-part Henchman of the Week!

And maybe, just maybe, something about temping!



3-15-01 - Errant Brockovich

I'm working at an environmental engineering firm this week.  Do you know what environmental engineering is?  'Cos I've been there three days and I still don't have a clue.

Whatever it is, I think it's probably evil.

I'm in charge of word processing, and I got handed a document today, the original text of which listed information about six soil samples from a contaminated site.  Lots of scary phrases were crossed out in red pen, like "over acceptable limits" and "quantities in excess of" and "untreatable levels found" and "simply excavating the site will not prove effective."

The "six" soil samples became "two", the contamination was heavily downplayed, and most of the deadly sounding chemicals were omitted.  Recommendation:  excavation of site.

It was kind of unsettling.

The next document had the words "site was extensively flooded" crossed off, and written in was "site was tidally influenced."

Tidally influenced?  If a big wave of sewage washes over your home, I guarantee you won't call the EPA and tell them your home was "tidally influenced."

Some other terms I expect to see changed this week:

groundwater poisoned 


flavoring added

toxic mutation 


evolutionary encouragement

raw sewage fumes 


appetite suppressants

radiation contamination 


mood lighting

cancer causing agents 


creamy nougat

maximum toxicity levels 


happy bunnies frolicking

pesticide degradation 


uh... Look over thereAn ELF!



3-14-01 - A Henched Fist

Today, we continue our look at the toughest, roughest, and deadest temps around:  movie henchmen.


Henchman of the Week:  Luca Brasi

Featured in:  The Godfather (1972)

Specialty:  Long term assignments

Weakness:  Speechmaking

Termination:  Stabbed in the hand and strangled, his death symbolized by a large fish.

Temporary Assignment:  If temps prove their worth on a job, they may be asked back time and time again.  Luca Brasi is certainly an example of that.

Luca is a longtime henchman for Don Vito Corleone, head of the Corleone organized crime family.  Sadly, it turns out the Corleone's are not all that organized, no matter how many henchmen they employ (maybe they should switch agencies).  They are in competition for power with five other families, and with narcotics becoming the hot new commodity, everyone is struggling to come out on top.

We hear about Luca before we see him.  The Don's daughter is getting married, and the Godfather is doing business in his shadowy study, listening to the problems of all sorts of whiny peasants who need favors.  The Don's lawyer and adopted son, Tom, mentions that Luca Brasi would like to see him as well.

"Is this... is this necessary?" the Don sighs.  Like all CEOs, Corleone has little time or patience for underlings.  But hey, at least he recognized the name, which is more than most bosses will do.

Meanwhile, Brasi sits outside, practicing what he would like to say when granted an audience:  "Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your home on the wedding day of your daughter. And may their first child be a masculine child."

When the time comes, Brasi, tongue-tied in front of the boss like so many temps are, says: "Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter... 's wedding... on the day of your daughter's wedding.  And I hope their first child... be a masculine child. I pledge my ever... ending... loyalty."

It's painful to watch.  Brasi stumbling over his words, the Don regarding him uncomfortably, and small children running in screaming to disrupt things further.  If Brasi had finished his speech by spilling coffee on the Don's desk, I'd have given him Henchman of the Year.  Next time, Luca, say it with a memo.

Luca has completed several assignments for Don Corleone, as we learn from Michael, the Don's son, who uses his girlfriend's first exposure to the family as an excuse to spill about ten minutes of exposition (apparently, the mafia is just as gossipy an organization as any other).  Michael refers to Brasi as a "scary guy," then tells a story about how Brasi once held a gun to a record producer's head to get him to sign a contract for the Don's Godson.  The record producer agreed, and that's how Microsoft was founded.  Er... wrong crime family.

As things heat up between the Corleone family and their rivals, Brasi is called into the Don's office.  There, the Don gives him an assignment, to find out what a goon named Sollozzo has "under his fingernails, you know."  Brasi is instructed to "go to the Tattaglia's, uh, and, ah, make them think that, ah, you're... you're not to happy with our family..."  The Don pauses and looks at the ceiling, clearly just making this assignment up off the top of his head to keep Luca busy for a few hours.

Temps know this scene very well.  They're paying you, so they've got to keep you busy.  With something.  With anything.

Brasi does as he is told, visiting Sollozzo and Tattaglia at a bar, where they offer him a job.  Brasi asks what his salary will be, showing his priorities are in order, but Sollozzo and Tattaglia know it's a set up.  Brasi's hand is nailed to the bar with a knife while a thug brutally strangles him from behind.

Later, Luca's bulletproof vest is sent to the Corleone's with a fish inside it, signifying that "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."

Isn't that just like a temp?  Bringin' a bulletproof vest to a stranglin' fight.

Constructive Criticism:  I need to point out that Brasi speaks both English and Italian, and being bi-lingual can certainly increase one's job opportunities.  However, as a henchman, never, ever go out of your way to pledge loyalty to your Don.  That's like a temp walking into his supervisor's office and asking "Let me know if there's any more work you need me to do!"  If you're a temp, you could wind up spending hours making binder tabs.  If you're a henchman, you could wind up dead.

Luca Brasi was played by Lenny "The Bull" Montana, an actor and former professional wrestler.  He died in 1992.



3-13-01 - Bag Reel

In the 1990's, a trend began to emerge in Hollywood, that of male full-frontal nudity in feature films.

Ewan Macgregor and Harvey Keitel showed their dingles in several movies apiece, and it caught on quickly.  Oliver Stone's football flick Any Given Sunday featured more johnsons than a Philadelphia phone book, Kevin Costner recently lobbied to display his little postman in the film For Love of the Game, and Kevin Bacon served up his sausage in 1998's Wild Things.

Some say this is a good thing; after all, it may point to approaching equality between the sexes in Hollywood, a breaking down of barriers, the end of a silly taboo.  Yet, as with all good things, there comes a price.

I speak of the 1997 Showtime film, Lolita, starring Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith, and Frank Langella.

A whole lot of Frank Langella.

See, there's a scene in Lolita where Frank Langella (yes, the chubby old guy) runs (yes, runs) toward camera with his robe open, treating us to a well-framed shot of his bouncing testicles.

You know, when I sat down to view the film, there was no indication that at some point during the feature, I would have to look at Frank Langella's jiggling scrotum.  There were warnings, of course, for nudity, explicit language, and adult situations, but the words "Giant Flailing Nutsack" were notably absent.  And, as the scene approached, at no point did Jeremy Irons say to Frank:  "Say, why don't you run over there with your apple-bag jumping around like the oversized purse of a woman trying to catch a train?"

Now, I am not one to question a director's artistic vision, but I wondered, shortly after vomiting, why there was a need to present the Tony Award Winner's hairy, pendulous balls smacking and jouncing against one another in a tight close-up.  

Was the director afraid we wouldn't fully comprehend the idea that Mr. Langella was running without this visual clue?  Did focus groups, after screening the film, repeatedly mention that the scene would have made more sense if only they could have witnessed Langella's wrinkly, grizzled nuts swinging around while he ran?

My real concern, naturally, is that while I have this image forever burned into my brain, there is little or no chance that Mr. Langella will never have the image of my testicles, bouncing and rebounding like lottery balls burned into his brain.

And this seems unfair, if you really think about it.

Tomorrow:  Another installment of Henchman of the Week!



3-12-01 - Writer's Blah

(Three new Diversions this week... Furious George, where you lead a mischievous monkey on a nation-wide crime spree, Roshambo Rampage for some hot e-mail Rock-Paper-Scissors action, and Alchemy, which is like a mix & match type deal (and is the only one that makes noise).  Check out Diversions on the sidebar to play).

Permanent employees... I love 'em so.  They keep every single scrap of paper they come across just in case they'll need it someday.  So, when I sit at their desks and rifle through their stuff, there's lots for me to find and make fun of.

I found a couple sheets of writing tips at a recent job, so I thought I'd reproduce them here and see how well they relate to my website and writing in general.

The Ten Tested Techniques For Clearer Writing

1.  Make it look easy to read:  writing is a visual art.

I think my site generally looks pretty easy to read, but I suppose I could make it more so, by adding a few more pictures.

(Sorry.  But it's been almost a whole week.)

2.  Get off to a good start.  Use a who-what-when-where-why-how lead.

Okaaay... That would make the sentence "I've been taking the bus to work these days to save money and to introduce some new foul odors into my life" into "Me-bus-days-work-money-odor-ride", which makes me sound like this elderly Chinese guy who was asking me for directions the other day.

3.  Know your reader.  Provide him/her with content in appropriate depth for:

  • why he/she needs this information, and

  • how he/she will use it

Hey, I do know my readers (most of them personally).  As for why and how he/she needs or will use this information, I can't think of a single reason.  I'm not even sure my writing actually includes anything one might call "information."

4.  Build the significance bridge for your reader.

Build the significance bridge.  Ah, yes.  The significance... bridge... mm... um... what the heck is the significance bridge?  I gotta be buildin' bridges now?  I don't got time to be buildin' all kindsa bridges!

5.  Organize carefully.  Follow a natural sequence, build in a smooth flow from one idea to the next.  Make each point once.

Make each point once?  Are they kidding?  I've been making the same point about temping five days a week for a year now!  I've got to pad the word count with repetition!  Padding!  Paaaaadding!

6.  Make your point as quickly as possible.


7.  Use comfortable words for readability;  avoid hard-to-read words or phrases.

Hard to read words, like "readability" and "significance bridge."  Stick to words like "shoe" and "box."

8.  Keep your average sentence length from 14 to 17 words.

I agree with this point, since most readers don't have a heck of.  A lot of patience, particularly these days, what with all the television programs just.  Rotting their minds, and giving them such a short attention span that they can't.  Keep up with long sentences, so try to keep them between fourteen and seventeen.  Words.


9.  Avoid overworking detail and/or restating the obvious.


10.  Use active sentences ("someone doing something.")

Ah.  Active sentences.  Someone doing something.  Very helpful.  Make sure your sentences contain a verb and a noun.  Otherwise, they'll look like:  "The to the and a of an was."

Tomorrow:  More write tips the about fun of here!  Shoe!



Visit the ARCHIVES

All material 2000 - 2001 by Christopher Livingston.  Yeah.  That'll hold up in court.