CV

I hate CVs or resumes or whatever you like to call that document that has all the information about your work history. I hate them because all previous CVs I’ve ever written have ended up being the fakest of the fake. A few scraps of truth dressed up with nouns and adjectives.

This is apparently good. It’s called “selling yourself” and is what jobseekers are encouraged to do in order to make themselves attractive to potential employers.

There’s this idea that we’re brought up to believe that it’s arrogant to talk about yourself, but in order to get a job you have to do just the opposite of that and talk about yourself a lot.

But there’s a difference between talking about yourself and concocting such masterpieces of arse as the following, all from various versions of my CV from the past few years.

I am able to translate concepts into user friendly designs that hold people’s attention.

I am familiar with the Windows operating system, but also have experience with Mac OS and Linux.

In this role I have been involved with the build of sites; how things fit together, navigation of sites, preparing content for pages. I find this side of work to be the most challenging and fulfilling.

I learned a lot in the short time I was on the help desk, including how to remain focussed and work well under pressure.

Objective: To establish a career in the Internet industry through working in an organisation that will provide me with the ability to achieve high standards in my work, and give me opportunities to do stuff.

Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! I’m almost ashamed at having written that. If getting a job means writing stuff like that, unemployment almost seems attractive.

If I were to be totally honest in a CV, it would probably consist mostly of something like this:

Hi, my name is Robyn. Ideally I’d like to be paid to go out and have adventures and write about them, but as that’s not currently happening I need a job to pay the bills. I won’t neccessarily like it, nor give it 100% of my attention, but I will show up and work the best I can. Ok, cool.

Bad Magazine

I’ve moved flats (again) and I’m now living in a reasonably classy neighbourhood. I found in my letterbox a magazine full of advertorial, hawking stuff that rich people are supposed to covet. It has a cover price of $5.50, but it distributed free to suburbs such as mine.

It seems to be written by a bunch of writers who have to engage in creative writing exercises to write the sort of articles that they think that rich wankers who lead busy, stressful lives and have too much money, would like to read.

It doesn’t quite come across as being real, though. It’s like those rap videos where the rappers sit around with all their possessions, drinking champagne, showing how they are livin’ large, but you know it’s just a front.

The results are some of the most hilarious and sickening sentences I’ve read in a long time.

The magazine’s editorial starts with a call to arms:

“The mornings are getting crisper and winter is creeping up. It’s time to buy snuggly woolies and new ski gear.”

New ski gear every year? But of course!

First up was a section on organics, with a handy section of commonly held myths regarding organic food. This was my favourite:

“Myth #2: It’s more expensive
-Wrong. We bought meat from an organic butchery in Auckland and then went to the supermarket and bought the same meat and the supermarket was more expensive. And the organic meat was much less fatty.”

How creative to present their research findings in the written style of an enthusiastic nine-year-old (“and then we went to the beach and it was cool and I had an ice cream and…”). It’s also interesting that they dis “the supermarket” but in an article on the same page they praise a supermarket for stocking a large range of organic products.

“Lothar says the hardest thing about buying produce today is that it often comes pre-wrapped in cellophane and as any good buyer knows, it is imperative that produce passes the ‘smell and sniff’ test to confirm that it is in peak condition and not past its prime.”

I sometimes buy produce wrapped in cellophane. I do not ‘smell and sniff’ produce before I buy it. I am bad.

“Just reading the bill of fare will send shivers of pleasurable anticipation through the most seasoned gastronome.”

They could have written “menu” instead of “bill of fare” and “food lover” instead of gastronome, but no. Simple, concise language isn’t the sort of thing that busy, stressed-out people understand.

“This has got to be a godsend for busy urbanites. You know the routine – long hours at the office, tired and travelling home in traffic, asking “What shall we do for dinner?” Here’s the answer.”

Whilst it might seems that the answer would be to quit your job and go and live on a kibbutz for a year and get your life back, the answer is actually just a more expensive version of meals on wheels.

My favourite item was a list of “fashion faux pas”, allegedly according to Coco Chanel. I say allegedly, because despite the fact that Ms Chanel died in 1971, item number 12 was “do not buy makeup on the internet.”

There was also a shopping hints page, sponsored by a credit card company. Hints included, “always carry a bottle of water. Shopping can be dehydrating and exhausting.”

From an article about a fashionable shopping street:

“The whole street engenders a feeling of community spirit – even the metre maid had a smile.”

It’s almost tempting to go there to see if I can find this 100 centimetre maid.

This description, of an apparent nightmare situation, started off an article for a panelbater:

“It’s often hard enough coming to terms with the fact that your beloved German sportscar has been rammed up the proverbial through no fault of yours, coping with the insurance companies and reams of paperwork, imagining being without wheels for weeks on end and, to top it off, realising that you’re late for a meeting.”

It’s like, oh crap, your car’s been hit, that’s bad. But wait, you’re late for a meeting, that’s, like, a total disaster, dude! And what, you can’t call the office and say “I’m not going to be able to make the meeting. I’ve been in a car crash.” Or will this panel beater be able to fix up your beloved Deutch mobile so you can make it back to the meeting?

A gaggle of drag-queens pose glamourously next to a car. The article first defines what a drag queen is:

“This differs from the sisters of drag, the “trannies” who live as women and therefore are women.”

I’m reluctant to call anyone with a penis a woman, but if some bad magazine says men who live as women are women, then it must be true.

A page offering tips for not spending too much on a wedding says:

“Use invitation stationery that’s light enough when assembled for delivery that it doesn’t require more than one stamp.”

According to New Zealand Post, the maximum weight for a standard letter is one kilogram, so I guess that rules out using granite tablets to chisel the invites onto.

In an article for car grooming products, a story is told of a valet who saw a dirty BMW pull up and was expecting an equally dirty driver.

“To his horror and amazement, a well-known personality stepped out of the car, designer clothing and picture-perfect hair, and handed over the keys.”

This event permanently scarred the valet, and “even now, some years on, he can’t see her photo in a magazine without first remembering that car.”

Two pages offer an adult section. The highlight being a stripper service, offering “strobe and neon lights, smoke machines, mirror balls and techno laser graphics,” in case seeing a naked lady isn’t exciting on its own.

An article about the joys of a Maserati tells of “a day in the country” and describes “heading south”. But the accompanying pictures show the car at Piha beach, which is neither rural nor south of Auckland.

“The New Zealand equivalent of London’s exclusive Notting Hill will soon stand as an integral component in the make up of Auckland City’s exclusive Viaduct Harbour.”

No, it won’t. It’s just another harbourside housing development. It won’t be anything like Notting Hill. There won’t be a multi-cultural street carnival. Julia Roberts will not fall in love with Hugh Grant in Freemans Bay.

“Our eldest daughter told us recently how much she enjoys the regular ‘family dinners’ held at our home.”

Why the scare quotes around ‘family dinners’? Could it be that they aren’t really family dinners, that it’s just someone sitting on their couch with an up-sized burger combo?

An article titled “Stop being a victim”, offers safety tips for women who are sick of feeling vulnerable. Highlights include:

“I am fed up with the limitations these evil-minded muggers and rapists put on our lives.”
“Self-defence courses for women are NOT martial arts schools.”
“Women have a very strong 6th sense, but it’s not often we heed it.”
“Be safe at home – e.g. don’t hop in the shower if the ranch slider is open.”
“We want our lives back without fear and intimidation.”

The social event pages bring us pictures of the beautiful people at such events as “New Years Day at the Tauranga Racing Club” and “Hillary and Tracey’s Farewell”.

The back cover has an ad for a sports car rental company. It features a photo of the back of a Porsche with three women standing in it bending over so their bums were on display. The incredibly witty caption read, “It’s a REAR thing to hire a Porsche.

A bunch of arse, really.

Sarcasm

In the midst of the mishmash of vowels and consonants that we call the English language, there are things called words. Words have meanings, and usually the meaning stay the same over the years. Except sometimes they change. Sometimes the meanings totally reverse!

Charming

You know what charming means. You know that someone who is charming is very delightful and pleasing. So how come when someone were to do something like demonstrate how they can fit a whole banana in their mouth and fill in any gaps with peanut butter that a typical reaction to that would be, “urgh, charming!” Seeing someone with a mouthful of semi-chewed banana and peanut butter is not charming. So why do we say it is?

Riveting

Something that is riveting is something that holds the attention. It engrosses, it fascinates. So why, after that really boring company meeting where that really boring manager droned on and on about his vision for the company and no one was really paying attention and instead day dreamed about the weekend, why was it described as “sooo riveting”?

Why? Because it’s supposedly sarcasm. When someone describes a gross-out situation as charming, they don’t really mean that they were charmed by it.

But it’s going beyond sarcasm. It’s got to the point where riveting means dull and boring and it seems odd to hear it used to describe something that’s engrossing, and charming has come to mean gross and ill-mannered and it’s strange hearing someone whose pleasant and polite described as charming. So when people actually use charming or riveting for their real, non-sarcastic meanings, it can be really confusing.

“That speech was totally riveting!”
“That bad, huh?”
“Er, no, it was great!”

“How’d your dinner with Dave go?”
“He was totally charming.”
“Urgh, all men are pigs.”

My point is (and I think I have one somewhere in here) that being too sarcastic doesn’t work and will just end in tears.

Shibboleth

“I got told…”

I’d noticed the phrase “I got told…” being used often and frequently. “I got told that the movie started at 8.30.” It didn’t sound right to me. I’d be more likely to say, “I was told that the movie started at 8.30.”

I searched for logic in the use of what we shall call IGT. How could ‘told’ be a thing that a person can get? You can get herpes, a fright, some milk, but told? Didn’t get mean the same as received? How could one receive told?

“So, what did you get last night?”
“A free ticket to the circus!”

“So, what did you get last night?”
“Told.”

No! It wasn’t right! It just wasn’t right! But more and more people kept using it. Shihad even used IGT it in the lyrics to their song “Pacifier,” spoiling, for me, what would otherwise be a very choice song.

I heard it in conversation. I read it on web pages. Was it right? Or was it an abomination of the English language?

I decided to seek the advice of an expert. I was doing a short course at Auckland Uni on English grammar so I decided to ask the guy taking that. He has a pHD in linguistics from MIT. (Whilst MIT is known more for science than linguistics, it has been the home of two very well-known linguists, Noam Chomsky, who writes lots of really boring stuff about linguistics, but who we must respect because he did all the hard work, and Steven Pinker, a linguistic rock star – read his books.)

Anyway, I asked my friendly Dr Linguist about IGT and I learned the following.

  • It’s not “incorrect” (i.e. there’s not an inner ring of Hell reserved for IGT users)
  • The meaning is clear – it’s not like I have to ask people to explain what they mean.
  • We say things like “I got up” and no one bats an eyelid.
  • IGT is more common in American English, and more common in spoken or less formal English.
  • IGT is my shibboleth.

Ah, Shibboleth! A very cool word, and an even cooler concept.

It comes from an event in the bible, (Judges 12:6). In the story, the Gileadites needed a way to figure out who were Ephraimites. The Ephraimites could not pronounce the “sh” in the word shibboleth, so when the Gileadites asked them to say it, they’d pronounce it “sibboleth” revealing that they were Ephramites, and would then be killed by the Gildeadites.

So shibboleth has come to mean, among other things, when a word or a particular use of language is used to distinguish one group of people from another. For example, if someone pronounces the name of the metal that’s 13 on the periodic table as “a-LOO-min-um”, I know that person is a foreigner with ways different to my own and should be viewed with suspicion. If they pronounce it as “al-yoo-MIN-ee-um”, I know that person is a friend and is to be trusted.

But back to “I got told”. Using those words is my shibboleth. If someone uses that around me, it sounds strange and I’m going to think less of them.

Hearing people saying that they “got told” doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, but I still think that people who say it just don’t sound as classy as they could.

Coffee and Desert

I was walking down the street when I saw a sign outside a cafe advertising “COFFEE AND DESERT”.

This intrigued me as whilst coffee is a fairly standard menu item for cafes, it’s not often that you see one offering desert.

I shifted my glance towards the cafe. It did not appear to offer the hallmarks of a desert. There was not a vast expanse of sand. There were no palm trees, no oasis. The great pyramids of Egypt and buzzards circling an animal carcass were conspicuous by their absense.

Then I thought that maybe this cafe was being poetic. That they were offering themselves as a desert in the middle of the city. A hot dry place on a cold and wet day.

Or perhaps they were offering just deserts. That anyone who entered that cafe would get what was coming.

Then another thought occurred to me. Perhaps whoever had written the sign had meant to write “COFFEE AND DESSERTS” and indeed had thought that’s what they were writing. Indeed desserts are a common enough menu item in cafes. So how could this mistake have possibly been made? I formulated a theory.

The person who wrote on the blackboard probably also worked behind the counter at the cafe. They were probably such a highly-skilled cafe worker that they had spent all their time and effort master the art of their trade that they simply didn’t have enough time to learn the basics of spelling. It’s also likely that they spent so much money on purchasing reference books on the art of cafe work that they did not have enough cash left over to purchase a dictionary. And no doubt the life of a cafe worker is one of such intense concentration and the need for solitude so great that to ask a co-worker to check the spelling would be totally out of the question.

So I entered the cafe and informed a fellow behind the counter of the error. He responded, “Oh right, oh did we. Oh, ok. Right.”

And they say the kids of today don’t get taught proper English.

Bad Word Alert

There are certain words and phrases that somehow work their way into the consciousness of the world and won’t die. They are bad words. Here are three that currently that ought to make a new year’s resolution to go away forever.

Solution

One of those things that annoys me almost to the point of insanity is people and companies who overuse the word “solution”.

Like, there’s a a copy shop near where I live. It’s recently put a sign up proclaiming that it offers “copy solutions”. I want to go in there and say “Hi, I have a problem. I need to somehow get a copy of this piece of paper onto another piece of paper,” and they will say “Yes, we have a solution for you!” and stick the paper in a photocopier and make a copy.

“Solution” is one of those words that is well and truly living in TiredOldClicheville. It’s everywhere.

The company I used to work for had a division which offered solutions of some sort, and the company I currently work for has a solution section.

It just gets boring after a while when it seems that most companies, especially those in the information technology industry proclaim to offer some sort of “solutions”.

In Shania Twain style, any company who proclaims itself to offer or provide solutions simply don’t impress me much.

Pioneer

Another word that offends me equally is “pioneer”. Especially when used in relation to the Internet. It’s like anyone who did anything prior to 1996 gets automatically gets to call themself a pioneer.

It’s especially bad when it’s used to describe something that someone’s doing, just because they are the first person to do it in a particular area. Like describing someone as pioneering because they were the first to, say, open a McDonald’s restaurant in Hamilton.

Where It’s @

Also on my bitch list the phrase “where it’s at”. Everyone thought the song by Beck was kewl and rad. But society is being inflicted by this phrase way too much. A search on AltaVista for “where it’s at” and excluding the word “beck” came up with 15,020 sites.

When corporations, when 40 year old men with goatees try to be hip, it seems that all they can come up with is “where it’s at”. If the creative juices are really flowing then ‘at’ might get replaced with the @ symbol.

Issue

If Apollo 13 was around today, the astronauts would be maydaying “Houston, we have an issue.”

Issue is used as a kinder, gentler alternative to problem. Instead of saying, “there are some problems with this web page we need to discuss,” its “there are some issues with this…”

I’ve seen it used when the person isn’t sure if the “issue” is really a problem or if they just don’t know what’s going on.

I would be almost tempted to describe that use of the word “issue” as “politically correct” but as there’s nothing political or correct about as, and as I loathe that term, I won’t.

It makes sense that the opposite of an issue is a solution.

“Solution”, “pioneer”, “where it’s at” and “issue” deserve to be thrown into deep dark hole where they can hang out with other words that are about as meaningful as “thing” and “stuff”.

Ironic

“It’s like rain… on your wedding day
It’s a free ride… when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice… that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought… it figures”

Ah, my word yes. Ever since Ms Alanis Morrisette sang those words in her song “Ironic” of her 1995 album “Jagged Little Pill” my mind has been wondering what others have wondered.

Why is a song that is supposedly about irony lacking in actual examples of irony?

I have two theories on this. The first is that Alanis doesn’t know what irony is. She kind of understands the concept, but can’t think of any examples that really fit. “Rain on your wedding day” isn’t irony. It’s misfortune. But she’s in good company. Winona Ryder’s character in the 1994 film “Reality Bites” missed out on getting a job because she couldn’t define irony.

My second theory is that Alanis knows damn well what irony is, and has deliberately not included any examples of irony in the song. Of course this would appear to be a rather ironic thing to do. More ironic than those 10,000 spoons.

So where does this leave us, in these post modern pre-millennium days?

I think we ought to turn to the dictionary. The English language is a living, evolving language. New words come into existence and old words are redefined.

I think there needs to be a new word: alanis. “Alanis” is there to describe those situations when things go wrong, and the situation may appear ironic, but is actually just bad luck. For example, “I had only had my brand new pants for a day, when they ripped – what an alanis thing to happen!”

I have found myself using this on a more frequent basis, and endeavour to to use once a day until it has been assimilated into the English language.

Make the effort to use “alanis” every day, and you too can experience that feeling of aloof gen-x coolness. Kind of alanis, really.