Saturday, June 23, 2012

Too Damned Long

When I first saw The Avengers a few weeks ago I walked out of the theater having enjoyed myself, but by the end I was tired and, horrible as it is to say, bored. The end is pretty much non-stop action, how could anyone get bored? My theory was that the final fight was too damned long. Today I put that to the test and I was right.

See, the movie's built up on exciting moments. They start out, relatively, small, after that opening sequence. The opening is a teaser, though, and announces right off what kind of movie this is. Then the film slows down. We meet our main heroes, minus the one were were already introduced to, in short vignettes so we understand who they are and what they want. From there the action slowly gets bigger, with nice breathers in between so the audience can relax and laugh which should help to clean the mental palette for the next action set piece. Joss Wheadon, who wrote and directed this movie, understands that the brain needs the break, that's why all his actiony/horrory TV shows used comedy to help break up the tension, if only for a second, to make room in the brain for more excitement. The action also get longer as the movie goes on, but it's short enough that it didn't wear me out.

Until that last fight.

**Here's where I get a little spoilery, in case you haven't seen the movie yet and still care.**

I had my watch with me and turned on the stopwatch to time the fight. I started when the first aliens came through the portal, that seemed a fair place. The specifics aren't really important because I was engaged. I was on the streets with Captain America, flying through the city with Ironman, and smashing armored fish/lizard things with the Hulk. And then, suddenly, I wasn't.

I looked down at my watch. Fifteen minutes had passed. Cap was just about to rush in to rescue people who had been cornered in a bank, or whatever, by aliens. Here's where this fight scene became agonizing. The punching, shooting, zapping, and punching became boring. Yeah, that Hulk scene with Loki made me laugh, but that was way past the point where I wanted something else.

I just thought of the end of Return of the Jedi, where it bounces between the three fights: one on Endor, one around the Death Star, and one in the Emperor's throne room. It's long, but all the fights have such different tones and tickle different parts of my brain that it doesn't get boring. It also cuts from the exciting World War II style space battle to the point on Endor where it look like the Rebels have lost and seem to be surrendering then cuts to Luke and Vadar fighting. Did you see the break my brain got there? During those few minutes on Endor! That sort of pacing kept my mind shifting gears kept my brain active and attentive.

The closest thing to a break during that last fight in The Avengers is when Fury is talking to those shadowy faces. The problem is that it comes to late. Just a few minutes after Fury's conversation that professor doctor guy who was in the Thor movie wakes up and that's where I hit stop on my watch because I correctly remembered that there was no other alien fighting after that. Twenty-six minutes and one second of fight. Ten minutes too much for my brain, apparently.

The movie's still a lot of fun, but the final fight is so relentless.

And I can't even say how I might fix it. My gut reaction is shorter, make it shorter because there are no good subplots to cut away to. At that point the helicarrier is safe and they'd already killed the best character to come out of these linked movies, so I don't want to go there. The best New Yorkers are for is short reaction shots to the horror around them and that's the only way they're useful to the movie.

Maybe the next one will leave me feeling energized in the end rather than bored. I'm rooting for you Mr. Wheadon. We all are.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

"What are we going to do without you?"

To get it out of the way, I have been told that I "suckle at the government's tit."

I've worked for the State as a low level office drone for almost seven years. For most of my years I've pushed paper and answered phones. I've done piddly-ass work so that the "real" work, the "important" work, can be done by those higher up.

I used to work for a different department, but there was no place to go there. My boss told me that. So, I moved where I thought there would be opportunities. I moved where the money was. A month later, the money was gone and so were the opportunities. Plus, I hated, HATED my boss and the work that I was doing. It wore me down.

So, even though I had sent out a bunch of applications for a position that's a step higher I took a job at the same level within the same department, but with a different supervisor. Stress level, better. Sleep, no longer full of creepy dreams about babies. It took 13 months to get out of it, though.

After a couple of month of working in the new position, sometime in January, my boss took me aside and basically asked me what the hell I was doing at my level. I told her that I'd been trying to get a different job, but that the few interviews I'd gone to hadn't done anything for me. I don't think I screwed any of them up, just got the feeling that the people I interviewed with wanted to promote from within rather than give the fat, geeky guy a chance. (Yes, I am bitter. Why do you ask?) Still, I told her that I was trying, just nothing much was coming from all the applications I'd sent out.

She gave me a speech about how she supports upward mobility blah, blah, blah, and that I should keep trying.

Of course, I have been trying. In the past three months I've sent out over 50 applications. (I know because it takes two friggin' stamps to send an application and I've use up a roll of 100 and then some.) Most of them have been for the promotion, a couple for the same level. Last week was the first interview I had since March (February?). It was for my current level, but I need to keep in practice and it's for a place that will, eventually, be interviewing for that next level. I thought it would be good to get my face out there.

The interview went well. I made the panel laugh. I had a good story about teamwork. I took a half hour when they had penciled in 15 minutes and they didn't try to hurry me. I had a decent answer to the "best and worst" qualities question. I watched them fill up their papers with my answers. I was full of very specific questions about where the job will be. I felt good. (Of course, I've felt good about all the interviews I've had in the past year.)

Today, my supervisor came and told me that she was called for a reference check. Then she says, "I don't think we'll be able to get along without you."

A little later the second in command, a woman who I respect and admire, told me about the reference check and asked, "What will we do without you?"

After the staff meeting, where I take minutes, I told my boss not to worry about the room because I'd already been in contact with the people in charge and I'd taken care of it. She said, "I don't think we can let you go." Sure, she was smiling when she said it, but she said it. I was glad the call came in before the meeting.

While I was cleaning up my office a different supervisor, not in charge of me, but in charge of people I work with, told me that I can't leave. They need me.

The thing is, if offered, I probably won't take the job. I want, and finally believe that I deserve, a promotion. I know that I'm a problem because I don't understand the game. I don't know how to get my nose all brown. (I have a problem of answering the questions I'm asked honestly.) I don't want to move two hours away for no movement in my employment, start a lease, then get an interview and an offer from a step up that's in another town entirely. I can't afford two leases. If I could I wouldn't be looking for a step up.

Of course, this leads to the question of why stick with this whole system, right? Well, I've never been hired by a place that wasn't desperate for someone until this last move. My first job in college I got because two of their staff members quit during the first week of school. My next job was at a Starbucks that was opening and they only started interviewing people a month before the opening and we were understaffed when we opened. (I haven't had many jobs. I stay where I am for a while.) When I got hired by the state the office had been short five people and were eager to finally get staffed. When I moved to this department they were interviewing for three positions and, I found out later, only interviewed six people.

Plus, I'm vested in the pension program. Sure, I have more than thirty years until I retire and by then the more conservative elements may finally have their way and eliminate the pension because those of us in the state obviously people like me don't work, but I'm vested. Every year I get closer to a retirement that a person can actually live off of and medical benefits that won't punish me for going to the doctor as I age. These are the reasons I was willing to work for the state in the first place.

None of that matters, though. What matters is how my coworkers, people who have told me that I do good work, that I should be working at a higher level, are trying to make me feel guilty for wanting to move on while attempting to make it sound like a complement.

It, literally, makes me feel sick to my stomach. I felt fine until my boss ended our first conversation with  "I don't think we'll be able to get along without you."

And so I end my rant. I apologize, but I needed to get it out there. To ask if it's just me being a paranoid asshole or what. I just don't know anymore.


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

A Talk at Work

We started by talking about the change in attitude by the dental people who work third watch. She said she remembered when everyone was fairly happy and got along and worked together. I asked her when she thought the attitude changed. She said the major difference happened in February when just about everyone on third watch thought they were going to be laid off and then in March when one of the assistants actually was let go. Then she moved into how much it bothers her when people say that there’s no work out there because she’s worked two jobs for a large part of her working life. “There are jobs,” she said, “if people are willing to look for them.”

“The ones that are easiest to get are at places like KFC,” I said, “where the turnover is high. How can you support a family when you’re getting paid just above minimum wage?”

“Inflation’s a problem,” she said.

I agreed.

“It got so bad,” she said, “because all those women wanted to go to work in the ‘50s.”

I was shocked and a little bit outraged. To blame increased cost of living on women working? Absurd. Right?

I didn’t say that though. I just listened. She believes that because women started to work and households started to earn more money that when they started to spend that money prices on everything were raised. “It’s supply and demand,” she said. “If people weren’t willing to pay the higher prices then prices would go down.”

“But,” I said, “almost all families were single income until the mid ‘80s.” -- I don’t actually know if this is true. It sounds true enough, though. -- “By the mid ‘90s most were double income families. Most families can’t survive comfortably, or at all, without two people working.”

“They could if prices go down.”

“But they’re not going down, even during the mess that’s been going on for the last five years.”

“Prices are going down,” she said.

“What? Like car prices?” I asked.

She said that car prices are going down because so many people have started to buy used cars. The car companies have to lower their prices on new cars. I said that I haven’t noticed a difference. There’s not much below $20,000, I said. She said that everything that lasts has come down in price.

“Does that really matter if wages haven’t kept up with cost of living?” I asked.

She looked at me.

“I mean,” I said, “that when they take out the price of food and fuel it looks like prices haven’t gone up much.”

“But everyone has to eat,” she said, smiling.

“Exactly. How can a family do anything if the price of food and the heating and how they get to work keep going up?”

“They can’t,” she said, “but if they refused to pay high prices--“

“How can they pay less for food?” I interrupted. “Grow their own food? Most people can’t even have a garden. Food prices have nothing to do with women going to work.”

“It’s like this,” she said. “When one person works they only make this much money” – She raised her hand up a little. – “and can only spend so much. When two people work they make this much.” – She raised her other hand higher than the first. – “What do they do with all the extra? They spend it and that make prices go up. Better to have only one person work.”

My jaw hung slack. “I’m not an economist,” I said, “but I don’t think that’s right.”

“I haven’t studied economics,” she said, “but I grew up in the 60s and 70s and I remember my mom saying that everything was getting more expensive and this was when lots of women started to go to work. If just a few had gone to work everything would have stayed the same, but when most of them started working prices went insane.”

And if I start to pay you to protect me from tigers and I never get attacked by a tiger living in California then you must be protecting me from tiger, I thought.

“If all the women just quit their jobs” – She smiled and chuckled for the first time during this conversation, as if it were all a joke. – “prices would get better.”

For a second I thought about mentioning the insane inflation of food prices in China, but knew that she would just point out that more women are working there, too. It’s hard for me to point to any recently successful economy in this world where prices on food are going up where women aren’t a large part of the workforce. I think they have to word as much as they want to work. She’d just argue that all the prices there were cheaper before so many women started working.

“They wouldn’t go down,” I said, instead of speaking my thoughts.

“I think they would,” she said. “You know, people can survive with only one person working. They just have to make sacrifices.”

I let the conversation stop there. I had nothing more to say to her. She’s not going to leave her job even though she just married one of the officers here. We talked about that a while ago, long before she told me inflation is because women work. She’s going to work for a least another 10 years, she told me. She’s going work, even though he brings home a nice salary and will get a good pension when he retires, because she wants buy some nice things and fix her place up and live comfortably.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

How to Make Friendship

Found this picture over on *shudder* Facebook. It explains so much about my life.

More Out

Sent out nine applications last week. One of them still works for the state, but the job's in Houston. Which is cool. (Not as in the weather.) It would be cooler, though, if it would  be for a promotion. Still, if I get an interview, I'll be happy.