What’s really behind those Facebook quizzes

Bullshit

Here’s what’s really behind these quizzes on Facebook.

1) First of all, the “92% of people can’t…” line is total BS. There’s nobody keeping track of scores. That “92%” line is designed to entice you into taking the challenge. It’s not based on any collected data at all, and has that “92%” number on it from the moment it’s released on Facebook.

2) The quizzes are designed to be easy so that you will do better than the “92%” and will share the quiz and brag about it, thereby enticing others to take the quiz.

3) You’ll notice that every question in the quiz is on a separate page. That’s not because there are slick web designers or usability experts behind the page; it’s because every time you go to a new question you load a whole new set of ads, thereby generating loads of ad revenue for the people who made the quiz. (There can easily be 12-20 ads per page.)

4) For quizzes that are designed to tell you something about your personality — what Star Wars character you are, or some other personal quality — know that the results are based on total BS. Some person spent half an hour in a cubicle drawing up a matrix based on nothing more than what kind of mood they were in that day, and that’s it.

5) By going through the quiz and then sharing it, the people making the quiz are gathering data about the things you like. (Car quizzes label you as a car fan; geography quizzes label you as a person who likes to travel, etc.) They sell this data back to Facebook (or perhaps a third-party ad manager) who uses it to build your Facebook advertising profile, which in turn determines what ads and “sponsored posts” you see.

So please do not think that these quizzes tell you anything about yourself, or that the results have any research or scientific thinking behind them. Go ahead and keep doing them if you like — after all, they can be fun — but remember that you’re a bit of a sucker every time you do so, and the results mean nothing.

The only purpose behind these quizzes is to keep you clicking and sharing so that other people can make money from it. But hey, people have to make a living, right? Fair enough. But for Pete’s sake just be aware of the level of BS you’re engaging in when you do it, and don’t bother bragging that you’re better than “the 92%” and don’t even bother questioning the veracity of that figure, because now you know it’s all just made up to suck you in.

(Published simultaneously on Facebook.)

Talisman

One day in 1979 I put a cowboy hat from a Johnny West action figure and a scuba diving mask from a G.I. Joe on a Timbit. Then I took a photo of it. Such was the boredom of my youth.

Since then I would happen upon this photo — a Kodachrome slide — every handful of years, and I’d chuckle at it and put it back in its box. It is a ridiculous and meaningless photo, but over the years it became a sort of talisman, and I couldn’t throw it away. Now, almost four decades later, I feel like it has time-warping properties, as if on every viewing, spacetime folds and those collected moments come together and touch.

In many ways I feel haunted by this photo. Between viewings I tend to forget it exists, and then one day I’ll see it and it all comes back, like the mixed emotions of seeing an old friend and realizing that the old friend is still an idiot. Why couldn’t I have an interesting talisman, like a spider encased in amber, or a jewel-encrusted monkey skull?

Let me remind you; this is a photo of a goddamn Timbit wearing a cowboy hat and a scuba diving mask. It is meaningless. Or is it? Perhaps this was the beginning of a surrealist art career, and in a parallel universe I’ve graduated to bagels wearing Hugo Boss suits. I’ll never know. But I feel it is finally time to break the spell of this mysterious image by showing it to the world. Here you go. Now I am free.

Don't laugh...

(Published simultaneously on Facebook.)

Montreal Location Scouting with Ginger Coffey

I attended a rare screening of The Luck of Ginger Coffey (Canada, 1964) last Saturday, as part of the Cine Gael Irish Film series. It stars Robert Shaw, who was just beginning to be something (he shot this a year after he starred as “Grant” in From Russia with Love) and was directed by Irvin Kershner, who went on to an illustrious career shooting little-known space romps such as The Empire Strikes Back.

In brief, The Luck of Ginger Coffey (Wikipedia) is the story of an ambitious but somewhat misguided Irish immigrant to Montreal in the early 1960s. Ginger Coffey is a master of well-meaning but destructive lies and misdirections, as he wages a tug-of-war between telling his wife and teenage daughter that yes, the Montreal experiment is over and we’ll soon be back in Dublin, while simultaneously chasing down his next big opportunity. The fact that he cannot afford return passage further complicates things and makes his situation even more desperate.

The film is based on a Brian Moore novel of the same title (Moore also penned the screenplay). I read the novel a couple of years after I moved to Montreal, and I found a lot of myself in that character, as I too was an outsider with great but unfulfilled ambitions, and was at a loss as to how to go on.

Ginger is almost delusional in his desperation to find legitimate and meaningful work that provides good appearances. When he hears of an “assistant to the sales manager” position all he hears is “manager.” When told about a proofreading job, he says “so it’s like an editor then,” to which he is told “it’s sort of a sub-editor.” By the end of the conversation Coffey is convinced the “sub-editor” job is “only temporary” (which is essentially his catch-phrase for the entire film) and he proceeds to tell his wife that he’s been hired as an editor.

This is a very Montreal film in that the city does not stand in for elsewhere. It is set, and filmed over a Montreal winter, with plenty of cold and wet black-and-white exterior shots from various places around the city. On such occasions it is fun to location-check those shots; some were easy to identify, and others less so.

After the screening I took advantage of the tools of our modern times to do a bit of research, and I’ve identified some of the key locations, as indicated below.

The Coffey’s first apartment

This is on Drummond, above Sherbrooke. The old redstones are gone now, but the large apartment building is still there.

Tight view:
house on drummond

Wider view:
wider view

Google Street View:
street view

Ginger’s apartment at 1221 rue Plessis

This one was easy, as Ginger gave his address at his arraignment for indecent exposure (see the film for details on that). He said “1221 Plessis Street,” and indeed that is the address of the location used. It’s between Ste-Catherine E. and René-Lévesque.

Stairs view:
1221 Plessis

Balcony view:
21221 Plessis balcony

Google Street View:
street view

Vera Coffey’s Apartment

This is on Square Saint-Louis. Specifically, the building on the north side of Laval and Prince-Arthur. The walking route they took to arrive there makes no sense; they walked through the west side of Square Saint-Louis, in a north-east direction, then turned and crossed Ave. Laval near the intersection at rue du Square Saint-Louis (north side), then doubled-back on Laval. But that’s cinema for you.

High view of Square Saint-Louis:
square saint-louis

Crossing Laval:
square saint-louis

Google Street View:
street view

Entrance to the apartment:
entrance

Wide view:
laval and prince-arthur

Google Street View:
street view

Newspaper Presses

A few times we see Ginger step outside of his workplace at the fictional Montreal Tribune and pause for a moment against a bank of windows where you see newspaper presses chugging away. I’m pretty sure this is the old Gazette building on Saint-Antoine near Bleury.

In the first screenshot below, you see Ginger rounding a corner with a large round column barely visible except for the light reflection. The next shot is him with his back to the presses; the large column is just out-of-frame to his left. That building is now a hotel, but I recall seeing the press machines behind those windows back in the 1980s. You can see the column in Google Street View.

The column:
gazette 1

The presses:
Gazette

Google Street View:
street view

Scene of the Crime

Ginger’s fateful call of nature occurred while he was waiting for a bus in front of the Windsor Hotel. He went around the corner onto rue Cypress to find a darker and quieter spot to relieve himself. Specifically, he seems to have done the deed in the doorway of what is now 1100 rue Cypress.

Side of the Windsor Hotel:
crime scene

Google Street View:
street view

Palais de Justice

This one shouldn’t be hard, but for some reason a lot of Montrealers don’t recognize the Palais du Justice on rue Notre-Dame. Perhaps it’s because it’s set back from the street a bit so we don’t notice it, or maybe it is overshadowed by the magnificent Ernest Cormier building across the street that houses the Appeals Court but for me will always be the place where Jane Fonda had a moment in Agnes of God. But there it is, unchanged, in all its neoclassical glory.

Tight view:
palais de justice

Google Street View:
street view

You can watch The Luck of Ginger Coffey yourself on YouTube, although the highest resolution is 480p.

Jane Austen with Kittens

You’ve probably heard of this movie that mashes up Jane Austen and Zombies. Well, there’s a story unfolding around our house that feels like something out of a Jane Austen story, but it involves kittens.

If you haven’t been following the kitty situation chez nous, here’s a quick recap: In spring of 2016 a local feral cat had kittens. The mother and kittens became regular visitors to our back yard over the summer, and as the months wore on we socialized the kittens (Phoebe and Fiona) and finally brought them into the house in November. The mother is friendly but too feral to adopt. We already have a grumpy 14-year old black cat named “the Mini.”

So what happens when you bring two spry young female kittens into the house of a 14-year-old neutered male cat? You’d think nothing, owing to the gonad-free life that the Mini has been living since George W. Bush was President. But apparently not.

You see, one of the kittens — Phoebe — has been madly in love with the Mini since the beginning, before we even let them into the house. Last summer, when they were wild and living outside, Phoebe, Fiona, and their mother appeared on the deck several times a day. If the Mini was sitting in the patio doorway, Phoebe would rush up to the door and go nose-to-nose with him through the screen, purring madly. While the other two cats displayed a mixture of mild interest and utter indifference to this black furball who lived in the mysterious world on the other side of the patio door, Fiona was enthralled and would rush to see and sniff him whenever she could.

The Mini showed no interest, even by October, when the kittens started coming inside occasionally, nor in November when they moved in permanently. He would either ignore Phoebe’s eye-batting and snuggly invitations or actively swat her away. So it looked as though we’d have no real trouble with these as-yet-unspayed kittens, until Fiona — who had previously showed no interest in the Mini — went very explicitly into heat.

The G-rating quickly took a dive, as Fiona turned her eye on the Mini. And not just her eye; her modus operandi was to turn her tush on Mini’s face in a presentation so brazen and vivid that I expected the Vice Squad to burst through the door at any moment. Mini responded by biting her on the back of the neck, arching his spine, and assuming a position that would be referred to as “mounting” except that his aim is off, and despite the humping and yowling their naughty bits rarely seemed to be in the same ZIP code.

According to my research, a female cat stays in heat for a few days, then is done with it until the next time. But Fiona has apparently not consulted Wikipedia because she’s been in a state of heat — whether real or imagined — ever since, without a break. As a result, this furry tango with the Mini happens at least three times a day, sometimes at meal times, which is highly disturbing to the mood, and I find myself sitting there over dinner with cat screwing sounds drowning out the Spotify playlist, thinking “the only thing missing is the banjo kid from Deliverance.”

But where does that leave Phoebe? For the first few weeks, she would just sit there, eyes agog, as the love of her life ravaged her sister — or perhaps more correctly, ravaged the carpet while hunched over her sister. Unlike the copulations of apes, this furry yowling would go on and on, for what seemed like hours. Phoebe’s unrequited love was tragic to witness, which means, in Victorian romance tradition, it can only get worse. And it did.

Early in January, Phoebe finally caught on to this “heat” thing, and started slinking around the Mini with a whole new slutty look in her eye. Unfortunately she’s a bit of a klutz in the romance department, and she can’t quite bust the right moves. Whereas Fiona simply sticks her tush in the Mini’s face until he catches a whiff and springs into action, Phoebe prefers to slither alongside him and to roll over and purr like, well, a thing in heat. The Mini’s response is either to walk away or to growl at her and then walk away.

There is no happy ending yet; the house is a den of exploitation and sorrows. I hope this will be resolved “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” style by sexually lobotomizing the kittens under the veterinarian’s knife, after which we can go back to the usual snuggles and hisses.