Jewish World Review May 14, 2003 / 12 Iyar, 5763

Barry Lank

Barry Lank
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Consumer Reports

Waste more time online; take a pop quiz | I'm all grown up and so are my friends, and we never have to go to school again. So we have all this free time for doing something we love: Taking tests.

Go online and they're everywhere. Could you pass eighth-grade math or win a national spelling bee? How well do you know your body? Find out all that on MSN's Web site, along with tests that not only tell you what you know, but what you are. Are you superstitious? Are you CEO material?

Most of the tests seem to have no methodology behind them for actually charting your talents and character. They're written by hack journalists at me, ones who are employed by MSN. They can tell you if you're a Harry Potter wizard but can't tell you if they'll still have a job after their company restructures next month. Proof? I took "Are you CEO material?" and aced it. Aced it! I didn't miss a single question - though in fact I'd be the kind of CEO who would keep turning up drunk with the kitchen staff.

But who cares? How much more do we get from apparently valid tests? For example, IQ tests. You can take those everywhere, too. At, it costs you nothing to answer 38 questions. But after you've done all that work, only then do you find out it costs $9.95 to see the results. Who's the genius now?

So chuck all serious pretense and go straight to Quizilla. This is basically a Web club in which people write tests for each other. Based out of Farmington, Utah, it has some 90,000 quizzes listed in its database - everything from "What aspect of Orlando Bloom are you?" to "Which random person in my life are you?" (I've taken that second one about nine times, and I keep ending up as someone named Jade.)

Sure, MSN can measure if you can spell. But Quizilla will tell you what Ivy League School you should go to, which "dysfunctional Care Bear" you are, what your deepest secret is and which swear word you are. I, for example, am best suited for the University of Pennsylvania and am "nihilist bear." My deepest secret is that I "beat up old ladies for pills." And of course, I can't tell you what my swear word is. But it seems to be the right one.

All the tests are jokes, of course. Still, I obsess on my results.

For example, in "Which country of the world are you," I'm Switzerland. According to the unknown, presumably unqualified person who wrote the quiz, this means I'm neutral, judicial, make excellent watches and am the target of ridicule. Amazing! It's absolutely correct - except the parts about the neutrality, the judiciousness and the watches.

But it got me to thinking: Am I too indifferent? Do I avoid conflict too pathologically? Have I cleaned my hands of life and failed to absorb its earthy essence? Do I host too many illegal bank accounts?

Then I retook the test, gave equally honest answers and came up as South Africa. Apparently, I am very hot and am under constant scrutiny.

I have a theory why these tests are so appealing. Up through high school and, for some people, college, we're measured, poked and prodded. It's annoying, but at least we're told who and what we are (if we care to believe it) and think our academic knowledge will be useful eventually - for some weird alley fight someday in which somehow it'll help us to know trigonometry.

That certainty disappears when school ends. Your jobs have nothing to do with who you are, and most of your precious knowledge flutters uselessly on a fence post. For example, I know that "Metamorphosis" author Franz Kafka's favorite book about America was the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. But what is that to you? No one cares.

Except at Fun Trivia, where I took the quiz about Franz Kafka and got 13 out of 15 questions right. Life may otherwise baffle me. But in an obscure pocket of the Internet that doesn't matter to anyone else, I am somebody.

JWR contributor Barry Lank is an editorial writer and humor columnist based at the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, NJ. Comment by clicking here.

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09/19/02: Workers of the world ... rest?

© 2002, Barry Lank