Movie Night

This was a big day. I was nervous and had more than a few doubts rolling around my mind. I was in bed slightly early last night and was able to stay in bed for the duration of the eight-hour ocean sound. I didn’t think I’d need an alarm but I set one anyway. It went off, I turned it off and rolled back over. No point in planning with a margin if you don’t intend to use a little bit of it.

A few minutes later I started the day, showered, dressed, and came downstairs. Laptop already packed away, I brewed my tea, ate breakfast, and browsed my phone to pass the bit of spare time I had before I needed to leave. I wanted to be early enough to visit the student navigators before my first class, yet not so early to have wasted time before the class either. The timing ended up being almost perfect. I waited for a few minutes for the next available navigator (mine seems to be out of the office this week,) and he led me up to his office.

Our meeting went quickly, as he only needed to double-check there was availability in the class and have me fill out a quick form. With that complete, he offered to walk me to class as I would be coming in just a few minutes late. The campus isn’t very large, yet it’s more than enough to work me out walking from one side to the other. Across to the JM building and up to the second floor he opened the door into a large lecture hall and bid me well.

At that moment, well, at that moment I saw exactly what I knew would be in front of me on this path. A room full of people who weren’t alive the first time I signed up to go to college. Trying not to pause at that moment, rather looking only briefly at the entire room to capture for later retrieval- now. The hall could have held three times the number of students, yet they still filled the room evenly. I quickly scanned for the most accessible seat, straight up the large tiered levels of the room several rows to an open seat on the end.

One row of students ahead of me didn’t even look old enough to be in college- later in the class, I found out that the whole group were still High Schoolers in Addison- each dual enrolled. This first class, Humanities will be pretty easy I think, actually, from my impressions today, I think all the classes will be pretty easy. Today the teachers all went through their opening spiels- explaining their grading scales, major assignments, and assorted procedures for operating in their classrooms.

For the most part, I really right now, after one day back in college, think this is going to be easy. The hardest part, the do or do not, I have now done- I showed up. Now, I have to keep doing that the rest of this week (three more classes, plus two ‘independent’ sessions in the weight room,) and for the next fourteen weeks.

Twenty years ago… wait, no that was twenty-two years ago when I took ENG-131, the first college-level writing composition class that is required for any degree, I remember thinking how hard that class was- all the writing. Every week, more writing, more reading, more writing. By the end of the course, we created a portfolio of all our work: five essays. Maybe three thousand words in total.

Three thousand words? Ha, I’ve written much in a single night before. As a person who never liked English or literature in school before, I am somewhat surprised by how much I am so far liking the two English classes this semester, 132 Writing Experience and 210 Intro to Film.

(At this point, I’m skipping comment on the government class- it also went well, and I can tell this teacher and the class, will be more regimented. I am very curious about the concept of “colleges pushing liberalism”, as I don’t know if there is any truth in it. Yet, if there is, here is a class where it could be exposed. That being the case, I want to do my best to remain neutral, which, for some reason is telling me I should comment less on this class for now, until I figure out what dynamics may be, and what dynamics are.)

I have the same teacher for both English classes, Mike. He seems like a pretty cool teacher to me so far; I also feel that he wants to appear that way as well. A Master in his field, his passion was easy to see as he pared away his orientation material from things that were important in his slides, contrasted with items that just needed to be in there for some other reason. Such as the textbook. For both of his classes, there is a textbook listed (and he said he’ll even add links to it from online courseware,) yet there will be no assignments.

No assigned reading, no assignments from the books whatsoever. I like that. He was direct that he intended to teach us everything we needed to know to pass his class. I feel confident that he was correct. Firstly, as he mentioned the first key- a simple observation that most people who show up to his class all semester long, pass the class. With each class, there are only three assignments. Three, for the whole semester. The entire workload for ENG-132: 3500 words.

As I write this now, I am really glad that my navigator last week suggested this class- I never would have thought to look at it myself. In one way, it completely seems like a ‘fluff’ class. Once a week movie night- listen to an hour lecture about movies, themes, and directors (and Mike, Mike has a lot of content and context-sensitive commentary for nearly any movie mentioned in class today,) then watch a movie (on the big screen at the Michigan Theater,) then spend another hour or so after the movie discussing it with the class.

Another way to think though, and what I hope to learn in the class- is my observations of over two dozen competing opinions about the same movies I’ll be critiquing myself. For exposure to the “aesthetic”, is one of the course objectives (GEOs,) and tonight that was achieved. Never before have I watched a silent movie. Yes, I have been aware that they existed for the majority of my life, yet where would you even find one? That’s never come up in my Netflix recommendations.

Today though, we watched The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a silent film as an example of “German Expressionism”. An interesting experience, over the hour-long film, as I acclimated to the media. Lacking words, there was much more emphasis on body language, facial expressions, and of course the musical score. With all the “effort” going into telling a story without words, it slows down the pace of the story. At the beginning of the film, I found it tedious, it took effort to look at all the cues to ‘figure out’ what was going on.

Watching a movie is generally a very laid-back activity: sit, watch, listen. That’s it- they tell you the story without much effort on your own part at all. Not so much with a silent film, which adds a new element to the phrase “paying attention”. Pulling from the scenery, the caricatured expressions, and the sparse text displayed in between moving scenes trying to make the story “come together” is work. Yet, by the end of the hour, I found myself sitting up straighter, focusing more on the film and I felt that I was “watching” it more as it had been intended- the viewer was meant to assemble in their own mind the story that was previously in the director’s mind.

Or maybe, maybe the director was just trying to make a movie and make himself a couple of bucks in war-starved Germany in the 1920’s. I also asked that question- Was the commercialization of the film a likely reason for its depth of creativity in the elements we were discussing (Mike had said this was one of the first uses of “plot twist” in a movie.) Yet, my question seemed to offend him. I wonder if my question hinted at a devaluing of the “arts” as only commercial productions as if it were lacking its own intrinsic purpose.

Is the expression of art more important than the sale of said art? Had to ask, says the author who gives away his book’s content for free.

Time to rest.

Okay, I could stop there, yet it’s only 11:19, and a few more things I don’t want to forget. A lot of people held doors for me today, that was nice- and not in a way that made me feel uncomfortable at all either. Just some natural kindness- a “community” feel, even among a sea of a thousand strange faces. With some gaps between classes, I had time to find the lunch room. I watched the line for a while, hoping to get a sense of where to order, and where to pay before I went to get into the mix of students already in the area.

Once I’d figured it out, I placed my order and waited as it was made, I filled my drink cup and then tried to use both hands (hold my cane up under my arm,) as I went to the register.  Showing the clerk what I had, I went to set it on a nearby table so I could return and use my hand to pull out my wallet- then just a bit confusing for a moment, my money was rejected. Another student had bought my lunch. I had to clarify, as I wasn’t sure if the issue was that I only had a credit card and not a student ‘meal card’; then the clerk spoke clearly to me, that she did accept credit cards, and that someone had already purchased me meal, as she pointed to the woman.

My hands now empty, I went to retrieve silverware and some napkins, which happened to be where she was as well. Getting the silver that I needed, I caught her eye and thanked her (I really didn’t know what else to say for such an unexpected gift,) and she just looked at me and smiled brightly without saying anything. At this point, hoping I wasn’t appearing as a charity case of any kind and trying to set up the opportunity to return the favor, I added: I really appreciate that, my name is Jeromy.

She smiled again and said in slow, almost broken English “My name is” and followed it with a beautiful name that likely had more vowels than beautiful. I repeated the sound that I heard and she smiled at my effort, then repeated her name. I tried again and spoke the sound still not knowing what letters I was pronouncing. “Yes”, she said after that and then added, “I am an exchange student from Africa.” Finishing her sentence she smiled again, turned, and disappeared into the room full of strangers. I remember her face and her smile, and the next time I see her, I’ll have to ask for her name one more time.

Two conversations with students that quickly asked what classes I teach… One conversation with another student after a shared class together that “just had to ask”, “if I didn’t mind” (and I was smiling already to let her know I don’t mind many questions,) how old I was. I was really thinking she was going to ask about my limp, or maybe if I’d stuttered in class, idk. Nope, how old I am was the more relevant question. 45. “Wow”, she said. Wow? How old are you? I asked. 18 next month she said, living on campus.

Final note for the day, Champagne Supernova was released before every student (except myself,) was born in my Humanities class. This came up in the icebreaker exercise and as a preview for our assignment Wednesday we would listen to a song in class today. Asked for a volunteer to give up their “favorite song” (this was the first song name that popped into my head,) I was happy to give mine. The teacher, a woman about my age, smiled and thanked me for my submission and agreed she liked the song too as she subliminally nodded to some old memory.

I don’t think she or I realized how much the song says “while we were getting high”. With a bit of discussion of the song afterward, the class seemed to identify the music as psychedelic 90’s grunge music. Which is fine, it is. However, “psychedelic 90’s grunge music” shouldn’t be said with the same tone as “Golden oldies” or “easy rock”. It wasn’t old when I was young.

Okay, now that’s enough, 11:52.

Time to rest.

Leave a Reply