January 2008 Archives

Tue Jan 8 02:56:16 CST 2008

Hal Hartley & College

I like Hal Hartley's films; some are just OK, but a few are brilliant.

I just watched Surviving Desire, and i liked it. I'm not really sure why. It's about an hour long, the two main actors are good, it's funny, poignant, and strange. The plot is almost irrelevant, in a way.

Hartley's dialogue (he writes and directs) and Kevin Smith's remind me of each other. Sometimes, the dialogue is sort of disjointed. It's like each character is saying really, profound or meaningful things, but not really listening to the other. For several minutes, the characters will go back and forth with deep, insightful, revealing, or funny statements -- back-to-back, and too quickly for me to really take in. It then seems unreal, because the characters never seem to take the time to appreciate the full significance of what are saying or especially, hearing.

Or that's sort of what i have often thought at least. After watching Surviving Desire, i am reminded of a conversation i had earlier today with a coworker. I was fixing a printer.

Earlier today, i was trying to make this tree killer behave. It's in the accountants' office. There are two accountants, one was gone. As i powered off and on the printer and tried to coax or (and) beat on dnsmasq and the printer until the printer would obtain the correct IP address, i tried to make small talk, because i was sitting 3 feet away from someone i didn't know at all. I don't think we were ever even introduced, but i am not sure... the first morning at the new job was fairly busy, and that was when i was introduced to everyone. And it was early. Like 9am. I just don't think very well before Noon.

Anyway, I probably should have introduced myself today, but i can't remember if we were introduced or not and so that's a difficult issue. If i do introduce myself, and we have been introduced, then i look like an uncaring fool. If i don't introduce myself, i continue to struggle along in an awkward state, wondering if i am being rude for not introducing myself, or not.

So instead of resolving this, i elected to make small talk. And after watch the Hartley movie, i am reminded of the discussion:

"Does this printer work well?"

"No, it often doesn't work. We have to turn it off and on to make it work."

"I see..." (pause) "I hate printers."


"So are you and Kurt" (the officemate not there) "both accountants?"

"Yes." (pause) "I don't really like accounting. If i knew it was going to be such a boring job, i would have majored in something else in college"

(laughs) "Yeah, my Uncle is also an accountant. He has to work long hours, and it seems pretty boring."

"Yes, it is very boring and it is very long hours."

"Where did you go to school?"

"Linfield. Have you ever heard of it?"


"It's a small college in Oregon. A small college in a small town in the middle of nowhere."

"Oh. I went to UT."

"UT's a good school."

"Hmm.. well, i didn't like it much."


"Well, it was sort of like McDonald's when i was there."


"There were over 54,000 thousand people when i was started in 1986. It was too full."

"Oh. It's a good school."

"I think i would have been happier some where smaller. I half finished an application for Reed." (Reed is a small, Liberal arts college in Oregon.) "I probably would have been happier at Reed."


"Yes. I was an English major."

"Oh. UT is a good school."

Now what's funny is i really don't think UT is a good school, but accountant lady does, and i'm not going to start listing all of the things that i think are really horrible about UT. So i just direct all my attention to the printer, and i don't tell her my funny story about how big and uncaring UT Austin was when i was there:

When i was at UT Austin in 1986, i was a pretty bad student. I skipped classes, stayed up late skateboarding, slept until the afternoon, and (needless to say) got bad grades. At my best, my GPA was around 2.1. But i was not often at my best.

At a certain point, i realized that the elderly ladies who collected my bubbled-in registration form (this was before computer or even phone registration) in the lobby of the FAC were really the only "check" that UT had in place for the classes i selected (except for the codified prerequisites the computer would apply). Oh, yes, i did have an advisor, but she or he (it changed) really didn't know if i even existed or cared whether or not they advised me each semester. I could have been a student, or shooting up heroin and doing nothing but attending Butthole Surfer's concerts at Liberty Lunch. Either way, my advisors would not care or even know. So the matter of me choosing classes which would fulfill the requirements for a Bachelors of Education was really entirely up to me.

At a certain point, when talking with advisor du semester, i was forced to change majors (from Ed. to something else) because the Texas legislature decided (whilei was in the program) that henceforth teachers in Texas would get a BS or BA in some area of specialization, and then become certified to teach, by an additional Masters-like second degree. Of course there was no increase in salary for teachers, and so you can imagine how much this helped. I think fewer college students chose to become teachers, because if you were going to spend 6+ years in school, and then suffer dealing with teenagers (or worse, pre-teens) all day, students would expect more than $30K starting per year.

Anyway, i got pitched out of the program because i didn't start the 3rd and 4th year of Ed curriculum quickly enough, and had to become a Liberal Arts (English) major.

At this point, i became disillusioned and ceased going to "my" advisor, who was essentially the enforcer of these directives.

But there was this empty line on my bubble-in form, where the Advisor's signature was supposed to be, and the elderly ladies at FAC would not accept the form unless it was signed. And so i rebelled, and, in my most careful, legible cursive, i signed the name "Charles Manson" to the form where it said "Advisor signature." And the elderly ladies in the lobby of FAC took that form, without question, challenge, comment, or probably even recognition, semester after semester.

after a few years, for the sake of variety, i would switch to other names like, "Richard Nixon" or "Genghis Khan." And so forth. But never any recognition from the elderly gatekeeper. The irony was that i always took the classes i needed to take to meet my new degree requirements. So it was an entirely meaningless act of disobedience, other than to flaunt the fact that the bureaucracy was too big to care that i was disobeying.

And this is one of the most important things i can remember learning in college.

Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: randomweirdness