Friday, April 07, 2006

You have a happiness level of: 92%

Two months until my birthday - I'm a real bloody mess right now. Finals are approaching and exam papers are just piling up. I feel overwhelmed by the workload, yet underwhelmed by the content. I haven't done my laundry in over a month, I've only just washed my dishes in nearly three weeks, and I've been ordering take-out every other night. There's a hefty bag sitting in the middle of my room full of old clothes I had planned to donate to the Salvation Army (as the usual case may be), but I can't scrounge up the cash to take the taxi ride there. My mom put another bundle of green stuff in my back-up account, encouraging me to use it to feed myself. "You stay home," she told me. "Call delivery." But ma! I protested. If I tip the driver, I won't have any change left [to do the laundry I've been avoiding since the beginning of March].

'Tis a sad existence, indeed. Yet it's somehow counterbalanced by the amount of pedagogical praise I've been receiving lately. For example, I was told it was a "privilege" to have gotten to know my work this semester by one. And I was completely floored when my kindly old professor spoke to me as if I were a peer today, betraying the formalities that came with being a pupil. He calls me "Shanghai Lily" (a nod to Marlene Dietrich's character in Shanghai Express). We discussed Hitchcock's movies at length and, emboldened, he said, "You've got [talent]. You've got the goods," and proceeded to give me personal writing advice. He confessed that a majority of his film students in both the undergraduate and graduate programs are still struggling for air, confined to analyzing the quality of acting instead of the symbolism of the art, incapable of seeing beyond the factors as they are on celluloid. He implored me to take his class next semester. "You're articulate, you're funny," he continued. "You have energy and personality!" I belong in front of the camera as well as behind it, he said. I blushed as I took in all the compliments; the encouragement I was receiving from him was - and I realize this is a loaded word - empowering. Here was this veteran of cinema, Ingmar Bergman biographer, Cannes regular, university founder, and intellectual extroardinaire telling me I've got "the goods". It was a very humbling moment. Like the Freudian system inherent in Hitchcock's films, I felt like the man who never wanted to disappoint his mother. In that instant, my mind raced back to my high school English teacher because it was under his tutelage that helped steer me towards my natural fortes. I can't help but enjoy what I'm doing because of him.

It was then that I understood Tom Hanks's acceptance speech during the 1994 Oscars where he thanked his drama teacher. It is a shame there are so few good teachers who have that sort of impact - I was tremendously lucky to have snagged one. Who knows where I would've ended up if I hadn't been poked and prodded to take on a challenge? Journalism makes me happy. Communication studies, too. And now that I'm also in film, it's like winning the lottery three times over. (You have my permission to start vomiting.)

***

Sexy Spinster and Math Judas spoke to me about their frustrations over the academic climate (or lack of) that exists in their university. We all thought it would be a plethora of mental stimulation when we graduated together two years ago. We thought we'd be in contant contact with like-minded people and begin a phase in our lives unparallelled in subjective breadth and depth. How wrong we were. The BA is the new high school diploma of yesteryear. Accessible and dumbed-down, the university environment takes on the demeanor of a spoiled child. Dull conversation punctuates class discussions, stupid commentaries overlap each other, it is not intelligence that makes one boring, but a limited amount of things to say. Sexy Spinster recounted how a friend of her's has a habit of explaining that she just has a "weird sense of humour" whenever a punchline goes over her head. Isn't that just a euphemism for "cultural ignorance"? I mean, she laughs once it's explained to her, but whatever genre of joke-telling you're prone to laugh at, most people still realize when something is supposed to be a joke. It is curious then to see this kind of defense mechanism at work: self-bravado in reaction to incomprehension. The irony is not lost on me. Why don't people take their learning seriously? You don't have to fly all the way to Europe to "discover yourself" when there's a host of mind-expanding resources here. (And I've been to Europe. Most people forget that when they go, they're also bringing along their neurotic, egocentric, picky selves. The difference is, everyone appears less forgiving when your flaws are forced on display and you can't pussyfoot your way out of anything.) In certain parts of the world, the age of consent - which I deem early domestication - is as young as 12. Yet we, in the West, have access to education, but our institutions are full of adults cavalier about their minds. I'm sounding so conservative right now, but what's the point of the government lending students a hand when they don't help themselves? How do they expect pity when they act like the blander siblings of Van Wilder? If you talk like you're stupid, you might as well be stupid somewhere else. Says Cary Tennis: "[E]ducation is worth what it is worth regardless of what you do afterwards."

***

After seven months, my cable has been disconnected. It's like one minute it was there and snow the next. I had just figured out the programming schedule to TLC and the Discovery Channel too. No more home decorating tips and motorcycle adventures. Say hello to feline adoption.

I lived without TV for an entire year at my old apartment, so I know I can survive. But this also means I have to start detoxing my Grey's Anatomy addiction. Or download it off the 'net (which is probably the more mature and realistic thing to do). I refuse to give up my one and only vice! Georgie Porgy is her McDreamy! I CANNOT NOT TUNE IN! It is as necessary as economic stability, welfare spending, and Jennifer Beals pretending to be a welder to inspire other Flashdance hobbyists to do the same. I cannot not watch Grey's Anatomy, damnit! Don't you understand?! It keeps me home on Sunday evenings, the pleasure principle in action. Fazing it out of my life is simply not an option: it gives me something to look forward to. (Which is more than I can say about M. Biologique who's back to playing hackey sack across the street from my building. Ha! I ignore his gaze like a blind man in traffic. Hippie ain't going to get any habiscus goo on me no mo'.)

***

Movies watched so far this week: The Bicycle Thief (Ladri di biciclette, 1948), Frenzy (1972), and Whispering Corridors (Yeogo goedam, 1998).

Movies planning on watching this week: Keane (2004) and Sidekick (2005)

No comments: