Getting More Smarter

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When I graduated from Brigham Young University in 1999, I swore I would never go back to school again, and not just because the university president had personally requested that I hurry up and get out. It’s because I saw no reason to. I had a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and there was no practical purpose in getting a master’s. (Believe me, it wouldn’t have helped.)

So it is with some surprise that I announce that as of two weeks ago, I am once again a college student, this time at Portland State University.

I know what you’re thinking: Portland is not a state. But don’t tell Portland that! Portland got really baked one night, decided it was a state, and started a college. Its friends Eugene and Salem were wasted too, and they thought it was pretty funny. Seattle thinks they’re all morons and is always rolling its jittery, caffeinated eyes at them.

But my point is, I’m a student again! I’m an undergraduate again, too, as PSU doesn’t have a master’s program in film studies, which is what I want to do this time around. I figure if I have a bachelor’s in journalism, followed by a minor in film studies, reviewing movies will be the only job I’m qualified for, and people will stop asking me why I do it. Also, when people e-mail me questions like, “How culd you hate Rob Zombie movies????? What r ur creedentials 2 B a movie critic anyway??????,” I’ll be able to respond with: “This diploma right here, jackface.”

When I first made the decision to go to PSU, my first thought, naturally, was: How can I do this for free? I looked into Pell Grants, and discovered that you are not eligible for them if you already have a bachelor’s degree and are just trying to get a second one. I guess the government wants to help you get an education … but not TOO MUCH of an education. If we got too smart, we might rise up against them, and then whose fault would that be? Their own damn.

I’m only going part-time for now, so I can establish Oregon residency and pay cheaper tuition. (Evidently it is harder to educate an out-of-stater than a native Oregonian, because they charge a dickens of a lot more for it.) I have two classes, both about film history, one of them focusing specifically on the 1970s, and I’m very excited about the course material. So it’s strange how I’ve had to suppress my natural instinct, which is to find ways of doing no work whatsoever.

You have to understand, the happiest day of my academic life at BYU was the day I realized that since I wasn’t going to grad school, it didn’t matter what grades I got (as long as they were above failing). Here The Man had been telling me to strive for A’s and B’s, when in fact there was no reason to. OK, maybe “to learn” or “to become more educated,” but those things did not interest me at that point, at least not in regards to most of my classes. I knew what I was going to do career-wise, and in fact I was already doing it. (Yes, joker, I refer to delivering pizza.)

So after my epiphany, the first thing I’d do when I got the syllabi for my courses at the start of each semester was to go through and calculate which assignments I could simply NOT DO and still get passing grades in the classes. This often required intricate math, which was unfortunate, since one of the classes I had applied this principle to was my math class. Still, I managed. I would do the minimum work, score a D-, and get one step closer to graduation. Anytime I’d get a D, I’d curse myself, as it meant I had done more work than necessary. (“If only I’d studied for five less minutes and missed one more question on that final…!”)

These are hard habits to break, as I have recently learned. I sat there during the first session of my “Hollywood of the 1970s” class and listened to the professor explain that we would watch 17 movies over the course of the term and write a paper at the end. And I thought: Oh, yeah?! We’ll see about that! Then I thought: Wait, what’s the matter with me? I LIKE watching movies, and I like writing about them. But because The Man was dictating it, I automatically wanted to weasel out of it.

It’s weird having to watch movies for homework anyway. I write it on my to-do list: go to the bank; do some laundry; watch “Apocalypse Now”; mail my rent check. It gets hectic, watching all these movies. I have to watch “Shaft” by Tuesday! And later in the term, I have to watch “Star Wars”!

I kid, but looking at it purely in terms of the time commitment, a lot of these movies are 2 1/2 hours long, and I guarantee you, I never spent 2 1/2 hours on homework when I was in school before, not even when I was still trying to get good grades. I should have taken the Hollywood of the 1950s class, because movies were shorter then. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Because I’ve already seen “Star Wars” plenty of times, I probably won’t actually watch it again when it’s assigned. That will be my one concession to my old ways. Take that, The Man!

Originally I had "Hilary Duff movies" in the imaginary e-mail from a semi-literate reader. But then, as luck would have it, the message board on my site was overrun by Rob Zombie fans this week, there to defend their beloved "Devil's Rejects" against the negative review I had given it. So I changed the reference to Rob Zombie.

Once a long time ago my friend Smacky and I were talking about someone we knew, and how he was alienating all his friends. I said, "He's going to wind up alone, and whose fault will that be?" And Smacky replied, "His own damn!" And I thought it was awesome.

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