Archive for the ‘College’ Category

On Photography

February 25, 2008

If you were, say, an evil mastermind, and wanted to develop a course of study to cause people to become bitter, shriveled husks of their former selves, you very well may develop photography. Let me explain why.

First, you spend hours of almost every day in a nearly pitch black (for developing paper) or absolutely pitch black (for developing film) room. Take away the photo work and close the door, and you’ve created a pretty nasty solitary confinement cell. Some scientists think it is bad for people not to get a certain amount of sun, so what a dark room’s safe lights do to you is beyond me.

Add to this the way the system causes you to wish your life away in 2, 3, 5, 8 minutes increments (because, truly, not even the Buddha himself could find peace or fulfillment in agitating a tray of developing solution for 2 minutes) and you’ve found a way to teach your students how not to appreciate the moment.

Finally, for good measure, throw in a little anti-Pavlovian torture to make it really stick. Pavlov, as you may already know, trained dogs to associate an external stimulus (a bell) with food, to the point that ringing the bell would cause them to drool. However, the opposite can be done; randomly administer shocks to an animal, and they will, in their confusion, sink into a deep depression. Photo is similar; each teacher has a long list of very specific procedures, which would be ok, except that every teacher’s list is different, and many are contradictory.

Ironically, though, I’m not writing this because I am frustrated with photography. Actually, I’m really excited about the next project, and I still get a lot of joy out of it. I was just wondering lately why it is that all the senior photo majors seem to be bitter, withered husks of their former selves. So I guess now I know. Oh well.

This Too Shall Pass

February 3, 2008


What can I say, it’s been one of those days. And after I was just happily talking about the future of my happiness blog! It turns out, pinhole cameras are miserable to work with, especially if you start to worry you are messing it all up (and actually messing up some of it, forcing yourself to redo it). I sent a text to a friend describing myself as “sweaty, tired, pissy!”

It doesn’t help when half the world is holding hands (I imagine, saying “ha ha, look what we have that you don’t!”) and yet your roommate’s life is telling you that it doesn’t last.

Which brings us to the title. I was walking back from the art building grumbling to myself when I remembered that phrase and the story behind it (it makes the happy people sad, and the sad people happy). I said it aloud, thought of myself happier and everyone else sad, and I laughed out loud.

I can’t control being sweaty or tired, but I can not be pissy. It’s really not worth it.

Also, I knew walking back I had to watch this. Cheered me up. ^^ Later everyone.

On College Celebrities

January 28, 2008

It’s strange, I’m pretty good with faces but not nearly as good with actually meeting people. The end result of this is that I know of a lot of people on campus without actually knowing them. People who are outspoken in class, did something funny, or are just distinctive.

This doesn’t, outright, seem like a really terrible thing. A skill with faces can come in useful. However, the longer I am in school, the more people I recognize.

The end result? I’ve been walking around this semester constantly seeing people who are familiar, but who I can’t name. It’s a really eerie feeling, something (I imagine) like amnesia.

Not really a point here, just randomness. And an apology to all of these college celebrities who I know from afar, in case you ever see me giving you a “Do I know you?” look.

Perhaps I’ll Take The Job Revisit

January 25, 2008

A revisit, so soon? I know! It’s precedent setting. My father sent me an… energetically worded e-mail following my last post about college life. I asked him if I could add it up here (I’m all about discussion!) so here it is:

Just to point out a couple of things

If you quit college and get a job you won’t be building savings because you will be making $10.00 an hour and savings building is not done with that salary. You also wouldn’t be going out to dinner or a movie on $10.00 per hour.

If you have a family, you will be working 3 jobs to support them, so your schedule will be really easy: WORK all day.

Finish school, do a good job, and become a professor or what ever else you want and then you will have time and money to do all those things.

Almost nothing (actually, really nothing) in life is free; you need to put in the time (even if it is doing things that don’t make you real happy right now) to be able to get the things in your life the way you want them.

I know it seems impossible right now, but why do you think almost everyone says that their years in school were the best? Because the demands on your time and efforts and schedule only get worse later on

Your quote:

College has it’s set time period – courses are from then to then – but it also leaks into the rest of your life. Readings, homework assignments, movies to watch, photos to take, and always on extremely short notice. No one would put up with this from a job, yet it’s standard in college.

You must be taking drugs or having a breakdown (Ed.- Thanks, Pop), because every job I have ever taken or hired someone for had in its job description “and other duties as assigned” and just so you know that is because 50% of what everyone does in their job is last minute, not planned, and outside of their typical jobs duties. In that way college is the perfect training for a real job.

Well, I disagree in a few points. I think it’s worthwhile to mention that he has some bias that comes from being self employed; the rewards are greater but so are the demands on time. Whenever the business needs him, it needs him. Which could be the sort of work I want to do, it’s true. However, a more normal 9-5, as the name implies, generally falls between the hours of 9 and 5. True, your duties may change. You also may be asked to pull overtime, but you are offered extra pay, whereas in college, credits are credits.

That being said, I clearly must agree that this college thing is worth it, because I’m still here. And will be, for a while! 

Perhaps I’ll Take The Job

January 25, 2008

I’ve been thinking lately that I might be happier with a full time job then I am at college. Don’t get me wrong, there are things I like a lot about college. Good friends, a good environment (even if it’s a cramped room), and generally the joys of learning. But I’ve been dreading going back after this break and I finally figured out why.

College makes it impossible to have a reliable schedule. I’ve held a summer job, and it wasn’t fun, but it fit into a very specific time period, and I could plan around it. College has it’s set time period – course are from then to then – but it also leaks into the rest of your life. Readings, homework assignments, movies to watch, photos to take, and always on extremely short notice. No one would put up with this from job, yet it’s standard in college. I was often told in high-school that learning was my job; in college, you better accept that it is your life or you will be routinely disappointed.

With a job, I could at least plan around it. Even if it’s not the best job ever, it will happen during set hours. There’s a cash reward, which increases if it the job goes outside it’s time frame. I can safely say, “After I work I can tend the garden for an hour, then cook dinner with my family and go to a movie tonight.” I’d be building savings, which I am guaranteed will have value in the future, instead of education, which can be pretty hit or miss in today’s America.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dropping out. Not even near it. I just wish college were a bit more like a job and not like a lifestyle.

On Work Ethic

January 23, 2008

Over break, I didn’t post much here, and the reason is pretty simple. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t even think about a whole lot. So I had nothing to write about.

Today I have been in my studio art classes. For some reason, being in the art building, hearing about the projects I have to look forward to, I am getting really excited. Unfortunately, I’m not so much excited about those projects, as I am about projects in general. Maybe it’s being in the art building surrounded by all the tools of the trade, or having an audience of sorts, but my mind is buzzing with ideas for art projects… that I have no time to do.

So what is wrong with me? When I have time, I don’t do anything, and when I don’t have time, I moan and groan over my lack of time. It’s a pain in the butt.

I could offer up a bunch of excuses, but really it’s just a personal fault. It inclines me to believe that I am studying towards a degree I will not use, because I only seem to be motivated by the goals assigned to me. Sorry this post is a little whiny, but it’s difficult when you realize something bad you suspected of yourself holds true.

On Oppression Revisit

January 6, 2008

Quite a while ago, I wrote about racial oppression and the way that two different groups of people handled it. I came across that old post today, and it got me thinking; why was it that by embracing stereotypes we were able to take away their power? It seems like an important question, because removing the power of stereotypes is an important step in creating a society with real equality.

To illustrate my answer, I’ll use myself. I’m very straight, but by no means a real manly man. I hunt, like camping and the outdoors, but I’m a little geeky, shy, and I don’t think much of trying things like cooking and knitting. In Moi’s suite, I spent a lot of time with friends of hers who were gay, and as we got to be friends joking around about me being gay (or turning gay, or having casual gay sex, etc.) became common. I’m not saying that being gay is quite the same as being another stereotype, but I wasn’t any more then a certain free spirit was a “dirty Mexican.” Nor am I going to claim that I am “just that secure in my sexuality.” (What does that mean, anyway? I’ve said it once before and felt… deceitful. But I digress.)

I think the reason this never bothered me was exactly because of the experience I described in the original post: by laughing about the stereotypes, we identify them as distinct from ourselves. I could adopt the persona of my gay self, and it was obvious to everyone I was only kidding around, but when I dropped it, it was gone. I could go to bed at night with Moi knowing I had nothing to prove.

Maybe this all seems like more work then people think is fair, but I don’t think anything could be more difficult then being politically correct all the time. I suppose what we were doing was something like saying, “If I were really ______ (in my case, flamboyantly gay), I would look like this ______ (fabulous!). But I look like me. See the difference?”

The real advantage here was that it was never that painful or obvious. Can you imagine sensitivity training where people have to role play that conversation? (Okay, I can, actually, and let me say this: ouch.) We played that game a lot, but the rules were unspoken, and the result was that it never felt like politically correct race relations, otherwise known as work. It was just funny as hell, and when everyone gets to play, no one feels excluded, no one feels unwelcome.

A Sad Sad Day

December 11, 2007

On the one hand, I’m happy. Why? Textbook buyback, of course! One of the most wonderful times of the year. I’m $35 richer! So why am I so sad?

Because my stupid, pain-in-the-ass, conspiracy theory laden, poorly researched peace of crap Sociology text is worth one hundred times as much as Plato’s Republic. My only consolation is the desperate dream that this is because such a high number of people burn the sociology book, making them scarce.

Alas, I fear this is not so. I fear for humanity.

Art And Sharing

November 13, 2007

This isn’t the post promised – Sorry, that lovely piece of bottled hate will have to wait till I crest the current hill of homework. Such is the life of a college student.

Instead, I’d like to touch on something I’ve noticed today, without attempting to draw any greater generalizations or deep meaning.

My art program is an incredible place to be. The real selling point, though, is the people, and nothing shows them off better then when it comes to sharing.

Repeatedly, I’ve seen that people are incredibly willing to part with their work if it means giving it to a classmate they know will appreciate it. I’ve given away work a few times. Today, in fact, I gave a piece (there were 147 identical pieces) to almost everyone. Someone even paid me, unrequested, for it (which actually made me feel bad, I owe him a favor).

I also have a few people’s work. Megan’s rain photo. Ellis’s paper hand. I’m sure I’ll add to it before the end of my time her.

Why do people feel so willing to give things away?  I’m not sure. Part of it, I’m sure, is that we don’t invest much more then time in most projects. Also, because we know it will go to better use with them then with us. More then anything, though, it’s because we’re a small group and we all feel a responsibility for making the art school the sort of place we want to be.

Or maybe it’s just working the odds, so that if any one of us makes it big, the rest have priceless relics to sell.  Worth a shot, right?

Collected Thoughts on Philosophy

November 4, 2007

I wanted to jot down a few ideas that came up in my last aesthetics class for future reference. Hopefully you’ll find them interesting.

The first is something from Kant, who was trying to deduce what could objectively make art aesthetically pleasing when beauty seems to be so subjective. He gave this as a possible solution (borrowed not from Kant but from the editor’s commentary – see below):

Kant’s model of the experience that leads me to judge an object beautiful is (roughly) that I experience that same kind of unity as occurs in objective judgments, but without any determinant concept or judgment issuing from it. So I feel simply a kind of purposiveness or rightness in the experience itself, and to feel this is fulfilling, without any determinant objective judgment having to be made.

Janaway, Reading Aesthetics and
Philosophy of Art

Just before this he had laid out his theory that human thinking opperated by imagination (perception) supplying sensory information to the understanding, where it was pieced into a coherent picture of the world that makes sense. In short, he’s saying that something about good art leads it to just make sense without any thinking necessary. It feels right.

I think he’s on to something good. I would probably say it something like this: Art’s quality is determined two ways.

  • Composition: This is what Kant referred to: A structure to the piece which makes sense. It varies over time and between cultures, but within a culture is pretty universal. For example, we in the west are so accustomed to reading left to right and top to bottom that we typically read images this way too. A picture which doesn’t read well this way is visually frustrating and unappealing. Judgments about composition can general hold true for all viewers and can be taught.
  • Meaning: This is the wild card that leads you and I to disagree completely about a piece. It can be shaped by the culture, history, the present, personal life, and a million other factors. For example, a piece hung in the art building for a long time that was compositionally moderate; not bad, but not amazing either. However, the piece knocked me over and held me down, because it expressed a feeling I had been missing in my life. I loved the painting, but this judgment could not be universalized. Meaning probably can’t be taught, really, except perhaps for giving a piece context.

Well, if you’re still reading, that is impressive. Onwards to smaller bites!

We started talking about relativism: the idea that there is no universal right or wrong, only the ethics of the day. The example of a small boy torturing a puppy was brought up as something that is hard to imagine being accepted.

There seems to be something natural about avoiding causing unnecessary pain. Of course, a cheetah killing a gazelle causes pain, but it is natural for the cheetah to feed itself. For a person to torture a puppy for fun seems wasteful, but to kill a cow for food is rational and justified.


Later, we got around to the set of danish cartoons depicting Mohammad which led to massive riots and bombings in the Middle East. The question was, were these in bad taste, considering the damage they caused?

I don’t even think it is a matter of taste. If they had any idea that people would die, it’s not right to draw a silly comic anyway. It isn’t worth it. That just seems wrong.

-Another Classmate
(Sorry, forgot the name)

I’d have to disagree. I mean, I understand that it’s a Muslim tenet that a Muslim cannot depict Muhammad. Great. But if everyone had to follow everyone else’s religious restrictions, we would all die of inactivity. So you can say it was wrong for these cartoonist to “offend” someone, especially just over some “silly cartoons”. Really, though, if you’re looking for who is more rational, it isn’t going to be the people killing tons of innocent people over those silly cartoons. As for the cartoonists, of course they shouldn’t draw these cartoons just to incite violence, but if they have a legitimate end in drawing them, it isn’t their fault that someone else drastically overreacts.


Those are all the big points that spring to mind! Hope you enjoyed it!