August 26, 2004

GeneralExperiments in Wi-Fi

I'm back online.

For me, that's a hefty statement. I've been wrestling with Verizon to get this far in getting connected. The house is great, but it's EMPTY - the girls get here this weekend (beginning Friday, actually...) and there's been no cable, only broadcast TV to get along with. Couple that with remarkably medicore cell phone reception over the last week, and it's been pretty boring here.

There was a reception for the department the other night, which was better than expected. Beautiful lounge, decent food, free alcohol, and a chance to meet the people in the department. I'm pleased with the people I've met. There seems to be a general Villanova stereotype of which I've heard - snobby, rich, etc. The people I've met so far haven't measured to that at all. They're all people who love theater: making it, acting in it, developing it...the professors have the same feeling about them too. I'm excited.

Classes began yesterday for Villanova, today for me. My schedule is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday beginning at 4:30 and lasting until either 7 or 7:30 depending on the day. Today was "Dramaturgy in the Classic Tradition," taught by Father Peter Donohue. Fr. Peter reminds me a lot of my friend Nick at La Salle...with almost the same accent, and almost the same smoker's voice too.

I got to campus today at 3:50, wanting to be early to check out the building and such. I get a water, and sit in this wonderful little cafe on the first floor. I was amazed at this place - there's a whole market (the size of the La Salle Union Market) with hot food, tables, and televisions. It's wonderful. I'm thinking to myself, "This is gonna be great to hang out in before class every week!"

Flash forward a half hour, when we realize (being that there are 3 of us in the assigned classroom at the time the class was supposed to begin, out of a class of 15) that the class has been moved. Not to another classroom, but to another building, on the exact opposite side of campus. Without the nice amenities. And we were twenty minutes late.

Yes. I was twenty minutes late for my first graduate class ever. Sigh...

But it's a good class. It's going to be a heck of a lot of feels like an Honors seminar at La Salle - same number of people, relatively same workload, same circled-desks configuration, same attendance policy.

It was going through the syllabus today that I realized what "full-time graduate" student means. I'm gonna be doing this full-time - even though I'm only in class 9 hours a week. The workload for the one class is gonna be intense - reading up to three plays a week, plus weekly discussions and emails to Fr. Peter. I'm optimistic though - as one of the other people in the class said as we were walking to our cars after tonight's class, "This is stuff we like to do." (She was referring to a discussion from Euripidies' "Bacchae" about what effect the main male character's putting on a dress would have on the audience - whether it would carry the humor that modern audiences associate with cross-dressing, or whether it would carry the necessary humiliation inherent in the text.)

It's going to be a lot of that. Tedious academic stuff related to theater that I LIKE to do. Obscure plays, late nights getting ready for performances, dramaturging anything and everything.

I'm leaving with a qoute from the Bacchae:

"If you take wine away, love will die, and every source of human joy will follow."

Euripides had it right...

[Listening to: "For the Want of a Nail", by Camp from the album "Camp Soundtrack"]
Posted by Matthew at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2004

GeneralOut of contact

I will most probably be out of contact for the next couple of days after Saturday. I'm officially moving to Philadelphia as of Saturday morning, and as of then will be without a dependable Internet connection.

It's my hope to have DSL/cable up and running within a few days, but who knows when I'll be able to get technicians to the house and get everything set up.

I'll also be starting classes on Thursday, so I'll be experiencing the wonderful commute to Villanova via I-76, and I-476.

So, if you need me, drop an email to matt -at- demizio -dot- com. Or call the cell or the house.

I'll post here when I have a more dependable connection in Manayunk.


[Listening to: "Sunday Morning Coming Down," by Johnny Cash from the album "The Essential Johnny Cash"]
Posted by Matthew at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2004

GeneralWorst / Best

In RA staff meetings for the past couple years, every once in a while we'd play a game called (I think) "Worst / Best." The idea was simple - you listed your worst memory/moment from the past week, and then your best memory/moment from the past week. The game was always interesting in that the rest of the group would commiserate with you and your experiences and everyone would get some sort of catharsis for your joys and your pains from the past week. It also could become a game of oneupmanship as each person after you tried to either relate how much worse or better their moments were than yours.

Needless to say it was always a lot of fun and a decent icebreaker.

So I have my worst/best moments from the past week. Both happened at work. Both happened this weekend. Both happened on back to back shifts.

(Background: I (used to, as of Sunday) work at a movie theater, Regal Cinemas Hunt Valley 12 as an assistant manager. I've worked there for about 5 years on and off, as I started way back right as "Star Wars: Episode One" was opening.)

My worst was Saturday at work. I'm scheduled for a 2-10 swing shift, which means I'm pretty much damned from the beginning as I don't get to experience either the slowest set in the morning, or the slowest set at night, both of which act as a buffer that I've found allows me to unwind. It means a constant barrage of customers, for which I'm stuck on the floor with escape to the upstairs office impossible. It just gets worse as the General Manager tells me as I walk in 15 minutes early that there were 2 employees who called out, and that "they're going to need help down there."

I should mention that I went in feeling scatterbrained because my sister was coming in from Paris that afternoon and my parents had gone to Dulles to pick her up. I hadn't seen her in 2 months, and was really looking forward to seeing her again before I headed back to Philadelphia (indeed, my staying home this long had a lot to do with me wanting to hang out with her for a few more days.)

I wind up spending the worst shift of my entire 5 years on the floor. I'm stuck in the concession stand for about three hours straight as a constant stream of people come up wanting popcorn and soda. For the entire three hours, the lines stretched in front of the stand for the twenty feet to the box offices (where the lines stretched twenty feet to the front doors.) From this hellish sea of people, I somehow wound up with the line that decided to inform me of how exactly I should be doing my job. It took all my strength of character to fill their wretched orders and not jump over the counter and ram the overpriced popcorn, layered in the middle with butter as per their instructions, and their sodas-costing-more-than-gold-per-ounce, poured over the exact amount of ice desired, down their throats.

The evening continues to degrade by leaps and bounds as I manage to not get much of a break in between the afternoon and first evening shift. Around 9:00 a customer storms out of one of the theaters demanding the right to a refund of his tickets AFTER he watches his movie because kids are "running up and down the aisles" and the movie is blurry and unwatchable. I tell him that I'll look into his charges and he goes back to his film. The movie is checked, and the kids are nonexistent, however, our print is scratched to all hell (in a way that none of the managers on could figure out how, including the head projectionist) but is still pretty watchable, as proved by the fact that his was the only complaint all day.

The night concludes with confirmation that an employee is stealing from us. This is something I've heard about, but never experienced with hard evidence in front of me. It was tough - I'm naive, I'll admit - sheltered, privileged, all that. And I tend to take things too personally. This was happening at 9:30, when I was due out the door in a half hour, and I was already at the end of my rope from prior events.

In the end, everything turns out okay - the customers leave after their movies. The angry patron leaves, satisfied with my apologies and passes. The employee leaves, escorted by a cop. I leave, dinner in hand, just wanting to get the hell out as quickly as possible and never come back.

Sunday was on my top five shifts ever. I'm scheduled for a closing 5-12 shift. For starters, it was my last shift. I get there and check the admission logs and find that we're not that busy. It's an awesome crew for the time that I'm there. I wind up having one of the silliest shifts ever.

It began upstairs when we had three managers helping the one projectionist thread up the first evening set. It usually takes the projectionist about five minutes to get through one projector - we had the entire left half of the booth done in about ten minutes. This quickly led to a threading contest between myself and two other managers - Corbin, and Billy, the head projectionist. I lost, but did damn well considering I haven't touched the equipment in six months. We had a cake and ice cream during out break for Sarah, who was also celebrating her "last" day at work. I had to hustle to clean theaters, but found $14 under a seat.

The crowning achievement however, was the unveiling of an original film after hours that evening. Midway through the shift, Billy decides to splice together all of the reels from films that had somehow become marooned in our booth, castoffs from prints long gone. I suggest we throw on some Regal policy trailers (translated: those stupid "no smoking, in case of emergency..." ads that get added before films) and any random old trailers we have lying around. We wind up with two Regal policy snipes, a couple of current trailers, a trailer for "Baby Geniuses 2" spliced on backwards and upside down so the soundtrack is projected onscreen (we all agreed that this would be the only possible way to see the movie,) and our "lost" reels - one each from "Half Past Dead," "LOTR: The Two Towers," "Star Trek: Nemesis," "Mystic River," and "Tears of the Sun."

As we were leaving at 3:30AM we pretty much decided that it was a fun experiment, but one that sounded better talking about it than actually doing it. But it was done with fun people, and it reminded me a lot of the (now banned by corporate) screenings that used to happen in the first summer that I worked there complete with a 7-11 run to begin the evening.

So I turned in my keys to the building. I'm know I'm gonna miss the people, despite having only been there for about three weeks.

The next step for me is getting the heck out of Baltimore later this week. More on that as it develops.

[Listening to: "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of", by U2 from the album "All That You Can't Leave Behind"]
Posted by Matthew at 02:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2004

GeneralThe more things change...

...the more they stay exactly the same.

I went back to Regal for a few weeks to make a few extra dollars. The reasoning behind the decision mainly revolved around my thought that I wouldn't be able to find something in Philadelphia that would pay as well as I was getting here and also schedule me for full-time until school started, and then scale back after that. So I went back, tail between my legs, after pretty much promising both friends and family that my days of working at the movies (shoveling popcorn, sweeping out theaters in between showtimes, dealing with pissed-off-at-the-outrageous-prices customers) were over.

Truth be told, I'm liking the job. The people are good. There's a vibe that I haven't felt there since I first started 4 or 5 summers ago - youthful, fun-loving, and few cliques to deal with among the people who matter most, the floor staff. Of course, things have always been good on my returns - this time might just revolve around the idea that I have a firm ending date, and my spirit will hardly be crushed in the few weeks I'm there.

I'm also seeing people that I haven't seen in years there. The first words out of my mouth have been "This is temporary...I'm going to grad school" right after my bright "Hello!" I'm wearing the job like a curse when I see these people - friends I graduated high school with, people I used to work with at the theater who have moved on...I feel compulsively drawn to make sure that people understand that yes, I have moved on. I won't be pushing popcorn forever.

The vibe among management has been pretty awesome too...I'm working on a lot of shifts with a bunch of college kids who, like the kids on the floor, are there to have fun...they see the copious amounts of BS and manage to laugh at the stuff that needs laughing at. And there's plenty of corporate/local policy that needs laughing at.

But still, a lot of things are the same. The same as when I first started 5 years ago. The same as when I last left in January. But, it's a paycheck. It's something to do to get some free movies. It kills a lot of time that would otherwise go to waste.

The more that I work there, the more I'm convinced that I'm going to get a book out of the place. If anything, it'll be therapy for me, but I think it may have commercial value somewhere along the line. As always I just have to put the damn pen to the page.

So the revised plan is still in effect. My sister is home on the 13th. I'm looking at heading back to Philadelphia on the 16th or 17th. I have class starting the 25th, and a reception to attend with the other grad students (!) on the 24th. My schedule is finally posted online - Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday afternoon/evenings from 4:00 - 7:30ish. (which is nerve racking, as I have no idea what the workload will be outside of those classes (the days of the 3-5 page paper are over, I fear)...more than the 80-hour required practicum working on the shows for the season...)

The classes sound interesting - I'm taking an acting class (as was advised to, because it becomes an "almost requirement" for a lot of later classes in the department) an introduction to dramaturgy class and a script analysis class. 3 classes, 9 credits, full time.

Otherwise, this past week has been pretty uneventful. I saw "The Village." Contrary to popular opinion, I liked it. It's a twist movie. After viewing, you could poke holes through most of the plot. But I was sufficiently intrigued by the plot, and by the twist to actually like the film. The people I've spoken to who hated the film have at least agreed that the cinematography is beautiful and the acting is pretty decent. (Brody borders on being miscast, and Ron Howard's daughter needs to decide in the second half of the film if she's blind, balanced with William Hurt being fantastic) It's not scary. It's a bit eerie, but I wasn't that scary. I went in with the mindset that there was going to be a twist, and wasn't incredibly disappointed. I won't buy the DVD, but it was worth 2 hours of time to see.

Tuesday I had lunch with one of my old high school professors, Mr. Motsay. The strange thing is, I still can't bring myself to call him by his first name for some reason. He's been a mentor to me over the last few years with everything: the film and TV stuff, La Salle in general, and then to what I see as my newest calling, the whole theatre thing. He's as excited as I am about Villanova.

Right now I'm content. My newly-graduated friends are beginning to disperse across the country, and I'm trying to keep abreast of who's going where, and when, although this is proving difficult.

The hardest part is keeping perspective. I found something hopeful doing preliminary research for my "Dramaturgy: the Classic tradition" class. John Gay (who wrote a play called "The Beggar's Opera" is buried in Westminster Abbey under the following epitaph:

Life is a jest; and all things show it,
I thought so once: but now I know it.

I dunno, it kind of made me laugh the other day when I saw it for the first time.

Edit: Was going to leave it there, but found this quote from "The Beggar's Opera" too:

Let us drink and sport to-day,
--Ours is not to-morrow:
Love with youth flies swift away,
--Age is naught but sorrow.
---Dance and sing,
---Time's on the wing,
Life never knows the return of spring.

There. Now I'm finished.

[Listening to: "Tippecanoe And Tyler Too", by They Might Be Giants from the album "Future Soundtrack Of America"]
Posted by Matthew at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)