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February 04, 1999 - Image 17

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

"1OB - The Michigan Daily - Weekend, etc. Magazine -=Thursday, February 4; 1999
tc Weekend, etc. Column

O.

0

The Michigan Daily - Weekendet. 1

AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY

I am trapped here. Here, in this
squalid square room, I sit, trapped by
convention, by habit, unable to move-
save to nod my head at irregular inter-
vals. Above me sterile fluorescent lights
hum and crackle malignantly, interrupt-
ing and dispelling thought before it
reaches an acceptable level of coheren-
cy. The lights hum and crackle, hum
and crackle and illumine the room with
sickly beams, giving to the faces of my
fellow prisoners a cadaverous pallor.
All of us sit with shoulders hunched,
slaves to an inarticulate purpose; coats
and bags and books are strewn haphaz-
ardly around us in a weak testament to
our academic determination, weak evi-
dence of reason for our self-incarcera-
tion.
Up at the front of the room, sitting.
impressively before the grimy black-
board, a severe young woman goes
through the motions, attempting stub-
bornly to extract from us answers to the

banal questions she repeats over and
over in the dead air of the room. The
small light of desperation shines as
through smoky
glass in our eyes as
once again silence K+
meets the severe
young woman's
queries. We would
escape, I'm sure;
but in entering this
room, in mildly
admitting we are
enrolled students, ANDREW
we have given up MORTENSEN
our free will. No BiG IDEAS
longer do we have (DON'T GET
freedom of choice. ANY)
Collectively we've
disdained the right to determine our
fates, and enslaved ourselves to the
almighty grade.
By the pedagogical reasoning of

the University, we gather weekly in
this room to enhance our under-
standing of material presented in
lecture. Here, theoretically, we are
gaining a firmer grasp of crucial.
course concepts, hashing and
rehashing overarching themes,
themes which will reshape the very
way we look at life. Theoretically.
"Discussion," these impotent gather-
ings are named; but a discussion by def-
inition demands a constant flow of
speech. And here we have no speech, no
sound but the toneless drone of the GSI.
My eyes begin to cross and the GSI
asks again: "How many people have
heard of the Civil War?"A light, almost
imperceptible shudder passes through
each person in the room. In some, as in
me, this shudder is a feeble response to
the idiocy of the question; in others,
who wouldn't know the Civil War from
cat litter, the shudder is nothing more
than an unconscious protest against the
ridiculously low temperature of the
room. The GSI misinterprets the shud-
der as a show of enthusiasm and
decides to risk another question.
"Does anyone have any reactions
to yesterday's lecture?" she asks,
smiling brightly at each person in the
room. One girl, evidently on speed
and possibly missing large sectors of
her frontal lobe, throws her hand in
the air, waving it until at last the GSI
says through smiling lips the girl's
name, whereupon the girl exclaims,
"What's up with that Buddhism
thing? Is that strange or what?" The
GSI, who is a patient, if somewhat
dull person, points out gently that
nothing in the lecture yesterday was
related to Buddhism, and in fact
nothing in lecture will ever be related
to Buddhism. The mention of

Buddhism arouses smaller intellects
in the room: slow gears begin revolv-
ing, faulty wires begin to spark, and
after the passage of long seconds, the
misfiring vehicles of their minds
cough to life. One young man blurts
out, "Once I read some of the Tao Te
Ching," to which the girl sitting next
to him responds with "Isn't that some
weird poetry or something?"
Admiring eyes turn to consider the
source of this singular insight, and
modestly she adds, ducking her head,
"I like to read."
I panic, and over every inch of my
body the dreadful heat of adrenaline
spreads. Not 15 minutes of the hour
I must spend here have passed.
The GSI seizes on the elemepts of
the previous comments which, by tor-
tuous convolutions, may be applied to
this particular course, a literature sur-
vey. "Okay, good!" she says, scrawl-
ing on the pad of paper she keeps
close at hand. She continues: "Okay,
I think we should try to focus real
close now and take a good hard look
at the text itself. Has anyone noticed
anything about this book that they
thought was interesting?" The energy
level in the room increases slightly,
and another young man, thoroughly
unaware of his own relative unimpor-
tance, puts his hand in the air, waits
impatiently until he is called on, and
states, "Well, for me, I mean, I do a
lot of reading, because I'm Pre-Law I
mean, and so when I read something
I look for like, you know, the para-
digmatic aspects (paradigm means,
like, the sort of like, well, you know).
And so it was weird because this one
character just doesn't fit the para-
digm of a woman. Where was it, it
was in one part, this character, she's

U IVERSITY?

like doing some really weird stuff."
On the heels of this outburst fol-
lows the reedy voice of a nonde-
script woman, saying, "Um, I'm in
the B-school, and I'm really only
taking this class because I need it to
fulfill one of my requirements"
(sleepy heads nod in sympathy) "but
I just wanted to say: What the hell
does this guy think he's writing?
Like in conversation, I mean that's
just unbelievable, because no one
talks that way in real life. I mean,
how often do people actually use the
word 'coherent'?"
Struggling to keep my head above
the raging floodwaters of her inco-
herency, I feel my cheeks sag and
grow flabby; I clutch at my ear pur-
poselessly; I let my lips slacken and
through them I exhale.
"That's a very good point," the GSI
says. "What can we say about the lan-
guage in this book? Does it make it
obsolete? Can it still be read today as a
work of literature or is it now just a
quaint part of literary history?" The
question catches the class off-guard,
and momentarily the dead silence is res-
urrected; but fortunately someone is up
to the challenge: "I don't know about
that," a stout guy sitting next to me says
with full obnoxious voice, "but ,God
this is one long book!" People laugh at
this insipid comment, and he adds, "I
mean, this thing is more than two 200
pages or something!" More laughter; he
raises his book in the air with an expres-
sion of disbelief on his face, in the
process knocking his appallingly dirty
hat to the floor. It lands in a puddle of
spilled Coke and starts to soak it up.
The stout man stoops down, picks up
his sopping hat, and replaces it on his
head.
"Well," says the GSI as people begin
shutting notebooks and folders, "we
didn't get as much done as I'd hoped we
would, so next week be prepared to real-
ly dig in!" I collect my things, shrug
into my coat, listening with idle ear to
some genderless voice remark to a
friend that the "heaviosity" of the class
is almost overwhelming.
Almost.
- Andrew Mortensen's fantasies
are unlikely, but beautiful.
admorten@umich.edu
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BASKETBALL
Continued from Page 66
because the team coming out of the
locker room is going to feed off the
crowd," Brooks said.
This year, the half-time show that
seemed to strike a chord with fans
was the Mascot Classic. The game,
which involved mascots from a
variety of teams and organizations,
showed fans that cheering skills
and a good jumper do not necessar-
ily go hand-in-hand. The game
included representatives from the
Detroit Lions, Elias Brothers and
Belle Tire fighting for respect on
the hardwood.
The Mascot Classic is just one of
many new half-time shows that has
captured the interest of fans this
year. "We're really striving for
variety with basketball and each
game will have some type of enter-
tainment - either an actual show
or a shoot-out or we tried to really
tie our students into a number of
the contests," Brooks said. "One of
the things we're doing with

Michigan is striving to bring some
of the top national acts to our
venue."
Basketball fans can look forward
to a few more exciting half-time
shows as the regular season winds
down.
A shoot-out between Michigan
and Michigan State fans is sched-
uled for next week's tussle with the
Spartans. Fans interested in partic-
ipating can register online at the
Michigan Live Website
(www.mlive.com) if they're inter-
ested in embarrassing a few
Spartan fans and winning tickets to
next year's Michigan-Michigan

State football game in East
Lansing.
And at the year's final home
gameagainst Penn State, fans have
the chance to win a 1999 Mercury
Cougar by sinking a half court
shot. Those interested can register
for the big shot at the remaining
Michigan home basketball games.
So as the season winds down,
stop by Crisler for a little basket-
ball, Maize Rage and quality enter-
tainment. There are many prizes yet
to be claimed, and a lot of fun to be
had. Besides, you never know when
Roary the Lion and the Belle Tire
man might be in the house.

Want to s
and storie
Ann Ar boi
A n r oetc. Lite ,
Call 7 63-

i

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