Archive for August, 2012

Happy Birthday Ken Cinema

Posted in Cinema with tags , , , , , , , on August 30, 2012 by davehurwitz
The classic frontage of Ken Cinema is beautiful black and white.

The Ken

The San Diego Reader isn’t good for much.  This is probably because I’m not a wild twenty-something seeking medical marijuana, cheap breast augmentation, a new career in medical office administration, or beer in a boot.  I go long periods without looking at an issue.  When I do pick one up, I mostly read News of Weird during those moments alone in the bathroom.  But every once in a while The Reader will surprise me with something that I really do want to know.

For example, a brief rant by Scott Marks, slotted in with the movie reviews of the August 23 issue, informed me that my local single screen theater, known to regulars simply as The Ken, turns one-hundred this year.  Of course, I knew that The Ken had been around a while, but I had no idea it was one of the oldest surviving single screens in Southern California.  Marks himself is also something of local fixture, having been, for far too brief a period, Curator of Film at the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts.  He had been planning a series of Val Lewton films when he got canned as part of a money-saving decimation of SD MOPA’s film offerings.  I sent the museum my shredded membership card in protest, but nobody seemed to care.

I’m not as old as The Ken, of course, but the theater and I do go back nearly twenty years.  I was a graduate student attending SDSU when I first moved into the neighborhood, mostly because of its proximity to the #11 bus route.  I quickly discovered The Ken and the adjacent Ken Video, the amazing family-run specialist video store right next door to the theater.  I spent a lot of time in The Ken’s somewhat shabby seats during its independent heyday.  I watched a lot of great movies, and more than a few that were enjoyably bad.  I first saw Reservoir Dogs there, double billed with Pulp Fiction.  Every summer brought the annual Hong Kong Action Festival, featuring chop-chop flicks with titles like Naked Killer 2 and Bullet in the Head.  My admiration for Wes Anderson began there with a screening of Rushmore.  The Ken showed me what Lawrence of Arabia was really supposed to look like, CinemaScope sand dunes tamed somewhat by an Italian soda from the concession stand.

These days, The Ken is no longer quite so grubby or quite so eclectic.  Like it or not, it’s now a part of the Landmark Theater Group, and as such shows the kind of middle-of-the-road art house and foreign films that appeal to the KPBS / AARP crowd.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve seen some pretty awesome flicks there in recent years.  I vividly remember sweating my way through a summertime screening of Chan-Wook Park’s Lady Vengeance.  The Ken’s air conditioning had conked out on one of the hottest days of the year, but the movie was so good I couldn’t make myself leave.  And the theater’s annual screening of Academy Award Nominated Animated Shorts has become a ritual for me and my boys.  But on the whole I don’t make the hike down to my local single screen nearly as often as I used to.

Which brings me back to Scott Marks, and his rant in the SD Reader.  Marks complains, rightfully so, I think, about the meager slate of revival films Landmark is offering to commemorate The Ken’s hundredth birthday.  It’s not just that the films are few–a mere ten movies, doled out on weekends through October–it’s the films themselves.  Between slightly dusty blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Back to the Future and revival circuit warhorses like Some Like It Hot and Double Indemnity, there isn’t much to draw me to this ‘celebration.’  I might take in Charlie Chaplin in Gold Rush, which I’ve never seen on the big screen, at least.  But I’d rather see some of the films that drew me to The Ken in the first place.  I’d almost prefer Naked Killer 2.  Almost.

Luckily, revival is alive and well in San Diego.  It just doesn’t live at The Ken anymore.  Lately I’ve taken in a lot of the Forty Foot Films offered by Reading Cinema.  Coming up at their Gaslamp location:  The Omen and The Producers.  Soon to arrive in the Town Square theater:  Chinatown, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Young Frankenstein.  All to be followed by four weeks of ‘Hitchcocktober.’  It’s a cinematic feast.  And yeah, it’s DVD projection, and not Scott Mark’s beloved celluloid.  But the $5 ticket price more than assuages my inner film snob.

So I’ll see you at the movies.  While we’re there, maybe the muckety-mucks at the Landmark Theater Group should think about why I’ll be celebrating The Ken’s big birthday at a multiplex.

Dave Hurwitz

How (Not) to Crash a College Class

Posted in Rotten with tags , , , , , on August 5, 2012 by davehurwitz
Where did all the students go?

Beautiful U.C. Sunnydale… Just Kidding.

I’ve been a college professor for fourteen years now.  In that time, I’ve seen some pretty silly behavior.  It is not, for example, all that unusual for students (usually women) to show up for an early class in pajamas and fuzzy slippers, toting a large cup of coffee.  Then there’s the dude who spent every class break sipping Red Bull, smoking cigarettes, and taking puffs off an asthma inhaler.  Or the guy who left my class in a huff (and never came back) because we read an article explaining why herbal detox products are a scam.

All of which (except maybe the Red Bull and cigarettes) is fairly harmless.  But some of the things that students do in first few days of class, especially when it comes to crashing classes, can cause serious aggravation for professors, not to mention other students.

So here, for your benefit, is a list of Things You Shouldn’t Do When Crashing Classes.

Rule #1:  Don’t Lurk.

In professor-speak, a lurker is someone who has been told that a class is full, that there is a long waiting list, that they have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a spot and that they should go look for open sections, but who takes a seat in the classroom anyway.  The logic of the lurker seems to be that if they take a seat, they must be in the class, right?  Wrong.  There are often more chairs in a classroom than there are spots for students (this is due to state and contractual limits on class size), and in any case, only the professor can add a student.  All the lurker is doing with this strategy is throwing off the attendance count.

(Incidentally, you should never ask a professor to enroll you over the maximum number of students.  While it may be just as easy to lecture to thirty-one people as it is to lecture to thirty, you are asking the professor to grade your work without compensation.  This is like your boss asking you to work a couple extra hours without pay.  Not cool.  Also, you are asking the professor to betray all his unemployed professor friends who just might get some work if new sections are opened to accommodate student overflow.)

There is also a more sophisticated species of lurker who will introduce themselves to the professor and ask politely if they can ‘sit in’ on the class just in case a space becomes available. Less experienced professors will allow this type of lurker to remain, usually after a stern lecture about their slim chances of getting a spot.  This kind of lurker will attend class scrupulously, participate in discussions, and even do homework, all in an effort to impress the professor.  The problem comes at the end of the add period when no spaces have opened up and the lurker is asked to leave.  Having invested all that time and effort, this type of lurker is often reluctant to go.  Professors that I know have had to call the campus police to eject disgruntled lurkers from their classrooms.  So don’t put yourself in that situation.  Don’t lurk.

Rule #2:  Don’t Shop.

A shopper is a student who goes around collecting add codes for multiple sections of the same class or multiple classes that fulfill the same requirement.  Having done this, the shopper decides which class they will ‘keep’ based on which one requires the least work or which professor seems friendliest.  This is all very well for the shopper, but creates problems in the various classes they visited.  Let’s say the shopper visited six sections of a class and obtained four add codes before deciding on the section they wanted.  That leaves three professors who think they have a student but don’t, three professors who will probably hold a spot open on the (incorrect) assumption that the shopper will return.  What that really means is three other students who don’t get a class because some greedy shopper wanted an easy grade.

Moral issues aside, things don’t always go smoothly for shoppers.  It often takes them a few days of shopping around to decide on a class section.  That means that they’ve taken an add code but have vanished from class without using it.  Savvy professors recognize this sort of behavior and assume that the shopper will probably not be coming back.  When the shopper finally does pick a section, they may return to find it already filled by legitimate crashers.  Shoppers who wait too long are in no position to be picky, and often wind up with their second or third choice class, which, given their habits, can set off a domino effect of scrambling to get other classes that fit their new and unexpected schedule.  So don’t shop.  The schedule you save may be your own.

Rule #3:  You are Not a Lawyer.

Inevitably, there are always a few students who enroll in a class and then get dropped from it before the class ever meets.  There are a couple of standard reasons for this.  In my experience, most students who get dropped before opening day didn’t pay their tuition fees on time.  In the second most popular scenario, a student enrolls in the next class in a series on the assumption that they will pass the one they are in now.  When they don’t, the enrollment system automatically drops them from the new class, which they are no longer eligible to take.  Usually, this type of student presents no problem.  Recognizing that they have been legitimately dropped, they will pay their fees or pick a more appropriate class and go about their business like regular crashers.

(The matter is complicated by the fact that sometimes people get dropped during the enrollment period for no damn reason at all.  Last year, due to a clerical error, this happened to literally hundreds of students at my school.  If you really have been dropped from a class in error, a phone call or quick e-mail from your admissions office to the professor goes a long way.)

I will occasionally get students (usually first time freshman) who honestly don’t understand why they have been dropped, or even that they have been dropped.  I don’t mind explaining things to these students, and they usually take it pretty well.  Sometimes, however, people try to argue.  The lawyer student will show up for opening day, usually with a piece of paper showing that they were, at some point, enrolled in the class.  When it becomes clear that they are no longer on the roster, the lawyer student will charge up to the front desk, waving their piece of paper, and demand to be reinstated immediately

The lawyers student is operating under the assumption that because they were in a class at one time that this entitles them to jump the line ahead of wait-listed students and other crashers.  This is simply not true.  If you have been dropped during the enrollment period for non-payment or any other legitimate reason, you have no more right to add a class than any other crasher.  So do yourself and your fellow students a favor, and don’t start an argument you’re not going to win.

And there you have it.  Three Things You Shouldn’t Do When Crashing Classes.

If you’re an incoming freshman, a first time college student in other words, bear in mind that you are the low man on the enrollment priority totem pole.  Be prepared to take whatever classes you can get and stick with them through the end.  If you can manage that for a couple of semesters, you’ll be top dog soon enough.

Dave Hurwitz

Still no students.  Where have they gone?

Maybe it’s Miskatonic University… Never Mind.