Sunday, May 04, 2014

Not Making the Grade

In the mid '80s, when I was trying to make my way at the University of Texas, I couldn't get onto the paper staff because I didn't know how to use the then-newfangled computers; and I couldn't get into the film department because there was a required tech class that involved doing something with a turntable that I tried for two semesters to figure out, but never could.

I was interested in writing for the paper, and in writing about films. I'd been the editor of my high-school newspaper, for one thing, and liked the hurly-burly intelligence of it. In state UIL competitions my junior and senior years of high school, I'd won editorial-writing and headline-writing contests. But when I got to UT, I had one interview with an editor who asked me what I read: In all honesty, I replied: "Time" magazine and "Rolling Stone." Which was, indeed, all I read as an 18-year-old in 1983. I got scorn for that. (Shades of the same scorn I would get in '94 at grad school in San Francisco when a professor asked us all who we'd read the previous summer and I replied "Norman Mailer.")

Computers aren't so newfangled nowadays, and the film department has long-since (thank god!) done away with the tech/turntable requirement for film majors interested in the screenwriting portion of the major.

I didn't pass the test back in the '80s. It still makes me sick, the look of scorn on the paper editor's face when I told him that the papers that I read included "Time" magazine. I'd always thought that was pretty debonair for newly 18-year-old me.

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