The Everlasting Plight of the Out-of-Stater

It’s June and you’ve just graduated high school. “Damn, that went fast,” you think, and before you know it you will be off to college. If you are like me, instilled with a bit of wanderlust and adventure, you may find yourself several states away from home in a climate that is, to put it lightly, a bit of a shock. Before you get there, however, there are grad parties to attend, summer jobs, and dorm shopping to do.
At these grad parties, summer jobs, and shopping sprees you will likely be asked where you will be going to school. You announce with pride, “MICHIGAN!” or perhaps another school that is not in the state in which you reside. For me, that state is California, and when I say that yes, I am going more than halfway across the country to a small city in the Midwest known as Ann Arbor, the look on the face of the person with whom I am talking changes from one of anticipation to one that I can’t sufficiently describe. Instead, observe the picture below.

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That is what I like to call The Look, something I also receive when I say that I am majoring in film.

The person with whom I am talking, having recovered a little bit from the shock, practically shouts in disbelief and horror, “MICHIGAN?? Why would you go to MICHIGAN??” or the slightly less dramatic, “But it’s really cold there!” I then have to stand there and respond with a polite, “It’s a great school,” or “My dad went there for grad school.” For some reason, the latter seems to be a reasonable excuse, because then I generally receive an “Oh, that makes sense,” or something of the sort.
If you, like me, are planning on going out of state for college, particularly to somewhere colder than where you currently live, please know that these questions and The Look do not go away. However, also know that you go to a great school (and maybe the best school in the world, if you go to Michigan), and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This is the everlasting plight of the Out-of-Stater, but despite what some people think, going out of state for school can be the experience of a lifetime.

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Amazing Final Projects

Vik: You are a fantastic speaker, and even though I told you this already, you should have your own TV show, or at least take over the Daily Show or something. You were super engaging and funny, and I thought the powerpoint was a good visual aid, especially the emoji part!

Matt: Your film was really clever and the ending was hilarious! The editing was well-done and I can tell you spent a lot of time on it. Thanks for letting me be a part of making it! 

Justin: It’s so impressive that you wrote the song for your video! It was really, really good and fit the video perfectly. The drawings were creative and funny and I really enjoyed watching your film! 

Marlee: I loved the home video clips in your film. The poem was amazing and you are so talented! 

Sarah: The mix of quotes and photos was great! The song (of course) fit perfectly with your video. 

Alix: You’re collage was so cool! The outline of the person worked really well with the theme of your project.

Rachel: I loved the mosaic! It really shows all sides of you, and it was a creative way to show your identity, both on the outside and the inside. 

Diana: It was so cool that you used different “eras” to show your style. You are seriously so fashion-forward and I love it.

Abbie: You are so creative I can’t handle it. The stop motion of the train was so cool, the pictures of everyone being themselves were amazing, and your video was awesome in general. The quote was one of my favorite parts.

Eric: Your video was funny and lighthearted. It was fun to watch and the original project that you based it off of was really interesting! 

Sylvia: I loved how the light gave your pictures a surreal look. I thought it was really cool how you didn’t know how the pictures were going to turn out until after you took them. 

Kat: Incredible. That is the only word I can think of to describe your project. It was incredibly thoughtful, creative, and time-consuming, and it was extremely well-edited. 

Jennifer: I’d never seen a combination of drawing and photography like that before, and it was awesome!

Lindsay: It was great how you used “scenes” to split up the film. You are an amazing dancer! 

Carrie: You put so much heart and effort into your project. I loved it, and you are so brave for sharing everything with our class.

 

Exit Through the Gift Shop

I am not really a documentary person, but I was extremely excited when I found out we would be watching Exit Through the Gift Shop. It is an unconventional film, to say the least, and really cool to watch. Although I don’t necessarily condone graffiti, street art gives a city character- for example, New York City would not be the same without the countless spray-painted brick walls, buildings, and other public structures. I loved that the person filming (I can’t remember his name right now) followed the artists as they worked. He risked his life climbing on top of buildings and risked his reputation by breaking the law, and he still did it, all for his film. These artists, while vandalizing property, are speaking to the public through their work, as is the filmmaker. 

An Unintended Triptych

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This photo is the first of three that I selected from Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills.” The character she created is standing alone on a rural road, and she appears small and vulnerable compared to the surrounding landscape. She is about to set out on a journey, as indicated by the suitcase, and I imagine she is going to hitchhike to wherever she is going. I think it is a voyage of discovery- she seems young and curious about the world, as she looks out in the distance rather than looking back at the camera.

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This next photo shows a different character in a city, looking lost and scared. Although it is a different character, both she and the first seem connected. This is where the girl in the first photograph could end up, and once she is in the city she doesn’t know where to go next. She looks insignificant next to the towering buildings and looks utterly alone and afraid.

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Finally, this photo also shows a woman in the city. However, the camera is at even more of a low angle, and this gives the character a position of power. Instead of appearing apprehensive and unsure of herself, this woman oozes confidence. Again, even though this is a different character than both the first and second, she completes the story in a sense. She has found her place in the world- she is what the first two characters aspire to become.

These three photos are compelling to me because they remind me of coming to college out of state. Knowing practically no one, it was nerve-wracking to come to the University of Michigan. As  one student out of nearly 30,000 undergrads, I felt overwhelmed and unsure of my place. The third photo is what we are all trying to become, and that is sure of our place in the university and the world as a whole. This unintended triptych is relatable to all college students and to anyone starting over.

Unclaimed

The image of the unclaimed dead is terrible. Disturbing. Sad. Depressing. I can think of so many words to describe it, but the only one that really stands out to me is real. This image is one of reality, not just staged for the book. The families who lost a loved one yet can’t afford a funeral lose them again, this time to a morgue overflowing with bodies that can’t be claimed. The dead are packed into a small room side by side, covered only with a white sheet and left there until someone is able to identify them as their relative or friend. Quite often the bodies are left there merely because their loved ones can’t afford a funeral, and must wait until enough money is saved.

Death is a prominent theme throughout the novel, and it hits close to home with the narrator whose sister died in Detroit. This is partly what makes this image so compelling. It makes it seem commonplace, not so out of the ordinary. The picture emphasizes the lack of resources, the level at which poverty affects the citizens, and even the amount of crime in the city. To me, this is the image that hit me the hardest, and its bluntness makes it all the more effective.

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Grace Lee Boggs and Her Take on Leadership

“The tendency is to look to existing structures for leadership.” This is what Grace Lee Boggs says at the beginning of this clip, and she is absolutely right. People don’t realize that change in structure is sometimes exactly what is needed to make an improvement in certain circumstances or because of certain events. Detroit needs a leader, and not one of the robot politicians that it has been known to elect. The city needs an innovator: someone with a vision for the future, and someone who can make that vision happen. As Grace Lee Boggs says, “How we think– our philosophies– matter a lot.” Detroit is waiting for someone to be brave enough to share that philosophy and be willing to step up and make a change.

Painting a Portrait of Adolph Mongo

Adolph Mongo is one of the most compelling narrators of Detroit: An American Autopsy, by Charlie LeDuff. He is introduced in the first half of the book, in a chapter that is fittingly called “Mongo.” At this time, LeDuff is in Reverend Sheffield’s community center for no particular reason at all, but just, as he says, to “stare big-city politics in the face, study the knickknacks and doodles on its desk” (60).  His wish is granted, and as he is sitting in the waiting room of the center, Adolph Mongo strolls in: “Then power walked in the door: a short, stocky, smooth-skulled black man wearing a full-length leather trench coat…” (60). LeDuff continues to describe Mongo, a somewhat shady, yet extremely influential political consultant, as well as a “…political hit man, bomb thrower, assassin…” (60).

There is dialogue in the sequence where we meet Mongo, and it is very crude, inappropriate language, with words spewing from Mongo that would never be publicly spoken by your everyday political figure. That being said, Mongo is far from typical. Avoided and sought out by all, his reputations above ground and in the shadows are two very different things. LeDuff writes, “Black politicians pretended he didn’t work for them. White politicians suffered the same amnesia. But they sought his advice and they drank with him during the off years of the election cycle… He was what politicians really were around here…” (62).

A few chapters later Mongo makes a phone call to LeDuff, a very important one in which he says, “Shiiiiit… They went up to Washington thinking they were the executives of the Big Three. Turns out they were nothing but Detroit” (83). He follows this with a slew of n-words. This shows how little influence he believes, and with good reason, Detroit has in the rest of the United States. Mongo has the ability to be vulgar yet extremely profound at the same time. You can even take it so far as to compare Mongo to the city itself. Detroit is rough around the edges, but what happened to the city cannot be written off as a onetime occurrence that doesn’t matter. Mongo is certainly rough around the edges, and definitely crooked, but what he has to say cannot be written off as unimportant either.