one day more

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I shared on the weekend that I had been working, and how rare that was (working on the weekend, not working full stop!). I’m now further into that particular grind, working through Day 8 of a nine-day stretch.

I’m very much feeling it now. At times through a stretch like this you’re in the zone, you find your flow. But then there are times like now, when you feel like there’s nothing left.

It’s like a day after a rough night’s sleep; but just lengthened over a period of days.

One more day tomorrow – a full day, but away from the office. A time to discuss, to reflect, to plan.

Then two perfectly-planned research days, to get my head back into reading and thinking mode.

Then a long weekend.

I can do this.

Come sail away

It’s been over a year since I worked on the weekend. Since some pretty severe burnout I’ve had to make sure that weekends and most weeknights are kept free, though sometimes the latter is unavoidable.

But this weekend, between a full and crazy week last week, and an equally insane three days from tomorrow (Monday), I literally ran out of time to get everything done.

I would now never advocate for weekend work, but occasionally – very occasionally – the grind can have its satisfactions. Particularly if it’s a typically grey and awful Melbourne day outside.

The task I ran out of time to complete was a paper I’m delivering at a symposium tomorrow. To be fair, I think I’d be forgiven for running out of time, given I organised the symposium, but I really did want something semi-decent to present.

I’ve basically kicked off conference season myself; after this talk, I have another 2-3 to prepare for late November/early December. But I think I’m being strategic here: with 4ish papers done, I can then work to convert one or two into full articles/chapters next year.

The RMS Publish or Perish sails on…

Notes on a theme

It’s happened again. I hit a certain point, usually every twelve months, sometimes sooner, where I get annoyed with my WordPress theme. This layout for my website that I have handpicked from dozens of options, that at the time of choosing I was most satisfied with, has now outstayed its welcome. Its geometries, its fonts, its white spaces, no longer hold any appeal, and I find in them nothing but frustrations.

Why? Why do I care this much?

An academic career shifts and morphs like sand dunes. I’ve only been in this game some eight or nine years and I can already look back over the different, distant chapters, each with their own opportunities, challenges, roads taken or ignored. The one constant has been this site, with its patient recording of my achievements and publications. The site is more personal, too, in that among the more formal, reviewed outputs, there are half-formed thoughts, works in progress, and other fleeting words, images, visions.

It is a mode of performance, but one that is not held in the strictures of yearly reviews, promotion criteria, or key performance indicators. It is a more accurate record of the long periods of absence, or busy-ness, or chaos, or calm, or joy, or sadness, or heartbreak, that this life I’ve chosen can encapsulate.

This year has been very, very long. It began with the passing of a close colleague, and it feels as though we have been dragging ourselves through two long semesters of teaching, trying to stoke the fires of thinking, innovation, writing, and making sure a brave and supportive face is put on for our students: this face is never a mask, but like a mask it’s harder to wear on some days more than others.

This year has also held opportunities: travel, creative work, and in the last few weeks, a great acceleration in word output in order to complete a first working draft of a manuscript. I’ve watched some wonderful films, and managed to leave the house on multiple occasions to Have Some Fun(tm).

In short, perhaps, it has been a year like any other, with many ups and many downs. I have a week still to work, and I plan to spend most of that week watching, thinking, and writing.

All years are similar, then. Some ups, some downs. Each year is a variation on a theme. So maybe that’s why I feel this annual need to change mine.

the daily DAN

 

A week ago, I posted this on Twitter. Must’ve been something of a shock to my Twitter followers, as I haven’t really used that social platform in quite some time.

The push to take up this challenge came partly from current research — I’m looking into Casey Neistat’s vlog practice for an article — but also partly from a need to kickstart my own creative practice. The short film we shot in July last year has sat pretty well dormant in post-production for over a year, and I’d barely touched any kind of creative software during that time.

I needed to get back into shooting, back into editing, back into writing, to get myself back up to speed with both the gear, the software, and with my own creativity.

The video-a-day thing hasn’t worked: I don’t think it trucks too well with a full-time job, relationships, family and such, but I’ve done five thus far, and fully intend to keep going, shooting and cutting whenever I can, until I reach the promised fourteen videos.

It’s been enormous fun: sometimes shooting new stuff, sometimes delving into the archives, always cutting something new, something fresh. Recording voiceover and featuring myself in the videos is not easy: as much as the challenge emerged from analysing vloggers, I don’t really want to be the main focus. That said, I received some feedback that the voiceover would lend itself well to a video essay, which may well be one of the videos to come.

Creativity begets creativity

On Monday, a few days into the challenge, I opened Final Draft for the first time in a year and smashed out the first draft of a short film I’ve been thinking about for a long time. And I think a few colleagues and I are going to shoot it — quick’n’dirty style — late next week, so expect an upcoming video to be something of a behind the scenes.

The producer of last year’s film and I are also spending three hours in an edit suite tomorrow, to finish off this damn short. Nothing like time pressure.

Don’t sweat it

Perfection is overrated. I think this is a lesson from Casey. But I’m learning to not kill myself over the edits, over colour correction, over getting the timing or the music just right. Do it quick, get it done — the satisfaction of a completed video far outweighs the hours you may have spent to get things perfect.

More reflections, hopefully to follow, but for now, here’s the playlist…

Vale Anthony Bourdain

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This city is the self-proclaimed centre of democracy, science, and culture. Unlike many other self-proclaimed centres, though, this one’s claims tend to be borne out by history.

I landed yesterday, blinked and nodded politely as my lovely driver gave me the rundown on the city he’s doubtless done a million times before. Got to the apartment, dumped my everything, found a cold beer in the fridge and toasted my own arrival.

As I took my first few tentative steps out into the streets, an all-caps message arrived from my partner: Anthony Bourdain was dead.

Before we get into this, it must be said that I never met the man. But it’s testament to his talent as a presenter, as a writer, as a storyteller, as a presence, that the news of his passing felt like a punch to the fucking gut.

Between a full-time job each, my partner and I struggle to find time to sit down and smash TV shows — particularly those of the intellectual variety. But during a prolonged fortnight of illness some two or three years ago, The Layover popped up on Netflix, and we destroyed it. Since then we’ve watched nearly all of No Reservations and every episode of Parts Unknown, and between us we’ve read most of the words he wrote. Tony was a source of wisdom on many things, most recently how to prepare garlic: a quick Google that settled a light-hearted argument at work.

Every episode of his series was meticulously planned and shot, playful and experimental, and always accompanied by the most beautifully constructed narration. His crew were seemingly eternally devoted, and clearly thinking above and beyond the necessities of the job; Zach Zamboni’s extended philosophical essays on cinematography have turned up more than once in my reading lists for class.

I was desperately looking forward to seeing the episode Tony shot in Hong Kong that was directed by his girlfriend Asia Argento and shot by the inimitable Christopher Doyle. Now I’m not sure I can bring myself to see it, knowing what we all now do.

In how many fathoms of darkness must a soul be swimming in order for this to be sweet release? Surrounded by those who would take a bullet for you, in how much pain does one need to be to take this action? It must have been insufferable, insurmountable.

I’m just stunned. I’m still getting over this, and will be for some time. In many ways I’m glad to be travelling, at the moment. Anthony Bourdain brought travel down to earth, to the people and their stories, and to the food that locals don’t think twice about scoffing — Tony saw cities not as tourist traps, but as living, breathing places where people do indeed pass through, but people also live, work, and die.

There’s not much to say. Just: thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for your words, your wit, and your way of seeing the world.

Romance and reflection

There is a mode of writing about film that I really enjoy reading — I’m cautiously calling it romantic-reflexive. Practitioners of this style include Murray Pomerance, Geoff Dyer, Raul Ruiz. It’s a style I enjoy because it feels immediate, almost as if the thought had just occurred to the writer. It’s an informed style, but rather than be peppered with footnotes or citations at every turn, the reader is just aware that they’re being spoken to by someone who’s done a lot of reading.

It’s a style that permits idiosyncrasies, but one that does not allow laziness. It allows for a nuanced discussion of film, but a discussion that is not hyper-critical. The analysis is not over-wrought, such that the film loses all magic, all its moments. I sense that this is a difficult style to master, but I’ve sketched out a few projects in the coming months that will hopefully allow me to give it a try.

For now, though, here, on this blog, I’m going to run the style past whatever I’m watching in the next few weeks, months. I’m currently halfway through Paris, Texas, so maybe that’ll be first.

Pomodoro ramblings

In my first classes this week, I introduced first-year students to the Pomodoro technique. I’ve had a mixed relationship with the technique, but sometimes find it useful in terms of getting my head fully into a project during its opening stages. In solidarity, I too typed non-stop for 15 minutes (a reduced pomodoro — usually they run for 25). The results were… well, they were a glimpse into the chaos of my brain. I’ve edited them slightly (ditched typos and some of the more bizarre tangents), added links and some editorial notes, and re-posted here. The unit is a foundational media subject, and is a blend of theory and practice.


 

Prompt: What would you like to get out of the class?

I would like to hone my pedagogy — in particular getting students engaged during workshop and lecture time. I am actively working to fill the lecture time not only with content, clips, and relevant examples, but also with activities that break the monotonous delivery.

I have already run out of ideas but I’m going to keep typing because this is what the Pomodoro technique is all about. Look if I’m honest I think the introduction of the Pomodoro technique into the classroom situation is an interesting thing for me and the students. It gets them thinking about writing as a practice and as a discipline, not this far-off thing that’s unobtainable and difficult. The Pomodoro technique is all about quantity rather than quality — which explains quite a bit about this piece I’m writing at the moment. Continue reading “Pomodoro ramblings”