Monday, November 24, 2008

Marilyn's Guide to Procrastination

1. Take a summer course that's more play than work.
2. Get used to it.
3. Take note that there's a paper to write, "technically" due in December.
4. Tell yourself you should just get it done before the summer's over.
5. Of course, don't listen.
6. Spend most of your time "doing research" for your thesis, watching American TV shows on youku.com, and fleeing the country because of "visa issues."
7. Learn from your Professor in mid-November that the paper is now due on Thanksgiving Day.
8. Freak out just a little, but not enough to spur you into action.
9. Spend another few days telling yourself to write it, but find yourself playing 80s hits on bass guitar at a Chinese rehearsal studio, then playing card games over ramen and kimchi. (Proof that sometimes the most exciting things happen when you're procrastinating.)
10. Write a blog entry about writing your paper instead of actually writing it.

**Edit**
11. FINISH THE PAPER. After a 5am bedtime and only 3 hours of sleep.



OK, so do yourselves a favor and don't actually follow that guide, because it's terrible. J and I are always talking about how I have the worst combination when it comes to productivity: Type A expectations with Type B habits. This wreaks havoc on my psyche anytime a deadline shows up on the horizon.

Now is one of those times...a 15 page paper looms over me like an ion-infused cloud threatening to pour down rain, and I just keep popping up umbrellas of all different shapes and sizes to elude its existence.

Today, I'm really going to work on it. I promise. I just figured that since I'd promised a post about my school-related stuff, I'd use this as a chance to flesh out my thoughts a little. ;)

Anyway, I'm comparing two films, one by Jia Zhangke and the other by one of the villager documentarists I'm writing my MA thesis on, a woman named Shao Yuzhen.

If you want to check out any Chinese films from the last few years, most people would tell you Jia Zhangke is the guy to watch. His films (Xiao wu a.k.a. Pickpocket, Unknown Pleasures, The World, Still Life, etc.) consistently pick up international art film festival awards (including the coveted Golden Lion from Venice for his latest, Still Life), and critics and scholars alike drool over his raw post-socialist realist aesthetic and tongue-in-cheek commentary on Chinese society:



Of course, his films contain a lot of the same characteristics we've all come to expect from Chinese cinema: slow pace; long takes and shots; raw image quality; no "ending"...so don't expect Jerry Bruckheimer or anything. But, if you're feeling like brushing up on the global indie culture scene, here's a decent place to start.

Shao Yuzhen, on the other hand, is exactly what I called her: a villager, who now happens to make documentaries. That's because the director I'm interning for, Wu Wenguang, gave her (and 9 others) a digital video cam, and told her to film whatever she wanted around her village. Then he invited her to come to his studio in Beijing to edit her footage. Shao got some great material of a CCTV crew coming into her village, feeding her husband almost word for word some praises about the CCP's new rural tax exemption, then broadcasting it on the news like it really came from his heart. Hmm. Shao works in relative anonymity (especially compared to the likes of Jia Zhangke), which is part of the whole plan, because then she's able to just live among her fellow villagers and capture these amazing nuggets of video gold about contemporary village life in China.

So, I'm interested in comparing the two, particularly with regards to how they use absurdity (and a little absurdism) to highlight "realities" of their post-socialist society.

Ok, ok...back to work. Wish me luck.

2 comments:

Ingrid said...

YYAAAAYYYY I hope the guide to procrastination doesn't apply to things like changing sharty underpants! miss you guys A LOT. come back come back come back

tamela said...

haha i love your guide marilyn :)it's kind of ironic but here i am visiting your blog, when i should be doing my cal apps...oops.
happy thanksgiving you guys!! :) hope you were able to enjoy a good feast!