If anyone *does* keep an eye on these blogs, you may notice a slew of posts coming through in the recent days. That’s been because I 1) don’t set regular blogging times for myself- something I should really rectify, instead of blogging when I feel I have something to write about, because when I’m tired / bored I don’t think people want to read about me being tired / bored… and 2) I’ve been preoccupied with studenty work and all. They weren’t kidding when they said we should find a part time job in the first term, if we needed work (SMP’ers, at least. I’m not sure how the work pressure has been for Sci- Commers).
This pic is to make this posting less serious
(By the way, I just spent ten minutes blogging smoothly away, only to destroy it with a mistouch of my touchpad and a keystroke. This is not the first time this has happened, and actually may be a reason why I haven’t always updated even if I’ve actually sat down and written stuff…)
What have we had to do this term? Less essays- last term we had four, this term we had three- but more practical projects. The three essays were for the modules of Narrative, Documentary, and Sounds, signs and meanings in radio. For Narrative, you could either write a story or analyse a story or film. I opted for the analysis, because to be boring is often to be safe, and I wasn’t sure how the story would really be marked.
For Documentary, we had to watch and analyse a documentary. In the process I made a list of good documentaries to catch up on (the Academy Awards lists for Best Documentary Feature are a good starting point.
I really wanted to analyse ‘Waiting for Hockney’, a film about American artist Billy Pappas who spent 8 years, full time, drawing a painstakingly detailed copy of a Marilyn Monroe photograph in pencil. He later centred on David Hockney as THE artist who would understand his motivation and reason for doing what he did, and would be the man who would get the wheels turning in the ‘Art World’ for him. Billy’s amazing dedication- 8 years of exile, living in his parent’s house, funded by an eccentric seeming architect who hopes he will make a huge splash in this fabled art world- and his unwavering, unquestioning nature, sort of exacerbate your worries about what will happen when the picture is finally revealed and shown to Hockney. We the viewer don’t see the picture until three-quarters of the documentary passes. It’s an interesting documentary for anyone remotely interested in art theory or art- the central question is really whether Pappas has spent a large part of his twenties and thirties wisely, and whether his efforts will hold any merit in the notoriously confusing and fey world of art.
Unfortunately, 40D no longer hosted the Pappas documentary, so I watched a few others- ‘Grizzly Man’ finally educated me on who Werner Herzog is- and chose ‘Jesus Camp’. Another recommended one- look at the way they pump up the preaching scenes. The strong Christian-kids themes kind of reminded me of South Korea, where Christianity is really catching on. A lot of the children I taught had been recruited to our English school through church groups that the headmaster was active in. It was quite hard on the ears to hear young, smart children saying assured things like, ‘I don’t believe in evolution,’ and trying to respect their beliefs at the same time, when these were things their parents had specifically drilled into them. I did give my opinion more freely in a couple of the biology lessons I gave.
Though really, that should have been 'leshh seerius' or something in lolspeak
Anyway. The Radio essay involved listening to a play, then analysing that, too, using knowledge of the codes, editing tricks, and nature of radio, plus confusing terminology about semiotics. Semiotics- a way of labelling the categories of meaning of ’signs’, like words or pictures, makes more sense in film, but not, for me, in radio.
Thus 6700 words aside, there was a 6-7 minute science radio documentary to research, interview for, and then edit. I’ve ranted abbout this variously before- man, the hard part was finding an original idea, as it’s apparently not considered worthy in the real world of work unless it’s current news or is going to become current news in the near future. I interviewed Dr Anders Sandberg, a very approachable and interesting philosopher of science, the amiable and helpful particle physics Prof Mike Green of Royal Holloway, and Felicity Mellor, Imperial’s own science communication lecturer and straight-talker. The toughest part was splicing together the material to meet the 7 minute deadline… and we were advised to make it closer to 5 or 6 minutes, for the best programme. I…. think I pushed 8-9 minutes. If it’s not complete rubbish, I’ll post it up here. I’m not sure because the editing process took an amazing amount of time, and having edited my former final draft yet again and sent it in on the evening of the deadline day, I haven’t dared listen to it again. I could dedicate an entire day to the radio editing computers, and only be a tiny step closer to the finished product- like have eliminated fifty ‘umm…’s and stutters, cut out the answers I thought I might want to use, maybe make 30 seconds of opening montage…- I don’t know why it was so timeconsuming, it seems illogical and impossible, but there you go. There was some desperate scheduling and competition for the computers between the late-finishers of us, during the final week. I’d like to make something longer out of all the interview footage I recorded, all contributors had good points or suggestions to make, it’ll just depend on how keen / panicked I feel over the vacation while I’m revising. I’m still holding the footage of International Night, which I have yet to find time / knowledge to edit and put together. Argh!
Then there was the group documentary project… three of us, working together to shoot and edit a 10 minute documentary. The final project is completely different from our original plan, drawn from what were random questions and filming ideas on the actual shooting days, which ended up being picked out when we were looking through the footage and wondering what to do. It was kind of a warm up for the final documentary we have to shoot this summer… to understand more about documentary making, and who you might like to work with, and who you definitely won’t. Jonny, Shamini, that last comment was NOT directed at you- honestly!! The class’s subjects ranged from filming at a bagel bakery, a blind piano tuner, a living statue, and a deaf sign language teacher (ours). After viewing ours so much, I’m really looking forward to viewing the other documentaries to see how the styles will differ.
I are fond of lolcatz
Deadlines were generally met this week and last week, leaving me kind of exhausted and not in the mood to start my revision. I still had and have a couple of things to do- articles for I, Science, I helped organise an Engineers Without Borders exhibition on Tuesday- but post-deadlines, even small tasks feel like mountains.
The worst thing, though, was getting ill. On Saturday I came crashing down with some cold / viral bug that my boyfriend had been mucousily hosting for a week. It’s left me exhausted, headachey, and drained… I think I feel normal again today, but I feel like I spent most of the days in between in a kind of sick, zombie-like daze in bed, thinking weird thoughts and blowing disgusting material out my nose in pitiful little groans. At one point, I looked up the chemical composition of mucus. Protein chains, apparently. All the while, I’m aware of what a waste of time it is to be ill… all this free-er time post-deadlines, and I just wanted to be mostly unconscious all day. I lost my enthusiasm for almost everything… why write? Why draw? Why interact?… and so felt a bit depressed for a while.
Ever notice that people have three set reactions to people who are sick? It’s either ‘Oh, you poor thing…’ (nice people). ‘I felt obligated to be sorry for you at first, but now you’ve just been a complete misery all weekend / stopping me from living my life’ (my boyfriend) and ‘You’re sick? You’d better not make me sick!!’ (pray tell, HOW? Shall I command each and every germ to stay in my body? Besides, what are you going to do if you DO get sick- cough on me? I’ve been there already!)
But now it is Thursday, I feel human again, and we’re showing our finished documentaries to each other today. I’m happy to actually feel enthusiastic again about this.