It’s been a tough semester for me in my PhD program. I’ve been trying to finish up my coursework, was the co-lead on a major Augmented Reality application, and wrote three papers, two of which were published. So I’m worn out. On top of that, I went to the biggest conference in my field to present one of the papers, and immediately got so sick that I couldn’t go on stage and left a day early. Also, my allergies have been worse than they’ve ever been the last few months. It’s been a miserable time, but I’m here at the end and I know I’ve accomplished quite a bit, but it’s hard to appreciate it. As a PhD student, you’re always hip deep in work, and it’s hard to really step back and look at the forest rather than just hacking your way through the trees and trying to keep the vegetation from growing over you.
I need a break. A major break. So I’m dipping back into one of my old loves, film. I’ve always been interested in film, and even co-hosted a film podcast for 3 and a half years, discussing things happening at the IU Cinema. It was fun, and I had a lot of great experiences, but grad school took over. I’ve been dedicated to grad school, first my master’s, then the PhD, for the last 4 years.
After talking to my advisor earlier in the week, he suggested since I don’t have any serious responsibilities until mid-late June, I should take the month off. I’m not great at taking time off, but in general I agreed with him. Sitting around the house playing video games might be fun for a day or two, but I know I’d eventually come back into work just out of boredom, and it doesn’t help me grow at all.
In design, we place a high premium on reflection. It’s important to take time to think about work you have done, mistakes you made, and better understand how you are evolving. This is my chance to step back and reflect, figure out who I am right now, and what I want to do in design and academics.
So I’ve set myself a little project for the summer. I’ve gone back and forth on the project for a couple of days now, so this might evolve, but here’s the basic idea:
I will watch two movies, back to back, and then write about them as a unit. How do they compare? What themes do they have in common? Do they feel right watching them together?
So what movies will I watch? I don’t have a list, but I have some ideas. The basic guidelines are: 1) they have to be in my collection or I have to have access to them already. I don’t have lots of money to spend on new DVD’s or subscriptions to services I don’t already have. Luckily, in my previous fully employed life, I spent lots of money on DVDs and Blurays, so I have a wide selection and a few services like Netflix, Amazon, and even FilmStruck. 2) In general, I’ll be focusing on films I haven’t seen before, or don’t know that well(meaning I’ve likely only seen them once, probably years ago). I will lean towards older, classic films. A more recent movie or even modern movie might sneak in, but in general, I’ll be aiming at movies at least 10 years old, and usually more like 30-60 years old. The movies might be all-time classics, obscure classics, Hollywood fluff or totally bizarre ephemera.
How will I choose the double feature? This I’m not sure of. I want to avoid taking other people’s lists and choosing from there. My idea right now is that I’ll choose two directors, and then select a film of each from my collection. I have lots of films from lots of directors, so this shouldn’t be difficult. The only real rule I’m setting for myself here is that I have to select both movies before starting the double feature.
How often will I do this? I have a lot of time to work on things, so this will be almost daily. I do have a couple of things to work on over the next month that I can’t set aside, so I plan on working at least one day a week, or maybe a half day twice or three times a week. I expect to have a new post on film at least 4 days a week. Once my break ends, film posts might slow down to one a week, or might disappear altogether
In addition to film posts, I will likely post about books I’m reading, or even work I’m doing. In design, we place a high premium on reflection. It’s important to take time to think about work you have done, mistakes you made, and better understand how you are evolving. This is my chance to step back and reflect, figure out who I am right now, and what I want to do in design and academics. This is an essential part of my growth. Please join me on the journey. I’ll try to post films ahead of time so if you’d like to watch them with me, you have the opportunity.
My first director pairing will be: Akira Kurosawa, and Alfred Hitchcock. Why these two? Because I know I have lots of their films on my shelf. We’ll see about getting more thoughtful about this process once it evolves a bit.
See you soon.