Notes from Finals Week: Relevant Procrastination

My latest strategy for procrastinating on papers (and to a lesser extent exam studying): looking at stuff that is at least marginally related to what I’m supposed to be doing.

Like when I’m trying to write a philosophy paper but I have no idea how to answer my own questions and my brains are starting to fall out of my left ear.

So I start looking at stupid philosopher chicken jokes.

And this Tumblr of Foucault quotes with pictures of the Olsen twins on Full House

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Or Judith Butler explained with cats.

And eventually I end up with something new to say.

I’ve always thought that the ideal of being “productive” or “efficient” is a little off, particularly when it comes to things like writing. Because while we may like to imagine that we can just put the fingers to the keyboard and crank out a paper using sheer willpower, the real work is actually thinking, which doesn’t really respond to brute force. It’s just not always possible to make your brain to spontaneously churn out new ideas about a topic that it didn’t have before.

You have to put some stuff into your brain to get stuff out of it. And for me, it has to be something I genuinely want to be looking at if I want a chance of sticking with it (against the siren call of Netflix) long enough to get some gears turning.

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Actual Lines From Actual Papers I Wrote

  • “While Carmen was intended as an exoticized depiction of the Other, Hey Arnold transforms it into a reflection of the self.
  • “In a way, this episode can be seen as advocating for the underappreciated role of the librettist, which is subordinate to both the composer and performer in the traditional production.”

Yep, I’m talking about this, football heads*:

Also, if you like awful puns . . .

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Sometimes I’m not sure if whether I’m taking this stuff too seriously or not seriously enough . . .

*Also, just wondering, am I the only one who spent several years of my early childhood thinking that Arnold was a girl?

Going Home

(A snippet from something I’m writing)

Jung talked about people wanting to regress to the womb in difficult times. But what if we actually could? What everyone revisited the womb for just a moment and saw that it was wet and lonely and cramped and had a pretty darn high mortality rate? Would we realize that it never really could provide the comfort and safety we were seeking, and search around us for answers instead? Would we start looking forward instead of back? Would we finally grow up and get on with life?

Then again, Jung said a lot of crap.

Modes of Struggle Transportation

As the school year begins, many of us are preparing for frequent rides on the struggle bus. But what happens when you have too many struggles to fit on a single bus? Here is a range of struggle transportation methods to adequately and specifically express your current struggles.

Struggle Bicycle:

Ex: I feel tired.

Struggle Car:

Ex: I feel tired because I was working all night on a paper that’s due today.

Struggle Bus:

Ex: I feel tired because I was working all night on a paper that’s due today. Now I’m about a quarter of the way done.

Struggle Train:

Ex: I feel tired because I was working all night on a paper that’s due today. Now I’m about a quarter of the way done. Too bad my laptop crashed.

Struggle Airplane:

Ex: I feel tired because I was working all night on a paper that’s due today. Now I’m about a quarter of the way done. Too bad my laptop crashed. And burned. Setting the building on fire.

Struggle Spaceship:

Ex: I feel tired because I was working all night on a paper that’s due today. Now I’m about a quarter of the way done. Too bad my laptop crashed. And burned. Setting the building on fire. Because it was hacked by a team of international identity thieves who are planning to kill me and use my information in their plot for world domination.

Why I Won’t be One of Those Apologetic Bloggers

So I guess I haven’t posted in a while. I guess that means I’m expected to start my next post with something like:

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve had a bunch of papers and midterms and rehearsals and general life crises. Basically life has been sort of crazy and I literally haven’t had a minute to post anything. Anyway, back to talking about Buzzfeed or dancing gerbils or whatever . . .

But I won’t. Here’s why:

  • No one actually cares that much: If you follow or read my blog, I highly appreciate it and you are the best. However, it seems a little egotistical to act as if there are tons of people anxiously waiting by their laptops with deep concern over whether or not I post something. (That said, if you feel that you have been personally victimized by my lack of posting, let me know and I will issue you a heartfelt personal apology, possibly in poem or interpretive dance form.)
  • The excuses are just excuses: Have I been having some life crises? Sure, but what else is new. Have I had a bunch of work due? Yes, but it’s not like I didn’t spend an equal amount of time procrastinating paper writing on Facebook as I did actually writing papers. Saying “I didn’t post because I was busy writing a paper” isn’t any more accurate than saying “I didn’t post because I felt more compelled to passively experience the mind-numbing properties of the internet.” Which I think is valid too, because . . .
  • I don’t need an excuse anyway: Why do I have to justify not doing anything? Who decided that the only acceptable reason for someone not doing something is to be doing two, three, or twenty other things at the same time. I’m not a big fan of all this “productivity worship” that makes us feel like we’re morally inferior or wasting space by doing anything besides highly efficient, insanely multitasked work with concrete results. There is nothing wrong with doing nothing. In fact, I probably don’t do enough nothing.

Also, it’s my blog. Until someone pays me to write this stuff, I’m going to keep on posting as frequently as a feel like. Plus, I should probably work on apologizing less in life in general, and this seems like a decent place to start. Not that I’m sorry for apologizing. I can apologize if I want to. Just not right now 🙂

Dance Writing and Killing Butterflies

I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing about dance performances lately. And I feel kind of guilty.

A dance is alive. It’s made up of infinitesimal moments of movement with emotional flavors which occupy a space not necessarily beyond words, but between words, in the range of deeply specific experiences that our linguistic boxes forget to catch. It’s alive because people make it and people do it and people watch it and people are never the same from moment to moment. It’s alive because sometimes dancers fall and sometimes they don’t. It’s alive because it’s fleeting, morphing, dying before you. It’s alive because, at least on some level, people usually don’t really know what it means (even in super literal narratives, all the dancing in between the narrative landmarks is up for interpretation). This way, it can mean everything at same time, or a strange mix of things, or whatever you at that moment need it to mean, and you don’t have to describe any of it.

And then there’s words. Words are definite and limited and discreet. At best, they can hint at the essence of an experience. At worst, they reduce it. Words can be vague (and I like this kind), but we usually (at least in the case of performance papers) try to make them clear, so that their meaning is stable and universal. This makes words immortal. It also makes them dead. A clearly worded sentence will still be there tomorrow, telling you the same thing it did yesterday.

When I was in second grade, someone from a museum came to my class to talk about butterflies. I loved butterflies. I loved trying to catch the ones that fluttered around my back yard in the spring. And I never succeeded.

But this lady brought in some glass frames with pinned down dead butterflies. She pointed out colors and talked about species, but all I could think about was the fact that they were dead. She said that they had saved the butterflies so that we could learn about and understand them more. She said that they wouldn’t have lived long anyway.

But they were still killed and pinned down. Their flurry of movement was reduced to a single static moment, forever. I could catch them now, but that was no fun.

And that’s how I feel when I write about dance performances. A one-time experience is pinned down so that it lasts, but isn’t really the same. Intangible moments are reduced to a crude linguistic approximation. I write down one interpretation and kill the rest.

I still like writing about dance. There are advantages to killing butterflies. You can look at their colors up close and point out their patterns. You can discover and classify the range of types. You can introduce them to people who don’t have butterflies in their yard or those who never thought to go outside and look. But lets not forget the violence that’s involved.