Monday, February 09, 2009

Kantan Tumutuge'

I've been working on my dissertation for about three years now, but have only spent the past year or so writing it. I could easily take another year to finish it, and sort of slowly and lazily work on it, but I'm in a hurry to get out of the graduate student phase of my life. Menha yu' ni' student debt, esta o'sun yu' nu i lina'la estudiante kolehu, ya guaha otro na malago bei cho'gue gi i lina'la'-hu.

So I'm pushing myself to finish and have a tentative date for the first week of June to actually defend this damn thing.

Right now I've written the first drafts of three chapters and am almost done with my fourth one. After that I've got one quick chapter left and then a conclusion and I have my sprawling, insane, crazily written first dissertation draft done. Este nai i guinife-hu, na bai hu (put fin) na'funhayan este na tinige', kosaki sina bai hu na'hanao mo'na i karrera-hu ta'lo.

A few months ago one my friends suggested that those of us in our department who are stuck in writing thesis(es), qualifying exams, or dissertations or prospectus(es), that we all join together and make a group blog on the dire straits, difficulties and insanities of writing these sorts of academic projects. She suggested "Dissertation Detritus" as a title for the blog. I was excited about the idea, since it would have meant more time taken away from my dissertation to work on other more interesting and exciting things. My life at this point is all about searching for distractions, reasons why I can't work on my dissertation today, and then achagigu remembering all the reasons as to why I have to finish it up, have to push myself, can't end up another Pacific Islander or Chamorro who couldn't finish their doctorate, because they came home ya kinenne' gui' ni' duendes gi halom tano'.

Writing my dissertation has been a struggle at times. I've been a grad student for so long, and have already written two master's thesis(es), several dozen conference papers, a handful of articles, and have endlessly blogged about academic issues. I've had to develop a lot of tricks in order to get myself to write, and also learn what my strength and weaknesses are when it comes to writing.

One thing that I've learned about myself is that I tend to write best, when I'm not paying attention to something around me. So classes, lectures, public meetings, etc. Group settings where someone is speaking or several people are speaking, are for some reason ideal for me to write, for me to work through ideas and come up with the first drafts of something. Ilek-na Si Rashne na i mina'taiguiguini yu' sa' "jerk" yu'.

Over last summer ended up taking several videos of myself out in the world writing. I've been cursed with an affliction whereby I have to hand write almost everything first, before it can go into the computer. For some reason any writing other than that which I'm blogging about, is incredibly hard for me on the computer. I ended up freezing up, distracting myself, loosing interest, getting upset and eventually spiraling into tano' taisetbe.

When it comes time to actually type up my endless pages, I can never do it at home or in any place near a bed, television or video games. All three of those things will lead me to sleep, watch or play. So since I've been on Guam I've found that certain coffee shops with nice aircon, free wireless and sometimes good food and drinks are my best typing environment.

The main thing though which has helped me through this dissertation writing process has been finding the right songs, that help make my mind click and for some reason help me focus. I first wrote about this in 2006 in my post "Soundtrack Lachadek." I was then working on finishing up my master's thesis in Ethnic Studies titled "Everything You Want to Know About Guam But Were Afraid to Ask Zizek."

I had found that certain songs helped motivate me or put me in the grove to write and so I eventually made my own writing soundtracks. Here's a sample of the ones I used to listen to, they were all pretty fast paced anime-inspired songs:

"Katayoku no Tenshi" (One Winged Angel) - From Final Fantasy VII
"Decisive Battle" - From Neon Genesis: Evangelion
"Katana Suite" - From Samurai Fiction
"Vagrancy" - From Samurai Champloo
"Terra's Theme" - From Final Fantasy III
"Kaneda" - From Akira
"Fumoffo Theme" - From Full Metal Panic! Fumoffo!
"What Planet is This?" - From Cowboy Bopeep/ Cowboy Bebop

As I'm writing my dissertation, my tastes are slightly different. I've definitely been heavily affected by Rock Star Band and Guitar Hero, in terms of what music can keep me motivated and make me tap my feet in my yoris while I write.

But in the hopes that there are others out there who are struggling with writing and looking for some dissertation soundtrack suggestions, here's the ones that use most. I've rated them in terms of how useful they've been to me.


1. Boston - "Foreplay/Longtime"

This song helped me write my entire first dissertation chapter. I just listened to it over and over and over and over and over again. Its actually two songs put together, and its almost eight minutes long. You could actually mark time in your life by this song. Just as progressive bloggers made "Friendman Units" of "F.U." equalling six months of time. You could easily use this song to do the same. Boston units to go along with Rush units.

2. Led Zeppelin - "Kashmir"

Even though I've listened to this song many many times, and it were essential in helping me get through the last few sections of my third chapter, I still don't understand why its called Kashmir, when its not about Kashmir the place, but actually about Morocco?

3. Rolling Stones - "Gimme Shelter"

My third favorite song to play on Rock Star Band part 1 (after "Don't Look Back in Anger" and "Creep). This song doesn't actually help me write very much, but when I hit a lull, ya tinemba yu', and I don't want to write anymore, I just want to curl up on the floor of the coffee shop and sleep, this is a song that helps get me back in the mood. Its one of Barack Obama's "favorite" songs on his ipod, and its guitar solos are so damn catchy. When I'm typing and then come on, sometimes I find my fingers tapping as if I'm playing the song on Rock Star Band.

4. The Castro Boyz - "Cha Cha Mix (Ta Fan Peska and Dinamita)

Another song which helps kick life into what usually around 4 pm has become a writing corpse. It is so damn catchy, and I usually end up doing a very bad stationary cha cha while I'm listening to this song and typing. I'm doing one right now. I think the table behind me is giggling at it. Lana.

5. Fall Out By - "Dead on Arrival"

A short song and there aren't alot of short songs on this list, since longer songs tend to wrap you up in a different universe where your thoughts flow out of your brain with greater ease. I found that when I listened to this song, I would actually type not easier, but much much faster. That I would be hurrying and typing at certain points in order to be done with a sentence or a paragraph so that at the right moments I can mouth to the lyrics "dead on arrival!" or "this is side one/flip me over." This was a very weird feeling when I realized this. Kind of like Pavlov's karaoke experiment, to go along with Pavlov's dog and cat.

6. Dragon Force - "Through the Fire and Flames."

An evil crazy song, that I once thought was cool until I attempted to play it on Hard on Guitar Hero III. Now this song is like the bane of my existence, one of the few songs that I couldn't beat on Hard or Expert in that game. This song is like a crossroads piece. I sometimes put it on when I reach a theoretical crossroads in my writing, where I could go two (or more) different ways in terms of getting my point across. This song is seven minutes long, which feels like alot of time, until you you spend it reading through pages of writing, drafts, articles, interviews and so on, hoping to figure out what course would be best. In that context, the song really sometimes feels like you are slowly being consumed by fire and flames, and Herman Lu's ti hongge'on na guitar playing is taunting you by your indecisiveness. By the end of the song you should have a decision, and if you don't, then you really feel like a failure when you have to listen to that long-ass song again.

7. Matala - "Leocadia/Tight Fit"

I saw a video of these songs played back to back by the band at a show at the UOG cafeteria, and I ended up favoriting it on youtube, and listening to it over and over while I was writing my second chapter. I eventually asked my brother to get me a copy of their CD (since he's in a band with people who are in Matala, or in bands with people who are in bands with people from Matala, actually for all I know both me and my brother are currently band members of Matala). "Leocadia" is just instrumental and comes on first and hypnotizes you, and then prepares you for the faster and harder music and lyrics of "Tight Fit." Both together they helped me get through the Chalmers Johnson section of my second chapter.

8. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Can't Stop"

This song practically wrote my prospectus, the proposal you have to write and defend before you can become "ABD." I came across it on youtube while searching for Naruto fan made videos featuring the character Kisame. I found one called "The Kisame Incident" and it used this song as the soundtrack for the battle in Konoha of Kisame and Itachi vs. Kakashi, Kurenai and Asuma. I have no idea why this sound helped me write so much. But I would just click replay on this video for hours in the background of my prospectus file, and it just worked.

9. Oasis - "Masterplan"

Its getting harder and harder to write, even though I'm more than half-way there its been difficult in the past month to keep myself motivated. Too many distractions, too many other things that I could be involved in, working on, all of which seem more exciting and interesting than my dissertation. Even songs that have helped me before, don't seem to be helping me focus. One of the few songs that been working is "Masterplan" by Oasis. I don't know why, maybe I'm in a meloncholic mood and Oasis is appealing to the dejected, detatched, apathetic British brat in me? Hekkua'.

10. - Journey - "Don't Stop Believin"
This song doesn't really help me write that much. But sometimes when I do feel like I'll never finish or I'm gonna get stuck and never write again. This song makes me smile.


Drea said...

Love this post. So much awesome music. I can't wait to show my boyfriend the Final Fantasy clips set to Journey. Love the game. Love the song.

I know what you mean about music affecting and helping you writing. I need music to function.

words and steel said...

I am so very jealous of you being able to write. Me- delayed again (not by my design), now defending sometime in the spring instead of in two weeks as scheduled. This process is painful, isolating, and soul-crushing. Is there any other way besides this to get things done?

Kel Muna said...

Mike, you're crazier than I gave you credit for! :) Same thing when I was in film school - except my songs didn't have half the depth yours does. I usually listened to new country, The Goo Goo Dolls, The Gin Blossoms and Incubus.

I just let it play over and over and over again. Then before I knew it - I already taught myself how to use Flash. ;) So now when I hear any of those bands' songs, it reminds me of Flash. yuk. (oh-and you're probably the only other person I know on Guam that knows Cowboy BeBop)

roldy said...

the music of ff7 helped push me through my first years in college. particularly aerith's theme. the movement of notes pulled gently to my heartstrings, reminding me of why I was there.

Michael Lujan Bevacqua said...

Thanks for your comments. After being in a graduate program for years, working and being friends with people who sadly weren't very big video game or anime geeks, its good to know that so many geeks are reading my blog!

To Words and Steel: I hear you. There's times when I really want to toss away my laptop and become a farmer or something, because its just way too hard to write. What I've learned is that its all about knowing what works best for you and just creating that space, those conditions, those feelings over and over again until you're done. I think that once I'm done with the dis, it'll be easier, just because I'll have gone through the long, sprawling writing process three times by now.

To Kel: You're probably right, because Cowboy Bebop is so old for most people on island now. Most of my nieces and nephews who love manga and anime have never heard of it. But I loved that anime, the soundtrack was awesome, a good fusion of jazz and funk.

To Drea: Thanks for saying that my weird, random collection of music is awesome, and I swear that the song "Don't Stop Believin" can be put to the clips of almost anything and it will work.

To Roldy: Thanks for sharing. Aerith's Theme is a beautiful piece.


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