A still from Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson (2016)
Over the past few months, I have been quiet on this blog. I am not dead yet, nor is this blog, or my pending blog projects like the Lit Review, or the Specters of Marx close reading series, as I am trying to beat a deadline. I am trying to finish my master’s thesis proposal before the year ends. It is a long overdue document because I could have finished writing it two years ago when I accomplished all my course requirements and comprehensive exams.
But for the past few months starting March 2019, I have been patiently looking for a way to make the writing and research process faster. Hence, I have tried desperate measures to make this happen:
Writing Thesis At Sea
On board MOOV 5002
Last April 2019, I joined a 15-day seaborne operations in the middle of the Visayan Sea inside one of the law enforcement fleets of the Philippine Fisheries Bureau for the purpose of 1) to do my job – assist the media in documenting the seaborne operations, and 2) to seclude myself (no internet connection) and get things done with my thesis.
Time inside the ship is really long. Aside from starring at the sea, waking up in the morning for illegal fishing apprehensions, and some occasional docking at Bantayan Island, San Carlos City Port, and Cebu Port, I don’t have anything much to do so that gave me time to really fix focus on my writing and find the writing rhythm.
Writing inside the ship in the middle of the sea without a phone signal is refreshing. Good thing it was summer and the Visayan Sea was calm. I was not distracted by any calls, any urges. No beer, no time to party, no time to fool around. Just me and my laptop and a hell lot of readings I’ve already downloaded days before the ops.
I taught myself to fast read and to make use of my Mendeley app to save my annotations. My reading pace inside the ship became quicker: I read one book every one to two days. As a result, I have made a lot of progress and ended up with a 15,000-word thesis proposal document at the end of the journey.
A Thesis Log To Keep Track
My main problem for the last two years that I have been doing for my thesis is that I did not know the means of keeping track of my progress. Writing can be easy for 800-word essays. But for writings with subdivisions and word-count length reaching up to 20,000++ words, you can get easily lost. I actually tried doing flash cash to keep track, as well as maintaining a diary app on my phone but it became too straining.
In order to fix this, I designed a Thesis Log. A Thesis Log is a word processor document of an unedited log of the things I do related to my thesis. It is arranged in reverse chronology with the latest update on top.
My process was, before I start doing my work, I log the start time and what I plan to do for the writing session especially the things I need to achieve, and all the necessary expectations. Then, by the time I finish, I log the end time. In this way, I can track my progress through time.
Building My Theoretical Framework, Step 1 – Marx
Photo credits to Red Flag
One of the challenges in writing a master’s thesis is establishing a foolproof theoretical framework. Advise to fellow peers who are struggling in writing their thesis, if you already have the materials, even a partial set of materials which you can base your research on, it is important establish your theoretical base before the writing.
Building a foolproof theoretical framework took me years, a journey which started back in 2015. I started my Masters with a Deleuzian framework. Most of my papers during my early years were Deleuzian in orientation. As I explore the field of Deleuzian philosophy and its influences in various fields, I began reading its offshoots in Speculative Materialism. Speculative Materialism led me to Colletti, a Marxist critical of Hegelian school. And with a bit of a push from Dr. Diosa Labiste, Colletti led me to Dialectical Materialism. It was only last year 2018 when I became oriented towards strictly Marxism. Then afterwards, Hegelian Marxism.
Ever since last year, around early May 2018, when I decided that my framework is dialectical materialism, which was inaugurated by my paper presentation during the Marx @ 200 Conference at UP Diliman titled Marx Contra Deleuze: Towards a Materialist Constitution of the Cinematic Sign, I dedicated the rest of the year in reading Marx’s Capital. I initiated in forming a reading group for UP CMC graduate students especially those who are working on research projects related to political economy of the media, historical research, and/or value theory. We formed a reading group called Reading Capital as Media Studies led by the prestigious Marxist scholar Dr. Diosa Labiste who specializes in Critical Media Theory and Theory of Technology.
Prior to reading Capital, I already did preliminary readings on other works of Marx: Theses on Feuerbach, which formed the backbone of my theoretical orientation towards dialectical materialism, some parts of Grundrisse, German Ideology, and A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. The year 2018 was a Marxist year for me. In the same year, I have also collected all the major works of Lenin as well as some works of Mao in preparation of further studies.
Building My Theoretical Framework, Step 2 – Badiou & Mao
As most of you might remember, I also did a paper presentation at Yogyakarta last year around June. That was part of my effort to build my theoretical framework. The main intent was to polemically engage with Diaz’s metaphysics of time using Badiou’s Hegelian Maoist writings as framework. Badiou’s essay The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process was my gateway to a deeper understanding of Mao’s notion on Art and Literature. Both Badiou and Mao’s writings are influential readings for my framework. Badiou’s other essay Metaphysics and the Critique of Metaphysics would eventually led me to Hegel.
Building My Theoretical Framework, Step 3 – Hegel
Images from here.
Badiou’s essay Metaphysics and the Critique of Metaphysics was written convincingly enough to seal the deal – the framework for my thesis wouldn’t just be dialectical materialism alone but most importantly a Hegelian one. After my readings on several Marxist texts, this led me to read Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, which I started early this year. The measure in reading Hegel was to understand the theoretical schematics by which Marxists work on their studies. And now, with enough ground covered (at least covering major sections of Phenomenology of Spirit), I had more appreciation on what Marx did with Capital. It helped me a lot in moving forward.
What Lies Ahead
These measures were meant to put things in order, to actualize what has been intentionally planned. I started MA with a plan to do research on Lav Diaz. That has been my goal ever since. Given the work load of my current job and the thesis, much of my other habits began to suffer:
- Lack of interest in cinema in general.
- Lack of interest in all blog projects.
- Lack of time to do other things like sustained film criticism. Apologies to my editor at VCinema John Berra. I tried to contribute once in awhile.
- Lack of interest for logging what I watched (a series, a clip, whatever). It’s exhausting. But I have to begin again sometime in the future.
- More interested in reading than in watching. I can finish reading a thin book in less than 10 hrs; a short philosophy book in 3 days.
- Lack of interest to go to parties and socialize. I mean, sorry guys. Gotta werk!
- Less sleep, of course.
Good thing, the only habit I kept all this time is my gym exercise routine. I go to the gym four to five times a week. Gym actually helps me unclog my mind
A New Blog for ‘Logs’ (LINK)
With all this, I wanted to say that I’m doing pretty well except that I find this blog Omnitudo a little too out of my league as of the moment. In the future, I might need to reorient the aims of this blog. This blog is a professional one, a blog on Philosophy and Cinema. And like all professional blogs with an intended audience – the academia – I don’t get to make mistakes here. That is why, I made a new one where I can put my unedited thesis log and my reading log without the pressure of sounding like a professional academic blogger.
With my new ‘log blog,’ I will regularly update the new one while keeping this old one up for occasional essay-type pieces whenever I have time. In the meantime, I’m also arranging an additional log, a watch log which logs highlights of my day-to-day watching activities.