THESISCRAZY (part 8): The Final Chapter

TODAY’S THE DAY!!

GUYS! It’s been good, it’s been GREAT. With our final installment of THESISCRAZY 2019, we want to give the hugest shoutout to all the seniors–who have been cranking out their theses and who have been supporting their thesis-writing friends throughout this whole year. We can’t want to see all of you on the steps :) With that, our last four interviewees have continued this year’s trend of being from SUCH a variety of majors, check it out :)

Jaime Weisner ‘19, Studio Art & AMST

On her topic: I was supposed to be a drawing concentration, but it’s mostly sculpture and some print-making. So it kind of evolved.

About her exhibition: Essentially, I have four different categories of things. Some of them are these large cardboard box sculptures that are taller than me. Some of them are small (also) boxes with, like, body part casts in them hung on a wall. And then there are flat prints and what are essentially shelves.

On how she decided to do this project: I initially started with the idea of oversized railroad infrastructure – there are these steel barriers that look like little cubbies, and then each section of those became these box forms. I’ve always liked containment, so in some ways, it was the most self-indulged project – I got to do anything I liked and played around with rust and grunge and body parts and boxes! I was like, Let’s do it all!

On how she came up with her idea: Over the summer my advisor had us try a bunch of things out and I was really inspired by trains, so I’d say it came from there.

On her progress: First semester was a lot more stressful because it was trying to figure out what am I trying to say with this? What am I doing? Whereas this semester has been more of just having to make it. Though they’ve both been stressful, I’d say it’s been much better.

[Do you know now what you’re trying to say with it?]: Yeah! I don’t know how much is gonna come through and I think that’s okay. But, the four different categories of things are different ways of thinking through the same thing, which is combining “industrial” versus “organic” things and different combinations of that. To me, that has a lot to do with a lot of different identity things, like Asian-American-ness and biracial-ness, and overall just exploring different points of hybridity.

On her current mental state: I sort of oscillate between “I got this in the bag, I’m almost done” and “Oh my God… it’s never gonna happen” and then I just have to assume that I’m always somewhere in between. But yeah, feeling okay!

On her upsetting thesis experience: I think probably just getting ready for the mid-year critique, where all the art majors present in front of faculty and each other. I was so freaked out.

On her favorite form of procrastination: I think still doing thesis work but not actually doing the work that I need to be doing. There’s a lot of sort of mindless grunt work involved, especially in making some of the big sculptures, where it’s just like, cutting up cardboard boxes and then stacking them. And I can do those while listening to a podcast and it’s nice and fun, but not really what I need to be doing because if I absolutely had to I could do it all in two days.

On her plans for April 16th: I planned to go to Olin for the steps, but apparently I have my final critique scheduled for the same time. So now, as soon as I’m done with that, I need people to be waiting for me outside the gallery. I was going to reschedule, but “I had plans to get drunk tonight!” isn’t always the best excuse. I’m gonna celebrate as soon as that’s done and go to bed real early because the opening is the next day!

Her advice for future thesisers: If you’re feeling anxious about something, that’s the thing you should be doing. It’s just a matter of getting it started.

On her favorite part of her thesis: Over spring break I had a really fun time working on it. There weren’t a lot of people here and we got to use the downstairs studio space, I knew a few people and it was fun to work around friends while it was all finally starting to come together.

On if her thesis was a song/movie/tv show: I think it would a reverse Marie Kondo, where instead of getting rid of stuff I would just be accumulating everything.

 

Hugo Kessler ‘19, Film

On his topic: Well, I’m writing a TV pilot thesis, so that entails a pilot script – so 60 to 70 pages, mine is 68 pages – plus what’s known as the “show bible” which is an outline of the rest of the season. So, we were told that we had to have around 8 episodes so I have my pilot and then an outline of the 7 other episodes of the season. My show is about a software engineer at a major tech company who discovers there’s something wrong going on at the company and they’ve murdered his best friend, so it’s kind of a tech-conspiracy-thriller with jokes! He teams up with a reporter and they investigate what’s going on at the company and there are tons of shocks along the way. It would be a limited series; I struggled to see once the unveil everything that’s going on how they would go on from there.

On how he thought of his topic: I had the idea in October. I was struggling to think of something – and when you have no ideas it’s the worst. You just sit at your desk for hours being like “Okay I need an idea” and you don’t have one and that’s basically the whole writing process. I’d been talking with my parents, trying to brainstorm, and I figured it would be a good idea if I could come up with something related to the technology industry – I interned at Apple in Cupertino the past three summers – because it’s something I know well and I also think there’s interesting stuff you can do there. And then I also started thinking about privacy and Facebook and Google; there’s so man companies now that are collecting a lot of data. The company in my show, Calico, they’re a big proponent of keeping people’s data safe and private but it turns out that within the secretive research and development labs, they’re not doing that and they’ve amassed a global spy network. I kind of got the idea because I wanted to do something that felt kind of important to right now when a lot of people willingly give away their information in exchange for a service, but you don’t really know what’s happening to your information. What if someone was just collecting it and doing something with it? And then it’s figuring out “what are they doing with all your information,” why are they collecting your most personal information with people being oblivious to it. It takes place in 2019, so it’s pretty much the technology we have now, but probably just a little more advanced.

On his progress: I had a full draft of the script done in early January, it felt good to finish. I’ve been continually editing though, and have made so many edits since that initial finished draft. The other part is the Bible, and I finished that this past week. I’m still editing it but I have a completed 50-page bible. I might’ve gone overboard – not everyone has that long of a bible, but because there are so many different things going on it feels warranted. I’m feeling pretty good; it’s only a matter of editing things and I read over everything last night for five hours and edited on paper as I went.

On his current mental state: Honestly, it’s pretty good. I kinda feel like my character where, like, his best friend has just died and he’s discovered the company he really admires is not that great and he’s being watched and there’s so much pressure – I am feeling that because when I write the script, I have to put myself in his shoes and I’m insane, I’m sure, in my room in a ball curled up and crying. But I feel pretty good reading over the script, it moves quickly and I’m happy with how it’s turned out so far. Now it’s just a slight push further to make sure everything is as good as it can be.

On his most upsetting thesis experience: I can’t say there was anything that was that upsetting. We turned in our work at the end of winter break and we met with Joe [our advisor], and I had spent so much time over winter break working on it. For the first three and a half weeks, I would wake up at 9, sit down, write – maybe I had to do some errands but I would write throughout the day until dinner time, and then some after dinner as well. I would open up the script every morning, edit it until I hit where I left off, then started writing from there until I finished that. When I turned it in, I met with Joe, and he’s really great and he had liked what I had done, but for some reason in my mind I was like, he needed to love it. We then had a two week period to work on it, and I did so little work until a few days before I had to turn it in when I decided the whole first act of the script wasn’t working. I’d had this feeling before, but that night I completely tore that bit up and did something completely different which did not work. I turned it into Joe and he was hinting that what I had before worked more and that there was a way I could reconcile the two versions. So then I did that the next week and it worked much much better and that’s basically what I’ve stuck with now and I’m very pleased with the first act. But it took that act of discarding it all then bringing it back to get to where it is, even though that act of having the script be in complete disarray was an uh-oh moment.

On his favorite form of procrastination: There’s so much.  I like TV, I watch TV. Veep just came back! Killing Eve is coming back this weekend which I love, I watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I watch Dr. Who – during the thesis process I actually decided to watch all of Dr. Who going back from the first season in 1963, which is like 700 or 800 episodes and 97 of them are missing. They have reconstructed versions of them using audio tracks which were recorded by fans in the 60’s. I kind of did a deep dive with that. I’m now on the fifth season of it, watching one or two episodes a day, sometimes more if it’s a good story and the episodes are like 25 minutes each. So that’s been my main form of procrastination. Also, Twitter. With everything that’s going on in politics and Brexit and all that, I’m constantly on there. It’s so easy to distract yourself when you’re writing.

On his plans once his thesis is turned in: On the 16th I guess I’ll go on the steps of Olin. I don’t drink so I’ll have a sparkling apple cider as my bottle of choice. I really have no plans! This is the hardest I’ve ever worked on anything for such a long period of time, so it’ll really feel weird not to have that. Maybe I’ll watch more TV!

His advice for future thesis writers: Go into it making sure you know how much work it’s going to be. It’s really important in the process to be hard on yourself, which is easy as a writer, but to really be critical of your work, to really think about it, and to put yourself in the place of the audience. If they were seeing it for the first time, what would they be seeing? Are you conveying that as clearly and efficiently as possible? It takes a lot of work – and that’s not to discourage anyone – it’s a lot of fun work if you like it, but it’s not something you can easily whip off. The plus side of the creative writing thesis is that you don’t have to do any research, you can just make it all up. The downside is that you have to make it all up.

On his favorite part of his thesis: There’s a twist/cliffhanger at the end of Act III that I’m quite pleased with. It does the comedy trick of having an element that you introduce, seemingly giving an answer for why that element is there in the script to the audience so they think it’s already been answered, and then later on doing a second punchline based on that object. It’s often done in comedy, you might introduce something that will be used as a funny joke, and you tell a joke about it at the time so that the audience forgets about it and then ten minutes later you bring it back and it’s really really funny. And that works really well in drama too, because the audience isn’t expecting that. So something that they think they’re already secure in their knowledge about gets flipped.

On if his thesis was a song/movie/TV show:  I mean, if it was a TV show then I would have a job. I watched a TV show that not a lot of people in the US called “State of Play,” which I think came out in 2003.  It’s British, a six-part story about journalists at a newspaper covering a conspiracy about the government. The premise is that two people die on the same day, seemingly unrelated, but they both had a one-minute phone call one minute before they died, and one person was sleeping with a member of parliament. There’s a whole conspiracy going on there and it’s really cleverly done.

His most-used word/phrase: It might be “privacy.” Or “Data.” Maybe “The.”

 

Azher Jaweed ’19, History, E&ES, South Asian Studies Certificate

Working Title: “Temples of Modern India”. You know, keep things simple. It’s already hard to write and read 300 pages of something–keep things small.

On his topic: My project is focusing on the role of religion in large-scale development.  “Temples of Modern India” is a reference to Jawaharlal Nehru. He describes dams as temples of Modern India–the reason being that he wasn’t a really religious person. So he saw these dams as being a new kind of temple–not one that’s about praying but actually, as the Socialist-Marxist that Nehru was, it changed the material conditions. So dams were able to provide energy, arable land, and much other stuff. So he thought these were better suited to be the new kinds of temples that India needed to be in its new stage. So more industrial, more scientific.

On how he thought of his topic: It’s crazy, my advisor was on sabbatical last semester, and I was also applying to graduate school last semester, so I had to manage between one and the other, and I ended up being paired with a faculty in the Art History department…which is not at all my field whatsoever, but he’s South Asian Studies professor, and he’s an affiliate of the History department which is why he could do it. But he ended up taking me down a very different track. So this project, though it’s situated in the 1950s, also has an angle from the 12th century because I’m looking at these tank/temple inscriptions, on a small reservoir that was constructed in the Telangana, Andhra Pradesh region, so I didn’t expect that. It’s really a strange thesis to work with because it’s got this 800-year span of temporality. That’s been really tricky because it’s okay to read century stuff, but then it’s like ‘read some stuff you don’t know about’, and so that’s been really challenging. THat’s the thing that kept me from generating any ideas, but after a couple of months, it was much better

On his progress: I just started writing a month and a half, two months ago, and that’s when it really started developing into something that it’s taking its current form. About two days ago, I decided to toss my third chapter and when I did that, it required me to rework everything. There are maybe a couple of elements I could maybe save from that other chapter. I hope to finish all the writing of my main points today, and then tomorrow which is Monday, the day before theses are due [editor’s note: oops hehe] edit edit edit edit edit, maybe add this secret section–I wanna add another four pages somewhere, but we’ll see how that turns out–and then submit it at 2 o’clock on Tuesday.

[Why did you toss it out?]: It didn’t really go with the overall feel of my thesis, I thought. It was an interesting sidetrack but it didn’t fit well with the other two chapters of the three, so it ended up being this oddball. No matter how much I thought about it, it couldn’t quite fit into a whole project.

On his current mental state: Busy. Very, very busy. But what I do is this Tabata workout–so 50 minutes of working, 10 minutes of rest–and I make time to go for a run at 5:00. So the past week I’ve been doing that, and it’s actually kept me pretty level-headed. I get really exhausted at 2 am, 3 am, but the thing that I’ve struggled with the most is that I lay in bed and I can’t go to sleep, so I’m just thinking about the project…which is nice because the next day, I wake up with fresh ideas! And then I continue writing.

On his plans for April 16th: My Mellon advisor invited us all for dinner at Lan Chi, they have a nice selection so I’m trying to go there! And then after that… I don’t know, like what do you do after that? This consumed so much of my life. Maybe catch up on all the work I didn’t do for other classes, haha.

His advice for future thesis writers: It’s never as you predict it’s going to be and that’s okay.

On his favorite part of thesis: Oh, the coolest part of my thesis! This professor from Virginia Tech, he’s writing about one of the people I’m writing about in my thesis, so I emailed him. He agreed to skype with me and he gave me two of his un[ublished papers, so they’ll be making an appearance in my thesis, and they haven’t been published yet, so I’m pretty excited about that.

If his thesis was a song/movie/tv show: It’s kind of the movie Us, where most of the plot and the most revealing point are in the last twenty minutes. You’re just confused like what else is actually happening, like there’s action but you don’t really know until the very end. And then the plot’s got to be sped up at the end because it’s the conclusion, so that’s kind of what it’s like. Us.

His most used word/phrase: “Epistemic”.

Theses feces: What a strange question. Fine, Fine, Fine. Totally. Normal. Consistency! Everything is good.

 

Justin Campos ‘19, CSS

Working Title: Ahora Más Que Nunca (Now More than Ever): Memory Production Following the Peruvian Internal Conflict

On his topic: I’m writing about how the past is remembered in the present. That sounds theoretical when I say it out loud, but I think it has a lot of practical applications. I’m looking at legal processes. I’m looking at what people call truth and reconciliation which committees which look to investigate what actually happened throughout a civil war, and how to bring a nation back together which is a really big task. I’m also looking at spaces that commemorate memory, like museums, monuments, and other similar things. Lastly, I’m looking at what I call “cultural production”, such as music, art pieces, films, and things that people make that help them remember the past. Also what the political implications of that are

On his current mental state: Pretty nervous but confident that I’ll be able to do it by next week.

On his most upsetting thesis experience: I was doing my research over the summer, and I went to Peru hoping to talk to a lot of people. But a lot of people ghosted me and were like “let’s do next week”, because I wasn’t in town. I did get a couple of cool interviews, but it was really frustrating trying to coordinate with people who I thought I had already coordinated with. That was frustrating, but it wasn’t that upsetting.

Favorite form of procrastinating: I procrastinate so much that I’m not sure what my favorite form is. Probably listening to music, or more than that, I’ll sit around discovering new music but I’ll spend hours doing it instead of writing my thesis.

On his plans for April 16th: Everything that I’ve been putting off, like other work and reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in a while because of my thesis. Hanging out on Foss, just enjoying the rest of my time.

His advice for future thesis writers: I guess be better at planning than I am. I write this thing in big chunks, but I probably could have done it a little bit over time. I’m really bad at doing that because I’m such a procrastinator. If you could do it, do it slowly over time.

On his favorite part of thesis: Getting to connect with other people about this. A lot of people have similar topics, and also professors on campus that I didn’t know would reach out to me and be like “let’s talk about this”.

If his thesis was a song/movie/tv show: My thesis is just really depressing, so I wouldn’t want it to be a movie or tv show. I guess if it was a song, I wouldn’t want it to have any lyrics, because that would be too depressing. It would be a classical piece with no lyrics. That’s why I do it in chunks, because it’s really hard to do the readings for this. But I think it’s really important work, which is why I continue to do it. It definitely takes a toll on people. I’m really impressed when people do this kind of work. War is sad.

His most used word/phrase: It’s some really common transition words, like “thus” or “therefor” or “as a result”.

Theses feces: 7/10. It’s going well. It’s the most stable thing in my life.

 

interviews by gabs and un meli-melo