Introducing Mike Sellers

By Mona Malacane

Looking at his CV, you can clearly see that Mike is someone who has worn many different hats over his career: game developer, creative director, lead designer, independent researcher for DARPA, software engineer, entrepreneur, and now academic. But you would probably never guess that early in his academic career he wanted to be a neurosurgeon, and was given a strong recommendation by his adviser to apply for a prestigious fellowship at a neuroscience center. The application decision was complicated by another serendipitously timed job offer. “That same day, I was offered a job as a real programmer working for a big, high-tech company and so I had to make this decision. It was one of those ‘road not taken’ kinds of things and I took the programming job … and I really wondered about that [decision]. Years later I had the opportunity to work in Toronto with a medical imaging company and I got to work with a bunch of neurosurgeons. So I got to stand in on some [surgeries] and I designed a user interface for a graphical system used by the surgeon in the operating room. It was wonderful, but it totally made me realize that I made the right decision.” That choice put him on a path of diverse opportunities (which is super interesting stuff – I highly encourage others to chat with him about this), eventually landing him here at IU!

How Mike probably felt when trying to decide between fellowship or job.

How Mike probably felt when trying to decide between fellowship or job.

Before moving to Bloomington this summer, Mike and his wife lived in sunny California. While Mike misses the beach and San Francisco’s Bay Area, now living in Bloomington one of the things he is looking forward  is seasons. “I grew up in Virginia, which has weather a lot like it is here … and we’ve lived in Toronto, and in the Philippines … and we were in Texas and California for the last 15 years and I think some part of us has forgotten what seasons are really like. I’m sure I’ll get used to it quickly, but this concept that it’s not basically going to stay this temperature, that it will continue to go down, it’s hard to get.” So we discussed commuting options for getting to campus when it gets colder, and bonded over the annoying Mario party-like game that is biking on campus down unfinished roads and random obstacles (cough … kamikaze pedestrians … cough).

Little doodads that Mike uses to keep his hands busy, along with a reminder to think outside of the box.

Little doodads that Mike uses to keep his hands busy, along with a reminder to think outside of the box.

The time flew by and I ended up chatting with Mike for about an hour, during which I learned some other pretty cool things about him. He has six children (two of which live here), he grew up in the Philippines, which is where he met his high school sweetheart and wife; he has been friends with Ted Castronova for quite some time (which is how he ended up here in our department); and he and his brother created the world’s first 3D MMO game. Mike also sculpts, knows how to sail, and hopes to stay in Bloomington long enough to build a small boat and take it out on Lake Monroe.

Mike's bank vault refrigerator in his office. You're lying if you say you're not jealous.

Mike’s bank vault refrigerator in his office. You’re lying if you say you’re not jealous.

Our conversation covered more topics than T101, so I feel like I’m doing Mike an injustice by writing about these small slivers of his interview. So to make myself feel better, I’m going to encourage you to chat with Mike when you have the chance so you can learn for yourself about our newest faculty member!

Random Picture of the Week

Paul Wright:  “The only failsafe way to protect your dinner in TCOM faculty/staff lounge …”



Professors Show Off Talent in the Musical 1776

By Niki Fritz

Here in the Telecommunications Department, we know Mike McGregor and Steve Krahnke for their skills as professors and mentors. But lurking beneath those scholarly appearances, are two talented performers. Their talents were on display over the last two weeks in the Cardinal Stage’s production of the musical 1776.

For those unfamiliar with the Broadway classic, it is a musical about the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Written in the sixties during the Vietnam War, the musical also reflects on the realities of war and the decisions that lead a country to the battlefield. Steve also notes, 1776 is a rather unusual musical in that “it is not a very musical musical. There is a lot of talking … This is musical drama more than musical theater.”

The show is still popular with audiences, partially because the political themes still resonate with people today. “People like the show because it is just not cynical. It is an unvarnished view of real people trying to do a hard thing, trying to do what people considered the right thing,” Steve explains.

Mike adds that the musical offers another hopeful look at how politics can operate. “There is a lot of compromising [in the musical]. I think that is interesting to people today, to see how much people were willing to give up to get something done. Today politicians are my way or the highway; they would rather the government go into default than compromise. The play resonates with people. The audience thinks ‘If they could do it then, why can’t we now?’”

In addition to all that heavy political discourse, the show also features some foot-stomping good dance numbers. Both Mike and Steve get in their fair share of singing and dancing. In fact, faculty member Paul Wright, who saw the show last week, was impressed by the performers’ moves.  “I think the highlight for me was Steve doing a pirouette. Steve had a nimble and precise pirouette.”

But despite his nimble dance moves, Steve wasn’t always 100% confident in his abilities, especially since he has not performed on stage in more than 25 years. The only reason Steve even auditioned was because the directors asked him to try out. “I think they just needed middle age guys who could sing,” Steve jokes. “I was as stunned as anybody when I got the part. Almost everybody in the show is better at what they do than I am at what I do.”

However, Steve soon got into his character, Roger Sherman, a pro-independence delegate from Connecticut. “It was not easy learning to [perform] again,” Steve explains. “I don’t like doing things I’m not good at. It took me a while to build my confidence.”

Steve Krahnke in 1776  as Roger Sherman, the delegate from Connecticut who always carries a gigantic tea cup

Steve Krahnke in 1776 as Roger Sherman, the delegate from Connecticut who always carries a gigantic tea cup

As for Mike, he is more of a seasoned vet, having performed with Cardinal Stage six times before including last season’s production of Les Misérables. But 1776 has a special place in Mike’s heart; he played Thomas Jefferson in a production of 1776 at Spring Mills almost 25 years ago. He loved the play and the part so much, he told the director of this year’s show that he would dye his hair and commit to a face-lift if he could play Jefferson again! Although Mike didn’t get to play the young TJ, he was a phenomenal Dr. Lyman Hall of Georgia.

After weeks of prep, including 12-hour rehearsal on Saturdays and nightly practice, the troupe sang and danced their way through 10 performances ending Saturday night with a final show. Both Steve and Mike, say that it will be nice to get back to some normal routine and see their families again. Mike’s wife has even taken to calling herself a “theater widow” since Mike did back-to-back musicals this year. But despite all the rehearsal time and sometimes brutal hours, both Mike and Steve say the experience was worth it.

“Standing on stage with bunch of other people feels great,” Steve says. “For me that is better than individual bow.” However, Steve says he’s not rushing back for another production for quite a while.

Mike on the other hand might take a little break but the stage will always be calling him.

“I just love being on stage. Rehearsals are hellish and that’s okay. In theater you work really hard during rehearsal and then you have a blast during the performance. Everyone did their fair share of complaining but once you get on stage and people are applauding and laughing, it is all worth. I doubt I’ll do another one soon but I doubt I’ll ever give it up.”

Mike McGregor in 1776 at far stage right during the musical number "Cool Cool Conservative Men"

Mike McGregor in 1776 at far left during the musical number “Cool Cool Conservative Men”

Question of the Week: Do You Name Inanimate Objects?

It happens to all of us. We get a little too close to our car, computer or house plant and suddenly inanimate objects in our lives have names (and often personalities to go along with those names.) From Kristin’s nerd-themed computer names (including Tardis, K9 and Sonic) to Josh’s lonely bachelor days talking to his hibiscus plant “Biscuit,” it seems like most of us in the Department have some household objects that are near and dear to our heart. Check out the board below for a few other named inanimate objects. Now the real question is does Rob have a name yet for the eye-tracker in ICR?



Second Brown Bag of the Semester – September 12, 2014


John Walsh, Senior Lecturer, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

Expanded and Virtual Cinematography: Changing Roles in Production

Abstract: Motion picture production’s transition from mechanical to computer-based technology has transformed production, where processes of pre-visualization and virtual cinematography blur the lines between traditional cinematography and visual effects.  I’ll share my summer experience studying with a group of leading cinematographers who embrace virtual technologies and have redefined their practice expanded cinematography.  Their work poses compelling questions for the next generation of production students, and the Media School.

Norbert Goes to Cannes

By Mona Malacane

It’s a pretty common scene in the Telecom building and around campus – a group of people waiting for something (classroom, bus, etc).  Perhaps that was also true a century ago.  What is different in our times is that instead of talking to one another, people are texting, Facebooking, Snapchatting, Instagramming, or another ____-ing on [insert any mobile device here].

Humanexus, product of a collaboration between Norbert Herber, Ying-Fang Shen, and Katy Börner, is a thought-provoking documentary on evolution of human communication, all the way to the above-mentioned mobile devices and beyond. “The film starts in prehistoric times and goes up until the 20th century and brings us to where we are now,” Norbert explained. “Then it shows three possible futures and allows the audience to glimpse things that are similar to what they see now, or ideas of things that have been presented in movies and science fiction – the future speculations of writers, film makers, artists, and authors … and each [future] ends with a pause and the question, ‘is this what we want, what do we want?’”

A big part of Norbert’s work for the project was recording voices asking, “Is this what we want? What do we want?” The question is asked in a variety of languages by people of different ages, adding an additional layer of depth to the film. “I got as many languages I possibly could in the small window of time I had to do this … and I recorded them all in different ways,” he explained. “There was an old recording microphone; I had my father-in-law and Betsi call and leave a message on my answering machine; some people called in over Skype and I recorded that; some people came to the studio and recorded clean. The idea was that I didn’t want it to be all a clean, voice-over narration style. It needed to represent everyone in a realistic way. So having it broken up by the phone, and the internet, and by the other mediating technologies gave it a texture.”

Norbert and Katy accepting their award at the AVIFF- Cannes Art Film Festival.

Norbert and Katy accepting their award at the AVIFF- Cannes Art Film Festival.

Since it was completed in 2012, the film has achieved official selection in 81 different film festivals around the world, most recently the San Pedro Film Festival (CA) and Bolgatty International Film Festival (India), collecting quite a few awards along the way. This summer the film was accepted and screened at the AVIFF-Cannes Art Film Festival where it won third place in one of the short film documentary categories. It was subsequently selected for an additional screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Yes, the Cannes Film Festival that internationally famous celebrities and renowned directors, producers, and filmmakers attend in Cannes, France. The three collaborators traveled to France for the famous festival and got to witness the “circus” of events that take place over 12 days, as well as network with other filmmakers and see some of the other films being screened.

Norbert on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival

Norbert on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival.

The award-winning film is being screened tonight (Monday, September 8) at 7 pm in the IU Cinema and will be followed by a talk from the three collaborators. If you’d like more information on the screen, please click here. The screening is free but you must get tickets (either at the door or before) to enter!

Walter Gantz’ Blue Nail

By Tamera Theodore

When I met with Walt to get the scoop on his blue nail (see previous blog entry here), I was a little relieved to find that he hadn’t dyed his hair black, hadn’t gotten his ear pierced, and wasn’t displaying new skin ink (not that could be seen, anyway). He wasn’t undergoing some kind of radical transformation after all; his new “look” was confined to a pair of brown shoes and one shoddily painted fingernail. And yet, that nail begged for questioning.

Walt’s first introduction to the world of nail polish occurred sometime last year at a family gathering. When his twin granddaughters asked if they could paint his nails, Walt said that he simply couldn’t decline, although he did insist on limiting the scope of the job to just one nail. He recalled that the color choice was a rather garish red and that it had been applied not only to the nail but all around the nail. “It was a terrible paint job,” Walt chuckled, “but it was done by 7-year old girls! It was to be expected!” He said it took him no time at all to remove the polish; he chipped it off by the time he returned home.

But something happened when his nail was painted for a second time about a month ago. He decided to just let it be. He thought “I’m leaving it on. I like it. This is something my granddaughter did. There’s no need to fix this.” Walt said it served as a very physical reminder of his connection to his family.

Walt's fashionable blue nail

Walt’s fashionable blue nail

Interestingly, for someone who rather just stumbled into the world of nail art, Walt seems decidedly particular about his nail polish practices. For example, only one nail may carry polish at a given time and never the middle finger (even though the gesture sometimes associated with that finger is not one he personally uses). Also, nails on his left hand are off-limits because of the wedding band he wears whenever he’s not swimming. One is left assuming that he has an unspoken rule about limiting adornments of any kind to just one per hand.

In regards to reactions, the polish hasn’t gone unnoticed. Walt has observed some peripheral glances, double takes, and even some wide-eyed stares from colleagues and students. An occasional brave student has asked about it and after hearing Walt’s response, exclaimed “Oh! I thought maybe it was a Band-Aid or a bruise!” One recent work-related meeting with an attorney turned to laughter when the lawyer leaned in inquisitively and said “I’m sorry, I have to ask…is that nail polish?” to which Walt offered a short explanation and then leaned in and said “And I have to ask about your polish — would that color work well for me?”

It has been about one month since Walt’s nail was last painted and about a week since this photo was taken.  Day-to-day activities have taken their toll and it has become clear to Walt that nail art requires a certain amount of TLC. Luckily, the family is gathering this weekend for the girls’ 8th birthday celebration, just in time for a reapplication. There was some concern that the girls might be too busy with birthday activities to redo the polish, but Walt said he’ll drag them away from their fun for a few minutes if he has to.  Here he held up his hand so I could get a better look and said “I mean, look at this! It’s getting to be embarrassing!”


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