Sine Qua Nonsense

Spring Break Destination Guide

Cancun is for undergrads. Florida is for underage drinking. California is for students who never heard the sound of a dial-up modem. We adults, faculty, staff, and graduate students alike, need our own places to go during the one week vacation celebrating the end of winter. It still isn’t too late to make plans for March 15-22, so I present some recommendations for you.

For quantitative researchers who aren’t looking for warmer climates, the best Spring Break destination is Alpha Ridge, Alaska. The temperature never rises above 0.05 degrees at this hiker-lovers’ paradise and sedentary folks’ hell. Take your significant other!

It would be a cliché to recommend Hollywood to our TV and film production students and faculty, some of whom actually worked there in the past. Instead, they should travel to New Zealand to see the breathtaking locations of films such as the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. The only problem is that since they would be traveling to the southern hemisphere, this would turn into Fall Break, which at IU is just a three day weekend.

The Telecom staff especially deserves a week off for putting up with all the rest of us. I’m not sure where they should go, but I know where they shouldn’t. Don’t go to Dunder Mifflin headquarters in Scranton, PA. Just stay as far away from The Office as possible.

The Telecom running group should visit Marathon, Greece. For cheap airfare and lodging, negotiate with your travel agents. Don’t let them give you the runaround.

Those of us hard at work laboring over a dissertation, thesis, or other big projects may not have time for a vacation. You should travel to the North Pole, where it is cold and dark and you would not be tempted to leave your hotel room, where you can work all day long. On second thought, the scenery may be too beautiful. Better yet, look up the most dangerous cities in the United States to choose your destination. If you want to work on a long flight, look up the worst cities in the whole wide world.

Since St. Patrick’s Day is during Spring Break, you may want to travel to Ireland. If you do, please do not attempt an Irish accent. It will probably sound terrible, somebody may punch you in a pub (not necessarily an Irish person), and a leprechaun will put a curse on you.

Finally, remember that there is always the possibility of a staycation. The best staycation destination for Bloomington residents is, by definition, Bloomington. If you want a semi-staycation, travel to Bloomington, Illinois, a few hours away from here. On the welcome sign at the entrance to the city, please spray the following message: “You sure you didn’t mean to type ‘Bloomington, IN’ into your GPS app?”


The Jam Band Lovers in our Ivory Tower

By: Niki Fritz

I was raised on steady diet of Beach Boys and gospel-style Elvis Presley, the music diet equivalent of unseasoned pork chops and potatoes. I did not even know the Beatles were a thing until high school. I most certainly was never exposed to any “jam bands” or any music that jammed at all.

I was curious when I heard not one, but two, of our faculty members self-identified as jam band fans. Bryant Paul is a notorious Deadhead, while Julien Mailland considers himself an active Phish Head. While I understand the basics of a jam band (which I assumed is VW buses, tie-dye and lots of “jamming”), I wanted to find out more about the lure of this free-style music. In particular I wanted to know why two seemingly serious academics would be into the chaos of bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish.

Bryant’s love affair with the Dead started way back in the 80s when Bryant was in high school. The band had a resurgence after playing for years in the 60s and 70s when their song “Touch of Grey” ranked in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts, the only Dead song to ever do so. Bryant was a guitarist and the Dead-style of jamming inspired him.

In 1989 Bryant finally had the chance to go to his first show at the Spectrum in Philly. He pulled into the parking lot with his friends on a Thursday night in October. It was drizzling, so they threw a huge tarp over all their cars, making a temporary camping site. Other Deadheads were doing similar things, e.g. selling goods from the trunks of their cars. Bryant and his friends walked around, talking to people from all over the country. During the show, Bryant remembers people free-flow dancing and an open, welcoming, hippy-esque environment.

Bryant explains that the Grateful Dead is really about live performances, not studio recordings. “[Live shows] gave you the opportunity to sit there while someone is creating art in front of you,” Bryant explains. “Having all these people work together to create something as a whole is amazing. They bring clarity out of chaos.”

Bryant went to over 15 Dead shows but eventually, the crowd began to change and the front man, Jerry Garcia, started to fade.  When Jerry died, Bryant remembers thinking something big was ending.

“You want to think the Dead were more than Jerry – and they were – but they were 85% Jerry,” Bryant says. “It wasn’t that he was the only one you wanted to hear; he was just this bigger than life personality. When he died, so much died with him.”

Today though, Bryant says he is probably a bigger Deadhead than he was back in the day, thanks to the Grateful Dead XM radio channel. It is what he listens to 95% of the time, finding new inspiration with each live concert.

“[The Dead] has a special place in my past,” Bryant says wistfully. “I think the thing I got the most out of the band was this idea that you can create something really cool and work really hard at it, but it doesn’t have to be so serious. Look at what I do for a living. If I die tomorrow, the world will keep turning. That is what the Dead taught me.”

I was beginning to understand that this jam band stuff may be about more than just the music and neon-colored dancing bears.

Julien says he considers himself a Grateful Dead fan, but can’t be considered a Deadhead since he never had the chance to see the band perform live. Luckily, he found another jam band, Phish, while he was in college in the States.

Julien's Wall of Cognitive Dissonance, which includes a Dead poster and a signed Bush photo

Julien’s Wall of Cognitive Dissonance, which includes a Dead poster and a signed Bush photo

“I’ve been to 15 Phish shows including an 8-set, 3-day show/campout with another 40,000 Phish Heads in the California desert,” Julien tells me when I am in his jam band-sprinkled office. “I don’t put much philosophical meaning behind Phish. [Live shows] are just a really fun experience.”

For Julien, Phish shows hold a similar appeal to what Dead shows used to be; there is a cool parking lot vibe as well as some solid jamming during shows. He calls Phish shows a “multidimensional sensory experience,” particularly when the jamming is combined with a light show as well as audience participation in the form of glow sticks.  I was not particularly sold on what audience participation was until Julien showed me a YouTube clip of the glow stick action. I was starting to understand the whole appeal of this jam band thing.

Julien explains though that the shows are also about a Phish Head culture.

“[Phish shows] draw from the tradition of counter culture and having a society that is not necessarily based on full-on Adam Smith principles. It goes back to the tradition of carnival, which goes back to the Middle Ages,” Julien explains. “In that tradition people dress up and there is a flattening of the social structure which I think also occurs at Phish shows.”

And this is where I begin to see the draw of jam bands, while they are about awesome “riffing” and musical talent, they are mostly about culture.

As Bryant explains: “With the Dead it is about a culture as much as it is about the music. The culture is super appealing. It represents the 60s and the hippy movement at some level, being part of something bigger … We fetishized the 60s as a time of great love and hope; I’m sure it’s not as great as that. But the Dead was something I could reach out and touch that was part of that era.”

For both Bryant and Julien, being a jam band head isn’t just about music or tie-dye t-shirts; it is about stepping into a culture that is vastly different than the one they occupy daily; a rose-colored, socially-equalitarian, spiritually-harmonious space that may only exist for a night in a parking lot of some arena. But for that night, jam band heads get to step out of their hierarchical rigid world of corporate America or the ivory tower and into a world of harmony, love and glow sticks.

I may not be ready to follow Phish or any of the newer jamtronica bands around, but I think I understand the jam band culture a bit more. And I know I will be a little less judgmental of all that tie-dye in the future.

Living it Up in the Big Easy

By Mona Malacane

For some grad students, “doing something different” means trying a new recipe, going hiking in the limestone quarries, playing in the snow, or taking off on an exotic trip in the summer. But last week, Gabe Persons went on what I would call an enviable pre-mid-semester-vacation to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. A far cry from hunting and baking bread, on Friday the 13th Gabe and Isaac Knowles drove 13 hours and 800+ miles to Louisiana to Baton Rouge where they stayed with some of Isaac’s friends for the first leg of their trip.


Photo courtesy of Gabe Persons

After a day and a half in Baton Rouge, Gabe, Isaac, and several of Isaac’s friends headed to the Big Easy for Mardi Gras festivities. But this isn’t your usual Mardi Gras story people – Gabe swore to me that he did not once expose himself to procure colorful plastic baubles. He also made explicitly clear that this trip was not about visiting the numerous daiquiri bars that populate New Orleans (but he did enjoy tasting a few). For him, it was about the food, music, the experience, and checking off an item on his bucket list.

“It’s been on my bucket list for a while for a number of reasons … what you hear about is always the party stuff but that’s not what’s intriguing to me. I like the music side of New Orleans, I like the food side and while the party atmosphere itself is not what drew me, I think it indicates something about the nature of the people there and they were generally a friendly bunch of people.”

Photo courtesy of Gabe Persons

Photo courtesy of Gabe Persons

Some of the most memorable moments from his trip were from the famous parades that occupy much of the Mardi Gras celebrations. “The very first parade I saw in New Orleans was very interesting. It was not like any parade I’ve ever seen. The audience is constantly interacting in a way that you don’t see at other parades and the floats are huge and pulled by semi-trucks.” Some fun things Gabe et al. received from the float “throwers” included a fedora, a pair of glowing hand-cuffs, lanyards, and footballs. But other than to watch the parades, the group Gabe was with avoided Bourbon Street (and the hordes of tourists that flock to it for Mardi Gras). “We were on [Bourbon Street] briefly just to get somewhere else and you could barely move, it was just a sea of people.”


Photo courtesy of Gabe Persons

While in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Gabe, Isaac and friends, visited some delicious restaurants and even got to cook a good ol’ low country boil. Gabe explained, “I really like Southern food. I don’t like the weather but I love southern food.” In fact, their trip back to Bloomington was slightly longer than the trip down south due to the obligatory (hungover) Waffle House brunch stop. While WaHo is undeniably a Southern tradition, I strongly recommend Cracker Barrel next time.


Trust me, I'm from the South: Cracker Barrel > Waffle House

Trust me, I’m from the South: Cracker Barrel > Waffle House

Net Neutrality: What It Isn’t

By Mona Malacane

If you have been holed up in your office for the past year, you may not know that three Telecom faculty members – Barbara Cherry, Julien Mailland, and Matt Pierce – have been deeply engaged in the net neutrality debate. If you have really been living under a rock, here is Wikipedia’s succinct definition of net neutrality: “the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”

internetI and several others grad students had the fortuitous luck to take T504: Introduction to Telecommunications Policy Studies with Barb last semester, during which a few big net neutrality developments occurred. Consequently, we had several days devoted to discussing these issues and the misconceptions/misnomers that are thrown around even by those who support net neutrality. Here are a few:

Reclassification of internet service under Title II will basically turn internet into a public utility.

Here the semantics allow for much obfuscation. The reality is that reclassification of internet service under Title II would allow the FCC to regulate it under common carriage law. While common carriage law also applies to many public utilities, the two should not be conflated.  Here we are talking about the application of common carriage laws and not creation of a public utility per se.  As per my T504 notes, common carriers must “serve upon reasonable request, without unreasonable discrimination, at just and reasonable rates, and with adequate care” (10/23/14). So when you hear “internet service should not be regulated like a public utility!” then you can say, “I agree, it should be regulated like a common carrier so that the provider of that service cannot unjustly discriminate against the service that I am already paying them for.” (Here is a good, clear description of Title II reclassification if you’re interested.)

“Net neutrality is ObamaCare for the Internet; the internet should not operate at the speed of government”

This claim understandably made some headlines last year – it’s pretty quotable and catchy. But again, inaccurate for a few reasons. First, the FCC is an independent agency with powers granted to it by Congress, a separate branch of government than that of the President. While Obama can weigh in on the matter, any “action” he may take can be overridden by Congress. Second, net neutrality is directed at keeping the internet functioning like it always has since its inception. Third, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the internet should not work at the speed of government, which I will hyperbolically liken to AOL dial up. I could barely play tetris on my grandpa’s dial-up Compaq desktop that literally weighed more than I did at 8 years old, let alone watch Netflix! But again, can we really compare data packets traveling through fiber optic cables to large departments of hundreds of people? And alternatively, if internet service providers could enforce paid prioritization wouldn’t that relegate some websites to “operate at the speed of government”? “No” to the first rhetorical question, and “maybe” to the second.nn1


Yes it is Angelina Jolie, yes it is.


Net neutrality is unAmerican because it gives the government power to regulate the internet.

Kind of but not really. Net neutrality is actually more about regulating Internet service providers, not the internet. And let’s be honest, the government can already see everything we do on the internet. So can hackers, the people at Facebook, and the people at Snapchat. Net neutrality is about keeping parity among content providers in delivery of their content and not giving priority to data from a content provider who has the means to pay an extra fee (e.g. Netflix) over one who cannot (e.g. my mother’s small business website). In other words, net neutrality would keep giving my mother’s small business an equal opportunity as other larger businesses in the market, as opposed to applying an algorithm to discriminate between certain data packets from companies that have paid and deliver them faster than other data packets.

It also doesn’t have anything to do with foreign relations. But Matt Pierce provides a much better explanation as why that claim is false at last week’s T600.


Secondary Colors: A Telecom Band

By: Niki Fritz

Why does anyone start a band? Fame? Fortune? A sweet tour bus? Or in the case of Josh Sites and his band – to just get a little creative space outside of academia’s mind grind and have some fun.

For Josh, he was sick of playing by himself.

“It feels so heavy handed to know every nook and cranny of my own music. I’m always in my own head and playing music is an opportunity to get out of it. When it is just me, I feel like I can’t get out of my head,” Josh explains. “I was just looking for a music collaborator and that turned into a whole band.”

Secondary Colors practicing some of their sweet jams

Secondary Colors practicing some of their sweet jams

Josh first recruited Patrick, with whom he had previously collaborated. Patrick usually plays the drums but this time he wanted to shake it up and play bass. Luckily, Josh knew MacKenzie, a Telecom lab monitor who is also a killer drums player. Josh recruited her to his budding band. Josh also had a former student Karl, who was a rockstar lead guitarist. He agreed to play with the new band. Finally, Josh convinced his wife, Alicia, to play keys and back-up vocals. Alicia had earlier played only played classical piano but decided she to challenge herself and try her hand at the keyboard.

“I have never been in a band outside of marching band and a high school band. Music nerd alert!,” Alicia says. “I was pretty nervous about joining and still get nervous from time to time, but Josh and the other members are really good at supporting others with trying something new or even how we have grown as a band in such a short time.”

As the band started coming together, they began to toss around ideas for its name. Mackenzie came up with the idea of colors since Alicia is an artist and two of the Telecom students are in visual arts. Mackenzie thought primary colors might sound too presumptuous, so they went with secondary colors. The band is currently designing a logo and has just produced its first demo, which you can listen to here!

Despite the demands of school and work, the band members say the band has become an essential part of their lives.

“I enjoy producing something creative regularly,” MacKenzie says. “It really helps school and work seem more tolerable during the week when I know I can do something like make music at least once a week.”

For Josh the band is a creative venture but also a chance to get out of his own comfort zone and learn something new about himself.

“Different artists have different strengths and I’m still learning what mine might be,” Josh explains. “I’m not a great lyrist; I’m not an amazing singer. I’m afraid if I stay in my comfort zone I may never find my strength.  Unrealized potential is the scariest thing to me.”

Josh explains that writing and performing music helps him process not only his creative impulses but also his deep-seeded feelings that he is not comfortable talking about normally. He explains how music allows him to lie in order to tell the truth.

“In music I can create a character that is me, shares my name, looks and dresses like me, but he is the musician; there is no expectation of truthfulness,” Josh explains. “The stories [of his songs] are drawn from so many different places and twisted around so much that they are not accurate accounts of anything but the emotional content is honest.”

As for the future of this fledging band, they hope to just keep creating music and inspiring each other.

“It’s a lot of fun to play music with a group of people and not take it too seriously.  We don’t have aspirations to be outrageous rock stars touring the world, but we also wouldn’t entirely be opposed to it if the opportunity came about,” Alicia says. “I would say we’re looking forward to putting on a show someday!”

And that day may be someday soon. The band is currently in talks with the manager of the Root Cellar to have a show sometime in early March. Check back with Josh or keep your eye on the Facebook Beer Serv for an update.

Check out Secondary Colors at

Check out Secondary Colors at

Third Brown Bag of the Semester – February 13, 2015


Barbara Cherry, Julian Mailland, and Matt Pierce, Department of Telecommunications, Media School

Network Neutrality Reaches a Tipping Point: Restoring Common Carriage – and That’s Not Radical!

On Sept. 19, 2014, Barbara Cherry, Julien Mailland and Matt Pierce gave a presentation “IU Telecom goes to Washington: Influencing Federal Policymaking on Network Neutrality.”  On February 13, 2015, they will provide an update of significant developments in the FCC’s proceeding, Open Internet Access NPRM, on network neutrality.

Most recently, on February 4, 2015, FCC Chairman Wheeler announced that a draft order, to create a legal framework for imposing rules to support network openness, is being circulated among the FCC commissioners.  Importantly, the legal framework will be based on classification of broadband Internet access service as a Title II, telecommunications – that is, common carriage – service.  The FCC is scheduled to vote on the order in its open meeting on February 26.

Barb, Julien and Matt will discuss significant political as well as research activities – with which they have been involved – that have contributed to a major shift in the debate.  They will also discuss the further political developments, both in Congress and in the courts, that are likely to arise from the anticipated FCC order.


Sine Qua Nonsense

Special “Jon Stewart Dramatic Departure” Edition

On last night’s episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart announced that he will be leaving the Comedy Central satirical powerhouse later this year. I was very saddened by this news as a viewer, researcher of political humor, and the self-proclaimed Jon Stewart of Telecom (for what is Sine Qua Nonsense if not The Monthly Show with Edo Steinberg?).

I would like to offer myself up as the next host of this brilliant program. As a person who is both Israeli and American, is technically one quarter Canadian, had ancestors in three different Eastern European countries, and can see Africa from his parents’ house (okay, not literally), I would be the perfect leader of a show with such an internationally diverse news team. I also have a last name starting with S, so only one letter would have to be replaced on anything embroidered with Jon Stewart’s initials (don’t take this dream job away from me, Josh Sites!). The only problem is that I don’t have a middle name to use as my stage name as Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz did.

Okay, I realize The Daily Show with Edo Steinberg isn’t going to happen. Instead, let me pitch another idea that would be beneficial for everyone involved, especially me. Stewart will now be looking for a new job. Indiana University’s Media School should offer him a Professor of Practice position. Think of all the experimental stimuli we could design specifically for our satire studies! Also, imagine a production course dedicated to looking critically at the news in a funny way. To use a Bill O’Reilly term, stoned slackers from all over the world would flock to IU for such an opportunity.

Speaking of satirists teaching classes, Bill Maher would be perfect for T420. But I digress.

Of course, Stewart might have other plans. Do you think it is a coincidence that yesterday’s announcement came a mere 637 days before the 2016 presidential elections? I hear The Daily Show will air in Iowa tomorrow! Also, he and Brian Williams may be swapping seats, bringing much needed credibility to the NBC Nightly News and a flair for fake news to The Daily Show. The sidekick gig on the upcoming Late Show with Stephen Colbert is another viable option.

Whatever happens, the Jon Stewart iteration of The Daily Show will be missed. It will continue to live on in political communication conference papers and journal articles for years to come.

Note: Your regularly scheduled Sine Qua Nonsense will return in two weeks, unless I get a call from Comedy Central.



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