Fox’s Tavern, Doctor Who Goes Gaming, Brown Bag

Sweet Spots: Fox’s Tavern

Nancy Schwartz Descends the Stairs into Fox's Tavern

Sweet Spots: Fox’s Tavern

In 2000 Professor Julia Fox got a sign. Out house hunting after officially joining the department, Fox found a house with a bar in the basement. Mounted above the bar a wooden sign read “Fox’s Tavern.”

Sold.

By sheer coincidence, the previous owners shared Fox’s last name, and when it came time to draw up the contract, the new owners of Fox’s Tavern requested that the sign remain in place.

Set up in the basement, Fox’s Tavern runs the length of the house; the simple wooden bar equipped with a sink and a mini-fridge overlooking the room. Little knick-knacks and a large picture of a fox with cubs add to the Fox motif. Two other pictures adorn the walls. One depicting Chicago, where Fox and her husband grew up, and one depicting Ithaca, where they met. To top off, Fox’s Tavern features a walk-out porch equipped with grill for warm weather barbeques.

While Fox’s Tavern has hosted numerous parties over the years, some are more memorable than others. A surprise birthday party for Annie Lang, Nancy Schwartz, and Bob Affe (whose birthday happened to be a month earlier) stands out in particular.  Assisted by party planner extraordinaire Susan Eastman, the tavern was covered in green. Attendants were encouraged to give presents wrapped in green paper to represent Lang’s love of gardening, while dollar bills hung from the walls to celebrate a big grant Lang had landed. Attendants were even given red bandanas, reflecting Lang’s red hair (Based on the pictures, most people just ended up looking like pirates).

For Fox, the party stands out for other reasons. Prior to the party, Fox had learned that she had cancer and had to tell her family. In addition, Lang had learned about the coming surprise. She was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Tell her family she had cancer, or tell Eastman that Lang knew about the surprise party. After telling Eastman both bits of bad news, Eastman, a cancer survivor herself, shrugged it off, “cancer-schamncer, we’ve got a party to plan.”

A few months prior to the birthday bash, Fox had hosted her husband’s 50th birthday party. The night of the party, Fox received a letter in the mail from the doctor’s office.  During her routine mammogram the doctors discovered an abnormality that could be cancer. It was Friday night and the doctor’s office wouldn’t be open again until Monday. Sick to her stomach, a houseful of people on their way, some from out of town, Fox decided that there was absolutely nothing she could do about it until Monday. She diverted her attention to the party.

While those stand in particular, Fox’s tavern has played host to numerous lab parties, graduation parties, birthday parties, New Year’s Eve parties, going away parties, and end of semester parties for spring grad classes (hint hint students still looking for spring classes).

When the bar isn’t filled with partyers, it’s filled with the sound of her husband and son’s music. Her husband plays the bass guitar while her son plays the electric guitar. Although both play well, it may be time to fill Fox’s Tavern once again with the sound of a lively party.

Russell and Ken’s Board Game Journey

It may have seemed that Telecom grad students Russell McGee and Ken Rosenberg have just been playing around over the past several months.  But, it’s not all fun and games.  Along with Theatre and Drama grad students Carle Gaier and Eric “C” Heaps, they are deep in the developmental process of a Dr. Who-inspired board game, the final project for Professor Ted Castronova’s Storytelling and Video Games course.  While the connection between Telecom students and game design is clear, what attracted grad students from Theatre and Drama to the Ted’s class?  Carle explains, “Games tell a story in a live and interactive way, similar to a theatre performance. The audience is involved and composes a crucial element of the experience, unlike other formats such as film.”  On the other hand, Eric was drawn to the course because he is a self-confessed game junkie – the fact that a course was offered on the topic simply justified his addiction.

Over the course of the semester, students formed groups in order to create and develop a game design.  Russell first came up with the game idea, which was supported by the rest of the group members, as a modification of a storyline of British science fiction TV program Doctor Who called War Games.  In the War  Games story, soldiers from the past are removed by an alien race from their respective time periods and pitted against each other with the goal of  the ultimate Army.  Doctor Who is out to stop it.  The corresponding board game design is a hex-based war-strategy game.  Eric explains that while many ideas were floated around, all members of the group wanted a card driven game, where the cards would add spontaneity to a rule based system.

Fresh off a trip to the annual Doctor Who Convention in Chicago to playtest the game, spirits of the game design team are high.  The group even got their names on the official program and held a play test for three hours.  Ken was thrilled with the experience.  “We had access to the right type of fan and demographic.  Everyone from 8 year olds to 60 year olds were able to play our game.”  Russell reflected on the convention as well.  “We really got a chance to talk to the audiences we are going after with this game.  It was a really great experience.”

Looking ahead, the best case scenario for the game would be to sell the design to BBC or receive a percentage of the licensing.  This is where some of the group members have different perspectives on where they would like to see the game goo.  Carle is not looking to make money off the project.  “Creative control is important to me and I’d be afraid to sell the design otherwise.”  Ken, on the other hand, would like to see it go as far as it can.  So far, the group has been in contact with BBC’s licensing department but has not yet heard back.

Reflecting back on their experiences over the course of the semester, they all agree that the group dynamic was extremely important.  Carle states, “Having a concrete deadline reinforced the idea that this is a doable task – a group can design a game from scratch within a reasonable time frame.”  Indeed, Ken knows that he could have never done this alone.  To see something take shape as a group while learning to let go of certain things as an individual is part of the give and take that occurs in collaborative projects – an important learning experience. Russell seconds that the frustrations you go through at the beginning become rewards at the end and to experience this as a team is really special.

So, what’s the end goal?  For Carle, seeing it on the shelf at a board game store would be the ultimate achievement. Ken is excited about the potential fan community that could grow around it, while Eric explains that this project has a much longer shelf life for him than participating in a play.  “Once a play is over, it’s done.  This is different.  I can get this thing out and play it again and again.”  And as for Russell?  “I think Ted should give us an A.”

Brown Bag

This week’s Brown Bag Presentation featured visiting speaker Thomas Malaby, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  His research focuses on games, practice, and interderminacy.  You can listen to the full audio of the presentation here: Thomas Malaby

Title: Digital Anthropology, Games, and the Cultural Logics of Modernity

Abstract: Anthropology is currently turning toward a new engagement with what may have been Weber’s central question: How do people come to understand the distribution of fortune in the world? Such a question troubles productively our discipline?s recent and fruitful examination of the uses of the past to ask how stances toward the future, in all its indeterminacy, are both the product of cultural logics and the target of institutional and market interests. In this paper I compare the instrumentally nonchalant stance toward the future found in Greek society with a markedly different disposition, one of individual gaming mastery that is architected into the digital domains of human experience, though quite pointedly in the virtual world Second Life. Through them we can glimpse how and why institutions today have become so interested in contriving games and game-like experiences, and in what ways cultural subjectivities are implicated in them and also transformed by them. I close by considering why the cultural form we call game has come to be the primary site for such contests, and how its importance may come to be comparable to that of ritual for digital anthropology.

Signing Off

I hope you enjoyed the feature on Ken this week; you’ll be hearing a lot more from him as he takes over my writing position with the blog.  To have the opportunity to chat with so many different students, staff members, and faculty of the Department – individuals I may not have otherwise – was really wonderful.  Thanks for reading.  And, for those of you that I kindly stalked for blog content over the past year and a half, I’m sure I’ll be getting what’s coming to me.  Ken has already sent out a warning: “Now that you’re off the blog, you’ll be on the blog!”

Nicky

Credits

Nicky Lewis:  Ken and Russell’s Board Game Journey and Brown Bag

Mike Lang:  Fox’s Tavern

Betsi’s Sweet Spot, Compositions by Nero, Waveform Art, Brown Bag


Sweet Spots: Betsi’s Bottle Collection

From her time served as Graduate Director, some of the older students in the department may remember the sun room in Professor Betsi Grabe’s home.  An unusual collection of bottles is on display, set on personally crafted shelves that frame the picture window.  Betsi took the time to share with us the story behind the bottles and how her collection came to be.
 
Betsi began collecting bottles in primary school, by visiting landfills in South Africa.  She would search for buried bottles, wash them out, and then put them on display.  Amazed that they remained intact over time, her collection began to grow.  It now contains bottles from South African Breweries, other drink producers, medicine, and even poison.  Most are unmarked bottles of different sizes.  When she first came to the United States, she picked up a few more, including a Dr. Pepper bottle, but her collection is now complete.  When asked what the bottles mean to her, Betsi replied, “I think human beings are collectors.  Before I brought the collection to the US,  I remember collecting a few bottles for comfort – it was part of making the US my new nest.”  While her collection contains a wide variety, her most prized are the blue bottles.  They are not perfect.  Some have cracks, some have mother of pearl growths, some have both.  All of them have interesting shape and design.  “There is something about light traveling through colored glass that thrills me to no end.  They have a charm about them, a fragility, but have stood the test of time.”

The Compositions of Ashleigh Nero

As fast as you can, try and come up with a list of 5 composers.  Done? Ok. Now look at your list. If your list doesn’t contain Mozart, Beethoven, or Bach, give yourself a point. If your list contains at least  one composer from the 20th century, give yourself another point. If your list contains someone from this department, just forget about points and declare yourself the winner.  Ashleigh Nero, the newest member of the office staff received her Bachelors of Music in composition from the Jacobs School of Music in 2008.

Music has always been a focal point for Nero. Growing up near Pittsburgh she played in community orchestras, and joined the marching band in high school. An accomplished flautist, she discovered the art of composing while at home when an ailment prevented her from attending school. “I found this notation software and I started playing around with it. I knew how to play piano and stuff and I just started getting deeper and deeper into it.”  In her sophomore year of high school she began preparing her application to the composition program at Jacobs, which normally only admits about five students per year.

The act of composing is no easy task, and like much creative work, figuring out what to do is often the most difficult part.  “Every piece is different, and the hardest part is getting an idea, and figuring out what kind of mood you want.” However, once the idea is developed, Nero builds a basic structure, then noodles around with melodies and harmonies to coincide with the story she wants to convey. She works sequentially, starting at the beginning, and working her way through the piece.

In theory composition is limited only by the composer’s imagination, but when the rubber meets the road, one must take into account the people playing the music.  “You have to be really careful with fast passages, making sure the fingering is possible. If you write chords, are they possible?” As such, composers must be familiar with the instruments they are writing for. The sense of limits is one of the first thing budding composers at Jacobs learns. “Jacobs is really good at starting from the beginning, looking at each instrument and deciding what sorts of things are good for this instrument, and what sort of things will players get mad at you for.” For Nero, harps are the most difficult instrument to write for.  Every note in the musical scale on the harp has a pedal that either flattens or sharpens a note. As compositions change keys, harpists must have time to adjust the pedals to match the sharps and flats that correspond with the new key. While a composer may never gain the sense of familiarity with an instrument a player will, composers must rely on players for feedback, and study the work of others to get a feel for the type of things normally written for specific instruments. “You really have to reference things, talk to people who know how to play, be around the instruments, study what other people write, you have to get a feel for things. Flutes and Clarinets handle fast passages better than French horn for instance.”

Nero acknowledges that she and her fellow composers share a strange existence. “Composers are kind of on an island. What you are learning is more modern, so you’re kind of weird for the people into pop and rock, and you’re kind of weird for the orchestral people who are into Mozart and Beethoven.” As such, opportunities to become the next Gershwin or Copeland are few and far between. “You have to find the people who are more interested in going in a different direction, or take what you you can get and alter your style to fit the situation, which is something you should have to learn.”

One opportunity for innovative composition arose when Nero was asked by a professor from Vanderbilt conducting psychological research on fMRI. “He didn’t want kids to get freaked out from the sounds of the machine, so he asked me to compose a 30 minute piece so kids wouldn’t get too freaked out or too bored.” The professor sent her the sounds of the fMRI machine, and she composed her music around those.

Degree in hand, Nero is taking a bit of a breather. She still composes on the side in addition to pursuing other creative outlets, particularly painting and digital art. “I’m all about learning stuff, it leads to more opportunities. You learn one thing, and it inspires you in another way.”

Her showcase work is called The Dancing Elephant, written for piano and narration. It’s charming and whimsical, and you can listen to it right here. To hear more Nero’s work you can check out her blog here.

Waveforms

Norbert Herber’s collaboration with fiber artist Rowland Ricketts, “The Gradual Accumulation of Additional Layers or Matter,” was recently showcased in the Waveforms exhibition at the Grunwald Gallery of Art in the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts.  Running from October 21-November 18, Waveforms exhibition showcased works that explore the  interface between sound and new media technologies.  The exhibited works included “a number of trans-disciplinary interactions and collaborations that include sound in the context of visual and spatial artistic practices, including sound sculpture, installations, and performance works.” In case you missed it, you can get a feel for Norbert and Rowland’s project by following this link.

Brown Bag

This week’s brown bag presentation featured Cognitive Science and Psychology doctoral student Jared Lorince and Telecommunications and Cognitive Science doctoral student Travis Ross.  Jared’s research interests  focus on how the structure of the environment constrains behavior, in particular with respect to search behavior.  Travis research has two streams. The first stream examines the motivational aspects of design – particularly decision structures in game and interface design. The second stream examines how social and institutional forces shape behavior via social norms, rules, and laws.  You can listen to the full audio of their presentation here: Travis and Jared

Play how you want (or not): How the crowd modifies/limits individual
behavior in online games.

Abstract

As modern games continue to move from single player to shared social experiences it is natural to wonder how the behavior of the crowd influences individual choices. In this talk Jared and Travis will present two avenues of research relevant to this question. Travis’ talk will center around his dissertation topic: Understanding of how norms alter behavior in an online game. In particular it asks the question: can norms push and individual toward cooperative or selfish behavior? Jared will then present examples of his work on spatial and information search, and will comment on its applications to gaming environments.

Credits

Nicky Lewis:  Betsi’s Bottle Collection, and Brown Bag

Mike Lang: The Compositions of Ashleigh Nero, and Waveforms

Ted Jamison-Koenig’s Hi-Fi Dreams, Avi and Daphna, Brown Bag

Dreams of a Music Man: Inside the Creative Mind of Ted Jamison-Koenig

Ted Jamison-Koenig didn’t grow up dreaming of graduate school (what kid does really?). Instead, he spent his time with music, and when his senior year at Communications High School in New Jersey rolled around and the time came to make a decision about where to go and what to study, one thought dominated: become a recording engineer at a multi-track studio. Five years later, after finishing his degree in recording arts in the Jacobs School of Music, Ted  finds himself here, an MA student in telecommunications, putting together a committee, writing papers, and doing the prerequisite intellectual push-ups in T501. A far cry from throwing faders, placing mics, and checking equipment at Sunset Studios, I sat down with Ted to talk about his background in music, his experiences with recording arts, and why he ultimately decided to leave it behind.

Music has been a part of Ted’s life since he can remember. When he was really young, his first instrument was the family piano. His parents signed him up for lessons, but like many kids, practice just wasn’t a priority. Even though the lessons stopped, Ted’s musical interest still simmered, waiting for the right outlet. In 3rd grade he got his first trumpet. “The first day I brought home my trumpet was really awesome, I didn’t know how to do it, so I asked someone to show me the basics, and I just sat there for hours, and played. It sounded like crap, but I thought I was doing really awesome.” After that it clicked. In 4th grade Ted started playing the baritone euphonium (the solos in Holst’s “Mars: The bringer of War” from his suite “The Planets” are played with a euphonium if you need a sonic reference), and in 5th grade Ted started playing the trombone. Throughout middle school and high school music became Ted’s sport. He earned all state twice, in addition to a long list of honors and awards for his musical acumen.

Brass Quintet for the Ages – Just a Closer Walk With Thee

Ted attended Communications High School in New Jersey, a small, competitive magnet school that that specializes in equipping students with the skills necessary for careers in the media. Despite the lack of a specialized recording arts program, Ted became the token audio guy in a program that focused on film making.

Even outside of formal settings, Ted was finding creative musical outlets. In addition to the trombone and baritone euphonium, Ted played guitar. A fervent metalhead, he formed a band, New Jersey’s Drown the Swim Team, in which he played guitar and performed vocals. Although he admits to conducting an “Axl Rose one man band take over” (writing all the material, doing most of the thinking, and having his band mates execute his vision), Drown the Swim Team was, and to an extent, still is, his baby. While Drown the Swim Team earned a respectable following in the local area, more than anything, the band unlocked Ted’s passion for the recording arts.

School projects, high school band, Drown the Swim Team; the opportunities for recording were growing, and so too was Ted’s stockpile of recording equipment. His first important piece of equipment was a Korg 12 track digital recorder with its own disc drive so Ted could directly export his recordings from the machine. That allowed him to experiment and create. “I sat there, and at the time, I was ignorant, and interested in guitar pedals and processing. It was me sitting there alone in my room for hours and hours a day, with a guitar in my hand, hitting buttons that I didn’t understand, writing things. It was all very intuitive. It was very creative.” Not one to read manuals if he doesn’t have to, Ted learned the basics of compression, EQ, gain structure, and the like through experimentation. In some cases, it yielded something unique. “Even if the way I’m using something isn’t how it is supposed to be used, if it sounds good, or works for me, then I use it.”

Drown The Swim Team – The Guns of August

When it was time to choose schools, his parents warned him that going into recording arts would pigeon-hole him, but he pushed ahead, knowing it was exactly what he wanted to do. He was accepted to Ithaca College’s film school, but opted for Indiana after learning Ithaca didn’t offer a specialization in recording. Moreover, Jacobs is considered one of the best music schools in the world, and Ted wanted to record the best players. “No matter how much people tell you that they won’t care how the piece is played, and will care more about how you recorded it, it always helps to have a good player.” On his first day of his freshmen year, he sat in a class with Konrad Strauss, chair of the Department of Recording Arts, who posed this question: “Why invest in an education in recording arts, when you could use the money you are spending on education to purchase the necessary equipment to start your own studio?” For Ted, the answer was simple. The program allowed him to learn his craft, learn what equipment he should buy if he ever wanted to start his own studio, and it allowed him to play with rare vintage equipment that he would never have been able to use otherwise. Most importantly though, it gave him the chance to figure out if the recording business was really right for him. As he learned later, it wasn’t.

However, while he was in the program, Ted was inundated with projects. Every graduate recital in the musical school is recorded and archived, a responsibility that falls to the recording arts students. He helped record IU operas at the MAC, and worked with local bands looking to record EPs and albums. His best experience in the program was the orchestration of the live stream of American folk icon Todd Rundgren’s Halloween recital in 2010.  “I got to sit in the booth and watch it, and order cameras around. The place was packed.” Held in Auer Hall in the music school, the show drew so many people that an overflow room was organized downstairs, where they watched Ted’s livestream.  Furthermore, popularity of the stream ended up jamming up the servers. “It was the coolest thing because I knew what I was broadcasting was being watched by a ton of people, it was high pressure. Even if I never get to do anything like that again, I’ll have that experience.”

After four years, Ted decided that a career in the recording arts wasn’t for him. As digital technologies develop and allow individuals like Ted to gain access to top flight recording tools, the demand for big dollar mega studios is drying up. “Big studios are dying. If I have the same stuff that everyone else has, so why would I spend $1800 a day to record in a big studio when I could just do it at home?” As big studios die, so do the dreams of those like Ted hoping to find their name in the album liner notes of the world’s biggest bands. “The thing that I wanted to do is becoming more and more of a pipe dream. Frankly, it’s becoming unattainable by most people.” As the role of the recording engineer shrinks, the money is shifting to electrical engineers and computer programs who build the equipment and design the programs relied upon by recording engineers. As such, to break into the world of recording you need to “be willing to literally clean toilets for 2 years just to get your foot in the door. For every person like me who is unwilling to do that kind of work, there are 200 people willing to wade through the crap just to get a job.” Ted acknowledges that he would be willing to do it  if the end result was more rewarding. The head of the studio he interned for was 25 or 26 years old and had been in the business for a few years. Even though he had been elevated to head engineer, he still lived at home, didn’t make enough to have his own place, and he never saw his family. He got home at 3 in the morning, only to have to be back at 9, and as a result, he would often sleep in the studio. The life of a recording engineer is a grueling one, and for Ted, who one days dreams of a family, it is just too much.

Ted Jamison-Koenig – Mantlepiece

Although his dreams of recording superstardom have faded, his memories won’t. He recently compiled a list of 70 songs which remind him of his undergrad days, and every song transports him back to an event or a moment in time. “Music is very connected to memory” Ted tells me. As one who listens to his own recordings more frequently than he would like to admit, Ted will always have a vivid archive of his brief career as an aspiring recording engineer. While he may not ever use his recording skills in a professional environment, his recording career mirrors his life in music.  From piano, to baritone euphonium, to trombone, to guitar, and finally recording, musical skills come and go, but the fervent passion for music lingers on.

The Artist and the Academic

Grad student Daphna Yeshua-Katz and her husband Avi are true masters of time management.  Daphna is in the second year of her PhD program in the Department of Telecommunications and Avi is a working artist who recently opened a show at the John Waldron Arts Center in Bloomington.  For both organizing work and play is extremely important while raising their two young children, Stav and Itamar.  Luckily for her, Daphna can easily dispel all common notions of what it means to live with an artist. She says, “Avi is a really social person; he can make friends anywhere.  He is actually much nicer than me.”  Daphna explains that when she and Avi first started dating in their native Israel, her friends joked that for an artist, Avi is surprisingly normal.  Some of Avi’s previous projects include providing artwork for all the rooms at a hotel in Tel Aviv, designing the calendar for logistics company DHL, and creating art for health video games.  He is now in the process of designing wine labels for a major winery in Israel.

His current exhibition focuses on the urban landscapes of Bloomington. The creative process for this project involves several stages.  He first scouts a location that is visually intriguing.  The vistas he chooses are often ones that feature what most would characterize as eyesores, e.g. electric lines and light poles.  He then sketches out the line work of these vistas freehand, before going back and scanning them into his computer.  Next, he uses Photoshop to color the line works before printing them on canvas.  “When I first print them on canvas, it always surprises me.  It’s such a big difference as compared to working on a little computer screen.  The large scale prints on canvas reveal so many more dimensions.”  He leaves the electric lines, fences, and other “eyesores” uncolored or white, so to separate them from the rest of the landscape.  Avi explains, “Photoshop is liberating.  I have more artistic freedom.  I change the colors until the painting reflects something that evokes an emotion while viewing it.”  Indeed, two of Avi’s line work sketches did not make it into his current exhibition because the colors weren’t quite right.  When asked about the two sketches, he explains that although technically the line work was very good, the colors did not speak to him.

Both Daphna and Avi agree that his artwork has a playfulness inspired by their two kids.  They own several ‘Where’s Waldo’ books in Hebrew that get a lot of use.  Avi explains, “I began to hide animals in my illustrations to quiz them.  Then I found that it added an interesting element for adults who view my art.”  Avi names his works after the animals he has hidden in them, such as “The Hawk and The Hog.”  Avi observed that once viewers read the title of the work, they began looking for the animal or animals hidden inside.  While the piece is dignified by its placement on a wall at a gallery, it has a child-like challenge to it, something Avi describes as art you can play with.  “I use it as a tool to get people to stop and take a good long look at the painting.  This makes them take part in my game.”  The side effect is that the viewers take more interest in other details of his work.  While his current work was inspired by the Monroe County Courthouse, Avi’s next inspiration springs from the various broken down cars he has seen in and around Bloomington, often in fields.  This inspiration invokes nostalgia, as each car has a history, a story behind it.

As for making the lives of an artist and an academic work?  For Daphna, it’s a balancing act.  Back in Israel, both her and Avi’s parents helped in watching the kids while they worked.  Now, they schedule their work while the kids are in school and organize a shift system on the weekend.  Daphna explains, “I’ll work Saturday and Avi will work Sunday or I’ll work mornings and he’s work evenings.  We have to schedule the time to work on what each of us do.  Also, we are lucky that we can rely on the friends we’ve made in Bloomington.”  Before Daphna came to the United States, she remembers reading a blog of an IU grad student who was also a parent.  It stressed the importance of being able to work day and night.  A self-proclaimed day-worker, Daphna had serious doubts about whether she would be able to do so, but looking back, she wouldn’t change a thing.  “Once you find something you are passionate about, you find a way to do it.  I am passionate about my research and Avi is passionate about his art.  We find a way to make it work.”

Check out some of Avi’s work here.  His exhibit runs at the John Waldron Arts Center, 122 South Walnut Street, until November 28th.

Brown Bag 

Co-sponsored by Gender Studies, Telecommunications, and Journalism, this week’s brown bag featured two scholars whose research interests involve the dimensions of self in regards to makeover television.  Katherine Sender is an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.  Brenda Weber is an associate professor of Gender Studies and adjunct associate professor of American Studies, Communication and Culture, Cultural Studies, and English at Indiana University.  You can listen to the full audio here: Katherine and Brenda

Abstract

The Reflexive Self: Makeover Television and its Audiences

Katherine Sender talks about her forthcoming book Makeover Television and its Audiences (New York University Press), which is the first to consider the rapid rise of US makeover shows from the perspectives of their viewers. Here she argues that this genre of reality television continues a long history of self-improvement, shaped through contemporary media, technological, and economic contexts. Most people think that reality television viewers are ideological dupes and obliging consumers. Instead, Sender found that they have a much more nuanced and reflexive approach to the shows they watch. Audiences are critical of the instruction, the consumer plugs, and the manipulative editing in the shows. At the same time, they buy into the shows’ imperative to construct a reflexive self: an inner self that can be seen as if from the outside, and must be explored and expressed to others. This book intervenes in debates about both reality television and audience research, offering the concept of the reflexive self to move these debates forward. It concludes by addressing the concept of reflexivity itself, and how we can rethink this to take account of people’s emotional and institutional investments.

Brenda Weber reflects on Sender’s presentation via her recent book Makeover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship, and Celebrity (Duke University Press). Based on her analysis of more than 2,500 hours of makeover TV, Weber argues in this work that the much-desired After-body speaks to and makes legible broader cultural narratives about selfhood, citizenship, celebrity, and Americanness. Although makeovers are directed at both male and female viewers, their gendered logic requires that feminized subjects submit to the controlling expertise wielded by authorities. The genre does not tolerate ambiguity. Conventional (middle-class, white, ethnically anonymous, heterosexual) femininity is the goal of makeovers for women. When subjects are male, makeovers often compensate for perceived challenges to masculine independence by offering men narrative options for resistance or control. Foregoing a binary model of power and subjugation, Weber provides an account of makeover television that is as appreciative as it is critical. She reveals the makeover show as a rich and complicated text that expresses cultural desires and fears through narratives of selfhood.

Credits

Nicky Lewis:  The Artist and the Academic, Brown Bag

Mike Lang:  Dreams of a Music Man

David Waterman’s Gardening, Beards for Bloaks, A T101 AIs Life for Me

The Bar Rabbit Ranch

Professor David Waterman spent his childhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, where his father tended a small nursery filled with perennials.  It wasn’t until 20 years later that he started his own garden in the front yard of his Santa Monica, California apartment.  Since living in Bloomington, he has been the caretaker of the Bar Rabbit Ranch, the official name of his home garden.  What first began as a 32-square foot raised bed has since grown to a garden of almost 3000-square feet.

It was the climate change from Santa Monica to Bloomington that took some getting used to.  “I was used to planting year round in Santa Monica, so I first used a plastic hoop to create a small tent and brought in a heater for the plants.”  Eventually David constructed a small garden shed where he can prep seedlings before planting them in the garden.  His most prolific plants are tomatoes, many of which he cans for sauces.  He explains that some vegetables are simply better out of the ground than ones from the market, especially shelling peas, which are hard to even find.  David’s favorite plants to grow are peppers, both for their taste and the number of varieties available.  He grows them one plant at a time, so that he can experiment with different types and flavor profiles, many of which cannot be found at local markets.  Among his favorites is the pimento pepper, a thick-walled sweet pepper, that takes all summer to grow and often only produces three or four peppers per plant.

David also seeks the advice of other local farmers for his garden. He has in particular benefited from Dale and Lee Jones, the owners of Stranger’s Hill Organics.  “Dale Jones is the best farmer I know and he is always willing to share advice.”  Indeed, some of that advice has paid off, as David recently received some attention for his farming endeavors.  This past summer, he and his vegetable garden was featured in Bloom Magazine, along with several other local residents and their gardens.

David finds it intensely relaxing to work with the earth.   He likes the connection felt with the earth.  He also finds it fascinating to watch things grow.  “I’ve done a lot of reading and experimenting but I can’t exactly figure out what makes a crop turn out great.”  This is one of the reasons David truly enjoys gardening.  He shared a story about loofah gourds, the type that can be made into loofah sponges.  The first year he planted them 64 gourds grew.  “They were crawling all over the place, I had a vine that climbed  35-foot high tree.”  Since then?  He can’t seem to get more than 3 or 4 gourds a year.  However, it’s not the production that David is concerned about.  He gets a lot of joy from the process: digging the beds, watching the plants grow, and experimenting with different varieties.

As for his home garden’s name, Bar Rabbit Ranch, David explains how that name came about.  “I love rabbits, I just don’t want them eating my vegetables.” Accordingly, David has installed a seven-foot high fence around his garden, to keep out both the rabbits and the deer year-round.

What gardening advice David has for grad students who may have limited time and space to grow their own produce?  One recommendation he offers is to grow tomato or pepper plants in pots, with good drainage, light soil, compost, and a few hours of sunlight.  “Almost all plants love these things, so if you can give them that, they’ll usually be fine.”

Beards for Bloaks

If MS student Craig Harkness starts looking a bit like Grizzly Adams when Thanksgiving rolls around this year, don’t be surprised. His incoming face sweater is meant to do more than combat the Bloomington winter or help him blend in at the Bishop. Instead, Harkness is participating in Movember, an organization that encourages participants to grow facial hair in order to raise awareness about men’s health issues.

Through the month of October, Harkness raised money for the cause by soliciting votes. For $1 a donator could choose from a number of facial hair options that they wouls like Craig to sport. The options included the Short Boxed Beard, the Van Dyke, the Rap Industry Standard, and the Franz Josef. In the end, the Short Boxed beard won out (much to the relief of Harknesses girlfriend who perhaps didn’t want to see him parading around with mutton chops).  To this point, Craig has raised $160.

As Harkness notes, issues of men’s health are really important, but not often discussed. While campaigns for breast cancer awareness play out on the largest national stages, awareness for issues like prostate or testicular cancer receive little mention.  Harkness attributes the lack of awareness to the “unmanliness” of men’s health. Men often think they know how to monitor and treat important health issues, but when they do strike, men aren’t sure where to turn or what to do. Therefore, Movember seeks to counteract the unmanliness of men’s health issues, with something over the top “manly.”

If you would like to donate to Harkness’s campaign, you can at this location.

A T101 AIs Life for Me

Going through a semester as a T101 Associate Instructor is almost a rite of passage in this department. Marathon grading sessions, discussion sections, and Mark Deuze’s idiosyncratic teaching methods all contribute to one of the most talked about assignments available.  Although the experiences of different AIs vary, one thing is always the same, T101 is unlike any other assignment. This semester’s crop of AIs includes MS student Annie Sexton, PhD students Travis Ross, Ratan Suri, Ryland Sherman, Kristin Lindsley, and newly minted PhD Gayle Nadorf. For Sexton, Sherman, and Lindsley, this semester is their first T101 assignment.  Suri, Nadorf, and Ross have been around this block a few times before.

One of the most notorious features of T101 are the exam grading sessions. Immediately after the final and midterm, Deuze and the AIs hole themselves up with the massive stack of brightly colored exams and proceed to grade them all, one page at a time, over two grueling days. Unlike most massive lecture classes which rely on scantron testing, T101 uses a short answer format. They avoid the right/wrong dichotomy of multiple choice and allow for more creative expression from students. But they take much longer to grade.  While most T101 AIs don’t include grading 400+ short answer exams on their list of favorite activities, the infamous T101 grading marathons aren’t as bad as you may think. Most of the AIs actually find some fun in it. As Sexton states, “Grading the answers together and sharing funny things, that was a good time.” Lindsley and Suri appreciate the sessions for the discipline they instill. Rather than procrastinating you can power through all the exams in two days or so and get it out of the way.

Other than T206, T101 is the only class with a discussion section. For some AIs, leading a discussion section can be scary.  For new graduate students, the lack of age difference can be intimidating. Sexton, the youngest of the bunch, is fresh out of college, and now finds herself in charge of close to 70 students, some of whom are seniors.  Ross, who has been assigned to T101 four times, vividly remembers how scary his first semester was, thinking, “oh no, I’m not that much older than a senior.” However, as he notes, it only gets easier as the semester rolls on and you get the material down.

Lindsley notes that one result of the open-ended nature of the course material is that the discussion sections can swing wildly between relevant and irrelevant discussions. “Students can and will talk about anything, about half the time it’s something really fascinating related to the discussion, and about half the time, it isn’t, at all.” However, the debates are always interesting. Lindsley likes getting her students fired up. While they often agree with each other pretty often, issues like Facebook privacy can get students heated. For Nadorf, the open-ended nature of T101 leads to Ah-ha moments when students reevaluate the way they think. “You can really just see their eyes open up.”

The makeup of students can make or break a discussion section. As Nadorf notes, there is usually one discussion section that struggles, where facilitating good debate is akin to pulling teeth.  For those sections, you have to ask more pointed questions, and do more explaining. Linsley facilitates the Thursday night sections and as a result, has more upper classmen which generates a different feel. “Upper classmen have more life experience and college experience, so I hear less stories from high school.”

Credits

Nicky Lewis:  David Waterman’s Gardening

Mike Lang:  Beards for Bloaks, A T101 AIs Life for Me

Reed’s Athletic Adventures, Nic and Teresa’s Game Cave, Happy Halloween

Reed Nelson Rides, Runs, and More

Department of Telecommunications Financial Officer Reed Nelson is well-known for his playful personality and a great sense of humor around the main office.  What many may not know is that he participates in a wide-range of athletic activities, some for which he has gained notoriety.  He considers himself a wannabe athlete – participating in whatever sports are in season.  He has participated in three-on-three basketball tournaments, tennis competitions, and enters the city golf tournament every year.  When asked how well he performs in the the golf tournament, Reed replied, “I am one and done, no doubt, but I enjoy the challenge.”  One activity that has stuck over the years is his regular participation in mini-marathons.  Reed has competed in seven minis, mostly in Indianapolis, in the past six years.

Two weeks ago, he participated in the 44th Annual Hilly Hundred – an annual bike event that involves cycling through 100 miles of south-central Indiana terrain.  The Hilly Hundred has been showered with awards by Bicycling Magazine, including: Best Overall Event, Longest Running Event, Largest Event, Best Map, and Best Entertainment.  It takes place over two days, on a weekend in mid-October.  The first day involves riding through Monroe, Green, and Owen counties.  The second treks through Monroe, Owen, and Morgan counties.  People come from all over the country to participate, often on bike or in RVs and campers.  With over 5,000 participating this year, Edgewood High School in Ellettsville served as the event’s headquarters.  The school offers showers, meals, and a selection of craft vendors selling their wares.  Other activities include a costume contest and live musical entertainment at every rest stop.

Reed has been riding for six years, and serves as a volunteer and rider.  He helps direct traffic in return for a ticket to ride in the event.  “My favorite thing about the ride is that I’m on my own time.  I can stop to enjoy the views of the fall landscape and the musical entertainment.”  One more bonus?  “Since I live near the high school, the bathtub is less than a half mile from the finish line.”  As far as training is concerned, he begins biking at various mileages about three weeks out from the event in order to get prepared.

Reed’s athletic endeavors have not gone unnoticed.  Last summer, the campus division of recreational sports contacted Reed to appear in their annual calendar.  A representative asked Reed to come to the Student Recreational Sports Center (SRSC) dressed and ready to work out.  They took about 80 pictures in order to choose one for his March feature.  “I tried to smile, but my mouth started to hurt after awhile.  It felt like I was posing for wedding pictures.”  After the shoot, Reed didn’t tell anyone about the calendar except for Department of Telecommunications Professor and Chair Walter Gantz.  After the calendar came out?  He received about 40 emails from friends and co-workers all over campus commenting on his big photographic debut.  “I got a lot of emails at the end of February as everyone turned their calendars to the March page.  I even received 4 campus mail requests for my autograph.  I haven’t seen any of them on Ebay, though.”

For more information about the Hilly Hundred, go to hillyhundred.org.

Sweet Spots: Nic and Teresa’s Game Cave

People have an attachment to space. They organize it and customize it. It reflects their values and interests. It is imbued with personality and as a result governs the activities which occur within it. Sweet Spots feature spaces that are important to individuals within our department.  

For graduate students Nic Matthews and Teresa Lynch, video games are an important part of life. They guide their research interests, fill up those rare moments of free time, and provide opportunities for marital bonding. For these two committed gamers, it only makes sense that a space in their home is dedicated to their hobby.

The game cave is an homage to the video game, possessing everything necessary for a day long gaming marathon, or a half hour study break. Impressive in its current form, the game cave is a culmination of years of collecting. The game cave features an array of consoles and an extensive game library to match. Hooked up are all of the next-gen consoles, the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. Stored in the closet and brought out on occasion are the PS2, Xbox, GameCube, and Dreamcast. The most interesting of the consoles is the 3DO, Panasonic’s 1993 foray into the video game console market.  A random find at a used game store, Nic forked over $100 and walked away with a collector’s item.  The surround sound system came when Nic was in high school.  The crown jewel of the game cave is a 50” 1080p Panasonic plasma television, purchased with the money from the glorious first tax return after marriage.  In video games, black levels are paramount, and plasma screens offer the best black levels.  The leather loveseat serves as the room’s command center. Originally purchased by Nic’s Grandfather, the combination of Georgia heat and leather was too much, driving him to give it away. Nic was the lucky beneficiary.

For Nic and Teresa, the game cave is a shared space. While many games only allow for only one player, the few two player games on the market offer an opportunity to game together. Nic and Teresa prefer competitive games, which allow for a bit of friendly trash talk.  The proliferation of single player games does pose its fair share of problems. Most commonly, who gets the first crack at a new game? For those issues, the one most excited normally gets first dibs. For instance, The new Deus Ex release is Nic’s thing, therefore Nic gets first crack.  For gamers, if you aren’t armed with a  controller, watching is always an option. While Teresa doesn’t usually like to watch Nicksolo game, Nic is just fine watching. It’s relaxing, a way to chill out. In addition, it lets him experience horror games, a genre he wouldn’t ever play himself.

Although school limits the amount of time spent gaming, “things get crazy” on Weekends and Holidays. Neither Nic nor Teresa are strangers to all-day gaming marathons that normally coincide with the big releases like Call of Duty. Although rare, the game cave is well equipped to handle the activity, and whatever else Nic and Teresa put it through.

Random Photo of the Week

Guess who?  Happy Halloween!

Credits

Nicky Lewis:  Reed’s Athletic Adentures, Random Picture of the Week

Mike Lang:  Nic and Teresa’s Game Cave

The Year of Spinning, Three in a Row, 3D@IU, Brown Bag

Welcome to Annie’s Wool Land

Professor Annie Lang has a special activity in her life… and it has not only taken on a life of it’s own, but an entire room in her home.  While she has been knitting since she was 9 years old, it is only recently that she began spinning her own yarn.  Annie is now not only a dedicated knitter, but a confirmed spinner and fiber maker.

Once she caught the spinning bug, she became interested in not only making yarn but in following the process all the way back to the animal from which the wool comes from.  Her sitting room now holds containers of wool, fiber from animals besides sheep, and fleece in various stages of processing.  Her most recently acquired batch of wool came from a sheep named Scooter, a fleece she got for free. Once the wool is sheared from the sheep, it goes through a washing process (called scouring)

in order to “desheep”, or remove the oils, dirt, and vegetable matter from the fiber.  The oils in the wool serve to waterproof the fabric, so “desheeping” can clean the wool to a wide range of textures.  “The wool sweater that I knitted for my son was intended to be warm and somewhat waterproof, so I didn’t completely ‘desheep’ the fiber.”  After  the wool has dried completely, it can either be dyed or left as is.  Annie has used food coloring or Kool-Aid packets to dye her wool.  After the drying and dying stage, the wool must be carded, or brushed free of knots and debris.  This part of the process can be done with hand paddles or a mechanical carder.  Annie owns one of the simplest types of machine carders, called a hand crank drum carder.  After the wool is carded, the spinning can begin.

Spinning is the process by which single strands of carded fiber are twisted together to a desired thickness.  Annie has experimented with different fibers and weights to produce different textures in the knitted fabric, including beaded yarns that she strings by hand.  She enjoys working with silk fiber because it not only lightens and softens the fabric, but it also drapes much better.  The spinning wheel that Annie uses was a Christmas gift last year, which commenced the Year of Spinning.  “This year is the Year of Spinning.  Next year will be the Year of Weaving.  I’m interested in making woven rather than knitted fabric and in the fact that one can spin the fibers used to make woven fabric.”  She often spins projects while listening to audio books or while watching Green Bay Packers football games.  Yes, the spinning wheel is mobile enough to move in front of her television.

Annie is also becoming more familiar with the textures of a variety of fibers.  Wool, nylons, and plant fibers all offer varying weights and feel.  She also owns a book that details the differences in the weight, length, and feel of the fleece for many sheep breeds.  But, she’s not restricted
herself to sheep alone.  At the Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival, she purchased a fleece for $20, wool that came from an alpaca goat named Stormy.  She explains that the investment will be well worth it, as alpaca yarn is often more expensive and much finer and softer than most wool yarns.  Annie continues her search for other interesting wools and fibers.  But what about the original, Scooter the sheep?  “I don’t know where Scooter is.  I know his parents moved to Indianapolis, so he may have followed them there.”

Fletcher Bell’s Three in a Row

PhD student Mark Bell always tells his students to finish things.  Unfortunately, doling out that kind of advice normally requires the one doling it out to actually follow it. As it applies to Mark Bell it also applies to his novelist alter-ego, Fletcher Bell.

Bell graduated college with an English degree and aspirations of becoming a novelist. He wrote a few books, but none really measured up. Motto in mind, he recently revisited some of his old writings. If they were good enough, he decided he would finish them. While most didn’t make the cut, one book stood out – Three in a Row, a detective story.  As Bell read through the pages, he was unable to put it down, even though he knew the ending.  In Bell’s words, “Oh crap, its not bad.” Determined to finish it, Bell had his book professionally edited, a friend of his designed the cover, and he recruited a group of students to put together a trailer to be posted on Youtube. Bell decided to take the self-publishing route largely because he wanted to test its viability and learn a bit more about the community. Much to his surprise, he discovered a huge community of self-published writers who were incredibly supportive and willing to help. In addition to finding a supportive network, he also found a willing audience. Thus far the sales of Three in a Row have largely come from those involved in the self-publishing community.

Three in a Row is a detective story set in a college town in Indiana. Ben Hudson, a campus policeman, discovers the body of a dead girl, naked, with a game of tic-tac-toe carved on her torso. Teaming up with professor Tristan Clarke, the two set out to find the murderer. The mood of the book is dark, incredibly dark. In addition to the story, Three in a Row has a corresponding soundtrack written by Bell exclusively for the book. Written in D minor, “because that is the saddest most depressing key of all time,” the music sets a mood familiar to anyone who has survived a Bloomington winter; cold, wet, and claustrophobic. In the process of writing, Bell would play the soundtrack over and over again for inspiration. As Bell states, “the book is meant to be read with the soundtrack playing.”

So why the pseudonym? The answer is pretty simple. Mark Bell has a publishing track record in both the academy and in the software business (he has sold over 25,000 books). Dropping his first name in favor of his middle name, allows Bell to separate work from play and prevent any confusion on part of his readers. That said, Fletcher Bell is not just a publishing name. With a website, and a twitter page that boasts over 1,000 Fletcher Bell has taken on a life of his own.

You can purchase a kindle copy of Three in a Row from Amazon here. If you feel inclined don’t be shy about leaving a review on Amazon. They are more important for the sale of self-published books than you might think.

An Update on 3D@IU

When not busy with classes, Chris Eller and Sean Connolly are busy turning IU into one of the premiere 3D destinations in the country. 3D@IU, their unofficial title for all the activities going on around campus that relate to the production of 3D, is slowly but steadily growing. In the spring the department once again plans on offering a special section of T452 that focuses exclusively on 3D production and storytelling. So far 28 students have been through the class, and their work has been featured at the IU Cinema, the Hoosier Heartland Film festival, ESPN 3D, and Beijing’s 3d China Experience Center.

Recently, Connolly was invited to serve on a panel at the 4th annual 3D Entertainment Summit with some of the biggest names in 3D including Bill Chapman, director of 3D production at Turner Studios, Buzz Hays, director of Sony’s 3D technology center, and Howard Postley, COO & CTO of 3ality Digital.

On the production end, Eller has installed a 50 megapixel video wall in the advanced visualization lab.

Brown Bag 

This week’s brown bag presentation featured new Telecom faculty member Paul Wright and Professor Bill Yarber from School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation and The Kinsey Institute.  Their presentations focused on male pornography in the United States; what it is, how it is consumed, and what it predicts.  You can listen to the complete audio of the session here.

Paul Wright: “U.S. males and pornography, 1973-2010: Consumption, predictors, correlates.”

Paul Wright joined IU this year as Assistant Professor. Graduate education: California State University, Fullerton; University of  Arizona. Teaching interests include sex in the media, telecommunications processes and effects, media and health, and communication technology theory. Research interests include media effects and health communication, particularly sexual socialization and sexual health. Some representative publications of his work in this field have appeared in The Journal of Sex Research, the American Journal of Media Psychology, the Journal of Family Communication, and Sexuality & Culture.

Bill Yarber: “What is pornography?”

William L. Yarber has authored or co-authored over 130 scientific reports on sexual risk behavior and AIDS/STD prevention in professional journals. He and colleagues from The Kinsey Institute, the University of Kentucky, University of Guelph, and Oxford University are currently focusing on research concerning male condom use errors and problems. At the request of the U.S. federal government, Bill published the country’s first secondary school AIDS prevention curriculum, AIDS: What Young People Should Know (1987). His secondary school curriculum, STD: A Guide for Today’s Young Adults (1985), is considered to have set the standard for a new health behavior approach to school STD prevention education. He is co-author of the textbook: Yarber, W. L., Sayad, B. W., & Strong, B. (2010). Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America, New York: McGraw-Hill. This text is used in over 250 colleges and university throughout the United States. Bill chaired the National Guidelines Task Force which developed the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten – 12th Grade, published by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). Bill is past president of The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) and past chair of SIECUS board of directors. His awards include the Professional Standard of Excellence from the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists; the SSSS Award of Distinguished Scientific Achievement; the Research Council Award from the American School Health Association; and the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Graduate Student Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award at Indiana University.

Random Quote of the Week

“A dirty book is never a dusty one.” – Bill Yarber, at this week’s Brown Bag Presentation

Credits

Nicky Lewis:  Welcome to Annie’s Wool Land, Brown Bag

Mike Lang:  Fletcher Bell’s Three in a Row, An Update on 3D@IU

Andrew and Ted at DePauw, Beerfest 2011, Sports and Media Brown Bag

Andrew and Ted at DePauw

Professor Andrew Weaver had an opportunity to return to his alma mater DePauw University this week, just an hour or so up State Route 231.  DePauw University is a small liberal arts college located in the town of Greencastle, Indiana.  Along with doctoral student Nicky Lewis, he made a research presentation at the Ethical Inquiry through Video Game Play and Design Conference.  Andrew was also asked by a former professor, Jeff McCall, to give a guest lecture for his Media and Society course.  His lecture on the appeal of violence in media and the impact of racial casting in selective exposure was well received by the students in attendance.  The guest lecture took place in the very same building where Andrew used to put in time at the student radio and TV stations.

Andrew noted several changes on the DePauw campus since his last visit.  After acquiring a nature park approximately a quarter mile from campus, DePauw constructed several new facilities – one being the Bartlett Reflection Center, a place for meditation and relaxation, and the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, where the conference took place.  The nature park also features an amphitheater, quarry research area, and campground.  According to Andrew, “It’s fun to see the changes the campus has gone through since I was a student, so it’s nice to be able to come back every few years.”

Fellow faculty member Ted Castronova was also invited to the conference as a key note speaker.  He presented his thoughts on natural laws, suggesting that they exist prior to society.  With regard to the implications that games have for ethical inquiry, he offered the idea that fantasies and dreams should be thought of as the “real” reality and that games serve as a reflection of that reality.  Citing a priest that recently visited his church, he said “We are not made for this earth.  We are made for the next.”  Ted posited that perhaps fantasy is not a forecast of paradise, but a memory.

Beerfest 2011

For a majority of beer drinkers, beer begins and ends with the big three, Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. Their commercials dominate television, their products monopolize most bar and restaurant taps, and together they control over 90% of the American beer market. However, a small but growing contingent is turning towards craft beer for new tastes and styles. At the 19th annual Beerfest, sponsored by Big Red Liquors, a wealth of beers were available for beer aficionados to try.

The three hour sessions on both Thursday and Friday night featured over 330 beers from all around the world with all proceeds going to local charities.  Armed with a tasting glass provided at the entrance, participants walk around to the various tables sponsored by breweries and beer distributors, sampling beers while picking up stickers, coasters, bottle openers, and occasional T-shirts along the way.

PhD students and Beerfest veterans Travis Ross and Ryland Sherman attended on Friday night. Sherman, who enjoys craft beer, but is often deterred by its high price, enjoys the festival because he gets to try all the beers he would never try on his own. With so many offerings though, a little bit of strategy is required. Sherman decided to focus on the most exotic beers he could find. Ross expressed similar sentiments, as he normally heads to the back corner first, where the more unique offerings can be found.  However, acknowledges Ross, after an hour strategy starts to fall apart.  A ruined palette from all the flavors and the inevitable effect of 20 or so little samples turns the focus from drinking and critiquing to drinking and socializing.

Ross acknowledges a dual tension between sampling and socializing. Accompanied by his wife and brother this year, Beerfest was a great opportunity to show his little brother, an IUPUI student, a good time in Bloomington. Sherman, who went with a group of friends enjoys running into people from around Bloomington and chatting over beers.

According to Ross and Sherman, this year’s Beerfest was a bit more low key than previous years. Perhaps due to the increase in ticket price, crowds were lighter and less rowdy, meaning less waiting and more sampling.

A few highlights from this years beerfest:

Mike’s favorites
Cutters  Empire Imperial Stout – Whoa. Hands down one of the best stouts I’ve ever had.  This is Bloomington’s new big boy beer from the 2010 upstarts. Look out Upland. This blows your entire lineup out of the water.
Four Horsemen  Irish Red – Goes down like a traditional Irish red, but the creamy butter aftertaste adds a unique twist.
Southern Tier Unearthly – Breaks the traditional double IPA mold. Hop profile takes a backseat to the lush floral and citrus notes. Very complex. Nice biscuit malty on the back end. Best (and most unusual) double IPA of the day
New Holland Chartooka Rye – Tastes just like Carolina smoked pork. Seriously.
Sam Adams Maple Pecan Porter –A brief reminder from Sam Adams on why they are the biggest microbrew in the country. Sweet and syrupy. Pecan Pie in a bottle. Absolutely Delicious.

Travis’s Favorites
Cutters Floyd’s Folly
Sun King  Cream Ale
Goose Island – Pepe Nero
Wychwood – Hobgoblin

Ryland’s favorites
Veldensteiner Weiβbier
Sun King – Double IPA

Brown Bag 

This week’s brown bag presentation featured a split-session with two graduate students with research interests in sports and media.  Nicky Lewis is a first year Ph.D. student in the Department of Telecommunications and Evan Frederick is a third year Ph.D. student in Sports Marketing at the Department of Kinesiology.  You can listen to the full audio of their presentation here: Sport and Media Brown Bag

Trait and Motivational Differences in Fantasy Football Participation

Nicky Lewis

This thesis explores the trait and motivational differences that exist among fantasy football participants.  Analysis of the relationships between theoretically relevant trait and motivational variables allowed for predictions of time invested in the activity.  Accordingly, a meaningful model of participation was developed.  Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Demographics and Usage Trends of the Typical MMA Blog User: A Case Study

Evan Frederick

For this case study, an Internet-based survey was posted on a popular Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) blog in order to ascertain the demographics and usage trends of its users.  Data analysis revealed that users were predominately White males, between the ages of 23-39, with some college education and an annual income of $40,000-$59,999. An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) revealed six dimensions of gratification including evaluation, community, information-gathering, knowledge demonstration, argumentation, and diversion.  Findings indicated that users utilized this particular blog for both interactive and information-gathering purposes.

Credits

Nicky Lewis: Andrew and Ted at DePauw, Brown Bag

Mike Lang: Beerfest 2011