ACF distribution

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Jun 29, 2009 12:45 am

I just don't think that the etc. is accounting for how much of this stuff you can fill a distribution with. There's a lot of ballet that can come up, and the photography canon already exists and would be very interesting to expand, since there are a lot of cool photographers and mixed media artists that don't come up.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht » Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:34 am

Cheynem wrote:Can someone explain to me what the rationale is behind having a trash distribution in academic tournaments period is? I'm not trying to be disagreeable, I'm just genuinely curious what the reasoning is, and what are the perceived positive effects of its placement in lower level tournaments.
I'll take a stab at this. I think the rationale is something like: trash is one of the most fun categories for people to write* and play, and it makes for good pyramidal tossups and easy-medium-hard bonuses (there are people with different levels of knowledge in most trash subjects, and it's not hard to find clues to distinguish people by knowledge level). In lower-level tournaments, I think there's the added incentive that including some trash helps fill out a 20/20 distribution without exhausting all the social science/fine arts/etc. that lower-level players are likely to know. Producing sets that are likely to have good conversion numbers while using pyramidal questions is something I would prioritize ahead of producing sets with an ideal all-academic distribution, for low-level tournaments.

I'm also not sure the division between the academic and trash portions of the distribution is as clean as people have made it out to be. One of my friends/fellow quizbowlers at UC Berkeley wrote a Film Studies thesis on cannibal cinema (and from looking at the BA requirements it looks like many Film Studies majors satisfy one of the requirements by taking a course on genre films that usually covers something like westerns, horror films, musicals, film noir, etc.). UChicago has a popular course on the economics of sports. UC Berkeley used to have a course on the Simpsons, and more recently had a course on Starcraft. I imagine that the vast majority of people's pop culture knowledge comes from non-classroom settings, but I imagine the same holds for literature and most other academic categories--science may be the only exception here, actually. In any case, if some decent chunk of the trash canon actually consists of material that is covered in courses at various universities, I'm not sure it makes sense to say that trash is non-academic. Perhaps there's so little trash being asked that could possibly come from courses that it is fine to say that trash is non-academic; I don't really know.

-Seth

* It's interesting to note that every submitted packet in the 2009 ACF Nationals set appears to have at least one trash question.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by cornfused » Mon Jun 29, 2009 12:59 pm

setht wrote:UC Berkeley... had a course on Starcraft.
A little off-topic, but do you know more about this? Was it about gameplay or cultural significance or a mix of the two?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:05 pm

It's not surprising to me that every packet in 09 Nats had a trash question - that's the direction we've been moving lately. And I'm fine with that at non-nationals events, because of exactly the things Seth describes in his post about trash - including that it's easy to write pyramidally and the admittedly superfluous observation that people just enjoy the lark of writing it every now and then.

But at Nationals, I really want to stem this trend and constrain trash to a very minor role. I think there are a ton of academic topics that can be explored at Nats - in areas like expanded fine arts and social science, for instance. And, for I suppose what you'd call aesthetics preferences, I just dislike the notion that what I consider to be the premiere collegiate academic event has 1/1 trash that could potentially decide matches (and, as I said before, I think the likelihood that trash will capriciously sway a match is even greater at an event like Nats).

And yes, Greg, you can bet Seth knows about Starcraft, and its course.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:33 pm

cornfused wrote:
setht wrote:UC Berkeley... had a course on Starcraft.
A little off-topic, but do you know more about this? Was it about gameplay or cultural significance or a mix of the two?
It was a business class, essentially, looking at resource allocation and stuff w/r/t StarCraft strategy. A lot of the lectures are online.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:39 pm

Thanks for the explanations--the idea of limited answer selection certainly makes sense for lower level tournaments, and I see Ryan's point that something like Nats would be a fine place to expand the canon a bit in terms of fine arts, social science, RMP, etc.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:04 pm

Seth's point about courses at Berkeley requires clarification. Many of those classes mentioned (the Simpsons one and the Starcraft one, at least, I think) were what are called DeCal classes, which are actually taught by students. They're usually one-credit classes that people take for fun to learn about some neat topic. Calling them any part of the academic curriculum is a big stretch.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by DumbJaques » Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:37 pm

Sure, but plenty of pop culture things (particularly tv shows and films) really ARE studied in legitimate academic classes. I think it would be kind of cool if, as part of the trash distribution, an attempt was made at Nationals to write about some academically relevant pop culture topics. I'm not sure exactly how that would work since I've never taken any of those classes, but I guess in theory you could ask some pretty legit questions about influential movies/shows of the past decade or so and the various reactions to specific scenes/episodes/whatever. I'd imagine you could also get some decent questions on historically relevant or culturally studied sports topics, even with answer lines like the Dodgers or Left Tackle. I don't necessarily believe with Matt's assertion that there's no real difference between Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga except talent - influence, staying power, academic appreciation, and cultural relevance are all measurable things. I don't think we need bonuses on I Love Money at ACF Nationals, but that doesn't mean there isn't a better kind of trash question that can be written for the tournament.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:54 pm

I think what Chris suggests would be an interesting thing to try, but it might be quite difficult for the same reason it's always difficult to do this kind of stuff. I'm not sure how you would write an academic tossup on Buffy the Vampire Slayer - for one thing, very few people (thankfully!) will have taken classes in Buffy Studies (or any other kind of class about X popular culture subject) and for another thing there isn't any kind of "standard canon" with this kind of stuff that tends to get taught in academic settings. That's just a long way of saying what Seth already did - people are almost always gonna get these questions off of pop culture knowledge and not off of academic knowledge, even if you can argue that the subject matter has potential academic relevance.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:16 pm

Look, we're talking about one tournament per year, ACF Nationals; no one is saying we're going to eliminate trash wholesale from all academic competitions. Anyway, despite all the theory being bandied about by people trying to link the Dodgers or Buffy to something academically significant, I'm pretty certain that questions on those topics which attempt to make use of whatever academic work was done on those topics would in practice be completely unanswerable until the actual pop culture clues came along. If someone did some really ground-shattering work in left tackle studies (seriously, what?) then maybe that person should come up. I see zero point in having questions on these things at an academic national championship, especially given that there are multiple instances every year of games being decided by single-tossup margins between top teams. Trash should simply not be part of that equation.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by DumbJaques » Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:56 pm

left tackle studies (seriously, what?)
Well, the progression of the position has had a decent amount of work done on it, as do many sports topics that usually just use the this happened then clues when they show up in the trash distribution. I don't think I'd ever call The Blind Side academically relevant - I think maybe you're misunderstanding me. I don't have a problem with ACF Nats being an academic event, and really I'm not even speaking to that part of the debate. I'm saying that you can write pop culture questions in ways that ask and reward knowledge of important work that's written about them, and I'm positing that such questions can be differentiated from questions on a random recent pop culture icon. The former would still be so overhwelmingly part of the trash distribution - I'm not saying that the academic weight of studying some tv show meets the burden for a social science tossup (or pretty much any social scientist writing right now would meet that burden). I think you can write on pop culture topics that have some kind of importance to society beyond just "this is a sports figure/movie/tv show/band that you have probably heard of," and indeed many of those questions ARE written. I mean, Brown wrote a tossup on Fuck the Police for Nats last year, right? That's something that not only heavily influenced the progression of music over the last few years, but also had a lot of social relevance and assuredly inspired some scholarship. To be clear, I am not saying you NEED to write about this scholarship (as has been noted, the odds of anyone really knowing most of those things are not very high), but I really do see a difference between a tossup on such an important song and a tossup on a song that has no particular significance beyond "people have probably heard of it" or "I like it." Whether that difference means we should have trash at nationals, I have no idea, but I think it would be worthwhile to try and fill whatever trash distribution there ends up being with questions on things like that instead of questions about leprechauns in youtube videos (however hilarious they may be).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:25 pm

Yeah, obviously there are all sorts of sociological claims that are built on observations of popular culture; you don't need to be a social scientist to see how Straight Outta Compton ties into the question of the black experience in America. But my point is that this is not how these questions are written, at all. It's like the geography debate: perhaps it's conceivable that interesting, relevant, and pyramidal questions drawing on topics of substantial academic importance can be written to fill the geography distribution, but most of the time it ends up being "this mountain range straddles the border of Eastern Nowhereisstan and Outer Bumfuckia." Likewise, I suppose it's possible to write such questions for pop culture but no one has done it yet and it's not obvious that it can be done well (leaving aside the obvious issue of these kinds of questions requiring painstaking research). Empirical evidence shows that a number asymptotically approaching 100% of all trash questions in recent quality academic tournaments were in fact written with nary an academic clue in sight, which makes a lot of sense when you consider that those answer choices included things like "Magic: the Gathering" and "Starcraft."
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:42 pm

Well, sure, empirically there has been very little trash written in this nature. If the requirement of "academically important" wasn't set, I'm sure few to none people would write their trash tossups in this vein--it's more fun and a lot easier to write it about stuff like Magic: The Gathering, Bea Arthur, and Starcraft. This is not to say that "academically important" trash could not be written about--it certainly could on a lower level--I guarantee I could write tossups on Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Halloween (the movie), and All in the Family, using strongly academic clues, that didn't totally suck. Perversely, though, I would argue that the academically important trash canon, by its limited nature, means that it would probably be tough to construct tossups with the appropriate difficulty level for ACF Nationals.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:51 pm

DumbJaques wrote:To be clear, I am not saying you NEED to write about this scholarship (as has been noted, the odds of anyone really knowing most of those things are not very high), but I really do see a difference between a tossup on such an important song and a tossup on a song that has no particular significance beyond "people have probably heard of it" or "I like it."
I like the idea of having somewhat more elevated trash subject matter, but ultimately it's going to be hard to differentiate between really, really crappy trash (like, Leprechaun youtube videos) and stuff like Straight Outa Compton that can be considered at least socially significant and academically relevant.

For example, many people seemed upset about the Bea Arthur question at Nats this year as being "that" kind of trash question. Although I didn't write it, I thought it was a pretty good question, trashy though it may have been. However, if you look at the question, it mentions her work on Broadway. Broadway is generally seen as trash in quizbowl, but it's sort of a higher level of trash. The question also mentions her work on noted socially groundbreaking sitcoms All in the Family (which was in my high school history book) and Maude. I would be shocked if Maude hasn't come up in feminist studies courses and other academic areas. Finally, the Golden Girls was actually a pretty edgy television show that touched on issues that don't seem to come up on network television these days, and I would be shocked if the Golden Girls have not been the subject of some academic study dealing with some of the many, many social issues that show addressed. Thus, noted question that people seem to think is a case-in-point of what shouldn't decide an important match at ACF Nats turns out to be about what is arguably an elevated subject as far as trash goes.

Anyway, making trash deal with academically significant subject matter is good in theory, but it seems really hard to do in a way that isn't confusing to question writers, editors, and players. Ultimately, trash at Nats means that matches will be decided on, well, Bea Arthur.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by theMoMA » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:53 pm

If people started writing on sports economics, I posit that several people would be able to buzz on those clues. Regardless, I'd like to see no trash at ACF Nationals. The idea of deciding close games on trash knowledge is just not palatable to me.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by DumbJaques » Mon Jun 29, 2009 5:02 pm

I don't necessarily think you need to use academic clues (certainly not entirely academic clues) when writing these perhaps hypothetical trash questions. I mean, if you really did fill a tossup on NWA with clues from legitimate social science scholarship, wouldn't it be a social science question (perhaps, the greatest such question of all time)?

Tossups written on works of literature that do absolutely nothing but discuss the work itself (that is, tossups that don't mention any kind of external scholarship or whatever) still strive to use plot clues that are relevant to the study of the work, rather than random occurrences or inconsequential anecdotes. Anyone versed in whatever amazing scholarship there is on Straight Outta Compton, I would imagine, would similarly have a high level of mastery of the lyrics, the video, whatever. So I think with things like individual tracks or albums, you're looking more at the answer selection rather than the clues.

However, plenty of trash answers could use clues of little cultural relevance (recent players on a team who happen to be known at an appropriately small level for a leadin, in-universe style rambling on minor characters or largely inconsequential events from a multi-season show) and fail to meet the criteria I'm proposing, even if the answers themselves were quite culturally relevant. Asking about characters, episodes, developments, whatever that are part of why the answer is relevant would probably be harder to do for most questions.

Again, I'm more than willing to accept the argument that no matter how important a pop culture entity is, it doesn't belong at ACF Nats. I don't personally agree in theory, but in reality - as you point out - there seems to be no means of escape from questions on unimportant things being submitted and showing up, and sometimes those questions decide (important) games. I can easily accept that the interest in preventing these things from happening at ACF Nationals trumps the interest in seeing if we can write a more culturally relevant trash distribution, but I still think the idea is worth pursuing (perhaps at a different venue).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jun 29, 2009 5:09 pm

The Midnight Rider wrote:For example, many people seemed upset about the Bea Arthur question at Nats this year as being "that" kind of trash question. Although I didn't write it, I thought it was a pretty good question, trashy though it may have been. However, if you look at the question, it mentions her work on Broadway. Broadway is generally seen as trash in quizbowl, but it's sort of a higher level of trash. The question also mentions her work on noted socially groundbreaking sitcoms All in the Family (which was in my high school history book) and Maude. I would be shocked if Maude hasn't come up in feminist studies courses and other academic areas. Finally, the Golden Girls was actually a pretty edgy television show that touched on issues that don't seem to come up on network television these days, and I would be shocked if the Golden Girls have not been the subject of some academic study dealing with some of the many, many social issues that show addressed. Thus, noted question that people seem to think is a case-in-point of what shouldn't decide an important match at ACF Nats turns out to be about what is arguably an elevated subject as far as trash goes.
I think you really have to stretch to fit that question into academic parameters. Even given that what you're saying about Arthur's work being true, the question, as far as I remember, didn't really touch on the importance of those topics in any real sense. I mean, if I had been a little braver or we hadn't been playing a really great team, I would have buzzed on the "Booming Granny" clue, which doesn't exactly strike me as the apogee of academic relevance.

Another point: I often see people arguing that trash topic X is important because it was studied by some sociologist or it comes in feminist theory or what have you. I don't see that as a justification for writing trash, I see it as a reason to introduce those thinkers and subjects into the canon.
Anyway, making trash deal with academically significant subject matter is good in theory, but it seems really hard to do in a way that isn't confusing to question writers, editors, and players. Ultimately, trash at Nats means that matches will be decided on, well, Bea Arthur.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Mon Jun 29, 2009 5:33 pm

Yeah, I mean, I think you're missing my point. I'm basically against trash at ACF Nats precisely because something like Bea Arthur can decide important matches even though I think it meets criteria for at least a somewhat socially relevant trash tossup.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by vcuEvan » Mon Jun 29, 2009 5:49 pm

In the playoffs at ACF nats alone we won a game on the margin of an Evander Holyfield tossup and lost 10 and 5 point games by the margin of Hyundai and The Great Pumpkin tossups. I'm pretty sure teams in the top bracket had similar experiences. I like trash well enough and support keeping it in all other tournaments, but at nationals the stakes are too high to be determined on anything but academic questions.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jun 29, 2009 6:13 pm

The Midnight Rider wrote:Yeah, I mean, I think you're missing my point. I'm basically against trash at ACF Nats precisely because something like Bea Arthur can decide important matches even though I think it meets criteria for at least a somewhat socially relevant trash tossup.
Ok, I see what you're saying and I agree.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:18 pm

vcuEvan wrote:In the playoffs at ACF nats alone we won a game on the margin of an Evander Holyfield tossup and lost 10 and 5 point games by the margin of Hyundai and The Great Pumpkin tossups. I'm pretty sure teams in the top bracket had similar experiences. I like trash well enough and support keeping it in all other tournaments, but at nationals the stakes are too high to be determined on anything but academic questions.
You also won a game on the margin of probably 6-9 other tossups and lost two games because of 6-9 other tossups. Also, I think that Hyundai tossup was at least partially a current events tossup.

Anyways, my opinion on trash at ACF Nationals is that it's a difficult subject to study for the reward one gets. It comes up about 0.5/0.5 per packet, and reaches such a broad canon space that it's extremely hard to prepare for it. I think this is a probably better argument for getting rid of trash at this tournament than stuff like "it's not academic", which is a very complicated argument and can also be applied to several things that come in the rest of the distribution (essentially anything really hard is not especially "academic", as it's studied by an extremely small number of people and almost certainly not studied by anyone actually playing in the tournament).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:36 pm

I personally would be very pleased if the trash distribution were written in a way that skewed towards some form of cultural importance, more so than it currently does. I don't think that trash questions should be written to have academic clues, because as a lot of people are pointing out, it would create bad writing. However, I think there would be a whole lot less groaning about this stuff coming up at ACF Nationals if the editors simply tightened up the writing - in other words, picking answers that are not only popular, but that a lot of people can agree have had left an important mark on a lot of other facets of society, and then tightening the clues so that they have more to do with things like plot, musicians that worked on albums, etc. and less to do with what Family Guy episode parodied it. Just picking from 2 things in my own recent life, Michael Jackson's musical career in the 1970s-80s, and The Silence of the Lambs, which I just watched last night. If you want to argue that those things haven't had a wide reaching impact on our society, then I'd call you insane, yet somehow I don't think I've ever heard a question about either one of those topics in my playing career. And these are just 2 things off the top of my head, I think there are countless others as you reach back. I don't think it is at all true that there is nothing inherently different about a question on Lady Gaga and Bob Dylan, and I think if we spent a more concerted effort writing good questions on the Bob Dylans of the world, then people will be much more pleased about the trash content in academic tournaments than if we keep asking about the Lady Gagas, at least at an event as major as ACF Nationals.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:38 pm

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:You also won a game on the margin of probably 6-9 other tossups and lost two games because of 6-9 other tossups.
Couldn't you say this about anything, though? If tossup 20 of every ACF Nationals packet was an eight-word speed check question, or written at NAQT IS level, or a physical challenge, you could just as much say that it didn't determine who won the game because the other 19 questions were fine, and it would be just as irrelevant a claim as it is here.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:44 pm

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:my opinion on trash at ACF Nationals is that it's a difficult subject to study for the reward one gets. It comes up about 0.5/0.5 per packet, and reaches such a broad canon space that it's extremely hard to prepare for it. I think this is a probably better argument for getting rid of trash at this tournament than stuff like "it's not academic", which is a very complicated argument and can also be applied to several things that come in the rest of the distribution (essentially anything really hard is not especially "academic", as it's studied by an extremely small number of people and almost certainly not studied by anyone actually playing in the tournament).
But doesn't it follow that the really hard academic answers are just as difficult to prepare for?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:12 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:my opinion on trash at ACF Nationals is that it's a difficult subject to study for the reward one gets. It comes up about 0.5/0.5 per packet, and reaches such a broad canon space that it's extremely hard to prepare for it. I think this is a probably better argument for getting rid of trash at this tournament than stuff like "it's not academic", which is a very complicated argument and can also be applied to several things that come in the rest of the distribution (essentially anything really hard is not especially "academic", as it's studied by an extremely small number of people and almost certainly not studied by anyone actually playing in the tournament).
But doesn't it follow that the really hard academic answers are just as difficult to prepare for?
Sort of, but you have more of an incentive for doing so. The space for these answers to come up is a lot more (i.e. 4/4 per packet rather than 0.5/0.5 per packet) and you're dealing with one specific category rather than the entirety of movies, music, sports, television, videogames, comics, Internet crap, etc.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:16 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:You also won a game on the margin of probably 6-9 other tossups and lost two games because of 6-9 other tossups.
Couldn't you say this about anything, though? If tossup 20 of every ACF Nationals packet was an eight-word speed check question, or written at NAQT IS level, or a physical challenge, you could just as much say that it didn't determine who won the game because the other 19 questions were fine, and it would be just as irrelevant a claim as it is here.
This is clearly misrepresenting this argument. The aforementioned tossups were all pyramidal questions that did a good (but maybe not excellent) job of determinig who knew the most about the The Great Pumpkin, Evander Hollyfield, etc. I don't think anyone here is arguing that trash questions can't be good questions.

Thus, they were in the same type of question as the other 19 tossups in the packet. Just because you got the trash question in a close game doesn't mean that it determined things any more than the history tossup you earlier got did.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by vcuEvan » Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:59 pm

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
Matt Weiner wrote:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:You also won a game on the margin of probably 6-9 other tossups and lost two games because of 6-9 other tossups.
Couldn't you say this about anything, though? If tossup 20 of every ACF Nationals packet was an eight-word speed check question, or written at NAQT IS level, or a physical challenge, you could just as much say that it didn't determine who won the game because the other 19 questions were fine, and it would be just as irrelevant a claim as it is here.
This is clearly misrepresenting this argument. The aforementioned tossups were all pyramidal questions that did a good (but maybe not excellent) job of determinig who knew the most about the The Great Pumpkin, Evander Hollyfield, etc. I don't think anyone here is arguing that trash questions can't be good questions.

Thus, they were in the same type of question as the other 19 tossups in the packet. Just because you got the trash question in a close game doesn't mean that it determined things any more than the history tossup you earlier got did.
Yes but I'm fine with all nineteen of those other questions determining the game. I'm not fine with the trash question determining the game.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Camelopardalis » Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:27 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:I personally would be very pleased if the trash distribution were written in a way that skewed towards some form of cultural importance, more so than it currently does. I don't think that trash questions should be written to have academic clues, because as a lot of people are pointing out, it would create bad writing. However, I think there would be a whole lot less groaning about this stuff coming up at ACF Nationals if the editors simply tightened up the writing - in other words, picking answers that are not only popular, but that a lot of people can agree have had left an important mark on a lot of other facets of society, and then tightening the clues so that they have more to do with things like plot, musicians that worked on albums, etc. and less to do with what Family Guy episode parodied it. Just picking from 2 things in my own recent life, Michael Jackson's musical career in the 1970s-80s, and The Silence of the Lambs, which I just watched last night. If you want to argue that those things haven't had a wide reaching impact on our society, then I'd call you insane, yet somehow I don't think I've ever heard a question about either one of those topics in my playing career. And these are just 2 things off the top of my head, I think there are countless others as you reach back. I don't think it is at all true that there is nothing inherently different about a question on Lady Gaga and Bob Dylan, and I think if we spent a more concerted effort writing good questions on the Bob Dylans of the world, then people will be much more pleased about the trash content in academic tournaments than if we keep asking about the Lady Gagas, at least at an event as major as ACF Nationals.
I agree with this. Perhaps instead of replacing trash altogether, something like this could be adopted. I believe that saying that
Matt Weiner wrote: the notion of some trash being trashier than other trash in academic tournaments"
is false, is unfair - I think tossups on Manny being Manny, Prison Break, and Anthony Bourdain are significantly trashier than tossups on, say, Silence of the Lambs, Dave Brubeck, and Stanley Kramer. Generally, I'm uncomfortable with the presence of the former type of trash in ACF, and I've never really understood criticizing the HSNCT for a Wheaties tossup (though that is an inappropriate tossup for an academic championship), when ACF Regionals included the aforementioned Anthony Bourdain tossup.
setht wrote:"I'm also not sure the division between the academic and trash portions of the distribution is as clean as people have made it out to be."
Seth brings up a good point by discussing Film Studies. I think it can be agreed that not all film is academic, but neither is all literature. That's not to say the two are equal (at all), but I do suggest that by the same token that we can all agree that Harry Potter isn't acceptable to fulfill a literature distribution, neither would Barbershop 2 be acceptable to fulfill a 'culturally important' trash distribution. And similarly, something like Silence of the Lambs or All the King's Men would be acceptable to fulfill a 'culturally important' trash distribution, and I think could have the potential to be an acceptable way to decide a close game at an ACF tournaments, since these subjects are, I believe, "academic".

Of the 21 universities at ACF Nationals 2009, at least 17 of them have film studies programs, of which many are separate departments. Yes, there are courses on Starcraft and The Simpsons here and there, but you can't write a thesis on Bart Simpson's character development in season X, whereas a list of cinema studies journals can be found here: http://www.lib.umd.edu/guides/film_reviews.html. I think that cinema in general, if written properly, can be a valid part of the quizbowl canon. While film can't even come close to literature in importance, I think keeping film in the distribution (provided it's written on a 'culturally important' topic) would be in line with the "A" in ACF, and be a valid quizbowl topic.

And I think the same thing can be said for quite a bit of contemporary music, though I'm less familiar with this topic. As such, I think contemporary music could become an equally valid part of a reformed "trash" distribution.

That being said, couldn't there be a 2/2 distribution that would include geography, current events, cinema, contemporary music, and other academic topics that don't fit those categories? Each subject could be limited to 1 question per subcategory (i.e. 0/1 1/0); it wouldn't take away from the other 18/18, would be acceptable for deciding a close game, and would cover only academic topics, thus being in line with what ACF is; that is, an Academic Competition Federation.

The most challenging issue would be developing a criterion for what is and isn't acceptable in the film and contemporary music subdistributions - but couldn't this be easily developed into a rather expansive subcanon in a reasonable amount of time? A subject tournament on film and contemporary music, and its subsequent discussion, would easily help in deciding a level of acceptability that would allow this "trash" (which wouldn't really be trash anymore) to remain a part of ACF in the long-term. As it exists right now, I don't think the trash distribution is appropriate for deciding close games, but I believe it still has a place in ACF, if altered.
Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:I don't think that trash questions should be written to have academic clues, because as a lot of people are pointing out, it would create bad writing."
This is another important point, and I think that's what happened about the Bea Arthur question - Bea Arthur isn't notable or important in Broadway circles, and the reason she's in the pack is strictly for her importance as a film and television actress. Some trivial academic-related clues were added to make it pyramidal, but it is a disguised trash TV question, and I think this would be an important thing to note if "trash" in academic tournaments was changed to be written on only culturally important, academic topics.

EDIT: changed punctuation
Last edited by Camelopardalis on Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:29 pm

I'd rather have an important game decided on a Leonard Cohen question than a Joyce Kilmer question; Cohen is the better poet, after all.

This is admittedly an extreme example, and not applicable for most trash subjects. But I hope it illustrates my continuing unease with the position that the popular arts are necessarily and categorically inferior to other subjects, even when the questions are well-written and on work of genuine cultural significance and/or artistic merit.

EDIT: I should clarify that I'm fine with the idea that there should be less pop culture at ACF Nats, and I'm also happy with Ryan's proposal upthread, especially the increase in social science. There are many good reasons to give different difficulty levels subtly different distributions. However, I don't think that this is in any way "stemming the tide" of pervasive 1/1 trash- if anything, the "tide" has been towards less pop culture, as circuit events often had 2/2 per packet back in the day.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:59 am

Chris G wrote:I've never really understood criticizing the HSNCT for a Wheaties tossup (though that is an inappropriate tossup for an academic championship), when ACF Regionals included the aforementioned Anthony Bourdain tossup.
The difference is that the Wheaties tossup sucked. There's nothing wrong with choosing to write a trash tossup on Anthony Bourdain, as long as it's competently written; accessibility should be the primary factor to take into consideration when evaluating the reasonableness of a trash question. I agree with Matt that the idea of something being "trashier" than something else, when considered in the realm of quizbowl, is silly. Your argument seems to be based on some sort of essentially arbitrary "high culture/low culture" divide (or continuum) that really isn't germane.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Camelopardalis » Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:50 am

Ukonvasara wrote:
Chris G wrote:I've never really understood criticizing the HSNCT for a Wheaties tossup (though that is an inappropriate tossup for an academic championship), when ACF Regionals included the aforementioned Anthony Bourdain tossup.
The difference is that the Wheaties tossup sucked. There's nothing wrong with choosing to write a trash tossup on Anthony Bourdain, as long as it's competently written; accessibility should be the primary factor to take into consideration when evaluating the reasonableness of a trash question. I agree with Matt that the idea of something being "trashier" than something else, when considered in the realm of quizbowl, is silly. Your argument seems to be based on some sort of essentially arbitrary "high culture/low culture" divide (or continuum) that really isn't germane.
I completely agree that the Wheaties tossup sucked; similarly I don't dispute that the Anthony Bourdain tossup was well written, or, for that matter, that any trash questions that appear in most academic tournaments are well written. And furthermore, it makes sense that accessibility is a central consideration; but shouldn't the academic relevance, in an academic competition, be a similarly central consideration? Perhaps I misunderstand the main argument.

I am not suggesting that the distribution should change to include 5/5 crazy hard film stuff cause that's way better than any Anthony Bourdain tossup, I merely mean to suggest that there exist equally accessible academic questions in categories that are considered trash, and perhaps instead of abandoning this category altogether, it would be reasonable to explore the idea of of eliminating trash that's not studied in academic circles. I'm not arguing for an "arbitrary 'high culture/low culture' divide (or continuum)", I'm suggesting that perhaps a clear, non-arbitrary divide that separates academic material from non-academic material already exists, one that can be found by exploring the academic nature of cinema studies and contemporary music (fields in which I am not an expert, and thus don't claim to know exactly where that line falls). But I would posit that just as Angels and Demons is categorically non-academic and The Executioner's Song is categorically academic, I think a similar line can be drawn between, for example, In the Heat of the Night and Scary Movie 2, without sacrificing quality of questions, and simultaneously creating a 20/20 purely academic game. And again, it's possible I'm misunderstanding the key point, as have not played mACF for long.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:52 am

Some notes:

1) Art film is, and as far as I know always has been (in every format), a part of "misc arts." If you want to write a question about Jean Renoir or Blow Up for the arts distro, no change to the distribution is required in order to allow this. Same goes for jazz.

2) Something we haven't discussed here is how the academic/trash distinction plays into the purpose of quizbowl. I don't think we need to go to all the time, effort, and expense of organizing, editing, and playing in quizbowl tournaments to find out about anime or the Transformers movie (or, for that matter, about Bob Dylan or The Wire or whatever highbrow, "academically studied" trash you want to put into this sentence). Talking about music, tv, movies, sports, video games, and comic books is what people are going to do anyway, especially people in high school and college who are the target audience of quizbowl. Isn't the whole idea of this game to motivate and reward learning about academic things that we won't otherwise encounter? We can all turn into NAQT and start talking about how things that aren't popular in some crazily defined version of "the real world" don't matter, but in that case why are we posting in a thread called "ACF distribution?" Having some small amount of trash in ACF at some levels is one thing, but forgetting why ACF exists to begin with is another.

3) I also think the attempt to distinguish highbrow from lowbrow trash by any means besides majority opinion of quality is doomed to fail. Particularly, the notion that one is studied in the academy and the other is not is fallacious--to say that Bob Dylan is studied academically and Lady Gaga is not reflects nothing but the time-lag in getting a journal article published versus the relative recency of the esteemed Ms. Gaga's rise to fame. There are, as has been pointed out, departments of popular culture at universities. There are also people in fields like "queer studies" and "gender studies" who talk about popular culture a lot. Any idea that this academic pursuit only pays attention to things that are worth asking about in ACF is simply not true. To wit, here are the featured articles from the website of the Journal of Popular Culture:

Discourses of Sexual Morality in Sex and the City and Queer as Folk
Passing and Posing: The Japanese American Body in the Detective Fiction of Sujata Massey and Dale Furutani
"Do You Love Mother, Norman?": Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and Metalious's Peyton Place as Sources for Robert Bloch's Psycho
Children's Literature Goes to War: Dr. Seuss, P.D. Eastman, Munro Leaf, and the Private SNAFU Films (1943-46)
The Influence of Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang: Repositioning the Ned Kelly Narrative in Australian Popular Culture


Are we to take from this arrangement of names that Peter Carey and William Faulkner are on the same academic level as two authors of the sort of mystery novel that people's grandmothers check out from the public library? Can we write tossups on Dr. Seuss and congratulate ourselves for being highbrow? How about Sex and the City, is that "ACF trash" whereas some other TV show is not?

You can find similar conundrums with any pop culture topic. The standard has to be "is this something that academically enlightened people should know about and are unlikely to encounter outside of purposeful study" (as it is for art film v. popular film), not any made-up notion of some things being studied in colleges and others not, and certainly not every single packet writer's judgment of quality.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:00 am

In response to Chris White (since there are roughly two other Chrises in this thread), "the tide" I was referring to stemming was the one that's been generated in the last couple of years (it seems to me that, in that time, people have gradually come to presume the propriety of 1/1 trash in academic events in a way that wasn't really the case immediately prior to that). But sure, back in the day, there were all sorts of wacky notions of the trash/academic divide etc, not to mention other sorts of wacky notions.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:13 am

I still disagree on this notion that the only thing separating Dylan and Lady Gaga from being studied in the academy is a time lag. While I agree with Matt that popular culture studies examines basically anything that is "popular," Dylan is studied in other realms of the academy due to his political and musical influence. On a purely pedantic level, the same level of criteria applied to "art films" should also apply to musicians. Sullivan's Travels, which was a bonus at Nats, I believe was classified in Fine Arts (correct me if I'm wrong). A product of the Hollywood studio system, I don't think anyone at the time regarded this as an "art film," but its critical reputation has boosted it over the years to the rarified air level of beyond trash. Certainly there should be some non-jazz, non-experimental "popular" musicians who qualify to be similarly asked about in fine arts.

However, I see that I have gotten away from talking about trash, and I guess that is truly the point after all. If something is academically important enough to be asked about, it probably could be slotted in the fine arts, history, or literature distributions instead of trash.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:18 am

Cheynem wrote:I still disagree on this notion that the only thing separating Dylan and Lady Gaga from being studied in the academy is a time lag.
You can disagree, but I've shown you that Dr. Seuss, Sex and the City, and some random contemporary authors of popular mystery fiction are studied. I can show you similar articles for literally anything you can come up with that has achieved any modicum of sustainable popularity at all. If the standard is that the proposed "academic trash" is anything that has been written about in a scholarly journal, then the standard is in fact no different from the current one where anything in trash goes (barring the two-episode TV shows and 8000 copy-selling albums that only get asked about in trash tournaments rather than the trash portion of academic events anyway).
On a purely pedantic level, the same level of criteria applied to "art films" should also apply to musicians. Sullivan's Travels, which was a bonus at Nats, I believe was classified in Fine Arts (correct me if I'm wrong). A product of the Hollywood studio system, I don't think anyone at the time regarded this as an "art film," but its critical reputation has boosted it over the years to the rarified air level of beyond trash. Certainly there should be some non-jazz, non-experimental "popular" musicians who qualify to be similarly asked about in fine arts.
I disagree, because of my reasoning above as to the purpose of an academic quizbowl tournament. You don't need to be into anything unusual, academic, or intellectually curious in order to know several things about Bob Dylan. You need only to be an English speaker above the age of 12. Rewarding acquaintance with Bob Dylan is rewarding nothing. Rewarding art film from the 40s or jazz is like rewarding literature or science, in that it's something that you need to make a little bit of intellectual effort in order to know about in our current culture.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:35 am

So here is what I would like to posit: it's in fact okay to write an academic tossup on Lady Gaga and call it other fine arts or whatever. However, in order to do so, you'll have to use academic clues, or else it's not an academic tossup, any more than a tossup on the Restoration that uses literature clues is a history tossup. But here's the thing: there are probably zero quizbowl players who can buzz on academic Lady Gaga clues, so the only things that will actually be buzzable in there will be references to titles and lyrics which would make up the whole of a trash tossup. So your attempted academic tossup is reduced to trash.

Slightly more feasible is an academic Dylan tossup, but maybe there are two quizbowl players who can handle that. So, again, you've written a trash tossup.

This isn't at all true, though, for well-known composers. I'm certain that a reasonable number of quizbowlers could buzz on Bach clues that come from criticism and analysis.

Now, I admit that this rests on the assumption that clues about the content of Dylan's music alone (or Lady Gaga's) are inherently trash clues and that criticism clues about Dylan or Lady Gaga are inherently academic. But this seems a more solid foundation than pointing at some subset of what's often considered to be trash and saying "hey, you are now academic by fiat."

How this reconciles with the fact that our music distro contains a lot of stuff that was highbrow pop culture in its day, I don't know. But I think the above is a better justification for the status quo: instead of just saying "please don't draw arbitrary lines," it suggests that you really aren't able to draw arbitrary lines even if you wanted to.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Susan » Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:48 am

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:But here's the thing: there are probably zero quizbowl players who can buzz on academic Lady Gaga clues,
Not even that her nom-de .... whatever is derived by (or, far more likely, shared with) a Punch satire of Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall? That's a damned shame.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:56 pm

everyday847 wrote:How this reconciles with the fact that our music distro contains a lot of stuff that was highbrow pop culture in its day, I don't know. But I think the above is a better justification for the status quo: instead of just saying "please don't draw arbitrary lines," it suggests that you really aren't able to draw arbitrary lines even if you wanted to.
1. It doesn't (reconcile with the fact that lots of stuff in the humanities portion of the distribution was "pop culture" when it appeared). We're always left with stuff that sits right on the border, and we have long theoretical discussions that don't really go anywhere, to the point where some editors say "yeah, that's okay" and some editors say "no, it's not." Look at any recent thread on modern literature or the NAQT literature distribution: there's lots of books and authors that are right on the border.

2. But, again, we do draw arbitrary lines. The edges of the canon are fluid and shifting. In some subjects, it's not just "too hard" vs. "not too hard," but "academic enough" vs. "not academic enough." Bob Dylan may be "artsy" enough for one editor to put in fine arts and "too trashy" for another editor. The "jazz" canon is seeing similar fluidity: Miles Davis is in, most of the modern "smooth jazz" people are out; where "non-traditional" things like Latin jazz and fusion lie is fluid. Similarly with film: some tournaments (e.g. Minnesota Open) have moved it over to "your choice" because it's so hard to solidify the edges of the canon, you get people submitting questions on culturally important films that don't meet the editors' definition of "art film."

Again, as Matt is arguing, anything that is sufficiently important (and by "sufficiently," I mean, "someone in the academic world cares about it") in either the academic or "real" world is going to have "scholarly" articles written about it; that's not a good criterion for determining whether something is academic or not. Every other proposal for dividing academic and trash has been, in my opinion, entirely arbitrary.

Perhaps the solution is to replace trash with "1/1 cultural studies." This would include such things as arts/literature that sit on either side of the "academic" line and additional social studies/RMP. Legitimately "important" pop culture could also go here. Again, the issue is that this is yet again another nebulously defined category with arbitrary restrictions on what is "important."
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mike Bentley » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:06 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:Rewarding acquaintance with Bob Dylan is rewarding nothing. Rewarding art film from the 40s or jazz is like rewarding literature or science, in that it's something that you need to make a little bit of intellectual effort in order to know about in our current culture.
I don't like this line of reasoning. Is it going to be "rewarding nothing" to have questions on things that anyone over the age of 12 is suppossed to know basic facts about? There go all those easy parts on Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Zeus, etc. The nature of pyramidal quizbowl and easy/medium/hard bonus parts rewards "making a little bit of intellectual effort" in order to get a tossup early on Bob Dylan or to get a medium or hard part on his songs or whatever. Your average 12 year old or member of a TRASHionals winning team isn't going to be making a first-line buzz on a Bob Dylan question or getting 30 points on every Bob Dylan bonus, just like your average 12 year old or ACF Nationals winning team is going to do so on a Thomas Jefferson tossup or bonus.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:12 pm

Not to mention that if you start writing tossups on Blood on the Tracks or Highway 61 Revisited, which would be more appropriate Dylan-related answer lines for harder tournaments, those 12 year olds will have an even harder time answering those questions early.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:15 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:Not to mention that if you start writing tossups on Blood on the Tracks or Highway 61 Revisited, which would be more appropriate Dylan-related answer lines for harder tournaments, those 12 year olds will have an even harder time answering those questions early.
Highway 61 Revisited was a tossup at 2005 ACF Nationals.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:17 pm

And if it played better than just a tossup rewarding "nothing," then I think that helps my argument. Do you remember how it played for your room, Jerry?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:37 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:And if it played better than just a tossup rewarding "nothing," then I think that helps my argument. Do you remember how it played for your room, Jerry?
I buzzed very early by knowing the lyrics to "From a Buick 6." Knowledge of Bob Dylan's lyrics was certainly rewarded.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:30 pm

It was a tossup at HI, too, and I don't think it rewarded nothing. Nothing academic? Probably nothing academic, yeah.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot » Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:42 pm

At what point do we draw the line between "pop culture figure with possible academic importance" (KRS-One, Bob Marley, and Neil Young come to mind) and "pop culture figure with limited to no academic importance" (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, or, to use a more extreme example, Shakira)? How do we decide if borderline cases like REM are academic enough? Clearly, Michael Stipe et al. were great musicians, but did they have any influence beyond making college radio important and writing a few really excellent songs?

As a result, I think that there should be an all or nothing mentality towards trash at ACF Nationals. That is, either there has to be a portion of the distribution that is cut out for trash with no "academic" reservations (i.e., Katy Perry is as fair a game as John Lennon is), or there has to be no trash at all. Deciding whether or not something is academically important enough seems to be a huge time sink. Personally, I would advocate the latter point of view, because, simply, even the most academic of pop culture figures is still non-academic.

In vaguely related note, I think that blues and various types of roots music should be grouped with jazz in "other arts".
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by vcuEvan » Tue Jun 30, 2009 5:45 pm

I think people are overstating the importance of drawing a line here. Remove trash entirely from the distribution of ACF nationals and there's no need to distinguish between high brow and low brow trash. That's what I'm proposing. If people are arguing that this nebulously defined more significant trash should be included in the academic distribution, that's another matter. Personally, I think painting trash out with a wide brush in this one lone tournament isn't harmful at all to the project of including it in quizbowl.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jun 30, 2009 5:56 pm

Matt, I would agree that the standard "has it been studied in an academic journal?" would not be a good one for deciding if something is "academic trash" (a term I dislike, but I don't know how else to describe it). You're absolutely correct that anything under the sun is studied somewhere in academia. But I would say your second point about how "rewarding intellectual effort" should be combined with academic studies to determine if something is appropriate "academic trash." Sullivan's Travels was a piece of popular entertainment that is hazily considered academic due to its critical importance, intellectual status, and, yes, its role within academic disciplines. While I would agree with Evan that there is nothing wrong with painting trash out of this tournament, I would just suggest that other realms of popular culture that also fit this criteria be allowed in some arena of the distribution, whether it be fine arts or "other."
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Jul 01, 2009 10:26 am

Yeah, with regard to the reduced trash that will be in ACF Nats, I won't be making any special effort to see that it's possibly academically relevant. I just see that whole route as a dead end.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Sun Jul 05, 2009 1:55 pm

If you get rid of trash and the distinction between "high-brow" and "low-brow" trash, you still have the question as to whether something is trash or academic. For example, I would contend that 2001: A Space Odyssey is just as academic as, say, R. U. R. or some other academic film, as it is not only a notable work of literature, it is also, a famous art film. However, I am willing to bet that someone would claim that it deserves to be considered trash.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Jul 05, 2009 5:26 pm

ECRHA - Assist Champion wrote:If you get rid of trash and the distinction between "high-brow" and "low-brow" trash, you still have the question as to whether something is trash or academic. For example, I would contend that 2001: A Space Odyssey is just as academic as, say, R. U. R. or some other academic film, as it is not only a notable work of literature, it is also, a famous art film. However, I am willing to bet that someone would claim that it deserves to be considered trash.
2001 the movie is, in my view, within the realm of art film, but the book is definitely not. Indeed, I would argue that had it not been for the film it would be a relatively unknown work. Clarke was one of the better sci-fi writers of the time, but I would be very hesitant to classify 2001 as truly serious literature. The obvious solution though is that if you think there's some ambiguity, just write on a different topic.
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