On the development of trash skills (split)

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theMoMA
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On the development of trash skills (split)

Post by theMoMA »

I have a theory, based in part on my own experience, that trash is an "old player skill." Part of this is simply because, as a fresh-faced teenager just getting into quizbowl, you've only really lived in a state of cultural awareness for maybe five or ten years (and for most people, trash skill is almost all about how much they pay attention to the world around them, as opposed to academic quizbowl, which people go out of their way to study or otherwise learn). When you're a few years out of college or grad school, you've had that much more time of cultural awareness. So your personal reference frame goes back further in time, relative to new trash tournaments, and you've also had time to reflect on your interests and see how they connect to other things of interest to you (such as the higher-culture topics you may have learned in academic quizbowl).

I think that improving at trash is also, somewhat paradoxically, an outgrowth of maturity. As a young person, you know what you like to do with your free time, and you sort your social world to reflect your interests. As you get older, you're less likely to be able to exist in a cocoon of people who are about the same age as you and share your interests; instead, you're thrust into situations, such as a job or the social scene of your significant other, in which understanding and caring about other people's interests becomes important, and many of these new people you meet are older (or younger) than you and weren't raised on the same set of cultural signifiers, which broadens your horizons.

Finally, at least for me, I've grown less attached to "category purism" as I've matured as a quizbowl player. Whereas before I found category bleed between academic and pop culture topics (such as when I learned that a particular author also wrote the screenplay to a famous film) as mildly nettlesome, because it was unclear if I should study or care about that information in a quizbowl context. But now, I think such connections, whether they're to pop culture or simply other academic disciplines, are among the most interesting things that you can learn in quizbowl, because (at least for me) they seem to engage the mind more than simply knowing who wrote a particular book or won a particular battle. I suspect, from the lofty perch of my sociopsychology-doing armchair, that many players undergo a similar shift in interests, from learning the simple binaries that facilitate the rapid learning needed to get situated in the college game, to the more studied process of examining interesting connections between the things they already know, which can only occur when you already know plenty of things (which young players tend not to). And I suspect that this branching out that players are able to do once reaching a point of canonical mastery, or at least competence, leads lots of older players to drink deeply from the well of pop culture, which they might not have cared to do earlier.
Andrew Hart
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Cheynem
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Re: Worst Trash Player

Post by Cheynem »

is that why jerry got good at trash
Mike Cheyne
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rylltraka
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Re: Worst Trash Player

Post by rylltraka »

I think it helps to have come of age before the great Balkanization of culture that the Internet brought about in the mid-2000s, because the young person's absorption of culture is now sharply divorced from traditional media.

That is, unless you're the certain type of deluded quizbowler who willingly lives in the past.
Mik Larsen
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Re: Worst Trash Player

Post by Cheynem »

I was a pretty good trash player in college as well, but I also wonder that as you stop taking academic classes and leave mass exposure to weekly packet readings or monthly tournaments, your "auxiliary" academic interests fall off. At one point, I had enough fake knowledge of painting, music, and opera to get ACF Regionals and below style buzzes, but most of that knowledge died as I stopped hearing a lot of questions on those topics. Similarly, my philosophy and social science knowledge was really growing as I took more and more courses that forced me to read stuff by, for example, such intellectual legends as Adorno, Benjamin, and Thomas Friedman. But since I don't do that on a regular basis anymore, that knowledge has also atrophied. Obviously if you were genuinely interested in painting, music, opera, philosophy, etc. you would still keep doing these things.

On the other hand, I follow sports perhaps even more than I did when I was in school (I have more time, for one) and I watch more films. The trash knowledge is easier to maintain, at least for me, because a lot of that comes from personal, daily interests.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

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