Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:26 pm

grapesmoker wrote:If I could make judgments about what would be important in the future, I'd be in the money. Too bad neither I nor anyone else has such forecasting ability. Dumping trash altogether would completely eliminate this ambiguity.
Bob Dylan's first albums are almost 50 years old now, and I'm pretty sure they won't magically lose staying power in the next decade. Yet the canon calls them "trash". Furthermore, to imply that we can't make reasonable judgement calls as to which things will maintain such cultural import strikes me as a magically unbelievable and ignorant thing to say. Next!

If we're going to use the "cultural literacy" barometer to define the canon, then we need to keep trash questions around, though we should probably lessen their occurrence, and certainly stick with "important" trash (as I've advocated before). If, on the other hand, we use a strict "academic significance" barometer, which would be a justification for eliminating trash, then we also need to eliminate every other category which isn't studied in an academic context. Or, if you want to discount the presence of pop culture studies in these arguments, you need to be prepared to eliminate all categories which are customarily asked about in ways which are irrelevant to the ways in which actual academics study them.

To be blunt: If you take away all trash, you better also take away all myth. Anything else is hypocrisy, pure and simple.
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Cheynem » Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:41 pm

Myth is very different than trash, in my opinion.

I really don't want to get into the "academic trash or not?" distinction as while I am sympathetic to it, I think it is even more problematic as people cannot come to a consensus as to what is academic. One person's idea of an important sports figure (Pumpsie Green! He integrated the Boston Red Sox!) is another person's, well, Pumpsie Green. One person's brilliant film of immense social value is another person's The Lady Eve.

The key problem we're running into is "What does trash entail?" There are a lot of aspects of trash I have no problem chucking from higher level academic tournaments, but I'd still argue to keep in the quasi-academic stuff like current events, popular literature, American folklore, oddball cross distributional things, etc.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:45 pm

I agree entirely with Fred. I'm in favor of some small amount of pop culture per high school tournament, because, as I see it, it helps tournaments remain accessible to players who are less familiar with quizbowl, adds some off-the-wall enjoyment to the game without altering win-loss records too much, and asks about topics that are easily converted, so that even the 2nd-worst team in the country could score 10 points on a regular-difficulty packet against the worst team in the country. A key component of tournaments' success is their accessibility to a wide range of teams, and a small amount of trash questions maintains accessibility and leads to the kind of interesting experiences, enjoyed by novices and All-Stars alike, that keep post-round conversations lively and prevent the game from getting too stale and repetitive. Trash questions also keep players attentive during games, even against vastly superior teams, and reward people for "having lives", injecting a little uncertainty by making it impossible for any player to first-line every tossup and 30 every bonus through sheer force of studying alone, making the game less deterministic and predictable.

I also don't buy the argument that 1/1 trash in a round with 19/19 academic is necessarily going to determine the course of games (or tournaments) by creating a substantial number of upsets. The statistics just aren't there to prove that any tournament set with 1/1 trash has unfairly and systemically screwed over teams of higher skill level by making them lose to teams of a lower skill level due to trash over the course of that entire tournament. While the occasional 10-point loss between otherwise evenly-matched teams due to a trash question is not a good experience to undergo, such a negative is outweighed by the aforementioned benefits of having some small amount of trash questions.

Much like academic tossups (perhaps even more so than academic tossups, actually), trash tossups have to be on subjects that are objectively well-known and accessible to people that experience mainstream popular culture. This is an entirely separate issue from whether trash should exist or not. Isaac, I have to disagree with you entirely; "culturally significant" is easy to define in a quizbowl context, and has been defined for decades as "well-known enough that the majority of teams playing the question could get the answer by the giveaway". The Mighty Mighty Bosstones wasn't a good idea for your trash tossup because not enough people know who they are; that doesn't invalidate the benefits of pop culture questions as a whole. Bands such as Radiohead or the Foo Fighters are objectively much more askable, regardless of whether any individual player has heard their music, because their albums have sold millions of copies worldwide and their singles have received significant radio airplay. Because pop culture is experienced differently by different people, I'm willing to admit it's sometimes hard for the authors of trash questions to escape the confines of their own experience, but even so, individual error on the part of a tossup's author, as to whether the Mighty Mighty Bosstones (or Polaris, or Kennesaw Mountain Landis, or Sideshow Mel, or what have you) are accessible enough to a wide audience, shouldn't be sufficient argument for the elimination of pop culture questions altogether. After all, no one leaps to the claim that literature isn't worth asking just because tossups on Delmira Agustini would go dead in the vast majority of rooms.

In short: I see nothing wrong with 1/1 or so trash per 20/20 of a tournament, if it's held to the same accessibility standard as other categories (or to a higher one). After all, it's fun.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Cheynem » Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:50 pm

Matt has a good post. One problem here is that there are numerous sub-strains of "trash in quiz bowl thinking" that are getting conflated.

I agree completely with Matt as to these positive benefits of including trash and would prefer to keep trash in most if not all high school sets and novice level collegiate tournaments. I believe that these trash tossups should be accessible and that with effort, it's fairly easy to determine what is "accessible" (not important) trash. If anything Sideshow Mel was way more accessible than Polaris, I would guess, but I don't know the stats. I believe the benefits of trash in helping newer or novice teams would not so much apply to stuff like ACF Nationals, where I see less of a need for it to be there.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:05 pm

RyuAqua wrote:Isaac, I have to disagree with you entirely; "culturally significant" is easy to define in a quizbowl context, and has been defined for decades as "well-known enough that the majority of teams playing the question could get the answer by the giveaway". The Mighty Mighty Bosstones wasn't a good idea for your trash tossup because not enough people know who they are; that doesn't invalidate the benefits of pop culture questions as a whole. Bands such as Radiohead or the Foo Fighters are objectively much more askable, regardless of whether any individual player has heard their music, because their albums have sold millions of copies worldwide and their singles have received significant radio airplay. Because pop culture is experienced differently by different people, I'm willing to admit it's sometimes hard for the authors of trash questions to escape the confines of their own experience, but even so, individual error on the part of a tossup's author, as to whether the Mighty Mighty Bosstones (or Polaris, or Kennesaw Mountain Landis, or Sideshow Mel, or what have you) are accessible enough to a wide audience, shouldn't be sufficient argument for the elimination of pop culture questions altogether. After all, no one leaps to the claim that literature isn't worth asking just because tossups on Delmira Agustini would go dead in the vast majority of rooms.
Fair enough, you make very good points. At the end, though, you seem to think I'm arguing against the inclusion of trash, which is not at all true. The point I was trying to make was in response to Nicholas's assertion that we should only focus on "culturally significant" [though a different definition of culturally significant than you put forth] trash, which I think will lead nowhere good. Should we toss up the Bosstones or Landis? Absolutely not- people know what is well known, but in Nicholas's terms, culturally significant is a different thing altogether.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:33 pm

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:Bob Dylan's first albums are almost 50 years old now, and I'm pretty sure they won't magically lose staying power in the next decade. Yet the canon calls them "trash". Furthermore, to imply that we can't make reasonable judgement calls as to which things will maintain such cultural import strikes me as a magically unbelievable and ignorant thing to say. Next!
Yeah, I'm so ignorant and magically unbelievable, what would I do without your future-seeing wisdom?!

Get off you high horse. People 50 years ago didn't know whether Dylan would last or not; he could've been a one-shot flash in the pan for all we know. Dylan is great, I love Dylan, he's still essentially pop culture. There's nothing wrong with that but he doesn't need to be in an academic tournament. Maybe, just maybe, I could grant you that you can shoehorn Dylan into the academic canon somehow, but he's in a very small set of things to which that can be done. So rather than allow tossups on Dylan and allow stupid shit like Magic the Gathering to slip through, I'm happy to lay a blanket ban on trash to make sure things of dubious academic relevance do not slip through. It's safer that way.
If we're going to use the "cultural literacy" barometer to define the canon, then we need to keep trash questions around, though we should probably lessen their occurrence, and certainly stick with "important" trash (as I've advocated before). If, on the other hand, we use a strict "academic significance" barometer, which would be a justification for eliminating trash, then we also need to eliminate every other category which isn't studied in an academic context.
Umm... ok?
Or, if you want to discount the presence of pop culture studies in these arguments, you need to be prepared to eliminate all categories which are customarily asked about in ways which are irrelevant to the ways in which actual academics study them.

To be blunt: If you take away all trash, you better also take away all myth. Anything else is hypocrisy, pure and simple.
To be blunt: I, Chris White, do not understand the argument I am making.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:38 pm

RyuAqua wrote:I also don't buy the argument that 1/1 trash in a round with 19/19 academic is necessarily going to determine the course of games (or tournaments) by creating a substantial number of upsets. The statistics just aren't there to prove that any tournament set with 1/1 trash has unfairly and systemically screwed over teams of higher skill level by making them lose to teams of a lower skill level due to trash over the course of that entire tournament. While the occasional 10-point loss between otherwise evenly-matched teams due to a trash question is not a good experience to undergo, such a negative is outweighed by the aforementioned benefits of having some small amount of trash questions.
At ACF Nationals this year several games among the top teams were decided by the margin of less than a tossup. While it is true that no one question decides the entire match, it is also true that every question contributes to the decision. At a national tournament, where we are ostensibly trying to figure out who is the best academic team, trash questions should not even be a factor. If you allow trash questions, you are now opening the game up to the possibility of not the best academic team but the second best academic team + team who knows most about Football Player X to win, and that is unacceptable at Nationals. For regional tournaments, I'm happy with the current 1/1 trash.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by cvdwightw » Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:47 pm

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:If we're going to use the "cultural literacy" barometer to define the canon, then we need to keep trash questions around, though we should probably lessen their occurrence, and certainly stick with "important" trash (as I've advocated before).
I like the idea of this argument. Certainly I (and presumably enough of the higher-ups at NAQT, and various other people who agree with me) believe that at some level, quizbowl is a test of cultural literacy; that is, quizbowl should represent what an educated, engaged, informed member of our society should know. As such, it is important to have some amount of geography, current events, pop culture, and "general knowledge" to integrate "engaged and informed" with "educated" (obviously, we don't want too much of these things in the distribution, because it then takes away from the "educated" part).

I foresee yet another schism within the realm of good quizbowl, this one between the "cultural importance" camp and the "academic significance" camp. I see no reason why both can't exist (NAQT and NAQT-like tournaments in the "cultural importance" camp, ACF and ACF-like tournaments in the "academic significance" camp). It's clear that Jerry and various other trash-bashers are clearly arguing from the "academic significance" camp and their viewpoint will not be changed. I think it's equally clear that NAQT is willing to listen to the arguments from the other camp and their product has been changed in significant ways due to those arguments, but I highly doubt any amount of complaint from that camp is going to reduce geography/CE/PC/GK to below 4/4 or 5/5 per 24/24.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Matt Weiner » Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:58 pm

I find the "let's include some questions on the Foo Fighters at non-championship tournaments because you can use them to show people who aren't yet very knowledgeable what good question structure is and engage them in the activity by giving them something to convert" argument to be the most compelling reason to include any trash in any academic tournaments.

"Culturally significant" is an untenable post-hoc justification--we get it, Chris, you like Bob Dylan. So do I. I also like the Violent Femmes a lot (allmusic calls them the "textbook American cult band of the 1980s" and they sold a million copies of their first album, so I guess they're culturally significant). And it's hard to argue, given the obsession that most news outlets have with her these days, that our old friend Lady Gaga is not a significant part of current American culture. Do you see my point? By definition, anything that is widely known enough to be asked about in a non-impossible tournament is "significant" to something. Appeals to "significance" are either meaningless (in that they would rule out nothing that is currently asked in trash) or a smokescreen for an actual "only ask about trash that the author of the argument considers enjoyable or highbrow" agenda.

If you think having a little bit of trash in situations where it won't decide who wins PACE NSC or ACF Nationals is fun, helps expand the audience for quizbowl, helps avoid the temptation to write questions on Gothmog for the lit category, fine--say those things. Those are fairly compelling arguments. But let's not mask our intentions by grasping at this "Bob Dylan is significant, T-Pain isn't" straw; you will never be able to articulate that belief at any level higher than a gut feeling.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:10 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Get off you high horse. People 50 years ago didn't know whether Dylan would last or not; he could've been a one-shot flash in the pan for all we know. Dylan is great, I love Dylan, he's still essentially pop culture. There's nothing wrong with that but he doesn't need to be in an academic tournament. Maybe, just maybe, I could grant you that you can shoehorn Dylan into the academic canon somehow, but he's in a very small set of things to which that can be done. So rather than allow tossups on Dylan and allow stupid shit like Magic the Gathering to slip through, I'm happy to lay a blanket ban on trash to make sure things of dubious academic relevance do not slip through. It's safer that way.
You are seriously selling our ("us" being the whole of people involved in creating, analyzing, and consuming culture) predictive power short. Sure, people didn't know Dylan would still be around when "Blowin' In The Wind" first charted, but I'm pretty confident that by (let's just pick a round number) 1970, people knew that his music had a pretty lasting impact on things.

Furthermore, I would as a matter of philosophy rather err on the inclusive side rather than the exclusive side; I suspect this is just somewhat of an incommensurable difference in our quizbowl aesthetics. (Obviously, to not err would be best of all.) If someone has knowledge of something that is worthwhile and important and testable within the constraints of quizbowl, then there should at least be a chance that said knowledge comes up. (Also, just in case this wasn't clear: speaking purely in terms of a tournament like ACF Nationals, I certainly have no objections to pop culture coming up at a rate of less of one per packet.)
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Cheynem » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:11 pm

While I have come around to the conclusion that you cannot satisfactorily determine "academic" trash, I still reject this hypothesis that the only thing separating Bob Dylan from T-Pain and Lady Gaga as academic or not is a "gut feeling."

If I type "Bob Dylan" into the academic database, JSTOR, I get over 1800 hits referencing Dylan in journals of music, American Studies, Cultural Studies, even literature. Despite the belief that Cultural Studies studies everything (which there is some truth to--my dissertation is on sitcoms, mind you), I type "T-Pain" and "Lady Gaga" into JSTOR, I get nothing related to those singers.

Let's try Minnesota's library. There are over 100 books related to Bob Dylan and his context within American musical history (which includes actual political significance too). While unfair due to their relatively recent status, I fail to find any books on Lady Gaga or T-Pain (if I type T-Pain, I amusingly get books on Thomas Paine). Perhaps a more nuanced topic would be the Beastie Boys. There are books on the Beastie Boys in Minnesota's library, but only like three. There are a number of articles that reference the Beastie Boys on JSTOR (about 60, give or take), but none really about them specifically and some merely as cursory mentions in the history of hip-hop.

Now, you could probably find an academic article on any pop culture topic and you could probably find any topic on some academic syllabus on some class somewhere.And this is admittedly a highbrow way of judging academic importance. But I find it no more or less highbrow than, say, judging that a lit tossup on Lord Peter Wimsey is out of place at ACF Nats. Or to hit more relevantly--the movie Sullivan's Travels, a legit Fine Arts topic at ACF Nats, was marketed as a typical pop genre film when it first came out. Over the years, it has achieved critical and artistic acclaim. How can we track this? How can we determine that Peter Wimsey is not really academic? Because of their status within the academic community--Sullivan's Travels is studied among film scholars, Peter Wimsey fails to pop up in anthologies of British Literature.

I admit that there is a difficult line to straddle between "academic" and "not academic" trash (which is why I have given up on this criteria), but it's more than a "gut feeling," in my opinion.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:17 pm

cvdwightw wrote:It's clear that Jerry and various other trash-bashers are clearly arguing from the "academic significance" camp and their viewpoint will not be changed.
I find it somewhat strange to be called a trash-basher. I've written plenty of trash questions for tournaments that I've been part of; heck, I'm writing some for EFT right now.

Look, I like a lot of pop-culture things, some of which you also might like and some of which you might think are stupid. But I don't pretend that my love for Wondermark or Dinosaur Comics means they need to be part of an academic tournament, even though I think they are probably more intelligent than 99% of any pop culture out there. I think it comes down to the distinction between things that are worth knowing because they have serious academic importance and things that are not worth knowing because they're transitory fun. There's nothing wrong with transitory fun; it just shouldn't be a factor in deciding who wins a national academic tournament.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by cvdwightw » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:20 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:"Culturally significant" is an untenable post-hoc justification--we get it, Chris, you like Bob Dylan. So do I. I also like the Violent Femmes a lot (allmusic calls them the "textbook American cult band of the 1980s" and they sold a million copies of their first album, so I guess they're culturally significant). And it's hard to argue, given the obsession that most news outlets have with her these days, that our old friend Lady Gaga is not a significant part of current American culture. Do you see my point? By definition, anything that is widely known enough to be asked about in a non-impossible tournament is "significant" to something. Appeals to "significance" are either meaningless (in that they would rule out nothing that is currently asked in trash) or a smokescreen for an actual "only ask about trash that the author of the argument considers enjoyable or highbrow" agenda.
I would like to point out that my "cultural literacy" argument does not anywhere mention "cultural significance." If it is something that a functional member of society is likely to know, that is enough to justify a trash answer or topic for me (I recognize that I may be the only person in this community with this viewpoint). Now, for instance, either Keyboard Cat is not something that a functional member of society is likely to know, the teams at HSNCT were not likely made up of functional members of society, or it is legitimately relevant to today's society but too hard of a question (my gut instinct says the first of those things, but I do not watch viral videos). However, that is not something we can know a priori; a better suggestion would then be to "stay away from flash-in-the-pan viral videos" not because they're not relevant to modern culture but because they are not answerable by the target audience.

Also, to Jerry: perhaps trash-bashers is too strong a word (in that you, like most people, enjoy certain aspects of popular culture). What I meant by this is "people who complain about the place of trash in 'academic' quizbowl," which group you certainly fit into. I don't think I (or anyone else) will be able to convince you that quizbowl is a game of cultural literacy, and because of this, there is a place for "nonacademic" things; similarly, I don't think you'll be able to convince me that we should focus solely on "academic" things and completely eliminate "nonacademic" things from the distribution.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:24 pm

Cheynem wrote:If I type "Bob Dylan" into the academic database, JSTOR, I get over 1800 hits referencing Dylan in journals of music, American Studies, Cultural Studies, even literature. Despite the belief that Cultural Studies studies everything (which there is some truth to--my dissertation is on sitcoms, mind you), I type "T-Pain" and "Lady Gaga" into JSTOR, I get nothing related to those singers.

Let's try Minnesota's library. There are over 100 books related to Bob Dylan and his context within American musical history (which includes actual political significance too). While unfair due to their relatively recent status, I fail to find any books on Lady Gaga or T-Pain (if I type T-Pain, I amusingly get books on Thomas Paine). Perhaps a more nuanced topic would be the Beastie Boys. There are books on the Beastie Boys in Minnesota's library, but only like three. There are a number of articles that reference the Beastie Boys on JSTOR (about 60, give or take), but none really about them specifically and some merely as cursory mentions in the history of hip-hop.
Not that I want to leap to T-Pain's defense or anything, but this argument is deeply flawed. Bob Dylan has had 50 years to have books written about him and all that. T-Pain has been popular for, what, five years?
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Cheynem » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:27 pm

Yeah, I know, this is unfair to Mr. Pain. You can flip T-Pain with any number of, say, '60s pop artists who were contemporaries of Dylan. But it doesn't actually change my point. We KNOW Dylan's academic importance because of this volume of work about him. In 50 years, perhaps T-Pain will take the same place. But we don't know yet, so I would say that yeah, right now, T-Pain isn't as academically important as Dylan.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:31 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:"Culturally significant" is an untenable post-hoc justification--we get it, Chris, you like Bob Dylan. So do I. I also like the Violent Femmes a lot (allmusic calls them the "textbook American cult band of the 1980s" and they sold a million copies of their first album, so I guess they're culturally significant). And it's hard to argue, given the obsession that most news outlets have with her these days, that our old friend Lady Gaga is not a significant part of current American culture. Do you see my point? By definition, anything that is widely known enough to be asked about in a non-impossible tournament is "significant" to something. Appeals to "significance" are either meaningless (in that they would rule out nothing that is currently asked in trash) or a smokescreen for an actual "only ask about trash that the author of the argument considers enjoyable or highbrow" agenda.

If you think having a little bit of trash in situations where it won't decide who wins PACE NSC or ACF Nationals is fun, helps expand the audience for quizbowl, helps avoid the temptation to write questions on Gothmog for the lit category, fine--say those things. Those are fairly compelling arguments. But let's not mask our intentions by grasping at this "Bob Dylan is significant, T-Pain isn't" straw; you will never be able to articulate that belief at any level higher than a gut feeling.
Fine then, I'll use The Godfather as my stock example instead from now on, which is unquestionably culturally significant but which I have no particular attachment to (Embarassing confession: I've never even seen it). I've gone with Dylan because I generally prefer to use a musical example- the boundaries seem to be more fluid when it comes to film questions here, though. Also because it's a subject I can speak with much more knowledge about. But seriously, arguing that "you only want pop culture questions because you like Bob Dylan" is a pretty offensive ad hom, and I'm not going to let it slip by. Besides, there are plenty of things which I don't have particular knowledge or affinity for which I would still gladly recognize as significant. Like the Violent Femmes, for instance.

Leaving aside the fallacy there, the idea that "appeals to significance are meaningless" is simply untrue. What I will grant is true, is that an appeal to significance is, in fact, an appeal to the sum total of those factors which make sense to accept as arbiters of significance. Those factors include such things as:

a) the critical judgement of, well, professional critics and/or academics
b) continued popularity after a certain amount of time
c) other events and cultural products which can be directly traced to the "significant" thing-at-hand (i.e. a critical mass of imitators)

and so on. Yes, it's an appeal to authority, but ultimately all canon judgements in quizbowl have to be based on some authority, so I don't have a problem with it. And I'll certainly buy that in most cases time really does help clarify these things- if ten-twenty years from now Lady Gaga has somehow attracted a mass of imitators, and is still selling craptons of albums, and has spurred on a sufficient amount of hagiography from rock critics and novelists and other such writers, well then yeah I'd be willing to call her fair game even if I hated her music. That hasn't happened yet, obviously.
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill » Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:26 pm

I like the trash in most distributions. It's a nice little changeup. But what I HATE are trash clues in academic tossups. I'm looking at you, NAQT. I really like the ACF distribution for Trash. The Elimination of trash is a bad idea, imo, but the reduction of trash clues and the sheer amount of trash in NAQT is not.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Important Bird Area » Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:43 pm

Inkana7 wrote:But what I HATE are trash clues in academic tossups. I'm looking at you, NAQT.
Our current policy is to discourage these; I don't believe they are present in significant numbers. (cf. this thread wherein I re-read all of IS #76 and found a total of two such clues.)
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:40 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:
Inkana7 wrote:But what I HATE are trash clues in academic tossups. I'm looking at you, NAQT.
Our current policy is to discourage these; I don't believe they are present in significant numbers. (cf. this thread wherein I re-read all of IS #76 and found a total of two such clues.)
To me it felt like there were quite a few that I heard at this year's HSNCT. I can remember one question in particular about Baltimore that included all clues referencing TV Shows and Movies set in the city. If I had the set in front of me, I'd dig around for others, but that's the one that came to mind.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:55 pm

I would have responded to this sooner but my internet cut out. I am not disagreeing with your general premise, but that has nothing to do with what my actual problem with Jack's argument is. If something is an unacceptable subject area to come up, then there should be all kinds of objective reasons for it not to come up. These kinds of reasons would include "it rewards the wrong kind of knowledge" or "it unfairly weights the game to a particular kind of player" or "it cannot be written well consistently." The fact that one team may have lost a game by 10 points due to a trash question seems to me to not actually be a criteria to determine anything. These objective, across the board facts are what we should be discussing when determining whether we should eliminate an entire category from the game, and while these may trickle down to then have an effect on a game's outcome, we need to recognize that if we agree that a game's outcome was unfairly affected by a trash tossup, the actual reason we need to discuss this is that we think that trash tossup was unfairly rewarding a type of knowledge we don't think has a place in the game, and then that just happened to play a role in determining a game's outcome. If no games ever were affected by a trash question, or if all games always were, we should still be forced to objectively analyze whether or not we think trash has a place in the game and come to the exact same conclusion using the same criteria either way.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Important Bird Area » Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:51 pm

Inkana7 wrote:But what I HATE are trash clues in academic tossups.

To me it felt like there were quite a few that I heard at this year's HSNCT. I can remember one question in particular about Baltimore that included all clues referencing TV Shows and Movies set in the city. If I had the set in front of me, I'd dig around for others, but that's the one that came to mind.
That was a straight-up trash tossup, not trash clues infiltrating the academic distribution.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Captain Sinico » Thu Oct 01, 2009 1:35 am

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:...when "Blowin' In The Wind" first charted...
Which, incidentally, would be "never" if we're talking about Dylan's version.

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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by The Atom Strikes! » Fri Oct 02, 2009 12:59 am

RyuAqua wrote: I also don't buy the argument that 1/1 trash in a round with 19/19 academic is necessarily going to determine the course of games (or tournaments) by creating a substantial number of upsets. The statistics just aren't there to prove that any tournament set with 1/1 trash has unfairly and systemically screwed over teams of higher skill level by making them lose to teams of a lower skill level due to trash over the course of that entire tournament. While the occasional 10-point loss between otherwise evenly-matched teams due to a trash question is not a good experience to undergo, such a negative is outweighed by the aforementioned benefits of having some small amount of trash questions.
Mm, I've seen the broad outcomes of tournaments shaped by trash questions-- like the 2009 NAQT HSNCT and the PACE NSC. My own team won many close games at those events-- and the margins of victory almost always included trash. Without that element, we likely would have been eliminated from the NSC playoffs by Hunter, or lost to State College A in the final, or lost our playoff round against GDS or the final against Dorman at HSNCT (both of which are somewhat questionable victories as is). I think that I could be safe in saying that in a really close year like 2009, trash made the difference between third or fifth place and the championship for Charter A, and that it can have a systemic effect on games-- and I'm not sure how I feel about that...
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by TheKingInYellow » Fri Oct 02, 2009 6:58 am

Henry O Godwinn wrote:I could be safe in saying that in a really close year like 2009, trash made the difference between third or fifth place and the championship for Charter A, and that it can have a systemic effect on games-- and I'm not sure how I feel about that...
Certainly in both of State College's losses the other team won by a question and got the trash (or whatever "Chopsticks" is). Not saying that we would have won, but if it's trash that decides games at HSNCT between decent teams, that's pretty iffy in my book
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by cvdwightw » Fri Oct 02, 2009 12:42 pm

Perhaps I am in the absolute vast minority, but if two teams are equal in academic knowledge (that is, games played exactly on academic questions would be split roughly 50-50), I have no problem with the current system in which the team with the trash advantage wins more often. To me, this is no less fair than having that 20th question or 24th question or whatever be on randomly-picked academic topic ("State College is way better than us on fine arts! If that last question had been social science instead of arts, we would have won!"), since between two teams with equal knowledge, it's essentially a coin flip as to who wins the crucial buzzer races.

Where this does become a problem is if a clearly inferior team is able to produce multiple upsets based on dominating the trash categories while not being clearly equal at the academic ones. I haven't seen this be a problem, but my firsthand experience is not that of the typical "top team;" I acknowledge that in extreme-NAQT (a round in which every non-academic category is rounded up, all those questions are placed in the first 20, and the timed round is read by a slow reader) this may be a problem.

To put this another way, when we're dealing with 20-30 tossups (which we are), I'm not sure that the predictive power of n+1 academic tossups is truly any greater than that of n academic tossups; that is, once we get up to that many questions, I don't think that adding another academic question will yield any more information about who is conclusively the better team. I'm not sure that anyone's making this argument (in fact, I'm pretty sure that people who are better at trash than me are making the opposite of my argument), but I can see where both sides of the argument might be self-serving (teams that are in general not as good at trash would rather see it eliminated because their chances of beating an equal-knowledge team improve if that nth question is academic, not trash; teams that are in general better at trash would like to see it continue because they have the advantage over an equal-knowledge team).

It's clear that in 2009 there were several teams that were arguably deserving of both championships. We can't know for sure how alternate-universe 2009 would have turned out, but I think Charter clearly showed throughout the season that their academic knowledge was at least equal to that of every other team in the nation, and if their trash advantage is what gave them their championships, then I have no problem with them being "first among equals."
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by kayli » Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:21 pm

Trash is in inherently unacademic topic. Lady Gaga's VMA performance (as awesome as it was) contributes nothing to culture. Twilight is an extremely popular book, but anyone who's read the thing knows it has no literary value. Why, then, do we insist upon bringing unacademic things to an academic competition. Math comp has been destroyed as a category because people considered it to be insignificant as it reduces to number crunching. Trash often reduces to watching E! or BET. Why is trash treated any differently? Trash is bad for quizbowl because trash is inherently unacademic. If you were in high school, any administrator would laugh if you wanted a popular culture class. Each match is decided on every point. Why should matches have the opportunity of being decided on a question about Lil' Wayne? The simple answer is that they shouldn't. People complaining that they lost on a trash question are justified in their complaints. The match was unfairly decided on a topic that requires no academic knowledge. For some teams, this can mean a lot. I've seen an upset where team A lost to team B on a trash tossup. and team A missed the playoffs despite having over 100pp20th more than team B. If there were no trash, would the result be different? It might have. We wouldn't know. But the injustice from having a match decided on a trash question cannot and should not be ignored.

Btw, I'm talking from primarily a high school perspective.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by AKKOLADE » Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:28 pm

Kay, you've never refuted the key arguments for the presence of trash. As Matt summarized them:
Matt Weiner wrote:If you think having a little bit of trash in situations where it won't decide who wins PACE NSC or ACF Nationals is fun, helps expand the audience for quizbowl, helps avoid the temptation to write questions on Gothmog for the lit category, fine--say those things. Those are fairly compelling arguments.
Instead, you've continued to post "you got rid of math computation, which makes me angry, so I want to take trash out as well!" screeds that do nothing to further your argument beyond the first posts.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by David Riley » Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:39 pm

Kay, don't overestimate administrators....I know of some who would embrace a pop culture class because it would allegedly raise the class grade-point average. A university near here is teaching J. K. Rowling as part of as women's lit class.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by cvdwightw » Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:47 pm

Arsonists Get All the Girls wrote:Math comp has been destroyed as a category because people considered it to be insignificant as it reduces to number crunching. Trash often reduces to watching E! or BET. Why is trash treated any differently?
I'm laughing here.

HSAPQ's reasons they don't include math calculation tossups never say that MATHCALC is "insignificant." To summarize their arguments, math calculation tossups are not pyramidal (despite the best efforts of Reinstein and others), they do not test the same type of knowledge as any other part of quizbowl, they tell quizbowlers nothing informative about the subject of the question, they are already adequately covered by "math theory" questions, not enough of them can be written to be both accessible and non-repetitive, and there are non-quizbowl competitions that cover math calculation.

Please, please tell me now which of these arguments applies to trash!
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Cheynem » Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:55 pm

Well, this math calc = trash argument is a non-starter in my opinion. As Dwight has pointed out, math calc takes a viable academic topic and asks about it in a non-pyramidal, uninteresting, unproductive manner. On the other hand, there are plenty of trash questions which are well-written, pyramidal, interesting, and reward deeper knowledge (although unfortunately not as many as I would like). The question here is should trash be asked about at all.

Again, for the reason Matt and Fred have elucidated, I think trash should remain in almost all high school sets (with the possible exception of national competitions), novice level college tournaments (anything below "normal" difficulty), and possibly on a reduced level at normal difficulty tournaments. Open tournaments, of course, can use whatever distribution they want.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by kayli » Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:56 pm

To be honest, I no longer want math comp in quizbowl. But I think the parallel is fitting... Anyways, I'll try to get back on topic without my math comp ranting.

I think that trash should be eliminated from state and nationals levels tournaments. Trash is fun sure, but it should never be a factor in something like a state or national championships. Currently, at the high school level, it seems that all the trash seems to be more trivia than academia. I can understand a place for cinematography, but other than that I don't really think that popular music, movies, games, etc. should factor into a match. Trash may be fun to play on, but it shouldn't have the same weight as academic questions on the state and national stage.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Cheynem » Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:57 pm

Cinematography? Are you kidding me? You mean ask about like Haskell Wexler or Gregg Toland? High schoolers love that!
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by kayli » Fri Oct 02, 2009 2:01 pm

Cheynem wrote:Cinematography? Are you kidding me? You mean ask about like Haskell Wexler or Gregg Toland? High schoolers love that!
I never said it should be implemented. I said that I could understand cinematography being a part of the distribution.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Cheynem » Fri Oct 02, 2009 2:03 pm

No, it does not have a part in the distribution.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by nobthehobbit » Fri Oct 02, 2009 2:10 pm

I like trash lit. Thanks to tournaments' having a trash distribution (say, 1/1 as specified for 24/24 submitted ACF packets), I'm not very tempted to put any of it in the lit distribution. Instead, I'll write a trash lit question in the trash distribution, which is where it belongs. (The first pack I wrote was a complete travesty in this regard.) Are works like The Lord of the Rings, Stranger in a Strange Land and Dune important (in science fiction and fantasy)? Arguably, yes. Do they belong in the regular lit distribution as it stands? No. With a trash distribution, I'll just write one question on something of that ilk and stick it there. Without a place for trash, I might find some thin justification why one of those works belongs in the regular lit distribution and put a question on it there--and then once I've justified one, why not others?

I guess what I'm saying is that having a dedicated place for trash in the distribution makes it clear to writers that trash questions go in a certain place, and that they don't belong in other places, and this could be a big help for inexperienced writers so that editors don't have to weed out a lot of trash that's found its way into academic parts of the distribution.

(The same could be said for recent movies going into the Fine Arts distribution without a place for them in trash.)
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Oct 02, 2009 2:14 pm

I think those are fine arguments, Daniel, and they underscore the limited role--if any--that trash would play at a championship event, where submitting teams almost always have submitted a packet before, and have certainly played more than one tournament.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by nobthehobbit » Fri Oct 02, 2009 2:47 pm

Norman the Lunatic wrote:I think those are fine arguments, Daniel, and they underscore the limited role--if any--that trash would play at a championship event, where submitting teams almost always have submitted a packet before, and have certainly played more than one tournament.
Yes. To clarify, I have no problems with trash being eliminated from ACF Nationals: writers for that tournament should be experienced enough to know what's trash and what's not. (That said, I don't know if I'll ever attend ACF Nationals; certainly not so long as I'm at UBC.) House/company-written tournaments can do whatever they please, of course, but I would hope that anything purporting to be academic would follow this same general guideline.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Deviant Insider » Fri Oct 02, 2009 4:45 pm

Is there an end point for this discussion? I realize it's very complicated because we are coming from different starting points and there are varying amounts of control that some people on this forum hold over various tournaments, but are there tournaments/vendors that are seriously considering eliminating trash this year or next year? If we're not talking about eliminating trash, is there a chance that we'll see less of it in certain places or that attempts will be made to make trash less trashy (more Mountain Landis, less Joe Crede)?

Personally, I'm ready to bid adieu to Pop Culture, even though it does result in some interesting and some fun questions. I won't argue to eliminate it from IHSA, because doing so right now would lead to more Drivers Ed and Agriculture, but I would like to see it eliminated wherever its elimination can lead to more academic questions or more Geography and Current Events questions.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Mike Bentley » Fri Oct 02, 2009 6:08 pm

Xanta Claus wrote:Is there an end point for this discussion? I realize it's very complicated because we are coming from different starting points and there are varying amounts of control that some people on this forum hold over various tournaments, but are there tournaments/vendors that are seriously considering eliminating trash this year or next year? If we're not talking about eliminating trash, is there a chance that we'll see less of it in certain places or that attempts will be made to make trash less trashy (more Mountain Landis, less Joe Crede)?

Personally, I'm ready to bid adieu to Pop Culture, even though it does result in some interesting and some fun questions. I won't argue to eliminate it from IHSA, because doing so right now would lead to more Drivers Ed and Agriculture, but I would like to see it eliminated wherever its elimination can lead to more academic questions or more Geography and Current Events questions.
Elimintating trash has been seriously discussed in both PACE NSC and ACF Nationals. That strikes me as at least a resonable end point for this discussion.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Fri Oct 02, 2009 9:22 pm

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
Xanta Claus wrote:Is there an end point for this discussion? I realize it's very complicated because we are coming from different starting points and there are varying amounts of control that some people on this forum hold over various tournaments, but are there tournaments/vendors that are seriously considering eliminating trash this year or next year? If we're not talking about eliminating trash, is there a chance that we'll see less of it in certain places or that attempts will be made to make trash less trashy (more Mountain Landis, less Joe Crede)?

Personally, I'm ready to bid adieu to Pop Culture, even though it does result in some interesting and some fun questions. I won't argue to eliminate it from IHSA, because doing so right now would lead to more Drivers Ed and Agriculture, but I would like to see it eliminated wherever its elimination can lead to more academic questions or more Geography and Current Events questions.
Elimintating trash has been seriously discussed in both PACE NSC and ACF Nationals. That strikes me as at least a resonable end point for this discussion.
But then what will happen to the traditional Metal Gear Solid tossup in the PACE final?
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by at your pleasure » Fri Oct 02, 2009 10:10 pm

I'm going to guess that Kay Li's idea of cinematography questions encompasses questions about important films.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Angry Babies in Love » Sat Oct 03, 2009 1:32 am

I believe that trash is good for expanding the audience (as stated earlier), but should not be in the distribution at a national tournament, and maybe not even in a regular season tournament with a very strong field. Unless you're counting general knowledge in trash, I believe general knowledge deserves at least a 0/1 distribution (or something equal to or higher than trash) because it's something that just about everyone playing would be able to get, as opposed to some trash questions, and is somewhat useful in RL, despite not being academic. Another option would be to focus on under-appreciated topics (typography comes to mind, there are countless others though) instead of trash. Or just split the distro hole among the mainstream subject, but that's boring.
IMO I wouldn't mind seeing trash leave high school quizbowl, especially if it leads to a focus on other fringe topics.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sat Oct 03, 2009 2:58 am

maybe not even in a regular season tournament with a very strong field.
The problem with this is that in our modern era of HSAPQ and NAQT being tournament vendors that are widely used all over the country, and events like Prison Bowl and Dunbar that allow their set to be used by multiple hosts in far flung places, the idea that there are any tournaments that are written for top teams outside of the national championships is almost unworkable at best. For every VCU tournament where the top 6 can make the top 25 at nationals, there are possibly 5 out there that will be run at a place like Mizzou where the best team in the field goes 5-5 at the HSNCT. Even in these so-called tournaments with very strong fields, if you dig through them, I guarantee you will find easily half of the field would not be able to place in the top 50 of any kind of objective national ranking. To make assertions that any regular tournament set for year round consumption can and should be catered to the top teams is to not pay attention to reality. If we want to discuss these kinds of issues, we should think about how actual set production and actual tournament hosting works, and realize that if we do anything outside of nationals that is designed to cater to the top teams only, we will destroy the vast majority of our market either by not being able to sell sets to mirror sites and thus preventing them from running something, or driving the middle of the road-poor teams away, and there will be no viable place to run these "competitive" tournaments.
Also, what possible good typography question is there?
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Deviant Insider » Sat Oct 03, 2009 7:55 am

I actually like Raynell's idea. (No, not the Typography idea.) Charlie pointed out some legitimate reasons why it would be difficult to implement, but I'm not sure they are deal breakers.

For one thing, the dichotomy between good teams and weak teams on this issue, while it exists, is not a great rift. We are talking about changing at most 1/1 per match, and we are not changing the idea that tossups should be answerable by weak teams and that bonuses should have easy parts. I could see this change resulting in a decrease of scoring at a bad site by maybe 10-15 points per game per team. That's not good, but it's not a crisis either.

With mirrors, they are generally written with the host tournament in mind. If somebody else wants to mirror a tournament, then they get what they get. What they should get is answerable tossups and bonuses with easy parts. If your questions are being mirrored, then it's your responsibility to write good questions and let the other hosts know what they are going to get from you. You're not obligated to have trash, and it's unlikely that somebody is going to decide whether or not to mirror your questions based on the existence of 1/1 trash. If it's that big a deal, work out a deal where you can get them the questions a week early and they can add their own trash.

With NAQT and HSAPQ, I think they could, if they wanted, try an experiment by producing one set that had no trash (or in NAQT's case possibly significantly less trash). They would have to be very clear about it so that hosts knew what they were getting, and the hosts would have to be clear to the teams coming to their tournaments, but I don't think we're talking about a logistical nightmare.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Cheynem » Sat Oct 03, 2009 8:40 am

While I guess a "no-trash" set or individual tournaments here and there not using trash is okay, I'm really reluctant to start cherry-picking this in high school, just because it seems tacky...like "Hey, this field isn't strong enough, let's throw in some trash!" The nationals are different because there's theoretically a strong enough, motivated field already. College is also different because (THEORETICALLY) there are different difficulty tiers that are more defined than high school tournaments.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Your Genial Quizmaster » Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:26 pm

The term "trash" was coined circa 1993, unintentionally, by a college player who (similarly to the post that began this thread) objected to the inclusion of any popular culture in quizbowl. It prompted the Vanderbilt team to decide to run a 100% pop culture tournament, TrashMasters, 1993. But going all the way to the origins, the old College Bowl, there has always been a smattering of popular culture in the canon.

Why? Because popular culture is part of culture. Mozart was pop culture when he was alive. So was Aeschylus. Paganini was a scandalous celebrity performer. Charles Dickens and Mark Twain did not set out to write literature, and Shakespeare was trying to fill seats at the Globe.

Stephen King, in his acceptance speech for a 2003 National Book Award http://www.nationalbook.org/nbaacceptspeech_sking.html, summed up my feelings on this subject more eloquently that I could:
Nor do I have any patience with or use for those who make a point of pride in saying they've never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark or any other popular writer. What do you think? You get social or academic brownie points for deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture?
Besides, my experience has been that the occasional pop culture question is more than a consolation prize for the academically ignorant, but keeps some newer players tuned in and helps them develop confidence on the buzzer. I've seen more than one college player who got good at playing and writing trash questions, and then saw their academic stats rise as well. As long as trash doesn't overshadow academics, it deserves a small space within the canon.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:48 pm

Tom Clancy and Mary Higgins Clark aren't my culture, they're yours and Stephen King's. No one under the age of old cares about those people. Stephen King's writings on this topic (e.g. "you should assign Harry Potter in school so that kids grow up to read Stephen King!") are nakedly self-serving and idiotic.

I wish we could dispense with this "common people went to Shakespeare plays!" muddying of the argument. No one is saying we can't ask about currently active people or topics. Kazuo Ishiguro, Nelson Mandela, Damien Hirst, and electrospray ionization are all perfectly academic. We don't remember the other forty thousand active violinists of Paganini's time, for all sorts of reasons. Whether something is old or what the pop culture standards of 1850 were have nothing to do with the questions at hand.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:53 pm

Your Genial Quizmaster wrote: Mozart was pop culture when he was alive. So was Aeschylus. Paganini was a scandalous celebrity performer. Charles Dickens and Mark Twain did not set out to write literature, and Shakespeare was trying to fill seats at the Globe.
It's possible to make a prefectly good case that pop culture as we know it could not have existed until 19th century industry promoted a large salaried class with the leisure for mass entertainment. What I guess I'm saying with that is that your contention rests on a serious misconception of what "popular culture" is and reductionist claims that ignore the varied audiences for these figure's works.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by Angry Babies in Love » Tue Oct 06, 2009 1:21 am

Trying to define what is defined as "pop culture" and "not pop culture" is very tough. What is the line? Time period? Category? Cultural relevance today? Some strange combination of the three? We can all agree (I think) that Katy Perry and the Twilight saga are considered trash. But what about Andy Warhol? John Cage? 2001: A Space Odyssey?
I think that this discussion, however, is irrelevant to what can be considered trash. One can easily make the argument that Jackson Pollock is a part of pop culture. But to categorize a question about him as "trash" is far more difficult. There is a subtle distinction between pop culture when applied to RL and pop culture when applied to quizbowl. I like to see trash as roughly all of pop culture minus that than can be put into other academic categories more neatly (Maya Angelou is part of popular culture (sorta) but can be better considered as part of the lit category as opposed to trash). Now this still leaves a fuzzy area (Contemporary authors such as those stated in earlier posts as lit or trash? Mid-20th century non-classical music as music or trash?), and this fuzzy area can be up to vendors and writers to decide.
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Re: Proposition: Get Rid of Trash

Post by AKKOLADE » Tue Oct 06, 2009 10:45 am

rmgeokid wrote:But what about Andy Warhol? John Cage? 2001: A Space Odyssey?
I feel good saying that art, art and art would be the category for all three of those.
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