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The cricket’s march over the saltbox

March 17, 2012

The conference is more or less over. I’m done with it, anyway. I had planned to take myself out to dinner this evening, but the St. Patty’s day chaos is too much for me, so I curled up in an armchair, put my feet on an ottoman and ordered room service.

Sometime on the Saturday of every conference I’ve ever attended, I hit a wall. Conference fatigue. It happened around lunchtime today, and I headed for a quiet corner with my laptop to get some writing done but mostly to get my head together. Conference fatigue tends to come on all at once and without warning. It’s as if all of a sudden I become autistic. I want to stick my fingers in my ears and yell. I am incoherent and nervous when talking to people. It’s all too much.

But I heard many excellent and thought-provoking papers today and one horrifically bad one. It was so bad that no one asked questions afterwards because it was so completely incomprehensible. Within 30 minutes of the paper’s end, it’s all anyone was talking about. I feel kind of bad for the guy. It wasn’t like he seemed unprepared. It seemed like he had no idea what a conference paper was supposed to be. And he was in a place in his career where he should have known better.

Saturday night always closes with the annual meeting, where treasury and development reports are read and awards are given out. The lovely man who won the distinguished service award up there got up and started talking with excitement and suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion and had to sit down. To get an award from your peers for doing good work is one of the more meaningful kinds of awards you can get. You could watch the realization hit all at once, like a sock in the gut. It was beautiful.

Afterwards I worked the Toy Factory’s table for a little while, and then helped pack everything up. I’m now in my room finishing up a room service dinner and trying to get up the energy to pack. Thunderstorms are rumbling through and I’ve got a grand view of the lighting from my upper story window. I am trying to decide if the rain will mean more or less St. Patrick’s day noise in the hotel.

AJ spent his afternoon with his rock band performing their first gig at my friend L’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party. I hear it went well. Here’a a picture of AJ getting his game face on:

We had a nice long talk about his gig afterwards and also about a paper I heard on video game music. AJ had interesting things to say about it. I am liking almost-11.

I catch an early cab to the airport tomorrow to head back to New York where, if the gods of transportation and weather are willing, I hope to spend the afternoon with Cranky and Toddler J.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2012 8:35 pm

    I do so want to her about the really bad paper.

  2. March 18, 2012 6:15 am

    And I want to hear more about the video game music paper. After all, I am a gamer. One of my favorite CDs to listen to while gaming actually is a collection of tunes used in games. Makes sense, right? All the songs are high energy, fairly techno and tend to loop a lot. So do tell.

  3. March 18, 2012 7:33 am

    I feel you on the conference fatigue; it’s overstimulation on so many levels. Isn’t it nice that room service exists?

  4. freshhell permalink
    March 18, 2012 9:24 am

    I get that way too. I’m really glad that my conference in June is a two-nighter. I also LOVE room service. It is an introvert’s best friend. Say hi to Cranky and Little J for me!

  5. March 19, 2012 6:33 am

    When bad papers are caused by a lack of attention, by someone blowing it off, I have no qualms about talking about them. But it appeared to me that this person put some time and thought into it, but was just seriously misguided, so to say much seems to me unkind. But basically, the following things went wrong: 1) he went 10 minutes over the 20 minute time limit (this is also the session chair’s fault for not stopping him); 2) at least 20 minutes of his talk involved giving a long, detailed and yet superficial history of something that was both largely irrelevant and also completely familiar to every person in the room; 3) as far as I can tell, the point of the paper was to tell us to put stuff on the internet, which, given that the session was largely devoted to music in the virtual realm, seemed kind of obvious; 4) In a conference about academic research, this was a paper on basic pedagogy (papers on pedagogical theory would have a place here; methodology papers have their own conference and don’t make sense here without careful curation). There was such a disconnect that I think many people were questioning the selection committee rather than the author.

    The video game music paper was dealing specifically with a game called Fallout 3, where the player controls the music in some interesting ways. Rather than contemporary rock music or music composed for the game, as is typical for first person shooter games like this, this game’s default is music-free — an eerie silence where mostly what you hear is your own footsteps. There are, however, three radio stations in the game that the player can control in various ways. One is a propaganda station that plays patriotic (American) songs — Sousa marches, America the Beautiful, etc. Another plays songs from the 30s and 40s with big band accompaniment — think of the music broadcast over the speakers on MASH. A third station is classical violin music, mostly Italian. That station gets added after the player does a mission involving a violin. The author made a number of interesting points about the disjunction between music and violence and the way players tend to use the music in the game when it’s under their control (they turn it on). He was arguing that the music is one way to create a sense of disconnect between real violence and virtual violence where there are few consequences (legal or psychological) for, say, blowing the head and limbs off a guy you happen to meet on a walk. I’m selling him short in this description. This guy’s still in grad school but already has the makings of a superstar.

    And Claudia, I did. I also got to see that adorable octopus (although I have to say the best part was hearing J say the word “octopus”).

  6. March 19, 2012 3:32 pm

    Aw! It was fun to make. I may have a new career one day! Assuming Dusty lets me.

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