The Demise of the Beard

The original beard auction was not, as you know, strictly for the beard itself. Instead it was an auction of its fate, a competition of ideas for how the beard should meet its end. Many colorful proposals were put forth, but one gained clear favor: Clip-on Padawan Braids.

The "Clip-on Padawan Braids" proposal required that the beard be made into multiple braids, and for those to be turned into clip-on Padawan braids a la the esteemed Bob Boiko. Naturally, each clip-on braid would be auctioned individually.

iBall, as a large, cross-program celebration being held at the Burke Museum inbetween the Capstone Presentations and Convocation, was a fitting venue for such an auction. With the assistance and blessing of its organizers, Alex Walker and Caroline Conley, the stage was set.

Final preparations

by Brooke Pederson The shearing of two years of proud facial growth is not a task to be undertaken lightly. The day began with the careful shampooing and final conditioning of the beard. After letting it enjoy a few final hours of unfetterd freedom, I began the braiding process.

I settled on seven braids for a number of reasons. An odd number allows for the middle braid to carry the extra symbolism of weaving together the otherwise naturally bifurcated halves of my beard. At the culmination of this year's Valentine's Week celebrations I made seven braids, so I knew that the proportions could work. And seven is a good number. The Seven Wonders of the World, Seven Samurai, the Magical Number Seven (plus or minus two). Seven Deadly Sins, seven rings for the Dwarf-lords, seven Horcruxes.

But seven braids is kind of a pain. Dividing a beard into seven equal bundles is no trivial feat, nor is it easy to keep the bundles from interfering with the braiding. And this was a special braiding requiring extra care. The whole process took well over an hour, with a break for a snack.

Seven braids for seven bidders

by Naomi Bishop The braids of a two-year-old are perhaps a peculiar set of items for a live auction. Yet a beard is a complex object, and each of the braids made from it carries its own qualities. For example, the sides of the beard are significantly softer and curlier than the rest, so the side braids tend to be smoother and more uniform.

The auction went smoothly, with each braid fetching between $10 and $40 apiece, the highest bid going for the symbolically coveted middle braid.

The final clipping

by Naomi BishopAs the second-beardiest man present, Colin Booth did the honors of snipping off the individual braids. Naomi Bishop and Kaye Kovacs assisted with the work of tying off each braid and attaching it to a hair clip.

Each braid was presented to its winning bidder with a Certificate of Authenticity, signed by yours truly. The certificates read: "This braid is one seventh of the Beard of MSIM, grown for 25 months un-trimmed on the face of Eric Bell, MSIM class of 2010, from April 2008 until June 4, 2010. Its fate was auctioned as part of the MSIM Beardraiser Scholarship capstone project, in which the winning proposal required that the beard be removed as individual braids and auctioned individually."

Long years of not shaving properly take their toll. As planning-oriented as I was, I had, perhaps out of force of non-habit, forgotten to bring my razor. So after the braid-snipping, the final shearing had to await my return home, alas. Tragic, really; it was hilarious.

The beard is dead, long live the beard!

by Naomi BishopWhat now for the braids? Some say that they will be framed and find their way back to the iSchool office when the MSIM scholarship created by this effort reaches endowment levels. Others whisper about the transformation of clip-on braids into tassels for graduation. Only time, and the efforts of the MSIM community, will tell.

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