In 2012 I created a ceramic and wood version of the popular beer drinking game Beer Pong named “Block Cup.” The game was initially a response to the vast amounts of red plastic cups that would litter the streets of Ann Arbor every weekend. My intention was to create an artful drinking game that would deny the use of plastics and create durable, reusable, and beautiful drinking pieces. In addition, the game employs a “make the rules as you go” structure, lending itself to varying and dynamic modes of play.
Then, in September 2014, it came to my attention that Pabst Brewing company, one of the most iconic American beers used in students’ drinking games, had been purchased by a Russian beverage company. As a result, I created a version of Block Cup as a response to the company’s acquisition and to the ongoing conflict between Russian and Ukraine - a conflict that few students remained unaware of. Block Cup: PBR/Ukraine Edition utilized ceramic game pieces in Russian and Ukrainian colors, a board with the silhouette of Ukraine, and was played using only Pabst Blue Ribbon. I gave a speech at the beginning of play, and I read news from the Russian/Ukrainian conflict over a megaphone. Ultimately, gameplay was meant to metaphorically mimic real life attitudes towards these issues by both Russians and Americans broadly.
Transcript of speech:
September 26th, 2014
"Last Thursday, Russia, in conjunction with its current attempts at controlling vast amounts of international wealth, resources, and power, added one more jewel to its treasure trove of recent acquisitions. While many of you may be aware of Russia’s current exercise of power in Ukraine, Russia’s latest actions in its progress towards world domination on our very own soil went hardly noticed by most U.S. citizens and residents.
May it be publicly noted, that on September 18th, 2014, Russia, in an act of aggression disguised as free-market capitalism, added Pabst Brewing Company to its vast portfolio of international spoils. To you proud Americans, I say - wake up!
While some may have half-paid attention to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, I say to you be aware! Ukraine may be to Russia what Poland was to Hitler!
Here me now fellow citizens, in this time where war is played out not only in soil in blood, but in the exchange of capital and goods, that the acquisition of Pabst Brewing Company by Oasis Beverages may indeed represent our newest Pearl Harbor.
And like that surprise attack in 1941, Oasis has seized the Pearl of Texas, and we should all be damned to know that they now also control Lone Star!!!! And not only that, but Colt 45, and so help us all - Old Milwaukee! And why would Oasis do such a thing? To control the very things that make this country the greatest nation in the world.
As the chairman of Oasis Beverages Eugene Kashper stated last Thursday - and I quote:
'Pabst Blue Ribbon is the quintessential American brand – it represents individualism, egalitarianism and freedom of expression – all the things that make this country great,'
Individualism, egalitarianism and freedom of expression? How can we abide by such talk?
How can we abide by such talk when Russia has done nothing but oppress such expressions, in every far corner of the earth that it’s power overshadows!
Individualism, egalitarianism and freedom of expression - those are the defining characteristics of democracy - and that’s what we do! That’s what America spreads as a light to every shadow in the world. And now, in an attempt to snuff one of the brightest embers in our nation’s heart, Russia seeks to take the virtues of our nation - embodied in a delicious and economically affordable alcoholic beverage - away from us!
We must not tolerate this action. We must resist and respond!
I say, let us show them what freedom of expression is!
Let us show them what we can do with our sacred national nectar!
Let us show them what the blue ribbon is all about!
Let us rebel against their ambitions of world domination with a game of Block Cup!!!!!
And let us play this game in solidarity! Let us play in solidarity by playing a version of block thematized in the name of our comrades in Ukraine! As you will see, the game pieces and board of this version of Block Cup utilize the colors of Russia and Ukraine, with the conflict between teams being carried out over the silhouette of Ukraine. And as we play, each time a block is sunk, I will read from the chronicle of the Ukrainian crisis which which began last November. Russia’s invisible hand can no longer be tolerated.
Rise up and play Block Cup!
Rise up and celebrate with me, our heritage as Americans, as protectors of the legacy of Pabst Brewing Company!"