Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In which we wish for a new Flying Dutchman

The Pups are soliciting photographs of their tab staffs this year. I guess they’re trying to scare people away. I think it’s a good thing, though. I’m working with Catholic Charlie and Marty Page (who sadly lacks a coachean nickname, but if you ask me, he’s ripe for one), and having pictures of them will help me identify them when they try to break into the tab room. The only picture I could come up with of myself is about a million years old, but it was the best I could do. It’s the same one that’s in my passport; if it can get me into the European Union, it ought to be able to get me into New Haven. I probably should get a new picture that I like. Maybe I’ll take a selfie. I have so far managed to resist that particular untempting temptation. Maybe I'll give it a shot before Scalia says something else too nutty to resist and distracts me from it. I'm unclear on the mechanics of it, though. I’ll have to ask the nearest hippy how to do it. (Which, by the way, to my mind meant that he was going to ask Justice Ginsburg. What do I know?)

I’m also thinking of running for President as a Republican. Everyone else is doing it, and I feel as if I’m missing out. I’d run as a Democrat, which is more fitting to my politics, but honestly, I think Biden has that nomination locked. So the GOP it is. (What? I’m not Hillarian? Jeesh. I want a boat on which to put all Clintons and Bushes, every generation of them from top to bottom, including their pets, that I can push off into the deepest waters and have done with it. Imagine a world where you never again heard the name Clinton or Bush. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?)

There’s nothing like quiet summer days for the mind to wander.

Monday, June 29, 2015

In which we get all artsy fartsy

Not much going on in Debateland, this being the summer and all. I’m giving myself another week before I go into the Yale setup on tabroom. The Pups put it up themselves, no doubt based on last year, so it should be mostly okay, but given that CP secretly updates it every 27 hours, one never knows, does one? Over the weekend I posted a whole bunch of coach jobs for Bronx Science on NDCA; looks like a complete turnover. That’s a tough one, replacing everyone under the sun. It’s hard enough to replace one person, going by the other local postings. Oh, well. It is what it is.

We went up north this weekend, ostensibly to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the Clark, but also just to see what they’ve done to the Clark overall. Nice job: the galleries really flow well. The pix weren’t bad either. A few revelations, but mostly just an interesting and focused display on V and the natural world. We also went to Edith Wharton’s house about an hour south of Williamstown, in Lenox. She lived there with her husband, and got to design things according to her own lights (she was big on that sort of thing), but honestly, while the house was nice and pleasant, I was more taken by the various thematic displays. While a pretty big Wharton fan, I can’t say I knew too much about her war work, which was fascinating. She lived in France during WWI. In fact, she only lived at this house, the Mount, for a relatively short period of time. She’s more interesting than the place, in other words. I got a bit of an itch to do some rereading. I read all the big novels before getting to Ethan Frome, which is burned into my brain. That’s another one of those books that they should never assign to teenagers to read. They’re too young for it. Of course, I have plenty of complaints about what is assigned to teenagers from the so-called canon. Chief among this is ATOTC, which as far as I’m concerned is the least fun of all the Dickens novels. Perhaps the most entertaining author in the English language, so let’s make everybody read his least entertaining book. Of course, maybe that’s just me, and the world at large thinks it’s his best. Not that it doesn’t have its moments, but compared to BH or OMF, or even DC? Pull-eeze. Maybe, aside from a nodding acquaintance with Scrooge and company, CD is another author educators shouldn’t teach teenagers. Can’t say I’ve met many teenagers who don’t think CD is death on two wheels. The joy of his work has been beaten out of them.

Along these lines, there’s Wharton's buddy Henry James. I tried to read James in college, and aside from getting through the short stuff like Daisy and Turn (which were packaged together in my paperback), I just didn’t get it. I said to myself then that I’d wait until I was older, and I had Portrait on my reading table for about 30 years. When I finally got to it I devoured it. To everything there is a season… Novels where not a lot happens openly are probably not the best things for young people. There will be time enough for those books after first getting through the more lively ones. I read Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right during my most recent vacation. There’s a lively one for you. With all the hoopla for his bicentennial, there’s been plenty of articles, but the one that struck me as most relevant was a comparison of him and CD, where the latter was described as the more poetic author. True, I think, but the article's point was that where Trollope has him beat is in his female characters. Say what you will about CD, his women are dreadful. Trollope’s are alive and remarkably memorable (I have yet to get over falling in love with Lady Glencora).

Oh, well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

If this is Wednesday, it must be Nostrum

Ah, la nostalgie, as the Frenchies say. (Maybe that's what the Frenchies say. I don't know. My French has always been execrable. Votre francais est execrable, people kept telling me as we recently toured Belgium. 50000 Belgians can't be wrong.) Thumbing through the epistles brought me to this one:

The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over the fact that the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts has accepted a few francs under the table to fund a Disney chair for cultural exchange. This from the same country that refused to visit EuroDisney because they didn’t sell wine in Cinderella’s castle? The same country where every intellectual worth his Derrida spent every waking hour bellyaching over the Americanization of the glories of French culture? The same country where eventually some Arab sheiks had to come in and bail out Mikey Eisner and change the name to Disneyland Paris (a city which, we hasten to point out, has a booming Disney Store on the Champs Elysees, patronized mostly by American tourists)? What are these people coming to? And to think, without them, we never would have bottled up the British at Yorktown, and George Washington would have been hanged at dawn...
Anyhow, as a tribute to our Gallic cousins, we offer a unique episode this week. The episode itself—which even we admit is pretty boring—discusses modernism; that’s rather French right there. But what we’ve done is used Babelfish, an on-line, automated translation service, to translate the episode into French, and then used it again to translate the French version back into English. The results are, well, interesting. We are especially pleased by the rendering of the name of Bill O’Connor, our heroic albeit partnerless polician.
And yes, we did steal the idea from MT. He’s our other hero, right after Dickens. Except on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when it’s the other way around.
The vast Nostrumian army will recall the episode: #55 Hand Me De Construction Paper / Papier De Hand Me De Construction / Paper De Hand Me Of Construction. Stolen directly from Twain, who printed a version of Jumping Frog as written, as translated into French, then as translated back from the French into English. Very drole. Tres drole. Very funny. 
Ah, the good old days. 
Meanwhile, editing continues apace. Last night I reintroduced myself to Quack the Forensic Duck in Series 2. I can see the proverbial light at the proverbial end of the proverbial tunnel. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

In which we wish we were asleep

Curiously, given that I follow a bunch of debate websites, I have no idea who won LD at NSDA. Then again, maybe not so curiously. The $ircuit really doesn’t have much interest beyond its own parochial confines, and events like NatNats and CatNats don’t resonate much in that little universe. The judging is random, the competition is random, yadda yadda yadda. You’ve heard it all, and maybe contributed to it. I know I could go to the NSDA site and get all the info, but you’d think that all these places who do things like promote summer institutes would have at least a marginal interest in something beyond the tips of their noses.


Of course, I’m not completely awash in debate sites. I mean, there’s more to life than RSS. It probably flew by on my Twitter feed at some point, as do most things on my Twitter feed. Actually, a couple of feeds, one for me and one for NDCA. For a while I was posting a bit to the latter, interesting items I might come across of general debate interest, but I don’t have much time for that anymore. Oh, well.

When I wasn’t catching up on sleep this weekend—my insomnia has taken a turn for the worse lately—I did do some work on Volume 2 of the Nostrum saga. TWHS is now completely edited and annotated, and I started in on N2, the Next Generation. I’m imagining that this section will go pretty quickly, as the episodes and epistles are all readily available online, and all I have to do is reformat them, reread them and add a few footnotes. I won’t predict a pub date for the second book, since there’s no way I’ll ever actually meet it, but it is coming. I also have a lot of work to do on my website, accounting for post-coaching reality. I’ll get to it. Eventually.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

In which we provide our annual analysis of the potential LD topics, from the perspective of having nothing whatsoever to do with LD or its topics

It really doesn’t matter what I think. I’m so out of LD that if they dangled the Holy Grail of Resolutions in front of me, I’d ask for a better mug. To be honest, I think this is a great batch of subjects, and that once again the committee has done an excellent job in a short time. Of course, since no one will actually argue the resolutions when they come around, you’ve also got to commend them on their ability to address the futile with the grimmest of determination.

Resolved: States ought to prohibit the production of nuclear energy.
This will be read by many as meaning states in general as compared to states United in America, thus rendering it impossible.

Resolved: The United States ought to promote democracy in the Middle East.
Sure. I saw someone comment that Middle East is too fluid a term, but, well, even arguing that is fairly interesting. 

Resolved: Jurors ought to nullify in the face of perceived injustice.
This is vagueness served on a Ritz cracker. I can appreciate the attempt to clarify a reason for nullification, but injustice and perceived are, well, perceived by me as justly too wide open for any specificity.

Resolved: In the United States, campaigns that support candidates for public office ought to be financed exclusively by public funds.
While I would be happy if the bazillions of dollars wasted on political campaigns were spent on something more useful (and what isn't more useful than a political campaign in 2015?), I can't see this one working out well in action.

Resolved: Immigration ought to be recognized as a human right.
This is quite interesting. And only nine words. And a hot topic.

Resolved: Democracies ought to incorporate provisions for legal secession into their national constitutions.
I can’t imagine much of interest to be said on this, but maybe that’s just me and my American prejudices: I’ve read too much history.

Resolved: The United States ought to set a price on carbon emissions.
A policy topic when argued, probably, but interesting. 

Resolved: Corporations ought to value their responsibility to shareholders over the public interest.
I like this, even though it’s terribly Aff biased. Still, everyone always complains about a native Neg bias, so maybe that evens things out. 

Resolved: The privatization of civil services undermines democracy.
Way too vague. It will take a couple of months of debate just for people to figure out what it is they’re supposed to be debating.

Resolved: In the United States, private ownership of handguns ought to be banned.
My only problem with this is that there are so many people who have such strong beliefs (on both sides). You start to drift into that dark area where you’re not convincing a judge that you’re right, but you’re trying to convince a judge to change his or her mind. Beats there a heart that tabula rasa?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

If this is Wednesday, it must be Nostrum

I just finished the first run-through of the long lost Tennessee Williams High School material. It's not the greatest thing ever, except for Behind Moby Dick, which just broke me up. I do entertain myself...

Meanwhile, it's been a while, so we'll skip ahead in the epistles of St. Jules to the Forensicians to this one:

Oscar Wilde once said that no man can live with a woman without falling in love with her. Oscar Wilde never lived with the Nostrumate. [Yeah, somewhere along the line the Nostrumite got a girlfriend, in epistles that are apparently completely lost.]

Like I said, we went to Disney World. One would expect that this would be a happy occasion, even given my feelings or lack thereof for the Mite’s new girlfriend, but one would be wrong. First of all, we all shared a single motel room together; ‘nuff said there. Second, the motel was not just off the grounds, it was practically off the planet. We had nearly an hour’s drive every morning, and given the philosophy that you should be at the gates before the joint opens, this makes for some pretty early alarm calls (and just try to get the Nostrumate out of the shower—just try!). Then it turns out that a certain person has a predilection against what she calls vomit rides, which means no Space Mountain, no Twilight Zone, no Star Tours, and even no Carousel of Progress, for God’s sake, because somebody once got killed between the walls and what if it happened again? Good grief! Which doesn’t leave much, let me tell you, and since the Mite was too goo-goo eyes to leave Kathie Lee outside with a Mickey doll for company while he and I actually went and had some fun, well, the fun quotient was low indeed. And then we hit rock bottom: on the third ride through It’s a Small World (yes, you read correctly, that was “third ride”), the thing broke down. Our boat was dead in the water for over half an hour, during which the song continued its endless saccharine loop, and all the little multicultural Stephen King dolls kept bouncing up and down and up and down—and a certain person, rather than screaming for mercy, actually claimed that this was the most fun she had ever had at Disney World.

Enough is enough, even for the Nostrumite. Thus were planted the seeds of discontent, and on our last night, when he and I were sort of feeling like a blow-out at Pleasure Island, when it was suggested that one last ride on It’s a Small World would be the perfect ending to the vacation, it all fell apart. The Mite ripped off his Mickey Mouse ears, threw them to the ground and stamped on them, all the while ranting about camaraderie and joie de vivre and it isn’t all that small a world no matter how you slice it, as is his wont, and the winner of the K.L. Gifford Look-alike Contest was appalled that the boy had it in him, and that was, pretty much, that. I mean, it had to play out for the rest of the night and the flight back home the next day, but by the time we landed at JFK, we were back to male bonding again, and the Nostrumate was history.

For now, of course. 1. know that sooner or later the real thing will come along for one of us. But, please God, don’t make it a K.L. Gifford type. Me, I think I’d rather marry Frank Gifford, given my druthers, except for his lousy taste in women.

Anyhow, we didn’t get to Emory after all, which was sort of disappointing, because we always like to watch those big-time policy coaches judge a few rounds of declamation, but which was also why we got to write an extra episode or two (we did get ahead a couple of installments, which is nice to know, so that if the Mite and I are, say, sent by our Commander-In-Chief to bomb Iraq, or Kenneth Starr’s house, we’ll have a few weeks’ work available on the back burner). We will be at Harvard, however, and we look forward to looking up some of those who have written us fan mail, to find out if they’re as mentally unstable as they seem. 

Keep the faith.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In which we, among other things, kiss the summer goodbye

I’ve gotten back to working on Volume Two of the Complete Nostrum. So far I’ve done the epistles and good/bad guys, and now I’m in the middle of Tennessee Williams High School. I have very mixed feelings on that one. In most regards, it’s a piece of Nostrum that should have been in Nostrum and wasn’t. My expectations for it were higher, though. Maybe if I had gotten it off the ground it might have turned into something, but as it stands now, it has some interesting characters, and some really funny bits that I’ll share here separately, but mostly it’s just evidence that I wanted to write something at the time that wasn’t Nostrum, but I couldn’t do it. Which, I guess, is why I eventually went back to Nostrum whole hog (which ought to be either whole whog or hole hog, as Sean Bean might say). If you’re going to right Nostrumesque material, let it be Nostrum. (I think the Chicago Manual of Style says that...somewhere.)

Meanwhile, I’ve been in communication with all the college tournaments I'm involved with, and everything looks peachy for the upcoming season. None of them seem to want to put me out to pasture quite yet, although some of them are a little less diligent in their hospitality support than others. I don’t ask for much, but I do have something of a built-in meter that goes off every time you make another $10,000 and I don’t even get a box of warm noodles. Let’s face it. I start working tournaments months at the invitation stage. Every year there’s something new, some language that needs refining, a better way of doing things, whatever. The adults working with the colleges (i.e., what CP calls the Traveling Tabroom) keep things honest from year to year and provide a sort of seal-of-approval. If we’re in the tabroom and setting up registrations and the like, it’s probably not going to be terribly screwed up. Or if it is screwed up, we have enough experience to mitigate the screwing, as a general rule. The internet outage at last year’s Yale was a one-off, and I don’t think anyone could have done much about that. We certainly never had that problem again. The result was a bunch of stinker judge panels in the run-off, but that was what started me remembering that far distant time (a couple of years ago) before MJP and you got whatever judges we gave you. As I said back then, most debaters just gird their loins when they see the panel and go forth and debate. It’s the coaches who get their knickers in a twist. Maybe they underestimate what their debaters can do, or overestimate the value of MJP. MJP, at its best, only insures that the judges are equally satisfactory or unsatisfactory to both sides, not that you’re going to win because you got a judge you rated a 1, or going to lose because you got a judge rated a 3. Your opponent also rated the judge a 1 or a 3. MJP can shake the unknowns out of the trees, but it can’t hand you a guaranteed win. My favorite (not from Yale) was the coach who, facing balanced panels that were not 1-1-1 but were certainly set evenly, refused to accept a certain judge because he had rated him low. What? You rated him, didn’t you? Yeah, but I don’t know anything about him. And this is my fault? Jeesh!

Oh well, no point thinking about that now. Water under the dam and over the bridge, as they say. And just think, by the end of this week, forensics will be over for the season.

And the week after that, the camps open and next year’s season begins. Enjoy you hiatus!