Monday, April 02, 2018

In which we come back because, well, we couldn't resist

This is the 2018 CatNats LD topic: "Bystanders have a moral obligation to act in the face of injustice. "

I mean, seriously? 

"First, we need to define some terms. 'The face of injustice' is, you know, really bad juju that's, like, happening to...people...of...whatever. No, wait a minute." Debater holds up photograph of Donald Trump. "This is the face of injustice. Wait. What? You voted for him?" Debater holds up photograph of Hillary Clinton. "This is the face of injustice. The affirmative contends that we should lock her up. Okay? Jeesh!

"All right. Act is defined as, uh, doing, uh, something. Talking is doing something, right? So, if, say, the kid at the desk next to you is accused of vaping in class, and you know for a fact that they left their Juul in their locker, if you say, 'Professor, my good woman, this child is innocent and you are treating her unfairly,' then you are acting in the face of injustice. Also, putting on a performance of Hamlet for Neil Gorsuch would be acting in the face of a justice, which is maybe close enough for government work."

Judge looks askance. The debater notices that for the first time the judge has looked up from their phone.

"Close but no cigar? Okay. Got it. 

"A moral obligation is something you are morally obligated to do. By this we mean it is the right thing to do and you have to do it because it is the right thing. To do. Right things come with moral chains, according to Kant, but he's some old dead white guy so better to use the ethical teachings of Tupac: 'They done pushed me to my limit, I'm all in, I might blow up any minute, did it again.'

"Does that work for you? It works for me.

"For all these reasons, I ask you to affirm the resolution that bystanders—

"Oh, crap. I forgot to define bystanders. Bystander is defined as the team that got the bye, who is standing on the pizza line in the cafeteria and I really wish that was me right now.

"Are we done here?"


Thursday, January 11, 2018

In which blood is spilled

I’m always saying that, you know, it wouldn’t kill people to read the invitation. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is killing them. Maybe we’re leaving a trail of corpses across the country, reckless debate coaches who, seeing that a tournament is open for registration, decide to read the invitation and find out what the tournament is all about and how it is going to run. I can see them looking at their iPhone 6’s as the batteries winkle out, and then the phone drops through their rigid fingers, and they fall face-first to the ground, stone cold dead before their noses hit the pavement. It could be happening.

CP used to say that he would bury Easter Eggs in his invitations, to encourage people to read them. I’m pretty sure that he gave Get Out of Smarm Free cards to anyone who could prove that they had made it to the end. He also had a form letter he would send as a reply to any question that was, indeed, answered in the invitation. Sort of a Get Into Smarm Free sort of automated response. Don’t go into a smarm fight with CP unless you’re fully armed, and even then, don’t expect to come out a winner. Not going to happen.

Most of the college invitations are cut-and-paste jobs from the previous years, and the hosts ask me to vet them, which is hard to do, because they look right by default because they’ve been honed by the winds of time. Sometimes stuff does get through, but mostly we catch it. We certainly home in on where it matters, like keeping out the riffraff and preventing shenanigans and, occasionally, the dreaded he-nanigans. Of course, in addition to all those coaches we’ve killed by asking them to read the invite, there are also those who can’t find it. Anywhere. It’s not on tabroom, it’s not under the cushions of the comfy chair, it’s not in the custodian’s closet, the dog didn’t eat it—where can it be? Well, I guess with those folks, it’s good that they can’t find it. Otherwise they’d wake up dead the next morning. After all, everyone knows that reading the invitation can kill you. 


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

In which we go behind the scenes

Here’s some of my emails, slightly edited, from various college tournaments.

Q: Why can’t I see my registration?
A: You don’t have one.

Q: Why can’t I see my entries?
A: You didn’t put in any.

Q: Where am I on the wait list?
A: I just moved you to the very bottom as punishment for asking this question which I already told you I couldn’t answer. There are now 103 teams ahead of you.

Q: I have no judge, and I’m an independent, unchaperoned entry. What are my chances of getting into the tournament?
A: Think snowballs. Think hell.

Q: Why can’t I see my invoice?
A: Your glasses are dirty? You’re stone cold drunk? You’re Donald Trump?

Q: Could you please relate to me all the information that is in the invitation?
A: No.

Q: I signed up yesterday for your tournament next week, and I need to get plane tickets and hotel rooms. I’m obviously important because I come from far away. Why aren’t you taking me off the waitlist?
A: You're right. I’m moving you up the list, right before the snowballs/hell entry.

Q: If you don’t let in all my entries, I’m dropping my entire registration. So there!
A: That’s not a question. And I’ve got 103 teams in one division alone who will be happy not to see you.

High school tournaments aren’t quite as bad. You get the feeling that high school tournaments are attended by people who’ve attended tournaments in the past, while college tournaments somehow seem to get the runoff from the school's Tropical Fish Club venturing forth for the first time.

Makes you feel sorry for the koi.


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

In which we roll 'em, roll 'em, roll 'em

The United States should abolish the capital gains tax? That’s the PF resolution for February. I like it. First of all, it will push education of everything surrounding capital gains taxes, and then the politics of taxes, and why some things are taxed at one rate and other things at another rate, perhaps benefiting the haves over the have nots, etc., etc., etc. Much more satisfying than, say, the LD plea bargaining topic. I find that one forces debaters to go weird, rather than facing something head on. I’ve talked about it before. Given that plea bargaining is the only way the US justice system can work, abolishing it seems a bit…overwrought. I talked to Alston about it recently, and he took partial blame/credit for it being on the list. I think Vaughan also claimed partial credit. I think they’re both crazy, but that’s maybe why they’ve still got their heads way into LD and I don’t. Haven’t for a while, actually.

I wonder if we’ve learned yet how to conduct PF. The rolling topic machine forcing you to start researching the next topic before you’ve debated the last one is an interesting problem. It’s obviously solvable for students willing to go the distance—just work really, really hard—but one of the things I like about PF is the possibility that students might debate without going the distance. That is, it can be one of their activities, not their end-all, be-all. More debate to more people, in other words. But how does one keep students involved in that revolving door of resolutions? The activity probably ends up attracting and retaining students who like attacking new ideas regularly, but who have the ability to build a structural approach to debate itself that stands despite the rezzes. But at the same time, this can lead to a repetitious approach that is thin and, well, a little boring.

Not my problem anymore, of course. Me, I’m gearing up for Bigle X, although at this point, that mostly means planning dinner. All the students and judges are in place, and JV and I don’t even have to get up early on Saturday, since round 1 is at 9:00.

So civilized…


Thursday, January 04, 2018

In which we ponder what we do in the smoke-filled back rooms

There’s this great disconnect when you’re tabbing someone else’s tournament versus helping direct a tournament. With the former, you might go over things a couple of times in advance just to shore things up, but if the someone else is, say, CP or Kaz, your expectations of them not understanding how works are, shall we say, limited. On the other hand, college staffs change year to year, plus you’re running the waitlists and assigning out the judges and answering various queries. Needless to say, the latter is more time-consuming, and maybe a little more fun, although there is something to be said for stepping into a nice broken-in pair of comfy shoes like at Bigle X.

I’m a little disappointed that the per-round obligations deal at Bigle is turning out to be mostly people obligated for 6 rounds. It seems to me that last year we had a lot more occasional judges, which was sort of entertaining to balance out against the prefs. The more there is to do in tabbing, the more fun it is. Since tabroom does 95% of the work, mostly that just means making sure that the prefs are good (e.g., 2-3s instead of 1-2s) and then making sure that people show up and finish up. The pool as a whole, i.e., all judges under the sun, is getting better at it. At the point where everyone understands that the only way we have of knowing what is happening is when you press start and when you enter results, and also that it is important that we know what is happening, we’ll have achieved tournament nirvana. Needless to say, I doubt that tournament nirvana is anywhere near, at this point. Way too much bad karma to clear out first.

Tomorrow TBAs will be eliminated from Columbia. Despite my having told people weeks ago that we wouldn’t accept TBAs off the waitlist, some schools have refused to name the teams they presumably are eager to place. Go figure. Of course, I only assume about a 4 out of 5 readership of official tournament emails. This, combined with a 1 out of 5 readership of tournament invitations, leads one to wonder how in the name of all that is holy do people manage to do anything productive in the world. I could be sorry that I stick to something as antediluvian as email for tournament business, but are you recommending Snapchat? Make it an Instagram story? Think deep thoughts and hope that your ESP is working?