Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Menick

There is that mania that comes over one as the major tournament draws near. Everybody wants more slots than everybody else, there's a waiting list of people who can't be bothered to follow the invitation, there's people who remind you that you promised them slots that you do sort of vaguely remember and so you add them to the list hoping that the shortage of flu vaccine this year might save your bacon at the eleventh hour, there's the usual suspects whom you haven't heard from and you've poked and prodded and nothing's happened and as a result you've made yet another enemy... No wonder one becomes something of a monster. And one does see the source of some of the so-called politics of the activity. It is, people need to remember, only a debate tournament. One of many. Yes, it does offer a large can of soup to the top LD speaker, but that's hardly a reason to make enemies-for-life over it. (If you signed up early, you'd be set, hint hint. But why would anyone do that? Do all debate teams run on fumes?) There are just so many rooms in the buildings, and so many families that will house, and so many slices of the dreaded vegan wedges. And to be honest, going over 120 in LD doesn't make a lot of sense if we break to doubles, because 5 rounds is a decent enough sorter for that number, but any higher and you'd really need 6 prelims, and God knows THAT isn't going to happen.

Good grief.

On the bright side, I've heard from the Nostrumite, who's doing his best to juggle his schedule to come back and judge for us again this year. Unfortunately he's in a state of permanent depression over the health of poor Pecksniff, the Nostrumian Applehead (and, as most people know, a littermate of Pip the Wondercat). Apparently the old Peckeroo has developed a case of feline diabetes, "which is just like human diabetes," the Mite reports, "only it's transient and you can't prick a cat's fingers to do a blood test." To cope with the situation, the Mite is giving Pecky a couple of shots of insulin a day, "which isn't as hard as you'd imagine," he says, plus giving him salve for his rheumy eyes ("which is like playing pin the tail on the eyeball") and forcing a snort of cherry-flavored antibiotics down his gullet once a day ("the fallout spray is like being anointed with holy water at an overeager Easter service"). But the hardest part, the Mite reports, is performing the regular urine test. "You have to understand that a cat just isn't going to pee in a jar," the lad says. "So what you have to do is follow him around all day, but secretly"—I have this vision of the Mite undercover in his trench coat and porkpie hat, dodging around the corners of his Cambridge apartment— "until you see him heading for the litter box, and then you sneak in underneath him with this cardboard strip that turns all shades of mud when he pees on it, and you've got to time it to the correct shade at the exact right moment, and then decide whether to increase or decrease his insulin dosage." Without Jules around to help out, this is driving Doctor Nostrumite a little batty. "At least the Nostrumutt is okay," he tells me. "You walk him a few times a day, he poops it, you scoops it, everyone's happy."

Presumably you can get further details from the lad himself next week when he once again descends on Bump.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Pre-Bump is pre-er than usual this year. We've already filled up policy, and LD is tracking over 100, and it's another week till the so-called deadline. Most of pre-Bump is spent worrying: is there enough housing/food/ballots/trophies/runners/handcuffs? It ought to be more relaxed every year because we've proven that we can do all of these things pretty effortlessly, but I challenge anyone to toss a shindig for over 400 people and not get a little wrapped up in it.

No one needs to identify the present wav file, since it identifies itself. I couldn't resist it.

So, if anyone cares (and I know YOU do, if no one else does), here's the thing about Nov-Dec. As it turns out, Aff has a fairly easy time proving that a gov has a moral obligation to folks outside its boundaries. What aff hardly ever does is show that it's an obligation to promo DI. The ob (which has nothing to do with democracy but with humanity) is simply to value other people, nothing more, and certainly nothing more specific. Sure, if there's a natural disaster, national boundaries are meaningless. The best example of that was the Iranian earthquakes, which killed something like 30,000 people. We were there in a blink, and the Iranis accepted our help with open arms. This was as it should be. A couple of weeks later, they were the axis of evil again. My point is, negs should look for a pretty solid explanation of what, exactly, the MO is and why it applies to DI. That's the core of the aff burden, and that's the hard part. On the other hand, negs have to be a little careful about sounding as if they're anti-democracy. The thing is, and from the start I've thought that this is the good neg position, the US promotion of DI comes with all the baggage of its being from the US. Is US democracy extricable from US capitalism? It's a question of cultural imperialism, which may be a hard concept either to understand or to sell. To wit: "culture" is a term that sums up all the values of a group. It is the combination of their religion and their politics and their food and their housing and their literature and their schools and their clothes—the full banana. It is the well from which individuals in the group draw the cores of their selves, i.e., their personalities, their identities. Individuals do not exist aside from their cultures; individuals are a part of slash a result of their cultures. If we value individuals, we must explicitly value this wellspring of their individuality as much as they do implicitly. What we have to do is look at what happens when two cultures "clash." We obviously see culture clash in today's world on a daily basis in all cultures: no one is immune from, say, the internet. Each culture does whatever it does to maintain itself in a positive way from what it might see as the negatives resulting from the clash. That's always been the way, since time began. Sometimes cultures take from other cultures, sometimes they don't. The Pennsylvania Amish don't drive Harleys; students at Penn State don't drive in horse-drawn carriages. The problem with the US culture vs other cultures is somewhat analogous to the situation of the US military vs other militaries: it's not a fair fight. Just as we can outshoot pretty much everybody with our guns, we can outculture them with our brand of capitalism. US culture works in other countries the way heroin works in the bloodstream, replacing the natural with the artificial. It can be seen as just as heinous. Why do you think it was such a big deal when Pepsi (not Coke) was the first to be sold in the Soviet Union? Or why is the Coke bottle among the universal icons on the planet? Does Mickey Mouse a mere cartoon, or is it a symbol of the cultural poison seeping through the veins of every potential consumer in every country on earth? God, even the French were worried about the effect of Euro-Disney (now called, by the way, Disneyland Paris). The phrase was, "a cultural Chernobyl." The US specifically promotes its democracy through its pervasive capitalism, and by so doing overwhelms the existing cultures. And the next thing you know, they're wearing Nike t-shirts in Afghanistan and the women are not wearing veils and the children don't listen to their parents anymore to honor the old ways... This is an extreme way of putting it, of course, but it does sort of sum it up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Our story so far

For all practical purposes the debate season is now in full swing, so let's see where we are.

We've migrated many of the meetings to the chez, and I'm starting to push for more meetings at other chezes. It's a lot easier, as I've been saying, to talk among a handful of people than the entire 13th tribe of Israel, and more gets accomplished. On the down side, half the team (the rawer recruits) haven't figured things like, if they sign up for a meeting they should look on the signup sheet to find out when the meeting is, or that since all of the team business is conducted through emails, that it might be a good idea for them to read their emails once in a while. I still sense that brain-fog attrition is not yet concluded for this season, and that we still stand to lose one or two more. Considering that there is a tournament virtually every week, and no one seems to know this other than me, we're not in the greatest of shapes. Where are the hungry people? Well, I oversimplify, because there is at least one hungry novice (she knows who she is), and maybe more. On the plus side, I'm seeing more JV hunger. Not that I'm all that in favor of hunger per se, but total lack of same sort of baffles me. Back in the day, there was so much hunger it used to scare the pants off me. What I'd like to see is balanced hunger.

Bump is filling up frighteningly fast. At least other teams are hungry! I've sold out all my hired judging, and filled up most of the policy slots two weeks before the deadline. I do hope that we really DO get more rooms in the future. Although I like to blame everything on my hardware engineers (because I like the looks on their faces when I do), it's not their fault we don't have a basement. Maybe next year. Bump assignments will be made at next week's tutti meeting, when all the forensic fruttis are tossed in together. I have a feeling a lot of people won't be happy, but I can't just give jobs to people because they used to be a part of the team...

Judging all weekend at NFA was rather enjoyable, as it turns out. I'd forgotten that I like judging, although I do also like sleeping and eating, neither of which comes easily at Newburgh. Still, it's fun to get into the trenches for a while and see who's who and what's what, and it's also illuminating to hear a topic argued, especially early in its life. I think I did get some good stuff to pass along to people, although no one bothered to comment one way or the other when I did. Come to think of it, maybe they didn't give a raccoon's patella. You know, I didn't have to be there, you ungrateful louts! I could have been golfing! (Except for the snow and ice.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Chaos theory

I've really grown to hate big meetings at the school. Nothing is communicated effectively, except maybe about 10% of the intended information. There's no real dialogue, no real imparting of anything in any direction. I can't figure out why half the people come in the first place, and those rare moments when everyone is engaged, they're all engaged in different directions. It's like a bad rehearsal for a half-written play with all understudies and no director. So, I will retreat further into specialized meetings. The chezes on the topic have been fine, as have been the odd special novice session. Plus now we're starting the demo rounds, and that fills up the empty hours. I think what I need to do next is strategy and tactics for grownups, which I marginally touched last night, but poorly. In other words, a session or two for varsity only. In any case, I see this as an incurable problem, the big meeting miasma, that is. Or I see it only as curable through regular injections of short meetings. I will stick with biggies for initial topic brainstorming, though, which would be the first couple of weeks of December. Then back to splinter groups. So it goes.

Or is it possible that I am getting tired of doing this? I don't think so. I'm just tired of doing it poorly.

Contrary to expectations, instead of having more policy rooms at Bump, we'll have fewer.Thank God the school has completed its enlargement program! Actually, I think it's the basement construction that is holding us back. Ewok is on the case trying to get more space, but I doubt if he'll be successful. You can't get classrooms from a turnip.