Friday, March 31, 2006

Preparation for life

Or, where are they now?

One wonders, occasionally, whatever happened to everyone? People pass through your life, debaters that is, and you wonder, well, so-and-so must have graduated by now. What are they doing?

The Jolly Tars are a great example of how debate prepares you for life. We have two--count 'em 2--people working for literary agencies. Go figure. We've got one funeral director; I can imagine her giving the eulogy for the dearly departed really really really fast, enabling her to bury at least a dozen a day. You-know-who, of course, dabbled in pornography before hiding out in an insurance company while planning to go to law school; easy to see how debate helped him. Lots of CLG's generation is legal: K2 and Rubin and the Olive are all looking to become professional shakedown artists (i.e., lawyers), although C has devoted herself to proving that Larry Summers was wrong and that aside from science it's really all about the food and being French. Wedro was down south looking to break into baseball. The Mite is raising the Nostrumette and coaching at Tennessee Williams. Dave, of course, was a Speecho-American and not a debater, but he's teaching and coaching, of all people, the Tars of today. I'm not quite sure what Marc does, he of Dave's generation, but he claims it's IT-ish although the software he stole for me didn't work and it takes him a long time to answer email, but at least he put the idea of being in the army out of his mind (although his general conception of the military was being in a state of permanent AWOL). Martin didn't end up in Iceland translating from the original lava lumps, but he did get married, which puts him in Dan F's category (i.e., not in Iceland and married). Malpractice? Well, he hasn't assassinated any presidents yet, so that's a step in the right direction.

As you can see, there's nothing like forensics to set you up for the future. Can you imagine what any of these people would be doing if they hadn't forensed?

Thursday, March 30, 2006


If you can explain to me why no amount of browbeating can get my team to send me their cases, I'd love to hear it. I'm now in the guerilla mode, for what it's worth. 2 novices out of 5 think, apparently, that showing me their cases will lead to ruin. Jeesh. If I haven't ruined them by now, than I've failed miserably. They're worse than you, you spalpeen! At least you're sneaky, dashing around dark corners in the night, leaving only a wisp of smoke to mark your passing; they're hiding in broad daylight right on the other end of our listserver. Go figure.

And interest in S&S seems pretty thin on the ground. If I don't hear some more pleas shortly, I'm going to can it, in two senses of the word. That is, put it off and record it later. The microphone is in the mail, and last night I fired up GarageBand, stared at it blankly, hit a few piano keys and shut it down. Then I downloading Audition, which seems to be the open source program of choice for voice recording. I also finished BizMan draft one, so I'll have something to practice with. Oh joy. Oh rapture. Menick on your iPod. If Orwell had foreseen that, he would have just rolled into a ball and given up.

Meanwhile, I've finally studied the Tournament Policies for LDEP. I can quibble here and there, but mostly I'm on the bus with them. See for yourself:


LDEP Recommended Tournament Policies

The Lincoln-Douglas Education Project believes that competitive debate tournaments are ultimately a means to student education. Therefore, administrating a tournament is a serious educational responsibility. While recognizing that tournament directors may legitimately interpret this responsibility in different ways and that each tournament has its own unique character, we believe the following practices by tournament administrators are conducive to educationally constructive competition. Even if you reject some of the suggestions below, you can preserve and enhance the educational value of your tournament by bringing your best professional judgment to bear on this subject. Our overarching message is that tournament directors should think carefully about the educational goals of their tournament and should implement policies that will achieve those goals.

1. Publicize your policies in your invitation, tournament packet and opening assembly. Explanation helps coaches, judges and students know what they should expect, and makes it more likely that all parties will work together on a common educational project. Advance notice also helps coaches make informed decisions about which tournaments suit their own objectives. Authoritatively announcing judging policies (e.g., take the ballot instructions seriously) at the opening assembly indicates that you are serious about your policies, which will promote greater consistency and ultimately more fairness and educational value.

2. Announce the resolution to be debated and make clear to coaches, judges and students that students are expected to debate that resolution. Students have a right to know what topic they will be debating and what is required to win (i.e., what burdens they have). Because there is no presumption in LD, each side must defend a truth-claim about the resolution; specifically, the negative must do more than criticize the affirmative case. The affirmative is responsible to show that the resolution is more likely true than false, and the negative, to show that it is more likely false than true. The LDEP supports this burden scheme because it forces students to explore the arguments on both sides of an issue. Of course, if you wish for your tournament to observe a different burden scheme, you should make that clear, too.

3. Do not admit unaffiliated entries, and require that each student be accompanied by an adult (over 21) chaperone. Even if liability were not a major concern, unsupervised students are literally unaccountable to coaches, administrations, or other adult authority figures. When concerns arise about a student’s practices or her influence on other competitors, it is essential that judges and coaches be able to discuss the situation with a responsible, educationally committed adult.

4. Encourage educated adults, especially coaches, to fulfill judging obligations, and assign adult critics whenever possible, especially in elimination rounds. Because they control competitive incentives, judges are the most powerful teachers in debate. Tournament directors ultimately decide who wields this power. Students need to be held accountable to ordinary norms of clear thinking and speaking, and adult critics are more likely, on average, to reinforce these norms than are recent high school graduates. Educated community members will strengthen a judging pool if properly oriented. Some tournaments will find it necessary to include former debaters in their pools, but the LDEP believes younger critics need mentoring and should not dominate a pool or panel.

5. Do not allow judge ranks or preferences. These practices foster narrow and exclusive styles and shield students from meaningful criticism. Instead, encourage debaters to present themselves in a manner that is accessible to a wide range of audiences.

6. Implement and publicize procedures to block conflicts of interest. Many relationships to students besides those of coach, relative, or teammate may compromise a judge’s impartiality. To ensure the fairest competition for all students without even the appearance of impropriety, all judges should be required to recuse themselves from judging any students to whom they have potentially biasing relationships. The LDEP lists such relationships in our “Conflicts of Interest” document, which could be a basis for your policy.

7. If you allow judge strikes, then allow only a limited number, and ask that coaches (not students) fill out any strike forms. Limited strikes may be appropriate to eliminate truly exceptional conflicts not screened by a formal conflicts-of-interest policy. But strike decisions should be overseen by adult educators and should not be used as a way to shield students from meaningful criticism.

8. Distribute judging guidelines (the LDEP’s or your own). Make your expectations about educationally constructive judging practices explicit. This need not involve micromanaging judges or restricting the content of resolutional arguments; see the LDEP’s “Judging Recommendations” for a model.

9. Encourage judges to develop, discuss and publish judging paradigms. To help students learn to adapt to the wide range of audiences they may encounter, encourage judges to discuss their expectations with debaters before rounds, and encourage regular judges to post written paradigms online.

10. Make the purpose, range and interpretation of points clear to all students and judges. The LDEP ballot (which comes either with or without point guidelines) offers one reasonable interpretation of points, but each tournament should ensure that whatever interpretation it endorses is clearly communicated and consistently implemented. Whatever scale you adopt, strongly discourage point inflation, which compromises the informational (and hence educational) value of this important tool.

11. Prohibit judges from reading cases, and opponents from reading each other’s cases, before the round is decided. To maintain LD’s identity as a spoken contest, it is essential that we require students to present their oral arguments with sufficient clarity to persuade their judges. Allowing written arguments to sway decisions turns debate into an essay contest. Selective review of disputed evidence (not whole cases) may be necessary, and is permissible.

12. Implement a procedure to allow judges to call for slower speaking. Allowing this kind of active judge intervention in the round is a bold step, but something is needed because different judges can handle (or simply prefer) different speeds, and this can’t always be accurately conveyed before the debate starts. Here is a sample speed policy: Before the round starts, judges should tell debaters if they want a moderate speaking speed. During the round, a judge may call out “Speed!” if a debater is talking too fast. The debater should slow down, without penalty. A second “Speed!” can be called if the debater is still speaking too quickly, still without penalty. After a third call of “Speed!” the debater should receive points no higher than the midpoint of the tournament’s de facto range. Further failure to slow down can and should result in lower points or a loss. Of course, if the judge doesn’t mind speed, this policy doesn’t prevent it – however, learning to speak effectively at a moderate pace is most likely to benefit students in their lives.

13. Plan a realistic schedule with adequate time for meals and rest. Debate is more fun and more academically enriching for everyone involved when it does not require the sacrifice of health. Build in a buffer in case things don’t run as smoothly as you would hope.

14. Implement procedures to promote research integrity. Make sure that all students, judges, and coaches know the requirements for ethical evidence use and how they should handle cases of suspected dishonesty. Intentional fabrication or misrepresentation of evidence warrants the harshest penalties, up to expulsion from the tournament. The LDEP has published guidelines on research ethics that can help define standards in this area.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Seeds and stems (again)

Is every Commander Cody album identical? The title of this entry does lead one to wonder...

Anyhow, last night reminded one of Yogi Berra's theory that it ain't over till it's over. And, my friends, it's over. Three novices and one captain showed up, plus me; hardly enough to launch into a rousing chorus of logical fallacy, with a few rounds of Scots poetry thrown in for respites of joviality.

So, I sent everybody home, and went back to working on Mr. BusinessMan. One more bout and I should have the first draft done. I also ordered a USB microphone. I really am serious about creating a series of lectures to store online. BusinessMan is as good as any to start with, considering its nonspecificity. Plus I'd like to finally fire up GarageBand to get my money's worth out of Little Elvis. This will be my chance.

I have demanded cases from the novices going to states; maybe it might help them avoid pure absurdity if they actually show me their positions for once. Given that Termite seems to be running the one thing I told the team never to run on this topic, this is probably not a bad idea. Curiously enough, running the one thing I told the team never to run on this topic seemed to have the result of his picking up virtually no ballots. Quelle surprisarooni, as they say during Paris riots. Nevertheless, it was hard for the Termite to make the connection that running the one thing et cetera et cetera et cetera and losing were somehow connected.


I am also polling for true interest in an S&S lecture (besides HoraceMann, the Superhero without any Superpowers). Given that Peanuts had no idea what I was talking about, despite my having mentioned it umpty-three ways to Sunday, I'm not particularly sanguine about the results of this polling. I'd like to do it, but I don't want to kill myself over it and have no one show up again. I'll do it as a podcast if that's the result, and take my time with it. (Given Baudrillard's opinion of reality, he would be amused no doubt that there is nothing certain in life, except perhaps that NoShow will send a message asking where and when the meeting is every Tuesday at around five o'clock. It would be easier for him to send said message as a response to my earlier message saying where and when the meeting is. That way he could read his own message on the listserver when it arrives, and with just a little scrolling, find the answer. Reality becomes art. Art becomes reality. And NoShow grinds on unsuspecting of either.)

I've put a link to Pandora over on the right side. I love this (thank you, my child). Today I'm going to try for some African music (I just bought this album by this Ugandan that I'll elaborate more on eventually). Quiet standards and Brazilia are doing just fine so far, and it's time to pursue new avenues. Also maybe a little Rockabilly. Starting with Commander Cody! Eee-ha! Back in the Ozone!

Some time today I'll update myself on LDEP. Then you. 1:28 tee time Sunday. NYC Saturday. New ribs restaurant maybe Friday.

It's summertime.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The tournament is in the mail

I have just packed the New York State District qualifier for 2006 into a nesting-doll collection of envelopes and posted it out to Ripon. Go in peace...

I had thought that districts was the end of things, pretty much, but it looks less and less like the period at the end of this year's sentence. There's States, there's TOCs, there's the NFA RR, and then there's prepping for NuffleNats (and please, oh resolution makers, give us a Pffft with two sides!). So much for my own going in peace.

There's a final document from LDEP in my mailbox. I've read it over quickly. I'll read it again, slowly, and report shortly. Whatever it is, and it looked okay at first glance, this is it. Should be interesting.

Tonight's meeting at the school will be straightforward enough, although I'm still vacillating on its content. Scots poetry is a given, but there's a bunch of other issues worth discussing. I may just thumb through the cur and hit whatever high spots hitherto uncovered happen to catch my eye. After all, aside from S&S, this may be the last school meeting. Might as well make it a useful one.

Speaking of Pffft, districts gave the novice Tars their first real shot at it. I didn't get the sense that they had it knocked going forward, but at least now they have a sense of what it's about. I guess that, initially, most people don't think it will be hard, and that there isn't much work involved, but realistically one must do good research (albeit in a narrow range) and do good presentations, and that's hardly easy. I would expect that next year we'd at least have folks Pfffting at Wee Sma Lex and, given the size of the team, Bug Mutha Lex too. And maybe elsewhere. Why not? It's a good activity, and it's not going away.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Prince Charming

I got this from O'C while I was doing Districts. It made my day.

Districts is the most amazing of tournaments. You arrive on Friday morning and start doing paperwork, and at 5:00 Friday you stop doing paperwork long enough to announce who won what, then you eat Indian food and go home and collapse. Sunday I should have got everything ready to send to Ripon but I just didn't have the energy. Instead, we went down to Westbury and picked out the Little Trooper.

Looks to me as if he'll be terrorizing debaters before you know it. He's due to arrive at the chez toward the end of April.

Anyhow, back to Districts. First, there's getting all the congress stuff started. There weren't too many changes; I moved one or two people, and somehow I left out Scarsdale's star Policy debater, but other than that, we started almost exactly on time. I gather that the cloning of an army of Joyce-Turners proved to be rather controversial. Some congressfolk, it seems, when faced with wacky stuff, respond by going into a snit. Better to handle it like a pro. Accepting it on face value is probably the best way to get past it. It's like when you have to debate someone who hasn't got a clue. Treating them like a pro makes them feel like a pro and makes you look like a superstar. Treating them like a schmuck makes you look like a jerk while making them look like victims. You will win, but at what cost?

While congress was happening, Emily and I finished coding the cards and getting all that organized. By the time congress was over, we had a very swift transition into the regular tournament. My paperwork switched at that point, first, to bookkeeping, then to loserkeeping: as soon as anyone dropped from the tournament, I entered their results onto the yellow sheets that NFL requires for each person. Endless... When I got a chance, I tabulated the congress results, although Charlie and Joe did a couple of the houses' preferential ballots. We're getting good at this. By the time we all retire, we'll be able to do it in our sleep. I also have to go through all the congress ballots and sort out who gets how many points for speaking. As always, a couple of people didn't open their mouths for 5 hours, but I was pleased to see that the Jolly Ts wouldn't shut up. Even the novices spoke their piece. Well done. And McLean and Harrison got to be best P.O.s. Excellent. McLean even qualled in congress! Good grief.

So Saturday progresses with occasionally my overseeing round creation and pretending to remember the preferences for who gets the byes or something like that, but mostly I continue to enter results. Then there's the entering of the final rounds, which is my responsibility, which I do with Kaz. Because of the all the double- (and if you count congress, triple-) entry stuff, the letters of intent must be consulted every 2 seconds. Considering that the winning duo preferred their individual events, we had to wait forever to push the first domino. I even called Ripon to doublecheck, just to make sure that the rule was, if you do a team and individuals, and you both qual in and prefer your individuals, you can do those instead of the Duo. There was a situation as the results arrived in almost every event, where there were dependencies on at least one other event. One never knows, does one, as Fats Waller might say, until the end of the end of the end. Then the awards. Since Emcee and Hush qualed in PF, and Katie and Spencer as well, and Katie and Emcee were also doing well in LD, there was lots of ba-zing and ba-zang there, and when all was said and done Ewok managed to qual. Amazing. Scarsdale was rocking all weekend, and qualled about umpty and a half mill before the final bell was rung. We got out of there around 5:30, which was a little later than usual but not terrible.

Note to self: tell these yabbo judges next year in the explanation letter that they are required to judge for the whole tournament. There is no obligation that ends when your own stinkers are eliminated. Au contraire, the fewer rounds you are in, the more likely you can judge. #(*&$^ judges!

Of course, all of this pales against the most important news, that CLG is now dating either some soap opera character or the lead singer of Aerosmith. I'm not quite sure which, but she didn't seem to be worred about any medical issues, so I'm assuming it's the former.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Districts, schmistricts, I'm going out to dinner

I spent all last night filling out bloody cards for Districts. They still need codes, but I'll do that Friday morning. I need a break. A little of Zephs' duck confit, perhaps... Maybe I'll see you there tonight!

Judging is going to be a bear this weekend. We have at best the bare minimum. Joe V managed to scare up a few neutrals, but everyone seems to have other plans or lives or something, and all the dangling of money has done nothing for us. I mean, how else do ex-debaters make money in college without having to do any work? Who is our competition, anyhow? Oh, well, what are you going to do? Jersey is also having its districts, with the same problem, so at least we're not alone. Maybe everybody's at spring break or something, which always scares the hell of me. The last thing I want to think about is debaters gone wild. Thousands of policy geeks and LD nerds actually venturing out into the sun. Could we even recognize them without their pallor? Speecho-Americans, on the other hand, well, it's always spring break for them, isn't it? Anyhow, no judges means wheel out your parents. That's what they're there for. Any wonder why I worry about LD and the old handbasket? Do the math. If parents and coaches judge districts, finals comprise debaters who've won ballots from coaches and parents. Versus if pomo majors judge districts.

Quick. Define legitimate. (Unless you're a Jolly Tar. In which case, quick, spell legitimate.)

Some day I would like to go to NFL finals. When I'm unemployed, that is. I can't imagine giving up a whole week of work/vacation now, but if I was already looking for ways to fill the empty hours other than shopping for the best bargain in egg-slicers as retirees tend to do, I'd be there in a heartbeat. I'd love to go to the district chairman meeting: that HAS to be the most exciting group of Americans since last year's Eeyore look-alike contest. Then there's the extra-curricular events. O'C's guided tour of Cinderella's castle. Getting thrown out of the casinos with the Nostrumite. Climbing the Eiffel Tower with CLG. Of course, usually the tournaments aren't in Orlando or Vegas or Paris (although, let's face it, there is an Eiffel Tower in each of them), but in West Whoopee Cushion, Arkansas, so maybe I'm expecting too much. The thing is, I'm always pissed that we can't go ride the Beast when we go the TOCs, but they're only open while we're debating; weekends only. I'd go early for a really top of the line wooden coaster. Not to mention Son of the Beast... If I knew in advance I wasn't judging all day, I'd dump all of you and head north and line up.

The next time you hear from me, my season will be officially over, except for TOCs and a couple of final meetings. I'm putting the golf clubs into the car as soon as I get rid of the districts trophies. If you want me, you'll find me in the woods, looking for my ball. But don't worry. I'll no doubt keep blogging. Having nothing to say has never stopped me in the past, so why would that make any difference now?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My Yahoo is going bonkers

Every time I take an action with my mail, I have to reload. And it doesn't matter which browser I use. Hopefully it's just an office thing; I don't have the patience to Apple-R all night as well as all day.

Which brings us to Muppets: A Cautionary Tale.

I think of this every year at Districts time. Once, many long umpty-umps ago, when Districts were back at Lakeland and I was a fresh young coach full of hair -- okay, I was never coaching with any actual hair, but that is not the point of this story, so don't be distracted by that. Anyhow, at this Districts tournament there was a girl running an LD case about the Muppets. For the life of me I can't remember what the resolution was, but her case was intended entirely as a joke. And it was very funny, no doubt about it. And it was also one of the most unethical and nasty things I have ever seen. The reason was simple. It was her last tournament (although her rationale doesn't matter) and she just wanted to have fun. But for everyone else at the tournament, well, it was a qualifier to Nats. It was a big deal. It meant something important. By her running something stupid, she theoretically became a walking bye, except that she actually managed to pick up a round or two, which meant that she lasted way past her expiration date. And here's the thing. The last person she hit, who picked up over her, never would have picked up in that late a qualification round under normal circumstances. WIthout going into all the gory details, as a result of this girl and her Muppets case, I can state with all honesty that the end result of the tournament was skewed. The people who did qualify were certainly capable enough, but if it hadn't been for the Muppets, someone else entirely would have qualified. On face, Muppets Girl probably just thought she was having a good time, but she was seriously hurting the chances of other people to qualify. I judged Muppets Girl in a crucial round, and I dropped her to a debater who simply could not have won under any other circumstances. I was pissed as hell, then further pissed later when I realized that the effects were deeper than I had originally thought, and still pissed today, about a million years and a lot of hair later, because I do not believe that this sort of thing has gone away.

Moral: If you are not going to be serious, don't come. If you go to a tournament, you must do your best. If you throw a round, or all your rounds, for any reason, you are probably hurting someone. It is an unethical action, and if you do it, you are doing something wrong. Debate is very much a game, sure, but it is a game with rules. If you do not wish to play by the rules, you are not really playing the game. If you think it's a joke, why bother? Stay home instead. Watch the Muppets on TV. They're on DVD. You'll love 'em. And that way, you'll be letting the people who care get the results they deserve.

Needless to say, last night at the Chez I told my novices to keep their mouths shut in Congress if they weren't serious, and that they should seriously attempt to do some Pffft, to get a feel for that interesting new activity. I repeat the caution here, for them and anyone else who might think that Muppets is a path worth traveling.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Last night I sorted through the Congress data for Districts. For some reason Congress requires the least amount of "official" paperwork from Ripon. This is good, because Congress is something I know absolutely nothing about, which means that the possibility for screwing up would otherwise be all that much higher than the rest of Districts.

What I do is make two lists, one of Senators and one of Reps. Simple enough. Then I divide the Reps into 2 groups, breaking each school in half, because having over 30 in 2 houses means we send 2 Reps. First, of course, everything is arranged by school, which is how I initially receive the info. I type it into Excel, one cell of name, one of school. Then I copy the names and sort them according to first name, and that gives me a random list. Then I make a little chart that looks like the room we'll be in, and I copy a person to each spot in the room. Voila, a seating chart, which we print up and which works as a "ballot" for the judges. Every time someone talks on Friday the judge will give them some points, and then I collect all the points and put them back into a list in Excel, now completely arranged by school (it doesn't matter about houses or senate anymore) and send that to Ripon so that NFL points are entered into the Great Book of Whocares. Much more complicated is the process of electing the winners, which is done by preferential balloting. First, there's a list of nominees, which usually includes just about anybody who opened the old mouth over the 5 hour stretch. Then everybody ranks them. Then we do this thing in tab where we find the firsts, the seconds, the thirds, etc., in order, which is sort of like 20-card monte, and best done to a reggae beat. This is the one part I do guarantee that we get right (we do it as a duo, and occasionally a three-o--it's the hottest ticket in district tab); if we say you won Congress, well, by jiminy, you've won Congress. If we say you've earned 13 points, on the other hand, well, by jiminy, you've earned somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 points. Grumpily Dukes says that earning her first Diamond meant the most to her of all her accolades, because it represented so many student accomplishments. I don't disagree, but a few points lost in the mists of vagueness won't change all those wonderful years leading up to the event.

I've been tinkering with the listings on the right, which you may have noticed if your life is truly empty. Nothing major, but adding and subtracting the odd entry. Burgers, for instance, who is now posting about once an umpty-ump, is demoted for doing school work instead of entertaining his old high school coach. Sorry about that. On the other hand, I have added a couple of good theme park blogs; I'm not wild about the average yabbo's emptyheaded meanderings (I have enough of my own), but these are a cut above. Worth looking at, if you're interested in the subject.

A chez tonight on Pfft for Districts, then back to Districts paperwork tomorrow night. Then again, a lot can be done Friday morning during Congress. And meanwhile I've got to finish the rough draft of Businessman so that I can devote some time to S&S. Meanwhile, I'm reading Why Buildings Stand Up, which is about just that. You'll be happy to learn that the arches at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower are purely decorative, and that there is only one Eiffel structure in the US (structure used in the architectural sense, the thing that holds a structure up). Crappy prize if you can name it. Personally, I couldn't. (And no, it's not the Bumpidome.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Catholic card-throwing

CFL Grands is a tournament of card-throwing. You can set the brackets easily enough and figure who debates whom as the day progresses, but it is impossible to automatically assign judges because there's simply not enough of them. We've tried to trick the computer into doing it, but it just won't happen. Which means that you print out all the cards of the debaters and pair them, then you print out all the judges and see who can judge which rounds, and then do it again because of the double flighting, and if you're lucky, it all works out. We were lucky Saturday. But it is time-consuming, because you always miss the blocks or that they've already judged this yabbo on that side, and so forth and so on. Plus we're all together, speech and debate, in one big tab room, laity, nuns and everything in between, and everybody's going about their individual business trying not to bother anybody else, which limits the amount of Led Zeppelin you can blast out of old Grandpod to keep up the flagging late-day spirits. Meanwhile JV was charging his mini all day, which made the two of us look like the least up-to-date iPodists in America. Considering that it was a Scarswegian who, in one of those strange j'accuse moments, asked me how I could even listen to music on something that old, we made sure to keep the door barred and the windows shuttered. Perish the thought we get caught listening to our Liberace albums on old equipment.

The tournament had its usual ups and downs. The odd fire alarm. The odd judge (and boy, was this one *odd*), the odd drama. We did not qualify any of the Jolly Tars, I'm sorry to say, although we were a hair's breadth away. One crummy ballot, dang it! Oh, well. At least I got to find out that one of our debater's mother, a former Enron employee, is not under indictment. I hate it when the parents of the JTs are dragged away in chains. It makes finding judges so much more difficult.

The reporter yabbo I meantioned a while ago was apparently there, but he's decided that the smart scoop is in policy. The theory is that this is always the case; they see policy rounds and they are so intrigued by their incomprehensibility that they figure that they're the story. So be it. I really didn't want my picture on the cover of Weekly World News right up there next to Bat Boy and Hillary Clinton, if you want to know the truth. I value my privacy. That's why I don't even have a blog.

I collected bunches of Districts stuff while we were there, which I started sorting out yesterday. Aside from the one packet I lost, I'm in pretty good shape! Numbers are a little down, but we have a couple of new schools replacing some of the old ones, so things should be okay. I'll talk more about this shortly.

And finally, I've committed to teaching Simulacra and Simulation in April. Before you suggest that this is akin to Pat Robertson teaching Darwin, I hasten to point out that Caveman is quite favorable to the old Baudriloo, in a manner of speaking. He is a much better writer than, say, Derrida (but then again, so is Pip the Wondercat). And he writes about fun stuff like Disneyfication. And the non-existence of reality. Of course, if there is no reality, will it actually matter if I give the lecture? Will anyone even know whether I gave it or not, regardless whether they're there when I give it? This lecture may be the coup de grace for the season. It will certainly be the coup de grace for M. Baudrillard.

Friday, March 17, 2006

"Mr. Menick Builds His Dream Rez"

News from the Nostrumite: He's in a state of permanent depression because his mother-in-law has come north for an extended visit to help care for the Nostrumette. On the positive side, this gives Odelie some free time she so desperately needs, but on the negative site, Nostrumom-in-Law has definite ideas of her own about the way things ought to be done. "She's especially down on Pecksniff," the Mite tells me. Pecksniff is, of course, the Nostrumian Applehead, way too suspiciously following in the appellational footsteps of Pip the Wondercat if you ask me; couldn't the lad come up with his own cat-naming conventions? Anyhow, Nostrumom-in-Law firmly seems to believe that Siamese are evil, and that Pecksniff will come in the night when no one is looking to steal the baby's breath. "How do you steal a baby's breath?" the Mite wonders. Good question. One envisions Si and Am from Lady and the Tramp, looking over their new domicile... So for the foreseeable f, the old Peckaroo is locked out of the nursery. Apparently Nostrumom-in-Law has no brief against the Nostrumutt, on the other hand. The geriatric pooch, who is according to my reckoning about 138 years old in people time, simply lays around all day and grunts in his sleep (much like a number of debate judges I could name, except they do it during rounds), so he's hardly a threat. Anyhow, things continue to jump in Cambridge. I'm happy I'm in New York.

According to the comments, O'C always agrees with me. Of course, I find that most disagreeable. I was hoping that he was going to have his team run that there's no such thing as juveniles, that teenagers are simply an invention of the American government. Because that is incorrect. In fact, it is Dick Cheney who is an invention of the American government; teenagers on the other hand are quite real. Except for Termite, who is an invention of Dick Cheney. But seriously, folks, having judged a hundred and umpty-ump rounds on this topic back in the day, the point is not whether juveniles exist, or whether the government is able to exactly define them, but whether people of a certain age are culpable for their crimes. Simple as that. And if you ain't eating that particular Wham, then you ain't eating the resolutionary ham.

Tomorrow is CFL Grands. The number at the moment is 22. Usually we're at 18. I would really really like to hold to 22, because the more we have, the easier to assign judges. Vaughan and I will be shadows of ourselves in any event by 6:00 tomorrow night. I've printed out a list of all the LD topics going back to '79 for a discussion of the Modest Novice with EDM, but the more I think about it, the happier I am with Civil dissing.

And Districts stuff is pouring in, although my fax machine got blocked, so it's more like 90% of Districts stuff is pouring in. I'm glad I sent very clear instructions to everyone what to do. That's why everyone keeps asking me what to do. It's not just the Jolly Tars who ignore my every utterance, it would seem. So do the collected coaches of the northeast. If they don't watch out I'll come in the night and steal their breath while they're sleeping, the yabbos! Ich bin Der Chairman! You will listen when I speak!


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Annals of culpability: committing suicide in self-defense

Curiously enough, I did make a comment Tuesday night about whether one was guilty of murder if one committed suicide in self-defense. On the other hand, I never once said that New York borders Ohio, unlike our former Westchester DA, so I'm not totally losing it.

As for whether or how much I'll judge at TOCs, mentioned in some earlier comments, at the moment it is uncertain whether they'll use MJP again, which, if they do, is my ticket to Starbucks. You've got to love reading the Sunday Times in Kentucky with a gallon of latte and a muffin the size of Termite's head. But if there is no MJP, given the ratio of judges to students, everybody will have at least 8 rounds off, which still means gallons of latte and Termite-sized muffins. CLG simply thinks I've simply written bogus paradigms to weasel out of judging, but this presupposes that I even *have* a paradigm above and beyond doing my best to pay attention to what's said, and not being interventionist; i.e., if you run something idiotic, it's up to your opponent to point it out, not up to me to drop you for it if it sails right over your opponent's comparably idiotic head. My favorite paradigms are the ones that are longer the Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Anyone with that much time on their hands to write out how they'll respond to something they haven't heard yet is someone you do not want to be alone with in a classroom late at night without which you have first consulted the local list of sex offenders (although in these cases, it's probably more of a wishlist).

O'C mentions in his comment running a K on Mar-Apr that the idea of "juvenile" is a recent social invention, and therefore, presumably, we can't treat them differently from adults. This is, of course, simply running that society is unable to establish age boundaries, which is about #2 on the list of bad ideas for aff, although calling it a critique does, at least, get you off the hook of having to debate the round, which is what most Ks are about anyhow, while making you sound sooooo "progressive" and cutting edge. O'C seems to like the argument, for some reason. No doubt he also believes that it is merely a social convention that we don't let three-year-olds vote, and that all social conventions are intrinsically wrong. Let me see. Not burning suspected witches at the stake is a social invention that, if I'm not mistaken, is only a little older than recognition of juveniles as not being adults. Correct me if I'm wrong, but world opinion pretty much holds nowadays that children do not equal adults, and that special treatment of juveniles is enlightened. Maybe I missed something when I read Roper and all the flap from Nino about consulting foreign courts... Anyhow, I love that social convention must be wrong per se. I mean, all culture is social convention, isn't it? Or at least the choices that a people make as groups in defining their culture is their selection among social conventions. Short of not having a culture, some choice must be made, so unless the act of choosing or the possession of culture is intrinsically wrong, social convention is neutral.

Oh well. I don't mean to attack OC here; I prefer to do it in person. Or on SFW. Nor do I wish to list all the bad arguments on a resolution, as I prefer at least at the beginning of a rez's life for people to run them against my team, which is usually prepared to bat them down and get to the good stuff. Arguing that juveniles don't exist, or shouldn't exist, or that adolescence can't be socially defined because any one kid doesn't magically become an adult on his or her 18th birthday is just silly. It's not what the resolution is about, or what anyone interested in juveniles charged with violent crimes wants to hear as rational discourse on the subject.

Rational discourse on the subject. That's what it boils down to, doesn't it? Of course, the word discourse has been co-opted by some modernists and pomos as a concept, or more to the point, dismissed as a possibility, but communication of ideas in aid of understanding and addressing an issue -- that is rational discourse. Perish the thought that LD should somehow fall into that category. Communicating ideas in aid of understanding and addressing an issue? Menick, what kind of dinosaur are you, anyhow?


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

There is a real world out there somewhere

When there is a topic like Mar-Apr, where there is regular discussion played out in the real world on a regular basis, and people have perfectly well settled opinions, and some people believe in juvenile justice for violent crimes and some don't, and all of them bloviate on it ad infinitum, it is curious that this sort of discourse never actually makes it into many debate rounds. This despite the fact that the reason the resolution was chosen is exactly because of its moment (that's the 3rd def of the word in Web 11, by the way, and not a typo). The minute John Lee Malvo was arrested, the topic was hot again.

Of course, in debate rounds, you'd think we were arguing the color of angel wings.

This is an easy topic. Either you argue that adolescents are culpable as adults, or they are not. I mean, you certainly believe one or the other in the real world, and there are certainly plenty of people who believe the opposite of what you believe, and the reason for either belief is one's opinion of adolescence per se. These opinions, which are based on fact and/or observation and/or some other warrant, are what should be argued first and foremost. This is Lincoln-Douglas debate, where we're supposed to be getting to the right or wrong of things. Why is it right to fry John Lee Malvo? Or, why is it wrong?

But, of course, that's too easy, and good luck getting any rounds where the two sides debate that rightness or wrongness. As usual there's all the predictable muddleheadedness afoot. There's the rights protection on the aff, for instance. I have nothing against rights protection for people charged with violent crimes, but in those instances there are two possibilities: you did the crime, or you didn't. If you didn't do the crime, you should not be convicted of it, and I guess one could build an aff around innocent juveniles having a better chance of getting off via adult due process, but that would be one hell of a cockamamie way of looking at the rez as a whole because, well, it's only a part. And, let's face it, we don't really want innocent adults getting convicted either, so while it's perhaps an attractive line of analysis if you don't think about it too much, it really doesn't go anywhere useful overall because it's non-unique as we say in the trade. It doesn't answer the real issue, why should juveniles be treated this way, or not? It's ends-based but only given one possible end when there are in fact two, i.e., the charged person is guilty and convicted. At this point, the weasel rears the ugly head, and the aff seems to want to run that the word "as" does not mean "with." That is, you will be punished as an adult but not with adults. This is, of course, negative ground, because it concedes that there is a difference between juveniles and adults, and worse, it attempts to undermine the negative strategy which will of necessity address punishment. So here's the problem: If the aff is running negative's punishment material, what can the neg do? Of course, this is bad debate on two levels. First, it's bad because, as I say, it concedes negative ground, and any good negative can beat it down with a stick in CX and bury it in the rebuttal. Second, it's bad because it is a conscious attempt by the aff to cheat his way into winning. It's an unreasonable position if one expects there to be a counter-position.

Of course, that never stops anybody. In a way it's like arguing that non-citizens should be given the right to vote; you all remember that chestnut. That is a meaningless position that simply cannot stand in any intelligent discourse on the subject; nonetheless, it was regularly argued and regularly defendable as arguable, despite the fact that it categorically contradicts the concept of non-citizen. The thing is, find some stupid thing that wins and argue it and win. That's what debate is all about, I guess.

I say this coming off an attempt to discuss anti-K argumentation, which turned out to be hard to discuss in a vacuum. The novices haven't been that exposed to it, I'm afraid. Oh well. They'll grow up soon enough.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The War against Bologna

As in phogna bologna, of course. (If it wasn't for words, I wouldn't have anything to say.)

Tonight I've decided to go with Refuting the K. I wrote this document last year as a more practical approach to the material in Caveman, and it's posted on the private files area of the team website, but I've never actually gone at it at length. It should be interesting. I don't think the novices have had much direct exposure to any of this stuff, but that's because they've been floating in the amniotic fluid of the novitiate. When they pop out next year into the varsity real world, they'll need to be prepared.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much other protection for them. I'm curious how much this stuff will be flying this year, and since I'll probably judge at least a round or two at TOCs, I guess I'll find out. I happily heard little at the Lex RR when I observed (although there was some wacko source material, but you can be wacko and traditional at the same time, or at least blend the two, and when you do, you takes your chances), but that was about all I observed all year. Too much time spent in tab rooms. But I got the impression that last year's TOC wasn't terribly avant garde. It's amazing how theories sort of stand aside when there's real gain to be had. It's one thing to run wacko stuff offline, when you've already got your bids or at RRs. But at the actual TOC, to run something controversial that could lose you the round when a more conservative argument would have won it, well, you don't see much of that. These people aren't running wacko material in order to lose, after all. I maintain, of course, that they're usually running it in an attempt to win unfairly by encircling the round in a miasma of intellectual hooey that judges have either demonstrated in advance a prediliction for, or which is so confusing but which sounds so hifalutin that they don't want to look like an idea so they pretend to understand it.

Anyhow, Refuting the K tonight, and some final thoughts on Mar-Apr. I think I'll keep having meetings for the foreseeable f, since I have a lot of stuff in the Cur that we haven't covered yet. I mean, what else do any of us have to do on Tuesday nights? It's not like we could be golfing or anything.

Monday, March 13, 2006


We have put down a payment for a new Siamese. The cat is from Long Island, as is O'C, but we're not going to let that stop us. He or she will be arriving at the chez in April. We haven't exactly picked the actual kitten. There were umpty-ump of them, relatively indistinguishable, but we sort of indicated a desire for a seal point female. Or a male. Or a chocolate point. Or a blue. We were, obviously, quite clear about our preferences. Anyhow, by next season it should be well trained to attack anything that even thinks about running a kritik.

Fordham put on a nice show for us Saturday. Easy to get to, good grub, plenty of rooms, a working elevator. I could learn to like that. The competition was, at least as far as I was concerned, a way for the novices to get a feel for the new topic, which they will be debating at States before too long. When all was said and done Ewok sent me this long lament about culpability, so I gave in and wrote something out, and I haven't heard a subsequent peep out of anyone. I have either settled the issue once and for all or been so off the mark that they're considering jumping ship and doing Dec from now on. Hell, I'm considering jumping ship and doing Dec from now on, for that matter: why should they have all the fun?

We discussed the Modest Novice with Regis. EDM seemed willing enough, but preferred a different topic, viz., civil disobedience. I'm fine with that, so he's going to discuss it with the heads of the other Manhattan families, and maybe we can seal this up Saturday at Grands.

High point of the weekend, other than meeting the new cat, was listening to my Rockabilly Vol 2 album on the trip down Saturday. I really expected Termite to break out any minute into a counter-rendition of My Gal is Red Hot, Your Gal Ain't Doodly-Squat, but mostly he sat and stared out the window. Come to think of it, the entire trip was the most I've heard him not talk since I met him, in both directions. The silence was profound, and even more blessed by its rarity. I'm going to carry Rockabilly Vol 2 with me everywhere I go from now on! Emily did profess some wonder that on another trip I sang along with Rocky Horror Show. What did she expect me to do? Play it and *not* sing along? I mean, just because her grandmother was scandalized by it doesn't mean that I am. But maybe I should be. Okay. New rule. No doing the Time Warp at meetings anymore.

Whatever happened to Fay Wray?

Friday, March 10, 2006


Needless to say, the Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over his new roommate, if the Nostrumette can be referred to as such. "I don't know where babies come from," he says--and I'm not going to be the one to explain it to him--"but wherever it is, it's really far away, so they arrive completely jet-lagged. I don't know what time zone she's from, but it isn't Cambridge. She sleeps for an hour, eats for a minute, screams for an hour, poops for a minute, then goes back to sleep again for another hour. And you want me to believe she isn't from really really far away?" Sounds like an LDer to me, but I'll let him draw his own conclusions. In any case, everyone is home and doing fine and, I guess, adjusting to EST.

So some yabbo in the UK reads this blog? That really demonstrates an excess of time on the proverbial hands. Anyhow, the answer is simple enough. Doing the arithmetic always results in a number divisible by 9. Which is, to some extent, a most magic number. With any number divisible by 9, as you know, adding the digits of the number = a number divisible by 9, and vice versa. So, if I just rattle off 1443627111114, knowing that these digits add up to a number divisible by 9 make it a given that the number itself is divisible by 9. Try it. It always works. Lovely. Only Alex explained it correctly (offline), although he writes in Vout, or L33T, or whatever. Since I only speak English, and that only on occasion, our communications are doomed to conclude with me urging him to invest in a spell-checker.

O'C can't judge Districts. He claims he has conflicts, but I claim he's working on a program for HBO Institute called "Sucky Sophs" which is intended for prospective sophomores who go 0-5 at every novice tournament, and who want to learn how to pick up the bye in the random rounds so that they won't look so pitiful on the second day of the tournament. I could be wrong about this, though.

If you're wondering, my DVD recorder is working wonderfully. I've been collecting classic films from TCM. I've done this in the past. I've collected classic films on a Betamax, and on a VCR. I've bought classic films on DVD. Usually the same films. I never watch them, I just collect them. Some day, when I retire, I will catch up on the complete Mickey & Judy. And the Duke. And the brothers Marx. Some day, when I'm awfully low...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Crappy Prize to anyone who can explain this to me

Continuing apace

There's been a lot of back-and-forth lately about LDEP stuff with Smilin' J and company. I guess the goal is to have something by TOCs (an obvious and important goal). It's hard to report what exactly is happening, but it doesn't look bad. I keep pushing for short, sweet and simple. Then again, I always push for simple. People always understand simple. And all things can be presented with simplicity it you work hard enough at it. When news breaks, anyhow, I'll let you know.

I thought I'd do Districts last night but I did Mr. Businessman. So sue me.

A new schedule is flying around the circuit, with dates of all of next year's tournaments, mostly. There's a couple of confusing areas, but we're closer than we usually are, and at a much earlier date. I did, at some point, almost commit to hosting a division of Pffft at Bump. I was thinking of taking up to 10 rooms at the high school and seeing how that works. Of course, I'd be taking them at the expense of policy, but so it goes. Local policy these days is so far down to seeds and stems that cutting back their numbers at Bump actually makes sense. I mean, there will be plenty of slots for the teams that are still extant, but simply put, I can make more money with a room of double-flighted Pffft than I can with a room of single-flighted Policy. Do the math. Plus a flurry of correspondence not that long ago among the policy honchos didn't exactly make me want to be their happy host ad infinitum. Curiously enough, they complain that the northeast has no policy TOC bids. I've run a tournament with 40 or so Varsity teams for 10 years, regular as clockwork. Work with me? Na'ah. I'm the enemy. So, I'll be the enemy. You heard it here first: in the not too distant future, I foresee a Bump with three divisions: Varsity LD, Pffft, and a nice big Novice LD division (as Newburgh used to have). Not in 2006, but 2007? (Yeah, I know, I should keep my mouth shut about this stuff, but when have I ever done that?)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It's a jungle out there

We have begun the hunt. We are stalking a new cat.

This is not as easy as it seems, at least not if you want a traditional Siamese a la Pip. I don't really like weasel-looking cats, if you know what I mean (and I could name a few weasel-looking debaters to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, but it's probably not a good idea to test the limits of net slander against minors so late in the season). Fortunately there's the internet, and one can track down a cattery or two on Long Island, which as far as I'm concerned is like tracking down a cattery or two on Mars. Long Island? I mean, people from Westchester simply never go there. They've stopped providing visas, if I'm not mistaken (O'C made the last certified border crossing). But we are hoping nonetheless to venture forth Sunday morning to look at a litter. Could there be a Wondercat Junior in the offing? Watch this space for more details.

Last night's chez should have finally shaken the novice mental cobwebs. After about an hour of going point by point over what the aff isn't, which pretty much eliminated everything everyone had already come up with, we suggested what it maybe is. Given that the aff is, intuitively, the easer position, I am once again convinced that the easier position is always the harder one.

I have made the States motel reservations. Now all I need is the name from Dave of their speech judge (if any), then we can sort out the driving issues. For that matter, I have to sort out driving for Saturday. And figure out why there is a form at the Hendrick Hudson Academy for Piccolo Prodigies that no one seems to believe exists (for parents driving other people's kids). And figure out Districts driving. Life was easier when buses were cheaper, as Aeschylus used to say.

Tonight I definitely work on Districts, sorting out the Jolly Tar entry, and figuring policy. I got a call Monday from the trophy people checking on some details; the good news was that, since they thought I needed the trophies in the middle of April, their call was early enough to get things finished on schedule. Some idiot gave them the wrong date, apparently. The fact that I am that idiot is beside the point; they should have known better. Anyhow, all's well that e's w, so that's set.

And here's a tip on how to make my day. They cancelled my dentist appointment today. Huzzah!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Nothing major

As in, not much happening except odds and ends.

As my request for novices to send paragraphs explaining their aff and neg positions for Mar-Apr proved almost frightening, I went on to request simple sentences on each side. Still scary. It would seem that our Sailors think mostly that juveniles are inherently guilty of all crimes with which they are charged, and should be hung by the thumbs in the public square. And the reason for this, which is what I've been trying to get at? Your guess is as good as mine. Debate them this weekend at Fordham; maybe you'll find out. When you do, let me know. Curiously enough, the negs all think that these wacky kid criminals (of the rez, not the Sailors) are somehow different from adults. Wouldn't the aff argument be, logically, that they are somehow NOT different from adults, and all you'd have to do is pick a somehow? But what do I know? I'm only the coach.

These novices are a pretty scary group, all told. And speaking of which, there seems to be some Speecho-American newbie who is just signing up for the Speech listserver now, and who doesn't know how to sign up for tournaments. Or so say his plaintive emails. And I thought our folks were unique... I told him to go to a meeting and talk to someone. Good advice, but who knows if he'll follow it?

I started moving paper around last night for Districts. I've got to figure out what, exactly, the HH entry will be. The judging is pretty damned thin on the ground, and I haven't been able to hire anyone other that CLG and maybe half of Justin, so it's going to be tough to cover much of anybody, much less extras for the tournament as a whole. Dave will judge, though, so that helps. I'm afraid it will be up to Scarsdale and Iona to fill up things up to the rafters. You'd think the promise of a day off from school would do the trick for the Jolly Tars, but not even that seems to be working except for a couple of the more cognoscenti delinquents.

The chez tonight will mostly be on the floor, since Kt the Spamless Goddess of Silence took half the furniture. No more futon (I almost typed no more tofu). No more red comfy chair. Hard times, indeed. On the bright side, that will encourage them to leave early...

There's a round robin up in the Brandeis area toward the middle of April. I'd go if it were, well, not up in the Brandeis area toward the middle of April. The problem with post-Districts stuff is that, for all intents and purps, the year is over, and one isn't all that motivated to go to unexpected new venues. As it is, I don't think I'll be able to swing going to CatNats if we do qualify anyone, but I am going to try. We'll see. Then again, the qual does come first, eh?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Pick a card

So we did Regionals with pure index cards, which is about the only way you can do something that small, especially when you're putting the novice bye into the jv pool. You can just get so creative in TRPC, and then you're done, whereas if you actually know what to do without any software at all, your worst-case scenario is simply that you have no software. Once upon a time, of course, all tournaments were done with cards. And in a way not only do we do Regionals with cards but also Grands, with double-flights and three judges and total madness from the get-go. Aside from me and Kaz and Bacon, there probably aren't many card throwers around anymore; I only learned in the twilight years when the Mac version of TRPC couldn't really do MHLs that well. One thing about being a dinosaur; you do know how to eat the leaves off of trees while standing in water up to your knees while being attacked by velociraptors.

At one point at Iona Joe broke the news to me that he and O'C were going to be on the TOC committee but not me. I had heard that JWP was making changes from Kaz, who didn't know if she'd still be on herself, so I was hardly unprepared for this (and I've been sort of an inexplicable member anyhow, no question about it). But more interesting, Joe acted as if I might be upset by it. Curious. Let's see. I'm the person on the committee who thinks the TOC is the most evil influence on LD and should be eliminated. Remember, "If the TOC didn't exist, I wouldn't invent it"? I have spent the years I've been on the committee appalled by the politics (for instance, I watched the evisceration of the Bronx in what can only be deemed an alternate universe while the outsourcing of bids to universities has continued unabated and unwarranted). And the annual lunch is a social event that I have often found positively painful; my only consolation is that the people I have had to make conversation with have had to make conversation with me in return. In the word of Pseudolus: "Free!" I have felt like a hypocrite since day one; let Joe and O'C feel like hypocrites for a while.

And I know you're wondering: Pip is back on the premises. Kt the Spamless Goddess of Silence relinquished the Wondercat on Saturday, and although he is still roaming the place complaining (I think he misses Stripe), the presence of novices at tomorrow's chez should put paid to his concerns that all may not be right with the world. He didn't even have to help me set up the DVD recorder; it was the proverbial piece of pie. Now all I need is something to record.

Coming up: making reservations for States, the last salvo of LDEP, and praying for divine intervention with my novices debating Mar-Apr. My guess is that only the former will be successful.

Friday, March 03, 2006

It's a Nostrumette

I have received my first cell phone text message ever from anyone other than my phone service supplier. Odelie's labor ended last night at about 2:00 a.m. and the Nostrumite became the proud father of a newly minted female. A name is still TK, as we say in the trade, but "the Nostrumette" will do nicely for me for the foreseeable future. (Fade to Billy Bigelow: "As you walk through... etc etc etc.")

I can't top that one, folks. See you at the atheisting. No, wait a minute. Odelie will have something to say about that. What's about halfway between an atheist and an Episcopalean?

Yep. You got it. An LDer.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Names changed to protect the innocent

Why do I bother? The journalistic yabbo gave us enough personal info to steal his identity and take this plane to Cuba, Termite has outed himself as Paul who doth not protest enough about his transgressions if you ask me, and O'C claims that his email is on every debate website in America which I don't doubt for a moment.

I shoulda stood in bed.

What I realize I haven't done, what with being out of the country, is prepped more for Districts. I know that doesn't sound like much to you, but you try it some year, you ungrateful cur. I'll sort it out over the weekend, print up the latest manuals, estimate some numbers for Joe V to buy the evening's gruel, etc., etc., etc. At the same time, I have to figure out my new DVD recorder. Ask not why I bought this, but I just couldn't resist. I'm claiming that this is how I'm spending my winnings from this year's SuperBowl office pool. (I did tell you I won, didn't I? Again? It's just plain skill, of course.) The question is, how does this weld into the stack of equipment already there? The 2 VCRs, the DVD player, the speakers, the PS2, the cable box, the TV. I pulled out a box of random electrical gear from the basement, the detritus of previous setups, in preparation for an hour I'll never get back again. And you've got to wonder what the point is, given that I really never watch all that much. I just like the technology, I guess. I'm assuming that I will have Pip back to help, assuming I do this on Sunday. Kt, the Spamfree Goddess of Silence, has been caring for him, and I think I'm picking him up after Regionals, although confirmation of this or much of anything is as rare as a serpent's tooth. (No, wait a minute, that's King Lear, and it's daughterish but—Yeah, you got it.) I miss him. I keep seeing him around the house, but he keeps not being there. Must be one of those Fuseli gothic nightmares I picked up at the Tate...

Meanwhile, the snow is snowing, the wind is blowing, and I'm headed to the dentist in a minute to fix the tooth I chipped chewing gum on the way to the UK. Very tough gum, that. I'm starting to fuse back into NYC time; maybe tonight, I'll clean up some of the pile of crap that's been accumulating on my desk and even get back to BusinessMan (for which I need a better name). We'll see. If I leave the stormy office early, definitely. That, or set up the DVD recorder. Whichever looks like more fun for a snowy evening.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Every debate tells a story

That's one of my favorite subjects, the narrative of a debate round, and we talked about it last night. Or more to the point, I sort of croaked on about it in a jet-legged hoarse voice and people were either entirely asleep or entirely rapt or entirely wondering when I was going to stop so they could get the hell out of there. I am reminded of Ewok's comment that if I were a regular teacher, the students would think I was a you-know-what (that seven-letter A word that, no, is not "arrogant," if you needed any further indication that math is not among the top skills of the legendary Sailors). Of course, he pegs it on the smarter/funnier line, but I digress.

A debate round is definitely a story. It is peopled by characters, and one must do one's best to establish oneself quickly as the hero of one's tale. We talked about how to do that. But the real story is the narrative of the round itself. It begins with exposition (although, as a dinosaur, I think beginning with an epigram is a good idea; hell, M. Dick begins with umpty-ump point three of them!), i.e., definitions plus a quick explanation of what the story will be about (I am going to achieve such and such a goal, and this is how I shall go about doing it, AKA values and criteria). Then the story begins. The debater who at any time in a constructive forgets the narrative of the quest for the value and wanders off on some other subject, Shandy-like (I'm still irritated that Termite thinks you can see the movie of TS and that this will somehow be the equivalent of reading the book, but I digress), is losing track of the story. The audience, the judge, loves a good story, and loves good story-telling. Milk that for all its worth.

The negative, of course, has his or her own story, which begins in previews during CX. Nothing like a little teaser, eh? Then on to telling a counter story, again with a statement first of the aim of the quest, then on to the quest itself.

In the refutations, of course, the art of story-telling matures. You have to pick and choose what to emphasize and what to de-emphasize. Sometimes there's just basic business that has to be dispensed with, arguments that no one ever wins, and then there's the arguments you think you can win on your side. A good storyteller concentrates on those arguments, because those will ultimately make the best story. In the 1AR, the aff does likewise. Then, of course, in the NR, neg does it again.

Which leads to crystallization. The presentation of the voting issues is, in fact, a reiteration of the story. You show how your side of the story is the correct one. You do this by going back to the beginning (the constructives) and drawing a line from there through the refutations out to the end, and the achievement of your quest/goal/value through the struggle of your criterion. Don't tell me it happened, show me how it happened.

High drama indeed!

And all of it is predicated on certain ideas that are always true. Certain ways to present. Certain ways to pick up all judges, not just the [fill in the blank] judges. The need to break when you're down two, which can only be done with high speaker points, which rely on great story-telling.

Speaking of which, some yabbo called me up yesterday claiming that he was trying to write an article on debate. We chatted amiably for a while (or, more accurately, I alluded to the burial places of a number of forensic bodies while his call-waiting kept clanking and he surfed porn sites or something) and I invited him to this and that event coming up. I did start a book once on debate, but I got side-tracked. By debate. I might go back to it some day, using this blog as notes (unless someone like the Nostrumite steals all these notes and writes a book himself, the dog!). But I'd like to see an interesting article or something now, especially since LD is in what seems to be a crisis mode. The journalist in question seemed to want to write about policy, for some godawful reason, so I told him that Grands would be his ticket there, but my guess is that, if he has any sanity whatsoever, 10 minutes of polician speed will send him screaming into a nice warm LD round with three parent judges and a partridge in a pair tree and all like-a that, as me grandmother used to say.

Outstanding issues:
Whatever happened to LDEP? I'll write the ps that be and find out.
The Modest Novice? I'll talk to Eric next weekend about that. The Manhattan territory is the last buy-in that is absolutely essential.
Nostrumite, Junior? If you can count (quick, how many letters in "arrogant") you'll know that the lad's little dividend is coming up any minute now. Nothing yet, is the word from Tennessee Williams High School, where the entire team is atwitter. (We've got a twitter or two on our team, but that's another subject entirely.)

And I keep coming back to this. A MOVIE IS NOT A BOOK. In our school district, it is not unusual for English teachers to screen films of the book assignments. I realize that. But I loathe it. This is like showing paintings of flowers in a botany class instead of the real thing. I like Monet, yeah, but the poppies seen from a real plant and maybe a microsope are not about the play of light on the pond at Giverny!