Thursday, August 31, 2006

School is busting out all over

So, sez you, are you still a debate coach?

On the evidence of having a chez meeting last night, I would have to answer in the affirmative.

I do like meetings, or at least meetings where something seems to be said. This was a fairly concentrated hour on the topic, mostly just batting down bad negative ideas, or more specifically, negative ideas that simply were not true (of which, if Termite is to be trusted, there seem to be a fair number, which doesn’t surprise me). There’s still this sense that negs will argue for some reason that it can’t be done, despite the contradictory evidence of practically every country on earth already doing it, and doing it well. It is a matter of whether it is obligatory for a government to do it, in the sense of it being obligatory for a government to attempt to be just. To be honest, early tournaments are going to be nightmarish in terms of rogue interpretations, I think, and even though I no longer am shocked and appalled by this choice of topic, neither have I become terrifically sanguine. Resigned to average by the time we get to Monti, might be the best way to put it.

Speaking of tournaments, I have begun seriously discussing what’s what with the Pups. There is absolutely no question in my mind that these guys are serious about putting on a great tournament. That works for me. It’s going to be a tough break (160 to doubles) but no tougher than, say, Harvard (4,302,361 to triples). The key will be the quality of their judge pool. I haven’t seen theirs yet, but 99% of a good tournament is a decent pool of judges. It doesn’t have to be all TOC ex-champs, but it does have to include a core of people who know what they’re doing. When you register, you get to rate your judges from A to E, which, if most people are honest, and why wouldn’t they be, will be enough for us to make sure that every down 1 is getting the best possible adjudication. After that, settle back and enjoy the lovely surroundings, the good restaurants, the lovely weather, and the cheerful tabroom staff. As decisions are made that are beyond the published invitation, I’ll report them here (but I won’t report what’s being discussed until it’s agreed, as that’s unfair to the tournament directors).

And I think I have now finalized the Bump invitation. I pared down the LDEP part a bit more and downplayed it (as OC said at Longtimecoming Seafood, most people feel their tournaments are already pretty much spot-on, and in a sense, Legion stuff is redundant) and I also eliminated the pdf of the invitation as, again, redundant. If you can’t follow what’s on the web, you probably shouldn’t be coming. I’ll make it official after school opens. Next stop: Mr. Trophy!

And it looks like Juan and Kwan and the stoners will be finished with Chez HQ by tomorrow, which means I can start moving back in. Hallelujah! (And, oh yeah, for those who follow their threads from blog to blog, what I was really thinking was not shared intergalactic DNA but shared intergalactic naughty bits. I do indeed expect OC to explain this to me at the $1000 blackjack table at Monticello, where I understand he’ll be betting with funds purloined from the WTF petty cash drawer, code-named "Nickel." Did I get that right?)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The one thing you need to know about pedal-pushers (AKA clam-diggers)

If God had meant for women to wear capri pants, he would have given them shorter legs.

That said, we can get down to business. Last night the New Gods of MHL met to plan out the coming year (to wit, me and Kurt and OC). As I’ve said, bringing Jon into an administrative position in the organization brings it full circle, going back to Soddy as one of the founding fathers. In practice, Kurt brings a policy background and plenty of connections with the likes of the UDL, plus an ability to get cheap trophies, I bring some general organizational know-how plus a willingness to write emails and create websites and such at the drop of a hat, and Jon brings the strength of probably the biggest program in the region and becomes someone I can dump the finances on, which has been something of a bete noire for me, since a lot of schools can’t dole out checks to individuals, but which OC can handle through Bx. And of course we all agree that a commitment to new debaters, which has always been the core idea of the Mid-Hudson League, is all-important to keeping forensics strong in the region. In other words, MHL is in great shape going forward.

In between the various morsels of gossip, we sorted out:
Finances—we’ve got a few hundred dollars in the bank, which I’ll be transferring to OC, and no problem keeping a stock of trophies on hand.
Public Forum—we’ll keep offering it, even though last year our turnout was slim. I think that only at Mini-Bump did we collect a quorum.
Schedule—we’ve got a weekend every month from Oct through Jan. There’s an issue getting a place in December, but we’re looking at a NYC venue, to attract UDL and MDL schools, and that should work out nicely. For the others, it’s Byram Hills, Monti, and Hunter (in concert with a pre-existing policy event, much like the Montclair tournament last year). In essence, we’re filling up all the weekends not covered by invitationals. And this year the newcomer event will be a standalone, rather than a fly in the Big Bronx ointment.
Registration—I had talked to Chris Palmer about using his software. When I see him at Yale, I’ll press him on it. It’s far from essential for something as simple as MHLs, but it could be useful.

On the social side, if you’re thinking of eating at Legal Seafood in White Plains any time soon, I would advise you to order your meal a week or so in advance, to insure that it will arrive on the same day you do. Jeesh! These guys didn’t just catch and cook the fish, after they take your order they go in the back, grab some paramecia, toss them into some protoplasm and wait for them to evolve gills! It all tasted fine, I guess, but it’s hard to tell when you’re starving to death.

At one point in the evening, Kurt innocently noted that he was something of a Disney fanatic. This was analogous to a dying gazelle looking up from the veldt and wondering what those vultures did when they get hungry, considering that I was on-site the year Disneyland opened, and OC has been to WDW every month since he was old enough to reach the height line for Dumbo (which, I gather, he is still willing to wait six hours for, as long as it includes getting Cinderella’s autograph; for that matter, I understand he carries a drop of Sleeping Beauty’s blood in a vial around his neck a la Billy Bob and Angelina). It’s amazing what you learn about people as you get to know them. By the way, the answer to the question posted earlier, does OC gamble, was answered in the affirmative, although he claims to be a cheapskate. Join the club. In any case, midnight at Monticello is looking progressively more interesting.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Filling of iPods

The displacement of Juan, Kwan and the stoners continues, far from ameliorated by drenching rainstorms, but at least I am able to ftp from the office, so I was able to post Nostrum 23, much to the relief of a waiting world.

Big Bronx seems to have filled up faster than [insert underpants joke here]. I realize that I have a small army in placeholder position, so I sent out the word on the listserver to either fish or get off the pot, to free up spaces so that OC can bring in the Guam team. Speaking of whom, I want to get him to stay at my hotel at Monticello. Last year it was too bleak to try for it, what with torrential rain (which seems to be the theme today), but I’d like to go over to the racetrack on Friday night and light my cigars with hundred dollar bills for a while. We all know that OC practically lives in Vegas; does he ever gamble there? Or does he spend all his time at Quark’s bar outside the ST ride? The time has come to find out.

Meanwhile, the ongoing dilemma: A big issue of filling an iPod is war horses versus the untried and untrue. Getting back to cast albums, does one put in Cabaret or Steel Pier? All Rodgers and Hammerstein or no Rodgers and Hammerstein? Or maybe just all soundtracks with Nathan Lane? Or all soundtracks without Nathan Lane? Rags? Ragtime? Jump? Bounce? The mental turmoil here is at the edge of Foucault, and only the Rocky Horrow Show (note, not Picture Show) is guaranteed a spot. How much Sinatra is enough (considering I have enough to [insert underpants joke here])? How much Feinstein? All Beatles? No Beatles? Only the Anthology collection? Any Zeppelin? Albums I’ve owned for a generation, or just new albums? And don’t even think about classical (so far all I’ve put on is a set of Yo Mama cello sonatas). Do we need D-I-V-O-R-C-E, or just some vague old-timey country, or only the Texas swing, and will that be modern or will that be Tex Wills? Rock Steve Earle or country Steve Earle? All Krall? Any Costello? All Beach Boys (I mean literally all) or just a couple of Brian’s solo albums? The soul-searching is incredible. FYI, I just inserted part 2 of Cook at Carnegie, Mostly Sondheim, to rip away. If you get a ton o’ Sondheim via Barbara Cook, Julie Wilson, Cleo Laine (personal favorite) and Bernadette Peters, do you need all the shows? (And if that wasn't a list of divas, I'm [insert underpants joke here].) Given their reception in various tab rooms I have been in, I would say that both a little Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and a little Monk go a long way with certain audiences, but on the other hand I would insist that one needs “Facing the Future” and all solo Monk one can find at the very least. How much surf music other than the Beach Boys? How much obscure blues? The entire set of “That’s Entertainment” including all three movies plus outtakes, and would that mean you have to throw in the Busby Berkely stuff? For that matter, which Hoagy Carmichael collection should I order up from iTunes?

My brain is, obviously, turning into Jello. This is the curse of technology.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Isn't it a lovely day to get caught in the rain?

Well, Little Elvis now has a hole where his hunka burnin’ love used to be. You have to put a shim underneath it to type, and you have to be online because otherwise the date needs to be reset every time you turn it on, and the whole thing is Sony’s fault, those rootkit-planting %$#@*&s! Apple says 4 to 6 weeks to ship a replacement. That’s a month or so of pure annoyance, on top of all the Juan, Kwan and the stoners annoyance. I’m thinking of this as Little Elvis’s “In the Ghetto” period.

Rain kept me home all weekend, mostly doing computish odds and ends like cleaning up my PC. I attempted to grab the music off the old GrandPod, but that was a mug’s game from the getgo. The files are there, and accessible, but so confusingly stored that it’s just not worth the time sorting them out. Figuring at most I’d lose about 5 un-backed-up songs, I decided the best thing to do was to spend the 99 cents per on iTunes and mark the exercise up as a total loss. Meanwhile, I was using the PC (GrandPod was PC-based, exclusively) and took the opportunity to clean that sucker up a bit. Its remarkably large 20-gig hard drive was, presumably, state of the art once upon a time, and I did manage through this and that to get it cleaned up to about one third free space. I do use it regularly enough during the year, so it’s nice that it’s clean again, or at least as clean as it will ever be. Amazing what a rainy day will do for you.

I also took advantage of the bleakness to upload tons of music to MegaPod, as I try to run down the battery to get it seasoned (I have read every article on iPod and computer batteries ever written, and at the moment I am expert, but I hope to forget it all soon and go back to normal living). I plowed through rock, began jazz/cabaret/world, and am still thinking about classical and showtunes. For instance, I had Sweeney Todd on GrandPod and never once played it. Which raises the question, What kind of music is best on an iPod? That is a spiritual question each person must answer in the privacy of the owner’s soul. I never once played Sweeney but I couldn’t get enough of ? and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears.” Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

I started a thread on truth in LD on the Legion’s new forum. I’ll report on that as it develops. They’re using some basic PHP thingie that doesn’t seem to show threads (?) which makes it a little less than what I would like to see, but I’ll keep sorting it out. The point of the thing is for coaches to discuss coachean issues, while others watch. We’ll see how that plays out. Sort of like the opposite of WTF, I guess.

I uploaded Part 1 of Part 5 of Caveman. Two more parts to record and edit, and I’m done. As I edit these, I realize that I talk like Captain Kirk, with unexpected… pauses where most… people would least expect… them. Shatner doesn’t talk like that on BL, thank... goodness. I guess now that I’m doing it he doesn’t... have to.

Tomorrow night is My Dinner with OC. And Kurt. Wednesday is another Bullpups’ topic meeting. Then it’s the last weekend of the summer. Hoo-ha!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Further into the slough

Great. So now Little Elvis may have a hunka hunka burnin' love, i.e., an exploding battery. More hijinx from Juan and Kwan and the stoners? I wouldn't put it past them. Last night we lost the living room. There's not much else left to lose. Anyhow, I'll check the info from Apple (you can find it way way way down at the bottom of the home page) tonight (I had to print it up in the office since Juan and Kwan and the stoners--well, you know) and no doubt read it and weep.

On the bright side, I'll probably train it in to NYC tomorrow watching World's Fair videos on the megapod. Is it true Apple is suing Australia for using the word iPod in The Antipodes? I probably need to be careful before they sue me. Something tells me that the VCA won't be setting any speed records putting up bail money.

And there's one more week before school starts. I wonder how many Sailors did their debate reading assignment? (I can hear the aye-ayes even as I type this. Yeah. Right. And Little Elvis isn't going to erupt in flames any second now. Lord have mercy!)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Slough of Coachean Despond

Things get progressively less pleasant with Juan and Kwan and the stoners. Last night, for no apparent reason, I lost my internet connection, but the cable was still working, and after a climb over boxes of displaced books that would have exhausted Sir Edmund Hillary to perform the usual unplug/replug ritual, with no effect, I pulled out the cable, went upstairs and contemplated reading Derrida to lift my spirits. You forget how important the internet is until you’re trying to load up your iPod with new songs and you don’t get an automatic fill-in listing for all the tracks and everything is Track 01, Track 02, Track 03.

My life, obviously, is a nightmare.

But then again, I am a man of resource, so I grabbed a bunch of disks to take to the office, where I can rip ‘em (WITH info), copy to my flash, bring ‘em home (the locked iTunes on my office Mac is v4, which went out with the leisure suit) and drag ‘em over via transit through hookup with Little Elvis. And I did give a peek to the video feature; there’s a videocast of free p.d. cartoons, so I watched an old Bugs Bunny on my little screen and thought to myself, you know, this isn’t half bad, given the right situation. I’m going to seek out stuff at they’ve got lots of things I like, like world’s fair videos and such, that seems to be perfect for the iPod screen. What I don’t have yet, of course, is a name for the new iPod. I’m sure I’ll come up with something. It will be like Tik (pronounced teek) evolving from T.K.: I’ll know it when I hear it.

Speaking of names, I will soon be forced, I hope, to remember a whole bunch of new novice names. As I’ve said before, remembering names is, I think, the hardest part of coaching. That’s one reason why, as often as not, I try to come up with nicknames. It’s a lot easier to remember Termite than it is Paul [Unspellable]. A lot easier to spell, too. And he was a legacy! Imagine what it’s like when one is fresh out of the can with no precursor. A sea of random races without names—a postmodern Eden, you might say. I would say, just more nightmare for the slough.

At least I did get a new Nostrum up (I think) before the cable flickered out. And I’m two thirds of the way through editing part one of part 5 of Caveman (if you can follow the math on that). My goal now is completed Caveman by the beginning of the school year, followed by a launch of The View from Tab podcast, into which I’ll incorporate both old and new material. And, of course, I’ve got to finalize Bump (I’ve been trimming the Legion material at this, the eleventh hour), and also prep up my Cur materials for the new season of team meetings. Usually I just start over from the beginning, but with the veterans, there’s a lot of good stuff we never got too, so I’ll need another bookmark in the Cur, one for the old, one for the new. Despond on a stick! Then again, thank goodness I am a man of resource.

I will survive!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Break, Blow, Burn

I feel I should know more about poetry. After all, I was an English major, and every time I turn around I seem to be reading something. But my education here is sorely lacking. I took right away to Keats, I seemed to spend an entire year in high school reading Eliot, cummings always went down easy, and of course I could do a few leaves of grass every now and then (or even the odd Howl) and enjoy the sway and fire and the sheer words of it all, but mostly I have always been, so to speak, prosaic. I write with a beginning, a middle and an end, and while I like a phrase to fall trippingly from the word processor, I don’t get hung up on it. I love plenty of prose stylists (I consider Nabokov’s elegance to be often staggering, for instance) and I’ve got Ars Gratia Artis tattooed on my person somewhere (right below the “Mom,” if I remember correctly), but as I say, poetry has never been my thing. Worse, I’ve always felt that much poetry eluded me. Not so much that I didn’t get the point of it, but I literally didn’t understand what the poet was saying. Now it’s one thing wrestling with Pound Cantos full of mythical references and finding yourself pinned to the matt, and another thing altogether staring at plain old Wordsworth and having nary a clue to what this dog is ranting on about (except, of course, you know it’s got nature written all over it). If that’s not a gap in my education, I don’t know what is.

Break, Blow, Burn is pretty much little more than class lectures on warhorse poems, wherein the instructor explicates the content (i.e., tells you what’s going on) and explains what the poet is trying to do. This is the plot, and this is the theme, in other words, which is how stuff was always broken down in elementary readings of texts when I was a larva. Paglia goes through a few conniptions about poststructuralist analysis (which she categorizes about as highly as donkey poop), then gets down to the business of telling you what these poems are all about. Occasionally she gets a little carried away, but not in a bad way. And the selection is quite canonical, so even when you’re less than taken by the analysis, you still get to reacquaint yourself (or, if you’re young enough, just merely acquaint yourself) with the poem, to read it a few times, to run it through your brain. This is not a bad thing. One should know something about poetry if one considers oneself to be educated. If you’re already a student, of course, then this would seem like just more work at the wrong time, which I understand, but for an old fart like me, this is a good thing. And even if you are a student, and all exhausted from studying all kinds of useless crap all day, you still need to know about poetry (which is a lot less useless in life than plenty of other subjects I can mention but won’t, but just as a hint, I haven’t used quantum chemistry out of the classroom since the day I slammed shut the textbook, and I haven’t missed a minute of it, nor found my life lacking in any way as a result, and in fact my guess is that in the dog’s age since I learned whatever it was that I learned they’ve changed it all anyhow, as they have with subjects I enjoyed much more, like linguistics and anthropology). So, a new book added to the recommended reading list, not for forensics, but life in general.

The other nice thing about the book is that it is in small pieces, allowing me plenty of time to feed the new iPod. It arrived yesterday. So nice. Yeah, I heard a rumor this morning of a 120 gigger, but Jeesh, everything always gets bigger and faster and cheaper the minute you buy it. My old GrandPod was a 10 gigger that I never filled past 5 gigs, so I’m not exactly worried that I won’t have enough space here. Since I’ll only dabble in video, as I’ve said, just because it’s there, that won’t be an issue. Mostly all that’s available are TV shows that I’m perfectly happy watching, uh, on TV. There are a few videocasts that look like fun, though, and coming attractions might be entertaining, but let’s face it, I won’t have much time to look at this stuff (I’m not like LC, for instance, taking the train from Lexington to Dubai, with plenty of time for and need of entertainment). Not that I’m trying to justify or rationalize wasting all that money… It’s toys, damn it. People need toys. And progress. Why, I remember a time when if people wanted to listen to music, they had to listen to these things called CDs. Talk about ancient history!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Talking of Michelangelo

Or… "Grand Hotel. Always the same. People come, people go, nothing ever happens."

This is the time of year when one wonders what the new crop will be like. Will we get a lot of newbies in the incoming crop of freshmen or late starting Sophomores: second year always yields the odd rutabaga who for some reason missed year one but feels that he or she is now ready to season up the old c.v. before the colleges come a-callin’ (and there may be the odd cabbage who heard that the Caveman lecture may be happening some month soon, and doesn’t want to miss the part where Frank Gehry goes all-in with two deuces). But usually it’s mostly freshmen, and for that matter, usually it’s freshmen who are of the future Speecho-American persuasion. I’ve never understood the attraction of speech over debate, but I would say that with the Sailors, at least the opening ratio is about two to one. I think there may be some myth out there that speech is easier than debate, which is like saying that English is easier than Mathematics. They’re both equally complex, but they’re wildly different, with different attractions for different types of people. There are some tangential areas of course, like Congress with a splash of LD and a twist of PF, but the Sailors don’t tend to be of the mixed forensics drink variety. There is a wall of separation between speech and debate which is unfortunate, but unless I were coaching both, I can’t see how I’d be able to knock it down. There’s only so many hours in the day, as the saying goes.

Anyhow, one must add to that the drop-off rate (hence the Eliot and the Grand Hotel). Not only do we get new people in September, but we also lose a few old ones. And I’m not talking about graduates here (I miss Emcee and Hush already), but simply people who don’t come back for another year. As a general rule, those who don’t come back don’t come back in their third year. One can get through two years pretty easily, and do fairly well, if one sets one’s sights on success in the novice and intermediate levels. A natural bent for fast thinking will usually win some tin for you for the first year or two. But the varsity level, which will in fact only harder insofar as it is the next step up, is, I think, wrongly perceived by many younger debaters as, well, just too much. It’s seen as a commitment to selling the old soul and working one’s heart out, or else, if you’re not willing to sell your soul to it, a commitment to getting your head handed to you week after week. Now yes, you do have to do work at a harder level, but again, for your everyday debater it’s no different from school work being a little harder with each ensuing year. Unless, of course, you are personally dedicated to being a national $ircuit debater, which is indeed a level of commitment way above the norm. That requires doing a lot of extra work, and traveling week in and week out, and it’s about the same as, do you want to be on, say, the golf team or do you think of yourself as the next Tiger Woods. The former requires a little time on the driving range; the latter requires you build a hut on the driving range and move in for the next ten years. One of the reasons I push second-year folk into doing as much varsity competition as they can is for them to test these waters, not only to improve themselves but to understand what really happens when it’s all varsity all the time. I don’t like the idea of people being scared off by work. And if you understand it’s not all that much work, unless you’re going for Tigerwooddom, then you’re in good shape to make the decision whether or not to stick with the activity.

Of course, people move away for other reasons too, including it just not being the right activity for them, or although I do try to urge these people to consider a touch of speech before fading away into that good night, I can understand the situation. Forensics is broad but it’s not universal. Then there’s the people who get sort of buried in regular work. To them I always remind them that the door to the team never closes; just because you move away this year doesn’t mean you won’t be accepted back next year with open arms. For that matter, one can always dabble for a while (e.g., do a couple of PFs just to keep the old hand in) while other matters are at hand. I think that sometimes people are too categorical in their understanding of the team. Come and go as you please. That’s fine by me. I want folks to get whatever benefits it makes sense for them to get. I’m not breeding $ircuit debaters in the Sailor incubator, I’m simply doing my best to introduce folks to ideas they may not find elsewhere. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it 324,728 times: I don’t care how people do competitively (except insofar as I want everyone to do well because I like them, and I want their work to be rewarded). So the team does have an open door. When someone resigns from the team (as compared to just evanescing), I tell them that. They’re welcome back whenever. This isn’t the Mafia, you know.

So I wonder who won’t come back next year. People come, people go. I know that Horaceman, TSWAS, will be moving on (actually for none of the reasons cited above), and I’ve heard a few other rumblings hither and thither. I do hope that people who are just a little fearful of getting too far in over their heads do talk to me about it, so I can tell them what I’ve written here. I’ve only once tried to talk someone out of quitting the team, when I felt there was a misunderstanding between that person and myself, and I felt a need to explain that what this person might have thought was not the case. Otherwise, I truly believe that high school is a great time to try different things. Try this one, then try that one. Expose yourself to different ideas and different people. Try different activities. If not now, when?

(In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo – I’ve got poetry on the brain from reading Break, Blow, Burn. I stopped reading Words and Rules. Pinker may be God, but this book was really inside baseball: if you realllllyyyy like linguistics, it’s right up your alley, but it wasn’t about grand ideas, it was about specific linguistic mechanisms, and after a while I just got tired of it. One of the great joys of not going to school: if you don’t like a book, you can stop reading it.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

We need to be at POTC by five hundred hours, GMT, Sir!

Okay, I know that I have occasionally carped about too much WDW. My problem with people who go to WDW every year, to the exclusion of any other vacation (and I know way too many people who fit into this category), is the total lack of imagination involved. To be honest, I feel marginally the same about people who go anywhere every year, over and over again. Last I heard, the world out there was rather large (provided you don’t try to fly to it with a bottle of water in your hand, and you can overcome your fear of Bietz on a Plane), so foregoing taking in as much of it as you can strikes me as missing a good bet. The thing that makes Disney just a little higher on the scale of bad ideas for endless rinse and repeat is the nature of the beast itself. It is mostly a passive experience, and not much of a challenge to any part of your spirit; it’s just fun (if you like that sort of thing) where somebody else does all the work and you just sit there and look at it. Or ride through it. Life, being short, should include only a limited number of boat rides through It’s a Small World. Substitute a boat ride along the Seine, just once in a while. Or down the Mississippi. Or across San Francisco bay. Usually the waiting line is a lot shorter, and you won’t have to listen to you-know-what. So my brief against WDW isn’t critical, a la Baudrillard, but more mundanely based on the fact that it’s too easy, and you need to broaden yourself. That said, I will be going to WDW in May. And yes, I’ve gone a number of times before. The problem with the Disney drug is its success at doing what it does, while you just sit there and go along for the ride, but I do try to limit my intake to no more than a single dose every 5 years, which gives everyone in Orlando enough time to build enough new rides to make the enterprise worthwhile for me.

The thing is, we do travel a bit these days. Seen a lot of places, done a lot of things. And when we went on our last trip, to three central European cities we had never seen before, I spent a good couple of hours figuring marginally acceptable daily plans to cover what needed to be covered, and that was that and it all worked out fine. Going to WDW, on the other hand, requires at least as much planning as Eisenhower put into D-Day. The planning has already begun. I just ordered the 2007 Unofficial Guide (an invaluable resource for avoiding lines, which is the rationale for all this planning in the first place – if you could just walk in and do whatever you want to do and not run the risk of standing around doing nothing, you could just pick up a map on your way into the park and that would be the end of the angst) and some ancillary materials (don’t ask), I’ve already laid out a day-by-day plan (which Kt, who is on-board for the trip, has already revised), and I’ve even spent a few minutes staring at flights from White Plains in order to avoid the hassle of LaGuardia (a comparison could be made of the two comparable to the Orient Express in off-season Venice and the Times Square Shuttle during rush hour). Did you know that you can fly from White Plains to Orlando via Detroit and some other city I can’t even remember, and extend the trip for a full 10 hours! Boy howdy, that sounds like fun.

Of course, WDW also includes Universal, and the news that Back to the Future is closing is tantamount to learning that Mickey is a member of Al Qaeda. Oh, the humanity! Sigh. In any case, one does need a day each in US and IOA (the former of which has changed a lot since our last, the latter of which should be much more desirable in warm weather than in January, given the amount of water one gets splashed through). Probably also a day in ShamuWorld. So there is some time spent off the grounds, but to say that these places aren’t Disney is so say that linguini isn’t spaghetti; it’s true, but who really cares unless one happens to be a chef?

No doubt I will bore the VCA to tears with further discussion of all of this until the deed is done. Forgive me, and remember, I only do it twice a decade. As for you, you shouldn’t do it at all until you’ve seen Dubai, Siena, Bruges and a couple of Norwegian fjords, at the very least. (Me, I’m saving Dubai until they build an interesting building or two.)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

New York State is a Red Light District

Oh, great. NFL has been kicking this around at us for a couple of years now, and this week I got a message from the Rip-snortin' Ripon telling us to defend ourselves or face ignominy.

Well, facing ignominy is the way I play the game, goldarnit!

It really boils down to a couple of things, as I told them in my reply (and the crack heads of our committee concurred). First, we are what we are, because in New York, with regents and graduation the same time as Finals, we're lucky anybody wants to go. Second, we offer a rich forensics experience absent the NFL (we've got CFL, MHL and invitationals every week), so there's no organizational gap to fill beyond the district qualifier. And third, mixing us in with, say, NYC, would create a super-district that would seem to be to no one's advantage. In other words, we're at the highest numbers we're ever going to have, more or less, and tinkering with it will result, no matter how you slice it, in smaller numbers of members, not just of qualifiers to Finals. So, we'll see what happens. (And I'd be happy to share my letter with any interested party: just ask.)

So where does that leave us? Well, Red Light Status with NFL, waiting to hear about changes from NYSFL (it's been a year now), and defeated and downhearted over Modest Novice. Then there's lingering questions I have about the Legion of Doom (which I'll air shortly), the redesign of WTF (which makes it a lot harder to complain about), and Termite is coming home soon (we were hoping that he'd move to California and become a surf bum). On the plusses, there's sanguinity over the Bullpups, a newly organized (soon) MHL with OC's hand in the wallet, Bump is almost ready to post, and I'm coming to terms with Sept-Oct. Oh, yeah, and the megaPod is in the mail (I'm ripping Louis Armstrong meets Oscar Peterson even as I type this) and the wireless is rehooked up and there was enough room last night in the family room to watch the season finale of BL (with not one not two but three Star Treks represented-- I guess Wil was holding out for bigger bucks). Everything is, in other words, about as they always are.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Just when you thought it was safe to open your email

You know, I had thought we’d heard the last of this guy, but out of the blue…

Dear Mr. Menick:

How are you? I am fine. Thanks for asking.

We here at “the Parris Island of LD” are just about winding down now. Normally we broadcast a lot of hourly updates to keep family and friends apprised of what’s happening in our “mental basic training,” but this year, what with all the work going on with our new website, we just haven’t bothered (aside from posting the various arrest notices as they’ve occurred).

Yes, you heard it right. We are putting together a new website. I knew you would be thrilled about that.

Of course, we will continue all our normal coverage of tournaments around the country with pictures of schematics fresh from the printer and shout-outs of everyone who could afford to show up, plus our ruminative features like the “Our Head Is Empty Today Thread,” which I know is one of your personal favorites, not to mention our rotating header photos that occasionally include even you, which we only do because we know that normally your blood pressure is low and mellow, and we think occasionally you need to kick it up a notch. But also, we are proud to announce the following new features:

Coach Cribs: Is it true that most coaches live in doublewides with little more than a mattress on the floor, a six-pack of Bud Light, a year’s supply of Kraft macaroni and cheese, and a dog-eared copy of “The Social Contract for Dummies”? Our trips behind the doors of the the most famous faces on (drum roll) the circuit (end drum roll) will enlighten, enervate, and generally scare the bejesus out of most of our readers.

Pimp My Case: We have developed incredible new software that does what most debaters have only dreamed of. Simply submit any case into our Pimper (for a nominal fee) -- we prefer cases with three contentions, a simple and clear value structure, and a heavy reliance on John Locke and John Stuart Mill -- and within five minutes our software will turn it into a fully operative poststructuralist kritik quoting philosophers even we’ve never heard of, guaranteed to embarrass almost any judge on the circuit to granting you a win out of fear of admitting he or she hasn’t got a clue to what you’re talking about.

The Iron Debater: Meet our team of Iron Debaters: Derek Malfoy, Cantwait Parkyercarcass, and Tara Gonewiththewind, all fully risen former stars of (drum roll) the circuit (end drum roll). Each week a different unrisen present debater challenges one of our iron debaters to a match mano a mano, with only one hour to pick up the ballots from our panel of five non-English-speaking parent judges. This week’s Iron Debater ingredient: Objectivism!

We also have in progress for introduction later in the season a spinoff of “The O.C.” entitled “The OC,” the podcast horror story of a homeless young Jewish New Yorker who finds himself trapped on a California beach surrounded by endless starlets in thong bikinis, “Bietz on a Plane,” which is a self-explanatory attempt to reference the movie of the moment without going into a long diatribe about high concept, and finally a weekly advice column from Ann Coulter, where the noted pundit will help you find arguments against pretty much everything you even marginally believe in.

I hope you will enjoy visiting our new website when it is launched as much as we enjoyed creating it just for you, our biggest fan.

Your friend,
Herman Melville
Camp Counselor

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Yeah, I know the next iPods will walk on water; the next iPods always 1, walk on water, and 2, arrive in stores a week after you’ve bought the previous iPod. I can live with this, mostly because I’ve thought long and hard about the video aspect, and ultimately, it’s not that big a selling point for me. On the other hand, if they come out with the also rumored wireless to other iPods, then I’ll be kicking myself. I so want to connect through the ether to OC’s notorious heavy metal collection. In any case, the pod is in the mail, according to Amazon ($30 cheaper than Apple). Will I live to rue the day? Only time will tell.

And speaking of OC’s notorious heavy metal collection, Johnny, Tim and…Steve? Are you still living there with Burton, OC? Could you see if maybe he’s been bitten by rabid dogs or demented Tiks or something? Of course, there’s a possibility that Johnny’s baritone will surprise us all; his singing in Corpse Bride was passable, but “Who, sir? You, sir? How about a shave?” requires more than just hitting the notes. And he’s a lot younger than he ought to be, isn’t he? I mean, I know he’ll do his best, and Burton will knock off a nicely appointed mise en scene, but I don’t know, the whole thing sounds just wrong to me. Can you remember Elizabeth Taylor singing “Aren’t we a pair?” Come to think of it, Liz would make a pretty good Mrs. L, although she’s probably too old. So’s Angela, more’s the pity. Please not Helena B C; give her a rest, Tim, for pete’s sake. On the other hand, you have to give everyone involved credit for trying. They could have just gone on to make Batman 43.

So maybe my initial instincts were wrong (there’s a surprise). Maybe Sept-Oct isn’t absolutely terrible, just misguided. We talked about it last night at the chez, and I did a little research first, and yeah, I guess you could make a justice argument or two despite the fact that it’s all about policy, but we did sort of end up feeling that there’d be one standard aff and 100 random negs. (Private note to Richard, Jr: Foucault doesn’t apply, unless mumps are not real. Stay tuned for my hammer/nail lecture, Real Soon Now.) Still, at least we saw some reasonable areas of argumentation. I sent the Sailors off with the charge to do some research. There’s no doubt much to be learned if one studies the socialized medicine situations already extant. I will do likewise.

I’ve signed us up officially with the Bullpups, and begun communicating with them directly. I hate to admit that I’m rarin’ to go, but it’s true. I do miss debate when I’m not doing it. I miss the Sailors, I miss the tabfolk, I miss the buzz. Golf, which I always say dovetails so neatly in season with debate, simply is not the same. I could quit golf tomorrow and never miss it. I could not quit debate and never miss it. That is, I could quit it, but I’d miss it. But I don’t want you to think that I am going to quit it, because I’m beginning to enjoy the position of grayest eminence on the street (except I’m not gray, really; what’s the French word for “slightly receding hairline?”). Anyhow, I’ll go back to my original Yale notes and see what’s what and what needs to be done. Having bought that little copier might help. I just have to figure the best way to keep things moving with two divisions at the critical Saturday night juncture; the rest will work out fine.

The High Muckamuck Council of MHL has set a date for an organizational meeting (later in August). That’s me, Kurt and Cruz, who will be the runners of the organization going forward. I like having Bronx Science not as merely consumers of MHL but part of the operation, given that Sodikow was one of its original founders (as was, if I remember correctly, Malcolm Bump). Which of course means that I like having Jon firmly in place going forward as the Bronx coach. Jon seems interested in debate, if you know what I mean… (Cruz and Jon, by the way, for those of you who have trouble with nicknames, are various references to OC. I know, where’s the challenge in that?) Anyhow, the High Muckamuck Council will sort out the dates of tournaments, the venues, costs, trophies, operation, etc. I do want to use Chris Palmer’s registration software (which Yale and MFL uses). I’ll try to work something out with him when we’re in New Haven.

There seems to be a million things going on all of a sudden. For instance, Juan and Kwan and the stoners cut the cable, which is why my wireless wasn’t working. And it’s been fixed, so that’s one less headache. Then there’s some Legion stuff I’ve been avoiding, there’s the classification of NY State as a Red Light District (that doesn’t sound right) by the NFL (aaarrrghhh!) and all sorts of this and that, including, according to HoraceMan TSWAS, the film Zizek!. (Yep, it really exists, exclamation point and all.) Which means plenty of fodder going forward for the Vast Coachean Army. Aren’t you glad you visited today? You’ve spent five minutes learning all sorts of random nonsense, and added two new movies to your Netflix queue. And always remember: demons’ll charm you with a smile, for a while…

(Extra note: Holy crap! I just discovered there's also a film called Derrida!!!!! No Netflix queue is long enough for that puppy.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Breaking Wind 2

Captain's Log Supplemental: Bietz and I are now even. He gave me the Legion of Doom. I've just given him "TOC coverage in ex-Cruz-iating detail."

Breaking Wind!

Captain's Log Supplemental: My inner ascetic caved in less than two hours. 60 gigger should arrive Monday.

Got the home repair/health care/dead pod blues, mama

So here's the deal. For reasons I cannot figure out, I can't get the downstairs cable modem to do the modeming I have come to expect from it lo these many years. In a day or two I should hook up upstairs with a straightforward Ethernet connection, but that means, well, finding an Ethernet cable, among other things. This is just one downside to Juan and Kwan and the stoners and company. Chez HQ is almost completely out of commission; the latest addition was random sheets of plasterboard. I did manage to find a Konfabulator widget that allows me to ftp from work, but I am not big on doing non-work from the work venue. A place for everything and everything in its place, I always say. As long as work pays the bills, they ought to reap the benefits of my labor. And so they do. But desperate times call for desperate measures. I should be able to keep up with everything (I just put up a new Nostrum, last night I finished the rough cut of part 4 of caveman, I’m still percolating over a View from Tab podcast on values) but I will no doubt continue to whine until I’m totally settled back in again, with everything the way I want it. I have sent out directions to the Sailors about arriving for tonight’s chez meeting (don’t fall into any ditches, wear chainmail as protection against Tik pronounced teek, that sort of thing). Thank God we Tars are all made of stern stuff.

OC seems to think that there’s some gold in that thar Sept-Oct, but I’m still less than sanguine. Probably some halfway decent half-assed policy rounds will transpire, but one must extricate oneself out of all sorts of nastiness on the aff just to get started. People will be observing for ten or twenty minutes before they get around to doing any arguing. I had suggested to the NFL LD committee that topics, after they are agreed to, be sent to the District Chairs for a final language check, to find the landmines that might have been missed in the heat of June and Finals. But I’m not sure how I’d fix this one, to tell you the truth. I’m quite surprised it got enough votes, since it’s pretty clear that no matter how you slice it, it’s asking about government policy-making, and that throwing in the concept of justice, rather than making it an LD question, makes it neither fish nor fowl. Of course, there is a straightforward argument for government doing a lot vs. government doing a little: can you say Liberal? Or for that matter, can you say Socialism? A socialist system is “more just” than a non-socialist system? Aaargghh! But what else do you have? And don’t forget, Bill and Hillary already lost this case on the aff big time. If the Nick and Nora (Punch and Judy? Samson and Delilah? Falstaff and Lady Macbeth?) of politics couldn’t pull it off, how are you going to do it? My great fear, as always, is that, given the nature of the rez, we’ll end up with anti-capitalist kritiks, which would be bazookas against gnats except that they’re the wrong kind of bazookas, or anti-government screeds, or all sorts of unnecessary violence on the neg (who ought to win with little more than a smile and a song). And affs will have tortured, convoluted cases that will make most judges’ brains melt into cotton candy. Then again, my brain melted into cotton candy years ago; can you believe that I used to judge all the time, day in and day out, and was actually considered by some to be fairly good at it? Those were the days.

On the breaking news front (I love when WTF posts Breaking News, as if wishing would make it so; I personally feel they should use the headline Breaking Wind, but that’s just me), last night my old first gen iPod went into a coma. Poor old Grandpod. For some reason the screen won’t show anything anymore (although it does still otherwise seem to work, if one wants to click at random and hope for the best). I’ve reset it, and I’ll try reloading the software, but my guess is that the world’s oldest still-working iPod is on its way out. Oh, well, it’s not as if I haven’t lusted after a 5th gen since the minute they were released, but I was sort of hoping to hold out for a 6th gen. Although, realistically, I can’t imagine what I’d be holding out for. It’s not as if I really expect to watch oodles of films on this thing. Sure, the odd episode of “Simpsons” might entertain for a while on the bus, but beyond that, I’d rather watch on the biggest screen possible. If a bus ride’s all that short, I’ll just listen to music and do the puzzle, turning to DVDs on Little Elvis when we’re in for a really long haul (although lately I tend to drive my car, bus costs being what they are). Not to mention the video download times, which are not exactly magically fast; the few times I’ve grabbed video podcasts from my normal sites, I’ve been astounded at the inherent sloth of the enterprise. Anyhow, I’m curious to see how I’ll make out in this particular battle of instant gratification. I do not hold out much hope for my inner ascetic.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I shoulda stood in bed

I keep the voting list of LD topics we send in every year to the NFL. So far, the only one the Sailors voted for that got in was eminent domain (although I’ll point out that we didn’t vote for juvey justice only because it seemed so recently that we’d had the same topic, rather than any issues about the topic per se).

The newly released Sept-Oct, that a just government should provide health care to its citizens, would have been on the list of topics that never came close to getting our vote. Not that I have anything against the subject of governments providing health care; not to put too fine a point on it, but I debated that myself when I was a freshman in high school (it was called socialized medicine back then; the world, at the time, was still perceived as flat, if you’re trying to place the date). The subject of health care is a fascinating one: given the intrinsic high cost of the beast, there’s no question that certain people without the wherewithal could be denied care if they were given no government assistance. Some countries have universal health care; maybe it’s good, maybe it’s bad. England has free dentistry: if you know anything about English teeth, you’ll understand why the last time I went to England, when my tooth broke off on the airplane as we were landing in Heathrow, I waited till I came home to do anything about it. I would imagine I could do whole bunches of research and come up with all sorts of information on costs, compared to ability to pay, mixed in with need (poor people can’t afford Jaguars, but they also don’t need them, which is why health care is seen as a right in some places) and effectiveness. And if you’re halfway clever, you’ve read what I’ve written so far and clearly seen pretty much all the ways this topic will play out in rounds (or, at least, decent rounds that address the resolution, such as it is, rather than swatting at it, much as they would like to). There’s only one problem: the wording says (implicitly, for the negative) that a government is unjust if it doesn’t provide health care to its citizens. Talk about wanting to flip neg! By this logic, the US government, prior to Medicare/Medicaid in the 60s, was unjust. Thus Norway is more just than the US, because it provides more health care. Let’s face it: the US is pretty punk in the free health care department.

Here’s the core LD conundrum: is this issue a question of our good old friend justice? The problem with government providing (note that word, providing) health care is the problem of government taking on a very big responsibility that it may or may not be capable of discharging. The question of whether it is capable or not is, no matter how you slice it, a question of policy. Will it work? Can it work? Which government are you talking about (since size is a crucial element in this particular policy debate, because it may be easier to provide health care to a few million Norse versus 300 million Americans versus 3 billion Chinese, and it doesn’t say USA anywhere in that topic that I can see)? The question the resolution asks is, in essence, SHOULD a government do this? Is the government unjust if it doesn’t do it? The resolution asks you to evaluate the correctness of a government’s actions, but the nature of the debate arena (LD) prevents the presentation of the most crucial arguments (policy) for making any determination. All those who have complained that, of late, LD resolutions have been too policy-like have finally found their ideal example.

So I can see what will happen. As I said, the basic (polician) arguments are clearly buried in the above paragraphs. And they’ll be strewn with tittles of evidence that prove absolutely nothing. Even remotely providing the justness of action will be unlikely in the extreme. The rounds will be, in a word, cacophonous.

On the other hand, the pre-game prep will be illuminating to one and all. The subject is new to LD (at least for the last decade or so), which means everybody involved will be tossing new information into their heads for a few weeks, and that’s always a good thing. So if there’s any need to demonstrate that the educational value of LD is in everything but the actual competition, all of those who voted for this topic will get to see it first hand.

Any wonder why I’ll be hiding out in the tabroom? Look for me under my copy of The Modest Novice.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Atwitter, all quiet on the Western front, iWork, I print, the pomo song of the day

I guess all the LD world is atwitter over the release of the new topic tomorrow. And I guess I share the atwitterness, although obviously from a different perspective than the average debater. The problem with Sept-Oct is, of course, that it must be shared with the novices, who come on board weeks after everyone else has at least partially launched. Then they debate it maybe twice before going on, and yadda yadda yadda—all the reasons I was pushing the Modest Novice. Oh, the sadness of the lost opportunity. There is a small part of me that hopes Sept-Oct is the dog of all time, just so I can wallow in self-satisfaction, but then again, there will be novices on the pad, to be ignited and lifted off, and I hate to see them hamstrung (or, I guess to keep the analogy going, I hate to see their heating tiles burning off before they escape the atmosphere, but then again, that may be going just a tad too far).

Things seem awfully muted over at LOL these days. Given that they’re in the middle of camp, I expect much more camper-of-the-millisecond hi-mom eat-your-heart-out-because-we’re-here-and-you’re-not kind of stuff for which the site is so infamous, but I had heard hints that they might be toning things down a bit, and, thankfully, they have. Not that I’m accusing them of actually providing any content at the moment—they’re no more full of anything to say than I am—but at least they’re not pretending otherwise for a change. Granted, web rule number one is to keep content changing if you want visits, but then again, it has to be more than just a shuffling of the deck chairs.

I bought iWork with my gift certificate. I’ve been staring at it for a while, and now I had the perfect excuse. It’ll make for, I hope, more sophisticated word processing than old AppleWorks. I’ll let you know. I haven’t loaded it yet, because it was a fairly busy weekend at the chez with one thing or another (furniture assembly, poker, days away enjoying the summer). Tonight or tomorrow, depending on what else is going on, I’ll do it. Little Elvis is sitting there panting, his tongue hanging out, just waiting to get loaded up.

I also bought a cheap new printer, with a copying function. I’ve been looking for a while for something a little more portable than what I have, and throw in the ability to make copies, always desirable when one is camping in a tabroom, and I couldn’t resist. It’s an HP, so it’s not as if I went off on an off-brand bender or anything. I’ll have to test it thoroughly, of course, before throwing it into the fray, but I have no reason to expect anything other than that it will work admirably. You may come by at Yale and pat its little head, if you’re so inclined.

And if you’ve got nothing better to do than listen to a musical version of the old Baudleroo on Disneyland, you might wish to check out this link (Blogger doesn't see it when I post it directly as a link, go figure.)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Computer skills, dislocation, tales from the Bible

Okay, no one is going to be coming to me to buy Coachean-designed images anytime soon, but I am of frail and flighty constitution, and limited resources, so my process is to grab the first free graphic I can dig up on the internet, plop it into PhotoShop, give up on PhotoShop, plop it into Quark (!), add on a text box, dig through my random fonts until one looks faintly presentable, print the screen (are you believing this?), clip down to the art and save the clip as a jpeg, open the jpeg in PhotoShop, futz, save, post.

In other words, I am a computin’ demon, if the name of your game is workarounds. Of course, I’m really not a PhotoShop user, so there you are. On the other hand, I can make Excel stand on its head and spit nickels, so what can I say? We all have our different talents.

Anyhow, I’m still working this whole thing through, but I’m beginning to get a sense of it. Along these lines, last night I began recording part 4 of Caveman (on modernism), and I’d really like to finish that first before taking on a new project. But by the same token, I have this riff on values that I really want to get out. Busy, busy, busy. It is getting progressively more annoying to have my hard drive in one room, my internet in another room, and my printer in yet another room. It’s not the stoners that are slowing down progress (that’s Juan), it’s the other guy (Kwan). Not that he isn’t working away, but it’s a slow process; the chez now looks like the northernmost region affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Am I the only person in the world who noticed that Cheney said, A vote against Lieberman is a vote for Al Qaeda? My problem with the Democrats is that they don’t have any Cheneys. It’s like Billy and Goliath: Billy is the guy who tried to kill Goliath before David came along. Goliath stepped on Billy’s head and crushed it down to the size of a Swedish meatball. The Democrats are the party of Billys. Where’s their Goliaths?

Speaking of which, how come no one ever names their kid Goliath anymore? Talk about names that are totally available…

Thursday, August 10, 2006

If you can read this, you can read anything

When I’m awfully low
And the world is cold
I will feel a glow
Just thinking of you
And the way you look

Lyrics by Dorothy Field. I’ve broken the lines according to my poetic logic.

There is something incredibly appealing about many of the lyrics in the Great American Songbook, that collection of tunes often also referred to as Standards. One feels that the audience for this music—and it’s definitely the mass market audience—is treated as if it has brains in its head.

When an ass in Astrakhan can… (baby you can can-can too).

Okay, it’s not poetry for a lush Kern tune, but it’s pretty damned clever of Mr. Porter, who was more often than not pretty damned clever. Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it… Then again, he did have some awfully good poetry in him:
Do you love me, as I love you
Are you my life to be, my dream come true
Or will this dream of mine fade out of sight
Like the moon growing dim, on the rim of the hill
In the chill, still, of the night

Dim/rim, hill/chill/still – pretty busy internally there.

Of course, there are those who expect rhymed words not to be spelled identically.

Old Man Sunshine, listen, you,
Never tell me dreams come true,
Just try it, and I'll start a riot

You/true, try it/riot. That’s Ira, “But Not for Me.” His brother (a fairly decent songsmith in his own right) wrote the music that goes along with it. Favorite line:
When every happy plot,
Ends in a marriage knot,
And there's no knot for me.

Then there’s those references lyricists simply expected people to understand.
I hope and I pray
For a Hester to win just one more A

Meredith Willson. All right, perhaps less Great American Songbook, but listen to “The Music Man,” which may be one of the most perfect scores ever written for the stage. It’s also one of the smartest, while never showing off about it. I love Sondheim, but he can’t do that, at least not by himself. On the other hand, when someone else is at the keyboard:
Once my clothes were shabby
Tailors called me, "Cabbie"
Got so rough I took a vow
Said this bum'll
Be Beau Brummel

Time together with time to spare,
Time to learn, time to care,
Some day!

Maybe he never should have learned to play the piano.

I guess I’m in a mellow mood today, for some bizarre reason. I’ve sent off all my Legion requests to the gods and gurus of the northeast, I spent last night updating the how-to-judge document, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. thinking it was morning because the moon was so bright and my head spun with Bump for about two hours, I’ve started Pinker’s Words and Rules about which I’m sure I’ll have more to say soon, I discovered that Yahoo has updated the groups sites, I’ve been trying to figure out some way to get on more roller coasters after the Cyclone and the Pennsylvania roadtrip, and I’ve even created a new graphic for my tentative new set of podcasts. So as I say, where did this mellow mood come from?

I like New York in June.
How about you?
I like a Gershwin tune.
How about you?
I like a fireside when a storm is due.
I like potato chips, moonlight and motor trips.
How about you?

Later in the song, and Franklin Roosevelt’s looks give me a thrill. People often update that. Sinatra says James Durante’s looks, but then again, Sinatra never was one for a canonical approach to his material. If Sinatra did it his way, that was the new canon, I guess. I was watching some movie recently and they played “In the Wee Small Hours” but instead of it being Sinatra, it was orchestrated exactly the same way with someone else pretending to be Sinatra. Can’t be done, and it ruined the whole movie for me. If you can’t get the rights, play a different song, or if you must play it, play it a different way. Jeesh. Did they think there’s anyone in the universe who wouldn’t know the difference?

I own more Sinatra albums than you can shake a stick at. I want to buy Lenine. And that guy who’s name I forget (but I’ve bookmarked it). And more Peyroux. And Keb Mo. And Johann Strauss (#2). I think I’m beginning to understand Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker, but maybe not.

I think it all goes back to that waking up at 3:30 last night. What I really need is a nap!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Termites, Tiks, talks, torpor, Tars

Dept of Clarification: My whole thing about institute cases was in response to the tendency of some campers to run their camp cases unchanged at tournaments, not in criticism of the concept of camp cases per se, or the practices of camps in developing those cases. This should put young Termite’s mind at rest, at last, that the entire purpose of CL is not to attack him heart, soul and spirit. I know in my own heart, soul and spirit that Termite is the last person on earth who would suggest that he run a camp case at Yale. When he returns to the Ship of Hud I know he will run to me eagerly, his puppy eyes open wide, his tail wagging, and he will beg me for the benefit of my wisdom on Sep-Oct. At which point I’ll swat his nose with a rolled-up newspaper, call him a bad dog, and go on about my business.

Speaking of warm and cuddly, for those members of the VCA who believe that we should simply write about cats, your challenge today is to “Find the Spine.” How does one twist oneself up like that?

I’m really starting to entertain seriously the idea of a semi-regular podcast on debate issues. Having put up another Nostrum yesterday, and realizing beyond question that this is entirely a vanity pursuit (and not even in aid of my own vanity, given that Jules and the Nostrumite get all the glory), and meanwhile ruminating over values and criteria after reading McNeil’s latest on OMG, I realize that I am semi-regular in my desire to hold forth (consider the recent piece on Running the Rez), I’m getting reasonably adept at it despite the fact that my vocal tone never would have earned me the Darth Vader job over James Earl Jones (although I do have an inclination to sneak into OC’s tent late at night and wake him up out of a sound sleep and say, “Cruz, I am yaw fah-thah”), and most of all, there are some ideas that just work better delivered mouth to ear rather than hand to eye. We’ll see.

And I’ve begun seriously the Legion of Doom PosterBoy work. What fun. My barrage of emails has begun; I’ll hit all my targets by the end of the week. Meanwhile, I continue my simmering ire over the fact that nothing happens on the communications front. I’ll give ‘em another day or two and then launch. Again. Sigh.

The chez is now in total disarray. The stoners broke a hole in the back of HQ, which should become a door some time today. I disconnected all sorts of wires and cables, but miraculously the wireless still worked last night when all was said and done, while the TV is an enormous heavy lump just taking up space in the middle of the room. And I could have used a nice “House” last night instead of various Bump invite update chores I ended up with. I did have a lovely surprise visit from one of the crack heads of the Sailors: Ben came by to deliver a wonderful thank-you from the team, which I must admit touched my hard little heart. I’m only in this for the money, of course, and the fact that there isn’t any doesn’t deter me because I have my sights set on some of those $5K posting fees O’C is always collecting. So when the Tars make a statement like this…it makes me feel proud of them, and proud to work with them. No irony. No jokes. It’s probably the best thing I get to do. Thanks, guys.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Institute cases <> tournament cases

Methinks, from a comment he posted, that Termite feels that I was aspersing him personally when I suggested we would knock any ideas about Sept-Oct out of his head when he returns to the Ship of Hud from the Dinghy of Camp. In fact, this was a reference to the traditional uselessness of institute cases in the real world of tournament debates. There’s a number of reasons for this (and I’m not casting aspersions at OMG here for a change, but at institutes in general). First of all, most of the topic analysis at institutes is done by people who were not born before Reagan left the White House, so they don’t bring a wealth of experience to their analysis. This is not to say that the analysis of old fogies is better always than the analysis of young Turks, but the old fogies do tend to have a broader perspective by virtue of the arithmetically larger amount of accrued experience from their advanced years, and that broader perspective can prove valuable in analyzing a resolution. Secondly, topic analyses at institutes can be kneejerk. That is, they must needs be arrived at quickly, and the first ideas that come to mind may not be the best ones. In the normal process of analyzing a topic, for a number of weeks from the moment one hears it, followed by research, followed by deciding on a competitive approach or two, a lot can happen in one’s brain in one’s understanding of that topic. The longer you think about it, the more you see. The likelihood that your original thoughts are equal to your final thoughts is slim; by the same token, I would suggest that the Jan-Feb cases run the first week of January bear little resemblance to the Jan-Feb cases run by the same people at TOCs. And third, the institute approaches, including the research, are fairly public domain by the time the tournaments begin. Everybody knows what those cases are, they’ve been argued from here to Tuesday, and they’ve lost any appeal they might have in the area of freshness. Sometimes this may not matter, on a more standard sort of resolution, but if certain ideas have been carefully studied and analyzed for a while, it does tend to give your opponents a leg up when you go about presenting those exact ideas. Not that I’m supporting stealth debating, of course, but a little mystery does provide for a little romantic allure, eh?

Does this undermine the value of institutes? Not really. I think that debaters serious about the activity pretty much benefit overall from the institute experience. This is merely one aspect of that experience that I have seen borne out annually since my personal Day One. In other words, I am passing along my broader perspective by virtue of the arithmetically larger amount of accrued experience I have from my advanced years.

It’s not easy being almost the oldest person in debate (there are one or two more doddering even than I, if you can believe it). Oh, the burdens.

In any case, I’m happy to see that Termite, despite being deep in the process of institute indoctrination (I think he’s at the part where he’s learning never to go all-in with a pair of 3s on the first hand), manages to find time to do his reserve work in the VCA.

I’ve sent off the rooming list to the New Haven hotel. The game is afoot, in other words. I’ve been thinking about doing a podcast about it, i.e., about the whole inside-the-tabroom thing. I don’t know if anyone would be interested, including myself, but a sort of audio diary of the event, as it happens (plus leading up to it) might be of some amusement. I’ll think about it. I had hoped to do part 4 of Caveman over the last weekend, but my malaise took down my voice, so I couldn’t even do that. Aaaarrghhh! Still, I do hope to have all of Caveman recorded by the beginning of the school year. Considering its length, it will take a whole school year for anyone to listen to it. Be brave, VCA!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Man versus germ

I spent the weekend ravaged by disease. I have courageously overcome it, however, and assure the VCA that I will soon be my old self, or something closely resembling it. I have little to report, since my head was in a vise, as they say, since Friday. I couldn’t even watch television; thank God for podcasts. Plug Nano directly into brain and lie there dying listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me—it’s a great way to go.

Nevertheless… the Legion of Doom is a most curious beast. When I finally moved myself into the living room yesterday to collect what I expected to be voluminous mail on two issues, I was rather struck by the lack of voluminosity. First, I’ve canvassed the board for their help getting the tournament policies accepted in their regions, and second, I was, as I mentioned not long ago, trying to drum up business for a Legion blog. Totally mum on the former. As for the latter, while the general opinion, such as it was, was that the communications device, be it blog or board, should be limited to legionnaires, and there were a couple of actual suggestions of where and how to do it and offers for same, it became clear from the ensuing inertia that the bottom line problem was that there is no real authority in the Legion, i.e., no one to say yea or nay. Granted that it is not so much an action group as an advisory group, but even bloviators have to have a chief bloviator to announce that this bloviation, whatever it may be, is the bloviation that counts. Every posse needs a sheriff. The two facilitators of the group, Eric the Ex-Sailor and Smilin’ J, aren’t it. The board isn’t it. The membership isn’t it. Personally I think everybody is just too busy for this stuff, although they believe in it strongly, and I can understand that, but it’s a lousy excuse nevertheless. Given the Legion’s founding premise that LD is committing suicide and that the Legion was dedicated to making that not happen, it would seem that the need for action would intrinsically trump any other impulses, especially when that action is creating a forum for ways to prevent suicide. As the poet said, it’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma served on a bed of field greens with a lemon vinaigrette…

For fans of DMV, the site should be going into its student-of-the-minute mode soon. Termite is out there, soaking up the California sun. No doubt he’ll be student-of-the-minute eventually; by my calculation, two weeks of minute-by-minute students should insure full coverage for all. No doubt we’ll be seeing his picture in the masthead, picking his nose or something. (I hate it when they rotate to my picture. It’s like if Dick Cheney’s picture rotated on my website: I wonder how it got there and contemplate the inherent contradiction of face and content. At least I’m not picking my nose.) Still, I’m fond enough of OC to send him a present, and I just tucked it into the mail. With luck it will survive the journey, and on arrival, pull him away from his Intergalactic Posting Computer long enough to give the rest of us some much needed relief.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bullpups and construction, Big Bronx and traffic jams, Legion of Doom and communication, the truth about PosterBoy

I’m closing down Yale signup shortly. I think we’ve got everyone organized; next step is a rooming list to the hotel, then actual registration. Then I’ve got to set up some chez meetings to discuss the topic, provided there’s a chez to meet in. The stoners are working their way around the building, and there’s new windows (about half of the ones in Chez HQ but they aren’t nailed down yet). The leaders of our two work crews are the poetic pair Kwan and Juan. If I run into either of them I nod and quickly scurry off, leaving them to go about their business without asking me what they should do next. As if I know. Anyhow, we’ll chez it up in the sun room, although it’ll be at night, which makes it the moon room. Maybe we can toast marshmallows and fireflies.

I’ve also just put in a registration for Big Bronx. Since OC has me working in the tab room, I might as well bring a team along. It’s going to be Grand Central in there, by the way, with the usual suspects in LD, the Rev in Pffft, Sabrina and Stefan in Policy with Dr. Glass as some sort of eminence grise, plus special guests stars TBD, plus the famous Foods of the World Unite cuisine team, plus the usual collection of 328 Bronx novices wondering what to do next. Thank God we’re passing on the Beginner’s MHL this year, otherwise the chance of getting any sleep would be nil. Although I do understand that OC has already begun writing his awards speech. Talk about Fidel Castro and standing in the sun for three hours!

The thought of a new season just rings my bell…

I’ve picked up the Legion of Doom business again. I had set aside the PosterBoyism for a couple of reasons, like being busy for one, but also feeling that it was just a little too quiet on that front, given that they had allegedly met in June. What happened, wondered I. Well, notes finally arrived, and mostly what happened is that I was supposed to be farming for tournament director commitments and they were going to figure some way to communicate among themselves. Maybe it’s just me, but the amount of listserve communication that ensued over the communication issue was sort of fun, indicative shall we say of the need to do the deed. Personally I don’t care all that much what they decide to do, but I hope they do it before the Rapture. I prefer the fleetfootedness of our friends at WTF. You don’t see them dickering over what to do. They just give OC $5000 and something gets done. That’s the way it should be for everyone. I did refer the Legion to this blog for the purpose of citing an example of the genre, but I haven’t read any responses after that. They were no doubt so appalled that the ones who haven’t pulled up stakes are simply too numb to do anything but wonder, Wait a second. Legion of Doom? But…that’s…US!!!

Yeah, well. They don’t know me all that well, most of them. I mean, I think I was just thought of as some random eminence grise (your term for the day, I guess) of the conservative stripe who at the very least was capable of writing an email, which is why I was tapped for PosterBoy. They were right, but if they ventured further they would have uncovered the bile, the monomaniac fascination with (and confusion about) architecture, the Herman Melville correspondence, the logorrhea, the lurking postmodernism, the pointless podcasts (speaking of which, I put up a new Nostrum last night, the heat notwithstanding), the male GRL thing, the lack of understanding of about half of what comprises LD these days, the disdain for the national $ircuit… Most likely I won’t have added too many of them to the Vast Coachean Army when all of this is said and done.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

In a Shanghai noodle factory

Get a load of this.

I happened to catch the briefest glimpse of Shanghai last night on television, some architect being interviewed about something or other. I didn’t catch many of the details, except that he claimed that 90% of Shanghai’s architecture is dreadful, and that the scale of the city is dramatic, and becoming more dramatic (i.e., tall) by the minute. It is becoming virtually a city of skyscrapers, eliminating much of any Chinese-ness that may be lingering on the ground.

Looking at the picture, I would have to say that his claim of 90% dreadful is rather generous. It looks like someone was running to a planning meeting for EPCOT and tripped and dropped all the scale models, and then photographed the resulting random mess.

In the ongoing saga of the narrative of architecture, we’ve certainly touched on the idea of cities attempting to make statements for themselves. Up-and-comers who want to become big players have to look the part. The tallest buildings, and -- if we equate height with sonics -- the biggest statements, are, in order, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur (2 & 3), Chicago, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhau, Shenzhen, NYC, and Hong Kong. Of the next 10, Chicago gets two more hits (but you’ll never be NYC, guys), N. Korea, Dubai (another bowl of architectural leftover soup) and Australia come on to the list, but the rest are still in one of the Chinas. Are the Chinese trying to tell us something? Of that top 20, the newest American building is 1974; the oldest is 1931 (Empire State). The newest, in Wuhan, is still under construction.

What I like about some of the Asian buildings is the maintenance of a cultural sense despite all that height. Taipei 1 especially has that pagoda thing going for it, and there’s no question that this is a building that belongs where it is. The Oriental Pearl Tower, on the other hand, that thing in Shanghai that looks like some sort of tower-of-terror ride, which is taller than all the buildings on the list except for Taipei (it’s a tower, not a building), is a structure that belongs nowhere. Even if one likes it, and I don’t want to make a judgment from a couple of photographs, it doesn’t parse very easily. Aside from giving you a feeling that it belongs in a World’s Fair, it could be anything. Or nothing.

But then again, arguments could be made against a building holding to its ethnic roots, if that building is attempting to made a statement of modernism. The total lack of ethnicity in the UN Building certainly makes sense: which ethnic should it be? The Seagrams building, which is generally the same idea, could similarly be anywhere. Modern = urban untied to tradition. Should the business of the 21st Century take place in an ethnic-free environment? That would be a question architects would have to ask, given that the business of the 21st Century will, for the most part, not be building-bound: the internet does away with that.

The architectural overload of a Shanghai or Dubai does seem to have a dramatic effect on the ground level life. People still do, somehow, have to live in these places. As the scale of the places shifts to accommodate world trade, how does that shift affect the poor schmegeggie trying to run a hot dog stand (or a whatever-it-is stand, given that these and other striving countries are probably not of the franks-and-beans persuasion)? As I began, that architect I heard last night was bemoaning the passing of the old, street-level Shanghai. Do we end up setting aside urban preserves for tourists, ubiquitous “old towns” where people can see simulacra of the way people here used to live, and now you can buy trinkets and “tourist menu” dinners and get tickets to a genuine show of classical performance, locating these old towns in some easily accessible hotel-surrounded area with a fast train connection direct to the airport, and the entire place that once was no longer is?

Damn. I’m getting more postmodern by the minute.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

LD debate theory

I was reading OC’s interview with Eric Barnes, one of the centurions of the Legion of Doom. OC earned his $5K with that one. It’s about as long as any speech Fidel Castro’s ever given, only at least you don’t have to stand out in the sun to read it. However, there is interest over at DMV in LDEP, so OC’s questions about it are understandable. America wants to know, and all that. As a legionnaire myself, I’ve had the odd discussion with Barnes about various subjects (he’s an ex-Sailor, although not under my admiralty), with some agreement and some disagreement. I’ve never figured out the benefit of his speaker-point system, for instance, which I’ve always felt addresses a problem that doesn’t much exist. That is, since the people who get top speaker awards at tournaments are usually people who probably should get top speaker awards, why expend the energy to challenge something that is, arguably, working fine, especially when there’s plenty that isn’t?

What I got caught up in from the interview, without much satisfaction, is the question of theory arguments. I have to admit I’m at a loss here. There is little doubt in my mind that if I understood the concept of theory arguments--which I dont--I would probably categorize them with any in-round approach that doesn’t argue the actual resolution, on the premise that if one of us came here to discuss, say, capital punishment, and the other one came here to argue the meaning of a criterion, it is the former debater who would pretty much win by default, no different than if the one debater came to talk about the topic and the other debater came to discuss auto repair. It’s merely a matter of degree. But my problem is, I haven’t got a clue to what a theory argument is supposed to be. Neither did Barnes, really, and he treaded some water there until the next question came along, although I liked his point about debating with the judge rather than your opponent.

So I guess I have two questions. First, what is a theory argument? Second, presuming the answer to be what I think it is, how is a debate round the relevant place to conduct that argument? What I said about debating the resolution, although I was mostly thinking along the lines of kritiks, holds even more true here. Arguing debate theory, in a debate, doesn’t make any sense. It’s the wrong place for it. It’s like arguing legislation in a courtroom. Legislation—the making of rules—is conducted in places specifically set aside for such making. Courtrooms—the applying of the rules—is conducted in places specifically set aside for such applying. The place for the one is not equipped, intrinsically, to do the other. While, granted, a question of rules could arise in a round, and heaven knows the rules for LD are loosey-goosey at best, attempting to change the presumed rules in the middle of a game, as compared to before the game is begun, is what people do in kindergarten. If you agree to play the game, you agree to the rules. If you wish to challenge the correctness of the rules, you can’t do it while you’re playing the game because your challenge intrinsically invalidates the integrity of the game. If the game has no integrity, it might as well not happen.

It seems to me that debate theory is a fine thing. It ought to be discussed. It ought to be clear. It ought to be agreed to by the general universe of debaters. It ought to be an organic thing that can adjust when the need arises. But trying to do that in a round makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

Am I missing something here?