Monday, July 30, 2007

Tis a puzzlement; time marches on; shin-guards for Declaimers; peace on the camp front

For reasons that elude me, I will have no speech entries for the Pups. As of today all of the Sailors’ Speecho-Americans have bowed out (not that all that many signed up in the first place). We will need to figure this out when the season begins, but I sense a need for re-grooving. Not wanting to go to Yale simply does not compute in the forensiverse. Usually it’s the other way around, you have to fight them off, given that it’s three days of goofing around on a nice campus in nice weather with great competition. As I say, re-grooving may be in order.

Whatever you do, never write anything about technology. It moves way too fast. (Note: Copies of Lingo are still available on Amazon.) I managed last week to post a Nostrum episode that had chat rooms and ubiquitous program disks from AOL, written just as IMs were making it big. Time’s fun when you’re having flies, as Kermit said. Meanwhile a recent TWIT was considering the possible end of email (which I think is migrating to the telephone as texting). Life is just one damned thing after the other.

There’s a whole song and dance orthodoxy on dressing for success, and dressing for speaking, if one wants to extend last week’s discussion on maintaining team standards. Your clothes should not detract, they should make a statement of professionalism, etc. The only analogy in high school that I have subsequently been able come up with for dressing for debate in de rigeur but seemingly non-essential outfits is cheerleading, where everyone in the activity dresses a certain way and there’s no immediately apparent need to do so. Then again, I couldn’t think of very many competitive activities that had no uniforms, although often the uniforms were only important for performing the activity when it came to the footwear aspect; e.g., baseball, where there’s no problem knowing which team is which, yet they dress uniformly from team to team, while there is indeed a need for a runner to wear cleats. For that matter, there is also a need for a batter to wear a helmet. Here there’s a direct connection to debate. I have often proposed that debaters be required to wear helmets, at least in bubble rounds. So far no one’s taken me up on this.

And, for what it’s worth, WTF is on short rations for the next week as the hoi have left the camp and only the polloi have stayed behind. Will this lessen the ex-cruz-iating coverage? One can only pray.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bump and Policy — You don't want to hear this

I’ve just come to something of a bleak realization. My ceasing Policy at Bump, coupled with NFA’s ceasing, well, NFA, eliminates two major fall tournaments for the Policians in the region. It becomes very difficult to separate cause and effect, but this can’t be too helpful for those schools with strong, active Policy programs. As local opportunities disappear, one is forced to travel, if one can afford it, but budgets are limited and benefits must be weighed against costs. Policy, in effect, gets squeezed out, and teams either shrink or migrate to other activities. Undoubtedly there remain strong programs in the NY and NJ UDLs, but there is no arguing that policy in the northeast is not what it once was. And it probably won’t ever be that again. One wonders why.

I can’t speak to policy on a national level. I have no idea what its relative strength is today compared to the past. Obviously once upon a time debate was policy, period, but when LD was invented, debate was one or the other, and now with Pffft, debate is one or the other or yet the other still. I have always been agnostic about the benefits of one aspect of forensics compared to others; I have always felt that all the activities are beneficial, only in different ways. I value OO as highly as Extemp as highly as LD. I value all of them. One gains differently from each, but undoubtedly one gains.

Still, policy is fading from my region, no matter how you slice it. And as I said, one has to wonder why. Because if an activity comes and goes after being very popular, or at the very least if it loses its popularity, we need to realize that the same thing could happen to any other specific activity. Any one of them could fade away. But if we believe in the value of that activity—because, as I say, they are all valuable but in different ways, and those differences can be important on the level of the individual student—then we want to protect it. We need to know if there was something about the one that did fade away that could have been prevented. That is, is there a lesson to be learned from it? If so, we’d better learn it and apply it to other activities before they fade away too.

What lessons can we learn from policy’s fading in the region? I speak only from my own perspective, as the director of a tournament that hosted 70-80 policy teams a year in two divisions and has eliminated those divisions. What informed my decision? Did I see problems inherent to the activity? Frankly, the answer is yes. And are they problems that could affect anyone, in any activity? Yes.

Coaches/leadership is the first problem. The number of policy teams registering for Bump without benefit of coach is what originally led me to my tournament policy of no unchaperoned entries (although LD was eventually also flouting this unacceptable independence). Whether these teams had or didn’t have coaches notwithstanding, they were traveling alone, to an overnight destination, no doubt to the deception of someone somewhere back home. Were there not enough coaches/parents to go around? Needless to say, the technical nature of policy can preclude parent involvement to a great extent. It is moot whether that should be the case vis-à-vis the activity per se, but the need for parent involvement with the team is not moot. If parents cannot judge, they can and must chaperone. If an activity becomes entirely high school kids competing in front of college kids, so be it, perhaps, but all of these people are kids, and that’s a problem. Age does not guarantee maturity but lack of age does guarantee lack of adult supervision, and unsupervised kids do things they shouldn’t do. They did them at Bump, and they did/do them elsewhere, mischievous acts ranging from simple thefts to malicious destruction of property. Would adult supervision guarantee these wouldn’t have happened? Of course not. Would adult supervision act as a deterrent? Of course. Feel free to argue about this, but not with me. To paraphrase Ethel Merman, call me Mr. Birdseye because I am frozen on this.

Lessening standards of protocol is a second problem. One dresses in a businesslike manner for a variety of reasons when making a presentation. At most tournaments nowadays, everyone is dressed in a businesslike manner except for the Policians, who are dressed for nothing more exacting than a day at the mall (I’m being kind here). Most professional actors will tell you that the wardrobe for a character goes a long way in dictating that character’s actions. If you dress in a tuxedo, you will act as if you are in a tuxedo. A business suit, you will act as if you are in a business suit. Gang colors, and you will act as if you are in a gang. My point is that the unprofessional appearance of most policy debaters can be said to lead to unprofessional behavior. Even absent this, when you’re trying to convince your principal to open his doors to 400 or so students from the outside world, when they look like little lawyers you are in much better stead than when they look like little criminals. Of course, I go further and suggest that the little criminal attire leads to little criminal behavior.

There are other reasons why I dropped policy that have nothing to do specifically with the behaviors of Policians. But these two are major. At the point where I have vague numbers of unchaperoned students I do not know who show, at least in their appearance, no interest in suitable tournament behavior, or at least what we tend to accept as the normal sense of suitable tournament behavior judging by every other activity, and I have incident after incident of misbehavior, what other decision can I make? One could make all sorts of arguments about policy getting too parochial and showing how that has affected its popularity, and they may be true, and they may apply to other activities as well (most notoriously, these days, LD), but if these two issues (or more specifically, their lack)—adult supervision (coach or parental) and professional physical appearance—hit any activity the way they have hit local policy, the results will be the same. No one will want those students in their buildings.

(There is one marginal argument that can be made about appearance, that some teams may not be able to afford the outfits, the business suits. Not true. All teams can afford ties and dress shirts. Anyone can afford a decent pair of shoes that don’t have a sport attached to them. You don’t have to suit up at Armani, in other words, to look good. You need to be neat, hatless, tucked in and scrubbed up a bit, and you’re 90% of the way there and 100% acceptable.)

The bottom line here is that it is coaches who have allowed policy to become its own little universe of funk in a universe otherwise comprising little lawyers. Funk is as funk does. Allow LDers to look funky, and LD will get funky. One wonders if the funk is an offshoot of some sort of arrogance, but honestly, arrogance is not unique to policy. Or debate. Or forensics. Yet if arrogance is allowed to prosper, or if appearances foster that arrogance, nothing good will come of it. In other words, whatever line you’re in forensics-wise, be careful. If the responsible adults are not in charge, you may find that you’ve no longer got tournaments to go to every week.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Debater of the Day


Affiliation: Dick Cheney Junior Academy of the Arts and Sciences (Location withheld by request)

Coaches: Valerie Plame, Antonin Scalia, Ashton Kushner, Aaron Sorkin, Cher, Margaret Thatcher, Lance Burton, John Cleese, Anthony Bourdain, Regis Philbin, Opus Dei, Vladimir Putin, J. K. Rowling, Duke University Lacrosse Team, Jeb Bush, Cyrano Jones, Paula Zahn, Larson E. Whipsnade, Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, Celine Dion, Bernie Taupin, The Chuckster (aka, His Royal Highness Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, KG, KT, GCB, OM, AK, QSO, PC, ADC, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland), Rufus T. Firefly, etc. (Other names provided upon request)

Class: Very little (Sinking Sophomore)

NFL Degree: Nth

Lab: A chocolate two-year-old bitch named Poopie. (You were asking about his dog, right?)

How did you first get involved in debate?
I am not involved in debate. I wouldn’t want to be a member of any activity that would have somebody like me for a member.

What is your proudest achievement in debate thus far?
I have lost to some of the best novices in the country. Going forward, I hope to start losing to varsity debaters.

What are your hobbies beyond debate?
Trepanation, cat wrangling, spaghetti.

What are your main goals for WTF@ROTFL?
Demonstrating that Planck’s constant is, in fact, a fickle little [expletive deleted].

What is your favorite thing about camp thus far?
Jon Cruz’s sweater.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Beware the Argyles of March! And every other month!

I’m always a bit dubious about O’C’s occasional WTF postings of what tournaments people are going to. This and the proverbial seven dollars will buy you a cup of coffee (at Starbucks). Personally, I’m not going to any tournaments at which he’s wearing that notorious sweater. He has generously listed all the tournaments that the Jakers are going to, and it’s pretty much every one in the country, which is what happens when you’ve got 1729 team members. Which means that the man could turn up, at any time, at any place, dressed in—that!

The bog mindles.

Monday, July 23, 2007

TOC 2007-8

The TOC quals have been announced for next year. I have to admit I find them a bit curious here and there. Without going into any petty grumbling detail, some schools I expected to move didn’t; I will admit one specific, though, that I’m disappointed that Big Jake didn’t move up to Quarters, as I think O’C has demonstrated sticking power, with a consistently national-level field, this should be rewarded. Next year, I hope. For that matter, since he’s having seven rounds, his tournament may last until next year’s bids are announced. Add to this the expected length of his award ceremony…

Bump now has a semis bid in PF. Makes sense, as I know a number of schools used their success at Bump from last year to get into the ’06 TOC. It’s also nice to think that this acknowledgment of PF in general by TOC goes some way in bestowing a blessing on the activity. I’ve made no secret of my growing enjoyment of PF (not in light of any lessening of interest in LD, but simply for PF qua PF), and I hope to field serious teams in the coming years. It’s nice to know that there’s a destination for them if they become seriously competitive beyond the normal range, as there is with LD.

Seeing the TOC news inspired me to finish updating the Bump website. It is now one draft away from finality. I still haven’t decided where to put which division, but I’m tending toward novices in the grammar school and varsity and Pfffters in the high school. For that matter, I would have no compunctions about splitting Pffft between the two schools, given that the rounds are shorter and the trip isn’t that long, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Enough, already!

Personally, I think WTF should put a special link to camp activities. All this second-by-second front-page coverage eats away at their well-earned position as the central LD site. What could be less central than all this inside-baseball stuff about their camp? I have nothing against their camp, but also absolutely no interest in it. No one is interested in it, unless they’re there or have kids there (although I seriously doubt if most parents really wonder what module little Johnny will choose today). It erodes the integrity of the site, not by showing any lack of integrity, but by concentrating on its own interests and not anything of interest to the LD community in general. I think the site has grown in appeal over the last year, reaching a good balance, making it central to that LD community in general. And now the balance is off again, and it’s going to take a while for it to return. Sigh…

So what to do if you’re the central site and it’s summer and there’s nothing going on? Well, there’s nothing wrong with the odd hiatus. Would it kill the LD community to go to a baseball game, get a job, read a novel, go to the movies, be like everyone else for the summer? I mean, aside from the fact that they debate, members of our community really are like everyone else, shocking though that may sound. Oh, sure, there may be an individual’s predilection to read obscure philosophy (or for that matter, non-obscure philosophy), but you don’t have to be a forensician to have intellectual predilections that are not mainstream. Even though I look forward to the next season, I’m perfectly happy to enjoy doing something else for a while. Sure, I’ve got Nostrum on track, and I think about debate stuff off and on, but mostly I’ve been otherwise engaged.

Do I practice what I preach, blogwise? After all, there’s been no hiatus here. But I’ve meandered on the Western narrative, reported true news about the Pups and the Gem of Harlem, noodled about Disney, needled WTF, etc. Much less specific than during the season. My goal is not to be central to anything, although I like being read. WTF’s goal is to be central, regardless of whether they admit it. It is their aspiration, and a worthy one. So let there be no confusion. I’m on their side. I just wish they’d keep their eye on the ball.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

If you've got nothing good to say, talk about WTF

So I gather that at the end of the final Harry Potter book, Harry graduates and goes off WTF to teach novice case-writing, which J. K. Rowling expects will warrant another series of seven books in a vaguely academic setting with strange instructors and all sorts of demonic goings-on that require arcane spells and incantations to figure out. The title of Volume One has already been posted on her website: Harry Potter and the Pomo from Hell. I wouldn’t be surprised.

You know it’s summer down time when all I can think of to talk about is WTF Camp.

Then there’s this which, by the time it had ended, had me absolutely speechless, and feeling an urgent need to avoid David Bowie at all costs (FYI, I already avoid Ms. Sarkisian at all costs, and always have).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hello, Muddah. Hello, Foddah.

This morning readers of this blog had a choice of options, none of which were chosen.

Readers could choose from “Advancing to the Rear or ‘The Lost Art of Noogies’ ” with Tommy Makum and the Clancy Brothers, “101 Uses for Evidence in the Home” with Neil Armstrong, Neil Gaiman and Neil Diamond (with an introduction by Neil Young), “Framework Techniques for Constructing Shaker Furniture Using Matt’s Ax” with Susan Either Todayorto-Morrow, “Cleaning Up after Eco-Politics” with liver and onions, “Rawls v. Nozick Celebrity Deathmatch” with Avis (“Budget”) Hertz, and “The Social Contract on $40 a Day” with Water Melon.

In the second session, readers could choose from
“Cross-Examination” with Mr. Mxyzptlk (prerequisite for tomorrow’s lecture: “Niotanimaxe-ssorc” with Mr. Kltpzyxm), “Shuffling and Dealing Confusing Positions Without Palming any Aces” with a side of fries, “Economics 101, or ‘Throwing Away Your Parents Money on So-Called Academic Camps When What You Really Want to do is Party Like There’s No Tomorrow’ ″ with Underly Overtone, “The Greatest Good: An Introduction to Utilitarianism” (not available to everyone unless they’re in the majority) with Peter Singer and the Baby-Killers, “Survey of Postmodernism: Understanding the Critique of Morality and Metaphysics (sorry, metaphysics no longer exists; for the sake of this lecture we’ll be substituting bluefin tuna, which also practically no longer exists)” with occasional nods to the English language, “Using Sociology and Psychology in Dance and the Martial Arts” with Calpurnia Klinglehoffer, a flowing gown with whoever fits in it, and a rebuttal rodeo drill with authentic 17th Century dental tools.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Looking forward to 2008-9

So if you ask me, the 2007-8 season is practically over. I’ve booked up rooms for Yale, gotten notified by O’C that Big Jake is opening any minute, I’ve got a memo to myself to order a new set of Bump mugs (and every time I drive by the trophy place I think, it won’t be long, plus I’ve got half the website updated), I’ve got a tentative MHL schedule out, I’ve committed to the Gem of Harlem, I’ve filled out a list of which NFL topic I prefer in which season that’s only about half as complicated as putting a man on Jupiter, and I’ve had enough of the WTF Camp Follies to fuel my personal bile through March (although I do thank Bietz for posting the philosophy test, on which I did fine, thank goodness). What else is there?

Last night I started watching a fairly recent PBS series on SCOTUS, and I instantly recommend it to students who may not have this history down pat. Part one went from Jay to Taney, mostly concentrating on the key Marshall cases that made the court what it is today. If you know this stuff already you probably won’t learn much, but as a general survey it was quite well done. Lots of talking academic heads, plus, so far, S. D. O’Connor and (Nabokov fans will rejoice at this reference) J. R., Jr., since presumably HHH was already taken.
(I print the whole url rather than putting in a href because lately the hrefs haven't worked here. Go figure.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

A note from an old friend

Dear Mr. Menick:

Hi. I am not you, and am fine, which you may or may not be.

My role here at WTF Summer Camp is expanded from what it has been in the past. Instead of merely filling the imported water bottles with good old fashioned L.A. tap, helping the instructors with their fashion choices (no mean feat, let me tell you) and working on my lecture on the social disease as a post-colonialist construct, I am in charge of alternate public relations. As you well know, the WTF website is filled with information about who brushed their teeth this morning, who didn’t eat their vegetables at dinner last night, and who thinks Habermas makes even a little sense. But this leaves out the stuff which you may feel is really important, so I am sending you this update, which you might wish to post on your own website, since ours is already too filled up as it is. It’s only the headlines, but I think they indicate a side of our institute that is not ordinarily seen by the parents, who are usually thrilled that their kids are out of the house so that the real summer vacation can begin.

Breaking News: Sunday’s Nine-Bean Dinner Entrée Proves Existence of the Carminative Effect

Winningest Winner in the History of Winning Loses Demo Debate with Random Car Mechanic Who Drifted onto Campus in Search of Ratchet Wrench

Genuine Photo of Last Debater to Arrive in Camp. (His Luggage is Scheduled to Arrive Possibly by next Friday, but then again, maybe not)

Novice Division Tours Paris Hilton Jail Cell to Get Taste of True Existential Despair. Experiment Works as Half of Class Quits Camp and Returns Home No Doubt Debilitated for Life

George W. Bush Finds Sole Supporter of Iraq War Leading Lab at WTF and Makes Him General of the Army

Send Your Birthday Greetings to Your Favorite Instructor, and if it’s His or Her Birthday, Even Better

Smithsonian Commandeers O’C Argyle Sweater for Permanent Display in History Museum

Entire Student Body Passes Philosophy Test with Flying Colors by Correctly Spelling the Words Social Contract

Sheriff Reports that Rumor of Local Motel Owners Dressing Up as their Mothers During Morning Showers is False

Entire Camp Expected to Stop Dead in its Tracks on July 21 when 243 Copies of HARRY POTTER AND THE WONDER WARTHOGS Arrive Special Delivery from

No, No, Camp Directors Insist; Somebody Really Does Care About all this Bologna.

There's more, but that should be enough for now. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Your friend,

Herman Melville
Director of Alternate Reality
WTF Summer Camp and Chowder Society

Friday, July 13, 2007

Meet Me Up in Harlem; Sailors set for the Pups; Eat your heart out, GQ

Well, there you are. I had been thinking of offering my tabbing services to Columbia, mostly on the basis of the why-not theory of how to spend snowy Manhattan weekends. I’d talked to CP about it a little bit in passing, and figured, if he’s involved, how bad can it be? (That’s only marginally a rhetorical question.) Considering it’s on the weekend of Emory, which will certainly make things strange, I can’t imagine who will be where. For that matter, all of January is strange, so go figure. Anyhow, Scarola just got in touch and asked if I’d be willing, which is curious but not totally unexpected. Which means that I’ll probably even bring the odd Chicken of the Hud contingent along, although as a rule a couple of Sailors always sneak off on their own anyhow. My gripe against Columbia is an old one that no longer stands, which is that they used to run against Newark, which on my part was a no-brainer for about 127 reasons. But as they’re no longer in a turf war, and they’ve got Chris providing some authoritarian voice, as I say, why not?

I’ve also just battled the usual nuttiness (lots of calls and misinformation) and secured rooms for Yale. 6 of them, at the La Quinta, which was where we stayed last year except then it was a Fairfield Inn. Same dog, different kibbles. I had considered getting some extra rooms just in case, but seeing that I’ve posted at least three different requests for signups, that seemed a little pointless. I’m not exactly begging people to come. Most of the predictable folks did indeed put down their names on the virtual dotted line, and that’s about that. Now they’ve got to come up with drivers slash judges. Those who take the summer off from reading their email will learn, well, not to take the summer off from reading their email. Jeesh!

In unrelated news, O’C continues to defend his sweater. There’s one just like it in the next Indiana Jones movie (on a mannequin in a 50s clothing store on the Bullpup campus), so I guess it’s a retro thing. Or maybe I just don’t know dapper when I see it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Remember: Solipsism starts with you!

As a mere philosophical dabbler, I’m gratified as I learn more and more about the nature of narrative in an academic sense, through which is demonstrated that the backbone of Caveman regarding the nature of narrative is as sturdy a construct as there is. Of course, I provide no evidence for my contention that we have some sort of narrative instinct, aside from the fact that we have narrations for everything, but those interested in the subject could no doubt find what I’ve skipped over. The Stanford Philosophy Talk iTunes U episode with Daniel Dennett on Intelligent Design referenced this idea a bit, and in fact was more interesting for its tangents on non-ID areas than that particular chestnut. Dennett has a bunch of interesting books I want to dip into. I hope he can write as well as he talks.

Of course, I’ve got about 80 books on the summer reading table that haven’t done anything yet but acquire new coats of dust, so I wonder who I’m kidding. Right now I’m reading Men of Tomorrow, which is fun, but I’ll have to put it down temporarily when Harry arrives next week. Then there’s this book on the science of morality, and some short takes on various people I don’t have the patience for long takes with, and that book on Tokyo Disneyland that is supposed to be fantastic, and some Old Baudleroo thing on art that Horaceman tricked me into buying ages ago, not to mention some book Smilin’ J recommended if we end up with the killing an innocent person versus killing an even more innocent person (which is how someone somewhere interpreted that particular resolution—oy).

On a more practical note, tomorrow I get some Yale hotel rooms. The joint we stayed at last year has changed its name and its pricing list, so now we’ll be way off the beaten path, but I honestly can’t see paying well over a thousand dollars more if we don’t have to, not in times of straitened budgets (or, for that matter, even in times when the money flows like cheese at a Green Bay Packers game).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The end of Wichita as we have come to know and love it

Well isn’t that too bad. Wild West World has closed. That’s the theme park in Wichita. Took them all of two months to go bankrupt. Not the world’s greatest business, amusement parks. Being a roller coaster tycoon does apparently have its down side (and why Disney doesn’t sell its own god-game like RCT is beyond me).

Anyhow, the Disneysphere is filled with cheers these days for the demise of the wand over Spaceship Earth. (In times of debate drought I spend my time planning my next WDW trip, which according to my counter is in a mere 1766 days.) Given that this is the 25th Anniversary of EPCOT, there’s been a lot of discussion about what that park was, is, and should be, and I find much of it interesting. The first time we went was about ’84 or so, which means that it was in all its original splendor, with all the classic attractions open in their classic form. Horizons, World of Motion, Journey into the Imagination with Figment and Dreamfinder. The whole operation was very much the permanent world’s fair concept. In the Future World area the attractions were monumental. They lasted for a long time, with (usually) plenty of post-show doings to keep you occupied. Horizons, my favorite, was the equivalent of the Futurama type shows of NY in '39 where someone laid out the entire future for you to marvel at, at great length. The best vestige of this approach in the park is Spaceship Earth, which may or may not remain that sort of drivethrough wonder when its latest rehab is finished. Horizons itself was replaced by Mission: Space, which is a perfectly good ride but not much of a sense-of-wonder space exploration. Five minutes of jumps and jolts and you’re on your way; you get more awe visiting the local planetarium. The Land is about the same as it always was, with Soarin’ (fun) in place of talking food (silly). The World Showcase is really unchanged, in some cases still showing the same movies as 25 years ago. I think the only thing added after our first trip was Norway (but I may be imagining that). This is not to disparage the international side of things, which I like quite a bit. I’m just saying it’s what it’s always been, and as far as I can tell, it’s going to remain that way.

I have nothing much to say about all of this that isn’t being say quite eloquently by others. If you’re interested in the geeky side of Disney, look into the following:, which is one of my real favorites,, a good general site,, for more exotic Disneyana, and If you enjoy the subject on that geeky, non-pomo level, these will be very entertaining for you.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Breaking News: Summer isn't over yet!

I’m in the final throes of drumming up business for Yale among the Sailors. I gather a couple will put it off until too late, but one does need to get hotel rooms at a fairly early juncture. Last year we got shut out of the local establishments, which ultimately turned out to be a good thing, as we stayed at a nice place a short drive away, and we were spared the dealings with the local New Haven rabble. The town is not exactly Camelot, if you know what I mean. In any case, I’ve got no one yet who’s figured out that our driving there in cars requires them to come up with a driver and a car, i.e. parent judges, but they’ll tumble to that before too long. We’ve even got Horaceman, the superhero without any superpowers, back on board for the season, so next year should be interesting. (Is there anyone who didn’t think he’d be back?)

In this summer of our discontented ennui, I’m sort of disappointed in the lack of anything to complain about over at WTF. Aside from the World championships, which seem a bit of a stretch in terms of generating interest, not much is going on at my favorite website aside from a bunch of birthday notices that allow us to tell O’C that if it wasn’t for him, the world would be a bleaker place and Bush would still be President, and some notices that VBI is coming, unless I somehow missed it and it’s happening already, which is unlikely, given that when they’re in session they usually break into my local TV broadcasts with updates every five minutes, including announcing the homework assignments and what the little darlings had for tiffin that day. O’C says that parents love to keep such close track of their kids. I wonder. I’ve met a lot of debate parents, and a lot of debate kids, and most of the former are happy to wash their hands of the latter after the first novice sleepover, and vice versa. Posting a general daily announcement on the site—All Kids Healthy, Still Think They’re Smarter Than You Are, Check Back Tomorrow—would probably be enough to satisfy most families.

Friday, July 06, 2007

I muse, therefore I am

Thoughts for the weekend:

If you see the Transformers movie, please don’t tell me about it, as I would have to hold it against you for the rest of your life.

On a similar note, my sister-in-law considers a desire to see any animated movie a character flaw. A serious character flaw. Movies should be in foreign languages (preferably obscure foreign languages so that even the natives need subtitles), popcorn should not be available, and everyone on the screen and approximately a quarter of the audience should be dead at the end. She would be even less fun at Disney World than the Old Baudleroo, as she wouldn’t even make it to the parking lot.

As an afterthought, relief facilities were made available at the Crystal Palace in 1851, thus for all practical purposes inventing the idea of the public bathroom, and, presumably, allowing visitors to the Exhibition to make a day of it, the apocryphal astronaut diaper having not been invented yet. I’ve been reading this book on Victorian daily life, and let me tell you, stick with the present.

You have to wonder about a show like Heroes, which has killed off half its cast over the course of the season, and concluded its plot line in the finale (although with hints of even deeper plot lines). My initial presumption is that they will be jumping the shark this summer. Still, one good year is more than most shows can even dream of.

WTF is bringing us live coverage of the World Schools Debating Championship in Seoul. I am at the edge of my seat, let me tell you. Next week I plan to have an argument with my wife, and I’ve invited O’C to come over to observe and post updates as Breaking News. An eager VCA awaits…

When the film Back to the Future was made, there was no intention of any sequel. The ending, going into the future, was merely seen as a fun way to end the movie. On the other hand, Charles Dickens had every intention of writing A Tale of Two More Cities and Another Tale Of Yet Some Other Cities but got distracted by his screenplay (unproduced) of Howard the Goose which was later adapted by George Lukas as the germ of the idea for American Graffiti Two.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

iTunesU; it's never too early to Bump; states that are united

I’ve been following what some universities have been doing, which is getting their professors to record lectures as podcasts. So, apparently, has iTunes, which now has iTunesU, a section devoted to content from various universities. Termite recently pointed this out to the Sailors, and yesterday, when I was looking for something new to listen to (I’ve had it up to here with techies discussing the iPhone), sure enough, there it was, a whole section devoted to university material. I plugged in to Snodfart’s Philosophy lectures and pulled down the first one, which wasn’t a lecture at all but a mini round table, where people were wondering among other things about the applicability of Rawls to the literal creation of public policy (one of the participants was a member of Congress). This is the sort of stuff one doesn’t hear every day, needless to say, and this alone looks like a promising line of shows to acquire. I noted that Peter Singer is one of their guests; the hosts are, apparently, a couple of Snodfart professors. Go, Robber Barons!

I finally managed to get a new Nostrum up yesterday, and I hope to get back on schedule with weekly postings. In fact, yesterday, which was rainy and otherwise dull, was full of accomplishment, and I’m quite pleased with myself for even managing to include a long and productive nap in the proceedings. I’ve even begun updating the Bump invite; why wait till the last minute, right? One thing I haven’t decided yet is how to break up the divisions. The problem is that I have no idea how big novice LD will be. I’m just going by Newburgh, and my recollection is that they pulled down some serious numbers. Plus we need rooms for the Pfffters. Maybe novice and Pffft in the HS, varsity as usual in the grammar school. I don’t know. At least it gives me something to worry about during the summer.

While I was puttering around yesterday, the various voices of NPR read the Declaration. This part comes at the end. “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” What struck me was something I’m always explaining to novices, that the Colonies did think of themselves as independent States, not one group of united states, although they were assembled and united in a general congress in order to make that declaration of independent statehood. I buy into the concept of the Declaration as a statement of values (which Pauline Maier goes into great detail to discuss in American Scripture, which I heartily endorse and even include on the Sailors’ reading list). My problem is that I get gung-ho about the beginning of the Declaration, and sort of lose interest when you get to the laundry list, so I never hang around till the end. But one of my chief personal areas of fascination has always been how the seeds of the Civil War were planted literally in the establishment of the federal government. The concept of statehood, and states rights, of course, is crucial to this line of thinking. Any documentation of the importance of that concept is useful. And there’s some right here. Maybe from now on I’ll stick around to get to the end of things. You never know what might turn up in the 2AR.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pre-4th hash

I am still not a hundred percent healthy. Without going into the gory details, what I’ve got goes away, but it takes forever. I look forward to normality. I’ve also been busy doing some writing, and then there were houseguests for a while, and I’ve gotten my old Dell back into the working mix (nothing against Little Elvis, of course, but you can’t have too many working computers), and I won a quarter playing golf Sunday (big money among my foursome), and there’s general symptoms from the annual summer withdrawal from forensics… I’ve really let Nostrum go by the boards, but a little hiatus never hurt anyone, I guess. Anyhow, another week or so and I should be the cheerful Menick the VCA has come to know and love. Or something like that.

So I wrote up my initial comments on the LD rezzes, and next thing I knew they were soliciting my votes. Things move fast these days. I had hoped to get some dialogue going with the Legion of Doom on it, so I sent my thoughts to them. My assumption was, hey, these are mostly coaches, and the last I heard 2 or 3 of them actually used their email, so maybe they’d have thoughts too. I guess they’re all on vacation or something. I did get some backchannels, but no discussion. Either they acclaim by tacit agreement or are so stupefied by my misunderstanding of things that they threw their computers into the river and swore off debate until the end of the Cheney Bush presidency. Oh, well. There was also some discussion of the rezzes on WTF. There is a movement afoot to accept the hate crime rez for its intent rather than for what it says; call me an Originalist and tuck me in with Nino and Clarence, but that is not the nature of the English language; for comparison purposes, consult Humpty Dumpty in your Lewis Carroll cuttings. Words do not mean what I wish them to mean, in other words, not even if we all wish them to be that. It is a constant issue in editing, whether a word that has a certain meaning, and is misused regularly, should take on the misuse as a usable meaning. Momentarily, for instance, is a word that used to mean for a moment; now it means in a moment. You can’t make the dictionary dictatorial, because language is a living thing. On the other hand, you can’t just derive meaning from random albeit near-miss usages. Someone suggested that the NFL be buzzed for a possible fix. That would work for me. I so want to argue hate crimes, to a great degree because I have no idea what my opinion is on the subject. I just haven’t studied it in any depth, which ordinarily doesn’t prohibit strong opinionage, but let’s at least pretend to have marginally open minds, sports fans. I’ve noticed a couple of yabbos chiming in with comments about the rezzes here (one of said yabbos having serious spellcheck issues), but that’s about it. WTF people seem to be about where I am on most of them, I think. Which stands to reason when the list is fundamentally sound.

Meanwhile it looks as if every school in the region is going to have a new coach next year. Must be something in the water; I’ll have to remember to steer clear of it. At the point where it’s just me and O’C at the helm, it will be the end of life on (northeast) earth as we know it.

And I realize that this is not a political blog, but last night I was setting up my machine to record the Bernini show, and there was Bush and Putin standing in front of a bunch of reporters in Kennebunkport looking about as comfortable together as two meatballs in an eel souflle. Bush kept bobbing front side to side (we hit debaters over the head for that) and Putin looked as if he'd eaten the debate ziti for lunch that day. The world is in your hands, guys...