Thursday, July 31, 2008

Letter from camp

I have heard from my old camp correspondent Herman Melville. As always, I present his epistle unedited.

Dear Mr. Menick:

You are fine. So am I.

Things are winding down here at WTF. This year I was appointed chief confessor, in addition to my previous positions as pizza chef and laundry lieutenant. Let me tell you, it is one dirty business, listening to the sins of debaters. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but the pay is good and the hours, while long, are all spent in a little closet where you can occasionally catch up on your sleep and hide out from the camp officers who might want you to go polish sneakers or something, so I really can’t complain. And some of these debate sins…va-va-VOOM!

But, of course, my vows prevent me from telling you any of them. Tant pis, as they say in various French circles. But I will drop a hint: new in the two is the least of them!

This has been a pretty exciting summer, overall. As you know, we have a three week camp, but we send the ribbon clerks home after two weeks and just hold on to the hardcore for week three. These hardcore classes are conducted entirely in French, which means that no one, including the lecturers, understands them, but that isn’t much different from the classes that were conducted in English, so it’s not that big of a problem. In the first two weeks we tell everyone to argue the resolution and to uphold their values, but in week three we tell them how to really win, which requires spikes, spreads, critiques, and generous pourboires for the adjudicators, not to mention a little baksheesh in the direction of the tab room, a tradition to which I understand you are no stranger yourself [wink wink nudge nudge]. Week three also marks our traditional Camp Wiener Roast; this year the Camp Wiener was Biscotti Abramowitz, a rising junior from a semi-lingual high school in Chicago who, I assured you, tasted delicious slathered in barbecue sauce.

As you know, our camp is near the ocean. In fact, after a minor earthquake, we were even closer to the ocean than we had ever been before. Our staff behaved admirably during this natural semi-disaster, demonstrating to the assembled campers the power of extemporaneous prayer in quite a dramatic fashion. Craven Savage, after it was over, changed his or her name to Moral Naif, but unfortunately had to be taken to the hospital for falling too quickly on his or her knees at the first sign of the apocalypse. Your chum Mr. O’C, on the other hand, was a brick through the whole ugly mess. Or something that sounds very much like that; it was hard to understand what Mr. Don’t Forget You Had Beets for Dinner Last Night was shouting into his bricked iPhone at the time. As for me, I was awarded a Junior G-Man badge by the local constabulary, which just goes to show you that you can’t keep a good man down even a little bit, except for “The Batman,” who at least hasn’t acquired some silly Spider-Manly hyphen yet. One thing about DC, they don’t go throwing perfectly good punctuation around willy-nilly.

Once the summer is over I will be looking for a coaching job on the east coast. So, apparently, will every college freshman who ever wrote an aff in the last four years, so you can expect a lot of people to be knocking on your proverbial door looking for work. You may remember not hiring me last year, or the year before, or, for that matter, the year before that, but I do not necessarily see a pattern there that we need to worry about, so I’ll be scheduling an interview with you probably next week. I look forward to seeing you again.

Your friend,

Herman Melville
WTF Chief Confessor
WTF Pizza Chef
WTF Laundry Lieutenant
Junior G-Man

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You would have prefered a tornado? / My, aren't we the busy one!

I have spent time in California, and can sympathize with the poor WTFers. The thing about an earthquake, which natives take for granted, is how weird it is. The house is not supposed to shake. Your seat is not supposed to move. Random crockery is not supposed to jump off the mantelpiece. Curiously enough, back in the 80s there was a small quake in NY. I don’t recall where it was located, but in the land of the Sailors it sounded to everyone as if someone had picked up and dropped their basement furnace; the thing took place at about four in the morning, and it was subterranean noise more than movement. As you know, Manhattan is slowly working its way up to Albany; the bad news is that California will be long gone by the time the governor of the Empire State is able to live in Gracie Mansion and not have to commute to work. (FYI: Gracie Mansion is where the NYC mayor lives. Gracey Mansion is where 999 ghosts live. I did have to look up the spelling.)

Anyhow, Earth is a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. You just can’t count on it to stay put. I do understand, however, that the Old Baudleroo has written a critique of earthquakes, demonstrating that they do not exist. No doubt the WTFers will be running this for Jan-Feb. Again.

I worked on some novice intro material last night, and ended up with a web page that would tell them what to do and link them to what they need to be linked to. The hardest thing was coming up with a tone that wouldn’t scare them away, as in, read this, read that, sign here, print that, watch your brain evaporate, mes etoiles, what have I gotten into? It is difficult for some poor barely pubescent schmegeggie to appear on the team in September fresh from middle school and all of a sudden have to learn everything in about three weeks because your first tournament is coming up so stand up straight and buy a suit and could you get your mother to judge for us? One of the items I’ll be requiring is familiarity with the Feed, which I was poring over last night. I’ve come to realize that it’s rather silly to repost this blog there, so I’ll stop that, although I will keep cross-posting things like CP’s blog, which should get a lot of readership (although for all I know, he’s more popular than I am, in which case, the hell with him, why doesn’t he repost my stuff?). (And I’m sorry, but for the life of me I can’t come up with a good enough juxtaposition of repost and riposte to even marginally get a laugh out of it, so I won’t even bother.) I’ll get to a more detailed discussion of my continuing bout with news and news-reading here shortly. Suffice it to say for now that I’ve given in completely.

In terms of debate, this has been one of my most productive summers, but I have no idea why. It’s been productive in other ways, too. I’ve seen all kinds of art, made all kinds of day trips, learned how to make a perfect caffe con leche, and found a way to keep Tik (pronounced teek) from biting me too often. A year that will go down in history, I’d say. All that’s left is some David Hume, who seems to be way more important than I knew till now, and whom I’ve only dabbled in. Unfortunately I just started The First Word two nights ago, and so far I’m loving it, so it may take a while to get to the Sage of Edinburgh, given that I read books at the rate of about 3 pages a day (except for the Day Job, when I read at about 100 pages an hour). Fortunately I won’t have Scrabulous to distract me anymore, so my productivity should increase threefold.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Quest-ce que c'est un "qi"?; I always like to think it's actually Mario Cuomo

One has to wonder when one became such a Scrabulous fan that when the app went down, there was nothing left for it but to turn one’s mind to thoughts of the noumenon (which my down-to-earth spell-checker does not even recognize as a word). Just as I was about to demonstrate to HoraceMan, TSWASP, that one can win the game handily using only normal words and random vulgarities, slam, we were done. I’m a person who needs his distractions. This will never do.

If for no other reason than to amuse O’C, I have pre-ordered The Force Unleashed. Granted it’s the PS2 version, but as yet no one has given me a Wii, nor have I lost so much sanity that I believe I should actually buy one (or any other of the latest consoles). I have been caught out as a DS owner, but that’s only for Mario and crosswords; I can’t imagine a Star Wars game working all that well on it. There is something comforting about playing a Mario game, though. I’d like to say it reconnects me with my youth, but I think I was already way into my dotage when the very first Mario came around. Mostly I think I do it so that people will look at me and say, You’re doing what? Anyhow, I’m not much of a gamer because I don’t have the time for it, but this is probably for the best. If I were your age, sonny, I’d never get any work done. I’d be there with controller in hand 24 by 7, working my way through the gazillionth level of WOW or whatever. As it is, I’ve been on level 2 of Mario now for about a month. And I always thought the hand-eye thing was the last to go.

With the judging lecture behind me, tonight it’s back to the cur. I do hope we get some novices this year. It would be such a waste if this time out they all joined the tropical fish club instead. And if McCain chooses Romney, will the number of "Mitt Happens" headlines top ten thousand?

Monday, July 28, 2008

A great intro to modern art; a free judging mp3 worth every penny of it; the high points of Big Jake 2008

Why a Painting is Like a Pizza: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Modern Art by Nancy G. Heller is today’s pick hit. I read this over the weekend and found it easily the best book I’ve seen so far for the lay audience on appreciating modern art (and it does go beyond just, literally, painting). I’ve read a bunch of theory and whatnot, but mostly I’ve acquired my feel for art by going and looking at it, whatever it is, which has to be the starting place for any art appreciation. You have to behold it before you can grok it. Your first reactions to any work will probably be emotional, perhaps an aesthetic enjoyment (or lack thereof) of a work’s beauty, but you can always go further than that if you learn something about the particular work and the artist, including of course the position of the work in its time and place, which is probably different from the time and place you’re seeing it. Fra Angelicas look a lot different on the walls of monasteries than in the harsh light of a museum gallery, Caravaggio means a lot more if you know the art he sprung from, and come to think of it, what will some future generation make of Warhol images of Liza Minnelli, when the first question they will ask is, Who is Liza Minnelli? (The second question may or may not be, Who is Andy Warhol?) Heller’s book starts with easier works and moves toward more difficult ones, all pretty much from the 20th century. Why is Pollock not just random stuff anyone could replicate? What is the point of white on white? Two-dimensional scultptures? What is the composition of a Mondrian? Not only does Heller talk about things that are informative and interesting, but she also writes well, one of those great rarities nowadays. Anyone who is interested in the art portion of our program, or who has suffered through studied Caveman, will get something out of this work. I’m adding it to the recommended list over on the right. If you read no other work about art, read this one.

When I wasn’t reading RSS updates over the weekend from WTF on who was scratching whose chin in their bonus week, also known as the Will It Never End Session, I was recording a lecture on LD judging for new parents. I think I’ve mentioned that giving this lecture in person to Sailor parents has been a project of diminishing returns, and lately we’ve been giving our training hands-on at MHLs and CFLs. Still, it seemed like a good idea to warm people up a bit in preparation for an event, so I put down my normal spiel into an MP3, and put it on the MHL page along with the rest of the how-to-judge materials. There’s not much more we can do, I think, except toss the old folks into the rounds and let the chips fall where they may. If the MP3 doesn’t scare them away, nothing will.

O’C has sent a note that Big Jake registration opens this Friday. He’s also wondering when Bump registration opens. [Sigh.] I figured I’d start attacking our invitation next week, but I don’t expect to open registration until, I don’t know, maybe October. It’s not as if the usual suspects are going to be surprised that we’re having our usual tournament on the usual weekend, at the usual place, with pretty much the usual hoop-di-do, except for the predictable one or two new wrinkles that always seem to be required in an attempt to improve things. Likewise Big Jake will be offering all its usual hoop-di-do, including the March of the Animatronic Traveling Trophies (featuring music especially written by John Philip Sousa for the occasion), the Richard B. Sodikow Look-Alike Contest, the Foods of the Worlds Unite Uprising ("You have nothing to lose but your ketchup"), and the annual highlight, a game of Where’s O’C?, when himself disappears into the bowels of the Jake building for three hours on Saturday afternoon with nothing but a Swiss army knife, a battery-depleted walkie-talkie and a battered VHS tape of Howard the Duck Part 17: Revenge of the Ohioans, and Ryan and Kaz and I throw up our hands and say the hell with it and get a cab down to Midtown for a mojito chugging contest, leaving Joga Zola (their French Pfffft coach) to sort things out while throwing Jiffy Sub sandwiches at anybody who looks at him funny.

Meanwhile I’ve now got 2 LDers, 1 PF team and a Speecho-American in a pear tree lined up for Yale. At this rate, we might have to take 2 cars.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cotton is jumping and the fish are high

I RSS WTF posts into my Google Reader. Anyone else who does this probably feels as I do at this point, that if we were to look out our window and see O’C walking down the street, we’d sic the hounds on him. Jeesh! Lose the modules, Jon. Please. There must be someplace you can post them out of sight of the rest of us. Summer may be quiet, but it’s not that quiet.

Oh, well. Camp must be almost over. Summer’s certainly half over. I’m at the annual point where I think I should redo all my websites, plus I was listening to some folks talking about the E3 convention yesterday and began thinking I should buy a PS3, which definitely means that I need a reality check and a new season. I do seem to be in a minority on this life-goes-on thing with the Sailors, only a couple of whom seem to realize that if they don’t officially sign up for Yale, they won’t be going. Seasons begin in the summer, not in the fall. Greenhill is already almost up and open (although we don’t travel that far, as a general rule), UPenn seems to be in business (with O’C as their godfather ex situ for some reason), and I certainly have Pups hotel rooms (which, it seems, will have very few Sailors in them). Whatever. I’m committed to go no matter what, and it is much easier when there’s literally no chaperoning responsibilities. Still, I can’t really understand why they wouldn’t want to go, it being usually nice weather and good food and all those things that we as a team tend to value way above debate. As I said, oh, well.

On the bright side, there is time to do things that I never seem to get during the season. I feel as if I’ve seen every art exhibit, performance and film imaginable, except for the ones we’re still going to see over the next few weeks. I do especially like the summer for going to the movies, which at one point in my life was practically the only thing I did when I wasn’t working. The easy access of video has to some extent replaced movie-going for all of us, but in many ways this is regrettable. There is a big difference between seeing a film on a giant screen with dozens or even hundreds of strangers and seeing it at home no matter how elaborate your setup is. I saw Star Wars, for instance, on opening day (at a Loews, if I’m not mistaken), somewhere in the 40s off Broadway. This was back when the movie was, indeed, called Star Wars. They gave us all buttons that said, May the Force be With You (and damn, I wish I could find that button) and there were, oh, maybe a thousand of us that afternoon. I’m not quite sure why we were all there. There had been a little advertising for the film, but not that much hype, and this was all pre-internet, and George Lucas was far from any big deal, and SF films were, with a few exceptions, marketplace dogs. I don’t think we really knew what to expect, and then the text roll, and then the Imperial ship flying overhead, and, well, that was what movies were invented for. A thousand of us at once had our jaws drop to the floor. There was cheering when Han Solo turned up at the end (oops, was that a spoiler for the one person left, no doubt unborn, who hasn’t seen the movie yet?). The friend I went with, who was African-American, was pissed off that, as always, the bad guy had to be black. (Really black in this case, and there’s no way that little Ani schmuck kid in the 90s would ever grow up to talk like James Earl Jones. I wish I could talk like James Earl Jones. Who doesn’t?) I mention all of this because, as the Times pointed out yesterday, it seems that every movie out there this summer is a superhero film of one sort or another, all consisting of slam-bang action, some of it traditional SF or fantasy and all of it sprung from traditional SF or fantasy. I can’t imagine seeing The Dark Knight on a small screen, no matter how big that small screen is. There are a couple of moments in the film where there’s a small release-valve laugh as one is rather beaten into the seat by Heath Ledger’s amazing performance. Do you get that shared sense of communal connection at home? I don’t think so, no matter how many people you invite over to watch it with you. All of which takes us conceptually to a McLuhanesque approach to media, where we maintain that a medium by its nature controls our response to its content. McLuhan had that whole hot and cold thing to distinguish various media, but for us it’s enough to say that watching any movie on the big screen with many strangers is a completely different experience than watching that same film on your Nano. Who would argue otherwise? It’s only a small step to insist that, whatever the film, since it is a film, it is best watched as a film in a movie theater. That is what the film experience ought to be, regardless of the content or quality of the film. And I miss that during the year, when I don’t have much time to go to movies. Come Memorial Day and the first of the summer flicks, and I’m ready to dip my toe back in. By September I’ll go see almost anything (except Mamma Mia, which in my book will never have a !, since the day I put an Abba song on my iPod is the day I admit that it’s over).

As I was leaving the theater last night, at around 9:30, I looked over and saw that there were numerous film showings starting as late as 10:30. On a Thursday night. And people were still buying tickets as I was trying to get the soggy popcorn out from where it was stuck between my teeth (our theater has the absolute worst popcorn, and, it being a movie, you’re forced to buy and eat it, which is not true at home, where I never eat popcorn while watching a movie, which means there’s yet another part of the experience that isn’t the same). It’s an amazing world we live in, bub. Absolutely amazing.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Planning; positions; pointless posting

With still more than a month to go before the school year begins, I have already dived (dove? diven?) into next year’s lesson planning with blue pencil in hand, updating and moving things around and generally trying to improve matters for all and sundry. One interesting question is, where to start, exactly. I mean, there’s this small gaggle of novices staring up at you with those big Wall-E eyes, waiting to fall in love with debate or be convinced that this is their ticket to a college one notch up on the scholarship-for-life scale, and there you are knowing that first impressions are lasting impressions, and that if you don’t hook them early, they may run off forever. I have no great answer to this predicament. I do think that explaining the parts of a debate round is not the way to start, any more than explaining how a fuel injector works is the starting point of drivers’ ed. The topic that we are presently debating, whatever it is, will have some appeal, but the upperclassfolk will be talking about it in Prakrit as far as the newbies are concerned, so a little of that is okay but a little is enough. After that, there are the various aspects of ethics and philosophy that are the bread and butter of the activity (have I used enough metaphors in this paragraph yet?) and somewhere in here seems the right place to begin. In the past I’ve kicked off with rights or the social contract. This year I think I’ll kick off with justice. Certainly everybody understands some concept of justice by the time they’re a freshman in high school, so this will both build on and challenge what they already know. It’s a good a starting place as any (until it bombs, and I try something different next year).

This is also the time of year when I begin meditating on next year’s officers. Captaincy has its own weight on any team, and we additionally have appointed Novice Directors (not unusual) and a Hardware Engineer, a unique position which over time has become the most dreaded among the Sailors. Hardware Engineering originally arose from a need to have someone collect trophies for display during Bump, since the school has no permanent hardware case for us. My original hardware engineer having performed this task so well, other tasks were added to his responsibilities, always revolving around a thing of some sort or other that could be considered hardware. This job has evolved over time to include reserving classrooms and submitting bus forms and collecting ballots and, generally, every damned thing nobody really wants to do but that needs to be done. In actuality it is a job of great responsibility that cannot be shirked, and with only a few exceptions, our Hardware Engineers over the years have been young men and women of literal steel who went on to become great captains of industry, soldiers of fortune, and, in a couple of cases, circus roustabouts. I am happy to say that this year the mantle of Hardware Engineering will be taken from the shoulders of the legendary Peanuts, and draped over—

No. I’m not going to spoil the surprise.

I have a couple of other organizational surprises as well. I will save them for the Sailors, who should hear them first in person. And no, I’m not quitting/retiring/entering the old age home. I’m just stirring things up a little bit.

When I haven’t been working on the Cur, I’ve been intensely studying the modules O’C so helpfully posts over at WTF. I’m assuming that he posts these for the participants themselves, and not a waiting, wondering forensics world. Don’t they have a bulletin board there they could pin this stuff on? Buncha cheapskates, if you ask me. Thank God the camp is free—

Oh. It’s not? And I’ve now hung two em dashes? Time to sign off, Magoo.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Well, it isn't Nostrum, but it's something

Over the years I’ve found that one of the hardest things to do as a coach is to get parents involved as LD judges. Regardless of one’s position about so-called lay judging, it’s pretty much a given that at the starter and local levels we need parents to adjudicate because there’s really no one else. (And I’m not even thinking about Pfffft at the moment.) If we lived in a world where, by snapping our fingers, we could instantly summon a cadre of ex-TOC debaters to adjudicate every novice round (for free), it might be a different thing, but at events like our Mid-Hudson League meets for freshmen and sophomores, or at local tournaments likewise serving a non-$ircuit audience, especially those offering varsity-level competition, somebody has got to sit in the back of the room with a pen and a ballot, and parents are it. Throw in the need to chaperone on occasion (how many weekends does the average coach have events at multiple venues?) and there you are. So I’m not arguing in favor of parents in the bubble rounds determining TOC bids (although I could), I’m simply stating that in lots of places in the activity, we need ‘em. And, as I say, it’s not easy to get them.

In the past I’ve offered one or sometimes two evening seminars on LD judging each year. The attendance at these has steadily declined, a fact which I do not blame on the seminars themselves, which for many would be the social highlight of the season. I think what happens is that, early in the year, when their little freshman have only recently signed onto the debate team, parents don’t realize yet that they are needed, whereas from my point of view, this is the best time for me to train them. It’s not as if I could offer seminars every week of the year, there being a real world one must also live in. Lately we have integrated training into our local MHL and CFL events at the beginning of the year. This is pretty effective, actually. For the first round of the tournament we send in the parents as observers, usually of JV rounds, with an experienced varsity judge, with whom they can discuss the proceedings. After that round, we have a little seminar where we explain the whole process. Then we send parents back into the fray; maybe we’ll even give them a round to judge (in the bottom novice bracket). They should come away from this a little less paralyzed than when they went in. Watching newbies debate is not complicated; few are the first-time novices who are so up on their Habermas that they need to be tossed out of the window of one of the upper floors. Judging easy rounds is good training for new judges; they gain both confidence and experience so that at some point they would be able to comfortably judge more difficult rounds. As far as I know, no one is born a good judge, and experience is absolutely required. If you’ve won TOC yesterday and never judged, I would be hard-pressed to see you as anything better than a potentially good judge. There’s a big difference between debating and judging, and I have often seen little relation between the two; that is, many is the merely okay debater who proved to be an excellent judge, while good debaters have often acted as if they’re still advocates rather than adjudicators, becoming the worst of interveners.

By now I’ve collected all sorts of judging materials, including what I’ve written as handouts, the condensed instructions on the MHL ballots, my own lecture notes, sample flows, etc. What I’ve decided to do is tie it all together with a lecture/podcast. I’ve been updating and reorganizing my old lecture notes, and polishing my website judging page, and I hope to get to it this weekend. It won’t be a shortie, by any estimate. When I’ve given the lecture to Sailor parents, it’s gone on until the point where even I’m looking at my watch, but my guess is that doing it as a podcast will allow people to listen at their own speed, taking in what they need to at their own self-determined chunkage pace rather than as judging overload. Tying it into the written materials will augment it, and the whole thing should stand alone fairly nicely. Of course, it will be available to anyone who wants it, but at the very least I’ll push it through the local CFL and MHL venues. Some parents are happy to see their kids disappear into four years of debate somewhere other than home, but a large number are also interested in their kids’ activities and want to help out, and this should be a useful tool for that latter group. Judging isn’t that hard when you start out simultaneously with your own homegrown novice, but parents don’t necessarily realize that. They need all the help they can get (especially in a culture that often derides them as mommy-daddy judges, while at the same time insisting only on MJP, i.e., judges predisposed to accept whatever arguments are being run not because they’re inherently convincing arguments but because the advocates and adjudicators are both cut from the same sociological cloth). I’ll keep you posted on how this works out.

Demo: Smorgasbord vs. McNuggets

WTF, Cali. — The Association for Keeping High School Students Out of Prison During the Long Hot Summer (AKHSSOPDLHS, or as it's friends call it, Norm) again featured a demonstration round featuring the word feature twice in the same sentence. Actually three times, but who's counting? Debaters were from two of today’s top food groups. Hamletta Smorgasbord of Holoview School in Texas — the affirmative — placed at the PBJ Round Robin and was a somnabulist at Emory. Chicken ("Chick") McNuggets of Edema High School in Minnesota — the other affirmative — was tallest speaker at the Iowa Caucus and a finalist at the Irish Lottery if only he would respond to this email within 24 hours. The moderator? Craven Savage of South Eugenics High School. (Note: the photograph was taken prior to the round, as Jon Cruz, wearing his traditional but not very convincing Leonard Nimoy drag, attempts to remember what episode this came from.)

[Okay, I couldn't resist just one more...]

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Codified morality

There would appear to be a school of thought that law is codified morality, a school of thought to which I do not subscribe. Having been writing on morality lately, this came up, and I realized an obvious link that had eluded me in the past.

One of the things that I do early on with novices is, not surprisingly, discuss morality. In debate, when the subject arises, we need a method of measuring right and wrong that is somehow objective, and although we may never light on the perfectly objective measurement, we can reasonably look at consequential and deontological approaches to right and wrong as decent enough working models. There are those who, because of the inherent imprecision of our models, disregard the possibility of any moral action, but this presumes that morality is an absolute, and that we can’t choose among different actions as more moral or less moral, a practical necessity in real life. This is the same as saying, since I can’t be good, there’s no point in getting any better: it is at the very least illogical, because the one does not follow from the other. And, well, maybe there is an ultimate, categorical good. As Fats Waller might put it, one never knows, do one?

In introducing those novices to this subject, the first thing I ask them is how to tell the difference between right and wrong. Since most of us act on moral models received from authority, first parents and then religion, one would expect an answer along these lines, but that is seldom forthcoming. No one ever tells me that the Bible (or the Koran or the Gita) is their source of right and wrong, or their spiritual adviser, and certainly not their parents. The almost inevitable answer is that, somehow or other, the majority of people determining that something is right or wrong is the way that we can tell the difference. That is, we somehow get to vote on it.

If you stare at them long enough with they point this out, they eventually come to realize the inadequacy of such a system. We go on from there to the more satisfying and traditional models.

Still, when you come to think about it, in a democracy law is the will of the people writ in statute. Law is the list of things we can’t do and the things that we must do, and one way or another laws exist because of the will of the majority (even if you follow the torturous path of representative democracy in the US). If you look at that and squint just the right way, it might be hard to differentiate that democratic legislative provenance from the idea of law as morality. My problem with this should be clear: I don’t think we get to vote on what’s right and what’s wrong, and that that is how we tell the difference between the two. That would presume that the majority must always be correct in distinguishing right from wrong, or that right and wrong actually are a numbers game, which seems to me the same as saying that since the Yankees have more fans than the Mets, the Yanks are therefore a better team. A better team might warrant more fans, but more fans don’t warrant a better team. Something being morally correct might warrant its codification into law, but codification of something into law does not warrant its moral correctness. I’m pretty sure that most of your conscientious objectors would agree with this line of thinking.

I only point this out because, hey, it’s summer, and what else is going on? After you scour the daily published lists of which schmegeggies at WTF are studying ill-conceived theory part three and who’s studying stultification in the aff, what else is left to fill the empty hours?

Monday, July 21, 2008

We bid farewell, probably, to WTF; a new hope (?); alarming episodes; next year, Miley!

All right, that was fun, but it’s time to get back to the real world. Even ten-a-day updates from O’C get old after a while. There’s a regular existence that needs tending to.

CP and I have been in discussions over a certain school that shall, for the moment, remain nameless. I’m relatively willing, but I have some issues that need to be resolved first. At times I feel as if we’re the tournament SWAT team, and when we come in, we don’t take any prisoners, and the forensic universe is a better place for our having been there. But I also get the feeling sometimes that we’re seen as merely an advertising tool to make any tournament look better because, hey, how bad can it be if the Usual Suspects are running it? But in the actual event, all we can do is insure professional tabbing. It takes more than that to make a good tournament (although you really can’t have a good tournament without it). CP’s great contribution has been getting schools to do all those other things, and the continued growing strength of the Bullpups is one manifest result of that. And speaking of which, I have to admit that I am very much looking forward to the Pups again this year. If we get that building we had last year, and if they get decent hospitality for the judges, this is going to be a high point of the season. But I’m also looking forward to a bunch of others. Big Jake, for instance, because I love watching O’C run around going crazy because there’s not enough chrome on the 23rd place traveling trophy. Anyhow, as information breaks I’ll pass it along. For the moment suffice it to say that negotiations are taking place, and if they work out, the forensic universe will be a better place for our having been there.

I have added an alarm to my calendar to remind me to keep posting Nostrum pdfs. I should get one or two a week up henceforth.

And—ta-da!!!—I have finished updating the Hillary Duff, which is now posted and ready to go. There’s good new information on justice and morality, and some Frenchies ported over from Caveman. I was going to toss Rand and Maslow as old-hat, but I decided to leave them in. These two old chestnuts have definitely been replaced in the cycle of materials run in LD, to which most of us say, “Thank God,” but they still have their relative points of interest. Anyhow, with this behind me and checked off on my to-do list, I can move on to a few other projects. I do need to get a bunch of stuff done before summer is over. So far, I feel that I’m on track. But registration for the Pups is in a couple of weeks, the resolutions come out in less than a month, and who knows what-all will be needed after that.

Friday, July 18, 2008

In that warm California sun...

All work and no play is not our motto. Nosirree Bob! We here at the WTF LD concentration camp camp concentrating on LD know that if there’s nothing in a debater’s mind other than spikes, turns and random snippets of Jacques Derrida, then that is a debater who needs a life. Our staff, which is expert on the subject of needing a life, can make a difference. So this weekend we take a break from practice rounds, practicumming and baloney surprise in the cafeteria, and head out for some much needed FUN!

These are the options available to our campers:

The Jean Baudrillard Disneyland Adventure: A full day’s visit to the Disneyland parking lot (under the Grumpy sign), led by our own Craven Savage. Campers who choose this option will see the very spot the Old Baudleroo claimed was the one atom of reality in the otherwise culturally deadening theme park, and will stare at it for a few hours until it’s time to get back on the bus and go home. It will definitely be “a small world after all” for this happy group!

Howard the Duck tour of Los Angeles: A tour of all the real life locations throughout the L.A. area used in the 1986 George Lucas classic film, led by HTD scholar Jon O’Cruz. Many WTF alums call this tour the high point of their camp adventure, especially since the film was, in fact, set entirely in Cleveland.

You-Call-This-An-Hour-With-Mike-Bietz? Recording Adventure: Revisit the recording studio from which the legendary podcast was broadcast for, what, three whole episodes? See the microphones, now thickly encrusted with dust, where many a good idea was floated out into the internet tubes. Hear the sound check of those hearty do-it-yourselfers going “One, Two, Three, is anybody there? Testing?” over and over and over. See the original model of the magnificent Sam Dubious Award.

The Closed-Door Cabal (seniors only): At some point this weekend, the muckamucks of Camp WTF will be meeting in camera to decide what to do about this blog, which simply does not seem to be taking the whole business seriously enough. Seniors who select this option will be allowed to sit in as O’C leads the executive session, carefully explaining to Lord Jeesh who it is behind Coachean Life and why we just can’t send some hired assassins to the East Coast to do him in. Each attendee will receive a small bald voodoo doll souvenir, which they can torture by running cases that have nothing to do with the resolution. WTF staff members who even hint that they have found any of this funny will be summarily dismissed. Even I might give it a rest from this point, except something tells me that not too much time will pass and I’ll see another posting, and I just won’t be able to help myself…

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Practical practicum

It may sound vaguely pornographic, but we here at WTF are all about practicum. We take nasty, brutish and short high school students and, through rigorous training, turn them into nasty, brutish high school students who seem to have grown a couple of inches over the summer. Here are some examples of our patented techniques guaranteed to make better debaters out of anyone.

The Wheel of Cross-Ex.
While many of our students prefer flex prep, thus eliminating the need for cross-ex altogether, we here at WTF feel that a good bracing cross-ex is the best part of a debate round. The Wheel of Cross-Ex is used exclusively in WTF labs (eat your hearts out, NDF!) to make sure that when we ask a question, we get an answer, dammit! There’s no beating around the bush in our rounds.

The Mumble Box.
No one can understand a word you say? Haven’t had a straightforward communication with another human being since as long ago as when Al Gore was thin because you talk like you have a family of ferrets parked in your mouth? Fear not. A few hours in WTF’s West Coast exclusive Mumble Box (eat your hearts out, Kentucky!) will turn you into James Earl Jones. The next time you say, “Luke, I am your father,” people will sit up and take notice.

Six-Minute Abs Cases.
Have trouble writing a case to take up all six minutes of your aff time? Here WTF instructor Craven Savage (AKA the Iron Maiden) demonstrates the case-stretching rack on one of our novices, Flute Freihoffer from Holy Moly Tech (Wa). A couple of days in the rack and Flute will be cutting his cases down rather than filling them up as he has been prior to joining our camp with quotes taken at random from his copy of Jacques Derrida and the Way of the Cowboy.

Fluffy the Rabid Kitty.
Fluffy may look gentle, but be warned! Inside her blood stream is enough rabies virus to eliminate the entire state of North Dakota, not that anyone would ever notice. Fluffy is only used by our top, specially licensed practicummers for training rising seniors in spreading, spreading seniors in rising, budding cake chefs in icing, and icing sheik chefs in budding.*

The Comfy Chair.
The crack heads heads of our crack staff demonstrate our latest exclusive addition to our labs (eat your hearts out, Iowa!), a comfy chair acquired directly from the BBC, guaranteed to have been used not only by Monty Python but also by the Duchess of Cornwall, Nicolas Sarkozy and Liberace’s brother George (but probably not all at the same time). Students whose practicum takes them to the comfy chair are never heard from again, except in YouTube videos of Frederich Nietzche’s (TOC co-champion of 1879) annual vacations in Baden-Baden, Pago Pago and Walla Walla. Woo-hoo!

* Coachean secrets revealed: I actually did come up with Fluffy's picture on an image search for torture devices...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We beat them at their own game!

One of the hardest things to do in LD is win CatNats. Not only do you have three judges in each round—only one of whom realized before they sat down that this was a debate round, only two of whom speak moderately acceptable English, exactly one and a half of whom made up their mind and a half on the topic before they even heard what it was, and one of whom is just thrilled that it's finally Memorial Day weekend which means it's okay to wear white shoes again—but you must also debate according to the strict rules established in 1965 at Vatican II. To insure your success in the CFL, we here at WTF have brought in the world famous K-Nuns, the kritikingest, theoryishest, postmodernest sisters since Mother Teresa invented the flex neg! Each of our religious instructors, all members of the Sisters of the Holy Cross-X, is fully trained in CFL guerilla techniques, and is guaranteed to make our campers into an army of Christian Soldiers like no others. And we even offer un-Christian studies, for the infidels at the camp. Another reason why WTF not only rocks, but rocks in the name of God!

Stay tuned for more exciting updates of life in the WTF LD concentration camp camp concentrating on LD.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Picturing WTF

Phood Phor Philosophers Program

Sign up now for our special Phood Phor Philosophers Program. Each day we will share a special lunch at the WTF abattoir cafeteria and discuss an article of distinguished merit.

Please pick one of the phollowing phor our phirst session:

Is Goofy? Jean Baudrillard's classic treatise on the semiotic meaning of the big dawg.

The Underpinning Superstructures of Inherency: Are They Really Necessary? The Habermas work that was instrumental in launching "Gossip Girl" in the USA.

The Metaphysics of Lunch Meat The recently discovered Nietzsche essay that took the legendary German philosopher's bull-oney to new heights (with a startling new theory on the eternal recurrence of chopped liver).

Stay tuned for more news of our LD concentration camp camp concentrating on LD.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Anesthetizing the topic

LOS ANGELES, Kali. — Clad in themed costume, Off Case and Wesley Craven (a name that defies parody) presented the topic analysis for the resolution we’ll be confusing for the first two or three minutes here at Session I of the WTF Institute. The topic? Ah, good question, young apprentice. “Resolved: Military conscription is uncool, when all you have to do is sign up voluntarily and they give you a gun, a helmet, and really good hiking boots, no questions asked.”

This lovely presentation — complete with the participation of the How 9000 computer, vaguely reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove, WarGames and Howard the Duck Goes to Hawaii, but nonetheless the latest hardware available on the market, which we use to run all the audioanimatronic figures here at WTF — followed the camp’s formal welcome assembly. What Theblank was on hand to provide the students with breathing apparatus during a nine-hour exegesis on the history of WTF, while institute director Always Remember You Ate Fresh Bietz (or else the next morning you’ll think your insides are falling out) coordinated the goings-on while modeling an evening gown designed by Thierry Mugler especially for our camp. Also speaking were Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, or Tom Clancy, or someone like that, and Astronaut Neil Conrad on the curriculum, Mega Hertz on “Phood for Philosophers,” and Noble Savage and Adam Twelve on…the rules (a speech given entirely in German in order to really impress people that this year we mean it)! As per tradition, Jon “Orange County” Cruz did the staff introductions but, given the sheer size and talent of the faculty, had to give up after three days of ceremoniously forgetting everyone’s name except for Boom-Boom the Wonder Mole and Mitzi Gaynor, and was last seen rattling off incoherent and totally inaccurate debate trivia while doing the Macarena and singing a solo version of “Would You Rather Be A Colonel With an Eagle on Your Shoulder or a Private with a Chicken on your Knee” in perfect harmony.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The last stragglers arrive

As always, there are a few latecomers to Camp WackiKrit. This morning we cranked up the WTFmobile and drove out to LAX where we collected the last of our happy campers. So now everyone is here, pencils sharpened, chinos pressed, and brains cleaned and empty, waiting to learn everything there is to learn about [writers note: EDITOR—please fill in some description of whatever the hell it is we're supposed to be teaching these fish, 'cause I can't think of anything that will convince the parents that they're even remotely getting their money's worth. DON'T FORGET TO ERASE THIS BEFORE PUBLISHING!!! Thanks.]

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Extracurricular Activities Matter at WTF!

We here at the WTF camp pride ourselves on our belief that a sound debating brain requires a sound debating body, or at the very least a photograph of a sound debating body carried in a student's wallet along with Mom's phone number at work and a clipping of the playing times of Howard the Duck II at the local Cineplex. In the accompanying photo, it's a "heil time" for all as the shirts prepare to take on the other shirts in our daily game of some sport not normally played in America.

Stay tuned for more exciting WTF came highlights!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The staff arrives at WTF!

The crack teaching staff of the WTF (shown in the accompanying candid photograph, taken at the novice corral) has arrived for LD Concentration Camp 2008. As their first official act, they unanimously agreed that this year the official camp song would be We Are the Champions Another One Bites the Dust Fat Bottomed Girls.

Stay tuned for more news from the nexus of the summer debate universe!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Arriving at WTF

The summer session of the WTF LD Concentration Camp Camp concentrating on LD is about to begin. This weekend people will be pouring in from the four corners of the globe, as well as other likely geographic locations such as Cleveland and the Hindu Kush. We here at Coachean Life promise that you will not miss one single minute—nay, one single second—of the mind-boggling inaction that is our institute. Our graduates have gone on to purchase caffeinated beverages at some of the most important tournaments in this or any other country. Stay tuned for updates! This is your one and only source for all the latest news, except for those other places that also have a lot of the latest news.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Great Forgotten Debaters

We here at Coachean HQ have come to realize that while other websites document the glorious and illustrious history of our wonderful activity, we are usually skulking around trying to find a pen and wondering if we can sneak out and pick up a double latte. Well, no more. Today Coachean Life inaugurates a new feature: The Great Forgotten Debaters. It is our feeling that anyone can recognize greatness in a student who wins the TOC five times in a row in both policy and LD, but what about the great unwashed, the army of little gray debaters who make up the bulk of this incredible activity? While others may sing of arms and the man, we will sing of the common schmegeggie, the Myrmidon without whom Achilles would be just another slugabed. (And to be honest, we’re just happy to see that both Myrmidon and slugabed made it through our spell-checker unscathed.) So raise up your hearts and your minds now as we celebrate our first in a series:


Theodore P. Moon, Valley Hillsdale Mountain Glen Academy, Various locations in the tri-state area

Teddy Moon was born to debate. He never agreed with anyone on anything, much to his parents’ dismay, and is credited by the Guinness Book of Verbal Records as the creator, at the age of five and a half, of the classic rebuttal, “Am not,” which he used in response to unfortunate and regular verbal assaults by his kindergarten classmates. (Crediting Teddy with the invention of the classic turn, “I know you are but what am I?” is still considered controversial; Guinness cites the possibility that this phrase may in fact go back to the childhood of one J. W. Patterson, who overheard it as a second grader at Bluegrass Country Day School and immediately thought to himself, “You know, someday people might come to a tournament of champignons.” Young JWP had been raised by the French and was taught to venerate the mushroom; this changed during the de Gaulle administration.) Although there was a JNFL chapter in Teddy Moon’s school district to which he would have been perfectly suited, Teddy, a Unitarian, understood this to be the Jewish NFL and not the Junior NFL, and thus deprived himself and a waiting world of what would no doubt have been a distinguished middle school debate career. Upon reaching high school, Teddy immediately signed up for the debate team, only to be flummoxed by his first assignment, which was to read selected works by John Locke, John Stuart Mills and John Rawls, whom he hopelessly confused thenceforth. “The problem with philosophy,” Teddy famously announced, “is that every Tom, Dick and Harry is named John.” As his first official competition neared, Teddy, knowing that he was ill-equipped for the event, purchased three cases online, an affirmative, a negative, and a whatever-just-in-case, for the sum total of $23.87, thus depleting his PayPal account. The tournament was held at the school known familiarly as Bronx Science, which moved Teddy to remark, “What’s the difference between Bronx science and regular science?” No answer to this question was forthcoming, and then tragedy struck. Between rounds three and four, at exactly 2:22 BST (Bronx Standard Time, which is forty-five minutes earlier than EST, or any other ST you can think of for that matter), Teddy Moon, at the bottom of the down-three bracket, disappeared on his way to debate the negative position in the Bronx Science Parapsychic Wing. His disappearance was not noticed by his coach or his teammates until two months had elapsed, at which point Teddy was declared lost at sea. He is said to occasionally be seen haunting the hallways of Regis High School in Manhattan, which makes no sense whatsoever as Teddy didn’t even know Regis existed, but then again, Regis didn’t even know Teddy existed, so there is a certain logic to the whole enterprise if you manage to squint at it just right.

Debbie Muckle, Hoopdedoo School, Dallas, TX

Debbie Muckle had not intended to become a debater. In fact, Debbie Muckle had not intended to take up any extracurricular activities at the Hoopdedoo School whatsoever. Come to think of it, Debbie wasn’t all that excited about the curricular activities either. Debbie, who was given the nickname Throckmorton in the fifth grade after an unfortunate incident regarding a Sony Walkman, a calico cat and a package of frozen lima beans, did her best to get through life without being bothered by anyone, which anyone would agree was the best situation all around. But in 9th grade Debbie Muckle met Bruce (“Not That One”) Lee and instantly fell in love. Bruce, a student at the all-girl Hoopdedoo’s brother school, Upsydaisy Prep, was the opposite of Debbie in many ways, a straight A student and a member of practically every team and club and society the elite school could come up with. For reasons no one could explain, the two were smitten at first sight. And for reasons no one could explain even less, or more, the beginning of their relationship also marked the beginning of Debbie’s Goth period. The young freckle-faced all-American girl suddenly dyed everything she could black, and spent most of her time away from Bruce maintaining her temporary tattoos and patiently waiting to be old enough to get real ones, despite the fact that her mother kept trying to get her to take up knitting, or for that matter any activity that was not quite as obsessed with death as Debbie’s preferred Gothicness. But Debbie was unshakeable. In order to spend more time with her beloved Bruce, who soon became the star novice on the Upsydaisy debate team, Debbie joined Hoopdedoo’s own legendary debate squad and, to the surprise of one and all, sort of took to the activity. It was not until her sophomore year that Debbie was banned from the CFL for sucking all the light out of any room she entered and, according to the court papers, “an unremitting commitment to Satan and his black minions.” The NFL, not to be undone by the CFL, banned Debbie for “not displaying body piercings in keeping with the Ripon standards.” The final blow to Debbie’s debate career was the Texas Forensic League banning her for inadvertently downloading an Abba song, which the state board considered “conduct unbecoming to Goths everywhere.” After graduating high school, Debbie went on to Vassar, where she became a member of the Catholic Sisters of Charity and finally married her longtime love, Bruce Lee. Debbie now teaches earth science somewhere in Kansas where, as she puts it, they have a lot of earth.

She-Ra Varaswamariakulliarumian, Edema HS, Edema, MN

Despite being one of the hardest workers on the legendary Edema HS debate team, She-Ra Varaswamariakulliarumian, known familiarly to her teammates as Varaswamariakulliarumian, had perhaps the most depressing record of any debater in her home state, which, given the weather there, is hard to imagine. If a tournament broke to double octos, Varaswamariakulliarumian was the thirty-third seed. If a tournament broke to octos, Varaswamariakulliarumian was the 17th seed. If a tournament broke to quarters, Varaswamariakulliarumian was the 9th seed. In fact, at one tournament, Varaswamariakulliarumian was the only person in her division due to an accounting error in the physical education department, and she still didn’t break. Rumors abounded throughout her debate career that Varaswamariakulliarumian’s lack of success was directly attributable to the tab rooms’ fear of having to announce her name from the podium to accept an award, but no proof was ever offered to support this claim. In any case, Varaswamariakulliarumian spent four years of heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss, but this had no effect on her acceptance into Harvard, where she immediately changed her name from She-Ra Varaswamariakulliarumian to Tiffany Varaswamariakulliarumian, and where she went on to graduate with high honors, provided she didn’t show up at the ceremony and make the dean have to pronounce her name from the podium.

Benny “The Flash” Sparks, Heimlich Maneuver Tech, CA

Benny Sparks, better known as The Flash, has been long celebrated in debate circles as probably the slowest talker in the history of the activity. While many judges, especially parents, appreciate a reasonable rate of speed when trying to adjudicate a round, as this occasionally allows them to understand at least some of what is being said, Benny Sparks let out all the stops when it came to not being too fast, driving all of his judges, parents and coaches alike, into states of often irreversible catatonia. Whereas some students are known to spread, running dozens of lines of argumentation in a six-minute presentation, Benny was known never to finish even one line of argumentation, much less multiple arguments. In fact, he was often known not to finish even his opening quote before the timer went off marking the end of his speech. Needless to say, Benny’s greatest dread was the 1AR, in which he would have to cover both sides of a round in only four minutes. Benny was usually unable to even find his notes in four minutes, much less argue them. As a general rule, judges tended to write up their ballots, giving Benny the loss, and twenty speaker points max, somewhere halfway through his first speech, regardless of which side he was defending. Losing every single round of his career did not deter Benny Sparks, however, who ran for debate team president in 1997. As far as anyone knows, he is still somewhere in the middle of his initial campaign speech.

Look for more exciting Great Forgotten Debaters, coming soon!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Philosophy, art, and movies, with only the slightest swipe at You Know Who

It’s quiet out there. Too quiet.

It being the off season, I once again want to direct your attention to PhilosophyBites (which is not a noun and a verb). You’ve certainly got the time for it now. Their podcasts have to be the best examination of philosophy out there for the general audience (i.e., us). I was just updating myself on “Cogito” yesterday (I like calling it Cogito, like a real expert; it’s “Cogito ergo sum” to the rest of you pikers). One learns where Descartes was coming from (I know, you think he was coming from the place where they keep Descartes before de horse, but that’s not what I meant) and see the connection to the old mind-body conundrum. All in a fifteen minute interview. Not bad. Not bad at all. You can do a lot worse trying to fill up your vacation hours.

Over the weekend I ordered up a bunch of art theory books, having been inspired by the collection at the Clark museum in Williamstown. They have a Whistler-themed special exhibition that I wanted to see, so we moseyed up there last weekend and quite enjoyed it. Their main collection is also not unimpressive; it’s one of those private collections gone public, like the Frick (except, of course, nothing is quite like the Frick, which has to be the best of this breed). Anyhow, I look forward to attacking these books and then misinterpreting them here for the VCA. At the moment I’m reading about 20th Century World’s Fairs, or more specifically looking at pictures of them in a new photo book I just got on the subject (which is one of my favorites). I like not even having to pretend to do serious reading, which is what summer is all about. For me, beach reading is anything that isn’t French.

Oh, yeah. Loved Wall-E. What’s not to love? Summer is also the time for me to go to the movies, since debate season leaves virtually no time for such frivolities. Unfortunately there aren’t that many movies around that seem worth getting up out of the home theater to bother seeing on the big screen. Wall-E qualified, though. With luck, so will the new Batman. And a couple of others I can’t remember offhand. (On the little screen I did just watch Jet Li in Fearless, which was quite entertaining. Haven’t watched much else, though, that I can remember. Again, there’s other things to be doing.)

If you’ve read this far, you know I have nothing to say. But if you read, ahem, other blogs, you know I’m not the only one in that predicament. On the positive side, the Feed remains new and active and full of good material. When we start zeroing in on topics, it will get that much more specific, but in the meantime, it’ll keep you smarter than most other things you’re doing.

Monday, July 07, 2008


LEXINGTON, Ky. — The 1929 Tournament of Champions inaugurated the Great Depression by concluding with a soporific final round between Vestavia Hills High School’s Jason, Alec, Adam and Billy Baldwin and Christopher Columbus High School’s Nina (“Pinta”) Santa-Maria. The final panel consisted more or less of Phillips, Sueknow Whentolaff, and Kate-on-Hamm. On a 3-3 decision that could easily have gone the other way, Jason, Alec, Adam and Billy defeated Nina (“Pinta”) to wrap up a perfect tournament, except for the food. And the bugs in the motel. And the recently manured plants at the university. But who’s counting? Congratulations to both, or however many of them there are!
(As part of my ongoing project of institutionalizing the erasing of the memory for Lincoln-Douglas debate, I have been carefully copying materials from WTF and ritually burying them. Many have since been found in the Chellgren Center Debate Office at the University of Kentucky, which is reason enough to avoid like the proverbial plague the Chellgren Center Debate Office at the University of Kentucky. Until the lawsuits are settled, no names will be mentioned in connection with the University.)
Jason Alec, Adam and Billy were coached by Unmerrily Duking Itout; Nina (“Pinta”) was coached by the Lee Myles Transmission company.

Underachievers Ann Miasma of Pago Pago Alto High School and Roy Rogers of Whodehowa High School advanced into the elimination rounds and quickly turned around and ran home out of fear for their lives, despite having received auto-qualifications to the 1930 through ‘38 Tournaments of Champions.

La Cueball High School’s Leif Erickson, who won the TOC as a toddler, was mercilessly defeated in octafinals. Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones but Holy Names Will Never Hurt Me Academy’s Laura and Ferdinand, a ventriloquist act, who advanced into the elimination rounds while being sophomoric, were the seventeenth seed(s), and thus earned, well, not much.

The first judge listed on each panel refused to get out of his or her chair.
(17) Holy Names LF (Laura and Ferdinand)


(1) Vestavia Hills J,A,A&BB over (16) Vestavia Hills DTB (Damn That Baldwin! Note: DTB was coached over by J,A,A&BB 182 times over the course of his debate career)
(2) Hockaday MA def. (15) Albany JA (Jonathan Axlegrease) 3-0 (Cheery Os, Rickie Nelsen, Atom Ant)
(3) Christopher Columbus CG def. (14) Isidora Duncan JS (Justin Sockittome) 2-1 (Kate-on-Hamm, Tinker Taylor, Paying Tenant)

(4) Bishop Kearney CR def. (13) Pago Pago JT (Jamie Tush) 3-0 (Ralph Richardson, Charlie Chan, Nancy Walker [the Nancy Walker?])

(12) Vestavia Hills JC def. (5) Thomas Jefferson BB (Bedden Breakfast) 3-0 (Eric Di Michele of all people, Big Mac, Heather Gloamin’)
(11) Palo Alto AM def. (6) Centerville BG (Brother Gibb) 2-1 (Shoe Sheinman, Tarnish Jutmoll, Ala King)

(10) South Plantation JS def. (7) La Cueball ME (Leif Erickson) 2-1 (Pete Spaghetti, Unmerrily Duking Itout, Pat Metheny)

(8) Scarsdale JB def. (9) Whodehowa RR (Roy Rogers) 2-1 (Clark Kent, Dick Grayson, Victory Jeesh)


(1) Vestavia Hills J,A,A&BB def. (8) Scarsdale JB (Jennifer Beals) 3-0 (Jeffrey Dahmer, Fred Robertson, Richard Speck [the only all-serial-killer panel ever assigned to a TOC round])

(7) South Plantation JS def. (2) Hockaday JA (Jack Armstrong the All-American Boy) 3-0 (How Wry, Mahatma Kane Jeeves, Harold Bisonette)
(3) Christopher Columbus CG def. (6) Pago Pago AM (Ann Miasma) 2-1 (Roger Thornwood, Lars Thorwald, Norman Bates)

(4) Bishop Kearney CR def. (5) Vestavia Hills TB (Tanner Butwherestyler) 2-1 (Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Al Gore)


(1) Vestavia Hills J,A,A&BB def. (4) Bishop Kearney CR (Cordelia Regan) 3-0 (Jon Cruz, O’C, The Birthday Boy [who is/are the only person(s) in the world who will read this far])

(3) Christopher Columbus CG def. (2) South Plantation JS (Josh Sheepdip) 2-1 (Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida, George W. Bush)


(1) Vestavia Hills J,A,A&BB def. (3) Christopher Columbus CG (Nina (“Pinta”) Santa-Maria) 3-3 (more or less of Phillips, Sueknow Whentolaff, and Kate-on-Hamm)


(1) Vestavia Hills JB (Jason, Alec, Adam and Billy Baldwin)


1. Jason, Alec, Adam and Billy Baldwin — Vestavia Hills High School (AL)

2. Leif Erickson — La Cueball High School (NM)

3. Jennifer Beals — Scarswegian High School (NY)

4. Roy Rogers — Whodehowa High School (NY)

5. Jack Armstrong the All-American Boy (who always wanted to go to an all-girls’ school)— The Hockaday School (TX)

6. Josh Sheepdip — South Plantation High School (FL)

7. Nina (“Pinta”) Santa-Maria — Christopher Columbus High School (FL)

8. Roasted Lamb — Cypress Grill High School (TX)

9. Ann Miasma — Palo Pago Alto High School (CA)

10. Michael Ellis — The Monty Python School (CA)

11. Stephen Oyster — The Bivalve School (NY)

12. Cordelia Regan — Bishop Kearney High School (NY)

13. Wicked Witch — Omigod Westside High School (NE)

14. Tanner Butwherestyler — Vestavia Hills High School (AL)

15. Little Carmen — Charlotte Haze High School (AL)

Popularity: -29%

Happy Birthday, Jon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

While waiting for the BBQ sushi to cook...

You know what's really interesting about WTF posting old TOC results?

That's funny. Neither do I.

In keeping with this new tradition of providing old news when there's no new news, I am announcing here that Hillary Clinton has withdrawn from the Democratic nomination process, Liberace is dead, the Eagle has landed, and George Lucas fans everywhere are eagerly looking forward to the release of his exciting new motion picture Howard the Duck.

Okay. Back to the BBQ.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A guaranteed, no-content posting!

I am selling O’C’s autograph online. To the highest bidder. Just send me money; if you win, I’ll send you back his autograph. How can you resist?

I am going through a bit of a phase of doing stuff other than debate, said phase kicking into overdrive over the holiday weekend. The Day Job has released us for four days, so I won’t be back here again till Monday. What computer time I will be spending, if any, will be spent on the aforementioned phase. I am petitioning for more hours in the day, but so far I haven’t gotten enough signatures. When you send me that autograph money (see above), enclose a signature or two. That’ll help.

Anyhow, there isn’t much going on. Either you’re at camp or you’re not, and if you are, you’ve already got plenty of things to keep you occupied, and if you’re not, you’re probably not thinking much about forensics. So, have a good holiday, and maybe next week we can get into something really meaty. Maybe we can auction off O’C’s Ewok-patterned Hawaiian shirt.

May the Fourth be with you.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A woman without a bicycle; we are not adventurers anymore

We’ve all got our little peccadilloes:

WTF has pointed out that we can start to think now about voting for the LD rezzes for next season. They’re due early September to Rippin’. This is a tough one, first because I like most of the topics, and second, because this matrix business makes your head hurt, especially since you know it’s sort of meaningless. If your third pick for the fourth slot is the same as Bietz’s second pick for the first slot, does this mean that we’ll end up with O’C’s second pick for the second slot? I know that what it boils down to is that Rippin’ loves preferential balloting, and, let’s face it, who doesn’t? It’s always the top job everyone fights over behind the scenes at Districts congress, because it’s a little like Sudoku but without the dice. (Okay, I stole that joke. Famous soccer jokes: soccer is like chess but without the dice. Or, the score was one to one but it easily could have gone the other way.) Anyhow, I will consult the Sailors for their expert advice, and then I’ll proceed accordingly. Last year most of my top choices ended up on the boards, so I can’t really complain too much.

On a non-forensics note, I am a little sad that Pleasure Island, and more specifically the Adventurers Club, is going the way of Horizons. PI isn’t much now, aside from AC, but in the day it was a separate admission with some great shops, daily fireworks, a fun sense of a relatively kid-free party and, of course, a place to pledge “Kungaloosh!” Downtown Disney is moving toward, I gather, mostly themed restaurants plus shops, and while I certainly don’t mind either, they’re not quite the same thing as an actual Disney Imagineered attraction. Oh well, stuff comes and stuff goes. The economy being what it is, I don’t expect much to happen over the short term with the Mouse, but sooner or later they will feel the hot breath of Universal’s Harry Potter on their necks and get around to a little E-ticket blockbusting. We’ll see. I still have my WDW widget: 1409 days until my next trip. I am not holding my breath.

Oh yeah. One last little peccadillo:

Yeah, yeah. Someday I've got to learn Photoshop.