Thursday, May 29, 2014

In which we have little to say about debate, but say it anyhow

I have so little going on in my debate life that you should stop reading this now.

Once the season wraps up in Sailorville, that’s it. I don’t do any camps, so for me summer is entirely the DJ and whatever vacation I’ll be taking. Granted that this year the vacation is the DisAd, but despite it containing multitudes of debate folk, it has nothing to do with debate, and we don’t talk about debate or the debate world or anything in it. We didn’t mention debate more than once during the DiDeAd in 2010, and that was the tiniest riff to which we never returned. You’re surrounded by the most complex entertainment venue on the planet and you’re going to gossip about the CFL? Gimme a break. Besides, half the people on the trip, literally, are not a part of the debate world now, and only one of them ever was, back before half my team now was even born. It’s old news, or other people’s news. Come to think about it, we don’t gossip much about the CFL, or anything or anyone else debaterly, during the height of the season. We may compare notes on all sorts of things, of course, like why CP should be strangled for a particular quirk in tabroom or whether it’s MJP or MPJ, but as often as not we’re talking about something else altogether. That’s probably why we all get along. I mean, debate only goes so far, and then there’s, I don’t know, everything else?

That said, I do intend to throw a summer reading list at the Sailors that they can ignore at their leisure. I was especially impressed with Mills’s The Racial Contract, which AT recommended, plus if they haven’t already hit those inevitable canonical tomes like Locke and JSM by now, this is sort of their last chance. For that matter, you won’t really get the point of Mills if you haven’t read Mill & co. And the various aspects of the subject of race aren’t going away any time soon, and I feel that the Sailors, as PFers in their own little universe, need to be brought up to speed on exactly what’s what. Come to think of it, I think everybody needs to be brought up to speed on exactly what’s what. My take-away from the various discussions on race and privilege and diversity is that we need a lot more discussions of race and privilege and diversity. I’m admittedly ignorant of the subject in the context of actual debate rounds, an ignorance I intend to dispel, but the debate rounds themselves are only a part of the picture. I think I’m beginning to understand things I’ve never really thought about before. From such understanding comes change, and the goal should be to share as much of that understanding as possible.

One thing I have been trying to do that’s debaterly is capture content and tweet it via NDCA. Most debate sources that tweet spend most of their time talking about professional sports, but I do comb through them trying to find things relevant to topics du jour. And I’ve been taking my debate RSS grabs and funneling them over there. My hope, of course, is to heighten the visibility of NDCA as a source of discussion and content, and a lot of doing that is just getting into the habit of farming and replanting. Having nothing else debaterly going on at the moment to distract me enables me to get into those habits.

Meanwhile, this weekend CP is heading to the chez for a visit, and many of us will gather and share what gossip we might have left over from 2013-14 before battening down the hatches for 2014-2015. And we’ll also explore the darkest corners of Brooklyn while we’re at it. Wave if you drive by us.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In which we bid the proverbial fond farewell

Our journey ends on Saturday at Epcot.

We won’t get there at the c of d, but more like 10 or 11. I will shore up a Soarin’ FP because one does need to do this more than once, and maybe we’ll finish off anything else we can think of on the Future World side before moseying over to Mexico and, essentially, drinking strolling our way across the world.

World Showcase is not a lot of rides. If Russia had come through, there would be a coaster. If Japan’s original plans had gone through, there’d be a coaster and a trip through the history of the Floating Kingdom; that latter one is in Disneyland Tokyo. Apparently the back of Germany is also an abandoned ride. Oh, well. Mostly the countries are movies, simulacra, shopping and food. China and France are the best movies, I think, China because it’s about as close as I’ll get, and France because you get to sit down and look at people with berets bringing home baguettes to the accompaniment of Saint-Saens and Bizet. It’s fun to walk through the recreations of world sites and watch the various entertainments like Chinese acrobats, all of whom are about seven years old, and Off-Kilter, the Celtic rock band, and the Pearly People and Japanese drummers and whatever other cliché, twisted or not, that you can think of. And of course there’s the American Experience, which like the Hall of the Presidents, is a real conversation starter or, for some, the best nap on property. Mark Twain and Ben Franklin take you on a tour of American history from day one up to the opening of Epcot, with I think maybe a picture of Obama tossed into a montage at the end to make you think it’s up-to-date. Not to disparage it: I am not one of the nappers at this one. I’m thinking that this will be Richard’s most comprehensive introduction to American history other from what he cleans from trivia night at the local bar in Brooklyn. God bless the Queen!

Lunch will be whatever on valedictory day. Dinner has been chosen to occur at Germany, where we closed the DiDeAd. Tradition, in other words. And very large steins of beer and an oompah band. Following which we watch Illuminations with a tear in our eye, and bid a fond farewell to WDW and the DisAd14.

Friday, May 23, 2014

In which we don't go to CatNats

I follow forensics in a lot of places, including Facebook and Twitter. From the looks of things via these social media, no one is going to be at CatNats this weekend, because every flight known to Catholic and Heathen alike seems to have been cancelled. The only person who hasn’t yet posted a tale of travel woe is O’C, whose entire life is a tale of travel woe. Having decided ages ago to keep mostly to the roads and not the sky in my debate life is a decision I never regret making. It keeps the angst down to a manageable level.

Still, I’ve always had a bizarre fondness for CatNats. Granted, the grueling Saturday starting at about four in the morning was always a bit of a challenge, as were the strange venues in buildings without running water or surrounded by barbed wire and live mines. Then there’s the range in caliber of the debaters, some of whom fought with tooth and claw to get there and some of whom simply showed up to fill a diocesan quota, the unlikelihood of getting any food at the end of the day thanks to the league’s regular choice of cities that close at sunset (although Chicago obviously isn’t one of these—let me recommend a restaurant in downtown Rochester to you, as soon as I find one), not to mention the cold debate showers in the tournament hotels with their lobbies filled to overflowing with Speecho-Americans doing loud annoying Speecho-Americanic things that debate people can only shake their heads at. Does anyone else remember the hotel with the elevators that weren’t working in Detroit and the roving guerilla bands stealing one another’s cots? On the other hand, who isn’t fond of the quadruple checking system by hand in tab that means you’ll debate only the wrong people in alphabetic order, that you’ll inevitably get shafted by an input error, and that winning all five rounds isn’t necessarily a guarantee of breaking?

As I say, a bizarre fondness. Maybe it’s because each CatNat is memorable, whereas most other tournaments are the same old same old again, in the same place with the same people, so what’s the big deal? In any case, I hope everyone going arrives eventually, and that they have a fine old time. I sort of wish I was there with you. I could use a few new nightmares memories.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

In which we hope against hope that O'C will be chosen to participate in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular

We should be all tanned, rested and ready for DHS on Friday. I have to admit, I still call it MGM Studios, because I want it to be MGM Studios, but time marches on.

This is a fairly easy park to manage. Hit Tower of Terror and Aerosmith first thing, with FP for Toy Story Mania. Given that we’re with O’C, we probably have to go on Star Tours a couple of times, so one FP goes there. After that, I’m not quite sure. Nothing else looks terribly hard to get into in a reasonable amount of time. And some things, like the Great Movie Ride, you really want to stand in the line as long as possible to see all the coming attractions. We should be able to hit everything pretty much without any hassle. I'll probably do FPs for return trips to Rock n' Roller Coaster, if nothing else presents itself.

Food is a big issue at DHS. I was pushing for something different, but O’C used fiat powers to demand a return to Sci Fi Diner. Kate used fiat powers to start MK with Space Mountain, come to think of it. And general fiat agreement put us into Germany for the closing dinner ceremony on our last night. So if someone really wants to do something badly enough, the group will do it. If someone wants to wander off and get Cinderella’s autograph—yet again—on the other hand, they can wander off alone. O’C has said that he may do Star Tours a couple of hundred extra times, just being who he is and knowing that the word on the street is that this batch of rides (there’s a variety of possibilities for each time you ride it) will change after this year. Perish the thought he misses the Jar Jar Binks side trip to Balaclava. Anyhow, as I said, I was pushing for something different mealwise, like maybe the Brown Derby, because there’s ways of tying in your lunch with special seating at Fantasmic!, but I’m not against SFD, not by any means. I don’t even think the food sucks, although that’s the general consensus on the blogosphere. It’s a burger. How bad can it be? Meanwhile you sit in a convertible and watch coming attractions of 50s SF movies. Nothing wrong with that. As Kate and O’C both said, it’s an attraction in and of itself.

I do miss the old Disney-MGM Studios, though. Real animators on-site, the recreation of the old TV shows (one year my mother was in the soap opera, while another year I was the bearded guy from Home Improvement), and the really elaborate backstage tour, complete with Siskel and Ebert. Oh, well. S and E are both dead, production is long gone from the property, and all the great MGM memorabilia and merchandise has been sold off never to be seen again. I had this t-shirt I really loved, with a big Leo the Lion on it…

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In which we go to Animal Kingdom

Thursday of the DisAd is Animal Kingdom.

The first thing about AK that you need to know is the controversy over Expedition Everest. Is it the best coaster in WDW, or the worst? We first rode it when it opened, back when the yeti was in full animatronic swing, so I miss that, but otherwise, in terms of a themed coaster, as far as I’m concerned it’s as good as it gets. The naysayers are those who are somewhat dismayed when the ride runs out of track and they’re forced to careen backwards for a while. We had not warned anyone about this last time, taking the position that this was too much of a spoiler, and if you like coasters, it won’t bother you. Compare this to Tower of Terror, where it’s clear that if someone doesn’t want to plummet down an elevator a whole bunch of times, they’re not going to like it, period, so don’t push it. That I understand. But a little backwards time on Mt. Everest? Why not?

I bring this up because AK is, ultimately, a small park, and if you run to Everest first thing, and have a FastPass for the Safari, what else do you need FPs for? I’ll say the Rapids ride, which I’ve never done, and that leaves one more. I say, return to Everest. Others say, you’re out of your mind. Jeesh.

I think of AK as the most photogenic park, because I’m fond of animal photography. If I decide to bring my SLR (the jury is still out on that one), AK will be the reason why. I was perfectly satisfied, however, with the photos from my little compact Canon in Europe last year, so I don’t know. Bring both? Just the little one? Hard to say. I don’t feel the need to bury myself behind the lens for the whole trip, but I do like taking pictures. Tough call. There are two walks in the park, so to speak, which are essentially paths through various animals. They don’t like to call AK a zoo, but by me it compares well to the zoo experience, if you dress it up a bit and theme it to death. Anyhow, these walks are where you’re up c and p with the animals, and the added benefit of a long lens comes in handy. As I say, the jury is still out.

AK also has a couple of musical experiences that are quite pleasant, one based on Lion King and the other on Finding Nemo. It’s nice to sit down in air conditioning in Florida in August no matter what your opinion is on these sorts of shows. I’m quite the fan of AK, and if it were up to me, this would be the starting park, working one’s way up to the ultimate experience of MK. If I were bringing kids, that’s what I’d do, because, honestly, they might not appreciate the lesser impact experiences of the other parks after they’ve seen Paree. But with adults, I’ve bowed to O’C on this and agree that we hit ‘em hard right from the start.

That evening we’re doing dinner at Boma, an African buffet at the AK Lodge. This keeps everything themed the same way all day. And it’s good food! All in all, this is a pretty easy day, without a lot of running around, and a swell time should be had by all.

Monday, May 19, 2014

In which we do our first day at Epcot

Epcot Center (which it will always be to me), is almost a two-day park. It’s not that we expect to do everything in it, since some of the things aren’t on even my lightest of hit lists, but we’ll do most of it, with lots of leisure for roaming and eating and the like. It’s that kind of park. You have to hit a few of the attractions hard and fast, or get FastPasses, but mostly you can take it as it comes. There’s never a line for the Japanese department store, for instance. For that matter, there’s hardly ever lines for any of the attractions except Soarin’, Test Track and Mission Space. Come to think of it, the longest line is probably the one to avoid watching the Norway movie, although maybe Frozen now means that this poor little film is getting at least some love.

We’ll start our first Epcot day at rope drop, with the traditional trip over to Test Track to kick things off. I haven’t been on this one since they updated it; apparently you now pick out certain aspects of your car to make it somewhat Tron-ish. Whatever. After that, there’s this thing called the Sum of All Thrills, where you create your own virtual roller coaster ride. It’s in one of the Innovention places (are they still called Innoventions?). Then Mission Space, the wimpy side, since when O’C went on the non-wimpy side many years ago it shook his brain loose in his skull and he’s never recovered, and then over to the Land for its various attractions, which should get us to lunch or so. I’m figuring a FP for Soarin’ and Space and some other random thing for this day. Lunch will probably be at Morocco, and on the countries side of the lake we’ll do Morocco, Canada (which is mostly a movie about how everybody you think is from the USA is actually not, although you wouldn’t mind sending a few of them back) and the UK. I want to catch the various shows that I can in any of these. They have musicians and traveling players and so forth. Which should get us through to mid-afternoon, at which one might attack another round of miniature golf, or if the spirit doesn’t move one toward the tiny links, maybe a shot back to the hotel for a little rest and swimming before dinner at Raglan Road, very high-toned Irish food with music and dancers, and finally the Cirque de Soleil show, La Nouba.

According to the countdown, there’s 87 days to go. If you’ve been following it, there’s been a lot of hoo-ha over the opening of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride, which has been eclipsed by even more hoo-ha over the opening of Diagon Alley. Goblins vs Dwarfs? The Wicked Witch vs Voldemort? In a way, I feel sort of sorry that Disney is putting up a D ticket against a Super-E down the road. So it goes. They could have had Harry if they had really wanted him. Instead they’re creating an Avatar land of some sort for the far distant future, although ground has been broken. Avatar? Why not? Of course, building the full Star Wars land, which you know will happen some day, is the killer. Not yet, though.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In which we take a day off, so to speak, from commando theme park attacks

At this point the DisAd14 has gathered and eaten on Friday, attacked Hogwarts and other points Universal on Saturday starting at the crack of dawn, attacked Gringotts and other points Universal on Sunday starting at the crack of dawn, and put away the entire Magic Kingdom on Monday, starting at, yet again, the crack of dawn.

Time for a modicum of sleep.

Blizzard Beach opens at 9:00 a.m. For me, this would mean up at about 8:00, which is as late as I ever sleep, so it’s a pretty good deal. The plan this day is for the group to break up a little bit. Some folks may head over to the Morse Museum in Winter Park, which I’ve been to and found quite interesting. But if the sun is shining, I’m more likely to head over with the Blizzard Beach contingent. The best part of BB is the toboggans, if you ask me. I’ve gone down the virtually vertical water slide, and didn’t enjoy it much. It’s just sort of ZAP and you hit the water. The toboggans twist and turn and go all over the place, for much more entertainment value. Do this for a while, then share a raft down from the top with whoever else is around, and you’ve eaten up a couple of hours, at which point the commoners have arrived in force and the lines have grown and it’s time to lollygag along in a big tire-thing along the sleepy river or whatever they call it. Blizzard Beach being ice-themed, occasionally you get shot with a blast of cold water, but mostly you just relax and soak up the idea of not doing anything.

After lunch, there will be the first of our mini-golf tournaments. I hold the honors from the DiDeAd, but have since been beaten by JV on our m-g day in Manhattan last summer. (Yes, there is a mini-golf course in the city, within falling-out-the-window distance of Stuyvesant.) So there will be much grudge-match venom being brought into this game. The Blizzard Beach course (actually, there’s two), are Christmas and beach themed. Shouts of “Fore!” cutting through the “California Girls” and “Jingle Bell Rock” music, in other words. I would advise those of the betting persuasion not to count the daughter out in your handicapping, not to mention the son-in-law whose golf skills are totally unknown. However, putting your money on O’C to take it all is just throwing it away. O’C’s lack of athleticism extends even to mini-golf, which is about as non-athletic as you can get without being in a coma. He’s enjoyable to watch, however, much in the way a traffic accident is enjoyable to watch, as long as it’s not your car involved in the pileup. If his golf skills are contagious, we’re all in for trouble.

That night we’re doing Greek food at Cat Cora’s on the Boardwalk, followed either by Jellyroll’s, a singalong piano bar, or karaoke at a very serene Japanese sushi place. I’m sort of leaning toward the former, although the latter may prove the crowd favorite. We’ll see.

Monday, May 12, 2014

In which we take a couple of random potshots at various pop singers, etc.

The Eurovision contest is over for this year. Members of the VCA know my fondest for this event, with its singing babushkas and the like. It is the epitome of pop music, distilled to its essence after being sent to Las Vegas for humility lessons. The best thing to do is go to YouTube and watch as many of the contestants as you can before you decide to swear off music completely. (Hint: Abba won in 1974. ‘Nuff said.) (All right, maybe not enough said. Watching folks like the CNN talking heads comment on Conchita Wurst is enough to make you decide to swear off talking heads completely, if you haven’t already. And her win almost restores your faith in pop music and Eurovision.) (Almost.)

Last week CP and Bietz and I tried to record a new TVFT in aid of learning how to broadcast live, and got nowhere. I had some software, MIXLR, and everything seemed to be set up correctly, but it didn’t work. Drat. Then we defaulted to Skype, but for some reason the sound was so off I couldn’t bring myself to publish it. I tried to fix it with the tools at my disposal, but it wouldn’t happen. So, I’ve been looking at Google Hangouts. That will be our next shot at it. As I think I’ve said before, the point is to get something going for NDCA. There are so many interesting conversations that can be had, and that seems like a good place to have them. I’ve looked at Hangouts and it seems pretty straightforward, but then again, so did MIXLR…

We spent the weekend away from the chez. Saw Hair! of all things Thursday night, the national tour having landed nearby. That was fun, followed by a trip up to Woodstock and environs, not because I’m having some bizarre 60s flashback, but simply because I’ve never been. There’s a great mountain to hike, and I went to the website where they told me, over and over and over again, to watch out for timber rattlesnakes, as this is apparently their major home in the northeast. When you get to the mountain, it also reminds you of the copperheads and water moccasins that are lying in wait for you. Why did it have to be snakes? We only did a small piece of the trek; my head got too tired from spinning around trying to find my imminent death to continue very far. The town itself is obviously where old hippies all go to die, although I can’t imagine why. I mean, the music festival was, A, a long time ago and, B, not actually in Woodstock. I’m one of those people very much alive at the time, and very much into music, who doesn’t pretend to have gone, or even wanted to go. The front top headliner on all the advertisements was Melanie. Melanie? I don’t think so. Anyhow, today's Woodstock is a lot of shops selling hippie bric-a-brac and the like, okay for walking around if you can find a decent place for lunch, but that's about it. It was enjoyable enough though, along with some other town visits in the region. An easy getaway from the usual, in other words.

Speaking of the NDCA, I’ve been planning to revitalize (or maybe just vitalize) their Twitter. I gather they’re not posting anything. They do follow a lot of debate posters, though, most of whom post anything but debate stuff. I figure that I’ll just post my own articles of interest to debaters over there to get a little traction, and retweet any good stuff from everyone else. I’ve start on this, but not 100% just yet. Getting there, though, if you’re interested. @DebateCoaches.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

In which we imagine JV cursing at Winnie the Pooh while elbowing Minnie Mouse out of the way to get his morning coffee

We kick off the WDW portion of the trip with dinner at California Grill, one of the best eateries on property, high up in the Contemporary. It has a great view of MK, plus great food. I didn’t make a late reservation, where you watch the fireworks from the balcony, although we might still be there if we dawdle enough. Honestly, my feeling was that we’d see the fireworks the next day on the ground when we’re actually in MK, and we needed to be up at the crack of dawn for the opening show there, so why push it?

The opening show at MK, with the arrival of the train and all sorts of singing and dancing and the Mayor of Main Street greeting the guests, is pretty much what I’m thinking of as the Vaughan acid test. If he can make it through that, he can survive anything, up to and including “it’s a small world.” I’m not suggesting that JV is something of a cold-hearted cynical bastard. It’s just that he is, shall we say, more likely to play the part of Captain Hook than Peter Pan in our particular production of the show. This week will be bringing out his kindlier, gentler side, if any. O’C, on the other hand, is nothing but kindly and gentle, with the odd teardrop appearing in his eye at the very mention of Cinderella (who, I keep reminding him, is not real, and if she were, isn’t that person pretending to be her signing autographs in the park). I’m a softy myself, to tell you the truth, although it may not be readily apparent. Kate’s more on the JV side, given that she’ll only go into small world if she’s allowed to bring a bazooka.

The MK day is a long one. You get a bunch of E tix out of the way early, with a few FastPasses in your back pocket for later (probably Peter Pan, Seven Dwarfs and Splash Mountain). By around 11 o’clock the riff and the raff are pouring into the park, and you start gravitating toward the C and D attractions, which never really line up much. When the stomach starts growling you pop onto the monorail for a ride through the Contemporary over to the Polynesian for a nice, quiet lunch and break. I will inevitably fall asleep on the five-minute ride back to the park, fully refreshed for the rest of the day. People might veer off for their own amusements (or peace and quiet) for a while at this point, but eventually we’ll regroup and finish up things. I’m usually not that interested in the day parades, but there is a new one I’ll probably want to catch, mostly for the fire-breathing steampunk dragon. But I’m definitely in for the nighttime light parade (the Baroque Hoedown is a permanent punishment for the Sailors on my iPod) and, of course, the fireworks. One thing we’ll definitely do again is the evening Jungle Cruise—much better than during the day. A reride of Thunder Mountain in the dark isn’t bad either, if the lines aren’t too long.

The final attraction of the day is the run back to the bus to the hotel. You may need to push a few toddlers to the ground on your way, or throw some wheelchairs down a few stairwells, but Kate and I pride ourselves on our speed walking skills, honed through years of Manhattan-tourist-avoidance. I’m expecting the rest of the group to keep up, or suffer on their own. I’m not tucking anyone in but myself, and as far as I’m concerned, getting home as quickly as possible is top priority when you have to get up again bright and early the next morning.

But wait! We’re not getting up all that bright and early. The next day is Blizzard beach. For all practical purposes, we sleep in.


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

In which we show it day-by-day

These are the DisAd14 days in order from beginning to end.

Friday - Arrival at Universal
Saturday – Hogwarts then general Universal
Sunday – Diagon Alley, finish up Universal, transfer to WDW, Coronado Springs.
Monday – MK
Tuesday – Break day. Blizzard Beach, minigolf.
Wednesday – Half day early start at Epcot. Minigolf rematch. La Nouba.
Thursday – AK
Friday – DHS
Saturday – Epcot half day, late start.

That gives us three days in a row of early commando attacks on the parks, a sort of sleep-in day, three more early starts, a final sleep-in day, and then disappear back to the real world. That’s not a bad balance, and there shouldn’t be too much craziness the way the days have been planned. As I’ve said, it’s not the busiest time of the year, and we are equipped with all the tools of the planners trade.

We’ll kick things off with a nice dinner on Friday at Emeril’s at Universal. You wouldn’t expect it to be much more than a noisy theme restaurant with lots of duck fat, but we ate there ages ago and it was top drawer. Universal has a stretch of restaurants and shops outside of its two parks, and we are staying on that property, so my plan is to arrive in the afternoon, lollygag by the pool, stroll the shopping boulevard, eat like a king, then tuck in nice and early for a crack-of-dawn start in the a.m. Staying at Universal means you get first shot at the Harry Potter attractions before the gates open to the hoi and the polloi. It also means front-of-the-line status on, I think, everything else, so aside from hitting the boards early, it will be easy after that. I’m expecting to be able to take a break midday for a quick nap (which those who know me know that I can do standing up while tabbing and doing the crossword puzzle at the same time), then head back for part two of day one.

Sunday is another early start, to the other side of Harry, the new attractions at Diagon Alley, which are scheduled to open in July. Leave after lunch and mosey over to WDW to our hotel, for some more lollygagging.

I’ll be really curious to reactions to Universal compared to WDW for our newbies. Richard, after all, is a total WDW virgin, and JV hasn’t been there since Mickey Mouse was in black and white. Will they feel the immersion in the latter, the total Disneyfication of their inner souls, as compared to the just generally nice collection of rides in the former? We’ll see.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Richard Sodikow, debate god

My daughter asked if she could go home early from a tournament because a friend of hers had a car to drive her back. I was jealous. The car was a cute little sports convertible. “I remember one time,” Sodikow responded to this, “when I looked out the window at a tournament and saw a bunch of students driving around the parking lot in a convertible, none of them sitting in the seats, all of them standing up and acting like idiots. And then I realized, they were my idiots.”


Sodikow was one of the founders of the Mid-Hudson (now Metro-Hudson) League. He would always host the first-timers’ event. At the end of the day during the awards ceremony, he would ask the assembled novices if, A, they had enjoyed themselves, and B, if they had learned anything. If they could answer yes to both questions, they would be debaters for the next four years. During the awards ceremony now, I ask them the same questions, since those are the only two good reasons one ought to bother with debate, and if you can’t answer yes to both, what’s the point?


There was a point early in his career, he told me, when he had to decide between Stuyvesant and the Bronx. At the former, he probably would have gone more of a drama route, as compared to the debate route at the latter. And then he described with lust in his eyes to state-of-the-art theater complex Stuyvesant had later built in its new location. And then he shrugged. “I did manage to be New York Teacher of the Year, so I guess it worked out fine.”


I learned to tab, on index cards, at MHLs under Sodikow’s tutelage. He also tabbed Bump for me, back in the day, but not on index cards. When tabbing first went digital, it was on Macs only, and a testy program it was. While he would wait for the machine to calculate, he would slowly rub the chassis of his computer, presumably to relay to it warm and comfortable thoughts so that it wouldn’t crash, which it was prone to do more often than not. That’s my image of him in tab, staring off into space, massaging the rounds out of his laptop.


On the 6 hour bus ride home from Edison HS, below DC, in the wee hours, he would sit in the front seat on the right and sing opera just slightly above a whisper. 6 hours of opera.


Sister Raimonde, another debate god, ran the NYSFL with an iron hand. When she spoke, everyone listened. Back then, Soddie ran policy tab, in a building off by itself, running a bit late this particular year. While we were waiting for him and the results, the rest of the award ceremony was in full swing. The gym we were in was packed to the gills with forensicians, but as Sister Raimonde announced this and that, she commanded everyone’s complete attention. No one else would dare speak while she was on the podium. At the last possible moment, Soddie showed up with the results from policy and delivered them to Sister. She got to them a moment later, and said something to the effect that she especially wanted to thank Mr. Sodikow this year now that he was retiring. From somewhere in the gym, a shocked and stunned student’s voice immediately rang out into the otherwise respectful silence: “Sodikow’s retiring?”

The entire gymnasium broke out in hysterics. Then Sister Raimonde, who was not amused, raised an eyebrow. Silence returned immediately, and the awards ceremony concluded without further incident.


A student of mine was being dogged by a kid from another school who was totally infatuated with her, much to her dismay. At one tournament, he sidled up to her and gave her a little package with a necklace in it. She came to me asking what to do. “So this boy gave her a present,” I said to Sodikow. “She’s pregnant?” he immediately responded. “I hate when that happens.”

This particular incident, and this interchange, eventually worked their way into Nostrum.


Anyone reading Nostrum could tell that Manhattan Lodestone (“A Magnet School”) and its coach, Mr. Lo Pat, could only be Bronx Science (transported to midtown) and Sodikow. The Round Robin, the unique LD topic, the fearsome debate god—what else could it be? When Nostrum came back for a second series, after a long break, Sodikow had long been retired, and in the new series, Mr. Lo Pat was also no longer at Manhattan Lodestone, having been replaced by Halefoil Cumcut, who was loosely based on Jon Cruz. Art imitates life, and all that. Of course, in fiction, Mr. Lo Pat had been set upon by the unknown “Halibut Killer,” and one of the regrets I have about Nostrum is never explaining who, indeed, was the wielder of that deadly samurai sword. Anyhow, I am proud to say that, when I began putting together the final ultimate version earlier this year, I found among the correspondence of Jules O’Shaughnessy and the Vast Nostrumian Army fan mail I had forgotten from RBS himself.

It was the best note I ever got. I figured if Sodikow liked Nostrum, I had won over my most important audience.

Monday, May 05, 2014

In which we plan every last minute

In the olden days, you went to Disneyland and bought a ticket for anything you wanted to do. Those tickets evolved into ticket books, ranged from A to E for corresponding attractions, with a certain number of each, to spread people around. The point was, the park had X number of E-ticket attractions, and you were given X-Y number of E tickets. Crowd control was built in, and on the guest side of things, you hadn’t even gotten through the door and you were already faced with choices. I was lucky when I was little to be traveling with adults who were happy to pass along their Es to build up my supply, so I didn’t have to miss anything, aside from the pressures of time and lines and whatnot working against the average park-goer.

Eventually the park was general admission with all attractions included. Which meant that going to WDW was a matter of engineering the best course through a given park, minimizing the amount of time spent on lines. Rule number one for this, which you would think would be obvious to everyone capable of breathing, is to get there at park opening. But you’d be surprised how hard this is for some people. For whatever reason, they are unable to gather their forces for the firing of the opening shots, and they miss out on the first hour or two when you pretty much walk on to anything you want without waiting. If you get the (now virtual) E tickets out of the way early, you breeze into the less busy attractions for the rest of the day without having to give it too much thought, provided it’s not one of the busiest days of the year. The DisAd, in mid- to late-August, is only a moderately busy time, so that won’t be a problem for us.

Rule number two is to use the Unofficial Guide, which I have sworn by since its earliest days. For all practical purposes, the Guide is the aggregate of untold numbers of line engineers processing the best paths for speedy touring and passing along the results. For years I was a dedicated follower of the book. Whoever was with us, they trusted me and I trusted the Guide, and even though we were occasionally caroming all over creation, we were seldom waiting on a line. Life was good. In fact, even during busy times, and we did occasionally visit during such times, the Guide was a lifesaver. Plus showing up early. I think one of the big reasons people come home dissatisfied from a Disney trip is poor planning on their parts. Granted one might not want to attack an amusement park with the diligence of Eisenhower contemplating the invasion of Europe, but for me planning has become part of the whole fun of the trip. And the satisfaction of a good trip as a result is more than enough payback.

A while back, Disney introduced the FastPass. This was a reservation for a ride that you picked up in advance. You could get one of these for an E ticket a couple of hours hence, and after a certain interval, you could get another one, etc., etc. Adding the FassPass tickets to good tour management allowed things like repeat rides on one’s favorite attractions. You can ride Star Tours, if you’re O’C, maybe 20 times in a row. The old FastPass would help you on at least a couple of those trips.

Now Disney has what they call FastPass+. These are reservations made not while you’re in the park (for the most part, although you can make them in the park, and augment the ones you’ve already gotten after you’ve used them), but up to two months in advance. In other words, the park commando now plans his touring in general, plus when and which of a handful of FastPass+ reservations, 100 days before the trip, and remains poised to enter them the moment they become available (60 days in advance if you’re staying on property). I’ll be able to solicit passes for the entire DisAd, once everyone has ceded to me their reservation rights, which they have mostly all done.

Add to this the fact that the Unofficial Guide, which I still swear by, is now an app that you can adjust to your heart’s content, moving things this way and that way, augmenting with FastPasses, etc. I’ve already got MK and Epcot planned out. I started working on AK today, but hit up against a server problem, so I’ve postponed until tomorrow, but obviously, no soon is too soon for me!

If anyone needs help planning their Disney trip, let me know. I’ll plan everything for you, including breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks, bathroom breaks, rides, shows, catnaps, family arguments, snakebite first aid, parking assignments, gas-passing and general albeit scheduled serendipity—gratis. It’s like playing a computer game, Sim Disney. Except real people get to be the sims.

Hey! Vaughan! Get over here! It’s 11:38. There is no scheduled bathroom break now. You’re supposed to be in the India section of “it’s a small world” at this very moment. You want to spend the rest of the day in the guard house? Suck it in, bub! You’ll pee when the Unofficial Guide says you can pee, and not a minute before.