Thursday, October 29, 2015

In which we plan to lay back for a few days

So the Tiggers is sewn up for a while. I’ve sent out the first of many emails saying what I always say, that asking when slots will open up is pointless, which of course will stop no one from asking when slot will open up, but I should be used to it by now. For a while I used CP’s snarky form letter when people asked silly questions, but it never really worked. RTFI, for God’s sake! [Sigh.]

Meanwhile, the Paginator, who claims to be a commie red pinko bolshie anarchist, continues to deny that he is, in fact, a man of means with a number of servants attending to his every need. After all, when you do a Google image search for “noblesse oblige,” his picture is the first hit. I know this is going to get in the way of our tabbing together, if for no other reason than that his entourage requires regular feeding and bathroom breaks, but I'm willing to be patient. Very understanding on my part, you have to agree. He and Bro John will be working Congress out of our LD tab room at the Tiggers, which means that at least we’ll have all of Lord P’s minions available if we need Starbucks or the like.

Oh, well. I have a couple of weekends off, I’m happy to say, but I’m not quite sure how to fill them up. The thing is, I’d probably have them off even if I were still coaching, but still… I’d like to go see the new Star Wars movie, but for some reason it isn’t playing anywhere around here. (I haven’t seen a movie in a theater since Al Jolson broke the sound barrier, or at least that’s what it feels like. Maybe it’s a result of my buying that large screen TV back in the Spring. It’s just like going to the movies, without having to hit people over the head with my cane to get them to turn off their cellphones and stop texting.) I’ll find something to do, I’m sure. Maybe I’ll finish up N3 and start wrapping up the whole book and get it ready to post. Maybe I’ll figure out why the CD player I just bought doesn’t play CDs. (JV was watching over my shoulder in amazement as I placed the order, disbelieving that such things still existed.) Maybe I’ll clean out the basement. I don’t know.

Any wonder I don’t retire from the DJ? I’d drive myself crazy in a week.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

If this is Wednesday it must be Nostrum

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I have finally begun working on the N3 episodes. They are very, uh, drafty. Characters names change, plot points are inconsistent, all the usual stuff you would expect in something flowing unedited out of the fingertips and into the computer. And oh so dated, even though it was only 4 or 5 years ago. Ye gods! 

I'm thinking of publishing these episodes only in the e-book version, i.e., Ultimate Nostrum, Volume 2, and not printing them here. I know this is cheating on my part, since everything else I've done has been entirely open and free. But as they are only of archival interest, as compared to something I'm publishing for straightforward entertainment, it might be better to exclude them from the public eye except as that archival material. I have to admit, however, that reading them, with a touch of disappointment over their lack of, in my eyes, total success, makes me wonder if I should start up again and do it right this time. I mean, do a real N3 series entirely focussing on TOC themes. The problem is drawing the line between the satire and pure mean-spiritedness. I've come to dislike virtually everything about the operation, from the tactics of the students trying to get in to the politics of the advisory boards trying to mold it for their own benefit to the general shenanigans surrounding the actual event pretty much every year lately. I always thought Nostrum should be fun. None of this strikes me as any fun at all. But then again, maybe that's what makes it ripe for the picking...

Meanwhile, from Ultimate Volume One, a pdf of the list of characters as published there. Read it on your phone or tablet. The names have a certain poetry all their own, and they include a bunch of external references that you might find fun tracking down. And, of course, all the coaches' names are anagrams of philosophical type people. Lo Pat, for instance, is obviously Plato. But Seth B. Obomash? 

Have fun.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Song of the day. I just can’t get it out of my mind. I’ve had worse songs stuck in my head. People who tab with me can attest to that.

I did the first run through the Tigger waitlist today. VLD was fine, and NLD will get fine after I start believing the number of available rooms. PF, on the other hand, is barely a dent. Well, maybe more than just a dent, but still only two thirds of the registrants. Remember when I said the tide had turn? Here’s more evidence, if you need it. Speaking of which, I noticed that Wee Sma Lex is finally offering novice PF. Obviously Kaz has given CP a much needed stern talking-to.

And then there’s this from the NSDA:

School-Based Memberships: To best serve our students, strengthen the creation and sustainability of programs, and establish continuity from middle school to high school, the Board of Directors voted at the Fall Board Meeting to require school affiliation for all memberships beginning with the 2016-2017 school year. Any high school, middle school, home school, or virtual school recognized as an accredited public or private school by the state in which those schools compete may join the National Speech & Debate Association. All current non-school-based clubs and organizations are encouraged to work with the Association and area school districts to create speech and debate programs through their students' schools. Students who are currently Association members through their area non-school-based clubs and organizations may request to have their memberships transferred at any time to their accredited public and private schools by contacting

You know, that’s exactly what we’ve been saying from the beginning: if you want to play the game, join the team. If you want to support debate, get local high schools to support it. It’s as simple as that. And next year, at all of our tournaments, all we have to do is point to this and wave bye-bye. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

In which we talk about a weekend of NYCFL debate

I am proud to say that I am now in the NYCFL Hall of Fame. And, I’m not even dead. Although I am only in it for the money, it is nice to be recognized for the work one does, even if one is a bit shy about accolades. Unfortunately, induction into the Hall of Fame did not include a cash prize. Having been to the Vatican and seen all the treasures there, I have no choice but to wonder why they couldn’t have tossed just a ceremonial bit my way. You know: "I acquired some position...and a tiny Titian." Pope Francis has made it clear that he doesn’t want any of the church's filthy lucre. Should I be looking at Benedict XVI, Ret., as the source of my woes? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Sadly, we only got three rounds in on Saturday. Best laid plans and all that. We had a minor kerfuffle in tab—a stupid mistake on my part setting round times that took ages to track down—but that wasn’t what held us back. 4 rounds either happens or it doesn’t, and you know at 12:30, if people haven’t picked up all the ballots yet for round 2, which was supposed to start at 12:00, that it simply isn’t going to happen. Then again, this was a lot of first timers, on both sides of the room. We also had to mix in a bunch of same-school pairings, which I never like. I have ideas on how to ameliorate that, and I’ll put them into practice next time out. It’s more time consuming, but if everyone shows up, and you can plan it in advance, it’s not so bad. The thing is, if one school is half the field, at some point you want a round where everyone isn’t debating that school. That requires intervention on your part, but it seems intuitively more fair to me. The variety of opponents, especially at the novice level where teams from a school might all be running similar material, provides better round diversity than simply shuffling the teams. Next one up is the end of December. I’ll do what I can.

One thing was for certain, and that is that, if this event were any indication, the tide has turned in NY. I know it’s already turned most everywhere else, but when you have twice as many PF teams as LD teams (and that’s excluding Regis!), you know it’s over. I will point out that once upon a time we also used to have Policy teams. Au revoir, CX. How long before we say au revoir, LD? How long before instead of offering novice LD at big tournaments, we offer novice PF? It’s only a matter of time, and waking up to smell the coffee. I’m thinking of the Pups now. The numbers clearly demonstrate that the overall attendance would be the same if they exchanged JV PF for JV LD. I’m not suggesting that bid-worthy LD is going away any time soon. But if there are fewer novices this year, there will be fewer varsity three years from now. The process is inevitable, at least in regions dominated by circuit competitors.

None of this is surprising, of course. I’ve already discussed the reasons at length. Mostly, of course, Benny XVI, Ret., is the one to blame. Pope Francis has been an OOer since day one, and is out of the debate game completely. That Benny guy, though… A PFer if I ever saw one. And he still calls it Ted Turner Debate to boot.

Friday, October 23, 2015

In which we rest on our laurels and/or our butts

I’ve been having the oddest week. I’ve been actually sleeping through the night. Remarkable. I’ve finally overcome the gnawings of my guilty conscience.

I have to admit that tournaments like Voluminous Bronx do take it out of you. The tab room is busy in the morning before the rounds start, and we’re there working long after the rounds of the day are over. We’re there before registration and we stick it through to the finals. Which is why we are less than sympathetic to folks who come to us begging for time off. What about giving me and the Paginator some time off? We’d much rather go bar-hopping than, say, pairing round 4. Everybody okay with that? (Actually, this impugns the P’s sterling reputation for sobriety: he’s quite the rock when he has students in tow. This is the way it should be, and maybe why I retired from coaching. I could only take so much teetotalling.)

After something as demanding as the Bronx—we started working on it in April—it’s nice to have something as undemanding as a little CFL contest at Regis tomorrow. 6 divisions of LD and PF, and if there’s a blackout we can do it on cards and still enjoy Grandma Julia’s judge lounge. For a number of novices, this will be their first tournament, but I don’t think there are any first-time schools coming. So for the most part, everyone will know what to do. We should get 4 rounds in and be out by 6:30ish. At least that’s the hope. On our end, we’ll be training our auditor. We did have a big error at Grands, despite myself, Kaz and JV combining our tabbing talents, and we want to avoid that in the future. Everything else there is audited, so we should be too. If we’re going to deport people to Sacramento next Spring, we want it to be the right people.

Sacramento? Who comes up with this stuff?

Meanwhile, the Tiggers have opened registration, and we’ll start clearing the lists Tuesday. We did get a complaint that someone registered 15 minutes after it opened and couldn’t understand why they were waitlisted. The many facets of this are very entertaining. First of all, 99% of the people registered within a minute of opening, this being 2015 and registration being online. Secondly, a slight glance at the invitation would have removed some of the surprise from any of this. And third, if you’re going to put in TBAs, it’s a little…sassy…to complain that we have a waitlist. Jeesh. Anyhow, our standard wait-a-week policy is in effect, so that people don’t have to sign up within 7 seconds of opening to insure slots. This worked well for the Pups and Bronx. I think we waited longer for those than a week, though, because of the summer opening, but a week is enough, even if the coaches are in Papeete sipping martinis on the beach or whatever.

And then, after this weekend, two weekends off. Really? Really. With no more MHL, big gaps have opened in the schedule. Which makes me wonder what people with novices will do to fill that gap, but, well, I’ve laid down the torch. I already picked it up once long ago when there was a void that needed to be filled. Now I’m on my own metaphoric Papeete beach sipping metaphoric martinis. Rebuilding and/or maintaining a local educational league, if anybody wants it, is a job that is available. Honestly, though, the real question may be whether anyone wants it, given the state of the MHL the last couple of years. A good idea that ran its course, seems to be the truth of it. So it goes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

If this is Woden's Day it must be Nostrum

I was asked by someone, during the hurlyburly of Jumbo Bronco, if they should read Nostrum. Well, I thought, if you can handle something the size of War and Peace, Moby Dick and the novelization of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein combined, then you're probably up for it. Of course, there are so many options for how to consume this grande bouffe that one has to decide up front how to ingest it. While I have a fondness for the audio versions, they are incomplete, and they also lack the inside detail of the ebook version. The ebook has footnotes and editorial explanations and evaluations after many of the episodes, and sources of some of the tales that are told (Nostrum being, as you know, based on a true story). The online episodic version is, perhaps, the least thorough, but, like the original version of Star Wars (which was not known then as any damned New Hope), demonstrates the way it was at the beginning without editing (or, more to the point, without as much editing, not that I changed anything in the ebook, but I did make corrections occasionally). To demonstrate the difference between the ebook and the online version, I offer here the opening of the Ultimate version, Volume 1.




The following, slightly edited, is the introduction to Nostrum online:
Nostrum is a fictional look at the high school debate universe, written by Jules O'Shaughnessy and the Nostrumite. The first series of Nostrum was published in the 1990s in weekly episodes until the two authors essentially ran out of gas. Along the way they published enough material to make Tolstoy look like a piker, but for a while it had all been lost in the primeval mists of the original old AOL website. Then, thanks to the dedication of Jim Menick, who obviously had nothing better to do with his time, the episodes were republished online, both as print versions and audios. Menick made it through recording about half of the audios before he, too, ran out of gas. Audios of the original series, up through episode 72, are available, both at and on iTunes. After episode 72, the episodes continue up through 181 in print only, at which point series one ended.
And that was where we thought it would all end, until Jules, unsuccessful in reclaiming the Moravian throne, returned to the United States and rejoined the Nostrumite in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to create Series 2. Some people call this Nostrum: The Next Generation. Others call it The Nostrum Strikes Back, or Nostrum Part Deux, or Nostrum 2: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to go Back Into the Debate Tournament. We simply call it a sad failure of imagination, but who listens to us, anyhow? Once again, Menick provided narration for the series, and both written and spoken versions of all of Series 2 are available on
As Series 2 faded into the past, the debate world let out a sigh of relief, thinking it was finally rid of this scourge, but then Jules and the Nostrumite, frustrated that in both previous series they had started the story early in the fictional debate season and never gotten even as far as Thanksgiving, decided to give it yet another shot, this time concentrating on the end of the season, specifically the Combat of Conquerors, long aluded to in the earlier series but never approached even closely. The time had come, they said, to rectify this oversight. Sadly, those episodes were never published.

Of course, some of the above isn’t true.
I, Jim Menick, all by my lonesome, began writing Nostrum because, as a parent judge and later a new coach traveling to debate tournaments every weekend, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, I liked to write, and I had something to write about. I created the team of Jules O’Shaughnessy and the Nostrumite as the pseudonyms for my authorship to protect my anonymity. I’m pretty sure plenty of people eventually knew it was me, but probably more people didn’t, and certainly not in the beginning, when I was just another soul on the forensic highway. My method of distributing the episodes was to send them out unsolicited on the popular ld-l listserver, one at a time, on Wednesdays during the season. I did this for many years, and entertained myself enormously.
After a while I just pooped out, but there were a couple of attempts to revive things. First I tried to create a new fictional universe at Tennessee Williams High School, then I went back to Nostrum. I never did get the momentum that I had had in the beginning, however.
This volume of the Ultimate Nostrum contains all the episodes of the original series, with some annotations, a dramatis personae and a Table of Contents of the episodes, which is pretty entertaining all by itself. A second volume will contain the messages that were sent out with each episode outlining the weekly adventures of Jules and the Nostrumite, plus the complete sets of TWHS, Nostrum 2 and the never-before-seen Nostrum 3.
So, settle back, my friend. The amount of material here is amazing. If you’re a part of the debate world, some of it may seem familiar, although like everything, debate has evolved in the years since this was written. The people, however, are about the same.
And as you read it, never forget, Nostrum is based on a true story.