Past episodes Reader's Guide to the Nostrum Universe Nostrum Correspondence Corner
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Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?
There is one thing you don't get a lot of on debate circuits: Friday nights off.
Speechies, unless they're at a university tournament, are basically of the one-day persuasion, attending events like the upcoming Blessed Moly CFL. Three rounds is usually enough to separate the wheat from the interpretive chaff, or maybe four rounds if the wheat is especially choice. Entries at a one-dayer are limited, and double-entry is discouraged if not downright prohibited, unlike the university milieu where double- or even triple-entry is the only alternative to a three-day weekend at a cost of three hundred dollars a head to spend twenty-nine and a half minutes doing one little piece and the rest of the time roaming the campus pretending to go there or shopping for their tee shirt or sitting in the main gathering area sinking into a miasma of boredom that would boggle the mind of a fly fisherman. Multiple entry is the way Speechies amortize their cost of doing forensician business.
Debaters, on the other hand, tend to have five, or occasionally even six or even seven preliminary rounds at a tournament (except in Texas, where everything is bigger, and the average number of prelim rounds is three -- go figure). Tournaments start somewhere between two and four o'clock on a Friday afternoon for three rounds on the first day, concluding on the ensuing Saturday with as many rounds as it takes to keep one team standing. It is patently illegal to work children beyond a certain number of hours a day; child labor laws have now been in effect for decades, protecting the youth of America from exploitation. The only exception to this is the debate circuit; where is Jacob Riis when you really need him? And if the number of rounds isn't bad enough, the frequency of tournaments is positively satanic. Every week, week in and week out, there they go again. On Fridays and Saturdays from September through at least March, the only time debaters are not standing in some classroom with a flowpad in hand are when they have a bad enough flair-up of dengue fever or the yaws or some other tropical disease that even a forensician is forced to stay home in bed for the weekend.
The yaws. You never hear much about the yaws anymore.
So when there is a gap in the schedule, and a Friday night magically opens up, debaters as a rule do what everybody else does on a Friday: They rent a video.
Wait. I hear your objections. Renting a video on a Friday night, you say. What about dating? What about getting out and partying? What about getting out and getting down? Isn't that what Fridays are all about?
Well, maybe where you come from. But we're talking about debaters here, people who spend every other Friday night in a classroom with a flowpad. Do you really thing that they are going to magically turn into party animals on their first Friday off?
Let's go to the videotape...
Tarnish Jutmoll rings the bell to the Nutmilk house. He waits a minute, and then Amnea is opening the door for him. She gives him a brief kiss as he enters.
"This has been the longest week on record," she tells him, leading him up the stairs.
"Busy at work?" he asks.
"Murder," she replies. "We had to kill not one, not two, but three articles. Which pretty much leaves nothing but ads and the masthead."
"Why did you have to kill them?"
"Two of them didn't fact-check. You can't run news if it didn't happen, or at least you are not reasonably sure that it happened. At least if you want to satisfy the requirements of the First Amendment."
"And the third piece?"
"I hated it. It was terrible."
"So you just killed it?"
"I am the editor. If I don't kill the crap, who will?"
He nods as he places a bottle of wine on the kitchen counter top. "Petite sirah," he says. "Un vin grand, as the little fellow in the wine store likes to say."
"Great. It will go well with the duck breasts."
"Where's Chesney?" Jutmoll asks.
"Working on his computer."
"Good." He lays a video down next to the wine. "I thought everyone would enjoy this one."
She looks at the box. "Austin Powers?"
"All the kids say it's very funny. You haven't seen it, have you?"
"No. But I think Chesney has. About eleven times."
"Then he won't mind watching it again."
Tarnish narrows his eyes. "Are you sure you haven't seen it? I can always go back and get something else. Maybe something serious, like a documentary."
She puts her hand on his. "We'll watch Austin Powers. Meanwhile, you open the wine. We've got to let your grand vin breathe for a while."
"As you wish, madame," he replies, opening the drawer and digging around for a bottle opener.
"Can we find something maybe before the store closes?" Hamlet P. Buglaroni, Sr., asks.
Hamlet P. Buglaroni, Jr., looks up from where he is crouching, scanning the bottom row of the spy movie aisle of the Nighten Township Blockbuster franchise. "There must be some James Bond movie we haven't seen," the boy says.
"Just grab any one. They're all the same."
"They are not. You can't compare Sean Connery and Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. They're like apples and oranges and rutabagas."
"They're six one half dozen the other." Ham Senior spies a box on a different shelf. "How about this?" he asks. Goodfellas.
"Don't you get enough of that in the office?" his son asks.
"Busman's holiday," Ham Senior mutters. He walks down the aisle. "How about John Wayne? They've got a whole section of John Wayne here."
"Can't we see something made in my lifetime?" Ham Junior asks.
"A classic is a classic is a classic," his father replies.
"Spare me," Ham Junior says under his breath. His fingers pass over the boxes. "Aha!" He rises. "I found it."
He shows the box to his father. On Her Majesty's Secret Service. "It's got George Lazenby. Whoever he is."
"He's the best Bond of all." Ham Senior grabs the box and heads toward the cashier.
"Really?" Ham Junior asks.
"Sure. No doubt about it."
"Whatever happened to him, then? How come I never heard of him?"
Ham Senior shrugs. "You haven't heard of everyone. George Lazenby quit acting after this and became, I think it was, a nuclear scientist."
"Yeah. I think the same thing happened to Roger Moore."
"Sean Connery stayed in the picture business, though. Except he changed his name. Now he's Jim Carrey."
Ham Junior rolls his eyes. His father is bad enough normal, but when he decides to be a comedian... Oh, well. At least there's a James Bond film to look forward to.
"If I watch Austin Powers one more time I'm going to turn into Austin Powers." Disney Davidson is lying on his bed, reading Dead Souls.
"They didn't have anything else," his roommate says, tossing the video on his own bed.
"We don't have to watch TV," Disney says.
"What else are we gonna do?"
Disney looks at his roommate, looks at the video, then looks at his book. "You want to send out for a pizza?" he asks finally.
"Shagadelic, baby," is his roommate's response.
Camelia and Jasmine Maru are sitting in the bedroom they share.
"You want to watch a movie?" Camelia asks. She is at her desk, idly going over her e-mail. A few kids from school have sent her empty nonsense, to which she is replying in kind.
"It's too late to go to the video store," Jasmine replies. She is lying on her bed, reading Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour, An Introduction.
"It's never too late to go to the video store."
"I can't drive at night with my permit."
"Dad will come with us."
"Then Dad will want to pick out the movie."
"Eeeehh!" Camelia's response is half grunt, half moan. "I can't watch another Kurosawa film."
"Or any of those other hifalutin Greeks. Don't you think Dad could ever get over this Japanese thing he's got."
"He is Japanese, Camelia. He was born in Japan."
"So? I was born in Nighten Township, but I don't just watch Nighten Township films."
"There are no Nighten Township films."
"Nighten the Living Dead. Starring Hamlet Buglaroni."
Jasmine giggles. "Hamlet P. Buglaroni. God save us."
"Do you think he'll ever go away?"
"Is he a pain in the butt?" Jasmine asks.
"Then he'll never go away. Pains in the butt never do. It's only the ones you really like that disappear. The idiots last forever."
Camelia logs off the Internet. "You want to see what's actually on TV?" she asks.
"It's Friday night. There is absolutely nothing on. Except maybe the Awful Twins."
"I don't think they're on anymore."
"In that case Friday night has improved dramatically."
"It's now Sabrina the Teenage Witch."
"Eeeehh!" Jasmine's response is that same half grunt, half moan. "I'm going to read," she says.
"I'm going to watch TV."
"Say goodbye to your brain."
"There's no Michael Myers section in this Blockbuster," Frick Tarleton says.
"There's never any Michael Myers sections," Frank Tarleton responds.
"There should be."
"How about Taint Your Wagon, with Clint Eastwood?"
"Clint Eastwood is no Mike Myers."
"No, he isn't."
"Go ahead, make my day."
"What about McDonald's?"
"What about McDonald's?"
"Go ahead, make my Egg McMuffin."
"Clint Eastwood never said that."
"Mike Myers never said that."
"Okay, Mike Myers. Think of the oeuvre."
"There's the couple of Wayne's World movies, and the axe lady movie, and Austin Powers. What else is there?"
"Nothing else worth building a whole section for."
"Clint Eastwood gets a section. What has he ever done?"
"Clint Eastwood is a big deal. Are you feeling lucky, punk?"
"I hate Clint Eastwood."
"He's never had much to say about you that's positive, either. Where's Mom?"
"Over in the Fried Green Tomatoes section."
"Chick flicks. No car chases."
"Everyone dies of natural causes."
"No one ever breaches the space-time continuum."
The twins stare at each other.
"SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM!" they yell in unison.
And Blockbuster rents another copy of Star Trek 43, in which Picard and Janeway celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary playing golf with James Doohan at the old course at St. Andrews.
"Beam me my dilithium five iron, Scottie," Picard says.
"Wi kunna due ih, cappun."
"Wi kunna due ih, cappun."
"Can't you speak English, for God's sake, Scottie?"
"Sorry, mon capitain."
First Griot Goldbaum trims his mustache. This is no easy business, as the slightest slip of the scissors can mean absolute disaster. The worst problem is when one side is shorter than the other, and you have to snip the offender, and then that one is shorter, and then you snip the other side, and then the other, until before you know it instead of Ming the Merciless you're nothing more than a pale imitation of Errol Flynn with a caterpillar under your nose.
Tonight Griot's toilet is successful, and he celebrates by deciding to watch TV in bed. His house is fully cabled, and his family subscribes to every premium station available in the free world. To improve matters even further, he has his own TV in his room, and absolutely no supervision over what he watches. He even has his own VCR.
It is a dangerous combination.
But Griot Goldbaum is not a dangerous person. While he could be watching nothing but TV-MAs, he spends virtually all of his idiot-box time watching the Disney Channel.
Go Mickey. Go Donald. Go Goofy.
It's just that Griot loves animation, and he loves simple stories. When he's not watching Disney he's solving Fermat's equation or reading Don Quixote in the original Spanish or correcting Hawkins' errors in his copy of A Brief History of Time.
Go Mickey. Go Donald. Go Goofy.
They sit together on the couch, tangled like a five-year-old's shoelaces. Ellie DiBella and Trat Warner spend most of their time alone together on couches, tangled like a five-year-old's shoelaces.
"You wanna watch a movie?" Trat asks, pulling away momentarily.
"Anything in particular?"
"How about Austin Powers?"
And this is where we came in, if we remember correctly.
Will Tarnish and Amnea be inspired enough by Austin Powers to start talking in groovy dialect?
Will Buglaroni decide that George Lazenby is the quintessential James Bond?
Is George Lazenby the quintessential James Bond??
Would Disney Davidson be better off sticking to Gogol?
Is Camelia the only person over the age of ten watching ABC on a Friday night?
Haven't Frick and Frank seen enough Star Treks by now?
Will Griot be the first in line to see Tarzan?
Will Ellie and Trat actually watch the movie?
We haven't got the foggiest idea in our next episode:"The Heartbreak of Cookie Dusters, or, Your Mustache Must Ache."
Go to the next episode due June 16, 1999.