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?
Four members of the Nighten Day team have broken at the Algren. In the Varsity division there are Griot Goldbaum, who breaks everywhere, and Jasmine Maru, who has managed to survive the curse of Mr. Dwindle. In JV there are Camel(l)ia Maru, whose natural debate talent is as strong as any novice coach Tarnish Jutmoll has ever witnessed, and Hamlet P. Buglaroni, Jr., whose success is, to all who know him, completely anomalous. Those who have judged him, including Amnea Nutmilk, and whoever has picked him up at the Algren, have certainly seen something that has eluded the rest of his critics. In any case, Griot, Jasmine, Camel(l)ia and Buglaroni are the last four Nighten Dayers who will ever break, having done so at the final tournament Nighten Day will ever attend.
May their names live on in glory.
"So everybody goes to the elimination rounds?" Tom Starbuck asks. He is walking down the wide corridors of Algren-by-the-Sea High School beside Hamlet P. Buglaroni, Jr. The rest of the Nighten Day team is behind them.
"Usually," Buglaroni tells him.
"Why?" Starbuck asks.
"Different reasons. To support their teammates, to watch the good people, to cop some flows."
"What are flows?"
"Notes from a round," Griot Goldbaum explains, catching up to Buglaroni and the lawyer. "You can't watch a round without taking notes, and you organize your notes so that the arguments are laid against each other, the same way the debaters debate them. That's called the flow."
"I'll take notes, then," Starbuck says.
At this point the varsity heads in one direction and Buglaroni, Camel(l)ia and the Tarleton Twins turn off in the opposite direction. Starbuck follows the younger students. He is here specifically to watch Buglaroni, and he intends to do so, although his curiosity is more than a little piqued by Griot Goldbaum's handicapping skills.
"Should we watch Camel(l)ia or Buglaroni?" Frick Tarleton asks his brother.
"Camel(l)ia or Buglaroni. Tough choice," Frank Tarleton responds.
"Very tough choice. Camel(l)ia or Hamlet."
"Hamlet? I never think of him as Hamlet, only as Buglaroni."
"Only as Buglaroni, because Buglaroni is his alone, while he has no claim on Hamlet."
"He has no claim on Hamlet because Hamlet is already taken."
"Hamlet is already taken, and once a name is taken, no one else can lay claim to it."
"Hamlet is a taken name. Like Methuselah."
"Methuselah is definitely a taken name. You never meet anyone named Methuselah anymore."
"You never did. You never meet anyone named Elvis anymore, either."
"Elvis is a taken name."
"Elvis took it and ran with it."
"Until the fluffernutters slowed him down, that is. Rudolph is a taken name."
"No it's not."
"Of course it is. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. Who names their kids Rudolph after that?"
"Mama Giuliani named her kid Rudolph."
"She didn't know about reindeer?"
"She didn't know about reindeer. Or maybe she couldn't afford a radio."
"Maybe she hated Christmas. Maybe they didn't celebrate Christmas at the Giuliani household. That would explain a lot."
"That would definitely explain a lot. Rudolph is like Adolph, and Adolph is definitely a taken name."
"Adolph is definitely taken. But he wasn't a reindeer."
"Nobody calls their kids Adolph anymore."
"We don't need any more Adolphs. Or Madonnas."
"Nobody ever did call their kids Madonna."
"What about Madonna's mother?"
"Which Madonna? Not The Madonna?"
"You mean like The Donald?"
"Donald isn't taken."
"I didn't say it was. I said The Donald."
"The isn't a name. The is… what? An adjective?"
"The is an article."
"Well, they still don't call their kids Madonna, or The Madonna. Or Eisenhower."
"Eisenhower doesn't count. It's a last name."
"It is, isn't it. Is Ike short for Eisenhower, or Dwight?"
"It's short for Eisenhower and Dwight. Jor-El is taken."
"Jor-El is definitely taken. So is Batman."
"Batman is taken. And the Hulk."
"They're not really names."
"Then maybe they're not taken. You know what's not taken? The leftover aitch."
"The leftover aitch?"
"Once upon a time every John had an aitch. Now there isn't an aitch anywhere in the deck."
"They're all Jons."
"Each and every one of them. Leaving a lot of aitches leftover."
"It's not easy being an aitch."
"I'm going to name my firstborn Aitch."
"I'm going to name my firstborn Aitch too."
"The Aitch cousins."
They have reached the classroom where Buglaroni's round is to be held, and not a moment too soon. Starbuck has never murdered a minor, but after listening to the Tarleton Twins, he wouldn't mind breaking his otherwise perfect record.
Maybe supporting Nighten Day debate is not such a good idea after all.
Somewhere at most tournaments there is a judges' lounge, a sanctum sanctorum that ranges from a private temple of home-cooked foods guarded at the door by a Cerberus of a parent barring access to anyone who even hints of freebooting, to an anteroom off the cafeteria with hard chairs, no hot coffee and yesterday's doughnuts. While all judges drop in and out of the judges' lounges sooner or later during an event, because there usually is food and coffee available, the lounges tend to attract three specific groups of people who might dig in for the long haul: college-age judges who immediately fall asleep on any horizontal plane that presents itself, parent judges who are uncomfortable hanging out with the students and who would prefer to read and reread the same seven pages of their book over and over again during the off hours of the weekend, and coach judges who see enough of their students during the week and use the opportunity of a tournament to schmooze with their fellow forensicians.
The judge's lounge at the Algren falls into the middle ground of the species. The food, provided by school parents, is more than acceptable, and regularly rotated. Every few hours a new mother or father hustles in with a grocery bag of bagels or snack foods or pineapple nasties, the coffee pot is never empty, and at meal times a separate allotment of the poison of the moment is brought in so that the muckamucks of judgedom do not have to rub elbows with the hoi and the polloi of the actual debaters. The accommodations, however, are less than brilliant, being a teacher's dining room next to the cafeteria with straight hard chairs and tables but no comfy furniture for settling in for the long haul.
During the first break rounds, the lounge is fairly empty. Since at this point there is a need for multiple judges in each round, every breathing body is pretty much being used. The only exceptions are a pair of parents. One of the them is Jasmine Maru's nemesis, the father of Chip Dwindle, and the other is the father of a debater from Rhode Island, who has left hearth and home for the forensics circuit for the first time.
"It's great to get a round off," Rhode Island says. He is sitting across at the far end of the same rectangular table as Mr. Dwindle.
"It's about time," Mr. Dwindle agrees.
"Have you judged every round?" Rhode Island asks.
"All but one."
"Me too." RI shakes his head. "Some of these kids are really good."
Mr. D nods. "They really are."
At this point RI stands and introduces himself, and the two men shake hands. While they are performing these neighborly amenities we should point out that Nip Sazo is a viper when it comes to assigning judges in his rounds. He carefully evaluates the ballots from judges he does not know in order to rate those judges for placement in future rounds. At this weekend's tournament he quickly established that both Mr. D and RI know less about Lincoln-Douglas than they do about the underwear preferences of the Copts, and he has carefully excluded them from bollixing someone's chances to advance. This means that both men had the third round off, that both judged 0-3s in the fourth round and either 0-4s or 4-0s in the fifth round. In the cases of the debaters with no wins, there was not much harm they could do, as these students wouldn't advance anyhow, while in the 4-0 situation (such as Jasmine's Mr. D round), advancement was guaranteed for both the winner and the loser regardless of that decision. The best judges are put by Sazo into the toughest rounds, where breaking is still at issue, to assure the best decisions. No matter how one slices it, judging in LD is subjective, but there is certainly a higher level of confidence with some judges over others, and in the particular instance, with anyone over Mr. D and RI. Mr. D may be incorrigible; RI is merely new, and may learn some day. Or maybe not.
While the two men talk, comparing their opinions of the topic, an Algren parent comes in and clears the table of leftover pizza. The parent, a small Chinese man in a thick quilted jacket that he keeps buttoned and which makes him look like a walking red inflatable canoe, flips on a radio in the corner. As the pizza disappears, it is replaced by taco chips and salsa. Foods from the Chinese man's native country, no doubt. He leaves after about five minutes, leaving the radio on behind him.
RI stops what talking in mid-sentence, and cocks his ear toward the radio. "That sounds like Jethro Tull," he says.
Mr. D shakes his head. "That's not Jethro Tull."
"I think it is. You like Jethro Tull?"
"I saw them once," RI pursues. "Great concert."
"I saw them once too," Mr. D replies. "They were playing with the Who."
"The Who? No."
"Oh yes. Great concert."
"I saw the Who three times," RI says. "With and without Keith Moon."
"You mean six times, three times with and three times without?"
"No. Just three altogether."
"The Who were great on stage. They'd do every hit, leave, and for an encore, do all of Tommy."
"And then they'd break their instruments." RI reaches over for some taco chips. "Who was your favorite group to see?" he asks.
"The Stones. Saw them five times."
"I saw them eight times. I saw them before they were famous, on their first trip to the United States."
"If they weren't famous, how did you know to see them?" Mr. D asks.
"Good radar. You remember the Blues Project?"
"The Blues Project Live at the Village Gate."
"Right! The best concert I ever saw was the Blues Project, the Youngbloods, Steve Miller, Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde, and headlining it all, Chuck Berry."
"That sounds like a good concert."
"Unbelievable. Of course, aside from Chuck Berry, none of them were anybody then."
"You ever see the Beatles?" Mr. D asks.
RI shakes his head.
"I saw them at Shea Stadium. Unbelievable."
"Seeing the Beatles is good. You're not going to see them anymore."
"You're not going to see anybody anymore. Except the Stones. You think they'll ever retire?"
"When Mick is too fat for the stage, they'll go away."
"Elvis got fat, and he didn't go away."
"You ever see Elvis?" RI asks.
This time Mr. D shakes his head.
"Me neither," RI says. "I was in Vegas once back in 1971 and he was there, and I had the chance to see him, but I thought, Who wants to see that old has-been, so I went to see the Fifth Dimension instead."
Mr. D's face wrinkles. "The Fifth Dimension. Aaargh."
RI nods. "I could have seen Elvis."
"The mistakes we make in life."
"The mistakes we make in life," RI agrees.
As the double-octos rounds continue all around them, the two men swiftly sink into the quicksand of '60s nostalgia. One of them will soon speak the magic word of their generation -- Woodstock -- and they will be lost to reality for the rest of the weekend.
Welcome to the Bahamas. Parent division. Where all the music is older than Celine Dion's husband, where all the pants are Dockers, and where "Every conversation is not a debate and I don't want to talk about it anymore so go to your room NOW!"
Will Starbuck be able to flow his round?
Will the Tarleton Twins ever meet a Methuselah?
Will Rhode Island and Mr. Dwindle start having acid flashbacks and want to go skinny dipping?
Must every discussion with you turn into a debate?
Is there some good reason to vote for George W. that we're missing?
Come to the islands and dance the Carioca in our next episode: "Flotilla the Hun, or, Cedilla You're Rockin' the Boat."
Go to the next episode due Mar 15, 2000.