From the archives: January 2005

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The best reason to be in South-East Asia this holiday

Monday, 3 January 2005 — 1:15pm | Debate

Not to sound morbid, but believe it or not, there was one. If you weren’t there (and I wasn’t either), you missed out.

For those of you who, for some baffling reason, have not been following this year’s World Universities Debating Championship in Malaysia, here’s the rundown: one Alberta team in the break (Stephanie Wanke and Alex Ragan), and two Canadian teams in the Grand Final: Erik Eastaugh and Jamie Furniss from Ottawa, Michael Kotrly and Joanna Nairn from Hart House – well, unless you consider Mikey a UBC expat.

And Ottawa won.

In First Proposition.

Hot damn.

I have a request: that Spencer, or some other blogger who was in attendance, tell us all about the round. What use are these reverse-chronological websites for, if not maverick reporting on exactly this kind of event?

In the meantime, let me proceed with two funny stories; funny, mind you, but not ha-ha funny.

My very first encounter with Michael Kotrly in my novice year was when Stephen Potyondi and I faced him and Ethel Tungohan in Round 3 of the 2002 Hugill Cup, which was also a British Parliamentary (Worlds Style) tournament that year. Mikey and Ethel took a fourth. I paid no heed to it until two things happened later that day, one involving a gaping and incredulous Kawanami, and the other being slapped around by the same team in the Round 5 bins.

Since then, I have learned that the Round 3 in question was the anomaly, and given Mikey and Jo’s thundering paths of destruction on the CUSID circuit in the past year (Kotrly/Crossman at DDT, Nairn/Hoddes at Pac Cup, and the two of them at Boston University), ending up in the Worlds Grand Final is – while I wouldn’t say expected – a fully deserved reflection of their calibre.

Ottawa, on the other hand, secured the third Canadian victory at the WUDC, of which Malaysia’s turn was the 25th anniversary. The last two were at the first Worlds in 1981, a 43-team event in Glasgow, and on home turf in 1991, hosted at Hart House.

So to all those folks at the Kappa Alpha Literary Society who insist to me time and again that a KA by the name of Martin Kennedy was a former world debating champion – if he did, it sure wasn’t at the Worlds we know. It’s true that the U of A Debate Society’s records are spotty between the late sixties up to the mid-nineties, but we would be aware. I believe Alberta’s best Worlds finish on record is still Stef and Alex breaking to quarters and placing 12th in 2002 (other than Ajit Singh winning public speaking with his “privatize the Israel-Palestine conflict” speech I keep hearing about from those who attended Stellenbosch ’03), but I welcome corrections from those with a longer memory.

I also welcome information about this alleged Martin Kennedy and what, if anything, he won at Worlds. A speaking award, perhaps? Comedy night? So far, the only specific tournament victory I have uncovered is that he was definitely involved with the UADS at some point, winning Grant Davy’s with Grant Yiu in 1993. Stef Wanke won it with Grant the year following, so it’s not like we’re completely disconnected from that era.

He’s definitely not a no-name, but he’s definitely not a world champion either, or you’d think he would have mentioned it in his bio on Page 4 of this high school workshop package (a huge file in Word format dated August ’99; Ranjan Agarwal is on page 5):

Martin Kennedy is currently the Provincial Program Coordinator for ADSA. An alumnus of Archbishop MacDonald High School in Edmonton, he studied for a B.A. at the University of Alberta, and worked for two years in the field of native economic development. He began working for the Association in July of 1995.

Martin competed in Senior High Debate from 1986-1988, winning the Provincials and National Invitationals in 1988. He was a member of the World Championship Team Canada in the 1988 Australian competition, and has since adjudicated or competed at University debate tournaments in Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Montreal, Glasgow, Moscow and Kiev. He is a recipient of the Province of Alberta Achievement Award, the City of Edmonton Award, and the University of Alberta Gold Key Award. An 8 time University debate Champion, and Top Speaker at the 1989 McGoun Cup, he has instructed at workshops since 1988.

One of the dinos from the era in which we lack very much conclusive documentation, then. Oxford won Sydney ’88, but I do wonder how Alberta placed. Pass the Gateway bound editions, please.

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I can’t believe she’s my daddy

Sunday, 2 January 2005 — 1:54am | Scrabble

I also can’t believe it took me so long to stumble upon this website: Who’s Your Scrabble Daddy? It has tournament statistics dating back to January 2003 for every rated NSA player, including “lifetime” win-loss records against specific opponents. I am located here.

Am I really 1-6 against Jessica Arts? I find that shocking, because our games are always so close. I blame this entirely on that one five-bingo game last year that I had in the bag until she played out with CARBONIC on a most improbable lane, but the only one that remained – a beautiful find that stuck me with an X, if I recall, though I will have to go back and find the scoresheet.

Somewhat more encouraging is that my biggest gains of 46 rating points apiece have been against Sue (a 4-3 record) and Wendy (3-1) – not particularly consistent in either case, but fortuitous considering that they are both higher-rated players with a lot more experience at the game.

My record would be a whole lot more consequential if the website in question had started tracking two years earlier; since 2003, my net rating gain has been unimpressive, mostly because of the 140-point tumble I took at Nationals. In the meantime, I am still waiting on Paul to update the ladder statistics for unrated club play in Calgary. It’s been promised for months now, but I trust the end result will be well worth the delays.

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Elliptical observations of an elliptical orbit

Saturday, 1 January 2005 — 9:07pm | Video games

You see a lot of chatter about the unpredictability of future not just with respect to science fiction writings, but in all speculative fields in general. There was a time when 2005 was far, far away, and its only certainty was the arrival of Episode III. Nobody could have told you back then that the Mozilla project, which demanded a hefty 128MB of RAM to facilitate compilation, would lead us to the modern comforts of Firefox and Thunderbird; that a little-known boy with a lightning scar would come to rule the world and prepare to assert that grip for the sixth time; that the University of British Columbia would successfully bid to host the World Universities Debating Championship in 2007; that ten thousand unfortunate souls would be so cruelly robbed of that future by forces of nature we may never fully conquer, all in one fell swoop. (No condolences I am able to offer are appropriate next to the magnitude of the tragedy.)

But we did have that one point of reference – what we now know as Revenge of the Sith. And while 2005 was the future, that made 2006 the far future, the point where territory became uncharted. Beyond the Wall, you might say if you have read George R.R. Martin’s ongoing saga, as I have recently been doing.

This is the time of year when people write lists, prepronderantly following the traditional format of the Lettermanian decuple. I would do the same for film, only I am quite unqualified to do so until I at least have a shot at Kinsey, Sideways, Million Dollar Baby, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and House of Flying Daggers – and I am quite unqualified to talk about House of Flying Daggers until I have seen Hero. A martial arts film enthusiast being almost three years behind on Zhang Yimou is like your most fervent Potterhead still making his way through The Goblet of Fire, and it’s getting embarrassing. Indeed, it is when you read and see everything that you know you have read nothing, seen nothing. Mastery of literature in any medium is the recognition that only the repeatable skills of interpretation can be mastered; the works themselves cannot.

I will say, however, that if I have time I will finish writing about at least some, but hopefully all of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Aviator and A Very Long Engagement. As for the Cliff Notes: The first is a visual feast to behold, but as always, that is not the only consideration. The second is not the best film I have seen this year, but would be a deserving Best Picture winner in many respects, and Scorsese may have earned his first directing Oscar in every way he didn’t in Gangs of New York. Of the three, Jeunet’s First World War drama is my favourite, and there is no need to wait for my elaboration of that recommendation before you go see it.

Another great thing about having passed through another season of giving is that now, more people own a Nintendo DS. In other words, the Metroid Prime: Hunters demo that comes with the unit is finally useful. The single-player practice modes are hardly that exciting, but get in a room with three other players and a glass of Pinot Noir and you can pretty much cancel all your other plans for that evening. It’s the handheld equivalent of what the shareware release of Doom did for DOS PCs over a decade ago – a minimal single-player experience consisting of reaching endpoints and hitting switches, unless you find joy in punching in your IDDQD and IDKFA and blasting every pink rubbery demon in sight, but a groundbreaking deathmatch mode unlike any ever seen on the platform.

While on the subject of video games, thirty hours and six Crystal Stars into Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door have been sufficient to establish it as being one of the best RPGs I have played – yes, at least on par with the SNES-era classics. Certainly it is the best-localized game I have seen, on the opposite end of the spectrum from Zero Wing. The writing trumps that of most games sprouted on North American soil – I refrain from saying all of them because as everybody should know, the LucasArts adventures of Tim Schafer and others (Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit the Road, Grim Fandango and the Monkey Island series) still boast the most thoroughly clever harnessing of the English language in the short history of interactive games. It’s a crying shame that getting your hands on them is so difficult nowadays; the industry has not yet reached a stage where it has an interest in the preservation of its past.

Of course, even in the film industry, that did not happen until the proliferation of DVDs at the turn of the millennium. You could argue that DVD was preceded by LaserDisc, but the format never really caught on in the West. You could not argue that DVD was preceded by the videotape, in the dark times when hastily cropped aspect ratios and haphazard restorations on degradable media demonstrated no genuine interest in keeping the classics alive.

The Prequel Trilogy and the initial negotiations and pre-production of The Lord of the Rings, cultural guideposts for everything up until this year, came into being at around the time DVD was beginning to rear its beautiful, shiny head. Could we have predicted that by 2005, not only would it become a ubiquitous format rendering videotape as obsolete as the 1.44MB floppy, but its lifecycle would already be at the point where mainstream absorption produced such abominations as poorly-labeled Pan-and-Scan editions sold alongside the real ones?

Now, the big question there is whether or not Blu-ray will catch on, and just how bad the format wars will be. We still don’t have a clear winner when it comes to recordable DVDs.

Bear in mind that one should never overestimate the future. For crying out loud, it’s the twenty-first century, and we don’t even have moon colonies.

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