From the archives: Debate

Or, if you'd prefer, return to the most recent posts.

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.

Annotations (2)

As zambonis sweep the defective ice of Toshiba

Wednesday, 17 November 2004 — 11:25pm | Adaptations, Debate, Film

Call this a transitory intermission. The original intention was that the next post in line would be one of a series on The Incredibles, but circumstances of all creeds have united to prevent me from carrying it out. The number of aborted attempts to update this blog over the past week is now up to at least three, each due to a different technical issue. Here, then, is one of those catch-all posts to affirm that my complete umbilical detachment from cyberspace has thankfully been met with limited success.

October civic election candidate Jung-Suk Ryu is, according to his campaign website (which is due to be phased out at some point in the future, the same future in which DemocracyNow might finally publish The Independent), “an award-winning public speaker that has won national awards at the high-school and university levels. He has won awards in Mock Trials competitions, Model Legislature competitions, and parliamentary-style debates.”

Next time he runs for office, that claim will have a touch more substantiation. Last weekend I debated alongside Mr. Ryu at the Hugill Cup, the U of A Debate Society‘s annual British Parliamentary (Worlds Style) tournament, and we sneaked into the semi-finals after a grueling comeback involving consecutive first-place victories that catapulted us from the bins to the break. He now has an engraved silver plate to show for it. That said, we were doing just fine until we tried to convince the house that the World Health Organization should quarantine countries that are unwilling to isolate their own epidemics. See, they can’t actually do that.

In movie news, Tom Hanks may be playing Robert Langdon in Ron Howard’s adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, the book I find the most enjoyment in subjecting to relentless mockery (though Geoff Pullum does it better, much better). Mr. Hanks is, in my mind, one of the finest thespians of this generation of cinema, but even someone of his talent has quite the challenge ahead of him. Even by airport pop-lit standards, Langdon is one of the most thoroughly boring characters I have had the misfortune to encounter. All he does is wear a tweed suit and a Mickey Mouse watch, freeze time in the heat of the action to deliver extemporaneous lectures on the ubiquity of the sacred feminine, and convulse in a claustrophobic shiver whenever it be convenient to remind the audience of his dislike of confined spaces (in the book, this comes to about twice). As a protagonist, he is as dull as the flat-ended prism of a fresh, unsharpened pencil.

Regardless, it still remains interesting to see what the Howard-Hanks collaboration does with a book that has always struck me as more of a first-draft screenplay treatment than a standalone work of literature. After all, this is the same duo that took Jim Lovell’s autobiography and transformed it into a Best Picture winner of a gripping docu-drama where Houston, they had a problem. With the right visual liberties, even the intellectual vacuity of something as dry as Dan Brown can be infused with substance.

Those of you who care have probably already seen the new Phantom trailer, and perhaps this “Angel of Music” clip. In brief, I like what I’m seeing – lavish sets, colourful and dynamic photography, traditional orchestration, that restorative transition from the auction to the opera house at the height of its glory. Speaking of which, seeing the chandelier light up and rise as the whole establishment goes back in time makes me wonder about the extent to which these elements characteristic of the stage setting of the Broadway original will be preserved.

One of the things that had to grow on me with respect to the otherwise wonderful Chicago was that it surprised me with how like its cousin Cabaret, it relegated the musical numbers to the stage, and distilled the showtunes from the narrative reality itself. Phantom isn’t doing this, which is good, because I can’t stress enough how much this needs to be a self-contained period epic like Oliver! or Fiddler on the Roof in order to work. So far, so good, but the chandelier is that dangling question mark just waiting to drop on our heads.

Ever-reliable David Poland is already calling Phantom 2004’s Oscar champ – as it well should be, if it does justice to its source material. That’s not to downplay my anticipation for both Alexander and The Aviator, though – or, for that matter, my admiration for The Incredibles. Oscar-wise, though, don’t count on The Incredibles to pull a Beauty and the Beast. It didn’t happen to Nemo (curse you, aqua scum!), and it won’t happen here.

I am seriously thinking about submitting a paper for The Witching Hour, a Harry Potter symposium taking place in Salem, Massachusetts next October. That time of the year tends to conflict with the Western Canadian Scrabble Championship (speaking of which, I heard Dan Lazin’s story finally ran in the Post; please confirm or deny), and to a lesser extent, school. It’s a pity that to my knowledge, there is nothing next year akin to Convention Alley which was held in Ottawa in the summer – perfect for me in any other year, though I had to miss it on account of New Orleans.

My Nintendo DS is now on pre-order, to be picked up on Sunday. More on that when I get my grubby hands on it.

Oh, and if anyone from CompuSmart reads this – get your act together and hurry up already.

Annotations (0)

Mural dilemmas and prototype battle spheres

Tuesday, 19 October 2004 — 9:59pm | Debate

Okay, so maybe the Diefenbaker Cup was not such a great success for myself and Mr. Jones. Apparently, some people don’t think orthographic prescriptivism makes a very interesting debate topic.

I’ve seen some really good promotional websites for major properties like motion pictures – this one, for instance, or this old classic – but here’s a most clever discovery that tops them all. Some of the clues should be dead giveaways to those who are familiar with the subject matter underneath what they are looking at. Placing the purported UFO sighting over Calgary, of all places, is a personal bonus in my books.

I did manage to make my way to the Garneau yesterday for the encore screening of the OIAF ’04 winners, but a number of commitments preclude me from going into more detail at the moment. I do wonder, however, if there’s any way I can get a hold of some of the featured shorts that did not originate from the Internet.

Ah, the Internet. Isn’t it funny how you can close the book on a website – what, with the election being over and all – and only then does the dialogue truly explode?

Annotations (0)

I beg to propose

Wednesday, 15 September 2004 — 8:45pm | Debate, Journalism, Studentpolitik

I do a number of things for the University of Alberta Debate Society over the course of the school year, one of which is the maintenance of the website to which I just linked. I put it together over the course of a few afternoons back in the summer of 2003, and the only real change I have made since was changing the typeface from the now thoroughly out-of-fashion Verdana to the slimmer, more scalable Lucida family.

Looking back at it now, there are a number of things I would do differently. In fact, when I have time, I want to give it a complete overhaul. I did that site after about two years of dormancy from the wild, wild world of web design, so it represents a kind of blend between old and new. By “old” I refer to the liberal use of <table> as a layout device in the old three-panel tradition; by “new” I mean that it was with this site that I swore off <font> tags for good and used CSS for all my formatting. As is the case with this weblog, I eventually want to redesign it with a pure-CSS layout and pretty it up with some glitzier, more flexible design elements.

Good debate society websites are hard to find – on the CUSID circuit, I see Carleton as the role model, which is no real surprise since it is by Wayne Chu, who runs and served as CUSID’s Executive Director before I took on the job. (He also plays a mean trumpet – or did, anyway, back when we were both in the Sir Winston Churchill Symphonic Band under the direction of Judy Wishloff.)

The other big project I do for the Debate Society is a quarterly newsletter entitled The Times Tribune. I spent most of last night working on the latest one (split into two PDFs about a megabyte apiece, here and here), which features an, er, interesting comic strip on Page 2. I do all of the layouts in QuarkXPress, but its handling of image scaling is becoming an increasing source of irritation, as is evidenced in part by the girth of the resulting output files. Cost-related prohibitions notwithstanding, I would ideally get a hold of something like Adobe InDesign, just for the smoother integration with other Adobe tools.

The first UADS meeting of the 2004-2005 season was earlier tonight, and I was one of the participants in the annual demonstration round, arguing in favour of negotiating with terrorists. There was some serious head-eating going on, only part of which was alleviated by a reference to Star Wars. No more will be said of this.

On a Gateway-related note, yesterday’s issue featured a Letter to the Editor from Gary Wicentowich, whose turn it apparently was to deliver the ritual explanation of why it is the Engineering end of campus sees so much in the way of development, facilities and cash. This is one of those issues that pops up in the Letters page rather frequently, probably because the complainants never read the responses. I’m beginning to think the Engineering Students’ Society should just prefer a standard draft statement on the subject, they’ve had to explain it so many times.

I do, however, wonder about a slightly tangential remark on Gary’s part:

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to give Mr Sobchak a good old-fashioned sack beating, because believe it or not, very few engineers are “huge nerds.” Continuing to perpetuate the idea that people who are good at math and science are nerds is not only outdated and unjustified, it’s also rather offensive.

To which my immediate reaction was: really? I wasn’t aware that this commonly-propagated sterotype was either a) inaccurate or b) derogatory. More than any period in contemporary cultural history, now is the time that wearing the geek subculture on the sleeve is becoming a chic thing to do. Are the films of The Lord of the Rings not enough of a flagpole? Be proud of being absorbed in the high romances of intellect, I say.

Of course, take this here online writer’s word with a grain of salt; he’s not exactly speaking of this as an outside observer.

Annotations (0)

A mishmash of mentionables

Tuesday, 20 July 2004 — 10:32pm | Debate

The most recent hiatus in writing for this site, something that is fast becoming a monthly occurrence, can be attributed to a number of real-world impediments. One of them was the fact that Calgary was in the midst of Stampede season, which had less of an impact on my schedule than usual, considering I attended neither a pancake breakfast nor the “Interpretations of Western Heritage” speak-off. The latter is an invitational speech competition that entered its third year this Stampede, to which the Stampede’s speech and debate wing – in part spearheaded by my tenth-grade science teacher, Cathy Kalynchuk – invites medalists from the Calgary and Southern Alberta high school circuits to deliver a prepared oratory on Western Canadian history and culture for a thousand-dollar prize. The first year the competition was held, there was also a category for readings of prose, mostly featuring selections by the likes of W.O. Mitchell; for some reason, that arm of the competition has since been abolished.

According to certain attendees like this guy and that guy, one of the finalists this year was Nick Krause, a William Aberhart alumnus who showed up at Pacific Cup back in March and is set to debate for UBC in the fall. No word on who won, however. There were also reports of what at least a few people seem to try every year, which is suck up to the Stampede judges by talking about how wonderful it is to celebrate the Wild West identity at a festival that embraces the glorious heritage of Alberta, Land of the Free and Home of the Beef – only to discover that the judging panels are usually composed of unaffiliated local celebrities. In the year I competed, the first time the event was held, I spoke in front of the likes of a few Members of Parliament and A-Channel weatherman Darr Maqbool.

That’s a funny story by itself, getting paid a grand to ramble twice about the pivotal cultural significance of cow-tipping only to discover the hard way that the massive cardboard rodeo cheque they issued me could, in fact, not be cashed. The signed Stampede poster and gaudy silver belt buckle, awarded to all of the finalists, were a bonus. Interesting notes for debate trivia buffs: also competing that year were Brent Kettles, who showed up for Hugill and McGoun last year on behalf of the University of Calgary; Dana Hayward, who won High School Provincials last March with Amy Robichaud (who, in turn, advanced to Stampede finals this year); and Georgina Beaty, a U of A student who showed up at Grant Davy’s ’02, only to disappear from the debate scene due to Drama commitments.

But back on the subject of the extent of my compliance with my civic duty to attend the Stampede: I did see the second-last night of the Rangeland Derby, where the disastrous two-minute late outrider penalty awarded to my longtime favourite Buddy Bensmiller knocked him out of contention. As it turns out, the following night, penalties again played a decisive role, as an eleventh Rangeland title evaded King Kelly and the big prize went to Hugh Sinclair. The Grandstand Show was much as it has been in the past, but on a brand-new TransAlta stage and with a giant Calgary Flames flag thrown into the mix. Sometime during my absence from the city, Jebb Fink went from breakfast show host to stand-up comedian.

Word on the street is that at tonight’s Students’ Council meeting, Kyle posed a question concerning where the Executive was sitting with respect to The Independent‘s cry for help. The jist of it is that they will wait for the paper to show a little relevance (and, well, independence) before dirtying their own hands and budgets, which is an acceptable response.

Can someone please explain why the Alberta Debate and Speech Association – which, I should point out, is the provincial high school circuit – lists university-circuit results taken verbatim from the UADS results page? Not that I mind the extra search engine hit.

In sadder news, fearless leader and sometime rapper Randal Horobik of Dickinson State University has announced that speech and debate has ceased to exist at DSU. Without school funding, it is quite impossible for their contingent to continue fulfilling its role as CUSID West’s honourary Canadians from North Dakota. It is a shocking loss to the debating community in this region, especially considering some of the good times the Western Canadian schools have shared with these fine folks.

Interestingly, in Round 1 of the University of Saskatchewan’s Diefenbaker Cup tournament back in January 2003, Bryce Pinto and I faced DSU’s Stuart Savelkoul and Riley Parker in a debate about institutional financial support for speech and debate activities. With one team from a debate society that lacked school funding, and another from a club that had no choice but to rely on it exclusively (with tragic consequences), it got a little messy.

They took the round.

Annotations (0)

« Back to the Future (newer posts) | A Link to the Past (older posts) »