Thursday, April 14, 2016

No, Bernie is simply not a presidential first name

Episode 12 of the third series of Nostrum, AKA the COC edition, is now posted here. Sadly, once again it's only the written version. Menick has once again left us in the lurch with the audio, but we're starting to get used to it. Maybe he thinks we can't do this whole Nostrum without him? Feh. Look up the word useless in the dictionary and they've got his picture, although nowadays it probably makes more sense to say, Google images for useless online and they've got his picture. Whatever.

We didn't make it last week, and we almost didn't make it this week. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over the demise of American Idol. I find this rather unexpected, considering he's never watched a single minute of the show in its fifteen-year run. "It's all pop music," he explains. "And if I'm listening to music, you can guarantee it's not popular." Having been around him when he's had control of the music machine in the room, I can attest to that. "Still," he continues, "you've got to like any show that is marginally a variety program. Variety shows were once the bread and butter of network television. Everyone had one. Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Ed Sullivan, of course." At which point he begins humming a few bars of "Hymn for a Sunday Evening." "People were exposed to new things, or at least things they weren't familiar with, like opera or plate juggling or Topo Gigio." Topo Gigio? I checked it out on YouTube, and strongly advise that you don't. "I mean, even though cover versions of Celine Dion and Taylor Swift might not really count as truly 'variety,' it's better than the Real Wives of Nighten Township, isn't it."

I guess you have to agree with him on that. I've been binge-watching Real Wives of Nighten Township, and I've hated every minute of it. The good news is, I only have 13 more episodes to watch.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pulses? Pulses? You mean there are more pulses? You're in America, now, you bozo!

Episode 11 of Series 3 is now posted, although at the moment it's pdf only. Maybe some day Menick will get back to recording. Maybe not. What a bum!

We didn't make it last week, and we almost didn't make it this week. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over this whole political spouse debacle. "Not only is it mean spirited, it's also beside the point," he moans, not that politicians not sticking to the point is something to be surprised about. "And worse, there's no future in it. Think about it. Let's say that Trump runs against Hillary. What's he going to do? Say he's going to spill the beans on Bill? Or publish beefcake Bill pictures? I mean, how many more beans can there possibly be left?"

If you ask me, the Mite's been remarkably quiet on politics this election cycle. "What can anyone say that anyone who ought to listen to will actually listen to?" Or something like that, maybe with fewer iterations of the word "to." "If this doesn't cause us to have a new constitutional convention and move over to a parliamentary system, nothing will." He's got a point there, you've got to admit. Then again, he usually does have a point, somewhere, and it's just the part about any of us admitting it that causes any problems.

Sacre bleu, as the Crapaud theorists like to say.



Wednesday, March 16, 2016

We're back and we're mad


Okay, we're not that mad. But we did miss an episode, which makes neither of us happy. And we almost didn't make it again this week, either. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over yesterday's designation by our nation's most famous group of inactivists as National Speech and Debate Education Day. "Yeah," he mutters. "Congress really cares about speech, debate or education. And for that matter, if they had a vote on whether we should acknowledge the existence of days they would probably disagree about that along party lines, as they do with everything else." That's not his real beef though. "We've been doing Nostrum since the Eisenhower administration," he says. "Where's National Nostrum Day? What's wrong with these people?"

If there ever is a National Nostrum Day, you'll find us out celebrating at the nearest gin mill, a la Tab Ularasa, who is featured once again in our latest episode. (That is a bad sentence. It makes it sound like he was already featured once before in our latest episode, but I can't see any way of making it clearer. Maybe "back once again" would do it, but featured is more of an action word, and Sister Patricia, before she quit the nun business to take up dry cleaning, always told us to use action words, and I wouldn't want to let her down now.)

Meanwhile, Menick hasn't gotten around to doing the audio yet, the lazy #*&^$$!)@. With luck, he'll have it done before you click on the link. Or not. Which may be even luckier, as far as you're concerned.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

We didn't make it this week

Which means we're both in a state of permanent depression. Then again, last week the COC ground to a halt. We see you quiver with antici

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"I voted, and now I feel all dirty"

The latest episodes of Nostrum Series 3, the COC Edition, are now posted — audio / pdfio.

We almost didn't make it this week. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over the results of the Massachusetts primary. "I realize that there's only 19 Republicans in the entire state, and half of them identify as Democrats if you wake them up in the middle of the night from a deep sleep, but half of them voted for Trump?" Well, yes they did. "Who are these schmegeggies? Can we get their names so that we don't inadvertently invite them for a sleepover or tea and toast?" Well, no, you can't get their names, because the US employs secret ballots. "Well, that doesn't matter. People show up for Trump rallies all the time and they're happy to get their pictures in the paper. Especially the ones he throws out for being not white or stupid and who are only there to protest. Is anyone paying attention to any of this?" Not exactly: It's American politics, and the American electorate. They are about as well informed as earthworms. "In Australia they make people vote," he says, although his point is unclear. So? "We should have the Australians vote in our primaries. They'd straighten things out."

Sure, Mate. Whatever you say. (Uttered in a high church Australian accent.)

If you think the Mite is bad in an off-year, you know he's beyond the pale when there's an election. And now that the election cycle begins on the 21st day of January every leap year and lasts until the final polls close in Hawaii on the first Tuesday of November four years later—Feh!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hot/Cold Enough For You?

Episode 8 of Nostrum Series 3 is now available in audio and pdf versions. So is War and Peace, but why would you want to read that piece of junk when Nostrum is just sitting there, ripe for the taking?

We almost didn't make it this week. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over the whole global warming thing. "It's not that I don't believe in it," he says. "I'm not an idiot, and I understand how science works and that wishing and hoping and not believing in reality does not, in any way, affect reality—" and then he digresses into a whole long evaluation of epistemology which we need not concern ourselves with at the moment— "but I would like it to either be too bloody cold or too bloody warm. Two weekends ago three of my ears fell off from frostbite from marching across Harvard Square for exactly one minute, and this weekend I was lollygagging about in my Speedo and wifebeater." Now, I know for a fact that the Mite owns neither Speedo nor wifebeater, but he is nothing if not prone to hyperbole. "These weather changes just provide fuel to the deniers. And they don't need fuel because—" and then he goes on to talk about the quality of education in backwater America, which for him includes everything but a couple of schools on the east coast, this really weird work farm for adolescent geniuses somewhere, I think, in Nevada, and the Convent of the Wholly Unwarranted Assumption in Boise.

There's no talking to him when he gets into this sort of a mood.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Notes from the high-fidelity first class traveling set

Episode 7 of Series 3 is now available in a fairly well-typed pdf and an execrably spoken mp3. This time out we examine the finances of circuit debate, and introduce the lovable character Winnable Rugrot, owner of the Brotherly Love School for Highly Intelligent Teenagers.

We almost didn't make it this week. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over the ridiculous expenditures of this last weekend, with circuit debate tournaments spread all over the country. "I don't mind people going to tournaments," he says, "but when schools send seemingly infinite numbers of adolescents across the country at great expense seeking TOC bids, well, if that's not a violation of the Mann Act—transporting minors across state lines for immoral purposes—I don't know what is." There's no talking to him when he gets into this sort of mood. It's probably a result of working on the latest episode, where we explain how the average circuit debater spends twice as much on a debate addiction than Utah spends per student on all that student's education. "Utah might be a bunch of cheapskates, but the real problem is that all the money spent on going to fancy universities to compete could have been spent locally on, I don't know, classes for everyone else? If forensics is so damned good for people, why don't we aim our sights on more people having it rather than fewer people doing it further away?"

See what I mean? Where's the logic in any of that?


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We can see New Hampshire from our window

Well no, not really. Otherwise we never would have gotten around to finishing episode 6 (audio / pdf). I mean, seriously now. Real live human people thinking that Trump is so presidential that they actually cast a ballot for him? You really think that this man should be President of the United States of America? Oy.

Of course, while the Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression, it's not over American politics. "This is the land of Harding and Nixon and George W. Bush," he explains. "How high are our expectations supposed to be?" No, it's the Superbowl that's been bothering him. "If that wasn't the most boring game of football since my high school lost 62-0 to Les Mis Prep back in 1992, then I'll eat my helmet." Not that the lad actually tossed the old pigskin around himself back in the day—an athlete he isn't—and for that matter, he's not much of a fan, either, but like most people, he succumbs to the hype. "The two allegedly best football teams, the year's allegedly best commercials (if that isn't an oxymoron), no limit on the chips and dips and lagers—that's the high life in the land of Harding and Nixon and George W. Bush." He fell asleep somewhere in the middle of the third quarter. "And to top it off, I didn't even come close to winning the teachers' pool at TWHS." I think that was the real problem. It's bad enough watching defensive play after defensive play while everyone slips around on the field like it's an ice skating rink and all that time you're wondering if Cam Newton is as tall as he looks, but losing five bucks on top of it? Oh, the horror.

Anyhow, it's unlikely that you'll hear anything from us on the wild world of sports again until next year's Superbowl. If then. Maybe the Mite will swear off sports completely. Stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Trump is a winner with us, at least

The latest episode of the COC Edition of Nostrum is now available. Audio. Pdf. Ignore it at your peril!

We almost didn't make it this week. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over Trump's showing in Idaho Illinois Freemont whatever the hell flyover state the voters flipped him the bird in. "The Donald is not the sort of person who takes second place lightly," the lad laments. "He's never lost anything before." He pauses. "Except, of course, the times that he did." I won't say that the Mite is a dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporter, since in fact the Nostrumite is best described as a crypto-communist, but he does have some sympathy for the boy from our home state. "This probably also means the end of Bloomberg," he continues. "Unless Bernie and The D make a big comeback in New Hampshire," which, he adds, would also be a flyover state if were located anywhere people might be forced to fly over it. "It's all the people who left Massachusetts for being a socialist commonwealth," he says. "New Hampshire is welcome to them." To which he does not add that this thus leaves the commonwealth safe for crypto-communism.

I don't know whether I'm happy or sad that we decided to start publishing again during an election year. Whatever. I think I'll go back now to my automatic Sarah Palin Speech Generator. I could use a few comforting words.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hola, Bloombito!

Episode 4 of the COC edition of Nostrum is now available in either written or spoken versions.

We almost didn’t make it this week. The twin announcements of Planet 9 in Outer Space and Michael Bloomberg returning from outer space have put the Nostrumite into a state of permanent depression. “So there’s planets just hanging out behind the garage and no one even notices them? We go through this whole rigmarole to find Pluto in 1930, and then in 2006 we turn our back on it and call it a dwarf planet, which seems to be pretty insulting to little planets in general, and now to make up for it there’s this whole other planet of significant size and might standing under the lamppost snapping it’s fingers and humming ‘When you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way’ and we immediately let it into the club, and Pluto is just standing there, quietly sobbing and being little. Amazing!” Well, I guess it is amazing if you put it that way. On the other hand, he seemed even more amazed at Michael Bloomberg. “Here’s the thing,” he explains. “When you actually start thinking about old Bloomers and saying to yourself, you know, given the bad lot that is the rest of them, he’s actually looking good, you know the country is going to hell in a handbag.”

A handbag? (To be repeated in one’s best Lady Bracknell voice.)

On the plus side, the Mite hasn’t noticed that Fish has passed on to the stationhouse in the sky. We’d never hear the end of it if he had.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Thank you, Sarah!!!

Episode 3 of the COC edition of Nostrum is now available in either written or spoken versions.

We almost didn't make it this week. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over the return of Sarah Palin. "Oh, great," he said. "The goddess has come down from on high to appoint her champion. Palin supports Trump? I was shocked—shocked!—to hear it." At which point he dissolved into a heap of unintelligible muttering in which only the occasional wailing of the word "rogue" could be heard clearly. When I pointed out to him that Palin's endorsement had raised the D's standing in the pools, he came at me with a pitchfork.

Is this the sort of example a debate coach and father of 6 should be setting?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

At least we're staying in Massachusetts this weekend...somewhere

When we said Nostrum is back, we meant it. It’s one week later, and Episode 2 is now published, both on virtual paper and on audio. Who can you trust if you can’t trust Jules and the Nostrumite? I mean, it is Wednesday, isn't it?

We just barely managed to get these out on schedule. The Nostrumite is in a state of permanent depression over the whole political situation. “It’s not so much that you can’t believe a single thing any of these candidates says, does, thinks or farts, but that they’re the best we’ve been able to come up with.” He shakes his head. “Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. Whatever happened to great people leading our country, people who stood for the good, people you could trust?”

Like the Vast Nostrumian Army trusts me and the Mite, I guess.

“You’re right,” I tell him. “Men like Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding. And Richard Nixon. Don’t forget Tricky Dick!” The Mite narrows his eyes. “With your attitude you’re going to get the President you deserve,” he threatens. “You’re going to be thinking that Sarah Palin wasn’t so bad after all.” “No I’m not,” I tell him, and thus ends that political colloquium for the nonce.

Meanwhile, we’ll see everyone this weekend at Concord. (That doesn’t sound right.) It’s nice to have a big tournament in the neighborhood. The Mite is bringing an even dozen of his Tennessee Williams teams (“Go, Streetcars!”), and I’m tagging along to help chaperone and judge a little Public Forum. I’ve come to love PF. A half an hour of confusing nonsense, and you give the win to the first team to make an actual argument as compared to endlessly citing whatever random evidence they happen to have collected in the last two weeks. I gather the topic is something like, Resolved, Putin is shaking in his boots. As if. Flip neg, little dogies, flip neg…

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

[Sigh.] We're back.

A lot has happened since N2.

I went back to school, got both my MA and Ph.D., and am now a bona fide, certified, unemployed professor of literature. I tried to get a gig at all the usual places, starting at home base in Cambridge and working my way down to Crackhead Community College for the Criminally Connected in North Febrile, New Jersey, but with no luck. So until my employment ship comes in, I am writing freelance for the Huffington Post, as is every other out-of-work person with access to a word processor. Meanwhile I keep sending out resumes and making calls. Somebody out there needs an English Professor. Or English Instructor. Or tutor. Or junior high substitute teacher. Or hall monitor. Somebody. Please!!!

Meanwhile, I remain of the single persuasion, although the fact that there is a woman (who will remain nameless until I actually name her) with whom I have promised to share digs in a few weeks is a potential indication of something else altogether. More about that later.

The Nostrumite, on the other hand, remains gainfully employed, and even tenured, at Tennessee Williams High School right here in Cambridge, and as far as relationships are concerned, he now has six children. As does his long-suffering wife, the Nostrumate. Whoda thunkit? My guess was that the Mite, far from being the marrying kind, much less the parenting kind, would by now have left behind a string of unpaid alimony debts to more women than most men run into on the New York City subway system, but what do I know? I only work here. Or, I guess, don’t work here, here still being Cambridge, and me still being unemployed.

Welcome to the Bahamas.

The urge to go back to Nostrum resulted from nudging from our old friend and colleague Menick, who, now that he no longer coaches, was looking for something to distract him from the quiet desperation of his debate-free life, even though he is still hanging on to his day job by his fingernails and he tabs pretty much every weekend and the debate community at large can’t seem to get rid of him no matter how hard they try. He complained that our first two series never got very far into the school year, and that although we often mentioned the COC, we never even got close to being there. Why not rectify the situation, said he. Why not indeed, said we.

And here we are. I realize that we should have dumped the old goat once he gave us the idea for Nostrum Series 3, A Very Special (Set of) Episode(s)—including Joanie Marries Chichi, Rhoda's Wedding and the Simpsons Banksy title sequence—Or, the Combat of Conquerors (heretofore to be referred to always as NCOC or N3, or maybe N3COC, or something like that, but without any more references to shark-jumping “very special” TV episodes), but once again while we will be burning the midnight oil writing the damned things, Menick will be recording them for posterity, i.e., for the two people who think they should listen rather than read them, unlike the other two people who follow Nostrum, the normal ones who like to use their eyes rather than their ears on their reading assignments.

So without further ado, return with us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, or, maybe, this year, with Nostrum, the High School Debate Soap Opera, Where Deontology is More Than Just an Idea, it’s a Rebuttal: Series 3, the Combat of Conquerors.

The written version - the garbled audio version.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

The second volume of the Kindle Nostrum is now available, as you can see from the images to the right. We are also about to launch Series 3 in the very near future.

Ain't life grand?