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Wasting Prep Time: Kim Jong-Il Looking at Things

Most pictures of North Korea’s revered leader Kim Jong-Il show him looking at things.  Whether it be on a tour of the country’s military outposts, economic facilities, or during a meeting with top diplomats of other nations, Kim Jong-Il is always looking at something.

A fun website has taken the time to assemble pictures of Kim Jong-Il.  Called “Kim Jong-Il Looking at Things“, the site shows viewers photos of, well, Kim Jim Jong-Il looking at things!  So check it out to kill some down time.

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Around the Circuit: The Academic Benefits of Speech & Debate

Andy Charrier, the extemp and debate coach at Lakeville South High School in Minnesota, recently posted an interesting Yale University study about the academic benefits of forensic and debate activity.  With his permission, we have reposted his summary of the study below.

AGD: Stephen Colbert Lampoons Cover of The Economist

Pop pundit Stephen Colbert came to the rescue of The Economist on Wednesday night after the New York Times criticized the periodical’s use of Photoshop in creating a photo illustration for the magazine’s cover. Editors at The Economist argue that it’s not a big deal. After all, Colbert asserts: “The Economist is always dumbing down their content for their idiot readers.” Extempers would totally agree die from the suggestive irony. Full video is the segment can be found below.

Stumbled across something on the interwebs worthy of an AGD post? Send an email to [email protected] and maybe we’ll share it on the site.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Economist Photoshops Obama’s Picture
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

AGD: The Toilet Paper

Keeping up on the latest news is an extemper’s greatest challenge.

Being witty and having the right, catchy factoid or story to add to your AGD, transitions, and conclusions is a whole other matter.

On both matters, I have something that could be of use.  My wife just introduced me to The Toilet Paper.

The creators explain their story about how this nifty, daily email service began:

After some personal introspection, we realized the only part of our workday that we looked forward to was our alone time in the can.  We would search diligently to find an article worthy of our focus during these prized personal moments.  Sadly, most of what we found wasn’t worth the time it took to print out.  We knew there had to be a better way.

Enter…The Toilet Paper.

We don’t lose sleep over taking ourselves too seriously, but we work hard to provide you with provocative, intelligent and reliably good content; stuff fit for the thinking man in everyone.

Be it be ripped from the headlines or the current buzz in pop-culture, we take one interesting news topic each day and put our spin on it. You’ll get the basics boiled down into quickly digestible bits including quotes, facts and cool stats and numbers on the subject.

One e-mail a day.  Whether you laugh, learn something or nod in appreciation, The Toilet Paper will be there for you when you need it most.

You can register for The Toilet Paper on their website, or follow their updates on Twitter.

AGD: The Story of Stuff Presents “The Story of Cap and Trade”

With a lot of attention focused on Copenhangen this week, the eco-activists/cartoonists at The Story of Stuff present their view on the issue of emissions trading.

What does the video get right? Where do they gloss or misrepresent information? Is a video like this an easy way for the public to digest such a complex issue as cap and trade?

AGD: Look Who’s Tweeting… (Hint: It’s Not Congress!)



by Corey Alderdice

We’ve written about how Extemp Central is using Twitter to digest news sources, media outlets, think tanks, organizations, and more.

Even though it seems Twitter’s exponential growth is slowing, there are over 18 million active users of the Tweet Machine.  Even as Twitter finds itself integrated into the daily tech cycle for countless individuals, it seems as though there is one group who is slow on the uptake: Congress.  Over half of the members of the US House and Senate have yet to use the microblogging platform to stay in touch with their constituents.

Slate analyzes several of reasons why members of Congress haven’t bought into the hype:

A more fundamental problem is that, so far at least, members of Congress just aren’t that good at it. A report released by the Congressional Research Service in September found that nearly half of congressional tweets simply link to press releases or news articles. (The report doesn’t distinguish between the two, but an informal survey of congressional feeds suggests the former are more common.) The next most common type of tweet describes an official congressional action, like a roll call vote or a trip abroad. “Personal” tweets and those related to business in their district—the two types of messages most likely to interest constituents—were the least common types.

While you’re prepping for the weekend, take a moment to follow Extemp Central on Twitter.

To learn more about the members of Congress on Twitter, visit @tweetcongress/senate and @tweetcongress/congress.

AGD: A Little (Alternate) History on the Decade

Almost only counts in horseshoes, etc.

Almost only counts in horseshoes, etc.

by Corey Alderdice

I love alternate history stories.

Take Superman: Red Son for example.  Instead of becoming a hero for truth, justice, and the American Way, the Man of Steel represents the ideals of Stalin and the Soviet Empire.

Sliders, The Twilight Zone, and a host of other TV shows and movies have documented novel “what if?” scenarios in which changes both grand and small affect the world we know today.  Heck, even J. J. Abrahm’s 2009 Star Trek reboot was an elaborate exercise in alternative history.  What was particularly interesting about the film, and so many of these stories, is that while it breaks away to create something new, there are numerous instances where authors go out of their way to mirror the actual timeline.

Newsweek and Facebook, as part of their Decade in Rewind series, has a interesting look at what the last several years might have looked like if Al Gore had been elected President in 2000.   The oral history touches on the people, places, and events that were immutable in the last decade, though often spins said events in a new direction.  After a bitterly divisive election and a few missteps, Gore uses the bulk of his political clout and budget surplus to move forward with his environmental efforts.

May 2003: In excess of 670 miles of wetland are restored along the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf Coast. To announce the successful completion of the initiative, the president holds a ceremony on the deck of a solar-powered casino boat in the Biloxi harbor, standing before a banner that reads “Mission Accomplished.” It is roundly ridiculed.

“He plants some grass in the mud and prances around in front of a banner? Gimme a break. This isn’t leadership it’s toilet training.”

—Bill O’Reilly, The O’Reilly Factor, May 27, 2003.

“Dear Mr. President, we elected a nerd. Please stop being a dork.”

—MoveOn.Org billboard, San Francisco.

The story plays out in a very interesting way.  At what point does it deviate from expectations?  What points are completely implausible?  What would you have liked to see?  Would Al Gore have been the ultimate Nerd President?  Was the author borrowing heavily from a series of West Wing scripts?

We’d like your thoughts on David Rakoff’s piece of speculative fiction.

Update: Newsweek continues the fiction today with a less sunny recap of the Gore years.

AGD: The Nation’s Most (In)Famous Party Crashers

Facebook worthy? You bet.

Facebook worthy? You bet.

by Corey Alderdice

Washington (and the rest of the nation) hasn’t been this abuzz about a dynamic duo of social climbers showing up uninvited since Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan slipped into the wedding of the Treasury Secretary’s daughter in the 2005 film Wedding Crashers.

Though the story of Michaele and Tareq Salahi is really more faux-news than anything, it did land smack dab in the middle of what was a slow news cycle thanks to, well, Thanksgiving.   In the event that you see a question this weekend at GMU’s Patriot Games, Bradley University’s Armstrong Invitational,or anywhere else around the country, Slate has a great piece outling the long history of social climbing.

To that notable group of societies we can now add 21st-century Washington, D.C. Like 18th-century Russia, it is a world of neophytes, a society whose members have only recently “made it” into an elite magic circle and who don’t necessarily know the other members all that well. Like 19th-century New York, it is also a world where appearances matter. You get invited to the party—whether the White House Hanukkah party or the state dinner—not just because of who you are but because of what you represent, which costume you wear, which ethnic group you come from.

After all, when you can choose between Wedding Crashers or 18th century Russia, be the speaker who stands out in the round.

AGD: Enjoy Thanksgiving with Some Political Turkeys

Warning: These Turkeys are NOT for Consumption

Warning: These Turkeys are NOT for Consumption

by Corey Alderdice

Your friends at Extemp Central want to take this moment to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.  It’s one of the few weekends during the fall semester where we get a break.  Enjoy it…as well as some turkey (or tofu-rkey, if that’s how you roll).

Also, we also want to say how grateful we are for our great readership.  November has been an outstanding month at Extemp Central.   The reception to our expanded offerings has been tremendous!  You seem to dig the expanded questions, news quizzes, topic briefs, AGD, tournament coverage, The EX Files and more.   We’re thankful for that!

In the end, this website is for you!  We’re proud to have the resources to offer help to coaches and competitors around the country.   If you think this month has been great, we’re looking to finish the year strong while pulling out the stops for 2010.  It’s going to be a fun ride, and we hope to have you along for it.

While you’re taking a break from the holiday festivities, take a moment to check out The Huffington Post‘s photo album of Politicians Who Look Like Turkeys.

One more thing: check back on the site tomorrow for ways to save with SpeechGeek‘s Black (Book) Friday Special!

AGD: Senators’ STATEments on National Geography Week

Illinois as drawn by Sen. Durbin (D-IL)

Illinois as drawn by Sen. Durbin (D-IL)

by Corey Alderdice

I would be willing to wager that–as an extemper–you could identify every US state on a map.  We even think you’re smart enough to name all the state capitals in five minutes.

US Senators, well, that’s another story.  To help kick off Geography Awareness Week, National Geographic invited all 100 U.S. Senators to draw a map of their home state from memory and to label at least three important places. Here’s the gallery of maps from the brave Senators who took the challenge. The maps reveal home-state pride, personal history, and even some geographic humor.

The National Geographic Blog has some fun insight into the experiment:

But we knew that senators could offer additional insight with their own sketches, and they didn’t disappoint. We haven’t heard from all 100 yet, but the first batch of responses are great fun! Our fledgling mapmakers highlighted hometowns and natural wonders, local sports teams and major industries, the birthplaces of their children and their own childhood hangouts. Even comic book heroes showed up: See the contribution above from Richard Durbin of Illinois, who put the self-proclaimed home of Superman on the map.

Check out the growing map yourself.  If you’ve got a minute or two to spare, keep on reading to see a video of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) draw a map of the United States from memory.

AGD: Buffet = The Fastest Way to Feed a Busload of Speechies

by Corey Alderdice

Feeding a team of starving speechies can be quite the challenge.

After a long competition and several hours on the road before returning home, coaches have to seek out the easiest way to feed a busload of teenagers.

Enter: the buffet.

Pizza, Chinese, All-American…it doesn’t really matter.  As a dear friend of mine once noted: as long as it’s a “veritable cornucopia of delectable delights,” it’ll do.

You may think the folks at Extemp Central are on a food binge, but bear with us.

The one thing that goes with teens at buffet is manners, or a lack thereof.  That’s where The All-Inclusive All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Guide comes in.  It covers every aspect of buffet-style eating: Types of Buffets, Objective, Preparation, Location, Pre-meal Setup, Strategy, Etiquette, Exit Strategy, and Post Game.

The website kindly describes the guide as such:

This is the definitive guide to becoming a seasoned all-you-can-eat buffeter. If you would like to gain knowledge of each and every aspect that lay between you and getting the most fulfilling meal possible you have come to the right place. You will learn with specific techniques the dos and don’ts that every professional smorgasbord eater must adhere to. Within these tough economic times it is important to make sure our dollar stretches as far as possible.

Bon appetit.

Via Mental Floss

AGD: The Only Thing Fast About the Recession is the Food

by Corey Alderdice

There have been a lot of losers in the ongoing recession.  Banks, network television and luxury industries have each suffered in one way or another.   It seems as though only one industry has remained recession-proof.

Fast food.

You might even say America’s most known brand is even lovin’ it.   Despite the odds, McDonalds has been the real winner amid the global recession.  As families tighten budgets, the McDonald’s dollar menu has certainly revealed its advantages for consumers.  As Forbes explains, it’s all about value:

“I think they have a winning formula from a bottoms-up perspective,” said panelist Carol Pepper, head of Pepper International. “As a company, it is providing value for the dollar, convenience and it’s helping consumers weather the recession in the U.S.”

Sharp on the heels of the Golden Arches is an unlikely competitor:  Subway.  Thanks to inspired entrepreneur Stuart Frankel, his $5 footlong campaign went from local phenomenon to a national campaign.  Thanks to a nearly decade old advertising campaign featuring Jared Fogel and the need to seek innovation, the $5 footlong’s snappy commerical campaign struck gold and Frankel became an unlikely hero:

Customers liked his round number, too. Instead of dealing with idle employees and weak sales, Frankel suddenly had lines out the door. Sales rose by double digits. Nobody, least of all Frankel, knew it at the time, but he had stumbled on a concept that has unexpectedly morphed from a short-term gimmick into a national phenomenon that has turbocharged Subway’s performance. “There are only a few times when a chain has been able to scramble up the whole industry, and this is one of them,” says Jeffrey T. Davis, president of restaurant consultancy Sandelman & Associates. “It’s huge.”

It’s not all sushine and bags of money for the fast food industry, though.   Arby’s seems to be one of the lowest on the food chain:

AGD: The Last 10 Years in 7 Minutes

It’s been a heck of a decade, to say the least.  When the new century opened up, we were worried about Y2K.  Words like the iPod, Facebook and YouTube had yet to enter the cultural lexicon…or even exist for that matter.  9/11 was just a date on the calendar, Saddam Hussein was still in power and Barack Obama was still hanging out in the Illinois Senate.  As the second decade of the 21st century looms, the world is a very different place.

Extempers have had a full plate over the past ten years as they grappled with the issues of the day.  What is particularly striking about this is that some of these events took place while you were still watching Sesame Street in your Underoos.

Simple question to wrap this up: What big story (or stories) did Newsweek miss?

AGD: We Are of Peace. Always.

Which charismatic leader is less likely to be a lizard from outer space?  You decide.

Which charismatic leader is less likely to be a lizard from outer space? You decide.

by Corey Alderdice

President Obama is a alien lizard from outer space.

It’s not the claim of opponents of the President’s healthcare reform efforts.   Instead, it seems to be the allegorical underpinning of ABC’s reimagining of the early 1980s television miniseries V.

Anyone who has sat through an honors high school English class where they read George Orwell’s Animal Farm can attest to the power of achieving political commentary through the use of allegory.  As it turns out, a pig is not always just a pig nor is a horse always just a horse.  In the case of V, a story about an alien invasion is not just a sci-fi yarn about visitors from another planet.

An article from Slate this week poses the question “Is V a political allegory?”:

More than a few journalists and bloggers have remarked that it’s possible to read V as an allegory hostile to President Obama and sympathetic with the birthers and other nutcases who believe him to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The charismatic Visitors load up their “bandwagon” by “spreading hope.” In using their sophisticated iguana technology to provide free medical services, they promise “universal health care.” Indeed, if the show is to have the symbolic import that we expect from a science-fiction story, this is the only possible way to read V as a coherent text.

The original miniseries, which aired in 1983-84, did not seem to hide its message.  The Visitors from the series were painted as Nazis, building upon a generation still very familiar with the ramifications of WWII and the Nazi occupation of Europe.  Still entrenched in the Cold War, it had a resonate message for American audiences.

AGD: Sesame Street Is as Old as Your Parents

by Corey Alderdice

The black and white television in the spare bedroom of my grandmother’s house had a twice-daily appointment during my childhood: Sesame Street.  Shortly after consumption of a bowl of cereal in the mornings and somewhere just beyond nap-time and reruns of the A-Team in the afternoons came my daily childhood instruction.

Over the years, our furry friends from that fictional New York borough have built quite the pedigree (122 Emmy wins and broadcasts in 140 countries worldwide).  In addition to being woven into the very fabric of American culture, the folks at the Workshop have another milestone to celebrate next week: 40 years of television history.  Since it’s inception four decades ago, Sesame Street has made a lasting impression on countless children who are now well into adulthood.  When the show began, the landscape of both television and culture were very different.

The New York Daily News sums it up nicely:

The groundbreaking show, produced by the Children’s Television Workshop and a staple of public broadcasting, was years ahead of its time in promoting values that are now taken for granted in many places – accepting and appreciating diversity, not making assumptions based on gender, and being sensitive to cultural and economic differences, are all ideas the show emphasized before it was fashionable to do so.

The show has changed over the years in many ways.  What was once a program intended to supplement learning for inner city children has become a cultural mainstay.

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