- The "Never Kill..." teaser with Giles critiquing Buffy's slaying technique is really funny, and (along with Giles' fighting training later on), really adds to his cahracter.
- The scene with Xander and Willow attempting to persuade Buffy to go to the funeral home in "Never Kill..." is effective and funny, if just for Xander's obliviousness that Willow isn't pretending.
- The end of "The Pack" is particularly anti-climactic--the zookeeper transfers the hyena spirit into himself and then he's tossed to the hyenas? Nothing else?
- One of the joys of "The Pack" is that it gives Nicholas Brendon a nice chance to play against his ordinary character of the dorky guy pining silently, and he actually does pretty darn well with it.
- SMG's outfit in the final scene of "The Pack" is almost unspeakably awful.
- Both have mild twists in the endings (that Buffy didn't slay the "Anointed One" and that Xander does remember his time possessed), but neither feels tacked on or added for pure shock value, unlike in other episodes.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
[As always, Bee veterans are invited to contact us if they ever want to share their stories with a wider audience.]
So. Speaking of the American dream and hard work [transition alert!], I approached this weekend's NYT Magazine piece on Tyra Banks with some trepidation, but as it turns out Lynn Hirschberg takes Banks and her work ethic quite seriously, and it's a great, admiring profile:
Lasting, mainstream success has always been her biggest priority. “I could do the job, but I never truly identified with the fashion world,” Banks said. “It’s so fabulous, and it’s so speaking in European accents when you’re from Oklahoma. I’d have on a $30,000 gown, but it felt like Halloween to me. I saw that the mass girls with cosmetic and swimsuit calendars made more money than the high-fashion girls. I started looking at Cindy Crawford. She had been a high-fashion girl, and then she segued into being this Americana girl. No black girl ever attempted to be Cindy Crawford. Supermodels like Iman were intimidating divas — they weren’t like: ‘Hi! Here’s a Pepsi!’ I wanted Cindy’s career — I wanted to be the black girl next door.” ...To learn more about her growing tv empire, Tyra's foodie ways and a condition occasionally referred to as "I.B.S.", keep reading.
When she was 20, she wrote in one of her notebooks: “If Michael Jordan can sell tennis shoes and Magic Johnson can sell cars, I can sell cornflakes. I can and I will. So just sit back and relax because here I come. . . . I’m going to hurt and abuse.” Banks looked pleased when she read that passage aloud. “It was a moment,” she said now. “When I showed that to my mom the other day, she said, ‘You didn’t just happen overnight.’ ”
ETA: Interestingly, much the same could be said about BSG, at least if the promo is not excessively sliced and diced--a mediocre episode, but if the promo's accurate....
There's been a lot of talk here the last day or two about Tracy Flick, the name representing some kind of mild villainess, a fireball of brusque ambition, and I think that's unfair to the character. Flick was a child of a single mother with a modest income surrounded by the children of wealthy two-parent families, and she refused to let any of them condescend to her, to think that she was entitled to any less than they had or would have. She did this by developing a hard exterior, smooth and rounded and brittle as an eggshell. As I read it, the tragedy of Tracy Flick is that she didn't get the protection (even, in part, from herself) that she needed -- and that everybody else in that school would have gotten -- because nobody thought that she, with her smooth hard shell, needed protection. Least of all herself, which, in my reading, is why she fools herself into believing that she was not the victim of the affair. In any event, if you allow her that context, you can see where the sharp elbows are coming from.
I have no idea whether our putative Tracy Flick (and I'm not using her name because I don't want to make it easier for her to find this by googling herself) needs the same kind of context. It's easy to say that she's a home-schooled kid living in a house halfway up and flush against the side of a mountain, surrounded by forest, subsisting upon the companionship only of two parents, a pair of much-younger siblings, and a regular Friday night IM session with a fellow speller, and that somebody should have expanded her habitat and prevented her from building her entire life around the dictionary. It seems plausible, and understood that way, a spelling group easily could be an awkward way of making other social connections, rather than just another manifestation of an esoteric compulsion. If that were true, I would hope that we would cut our putative Tracy Flick the kind of slack that I want to give the other Tracy Flick. But we don't know that that's necessary -- for all we know, her family has friendly neighbors and the kind of church life that makes up for the lack of school interaction.
What I really hope is true is something else. Maybe our putative Tracy Flick, like few other kids, found that she had both a rare talent and a singular joy in competition -- the kind of joy that appears as satisfaction in the mastery of a word (the cockiness at the microphone) and bubbles over into the thrill of victory (the touchdown signal after a correct spelling). There is an element of chance in the Bee -- a point at which an elite speller still has to guess whether to lead schwa-pificer with an "o" or an "e" -- and I just have to marvel at a speller so good that she beat back that randomness through five regional bees to sit on the prime-time stage two or three times and still had enough enthusiasm that a light went on in her eyes at the exact moment that she found the key to each new word.
Last year's winner openly admitted he didn't like the Bee. He spelled as much out of chemical imperative as anything else. Given the choice between him and our putative Tracy Flick, I'll
Edited because Adam reminded me of the slogan.
Friday, May 30, 2008
My man Sidarth!: Of the three, I identified the most with Sidarth. Like him, I was a first-time speller; like him, I suddenly found myself with a chance to win it; like him, I spelled out on a word (plutogoguery) that, had I spent just a *tiny* bit more time pondering it, I might have spelled correctly (or not -- one never knows these things).
I once had the chance to spend some time with a noted basketball player. I asked him what it was like when he got "in the zone". His reply was that the hoop and the ball became gigantic and time slowed to a crawl. I knew what he was talking about, because the same thing has happened to me on occasion -- and it happened that spring when I was spelling.
Sidarth was in the same zone that I inhabited, even after he spelled out. I could tell; he seemed slightly dazed and unsure of what he should do next. I'm sure he'll knock himself a bit once the reality of it all sinks in -- I did the same thing. He strikes me, though, as someone who'll be quite all right.
Tia, Tia, Tia: I hear where people are coming from with Tia. You know what, though? If I had to pick someone other than Sidarth to win, Tia was the one. So what if she struck some of us as rather Tracy Flick-like? To win in something like this (especially now that it's becoming more of a world championship), you need to exert maximum effort -- even if you're in the zone. With Tia in the competition, I felt that was made certain. You could see it in her eyes -- this title was hers, and the only way anyone was going to win it was to take it away from her.
That's the kind of drive and self-possession you see in a champion. Shonda compared her to Kobe, and I totally agree. I've seen that look in his eyes, I've seen it in Tiger's eyes, I've seen it in Barack Obama's eyes; really, I've seen it in anyone who's truly excellent at what they do.
Mark it: we'll hear from Tia Thomas yet.
World Spelling Bee: Look, let's be frank. At this point, it's not a national spelling championship; it's increasingly becoming a world championship. That's a good thing!
Spirit and letter of the rules: Earlier, Adam (I think it was him) mentioned Jake Smith of Colorado, and how his dad had moved with him to Boulder in order to compete again at the Bee in his final year.
Now, I like Jake. I had a chance to meet him last year, and I chatted with him. Nice kid. Here's the thing: rules for the Rocky Mountain News bee say that there can't be repeat representatives. I'm not sure if it's a policy or an actual rule, but it's a prohibition of some weight.
Jake's folks thought that was silly, so they moved Jake to Boulder in order to be able to compete again. As fate has it, Jake's brother won the Rocky bee, so they became the first brothers to compete in the same Bee.
Again, nothing against Jake or his brother (who's also a sweet kid). I'm sure they wanted to compete as well. But even in my brief time knowing them, I got the feeling that if they didn't win, they'd be cool. The parents, not so much. Jake asked me about the stuff they got to do; the parents asked me about how to win the Bee. I told them to relax and enjoy the ride. Somehow, I don't know that they did.
In the end, these are kids we're talking about. One of the few changes that I disagree with the Bee staff about (not that my opinion matters a whit more than others) is the decision to let family members on stage during the championship rounds.
The stage belongs to the kids. Not the parents -- the kids. This is their time to shine on stage, and it should stay that way. I'd much prefer it if the families were seated off-stage; maybe in a different section, if you want, but off-stage.
Okay, that's it. Thanks to the vicissitudes of our political nominating process, I spent most of the week traveling from one end of the country to the other. Unfortunately, that meant I wasn't able to contribute as much as I wanted to. I look forward -- with the permission of our kind friends here -- to doing more next year.
I want to thank all of you here for having me, however briefly. Mazeltov to all the spellers this year.
And with that, it's time for me to go.
I'm writing this at 37,000 feet. It's a bumpy ride from Denver to Baltimore, and it's one of the few chances I've had this week to take some time, think, and write.
Heather and I have been asked to talk about our personal experiences at the Bee. I think many of you have read my account from last year about how I became a speller. For those of you who haven't, you can read it earlier in the blog.
The Bee back then, in 1991, wasn't the spectacular festival that you see now, but the seeds for that were in motion. We had a total of around 230 spellers (I was wrong in my memory), and the publicity was limited to newspapers, cable news networks, and, for the winner, the late night shows and the morning shows the morning after winning.
That's not to say that it wasn't as fiercely competitive. It was. You had competitors who had been to the Bee three, four, five times, you had professional coaches, you had stage parents.
The competition, however, was shorter, and more unforgiving -- to borrow a collegiate sports analogy, less college basketball, more college football. It was two days of spelling on a stage -- no more, no less. Silence meant victory, and the bell tolled for those who were vanquished.
I don't recall a written test, or a bonus round. What I recall is that I took the stage the morning of Day 1 thinking, 'well, I've come this far...', feeling breezily confident the first three rounds...and then...
And then, came Round 4, which turned into the spelling equivalent of one of those World War One battles where you go to the microphone not knowing if you're going to have a seat on stage when you're done.
Once *that* was done, we broke for the day. That night, my anticipation was *intense*. I've mentioned before that I'm a very competitive man; I'm not a sore loser, but losing tears me up. It's why I joined the military, why I went into politics, and why I worked for one of the most competitive technology companies in the world; I want to *win*, and if I don't, I at least want to know that I left everything on the field, and gave it my best shot.
I've said earlier that, like one of this year's spellers, I didn't agonize over the Bee. I didn't go so far as he did -- I did study every night, after all.
That night, though, I chose not to study. I looked at the stage after Day 1, and I realized, 'Holy crap, I can *win* this...I can be the national champion!'. I chose, that night, not to study. I earned my rest.
I didn't win the championship the next day. It turns out I won something far greater: the knowledge that, no matter the odds, I had a shot. In the unlikely story that is my life (and it *is* an unlikely story), the only thing that had rung false for a kid who was largely raised by a single mother (my 'dad' is actually my stepfather) is a sense of hope that things would turn out okay.
I haven't lacked it since.
Rose plays trumpet in her school’s concert and jazz bands, sings in both her school’s chorus and honors chorus, and plays jazz piano. Her performances extend to acting as well, and she has had roles in school productions of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Annie and Twelfth Night. Spelling isn't Rose's only competitive outlet: This year she competed on teams in the Illinois State Mathcounts Competition, the state robotics competition, and the National Middle School Science Bowl.Dan Steinberg caught up with some of our favorites outside the kiss-and-cry suite, catching Z-Square hoarding juice boxes from the room ("They said feel free to take the snacks from the trays," he explained, "so I felt free to take the snacks from the trays") and trying to goad Matthew Evans into joining him for a trip to Air & Space this afternoon where, yes, To Fly! is still playing thirty years later.
ABC's coverage, as does ours, resumes at 8pm eastern.
Three other observations: (1) Utah, unsurprisingly, isn't the greatest place to look for poppers and breakdancers, though it weirdly continues to have exceedingly well-trained formal dancers; (2) There are strip clubs in Utah? Who knew?; and (3) Vegas week is going to be crowded.
It's a festschrift in honor of the Bee over here at ALOTT5MA!
I am, however, committed to using the words "hooley" and "tonneau" in conversation this week.
Also, I had the occasion to reread Stephen King's "The Long Walk" the other day. A story that's really hard to visualize, since who can imagine 14-year old boys operating under extreme stress. But here it is, in high-def. Minus the rifle fire.
- Don’t shy away from consonant clusters! German words often have combinations of three or more consonants that don’t occur in thoroughly English words. Examples include gst in angst, schn in schnauzer, and nschl in anschluss.
- The letter o is the vowel most often used to connect two Greek word elements. If the connecting vowel sound is a schwa (ə) as in xylophone, notochord, and ergonomic and you must guess at the spelling of this sound, the letter o is a very good guess.
- The letter k rarely appears in words from Latin, and its sound is nearly always represented by c as in canary, prosaic, canine, mediocre, Capricorn, aquatic, cognition, precocious, and many other words.
We headed back to the hotel, where many of the kids who had already been eliminated were congregating, eating ice cream and playing games and generally blowing off some of the steam that had been gathering for the weeks and months heading into the Bee. I hung around for a bit, talking with them and some of the other kids who would be joining me in another day of spelling, and then headed off to bed.
The morning of Day 2 started with a fight with my mom about what I wanted to wear (these were the days before those nifty Bee polo shirts came about). I had brought two dresses, one a striped minidress but still appropriate, especially seeing as it was the early 80s, and a much more traditional one (think puffed-sleeve prairie blouse) that I had been planning to wear for the gala banquet on Friday night. Mom wanted me to wear the traditional dress in case there was TV coverage, but I stubbornly insisted on wearing the minidress, which I thought was just so much cuter. I won that battle, and giggled when I ended up on ABC's World News in Dick Schaap's annual piece about the Bee. Of course, these were the days before cell phones, so we didn't know that I was going to be part of the segment until we actually saw it on TV, so I sadly don't have a copy of it for posterity.
Anyway, I had the minidress and my good luck charm, a little clippy koala bear that I clutched throughout the spelling, until the bell rang for me on "muniments." I was sad and mad at myself, naturally, until I was (much later) able to get some 13-year-old perspective on my 18th-place finish.
After a little time in the Crying Room, I rejoined my family and friends and watched the rest of the Bee. I was so happy when Blake won -- the person who placed second was someone I was not particularly fond of, mostly because he had signed my autograph book early in the week with "Future Bee Winner," and I admit to giggling a bit to myself when he misspelled a word that is now part of the American lexicon thanks to an animated cooking mouse. He was much nicer at the final banquet, too, because I think he realized how bad he felt about missing a relatively easy word when he had been so cocky all week.
I wish all the remaining spellers the best of luck today. Your accomplishments and your poise and grace under pressure are amazing. Take a deep breath and go to it!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Also, Trekkies are mourning the dual deaths of director Joseph Pevney, who among other credits helmed 14 episodes during the sci-fi series' original run including the legendary "The Trouble With Tribbles," and composer Alexander "Sandy" Courage, who wrote the classic Trek theme song. Penvey was 96; Courage 88.
You will get one point for each word your spellers correctly spell during tomorrow's rounds of the Bee, which resumes at 11am on ESPN. Most points wins; tiebreaker will be whoever has the individual speller going the furthest. While individual spellers can be used more than once, you cannot repeat the same pairing that someone else has already submitted. First come, first served, and the pool will close when the kids start spelling tomorrow morning. Google wisely, and do abide Sean Daly's advice in today's New York Post.
As always, your sole prizes are Internet fame and glory forever (or at least as long as this site’s archives remain available), joining 2006 pool winner Elicia Chamberlin, who admittedly had some inside knowledge, and 2007 co-winners Professor Jeff and Amy (which sounds like a messed-up MIT lounge act).
Since it's my blog, I go first: Kayva Shivashankar -- the pride of Olathe, KS, and the only entrant to have made it to prime time the last two years -- and second-timer Curtis Bogetti of Kamloops, BC, because "Kamloops" is a cool name for a town and Curtis says "schuhplattler" is his favorite word. I am concerned that he also claims to be a Lost fan, and I don't want him distracted tonight, but I'm sensing some serious Maple Leaf Mojo this year.
That said, I will not be surprised at all to see Matthew Evans and Tia Thomas among the final competitors Friday night -- one does not come back for a fifth Bee just because one can, but because one believes that the effort will be worth it. Good luck, everyone.
It gets ugly at the end, 6 out of the last 10 falling to the likes of "polytrichous" ("like monotrichous, except more"), "anticyclolysis" ("the process of removing unibrow"), and "cordonnet" ("a military trdummpet"). Yet there is Matthew Koh, still the last man standing, still staring you down, the cold-blooded assassin.
Round 3 is on. Meanwhile, according to the R3 results so far, Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, and the Bahamas are out; everybody in R3 so far is right on (including Tia Thomas -- this could be her year); and I am refusing to pun the name of our first speller, So-Young Chung.
And just like that, three Canadians are down. But not superstar Anqi Dong, who tames the hardest word of the round so far.
Missed "use it in a song" opportunity: "Appreciate your courtesy/your well-worn politesse/but you got yourself into your own mess" (OK Go, "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time"). And Jordan Lay, all the way from a base in Germany, is down on "wainscot."
Most spellers come from newspapers, or at least "newspapers" (like the Washington Informer, which is less a newspaper than something that meets you in the bowels of a parking garage to tell you to follow the money). Rose Sloan (and, really, every Rose has a Sloan, am I right?) comes to us from a utility company, and she correctly spells kwuh-TUR-nee-uhn, which everybody knows means "an expression of the form a + bi + cj + dk, where a, b, c, and d are real numbers; i2 = j2 = k2 = −1; and ij = −ji = k, jk = −kj = i, and ki = −ik = j."
High drama: high-seed and four-timer Sameer Mishra's pops up at 97, meaning that his computer test overcame his first-round blunder. With the relatively easy dem-i-tas, he lives to spell again. Mishra is like the Boston Celtics of the Bee -- he's making it a lot more interesting than he should.
Evans is through. So we still have Thomas, Mishra, Evans, Dong, and Shekhar. The heavy hitters are still hitting heavy.
I love the picture of Matthew Koh, Round 3's last indefatigably successful speller. "Your human emotions intrigue me. Shall I now spell you into submission?" So sorry, though, to end the round by losing Wheeling, West Virginia's Karen Laska, who got us this post over at USS Mariner.
On to Round 4!
- ahl-tuh-GETH-uhr -- A, B, C, D, can I bring my friend to tea?
- MUHS-tuhrd, suh-RINJ, MIHD-rif, EH-puh-lehp-see -- um, yeah. For real, these words counted. Okay, let's skip to the harder stuff.
- BAYN-YAY-- because we love foodie words here. A Nawlins fritter.
- PIHHR-ic -- how it'd feel to spell this word right but not advance in the competition
- SIHG-nuht -- a young swan
- GEHRN-zee -- relating to that Channel Island
- PIHN-yihn -- how one translates Chinese into a Roman alphabet
- treh-muh-LO -- from the second Tsunami album (thank you, Jenny Toomey!), it's the rapid reiteration of a musical tone
- NAHN-puh-reel -- unparalleled, or a candy your grandmother might offer you.
- kahr-uh-BEEN/kuh-RIH-bee-uhn -- Billy Ocean's queen.
- kah-kuh-WEE-theez -- an uncontrollable desire
- AYE-deh-dihk -- relating to images or essences
- ah-puh-LOO-suh -- a type of horse
- gall-uh-MAY-shee-uhs -- like most of what we blog, it's "gibberish".
So far, notes Josh Dawsey of the MG Bee Blog, it's a touch harder round than last year's first oral round, with a decent number more wrong answers. Then again, I don't know how fair it is to have someone fly here all the way from Ghana and ask her to spell the name of the Passover ritual meal as her first challenge.
Other words wrong so far:
- skuh-DAD-uhl -- as in, "scram!"
- mehr-uh-TOK-ruh-see -- which the Bee pretty much is.
- ahn-tuh-LAHJ-uh-kuhl -- of or relating to the science or study of being.
- ehv-uh-DEN-chee-ehr-ee, one of two law-related words to confound folks so far. (Lieu being the other.)
updates: 1. Remember Indiana's Austin Hoke, the four-timer who said "I am just kind of laying off it. It's really hard to (prepare), so I just figure I won't try"? He just got Soo, as in the Plains tribe. And spelled it S-O-O. Fellow four-timer Sameer Mishra, also of Indiana, whiffed on soo-DAY-shuhn, i.e., "sweat".
Meanwhile, Our Spellers to the North went 19/22 this round.
2. Suppose you're Charles Smith, representing Hagerstown, MD. The four spellers before you receive "quandary," "ethanol," "brigadier" and "chary". Then you're asked to spell ahn-uh-MASS-tuh-kon, "a collection or listing of words especially in a specialized field." Yeah, life's not fair sometimes.
3. Among the favorites who nailed their first words are five-timers Tia Thomas and Matthew Evans, four-timer Anqi Dong of Saskatchewan, third-timer Kayva Shivashankar, youngest-ever Sriram Hathwar, and Catherine "Cat" Cojocaru of Rochester, MN, who gets props (a) for insisting on a nickname, (b) for representing a North Dakota paper while living in Minnesota, and (c) for her mythical, and for all we know actual relationship to Uncle Steven. We'll see if they make the cut in about an hour.
4. We've been telling 'meniscus' stories here today, and here's another: Thomas North flew here all the way from New Zealand and spelled it wrong. I guess this is a good time to let him know that the Air & Space Museum's IMAX Theater has two showings of "To Fly!" remaining today.
5. Another bugaboo for spellers today? Short words starting with 's' and ending with f-sounds: both suhrf (as in lackey or minion, not as in -board) and sihlf (an imaginary or elemental being inhabiting the air and being mortal but soulless, or "a slender woman or girl of light and graceful carriage") have confused competitors today.
6. It could have been pointed out to me in advance that Philadelphia's representative, Hannah Schill, is a University City hipster-in-training with blue-streaked hair. She correctly spelled vuh-LOOT (alt: vuhl-YOOT), a spiral- or scroll-shaped form.
This round is now over, and congratulations to Bill James, because say-buhr-MEH-trix now counts as a Bee word (though the etymology gives its spelling away), and WV's Karen Laska spelled it correctly. Also, via Amy Dominello, we had our first “Can you use it in a song?” request of Dr. Jacque Bailly in this round. It was denied, and the word (uh-SPOWZ-uhl) was incorrectly spelled. We'll see who made the ~100 cut in an hour or so.
- From 8am to noonish, all 288 spellers will have the chance to spell one preliminary word in front of Dr. Jacque Bailly and the audience. If it's like last year, it'll be easy.
- Spellers receive three points for spelling that word correctly. Add that to the results of the computer round (up to 25 points), and at around noon they'll learn which spellers are part of the group of 100+ spellers which advances to the rest of the competition.
- From 2pm until 4:45p, those spellers will begin competition in the one-and-done elimination format you know and love, the rules of which are available here. ESPN360.com will cover it live, but nothing on broadcast tv until tomorrow.
"Friendly rivals" and five-timers Tia Thomas and Matthew Evans are ready; are you?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
While I’m on the subject of things that inspire me, let me mention the story of the euphoniously-named Isaac Lidsky, “Weasel” Wyzell from Saved By the Bell: The New Class, who will be clerking next term for retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. It’s exceedingly hard for a person to go from TNBC to SCOTUS, especially a socially-awkward kid with a hidden heart of gold who never managed to steal a kiss from Sarah Lancaster, Natalia Cigliuti, or Ashley Cafagna. Lidsky is breaking the “plywood painted to look like high-school lockers ceiling” that keeps people like RJ “Hollywood” Collins, Mary-Beth Pepperton, and Teddy Brodis out of the exclusive clerks’ fraternity. I say bravo, Weasel, you are an inspiration to us all.
A professor at the community college where Samir is studying this semester has this to say about his future:
He told me he wanted to get into the [technical] field, but I'm hoping to change his mind. I think a really bright kid like that should be steered into the humanities. If you look around the country, you'll notice our planes are well maintained and fly and don't normally crash, our doctors are competent and we've made big strides in computer technology. But my view is when you have an extremely talented person, the last thing we need is one more computer programmer. The fact that I am thinking this way about him is an indication of how much promise I see in him.ESPN is also offering a video tribute and slideshow of Samir through the years, plus a 25-question spelling quiz as a challenge (18/25 for me -- the sports names were brutal).
Finally, greetings to the Washington Post and Dan Shanoff readers who have joined us. We welcome your comments, and do stick around.
Via Starbucks Gossip (where else?)
The schedule is different now than it was 25 years ago, when I competed. The kids still attend a welcome barbecue. I remember mine being great fun, despite an abrupt ending when a freak storm blew through and the staff herded us onto buses for the trip back to DC. We also had a day of sightseeing, where I visited the Vietnam Memorial for the first time and we had a short Rose Garden audience with then-President Reagan; our parents were annoyed that they had to wait in the buses while we hobnobbed with him. I also remember a bunch of fun at the hotel in the evenings hanging out with the other contestants, eating, playing cards, and signing the ever-present autograph books.
The schedule for this year's kids doesn't specify any activities for today. I'm guessing some kids will stay in their rooms studying, and some will take advantage of the beautiful weather to get out and see some of the myriad of sights that DC has to offer.
I don't remember a lot of angst or last-minute cramming, but the Bee has become much bigger and much more competitive over the last two and a half decades. Fewer than 140 spellers competed in 1983, and there was a genuine spirit of excitement and support for the other spellers among us. Sure, we all wanted to win, and sure, we all experienced disappointment, sadness and shock when the bell finally rang (well, all except for current judge Blake Giddens, who won on "Purim"), but I made many friends with whom I kept in touch for years afterward.
It's hard to know how much of that is still happening. I hope that it is. I also hope that the kids take today, and the rest of the time left in Bee Week, to really soak in the atmosphere and the experience. It should be something that they remember fondly for the rest of their lives.
I'm sure we'll see some last-minute butterflies tomorrow as the kids spell to a full ballroom on national TV. I was a wreck when I got up to spell my practice word, "ghost." After that, though, the lights and cameras faded away and it was just about us kids. Just a bunch of kids who happen to be really, really good at spelling.
My earlier post about the wretched mass that is Crystal City has merited a rebuttal from Mr. Rob Mandle, operations director of the Crystal City Business Improvement District. In all fairness, his comment should get a hearing, so I've brought it up top:
Though there's still some distance to travel, there are a lot of SOUL-ful changes happening in Crystal City. We hosted Artomatic last year, brought Arena Stage across the river, are almost finished with a new Mosaic at the Metro, have Monday night Bond Outdoor Movie nights, and much more on the way. Part of soul is the people - and with Conservation International, NCB, BNA, PBS and others coming in, it's only going to get better. We're green, art-y, and active. Just be sure to check our website - we'll point you in the right direction.
I really should have noted the 21 weeks of James Bond outdoor film festival. That's pretty cool.
But since we have an audience, anyone who cares to point out needed improvements to Crystal City should feel free to take the opportunity.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
In the Round One test, spellers will spell 50 words using a computer keyboard. Only 25 of the 50 spellings will count toward each speller’s Preliminaries score. The 25 words that count toward a speller’s Preliminaries score were labeled “score words” by Bee officials prior to May 25, but score word status will not be apparent to a speller taking the Round One test. Bee officials will publicly identify score words following the conclusion of the Preliminaries on Thursday, May 29. A sample test was available to all spellers through a secure Web site prior to Bee Week.Other items today:
The test will be proctored by a member of the Bee’s staff. Dr. Bailly will not appear in person at the test; instead, spellers will hear a recording of Dr. Bailly delivering the word information (just as in the sample test available to spellers prior to Bee Week). The test has no time limit, and spellers are given multiple opportunities to review their answers and word information prior to submitting their final answers. Access to the testing room during open testing hours will be restricted to spellers who are taking the test, Bee officials, staff, and crew.
- There are lots of neat strategies for the Bee, but I can't say I'm a fan of moving to another school district primary for the purpose of preserving your son's eligibility for a second trip to D.C., even if it does mean he's now competing against his younger brother this week.
- Not only is New Zealand represented this year, but so too are spellers from South Korea and Ghana.
- New Mexico's Matthew Evans is back for a fifth straight year after his third straight battle against Rajat Singh. This time, "The clock struck noon when Singh was given trichinosis."
- Tia Thomas of the Fresno area is your other five-timer. She'll be wearing #13 this year, but is no triskaidekaphobe. Thomas read the complete Book of Mormon between the ages of 5 and 6, and has now read the entire Webster's unabridged cover-to-cover seven times.
- If you haven't read it already, or haven't committed it to memory, do take a few minutes to review guest blogger Rafael Noboa's account of his 1991 Bee experience. It's one of my favorite things we've ever published here.
edited to add: Welcome to all our visitors from the Grey's Writers blog and TVTattle, and we look forward to your joining us all week long, including our live Bee coverage on Thursday and Friday. To get a sense of what it'll be like, click here for the 2007 coverage and keep scrolling upwards; the "by Writers" posts are all Shonda's, and we are thrilled she's back for a fourth straight year.
Q: What advice would you give this year's spellers?
A: I'd tell them that the last round is never the hardest round. Each year, there has been one killer round. In '05 it was round 8, in '06 it was round 7, and in '07 it was round 6. So they should be prepared for one killer round. And they should know what makes the hard round so hard is that they use words that you can't spell based on language patterns. You might call them easier because they look more like they sound, but they're still harder to spell. There's a lot of luck.
Q: It's the first year in three years you haven't competed in the bee. What are you doing instead this spring?
A: I'm doing math competitions. Math is what I enjoy most.
Q: What about math do you like so much?
A: I like everything that has to do with math. I'm in a linear algebra class at (the University of California at) Berkeley right now. ...
Q: What are your summer plans?
A: It seems like so long since I've had a summer because last summer was so busy with interviews. I'm looking forward to a break to have some fun.
The Magic Castle.
Nothing says storybook romance like a septuagenarian with a toothbrush mustache and yellow teeth and an ill-fitting shiny tuxedo pulling silver dollars out of your ear.
Monday, May 26, 2008
[I]f ... I was objectively watching what just happened this week, I would probably be drinking a lot of beers and booing. Usually I enjoy Japanese beer, but given the situation, if I was objectively watching the game, I wouldn’t care if it was Japanese beer, American beer or beer from Papua New Guinea.USS Mariner interpreted that as a call to arms, and accordingly enlisted their readers in a quest to acquire beer from Papua New Guinea.
The problem is that there is only one brewery in Papua New Guinea: South Pacific, which makes SP Export, SP Lager, and Niugini Ice (ugh). SP doesn't have a North American distributor, and nobody has been able to get his or her hands on (a) an SP beer; or, failing that, (b) a picture of him or herself drinking an SP beer.
My request to you: if you happen to be in Papua New Guinea, or at least P-NG-adjacent, please get me some SP. I will pay for it and its transportation. If you can't get me the beer itself, please take a picture of yourself drinking it (perhaps with some kind of sign that says "USS Mariner"). When you're looking at another 110 games of .300 baseball and a GM who thinks the problem is clubhouse chemistry instead of bad players who we acquired because they were great in the clubhouse (not so much on the field), the slavish service to Ichiro!'s demand for Papua-New Guinean beer becomes pretty important.
The header line comes from Pollack himself, and is referenced in the NYT obit.