Thursday, August 24, 2017

THE BATTLE FOR THE HULK HANDS:  We have one vacancy in the ALOTT5MA FFL, now entering its 9th season.  Drafting Monday night at 9pm EDT, 12-team auction format, non-PPR.  If you're interested, holler.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

GET ON YOUR FEET ALL NIGHT LONG:  It was only six years ago when I started lamenting about the virtual absence of Latino winners of the Kennedy Center Honors for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in the Field of Excellence, asking "Do we need to wait 20-30 years for Gloria Estefan and John Leguizamo to win?"

So it's nice to note that Gloria Estefan is indeed one of this year's honorees, along with Lionel Richie, LL Cool J, dancer Carmen de Lavallade, and holy shit how the hell has Norman Lear not won this before?

LL is the first hip-hop artist to be so honored -- I think that gives a lot of weight to his acting/hosting endeavors, because I can't otherwise conceive of a reason for his going in before Run-DMC.  (Oh, wait: his show's on CBS. Nevermind.)

As for Lear: holy fucking shit, what were they waiting for?  

Monday, July 17, 2017

DID YOU ORDER THE CODE RED?  Apparently, NBC is still planning A Few Good Men: Live!, and Alec Baldwin will play Col. Jessup.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I CAN READ, TOO, I JUST DON'T NEED TO BRAG ABOUT IT LIKE STING DOES:  If Ozzy Osbourne wants to list his Top Ten Metal Albums, I am going to listen.

Monday, June 26, 2017

What the fuck is wrong with you? Yeah you, the person waiting in line at a breakfast restaurant. 
You got nothing better to do at 9am on a Saturday morning? Wait in line for 45 minutes to eat a pancake? It’s a God damn mother fucking PANCAKE. You got nothing going on? Life is that easy you can wait in line for a pancake?...

Monday, June 12, 2017

EGOT DESK:  Three EGOT notes of relevance from last night's Tony Awards:
  • Most obviously, Bette Midler is now an Oscar away from finishing.  (Somewhat surprisingly, she did not have a Tony already).
  • Benj Pasek and Justin Paul seem quite likely to pick up at least one Grammy in February 2018--they'll be eligible for Best Musical Show Album for Evan Hansen and Best Song Written for Visual Media for their La La Land work (they are not producers on the La La Land album, though), leaving them just an Emmy shy.  They are being pushed for the Original Song Emmy this year for "Runnin' Home To You."
  • The stealth EGOT competitor?  John Legend, who co-produced Jitney, and is now missing just an Emmy.

Friday, June 2, 2017

EBULLIENT:  All in all, that's the kind of Bee I am thrilled to watch. Because while the central joy of "watching amazing kids do amazing things" remained constant, there's several particularly positive things about this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee I want to highlight, and a few to flag:

The Good:

  • I applaud the decision to go into primetime with fifteen spellers, rather than risk having an extra afternoon round calibrated too wrong in either direction. When in doubt, give more kids the lifetime thrill of having that level of coverage.  This proved to be a much better decision than a second written test as a cutoff, especially when knowledge of said results made live rounds futile for too many, or forcing a halt mid-round.
  • Zero interviews with spellers after elimination. The kiss-and-cry area, while front stage, was treated with dignity and restraint.
  • A minimum of cutesy packages.
  • A broadcast which focused on the spellers and gave real insight on what made particular words difficult. 
  • Shourav. Mogollon. His mom's reaction
Don't Do This Again
  • Never, ever, ever consider the possibility of a written test settling a tiebreaker for the final outcome.  That was a bad idea.  Let it never come to fruition.
  • I am still not sure how long the Bee should go before declaring a tie (25 rounds between the final two seems like a lot), but I do know that a competition featuring kids and hopefully watched by hundreds of thousands of other kids should not come close to overlapping with The Late Show. Yes, eliminating 14 kids (see above) takes more time than eliminating 10, but this event should never start at 8:30pm in the first place.  Why not 7pm? 
  • Related: did the kids have water up there? That's a lot of time under bright lights, and the fatigue was evident -- especially for Rohan.
  • Siddur. Siddur should not be a primetime word.  I feel fairly confident about this. [Nor should clafouti(s), even though the speller erred on this.]
Not Quite Right, But I Don't Know What To Do
Floor is open.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

ROUND 12:  Six spellers remain at 10:12 pm.

10:21: And just like that, we are down to four.

10:24pm: We will be seeing that Shourov mic drop on Mogollon for the next decade of Bee coverage.  Thank goodness. That took some serious confidence.

10:30pm: These kids actually deserve a commercial break now.  Hope it's not the last -- part of the torture of the past few years is that after a certain point it became unrelenting endurance. This is more humane.  Four spellers still for Round 14.

10:45pm:  Ouch, Shourov.  The VSO and I are having a discussion over the fairness of employing words derived from literature (and trademarks, for that matter).  My argument remains as it's long been: the Bee can't be completely fair as long as each kid's facing different words, so whether a word can be reasoned out from roots, or not, is irrelevant at this stage.  All we can know is who does best in a particular night with his or her words -- that's not the same as who's the Best Speller in the abstract.

10:51pm:  Siddur at this hour seems bizarrely easy.  How did that get into the CWL?

11:03pm: Ananya's getting harder words consistently. Chittarino for Rohan? I'd have had that just via chittara, in pasta.

11:20pm: Tchefuncte and cheiropompholyx are as hard a pair as I've ever seen in a tournament. Wow.

11:27pm: CONGRATULATIONS ANANYA!
GREETINGS FROM NATIONAL HARBOR:  We are kicking it old school tonight -- for the first time since the GWB Administration, I will not be employing the Cover It Live platform to host our finals chat -- and will instead just write it live on the blog, like we did in caveman (i.e., "Netscape") times.  (Long story. Involves new and extremely high fees even for a one-time use.)

Let's have some fun.

8:41 pm: This is not a lawnmower round. These are hard words, but one which a Bee winner would know.  Strisciando requires knowing that middle consonant pairing, but that's it.  Each of these words seems to have one trick like that. For purana, it's that it's actually spelled phonetically.

8:50 pm: Foodie time! Clafouti is a word grownups should get pretty handily. Speller, unfortunately, adds a gratuitous e to the end. Sigh.

9:03:  Yes, they started a half-hour late, but there's no need to run filler (even with the Shivashankar sisters) in the middle of a round.  I can't imagine how painful it is for the kids to wait.

9:14:  And then there were eleven.  Round nine continues here.

9:20p:  I guess "comes from a trademark" is the new Nahuatl/Welsh/Finnish of "oh, crap" when it comes to having a backdoor into a word. (HT: The Very Significant Other.)

9:50pm:  Sorry, tech issues here.  But a gradual drip-drip-drip to leave us with six kids.

9:59pm: Hard to think of a word with more potential traps than pterygoideus. That was damn nice, Shourav.

10:11pm: Round 11 concludes with our second straight perfect round.  Time to bring out the imitative words, and let's move to a new thread.
FIFTEEN SPELLERS REMAIN:  I am thrilled that the Bee has ended the false, wrong, stupid era of having a second computerized test cut down today's finalists to a manageable group for prime time.

We'll instead have a rather large group of 15 finalists at the microphone starting at 8:30pm on ESPN -- a late start for some young kids (a 10-year-old, three 11s, and two 12s by my count), and I do wonder if that, too, might impact how things end up. If nothing else, we probably will have an early lawnmower round, perhaps in the first round, and I think few things suck more than not giving the spellers at least one round on prime time to shine before fourteen of them (or maybe thirteen) ultimately err.

Over the years I've compiled and revised a list of what I like and don't like about the Bee, and I will repeat it again here, with a few changes:

Like

  • Smart kids being awesome. Smart kids being awesome.
  • Settling it in front of the microphone, as late as it goes.  I am anti-tie, but even more anti-tiebreaker test.
  • That part late in the Bee when we get to words of Finnish, Mayan, Welsh, Afrikaans, proper names, and Egyptian origins.
  • Jamaican and Canadian spellers, except the 2008 Canadian Bloodbath round which was really unfortunate.
  • Foodie words, because it's the only time in the competition many grownups feel smart.
  • Dr. Jacque Bailly 
  • Sardoodledom.
  • When Bee veterans, coaches, and parents come here and share their wisdom and experience. 

Don't Like

  • Showing the clip of the kid who fainted. He's a kid.  It wasn't cute. It was scary. It still is.
  • Use of computerized competition to impose artificial elimination checkpoints for tv purposes, especially, in the cutoff from Thursday afternoon to Thursday night.
  • Interviewing kids in the middle of the competition
  • Interviewing kids right after they've been eliminated
  • Cutesy filler pieces which demean how hard these kids work
  • Yiddish words capable of multiple correct spellings (otherwise known as The Marsha Special), and capable of igniting Bee controversy.
  • Amateur psychoanalysis of the kids and their parents. As I've written before, which is as close to a mission statement as we've got:

"What we won't do is mock the kids, or presume we can learn anything meaningful about them or their parents based on the brief slices we see on tv. As my favorite line from Frost/Nixon goes, 'The first and greatest sin or deception of television is that it simplifies, it diminishes. Great, complex ideas, tranches of time. Whole careers become reduced to a single snapshot.' We will try to be modest about what we believe we're seeing; the only thing we can know for sure is whether the word is spelled correctly, and what we learn from former spellers thereafter."
See you tonight.
WELCOME TO ROUND FOUR:  Forty spellers remain; we are live on ESPN2 at 10am with results online here.

The rules don't seem to say when they'll stop today; presumably, it'll be when a round finishes with 8-12 spellers remaining, but ... it doesn't say, does it?

(Unfortunately, I have a variety of work obligations for much of the day, but I will be popping in whenever I can. Let's hope for some great performances by these kids.)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

THE 2017 SPELLING BEE POOL: Forty amazing spellers remain.

Our rules are not too different from years past. It looks like there's a few spellers back this year who were in past prime time rounds -- Tejas Muthusamy (2014-15), Sreeniketh Vogoti (2016), Rutvik Gandhasri (2016). Siyona Mishra (2015), and Jashun Paluru (2016).

So: pick two spellers, only one of whom can be from among those five. 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 you cannot choose a speller once s/he spells a second time tomorrow.

You will get one point for each word your spellers correctly spell during today's rounds of the Bee, which resumes at 10am eastern on ESPN2. Most points wins; tiebreaker will be whoever has the individual speller going the furthest. Do not edit your entry after you've made it; if you need to make corrections, reply to your original comment.

It's my blog, so I go first: Based on absolutely no prep whatsoever, I'll take Rutvik Gandhasri and Shourav Dasari, who placed just short of prime time last year.

Previous pool winners are Elicia Chamberlin in 2006 (Close/Hooks), Professor Jeff and Amy tied in 2007 (O'Dorney and Thomas/Horton), KJ in 2008 (Mishra/K Shivashankar), Cagey (K Shivashankar/Pastapur) in 2009, Bob Loblaw/Jenn tied in 2010 (Veeramani and Chemudupaty/Denniss); 2011's winner was Nupur Lala (the Roy/Ye Keystone combo); Bobby in 2012 (Nandipati/Mahankali); Sara Miller in 2013 (Mahankali/Sivakumar), Bobby again in 2014 (Venkatachalam/Hathwar), Adam C in 2015 (Venkatachalam/Shafer-Ray), and Victoria last year (Hathwar/Kumar).  Good luck.
ROUND THREE:  259 spellers remain.  I'll update as events/work warrant and allow.

1:30pn.  Only 2/5 survive so far.  Bloodbath in progress?
NAOMI ZARIN OF GRAY, MAINE, COME ON DOWN!  The first of 291 spellers is on ESPN3.  Two rounds today, both ding-and-out, and at least last year the first one was easy (251/284) and the second only slightly less so.

8:20 am: Live results here; 21/23 correct so far. The words have been suhr-MOUN-tuh-buhl and haven't led anyone into a-po-PLEKS-ee.

1pm: 259/291 advance.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

REJOIN THE WARNER BROTHERS (AND THE WARNER SISTER, DOT)?  Don't call it a comeback, yet.  But it might be.

P.S. Gratuitous Slappy the Squirrel at Woodstock,
WELCOME TO BEE WEEK 2017:  And here's what's different about this year's Bee:

  • Today's prelim test is handwritten, not computerized multiple-choice. 
  • There is a tiebreaker test in case the finalists exhaust the Championship Words list, which sounds so stupid that I will not repeat its components.  I will instead say, as I have always said: either let them keep spelling all night long, or live with a tie -- whatever spellers of this level would prefer.
  • It also looks like, for the first time I can remember, the kids are in random order, not sorted by state.
Today's the written spelling/vocab test.  Live spelling starts tomorrow AM.

P.S. to Shonda: one Jamaican, seven Canadians. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

VERY WELL. IF THAT IS THE WAY THE WINDS ARE BLOWING, LET NO ONE SAY THAT I ALSO DO NOT BLOW:  Okay, we'll try to blog the Bee here (at least) one more time. Let's have the AP's Ben Nuckols set the table for what the modern Bee is:
To the fans watching on ESPN, Nihar Janga’s win last year in the Scripps National Spelling Bee was a shock: He was only 11 years old, a fifth-grader appearing in the bee for the first time, competing against 8th-graders with deep voices and facial hair. 
To the tightknit community of spellers and ex-spellers who track performances leading up to the bee, Nihar was something else: a seasoned competitor with an impressive resume and a threat to win it all.

As the bee has become increasingly difficult, spellers are less likely to come out of nowhere and hoist the trophy. There’s more information available about kids in the bee, and champion spellers have increasingly fit a familiar profile. For them, the bee is an all-consuming, year-round pursuit.... 
For this year’s bee, which starts Tuesday, three spellers are consensus favorites: Shourav Dasari, a past North South Foundation and South Asian Spelling Bee champion whose older sister came close several times; Siyona Mishra, who won last year’s South Asian bee and finished 9th in her only National Spelling Bee appearance; and Tejas Muthusamy, who’s making his fourth appearance, with two previous top-10 finishes.

Friday, May 26, 2017

BUT WHERE'S BILLY BATSON?  I wanted to talk a little bit about the mess that is Beat Shazam.  There are two cores to a successful game show:

  1. The game itself has to be easily explainable and understandable.  The show actually passes this test, unlike other recent "big game" efforts like Million Second Quiz or 500 Questions.  Choose the correct name of a tune fastest, and score points.  Team with the highest number of points at the end of the main game goes on to play a bonus game with a similar format.
  2. The star of the show is the game itself and the contestants playing it.  This is where the show collapses.  Jamie Foxx is a likable screen presence, but he makes it all about him, rather than about the game or the contestants.  Add to this that he has basically negative chemistry with his co-hostess, whose function seems to be to press a button to start each song, and you've got serious problems.
Magnifying that problem is that the program is seriously padded, and much of that padding, Foxx is called upon to fill during.  Outside of the bonus game, there are 25 song clips (none exceeding about 5 seconds) in an episode, leaving the show with 30+ minutes of non-play content to fill in a 44 minute episode.  Much of this is unneeded gameplay elongation--"let's see who got it right" (long pause), "now who got it right fastest?" (long pause)--though to their credit, there's very little "we'll find out...after the break!"  The basic Name That Tune game is solid, but this is a 22 minute stretched to 44 minutes, and that's not something you want to see.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I-N-E-V-I-T-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y:  Unless y'all convince me otherwise, I don't quite see how it makes sense to do what would otherwise be a fifteenth annual Spelling Bee liveblog on the blog itself, as opposed to offering commentary on Twitter where people actually are.

Yes, there's a part of me that wants to treat the Bee as an annual Brigadoon, the one week a year that a mass audience would return again to this site (seriously, we had tens of thousands of views each day, and not just during our Special Special Guest years), but it strikes me as more stubborn than realistic to insist upon remaining with this platform.

The whole point of the Bee blog was to create a community of Bee enthusiasts to talk about some amazing kids, and ornery words, in real time. We can do that anywhere. Yeah, the 140 character limit is a pain, compared to a lot of the longform stuff I've been so proud to publish here, but if folks don't come here to participate, what's the point?  At least, that's my gut reaction as to how things would play out if we tried to centralize things here next week. Shonda, 2013:
What I love about the Bee is its celebration of intelligence.  The Bee at its best is a dance party for braininess, a nerdgasm for smarty-pants.  The Bee is home for those of us who maybe can not throw a ball or run without our inhalers.  The Bee is a place for people who like to read, who enjoy math, who love science and art and geography and words, words, words.  The Bee is for people who have plans that do not include being a Real Housewife of Anything.   The Bee is the only way our people will ever be on ESPN.   And that makes the Bee awesome.


THE NOW FUN LEAGUE is loosening its rules on post-touchdown celebrations.  Taunting is still bad, but group celebrations are now kosher.

Friday, May 19, 2017

WE (STILL) HAVE READERS, AND TAKE REQUESTS:  A regular reader asks, "Here's a general question: can we get a thread going on the blog for suggestions of baby books that won't make me insane with boredom? What are the fun ones that he will like hearing/looking at and I won't mind (too much) reading 100 times?"

One hippo, all alone ...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

BLACK HOLE SUN, WON'T YOU COME?  Chris Cornell, dead at 52.  While Nirvana and Pearl Jam were the big names of grunge, Cornell might've been the strongest singer, at least technically.  One of my favorites?  A solo track from the soundtrack of Alfonso Cuaron's modernized Great Expectations.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

WHO ARE YOU, WHAT HAVE YOU SACRIFICED?  Next Spring, NBC will present Jesus Christ Superstar: LIVE!  Who ya got for the key roles?  

Monday, May 1, 2017

EGOT WATCH:  Michael Moore is bringing a one-man play to Broadway this summer.  He already has an Oscar and an Emmy (for TV Nation), so warrants the watch notice.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

OOOOO......EEEEEE!  As Kenan Thompson approaches Darrell Hammond's record-setting SNL tenure, what's up with that?
“What Up With That” gave Thompson confidence, and it gave SNL writers an understanding of his greatest strength: his ability to act as an on-stage director, calmly and selflessly pulling the most out of the people around him amid confusion. 
“He’d make me look funny,” said Hader, who would return as the always-silent Buckingham many more times. It was a generosity multiple cast members mentioned. 
But Thompson, Hader said, had another weapon. Unlike most of the show’s actors who might have pre-performance jitters, Thompson was never nervous. Instead he’d mess with other actors seconds before they went on air, sending them onstage with a laugh and an air of confidence. He watched sketches when he had free time, offering words of encouragement when something fell flat. And onstage, Thompson didn’t compete. He facilitated.

Friday, April 14, 2017

DWAYNE JOHNSON INCREASES THE NUMBER OF GRATUITOUS BICEP FLEXES LESS THAN YOU MIGHT EXPECT:  In preparation for today's eighth installment, Bloomberg goes all Nate Silver on the Fast and Furious franchise.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

FOR WANT OF A COMMA, WE HAVE THIS CASE:  And it's a doozy, as the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit endeavors to construe this Oxford comma-free statute, in which overtime protection does not apply to ...
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
[2011 grammar rodeo.]

Monday, February 27, 2017

I'M SO HUNGRY, I COULD EAT AT ARBY'S:  The Ringer ranks the Top 50 Fast Food Items.  I'm sure there will be much disagreement.
SO, THAT HAPPENED:  I think have this right -- Warren Beatty realized there was something wrong with the card inside the award envelope, looked carefully for a second card, and then when it wasn't there ... he punted to Faye Dunaway, who saw "La La Land" on the card and didn't look further. Hard to blame either for not knowing how to handle something almost-unprecedented.

I haven't seen many of this year's nominated films, but I have now seen the John Mulaney/Nick Kroll monologue from the Independent Spirit Awards and it's much better than any of Kimmel's bits last night.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

DON'T TAKE THE LAW INTO YOUR OWN HANDS, YOU TAKE 'EM TO COURT:  The Honorable Joseph Wapner, dead at the age of 97.

Also, I take judicial notice that this is a case of premorse.

Friday, February 17, 2017

BEER, OR TOY?  Hasbro has filed to protect the scent of Play-Doh as a trademark in the US, describing it as "A unique scent formed through the combination of a sweet, slightly musky, vanilla-like fragrance, with slight overtones of cherry, and the natural smell of a salted, wheat-based dough."
FIRST THEY CAME FOR TAN M&MS:  And then in 2013 they were going to remove a Monopoly piece and I cried "Protect The Thimble!" and they smelted the iron instead, replacing it with a cat.

So now they are coming for the Thimble, and "potential new additions include a series of emojis, modern vehicles like a helicopter and a speedbike, and a freaking Tyrannosaurus Rex." 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Monday, February 6, 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

TWELFTH ANNUAL SEASON-ENDING BIG GAME POOL:  Five questions, one quietly persistent blog:
1. Winner/final score.
2. Official Game MVP.
3. Which advertiser tops the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter?
4. Predict Lady Gaga's setlist.
5. Either predict whether Luke Bryan's National Anthem performance will be over/under 2:15, or say something about the Schuyler Sisters' performance of "America the Beautiful."
Tiebreaker: pick a prop bet Get it right. The tougher the odds, the better you do.

Previous winners: 2006: Benner; 2007: me; 2008: Joseph J. Finn ; 2009: Scott; 2010: Scott again; 2011: GoldnI; 2012: Phil; 2013: Benner; 2014: Isaac Spaceman, 2015: StvMg, and 2016: Lou Wainwright. As they will tell you, the prizes are Fame and Glory within this community, but nothing financial.

My answers: New England 31-23, Chris Hogan, Anheuser-Busch because I always pick them (probably the Spuds McKenzie ad), Just Dance/Poker Face/(Something Recent That I Haven't Heard)/Born This Way/Edge of Glory, Under (and they won't be in costume, sadly), and Devonta Freeman under 54.5 rushing yards.
ANNALS OF UNORTHODOX MEDICAL RESEARCH:  Having trouble passing a kidney stone?  Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

OKAY, CAMPERS, RISE AND SHINE, AND DON'T FORGET YOUR BOOTIES 'CAUSE IT'S COOOOOOLD OUT THERE TODAY: It's February 2, so it's time to talk about the movie again. Do you buy the whole Buddhist thing, or should we just quote lines for a while and generally discuss its awesomeness?

Participate in this thread, or it's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

OH THIS FEUD, YEAH, THIS FEUD'S STILL ALIVE: Most of the time, which members of a band get into the Rock Hall of Fame is pretty uncontroversial (notwithstanding Axl Rose's mild fit about who got in for Guns N' Roses), but Pearl Jam will be inducted with drummers Dave Krusen (who drummed on Ten) and current drummer Matt Cameron, not either Dave Abbruzzese (who drummed for the Ten tour, Vs., and all but 2 songs on Vitalogy) or Jack Irons (who drummed from 1994-1998).