Saturday, June 3, 2006

THE ONLY THING THAT'D MAKE IT BETTER WOULD BE TO JUNK THE 'INSIDER' FEE: Bryan Curtis pens an appreciation of the utterly essential, though he does wonder -- is its blessed comprehensiveness also its curse?'s philosophy seems to be to hire everyone, print everything and leave it to the bewildered fan to try to make sense of it all. There's a certain glory in this, I suppose, if you like sheer volume. But as you wade through the millions of words on, you wonder if anyone is curating what reaches the screen.

One quibble with the piece: in hailing Bill Simmons ("to whom so many valentines have been written that even he has surely grown tired of them"), Curtis refers to him as a "a former Boston Herald writer". While technically true, that's about as relevant as calling Mick Jagger a former matriculant of the London School of Economics; neither has much to do with either's present success. Simmons ought to be recognized as one of the first bloggers (via Digital City Boston) to break through to mainstream success, and it's a shame he's not just appreciated as such.
DO NOT MAKE FLIP-FLOPS INTO SOMETHING THEY ARE NOT: Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Robin Givhan of the WaPo wants to help you accessorize this summer.
PRESENTED BY CHARLIE AND DONALD KAUFMAN: I want to acknowledge two TV shows this season for a special achievement--and that is "Outstanding Achievement In Meta-Commentary." Meta commentary and breaking the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience is always a dicey proposition, with high risk, and two TV shows in particular managed to walk that tightrope this year without falling over. And the winners are...(drum roll)

For Outstanding Achievement In Meta-Comedy, the winner is Arrested Development. Would any other show on television be able to get away with an episode (the brilliant "S.O.B.'s"), making fun of just about every sitcom convention, ridiculing repeated network notes, and the show itself, even the possibility of the show changing networks. Outstanding work.

For Outstanding Achievement In Meta-Drama, the winner is Boston Legal. The meta-jokes were constant, but small enough that they were frequently of the blink and you'll miss it variety, be it Denny Crane complaining about his Alzheimer's "constantly being a plot point," Alan and Denny rendezvousing on the balcony noting that "I haven't seen you much this episode," Alan explaining where he was while was "on hiatus" after not seeing someone "since he was on Sundays," or Denny saying "You mean, we don't know if he's innocent or guilty? I hate it when we end that way!" The politics got heavy handed and shrill for much of the season, but the meta kept Boston Legal as a must-watch.

Friday, June 2, 2006

DR. JACQUES BAILLY WILL BE REPLACED BY DENNY CRANE: Given the ratings success of the Bee last night, we can hope and expect that ABC will be bringing it back to prime time next year.

Certainly, however, they can better integrate the show with the rest of the ABC lineup than just throwing GMA's Robin Roberts and Hey! I Used To Know That Guy! Chris Connelly out there. But other than obviously giving Shonda Rhimes an on-air role (while live-blogging during commercials, of course), who else might they use? Terry O'Quinn (Locke) as a judge? Dr. McDreamy available in the kiss-n-cry suite? SuperNanny Jo Frost giving the proper spelling after a student has failed?

The floor is open for all such tv-related suggestions, including recommendations as to other academic competitions that should be broadcast (or created for broadcast) in prime time, as well as demands to take the whole thing off tv to stop exploiting these kids' emotions, etc.
BEE MUSIC: I'm guessing everyone might be suffering from a little Bee hangover, but I was trying to think of the perfect Spelling Bee music mix. I'll take nominations in the comments, but to get the mix rolling, how about:
  • "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
  • "Words" by Missing Persons
  • "Word Up" by Cameo
  • "Saturday Night" by the Bay City Rollers
  • "She's Got a New Spell" by Billy Bragg
  • "Your Dictionary" by XTC
  • "More Than Words" by Extreme
GRRL POWER: Seriously, y'all, how cool was it that the final three in the first-ever primetime National Spelling Bee championship were all young women? Certainly put to bed certain stereotypes about who succeeds in academic competitions these days, I hope.
WE HAVE A WINNER: Congratulations to Elicia Chamberlin, whose prediction of Katharine Close and Saryn Hooks in the 2006 ALOTT5MA Spelling Bee Pool easily outdistanced the field.

How did she do it? Well, let's just say she may have done significantly more scouting than the rest of us.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

MAKING SURE THE BEE STAYS KOSHER: Wondering what happened to Saryn Hooks, exactly, on hechsher? Sean Mussenden was in the room, and he's got all the details. Pretty neat.
CHAMPIONSHIP ROUNDS: Three spellers remain, and in several ways they're not what stereotypes might have suggested. Here's the relevant rule:
16. At the beginning of any round in which either two or three spellers remain, the pronouncer shall move to the Championship Words section of the word list. The Championship Words section contains 25 words. If a champion does not emerge in the course of administering these final 25 words, the remaining spellers shall be declared co-champions.

There are few cooler things than seeing a speller smile as soon as she hears a word. When all the training pays off.

But we're down to two.

And at this rate, we may have two for a while. I can watch this battle all night. (Okay, why is "The Break-Up" advertising now? What's the overlap between that audience and this, exactly? Okay, and an IBS+constipation pill follows?)

People in later time zones: set your TiVos to run long. How long? I don't know yet.

Wow. Kerry Close is spelling exceptionally fast. And well. Just automatic.

Those of us who have seen Akeelah and the Bee might be feeling a sense of deja vu right now.

We have a winner! The word is OOR-shrpah-kheh, the German term for a language that is the recorded or hypothetical ancestor of another language or group of languages. And Kerry Close is jubilant.
ROUNDS 10-11: First off, who gave MTV's Chris Connelly another job?

I've caught up to live. The round begins with just seven spellers. Horton's intensely staring at the ground, but the word isn't there. "I have no clue!" he says. He's right.

ABC's "Master of Champions" looks like the opposite of the Bee. Playing to our worst instincts.

Am loving this highlight reel. The fainting! The large talons! Samir! "Is there anything I didn't ask you?"

Okay, Yizkor is the easiest word I've ever seen in a round this late. (I mean, if you're Jewish. Which Rajiv isn't.)

Finola, the Canadian, has now gotten two French-derived words in a row. Random, but helpful.

To our Pacific and Mountain Time Zone friends, and Shonda, this includes you -- I'll do what I can to keep you spoiler free from this point forward. In the comments, however, anything goes.

All Hawaiian words are phonetic, and there's only, like thirteen possible letters. So HOO-kee-low (as in Ow!, not as in blow -- the Hawaiian feast) is pretty darn easy.
ROUNDS 8-9: And we're back. The Canadians among us will not be disappointed.

(I'm still catching up to live via TiVo. Feel free to start commenting.)


What I like about Rajiv? He tells Dr. Jacques what he thinks the language of origin is; he doesn't ask.


What I don't like? The parents on stage. A bit too exploitative. Let them go to the kiss n'cry suite.


Two Hebrew words, one foodie word in round 8. And the curse of foreign proper names takes another victim.

Round 9 begins with Hawaiian, and I can't do more than the "Kapa-a-a or Kapa-a-a-a?" question. Wow.
BECAUSE EVERYONE DESERVES THE CHANCE TO HAVE A ROOTING INTEREST: Let's open up a secondary pool for tonight's Bee finals, because we can. Pick your winner from the thirteen finalists now profiled on the official site and, as a tiebreaker, tell us how many rounds we're going tonight. (On the latter, here's a resource that might help.)

First come, first served, entries accepted until Jonathan Horton starts spelling his first word.

Because this is a secondary pool, winner only receives temporary recognition for displaying decent predictive skills, and not "fame and glory forever", but that's all we've got available at this hour.
NOW, RETURNING TO REGULAR PROGRAMMING: While I'm singularly unexcited by the prospect of Jessica "look at my abs!" Alba hosting the MTV Movie Awards this year, the fact that Borat will be a presenter may outweigh that. Also of note in the release--although MTV phased out its original joking "lifetime achievement" award after Clint Howard won it, the winners of its replacements have been announced. Do The Right Thing wins the second annual Silver Bucket of Excellence for a film of enduring quality and value (won previously by The Breakfast Club), and Jim Carrey wins the MTV Generation Award (won previously by Tom Cruise), for his "dynamic career and acting roles that have captured and entertained MTV audiences for years." Though I could do without Carrey, whose appearances on the MTV Awards in the past have not been nearly as funny as he thought they were, I'm pleased to see Spike's fine film get some love.
AND ON TO PRIME TIME: Well, there are some people scrambling to film some new personality pieces on these competitors for tonight. Because many of them are completely unexpected. Well, we Bee-lovers know that anyone can win this thing -- anyone with a dictionary and a dream -- but I'm not sure how prepared the media is for the loss of Samir. He went out strong. He went out pure. He went out spelling.

(Can I just say how much I love attaching undue importance to this event? It makes it so much more fun.)

Of the remaining 13 (or as I like to call them the PrimeTime 13), I think the favorites are Jonathan Horton, Katharine Close and Caitlin Campbell. Although I have a fondness for Theodore Yuan and Saryn Hooks. It's going to be an interesting evening...
YOU KNOW THE NIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME: Thirteen spellers remain for the finals -- Jonathan Horton (second time in the finals, AZ homeschooler); Finola Hackett (two-time Canadian champion); Allion Salvador (second time, FL); Theodore Yuan (second time, Chicago); Kavya Shivashankar (the lone rookie, from Olathe, KS, and destiny); Rajiv Tarigopoula (four-timer from The Lou); Katharine Close (five-timer, NJ); Michael Christie (second time, Syracuse); Saryn Hooks (three-timer, NC); Matthew Giese (second time, Cincinnati); Charley Allegar (a three-timer from Harrisburg); Caitlin Campbell (second time, Amarillo, TX) and Nidharshan Anandasivam (a four-timer from Brownsville, TX who started studying again as soon as he returned from DC last year).

These are the sole entrants in our pool who still have both spellers remaining:
Adam: Rajiv Tarigopula, Saryn Hooks
LB: Charley Allegar, Saryn Hooks
Joanne Jacobs: Katharine Close, Caitlin Campbell
Elicia Chamberlin: Katharine Close, Saryn Hooks
Jane: Rajiv Tarigopula, Caitlin Campbell
We've got four-plus hours to the prime-time Finals. Anyone want to do a little googling and find out neat things about these kids?
SCULPIN...SIKKIMESE...SOAVEMENTE: When Chicagoland's Theodore Yuan gets an "s" word, you can only hope to contain him. I'm still alive in the pool as long as Theo keeps representing.
ROUND SEVEN: Bossy but Cute Dr. Jacques makes me feel safe. He wraps me in the warm familiar cocoon of the spelling world and keeps me there where things are factual and safe, either right or wrong, no shades of grey. He tells me to "listen carefully" and orders me to "pay attention" -- his bossy cuteness keeps the Bee a holy place.


We lost spelling badass Evan O'Dorney on "mirliton".

We lost the mussed-haired rebel Kendra Yoshinaga on "cointise".

There will be no one left to spell in prime time at this rate...


Ooh. They are switching from ESPN to ESPN 2. You mean they're gonna spell through the round? They're not going to stop? By the way, how nice is it to watch the Bee in High Def? I feel like I'm there.


BONNY JAIN IS DOWN! The winner of the National Geographic Geography Bee will not win the coveted double crown!!! BONNY JAIN IS DOWN!!!!

Okay, yeah, I'm clearly spending too much time in front of the TV obsessing about Bees. I may want to try leaving the house sometime soon...

I'm bubbling with respect for Kavya Shivashankar and Katharine Close. Kavya's a first timer and Katharine's a five-peater. Both spell like champions.


Can I just say how much I love the way they cut to parents in the audience as the parents are basically trying not to go into cardiac arrest watching their children spell? It's actually cute. And, like, when the kid spells wrong and parent leaps to their feet with worry and love to run to comfort their kid? That's moving. It's all very cute and moving. Except when the child spells wrong and the parents get that angry twisty look on their face that tells me somene will be shouting "no wire hangers" sometime soon. Then it's not cute. Then, it's disturbing. But usually it's cute.


Watching Samir work to spell "eremacusis" is like watching a true artist. I forgive all and regret all things said about his Hollywood polish. In the end, at his heart, he's a speller. He has hands over his face, squeezing his forehead tightly, desperately trying to figure out this word. He asks for bonus time...







Okay, round over. 13 spellers remain to go to prime time. The room was buzzing after his elimination. BUZZING. They could not believe it. Spelling Shocker.

Who do we pick to win now?
COME ON BABY TELL ME WHAT'S THE [WORD]: I just switched over to closed-captioning, both so that my colleagues could get some work done and so that I could figure out the answer to this question: how do the closed-caption transcribers handle the Bee? The answer: [word].

"[Pronouncer says word.]"
"[Speller repeats word.] Could you use it in a sentence?"
"The [word] people live in northeastern India."
"[Word]. [Word]. What is the country of origin?"
"[Word]. S-I-K-K-I-M-E-S-E."

Awkward, I suppose, but it does prevent the closed-captioning people from having to hire ex-Bee champs as temps.
ROUND SIX: 29 spellers remain. They are interviewing Samir Patel in between the rounds. He's a media dream. Poised, confident, relaxed, secure. He has the polish of one who has been interviewed A LOT.

I can't help but feel a little sad. He's all grown up, our baby Samir.

Round 6 has begun. And mark my words, Horton Hears A Who Boy and Evan O'Dorney are going all the way to Prime Time.

Horton (after spelling "saltire" for the judges): I got it right?


Tia Natasha-Elizabeth Thomas just went out on "theremin". She got that wide-eyed vacant look of one for whom the concept of failure is too much to bear. I'm worried about her.


Kendra Yoshinaga has either refused or forgotten to comb her hair and I can't help but be a little bit proud of her for it. Screw beauty. Screw the cameras. Screw the glamour. I AM SPELLING, DAMMIT! I am moving my allegiances into her camp. She spelled "uncinate".


Who knew that "lacertilian" meant "of or relating to a lizard"? The announcers just declared the speller of the word (a lovely kid named Kavya) a favorite first-timer to make a run for the trophy. I don't like the announcers. They seem arrogant and make bad puns. When Kayla Hudson went out "rieta", the male announcer said, "Rieta's a food. Quite delicious. But it doesn't taste so good to Kayla right now!" I'm paraphrasing but you get the horror, right?


They also just misidentified Matthew Evans as Serenity Fung. Oh, my...


What if Bonny Jain wins? If the same kid is champion of both the Geography Bee and the Spelling Bee does that cause a rip in the fabric of time and space creating a vortex?


Caitlin Campbell has all the makings of a TV-star champion. She's gawkishly tall, she's sweet and she spells out the words on her forearm before she spells out loud for the judges. Plus her parents, unlike most, look genuinely stunned and confusedly proud at their daughter's obviously uncoached brilliance.


Samir just correctly spelled "thymiaterion" -- and several ABC executives just sighed with relief.


CONTROVERSY!!! Anjay Ajodha is just standing there on stage as the judges deliberate his fate. They go to audio tape, the poor kid stands there and finally, FINALLY, he is eliminated. He spelled "sterlet" as "sterlOt". Bye bye, Anjay...


And Round Six comes to a close with Isabel Jacobson spelling "meningococci". 21 spellers remain...
TATTERDEMALION: I love how some of the kids have a swagger style of spelling. They spell their word, then turn on their heel and walk back to their seat without waiting to be told that they're correct or cringing in anticipation of a beep. Just your basic badass elementary school rock stars of the Bee.
MOVING ON TO ROUND FIVE: I love Samir. I adore the kid. I do. But if he doesn't get a seriously competitive word in Round 5, I'm gonna have to turn off my TV and declare the Bee OVER.

Also, what happened to the people who called the Bee for the previous five years? Did they get fired?! Shunted to one side for the Hollywood types who have overrun our Bee?

Horton Hears a Who Boy is BACK!!! Jonathan Horton, age 13. If you're checking online, you're missing the vibrant auditory and visual portrait that is Horton. He speaks slowly and incredibly loudly. He whispers into his right clenched fist as if there may be a person in there who needs to hear the spelling of a word before anyone else. He's MAD, MAD, MAD SKILLED and I love him.

Evan O'Dorney is older, taller, bigger this year. Not so much a cuddly toddler anymore. More of a tiny spelling badass with something to prove. And he wears glasses. Which in my book means he rocks.


Five-peater John Tamplin is DOWN! Felled by the word "trabeated"!!

The other Five-peater Katharine Close sailed by on the very easy "bildungsroman".


Is it just me or is anyone else loving the name Serenity Fung?


And, yet...less than serene was Serenity when "alcazar" kicked her butt, right?


Okay...spellers are challenged with the words: erythematous...concinnity...ichneumon...

Samir is challenged with the word: saponin?

Saponin? SAPONIN?

Is it just me or is Samir bathed in a glow of good luck? Even I can spell saponin...

And then poor Anjay Ajodha gets "ophthalmoplegia"?


I've said it before and I'll say it again -- there is too much attention.

Too much attention being paid to the Bee and to the spellers. They stand to spell and the sound of cameras clicking is overwhelming. The TV guys shove the cameras almost up their tiny noses. They've profiled them and researched them and done highlight reels on them. The kids look extra-freaked out and nervous. Which is saying a lot because freaked out and nervous is what these kids do best. And let's face it -- this is not a group of children used to popularity. In the Lord of the Flies that is generally childhood, these are the kids whose heads end up on sticks. Not the leaders of the tribe. So it must be terrifying and odd to suddenly be the celebrated, feted, adored group -- the Heathers of the middle school set, the Mean Girls of spelling. Will they rise to the occasion or will one of them have a breakdown? I'm betting on a media-induced seizure. I don't WANT a seizure, I don't want anything to happen to one of my little spelling baby gods but...I am telling you, if those cameras keep flashing, a seizure is gonna come...
24 MINUTES TO GO: I'm awake, I'm awake! Which is something of a miracle since I'd fallen back asleep after getting up at 5 a.m. to feed Cheerios to a three year old. But about two minutes ago, I bolted up in bed and screamed, "HOLY CRAP! I'VE MISSED THE BEE!!!"

Luckily, not so much.

I'm getting my coffee, my breakfast, my comfiest socks and my computer and then I'm settling down in front of ESPN for what can only be described as the funnest (yes, I said funnest and yes, I know it's not a spelling bee word) FUNNEST day in the history of the WORLD!!!

Can you spell "hyperbolic"?

edited by Kingsley to add: Round 4 is back, Samir is safe, and we're live-blogging it within this thread. Don't let a single pah-pah-RAHTZ-oh slow you down.
BECAUSE MAN CAN NOT LIVE BY SPELLING ALONE: Here's a quick list for you while we wait for Samir to take the stage. Maxim Magazine has named the top 10 living sex legends and while there are several notables on the list including Magic Johnson (an estimated 1,000 backcourt mates), Jack Nicholson (2,000 co-stars), Julio Iglesias (3,000 girls he's loved before), Gene Simmons (4,600, but not Terry Gross), and Charlie Sheen (5,000, as the link indicates more than enough for two and half men), the top spot belongs to Venetian hotel porter Umberto Billo, who has shown 8,000 women just exactly where the mini bar is.
PLACE YOUR BETS: While the ALOTT5MA pool may be purely for the love of the game, you can earn some money betting on the Spelling Bee. Pinnacle Sports won't let you wager on individual spellers, but you can place some cash down on a number of prop bets including the sex of the winner, whether the final word will contain an "e," and if the winner will be wearing glasses.
PATEL PROPS: ESPN's Darren Rovell handicaps his top eight National Spelling Bee picks, concluding that its time for Samir to take his rightful place among the pantheon of Bee champions. Rovell also confirms that it was no accident that yesterday's spelling ended mid-round in order to let Samir lead off ESPN's coverage today.
SPELLER NATION: We are not the only ones blogging about the Bee. Tennessee's Emily Eytchison (eliminated on "seigneur" yesterday; has she not seen Braveheart?) is keeping a journal for her local paper:
During the Memorial Day Barbecue at Turkey Run, spellers and family members had a chance to show off their other talents. People sang karaoke, with songs like “Dancing Queen” by Abba, “Crazy” by Patsy Cline, “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson, and “Eye of the Tiger,” known only to my source (Dad) as the theme from a Rocky movie. There were some surprising moments: One boy sang “You May Be Right” by Billy Joel (he was about 9, I believe), a girl named Emily from Canada sang a beautiful rendition of Think Of Me from Phantom of The Opera, and two little boys began break-dancing during one of the group dances to “I Like To Move It, Move It” from Madagascar. Mom and I were back-up dancers for The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer,” and I sang “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables. For sports fanatics, there were several games of volleyball, and a softball game of Kids versus the Grown-ups. Another surprise was when our bus to the event to a wrong turn--into the CIA Highway Research Facility, where we were greeted by security guards with automatic weapons. Oops!

Eytchison also provides a scouting report on some of the female "Word-a-holics" and their year-round joint preparatory efforts, and it's impressive and heartening.

Reminder: you have until noon eastern, when Samir Patel steps in front of the ESPN cameras, to join everyone else and enter our 2006 ALOTT5MA Spelling Bee Pool.
WHO DOESN'T LOVE A GOOD P-A-R-L-O-R GAME? Maybe it's just too many years spent playing Balderdash with my family as a kid, but one of my favorite aspects of the Bee's online word listing is figuring out what the definitions of all these facocta (can ya spell that, Samir Patel?) words really should be. A few from Round 4, Interrupted:
  • Impapyrated: Having had surgery to implant an ancient Egyptian scroll under one's fourth rib.
  • Malaguena: Those be some bad bat droppings.
  • Welkin: The relatives who are still here with us today.
  • Hydrochore: The work done by the pool boy. (Alt.hydrochoreographer: the subspecialty of certain choreoanimators, involving choreography for Nemo and his friends)
  • Pathognomonic: Evincing all the symptoms of being transformed into an iconic lawn ornament wearing a red hat.
NEWS OF STEVES: I didn't want this to get lost amid the Bee hoopla...Steve Mizerak, the billiards great who was better known as the guy making who made that sweet trick shot in the Miller Lite commercial, died on Monday.

On another Steve note, my friend Steve Knopper penned this amusing story in the current issue of Wired on what happens when you take a new computer and download random porn, install malware, click on every spam come on, and don't use protection. The results weren't pretty.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN D-A-N-C-E: It's astonishing how quickly one can switch gears into summer TV mode. Just a week ago, I was enjoying a wide array of two-hour finales, and now I'm taping heretofore-unseen-by-me episodes of CSI and settling in for a nice long summer of 19 Entertainment's other show: So You Think You Can Dance.

A few things have changed since last year's maiden voyage of the little show that isn't quite American Idol -- mostly for the better. First of all, the audition rounds are being judged by some of the choreographers we remember from last season along with producer Nigel Lythgoe. This is a dramatic improvement over last year's mealy-mouthed audition-round judges, who seemed to have been placed in the room just so Nigel would have companions for afternoon tea between auditions. Anyone who watched last season will remember Mia Michaels ("I'm so over the leg, Melody"), Brian Friedman (the hip-hop guy with the long curly blonde hair), Dan Karaty (the other hip-hop guy, with Extra Snark), and Mary Murphy (the squealing ballroom choreographer). We've got them right from the get-go this time, judging the auditioners and teaching choreography to those who seem to have a special something but whose dancing abilities beyond their little areas of expertise seem to be in doubt. (Those who are obviously Blessed With Talent receive an automatic ticket to Vegas.)

The prizes have improved this season as well. Last year's winner, Nick Lazzarini, got $100k and an apartment in New York for a year -- basically, a year to screw around in Manhattan. This year, the person who thinks s/he can dance will get $100k, a car, and a year's contract with Celine Dion’s current show in Vegas -- a show that was conveniently choreographed by Mia Michaels. Good to see that the prize this year somehow involves dancing.

Other reported changes: apparently the Vegas round (the SYTYCD version of the Hollywood round) will involve semi-permanent dance partnerships, and when we get to the finals, America will vote for their favorites, but the judges will decide who goes home among the bottom votegetters. Oh, and we have a new host as well -- Lauren "See Ya" Sanchez is off on maternity leave, and has been replaced by the UK's Cat Deeley. Deeley seems to know about as much about dancing as I do (which ain't much), but she's cute and perky and has a British accent.

Detailed commentary on the substance of the audition rounds is, of course, a waste of time, as it's the customary AI formula of showing a whole lot of ridiculously untalented people combined with the occasional ringer just to keep it interesting. I'll have more when the dancers arrive in Vegas to get belittled and have their ranks whittled down to 20.
HAPPY TIME, PEOPLE: Not that I'm aware of a single article marking the occasion, but Pardon the Interruption aired its 1000th episode today, and as anyone who's seen an episode with Bob Ryan or Dan LeBatard knows all too well, it's not just the format that's the star. The show simply doesn't work without the humor, camaraderie and insight of Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. Their eloquence and intelligence on a daily basis since October 22, 2001, puts to shame the yahoos and loudmouths who unfortunately dominate most sports talk in America.

Toss-up question, people: if you had to choose one -- Mike or Tony -- who ya got? [For me, it's Wilbon, just because I feel like he knows what he's talking about more often than Kornheiser, who occasionally tries to slide by based on (entertaining, to be sure) bluster and attitude.]
GREETINGS AND SALUTATIONS: To everyone visiting us today from such disparate sites as Instapundit, Deadspin and Snarkspot (has anyone ever notched that trifecta before?), welcome. We encourage you to enter our Spelling Bee pool, poke around in the archives, relax and enjoy.

We're glad you've come, and we hope you stick around even after the Bee is over.
CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTHINESS? Despite winning "Program of the Year" last year, and receiving nominations in various other categories, "Desperate Housewives" was somewhat surprisingly (though deservedly) shut out of this year's Television Critics Association Award nominations. Program of the year nominees will make us all happy: Grey's Anatomy, Lost, The Office, Sopranos, and 24. Three of the five nominees for individual acheivement in comedy are Daily Show affiliated (Stewart, Carrell, Colbert), with Jason Lee and Lauren Graham filling out the category. The only big surprise? West Wing makes one performer an "individual achievement" nominee, and it's Alan Alda? He edges out not just his castmates, but entire ensembles of Grey's, Lost, and The Sopranos (save Gandolfini).
HMMMM...: Is it odd that Samir Patel is #238 -- the exact same number he was last year? What is he, Michael Jordan? He only works under one number?
I DIDN'T THINK I'D NEED A DUAL TUNER TIVO NOW: Tomorrow night faces an interesting crisis for TV viewers. There's the Bee (of course), and in Hi-Def, no less! NBC offers two full hours of The Office. But my dark horse pick at 8 PM--CBS's Game Show Marathon--yes, Ricki Lake hosting Let's Make A Deal while "stars" like Tim Meadows, Brande Roderick, and (Mindy) Paige Davis (Page) attempt to solve the Monty Hall Problem--that's quality television. I think I'll watch that, and flip to the final moments of the Bee thereafter, assuming I'm at home.
IT'S BANANAS, B-A-N-A-N-A-S: I'm not a coffee drinker, but I must say that I quite enjoy Starbucks' most recent addition to its beverage menu. Most refreshing on a hot early summer's day.
JUST BECAUSE I'M PARANOID DOESN'T MEAN THEY AREN'T OUT TO GET YOU: Awhile ago I suggested that the end result of the telecom lobby's efforts end to net-neutrality would be to allow cable companies to carve up the web into channels and arbitrage the pants off of us mild-mannered consumers with "premium" (more expensive) pricing for "premium" (what you get now in one undifferentiated channel) service packages.

What if Verizon came right out and told you that's what they were up to?

Verizon argues we have had “a real change in the paradigm” in dealing with network issues. (Water warmer.) Through its fiber offering, Verizon will put three separate channels into the consumer’s home, one for the Internet, one for video and one for whatever else Verizon wants to use it for, through its “virtual private network.” (I feel those bubbles.) We want to draw the distinction, Tauke said, between offering Internet services and other access, which would be services for which Verizon “may provide some unique arrangements.” (Rare, medium or well done?)
Oh, yeah. On a scale from One to Time To Write Your Congressman, "Honey, where are the stamps!?!?"

(via tpmcafe)
RATINGS JUNKIES!!!: They've suspended play moments before Samir was to spell. Adam says he thinks it is so Samir can start off the day tomorrow on ESPN and they can promote him. I'm not such a pessimist -- I'm hoping that it was simply time to end the day...

Then again, I'm not THAT naive...
I'M A'SCARED...: Is it wrong that Samir's turn is approaching and I'm paralyzed with fear that he won't make it through? That Dr. Jacques will fell him like he has so many others? I shouldn't worry, right? After all, the five-peaters made it through. True, most of the three-peaters are down for the count. But this is Samir...he's a rock star spelling baby god. He's a four-peater. He's gonna make it. I know he is. Right?
BOSSY BUT CUTE DR. JACQUES MUST BE STOPPED: 39 spellers have spelled. 12 have made it through. Udomograph? Redivivus? ABC isn't going to have a prime time show at this rate.

By the way...4th round word "estrepe?" It means "To strip or lay bare, as land of wood, houses, etc.; to commit waste." Which is kinda what Dr. J is doing to the spirits of the poor little spelling babies...
HORRIPILATION? THAT'S A WORD? While the words in round 3 were annoyingly simple, the words in round 4 are frighteningly difficult. Endophytous? Papeterie? Balopticon? SERIOUSLY?

The spellers are going down like so many ducks in Dr. Jacques' shooting gallery. It's cruel. It really is. Well...cruel and totally thrilling.
EHKS-HUH-BIH-SHUN ONLY; NO WAY-JUHR-ING: And with round 3 complete (and likely one round remaining this afternoon), it is time to open the 2006 ALOTT5MA Spelling Bee Pool.

The rules are simple: Select two spellers, only one of whom can be from among the five rock stars for whom this is at least a fourth attempt at glory (all of whom are profiled here). You will get one point for each word your spellers correctly spell during Thursday’s rounds, which begin at noon (EDT) on ESPN tomorrow. 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 if one of your spellers is eliminated during this afternoon’s rounds, you’re stuck with him (or her). So you might want to wait until after this afternoon’s rounds to enter. Or not, if you’re feeling lucky.

Because of “privacy concerns”, the Bee isn’t providing biographical info on the competitors this year. Google wisely.

As always, your sole prizes are Internet fame and glory forever (or at least as long as this site’s archives remain available), and nothing more. Good luck to all.
HARDCORE SPELLING: If you've got it in you to watch the reruns on ESPN Classic, you should know that any second the legendary Akshay Buddiga is going to begin to spell a word, faint, get up and keep on spelling his way to the championship round where he will...well, you should just watch it for yourself....
POSTPRANDIAL (via Kingsley): While we don't yet have the full listof qualifiers, Round 3 has begun, and it looks like Dr. Jacques and the gang have decided to take it easy on the kids, with nineteen in a row correct to start the round. We'll be here past Nightline tomorrow if they stick with words like this:
GAHR-goil: them statues what come out the sides of buildings
huh-RANG: to deliver a speech denouncing a streaky pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.
SPEE-sees-iz-um: preferring one's own
REHL-uh-vuhn-see: See Fed. R. Evid. 401.
ihn-ad-VEHR-tunt: Oops, I did it again.
ohb-STREP-uh-ruhs: And I'll do it again.
pehn-uh-SILL-uhn: And if I do it again in Tijuana, I'll take two of these.
noo-MOAN-yah: Or else I may get this.
DECK-uh-dehns: My brother's bachelor party is this weekend.
vawd-VIHL-yun: Though that's not the kind of entertainment he's hoping for.
TAHR-puh-lin: Unless we go see Gallagher.
ron-DAY-voo: That's what I'm talking about. Ooh, Bruce Springsteen wants one too.

Follow it online, and feel free to post your thoughts here.

edited to add: GRIMACE? Someone got to spell GRIMACE? Lawrence Chiou is well on his way to winning the annual Dominic Errazo Award for the shortest, easiest path to the Thursday rounds...
RIP: Rest in peace, Speller #39 Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan -- a three-peater who went out on the word "betta" Don't worry...He's a lot better off than Spellers #78 Austin William Hoke and #83 Michael Shane Paynter, two three-peaters who must live with the shame of not even making it to round 3. On the upside, both five-peaters (#99 John Louis Tandy Tamplin and #147 Katharine Close) have made it to round 4 already. Live the dream, five-peaters. Live. The. Dream.
FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK, WE PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO YOU: The National Review, which is well known for keen rock criticism, has named its Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs of All Time.

A few of those named, mainly Pete Townshend, whose "Won't Get Fooled Again" topped the list, and Johnny Rotten, whose "Bodies" came in at No. 8, did not consider making the cut an honor. Radosh has some thoughts here.
REST YOUR BRAINS: So the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee has retired for a lunch break. Round 3 begins at 2 pm. Thank the heavens. The pressure of watching those enormous words load and reload on my computer screen as each competitor's result is announced requires me to have a break.

In the interim, I thought I'd share with you some interesting Bee stats (which I've borrowed directly from the Scripps Howard web site):

There were 275 spellers (139 boys and 136 girls) at the start of the Bee. That's the greatest number of spellers in the history of the event.

There is only one nine year old spelling this year. The majority of spellers are 13 and 14 years old. A stunning 71% of the spellers attend public school. Score one for the public school system! 13% are home schooled. And 13% attend private or parochial school.

Five-Year Repeaters (2):
Speller 99, John Louis Tandy Tamplin
Speller 147, Katharine Close

Four-Year Repeaters (3):
Speller 140, Rajiv Tarigopula
Speller 238, Samir Sudhir Patel
Speller 239, Nidharshan Subra Anandasivam

Three-Year Repeaters (13):
Speller 12, Tia Natasha-Elizabeth Thomas
Speller 22, Kendra Yoshinaga
Speller 39, Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan
Speller 72, Bonny Jain
Speller 78, Austin William Hoke
Speller 83, Michael Shane Paynter
Speller 123, Elliott P. Orr
Speller 128, Nilesh K. Raval
Speller 153, Matthew C. Evans
Speller 180, Saryn Rebecca Hooks
Speller 208, Charley Allegar
Speller 240, Anjay V. Ajodha
Speller 267, Andy Wade

I gotta admit, I kinda hope one of the 5-peaters wins. I think after you've spent 5 years at the Bee, you either win or you spend the rest of your life in a closet, rocking back and forth and mumbling letters of the alphabet to yourself.

I want to thank Adam and everyone at ALOTT5MA for inviting me to join them on the Spelling Bee coverage! More as it develops!
"ADIAPHORISM": We can all rest easy. Samir made it through Round Two. "Adiaphorism" means "religious indifference" -- in case you did not know that off the top of your head. I persoanlly try to work it into a sentence at least twice a day.
ROUND TWO (again, via Adam): You can survive a missed word in Round Two, but you'd better have done exemplary work in the written round. And it is a hard round -- muh-NISS-kus (what Anquan Boldin tore in 2004) and LEE-buhns-rahm (a summer home in Poland?) being the easiest out there.

update: Someone misspelled HI-jean -- you know, that whole thing about not eating food after it fell on the floor at an Eagles game? Methinks Michael Girbino is not long for this competition, and will regret overthinking this one.
ROCK STAR SPELLING BABY GODS: They return. With the roar of the crowd in their ears and the dictionary in their hearts, they return to spell again. We know their names. We've memorized them. Okay, I've memorized them because I am a spelling geek and don't have anything to do except...well, there is the writing of a certain hit TV show but I'm a workaholic on vacation so...just go with it okay?

The Baby Gods are:

#11 Evan O'Dorney of Walnut Creek, CA. Last year, I described him as an 11 year old who looked like a cuddly toddler. I also said he was spelling his ASS off. He's back. One year older. Still just as cuddly. In round 2, he spelled "cicerone" -- which means he's back to kick the Bee's butt one more time...

#238 Samir Sudhir Patel of Fort Worth, TX. In the pantheon of spellers, Samir is at the top. If spelling were Hollywood, Samir would be Will Smith -- young, charismatic, just self-deprecating enough to make it okay that he knows his own greatness and exceedinlgy adorable to the public mainly because his ears are too big. But Hollywood aside, between you and me, I'm worried about Samir. The Bee is prime time this year. The media's built it into an EVENT. The good people over at ABC have already filmed a special profile on Samir. There's pressure. Will Samir be the same beloved speller this year? Will he arrive (again, the Hollywood of it all) angry and irritated by the press, shrugging off his fans, intimidating the newer spellers? Will he huddle in a corner with a candy cigarette to talk about his next big deal? "Yeah," he'll say, feigning indifference, "my agent wanted me to go spell on Wheel of Fortune but I told him no way. I'm an artist, not some spelling hack. I made him get me on Oprah." Ooh, that makes my head hurt. Fingers and toes crossed that Samir emerges from this Bee untouched by the media. (Shonda's commentary on Samir from last year's Bee can be found here.)

Missing this year is mouth-breathing spelling titan Marshall Winchester. I'm not sure if he aged out of the Bee or if he simply decided his time was better spent on Nintendo and his Lord of the Rings action figure collection. I do know that he'll be missed. (Shonda's take on Marshall from last year can be found here.)

I've gotta go. I'm deep into the 1998 Spelling Bee on ESPN Classic.
BEE BREAK: Give you Bee jones a rest and check out this feature I wrote on "Fantasy Festivals" (not fantasy as in Lord of the Rings, etc. but kind of a rock festivals we'd like to see thing) for the Sunday Arts Section of the Chicago Tribune. It doens't translate as well online, but the full-page original (broadhseet, none the less) featured clever cartoons of Tom Petty next to a goat in a Cubs hat, The White Stripes playing on a raod construction truck, Bono landing planes at O'Hare and Mayor Daley rocking out on the shoulders of Zack de la Rocha's shoulders.

And, as a bonus to you the loyal readers, here are a few "fantasy festivals" that didn't make the cut.
Museum Campus Festival
The Museum Campus
Each of the three esteemed institutions on the campus—the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum—will let their hair down a bit and sponsor a themed stage at this massive festival.

Alder Stage
Mars Volta
Galaxie 500
The Neptunes
Mercury Rev
Phantom Planet
Big Star
The Meteors

Shedd Stage
Blue Oyster Cult
Hot Tuna
The Eels
Nada Surf
The Sea and Cake
The Coral

Field Stage
Dinosaur Jr.
Jurassic 5
Stone Temple Pilots
Queens of the Stone Age
Arctic Monkeys
The Egyptian Lover

Blago and Barr Fest
The Thompson Center
Incumbent Democrat Rod Blagojevich and GOP challenger Judy Baar Topinka put down the gloves for one day and dance to the music in order to inject a little excitement into what so far has been a somewhat lackluster campaign season. The second stage lineup pays homage to Illinois’ four previous governors.

Main Stage
Spin Doctors
Bloc Party
The Promise Ring
The Early November
Say Anything
Rick Springfield

Second Stage
Ryan Adams
Edgar Winter Band
Richard Thompson
Scott Walker

(This was an addition to the Wrigley Field Festival)
N.L. Central Stage
Location: Intersection of Waveland and Sheffield.
Please note bands will take stage in order of standings as of day of festival.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
Man or Astro-man?
What Made Milwaukee Famous
Green on Red
The Pirates
AND WE'RE OFF (this just in, via Adam): As always, the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee begins with a twenty-five word written section. One point per word spelled correctly here, plus three points if you get your first word correctly in front of the microphone (because you can't send a kid home without doing that once), and the top 90+ get to proceed after lunch to the rest of the competiton.

Here, then, are some of your written round bafflers:
2. buh-NAL-ee: how this round began.
3. uh-PAR-uhl: what youre wearing
6. koo-LOTS: them trouser-skirt thingies; an item of uh-PAR-uhl.
7. duh-ROG-uh-tore-ee: what your parents will think of you if you screw this up
9. IH-muh-lait: if you dont make it out of this round, theres plenty of room on the Mall for you to do this, as one anti-war protestor did on the Amherst town green in 1991.
11. lie-KAN-thruh-pee: Where wolf? There wolf!
15. nuh-LEE-pah-rah: what Angelina Jolie was, until recently.
16. MAY-lay: tables, ladders and chairs, yall.
21. CHEM-buh-low: a harpsichord
22. puhr-chuh-TEL-ee: long, tubed pasta. Yes, the food words are back.
23. kuh-FAR-nee-um: a jumble.
24. uh-YADE: to ogle. Hint: from the French. Not that itll help.
25. SHPRAHK-guh-fyool: a feeling for what is linguistically effective or appropriate. Indeed.

Round two already in progress. Details to come. Betting pool to open soon.
GET YOUR BEE ON: If you, like me, are dying for SOME kind of spelling to make it through the day, check out ESPN Classic. They're running previous Bees from 1997 on all day. Relive the joy of the fainting speller. See Samir Patel when he was but a wee third grader. Check out Rebecca the girl who yelled each letter on the way to winning the Bee in 1997. Up later - I'm going to obsess about whether or not prime time will ruin the pure essence of our Bee...
INACCESSIBLE; TO BE UNAVAILABLE, OBSTRUCTED OR OFF-LIMITS. "THE WEBSITE YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IS CURRENTLY INACCESSIBLE." I - N - A - C - C - E - S - S - I - B - L - E, INACCESSIBLE: With apologies to those of you who are dropping by looking for the Famed Annual ALOTT5MA Coverage of the National Spelling Bee (or "FAALOTT5MACOTNSB" as we like to call it), please know that undiagnosed difficulties with our hosts at are currently -- TEMPORARILY -- preventing the Crack ALOTT5MA Live-Blogging Team (you guessed it: "CALOTT5MALBT") from accessing the site with their up-to-the-minute reportage and commentary.

Rest assured that studious, complete, accurate and often funny coverage of the evolving event will begin as soon as technology permits.

Any given man sees only a tiny portion of the total truth, and very often, in fact almost . . .

Weh! steck' ich in dem Kerker noch?
Verfluchtes dumpfes Mauerloch,
Wo selbst das liebe Himmelslicht
Trub durch gemalte Sheiben bricht!
Beschrank mit diesem Bucherhauf,
Den Wurme nagen, Staub bedeckt,
Den bis ans hohe.

. . .perpetually, he deliberately deceives himself about that precious fragment as well. A portion of him turns against him and acts like another person, defeating him from inside. A man inside a man. Which is no man at all.

(Variety has a review -- Justin Chang, from Cannes -- of A SCANNER DARKLY, the new Richard Linklater animated feature based on the novel by Philip K. Dick. And, while we're at it, here's a short convo with Linklater's reflections on the project -- and on PKD adaptations more broadly -- while in production last year.)

The creature had many eyes, all over it, ultra-modern expensive-looking clothing, and rose up eight feet high. Also, it carried an enormous scroll.

"You're going to read me my sins," Charles Freck said.

The creature nodded and unrolled the scroll.

Freck said, lying helpless on the bed, "and it's going to take a hundred thousand hours."

Fixing its many compound eyes on him, the creature from between dimensions said, "We are no longer in the mundane universe. Lower-plane categories of material existence such as 'space' and 'time' no longer apply to you. You have been eleveated to the transcendent realm. Your sins will be read to you ceaselessly, in shifts, throughout eternity. The list will never end."
BRAIN DRMAGE: If you'd like some help being gleefully cranky about the state of digital media and the resistance to viral distribution on this lovely Wednesday morning, grab yourself a second (or second second) cup of joe and a little slice of Lefsets:

But the public is free. To digitize everything and distribute it at will. You see there just aren’t enough COPS to handcuff everyone. ... Let people do what they will with your assets. THEN charge them for this usage. Don’t tell them they can’t do this or that, which they can do with virtual impunity anyway. Just find a way to monetize what’s ALREADY HAPPENING! ... That’s what a fan wants, EVERYTHING! The more he sees, the more he likes and ultimately believes in the act. And when he’s hooked, he’ll give you ALL HIS MONEY!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

YOUR OWN PERSONAL JESUS: The best thing about naming your kid Shiloh? She can be all things to all people. She can be the bloodiest of Civil War battles (my own initial reaction). She can be a fictional dog. She can be a real dog (obviously in the literal sense, as I'm guessing that Miss Jolie-Pitt is unlikely to otherwise be considered a dog). She can be a hard-core Bible college. She can be the place where the Ark of the Covenant was housed by the Israelites. Or she can just be a new messiah.

Shiloh is one of those words that feels beautiful coming off the tongue -- I understand it as a name in the same way that I understand -- sorta -- why 1,655 people named their daughters Cadence in 2005. (To say nothing of Kaydence and Kadence, naturellement.) I'll go so far as to say that I prefer it to Apple. Or even, dare I say, Hazel.
WWJPWN? In yet another undeniable sign of the impending End Of Days (and another entry into the market for christ-centered virtual recreation), the Left Behind series of bodice-rapture fiction is becoming a diversified suite of video games.

Particularly interesting is the "AntiChrist's Global Peacekeepers" variation, which by its title seems to promise a robust nexus with storylines that more commonly emerge from the black-helicopter / holocaust-denial crowd. I'm still hoping it's a joke.

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for providing this nugget to cringe and cry about on an otherwise pleasant early-summer day.
DIDN'T THESE PEOPLE SEE GARFIELD? The innovative defense of "I am a cat, meow," has been rejected by the National Arbitration Forum in a domain name dispute. Perhaps the best paragraphs I've read in a legal opinion this year:

Respondent maintains that it is a cat, that is, a well-known carnivorous quadruped which has long been domesticated. However, it is equally well-known that the common cat, whose scientific name is Felis domesticus, cannot speak or read or write. Thus, a common cat could not have submitted the Response (or even have registered the disputed domain name). Therefore, either Respondent is a different species of cat, such as the one that stars in the motion picture “Cat From Outer Space,” or Respondent’s assertion regarding its being a cat is incorrect.

If Respondent is in fact a cat from outer space, then it should have so indicated in its reply, in order to avoid unnecessary perplexity by the Panel. Further, it should have explained why a cat from outer space would allow Mr. Woods to use the disputed domain name. In the absence of such an explanation, the Panel must conclude that, if Respondent is a cat from outer space, then it may have something to hide, and this is indicative of bad faith behavior.

I GUESS SOMEONE DECIDED TO KEEP THE BLUE RUBBER ART GALLERY DRESS FROM SEASON ONE FOR HERSELF: Looking for a gift for your favorite bereft Alias fan? Or just a way to keep the BOMP! alive in your own home? You've got about a day left to make your shopping decisions.
BECAUSE HERE AT DUNDER MIFFLIN, SCRANTON, WE'RE NOT JUST IN THE PAPER BUSINESS. WE'RE IN THE PEOPLE BUSINESS: Tom Shales believes 2005-06 marked a renaissance for prime-time drama:
Complexity has replaced simplicity in these shows, both in terms of plot and character development. Some producers take the new liberty and go cuckoo with it, with the results snazzy but implausible. But for the most part, it's resulted in first-class, high-gloss television, this liberation-born-of-desperation (broadcast networks were steadily, annually leaking audience to basic cable, but that hemorrhage has at least temporarily been halted -- in part because the new-age dramas are so addictive).

Indeed, I'd expand the thought in two ways -- first that it's also in response to the rise of reality tv, putting more pressure on scripted shows to deliver; and second that the improvement has been seen across the universe of scripted shows, comedy as well as drama.

This thread is open for your nominees for Television's Best Episode for the 2005-06 season just concluded, and I've got so many that it's hard to pick one, including HBO's Rome for "Caesarion" (the Egypt episode) and "The Spoils" (Titus Pullo, Gladiator); the Sopranos "Join the Club" (The Kevin Finnerty Show, though it's hard to pick just one from the first five episodes); the gripping Grey's Anatomy Super Bowl two-parter; and Project Runway's "Team Lingerie" (the only reality hour worth noting, I think, because of Santino's ridiculousness and Daniel Franco's classy end).

But I think I've made it clear by now that I don't think any show got it right more often this season than The Office, mixing comedy and character, desperation and frustration into something both intensely real and magical. There is not a stinker in the bunch, but if I'm going to pick one, it's not going to be "The Dundies" or "Booze Cruise", and not even the finale -- which, great though it was, actually only kicks into highest gear in the last eight-minute segment. No, my winner is "Valentine's Day", which sends Michael Scott to The Big Apple for a big presentation ("Stanley's dedication is no doubt one of the hallmarks of the foundation of the business we're hoping to build our basis on"), Kelly into Ryan's arms (on February 13), Dwight into bobblehead form, Meredith into a drunken stupor and Pam and Jim just a little step closer to each other. Or heartbreak. It's all completely brilliant, and it just lasts one half-hour.

The floor is open.
FOR GOD'S SAKE, JOHN, SIT DOWN. Want to know which seats don't recline on a Airbus 330 operated by Qantas? Or which seats don't have foldable armrests on an Alitalia 777? SeatGuru will tell you the configuration of airline seats of any equipment flown by any airline.

Monday, May 29, 2006

DON'T MESS WITH THE BULL, YOUNG MAN. YOU'LL GET THE HORNS: Paul Gleason, whose extensive career as a character actor included memorable turns as a misguided authority figures in The Breakfast Club and Die Hard, has passed away at the age of 67. He had a gift for portraying a man who could only stay in charge by insisting to everyone else that he was in charge, regardless of whether that was really the case.

While we're at it, let's complete the 80's trifecta by remembering he also played Clarence Beeks in Trading Places, the dealer of inside information on frozen concentrated orange juice futures whose comeuppance at the hands of a lusty gorilla is, well, yeah . . . let's just face it. Paul Gleason played assholes well, and without movie assholes, there are no movie heroes. He will be missed. Fametracker has more.
I'D LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY: I won! Well, sort of--Daniel Radosh explains.
FO' SHIZZLE. BACK TO YOU, BOB: I'm not normally one to get worked up about broadcast indecency standards, but I can't be the only one who finds something wrong when NPR commentator John Ridley uses the word "biyatch," the phrases "pimpin' their wares" and "whuddup then?" and provides us with the insight that "If you're working on a skunk farm, you can't get mad when the shiznit stinks." in his commentary on product integration on Morning Edition today.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

THE WONDER OF THE MULTI-TOPIC POST: A bunch of random quick shots for your enjoyment this long weekend:
  • Should I feel emasculated for not owning a grill, much less a "supergrill," which the Times sheds light on today?
  • My favorite part of the Brangelina baby article in People is the comment at the end from Mary-Louise Parker, in which MLP says that Pitt is "a great guy, conscientious and kind. I'm happy for both of them." Translation--he was less of an ass to Aniston than Billy Crudup was to her.
  • Randy Newman might note today that short people (at least women) have one less reason to live--department stores are phasing out their petite departments.
  • Do you really want a $28 martini, especially one without anything other than vodka in it?
  • Is it just me, or does the trailer for upcoming Jack Black picture Nacho Libre look like the movie cost about $50 to make--like two kids borrowed a grainy digital video camera and told their buddy "act stupid!"
  • X-Men: The Last Stand is enjoyable, but way too overcrammed with material. In an hour and 45 minutes, you shouldn't try to introduce at least 3 substantial new characters (Beast, Angel, and Juggernaut), kill 3 major characters, and strip 3 major characters of their powers (perhaps) permanently. It's so overstuffed that I'm thankful that the originally planned small cameo from Lost's Josh Holloway as Gambit didn't make it in. That said, I'll be interested to see where they go from here--I think there's an interesting completely changed franchise ahead.
  • This long weekend, I'm already looking ahead to the next long weekend. Anyone have suggestions for a getaway over the extra-long Fourth of July weekend?
  • Also, deal of the week? Today and tomorrow, you can pick up Beverly Hills Cop on DVD for $3.95 at your local Best Buy.