Thursday, May 30, 2013

THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE:   It is happening.  And honestly people?  I am so excited that it’s almost sad.  This is my SuperBowl.  This is my Day.  Welcome to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  The Semifinals are about to begin at 2 pm EST (on ESPN2 if you want to watch and who doesn’t want to watch?) and I’ll be live-blogging old-school style as best I can from my office here at Scandal on the Sunset-Gower lot where I’m totally supposed to be breaking stories for Season 3 but I can’t because children are spelling.


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 Bee is a celebration.

Sadly, it is also a competition.   There are 42 semifinalists spelling today.  Only one will win (yeah, there’s a teeny possibility of co-champions but let's not even think about that).  ONLY ONE WILL WIN.

Let's find out who it's going to be, shall we?

2:02 EST:  Why am I being forced to watch my Bee on my iPad on ESPN3?  I like softball, I do.  But the softball people are supposed to be gone from my ESPN2 screen.

Speller 5 Christopher O’Connor is given “pultaceous” by BBC (Bossy But Cute) Jacques Bailly.  He gets it wrong!  Oh!  First kid down.

Okay, have just learned the Bee is on ESPN3 and ESPN News until softball ends.  Sigh.  Nobody shoves Bee in the corner.  But apparently, they do.

2:10 #18 Isabel Cholbi (telergy) and #24 Audrey Bantug (oread) both make it through.

Okay, now they’ve just tried to explain why we began at 2 pm instead of 10 am as in years past.  There are only going to be two rounds here in the semifinals.  Round 5 and Round 6.  Then they are going to stop, add the scores to the Round 5 Vocab test and THAT will get us our finalists.  I’m confused.

2:14  We lose #28 Katherine Wang on hyetometer but #29 Eva Kitlen makes it through on kleptocrat.  Eva swims, skis, does ballet, plays the piano and the clarinet, runs cross country and wants to pursue a career in either astrophysics or etymology.   She has this nervous energy that makes me lean into my screen while she spells.  She’s seriously fantastic.  I want to be Eva.

2:28  Himanvi Kopuri spells stupefacient.  Anuk Dayaprema gets through on bavardage.   Don’t mess with Anuk.  He is the 3 time champion of the US Department of Defense Europe Spelling Bee.  I don’t know what that is but it sounds badass.

Grace Remmer gets a rock star video introduction complete with shots of her playing violin and an interview with her adorable brother.  Everyone knows Grace.  She’s a four-timer.  Last year, she tied for 9th place.  She’s the Julia Roberts of the Bee – charming, long-limbed, confident -- you want to befriend her just to watch her spell things.  She makes spelling seem fun.  Her word is requiescence.   She sails through.

I’m kind of obsessed with Nikitha Chandran.  She’s the definition of well-rounded.  She’s a cheerleader, loves Taylor Swift, her favorite subject is science and she wants to be a forensic scientist.  And she loves to spell.  Her word is demurrage.  She's through.  Only 2 eliminations so far.

ALERT!  We've moved to ESPN2 just in time to see a video intro of Vanya Shivashankar!  Right after the commercial break!  Turn your TVs back on!

But first…Piper Winkler goes out on hallock!  She’s out third speller out in this round.

Joseph Kirkpatrick is back.  He’s grown up but I love that he still uses his name placard to spell out his words with his finger.  His word is ignimbrite.  And he goes down too!  No! So sad to see Joseph go…

A third speller in a row goes down.  Laureation takes down first timer Mary Skirvin.  She accidently transposes some letters and for a moment, stands stunned with the bell dings signaling her dismissal.  It’s a terrible moment.  The crowd gets quiet.

Vanya Shivashankar is everything a Bee Fan wants in a speller.    Pedigree – she’s the sister of champion Kavya .  Personality – she’s the bounciest kid ever.   Familiarity – we all remember Vanya as a 3 year old watching her sister in the Bee and she’s been spelling in the Bee since she was 8.   We feel like we know Vanya (even though there's no way to know a child from watching her on TV a few moments a year) and we care about her in a Bee Fan kinda way.  Also, she’s freaking adorable.   Oh, and did I mention she’s brilliant?

Vanya’s word was Michelangelesque.  She spelled it and bounced back to her seat.  I want to ask her parents what their secret is.  For real.  I want them to write a book.

There’s Emily Keaton!  A five timer.  Her word is encephalitis.  Is it my fake medical background or is that work a little too easy for the Bee?   I don't know.  Lucky Emily spells it and makes it through.

I love listening to Caleb Miller’s Southern accent ask BBC Jacques Bailly if the word abattoir is French. 

Amber Born has great comic timing!  Love this girl.  This is her 4th and last appearance at the Bee.  Pediculicide is her word and when she gets it right, she jumps once in the air and runs to her seat.

3:02  We lose Matthew Donohue to diplodocus which is a large plant-eating dinosaur with a tremendously elongated neck and a whip-like tail.  I did not even know that even existed.  Apparently neither did poor Matthew.  He’s gone.  I was intrigued by him.  In his bio, he stated that he wanted to meet the new Pope.

Last year, Gokul Venkatachalam tied for 10th place.   He’s a huge sports fan and he approaches the microphone for his turn to spell with swagger.  I mean it.  This tiny kid has swagger.  It’s adorable.  His word?  Smellfungus.  Its meaning?  One especially given to faultfinding.  He spells it correctly.  Swaggers away.  You gotta love him.

You guys...Arvind is coming.

Okay.  It's time.  Last year’s 3rd place finisher was Arvind Mahankali.  In the Bee World, this year Arvind is the THE ONE TO WATCH.  The one everyone thinks has the best shot at winning.

Everything you need to know about four-timer Arvind can be summed up in the following sentence: Arvind’s hero has ALWAYS been Albert Einstein.

He’s thirteen years old.

Arvind is smarter than you and me.

Arvind is going to run us one day.

And Arvind spells intravasation correctly.

3:20  Many people in the comments are noting how reprehensible they think it is that the child fainting continues to be included in the "wacky spelling montage" clips ESPN likes to show.  I agree.  A child losing consciousness doesn't feel amusing.  Or cute.  Or like something we should be laughing at.  I'm weirded out that the adults who put this show together don't know that.

Poor Ashwin Veeramani goes down on a word I can't neither locate, remember or spell.   (EDITED TO ADD:  It's amimia!  And it means "loss of the power of expression by use of signs or gestures") I'll find it.  Give me a moment.  10 spellers left to spell in this round.

Hannah Citsay is here for the first time and I kind of love her.  BBC Bailly gives her the word drupiferous.  Hannah’s nervous but she has a sweet face and I’m rooting for her.  She spells her word correctly and moves on to the next round.

Jonathan Caldwell is also a first timer.  But he’s not too nervous to stall by asking Bailly  “What else can I ask?” Then he spells his word persiflage perfectly.  He is quirky and charming.   I immediately start rooting for him.

Chetan Reddy got the word graminivorous.  Which just means “feeding on grass”.  Chetan, who is a four-timer, spelled the word casually and quickly and headed back to his seat.    He makes me feel stupid.

I miss the Jamaican spellers.  Some of the Jamaican spellers in years past added an extra bit of excitement.   My favorites were the spellers that seemed to be trained in the same way which meant they were overly formal, said “Thank you” in a loud voice after each and every thing BBC Bailly said and stalled until the last possible moment.  And they spelled their asses off.  This year, none of the Jamaican spellers made it to the semifinals.  Sigh.  Maybe next year…

We lose Ronan Howlett on parapsychical.  We lose 3-timer Shayley Martin on sussultatory.  And finally we lose Sophia Limacher on morosoph.  That ends Round 5.

We've lost 10 spellers.  32 spellers remain to move on to the next round.


  1. Argh, am I reading the crawl across the ESPN2 screen that the softball has preempted the Bee? I don't get ESPN3 or ESPNnews!

  2. Cat Cojocaru2:03 PM

    Same here! My guide says the spelling bee is supposed to be on, but it's a softball game. UGH

  3. Adam B.2:05 PM

    ESPNnews for now, or online feed.

  4. Adam B.2:13 PM

    Kleptocrat! If I can spell it without thinking, should it be in this round?

  5. The alternate channels only work if your ISP is ESPN-affiliated. Which mine is apparently not. ANGER!

  6. Dave S2:44 PM

    Dang it.

  7. Marsha2:51 PM

    That is one loooooong word.

  8. Come on, Emily!

  9. Marsha2:55 PM

    Add encephalitis to that list.

  10. Adam B.2:55 PM

    encephalitis is among the easier words of the round. Aced.

  11. I like Emily's yellow and black [perhaps subconsciously] bee-themed outfit.

  12. Adam C.2:57 PM

    "She seemed nice." Brilliant.

  13. Marsha2:58 PM

    Oh, THAT'S Amber. For some reason, couldn't place her from her photo, but as soon as I saw her in her chair, I know exactly who she is. She's awesome.

    I also love when Dr. B likes a particular sentence enough to provide it even without being asked.

  14. She kills with that deadpan delivery. I love it.

  15. bristlesage2:59 PM

    So, I've been mispronouncing "diplodocus" for years. Fair enough!

  16. Marsha3:00 PM

    My dinosaur-loving kids are responsible for me knowing diplodocus.

  17. Adam C.3:00 PM

    My dinosaur-loving 8-year-old self helped me out on that one.

  18. Add "joculator" to the list of strangely easy words.

  19. Adam C.3:09 PM

    And with that, a new insult will be thrown about our house. "Hey, Smellfungus!"

  20. bristlesage3:10 PM

    It's fully gonna get verbed at our house, as in, "Hey, quit Smellfungusing The Avengers and enjoy the giant space robot turtles, okay?"

  21. julen3:13 PM

    I'm still not OK with the Cute Clip Pacakge including kids fainting.

  22. Marsha3:13 PM

    Could we PLEASE stop showing the kid fainting?! It's not cute, it's not funny. Show three-quatro all you like, but stop with the fainting.

  23. Marsha3:13 PM

    Great minds, julen.

  24. Marsha3:16 PM

    Do I see a little peach fuzz on Arvind's upper lip? He's grown up so much since we first met him!

  25. Marsha3:18 PM

    sty-VESS-ant High School???? Seriously?

  26. How could that be the same kid? It's like the Arvind we remember is standing on another kid's shoulders. So tall! But still so adorable.

  27. bristlesage3:18 PM

    I just had that same thought.

    Also, that I feel like I hear "flaneur" every year.

  28. Yea, ugh.

  29. Genevieve3:20 PM

    That means I'm DVR'ing softball?!? Blast! Was it back on ESPN3 for Amber? I want to hear her comic timing.

  30. OH, my heart just stopped beating for a moment. Yea, Joseph!

  31. Genevieve3:23 PM

    Shonda, Amber wants to be a comedy writer, so it's a good sign that you like her comic timing!

  32. Marsha3:27 PM

    One thing that boggles my mind every year at the bee is how kids of the same age can look so.....not the same age. Compare two 13 year old seventh graders: Lucas Urbanski and Ashwin Veerasamani. Lucas still looks like a kid. Ashwin looks like a man.

  33. While all the fluff added to the broadcast can be a little much, I do like some of these little reminders that they are, in fact, just kids.

  34. Genevieve3:29 PM

    Marsha, when you have a 13 year old, you will see this daily. Still boggles.

  35. Genevieve3:29 PM

    Adopting that immediately, bristlesage.

  36. tatterdemalion! An oldie but a goodie!

  37. I suspect, based on some of the words this year, that the word committee has a few Regency romance readers on board. :)

  38. julen3:40 PM

    Arghhh. Once again. I need the ability to mute the commentators individually. I am pretty sure EVERYONE watching this KNOW these kids are not little isolated genii who only emerge from their desks for their new dictionaries each September.

  39. julen3:41 PM

    Well, except the ESPN talking heads who are surprised every year.

  40. I voting for Vismaya in the next Presidential election. She has so much poise and elegance and she seems ready to take on the world. Go Vismaya!

  41. Adam C.3:41 PM

    For that matter, Sage Steele is probably wishing she could reel back "I tried 'em all."

  42. Shonda, I miss the Jamaican spellers too. Gifton, from last year, is one of my all time favorites.

  43. The commentary that bothers me the most, at times, is the dissection of the word while the speller is thinking. I don't like when he says they should know this, etc. I know he was in the bee once but I don't think he won it.

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