Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Road Trip: Day Four -- More Mississippi

So, Mississippi is really great, and you could easily spend a couple of weeks there. For real. (Note: I would recommend not doing this in the summer months.)

Monday morning I drove from Jackson to Natchez on the Natchez Trace. The Natchez Trace was a really old road, originally used by native americans, and then by frontierspeople that went from Natchez to Nashville. Those of you who read "Undaunted Courage" may recall that Meriwether Lewis died -- possibly of suicide -- while traveling on the road in Tennessee. It's now a national parkway. I have this bizarre fascination with roads, and with old roads in particular, so this was pretty cool for me. Also, it was just a really pretty drive, with stops every few miles to look at historical sites like Indian mounds, old houses, etc.

Natchez sits on some bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. It has a bunch of well-preserved old houses and apparently there are times in the spring and fall when you can go around and tour the houses. I read somewhere that the reason the houses are so well-preserved is that the economy was devastated by the boll weevil epidemic and so the houses did not get renovated.

I drove from Natchez up highway 61 to Vicksburg. Vicksburg featured more old houses and more bluffs -- it was seriously so hilly that I was sort of nervous driving on some of the streets, lest I have to stop at a stoplight (my car's a stick shift). Of course, it was also the site of an important civil war battle in which the city was under siege for six weeks, and fell on July 4, 1863 (the same day that Lee lost at Gettysburg). Blame it on highway hypnosis, but they were selling this U.S. Grant counted cross-stitch pattern at the visitor center, and I seriously thought about going back to the car to get my credit card so I could buy it. WTF?

From Vicksburg, I drove to Clarksdale, where -- legend has it -- Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads of highways 49 and 61 to learn to play the guitar. The town has a certain seedy charm and still has an active blues music scene, including a club owned by Morgan Freeman. The place I stayed was so great. It's called the Shack Up Inn, and it's a bunch of shot gun shacks (basically sharecroppers' cabins) furnished with a random collection of junk, mardi gras beads, and thrift store finds. I was a little wary, because it sounds like the ultimate in slumming, but it was really comfortable and had this random charm.

Bottom line: Go to Clarksdale and stay at the Shack Up Inn.

Aaron v. Aron

There's actually a whole footnote on this in Wikipedia:
Note a: Presley's genuine birth certificate reads "Elvis Aaron Presley" (as written by a doctor). There is also a souvenir birth certificate that reads "Elvis Aron Presley." When Presley did sign his middle name, he used Aron. It reads 'Aron' on his marriage certificate and on his army duffel bag. Aron was apparently the spelling the Presleys used to make it similar to the middle name of Elvis' stillborn twin, Jesse Garon. Elvis later sought to change the name's spelling to the traditional and biblical Aaron. In the process he learned that "official state records had always listed it as Aaron. Therefore, he always was, officially, Elvis Aaron Presley." Knowing Presley's plans for his middle name, Aaron is the spelling his father chose for Elvis' tombstone, and it is the spelling his estate has designated as the official spelling whenever the middle name is used today. His death certificate says "Elvis Aron Presley." This quirk has helped inflame the "Elvis is not dead" conspiracy theories.

So You Think You Can Dance?

First, where's Wade Robson? I developed a mild obsession with him last season. He better be back. He did choreograph a group number in the first week, but I hope he comes back as a guest judge.

Okay, this week's top three:

  • Courtney and Gev -- I really liked their contemporary routine last week and this week's rumba was good too.
  • Chelsie and Mark -- really good. As with week one, one of the Tabitha and Napolean's routines was so-so and the other one was really good. Is it the performances, or do they only have one good routine in them? Also, you hear that song "Bleeding Love" like once every hour on Sirius.
  • Joshua and Katee -- I was worried about Joshua, but he was really good. He certainly doesn't have the typical body type for male dancers on this show.

Middle three:

  • Twitch and Kherington -- it wasn't bad, but they didn't "hit it" very hard, as they say.
  • Jessica and Will -- a few mistakes and they looked like they were thinking too hard, but I think disco is hard to pull off in this setting.
  • Kourtni and Matt -- I could definitely see the technique, but the costumes were really off-putting. It made the whole routine seem just ridiculous.
Bottom two:
  • Comfort and Chris -- I blame this on the choreography. It would be sort of nice to see the dances done by other people so you can see what the dancers bring (or don't bring) to it. Was anyone else bothered by the repeated use of the word "animalistic" in the judges' comments? Because you can't really do African dance without being animalistic apparently.
  • Chelsea and Thayne -- yuck. It was weird because the music did not seem to go at all with the dancing, which is pretty distracting. Also, they both looked uncomfortable.
(I would like to note for the record that the names on this show are ridiculous.)

Who's going home? I think Chelsea or Jessica and Thayne or Chris.

People I love: Tricia Helfer

Last night I was bored and couldn't really find anything that interested me on the DVR, so I decided to see whether there was anything available on Comcast On Demand that might be of interest. After watching an episode of Party of Five--the one where Bailey goes to LA to find drug addicted Jill, Julia befriends a guy with HIV, no one has time for Claudia's birthday, and Charlie is whiny (yes, I realize Charlie was always whiny, but I loved him anyway)--I decided to see what was available under the heading "Pets." It appears there is a series where a photographer takes photos of celebrities with their pets. All of the celebrities profiled had dogs, except one: Tricia Helfer, better known as Six on Battlestar Galactica.

It turns out that Helfer has five cats. The first two were rescued as two-day old abandoned kittens, then she got another from a shelter, and then a fourth from a shelter to be friends with the third. But when she and her husband went to the shelter to get cat number four, they saw a 13 year old senior cat at the front of the store and decided to get her too, because she deserved to have her last years be happy.

What's more, Helfer rescued a cat in Baton Rouge and took it home with her, adopting it out to a friend. She donates all of the proceeds from items on her website to a cat rescue group and said that her dream in life is to have her own cat rescue. When asked why she liked cats so much she said that cats get a bad rap and are actually quite loving and affectionate.

I want to open a cat rescue! I think cats get a bad rap! I now love Tricia Helfer.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Road Trip: Day Three -- Tupelo to Jackson

I woke up on Sunday in Tupelo, Mississippi, the birthplace of one Mr. Elvis Aaron Presley. I frittered away a fair amount of time on the Elvis Presley driving tour, which mostly consisted of looking at the outside of a bunch of buildings -- like Elvis's elementary school, his high school, the public library (?), and the Tupelo Hardware Store where his mom bought him his first guitar. There's also the Elvis Presley birthplace and museum, where for $4 you can see the two-room house where Elvis grew up. Small! Luckily, I got in and out before the people from the giant tour bus.

I drove over to Oxford, home of the University of Mississippi. The campus is really beautiful -- it's almost enough to make you forget the ugly history and the fact that they call themselves the Rebels. But not quite. Oxford is a really charming college town, with a lot of nice old houses, including Rowan Oak, William Faulkner's house. Unfortunately, all of the cool-looking restaurants on Courthouse Square were closed on Sunday night, so I drove out to Taylor Grocery, a little catfish restaurant about 10 miles out of town, for dinner.

Then I drove down to Jackson, home of a lot of unattractive sprawl.

Road Trip: Day Two -- Drivin'

Saturday was a long day of driving -- through western Virginia, into Tennessee from Bristol, to Knoxville, to Chattanooga, down into Birmingham, Alabama, where I ate dinner at Dreamland Barbecue, and over to Tupelo, Mississippi.

Except for the last stretch, it was all on the interstate, so there is not much local color to report. Did you know that U.S. 78 is the "Appalachian Highway"? I didn't. A lot of bingo parlors on that road.

In honor of being in Tennessee, I ventured down into the country music portion of the dial -- yay Outlaw Country! I'm so happy to have satellite radio in my car. And, having driven about 1600 miles in the past few days, I'm finally able to distinguish some of the channels other than the 80s channel and First Wave.

Road Trip -- Floyd, Va.

Greetings! I'm currently on day 4 of a road trip from D.C. to Minnesota via Mississippi (aka "the long way"). I have a lot to report.

The trip started in earnest on Friday, where I spent the day at my sister's neighborhood pool in Greensboro, North Carolina and head pretty much due north to a small town in Virginia called Floyd. It was a two-hour drive through winding country roads. Floyd is just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in southwestern Virginia.

My destination was the Floyd Country Store, which hosts a Friday Night Jamboree. For $3, you can hear three bands. I had heard a little bit about it, but I was not quite prepared for how awesome it was. The first band I saw was a bluegrass gospel band, which played old-timey music. The main singer had that whiny style of singing. It was pretty cool.

But then the second band had a fiddle player and from the first song everyone started dancing. On the fast songs, they did this weird dance -- it was sort of like Riverdance with people standing upright with straight backs and sort of jumping up and down stomping their feet. I don't know what it's called -- maybe a jig? And the regulars had some sort of special shoes so that when they jumped up and down it sounded like a tambourine. It was really strange, but cool. There was also square dancing.

The town is apparently some sort of center for bluegrass music, because on the streets outside the store there were a bunch of street musicians singing and playing guitar. It was a strange crowd -- probably more than half locals, a bunch of tourists, including two guys from Saudi Arabia who were dancing up a storm, and a fair number of hippies who were hard to place.

I highly recommend it. In fact, I've already begun my campaign to convince my friend J. to go back there with me when I'm back in D.C.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another Endorsement

In the sad days following the death of Tim Russert, conversation inevitably turned to who should take over for him on Meet the Press. (While things like this are too often said when someone dies or retires, no one can replace Russert.) Although NBC/MSNBC has a number of familiar faces, most seem to lack the appearance of nonpartisanship and moderation to try to fill that huge chair. Joe Scarborough and Keith Olbermann are both very good at what they do but lack the temperment and balance to run the show. Chris Matthews is certainly knowledgeable enough but is just a bit too much for that role. (I don't think Russert has ever been challenged to a duel.) I know he would love to have the job, but I just don't think it works. David Gregory is certainly a possibility (and perhaps the front runner), but he too has ideological baggage.

Because of all of this, I declared over the weekend that Chuck Todd should be the new host. Over the past year, Todd has proved indispensable in providing information about the ins and outs of the primary season. His knowledge of delegate allocation was invaluable, and he knew the days of the primary (if not earlier) what the ultimate results would be. (Heck, if he worked for Hillary, I'm sure she would have won the nomination.) He came across as completely unbiased, and unsurprisingly I have no idea what his politics are. Moreover, Russert seemed to think so highly of him and view him as a protege; he clearly worshiped Russert and viewed him as a father figure. Heck, he could barely keep himself together on Friday. I am pleased (and unsurprised) to see that Todd has support on both the right, from Jonah Goldberg, and the left, from Kos and Yglesias. I think that says a lot about why he should take over this position. He would be a worthy successor to Russert. (One option if NBC wants a bigger name in the short term: have Brokaw and Todd co-host for the rest of the election season and then have Todd take over afterwards.) NBC, the ball is in your court.

Friday, June 13, 2008

In Memoriam: Tim Russert

Like I'm sure all of us, I was stunned to hear this afternoon that Tim Russert had passed away at the age of 58. I had the good fortune to meet him last year at NBC's Washington Studio and spoke with him, Charlie Cook, and Chuck Todd (admittedly, I had no idea who Chuck Todd was at the time) for about 15 minutes. Although these three individuals are (and today the verb is sadly "were") 3 of the best political journalists in America, the conversation revolved almost entirely on the Washington Nationals. Just from that brief meeting, I saw the passion that Russert had for the game; his passion for politics was obvious for anyone who watched Meet the Press, just as he made quite apparent his love of the Bills and his family. At the time of this conversation, I was three days away from having a minor heart procedure; now, almost exactly one year later, Russert is gone seemingly of a heart attack.

Watching his colleague react to this devastating news, it was apparent how much he meant to them. Olbermann and Todd were near tears; Chris Matthews (in Paris in the middle of the night there) in shock. Brokaw will be hosting a tribute this Sunday on Meet the Press about his friend and colleague. He was not a perfect journalist, but he was undoubtedly one of the best. Sunday mornings will never be the same. For lovers of politics and, more importantly, by his friends and family, he will be missed.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fact of the Day

I was looking at the vote at the 1968 Democratic Convention (don't ask) and discovered that none other than Paul "Bear" Bryant, the legendary Alabama footbal coach, received 1.5 votes. Too strange.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Famous for DC: Two Sightings

On Monday, I happened to be in cafeteria of the D.C. Superior Court and who was sitting at the next table? John McLaughlin. He was wearing a badge that said "petit juror" and boy was his hair orange.

Today, I'm at the internet cafe near my house and Peter Bergen came in for coffee.

Exciting, right?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I Don't Think I Want to Watch That Debate

Last night listening to election coverage on POTUS08 (XM130), a commentator observed that the debates would be interesting because Obama has "about 7 or 8 inches on Senator McCain." Really, quite a poor choice of words.

Recipe Blogging

I made this recipe for Stir-Fried Shrimp with Black Beans last night and it was really good. And super easy if, like me, you use pre-minced garlic and ginger and pre-shelled shrimp. It's a great way to use the bok choy that I'm sure will be coming in the CSA box soon. (Now, if only I had a good recipe for kohlrabi.)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Sex, the City, and Me

So along with about 14 other guys and a few hundred women (including Mrs. Bartender), I went to see Sex and the City on Saturday night. First, let me state that I had taken her to see Iron Man and Indiana Jones over the past two weeks (and for the record, she loved the former film), so she was owed a chick flick. Second, I had watched with her a lot of the series, so I didn't gripe about seeing the movie.

And for the most part, it was a decent film. First, the stars (no, not the shoes, the actresses) are quite good and make the film enjoyable. There are a number of genuinely funny moments as well as some touching ones that the actresses pull off with aplomb. And there are even a few self referential jokes that work pretty well.

The negatives. Well, start with the length--this movie does not have to exceed 2 1/4 hours, but it does. Connected to this is that three spontaneous fashion shows break out throughout the film. I don't mean, what is Carrie wearing; I mean real or pseudo fashion shows. Third, the plot is pretty simple and obvious where it is, for the most part, heading. Finally, the men are really relegated to the background in a way well beyond what, I recall, they were in the series. Indeed, they are given virtually no life of their own.

So, in sum, if you are guy, you can certainly make it through the film and even enjoy it. It's no classic, but you can make your wife/girlfriend/significant other happy and attend without true pain. And for women, I guess most of you are eating it up as it opened huge this past weekend. But what do I know.

Hey numbnuts! (aka the spelling bee: a running diary)

I know that the spelling bee was Friday and I'm not posting this diary until Monday, but I took photos at the bee and wanted to include them with this post. Then I neglected to upload the photos onto my computer all weekend. I didn't want to put off this post any longer (my public awaits!), so here goes. I will include the photos later. Also, for your reference, the first time a type a word used in the spelling bee that is my guess of how it is spelled, unless otherwise stated in the post.


I'm sitting in the Main Concourse at the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I wasn't sure if I would make it. When Isaac figured out that I could attend the bee by getting press credentials through Junkette I was excited, but wary that I would end up rejected for some reason. As I walked to the press credentials desk, hoping for the best, the nice people there offered me a form to fill out. As a prepared Junkette, I already had a filled-out form with me. They immediately gave me my press pass, but then one looked askance at the blog name. Regardless, they let me in. They also give me press materials which include background information on the top 12 spellers. How exciting! I went through a metal detector and was wanded. Both security men complimented my shoes. A good start!

As I walk in I see that there were some interesting fashion choices among those in the audience. One woman is wearing an American flag shirt, visor and blue crocs. I want to take a photo of her, but don't know how to do so subtly. Damn. There is also a woman wearing a "do I have to spell it out for you" tee-shirt. She is a grown adult.

I take my seat near the back of the room and the members of the audience are told we are only allowed to applaud on the disembodied female voice's cue. Unfortunately, I am sitting so far in the back that I can't see her cue. My cue is that it is okay to clap when other people do. And the first speller is up. (By the way, this entire post is being written on Blackberry.)

Samia Nawaz. She has to spell "vogelrize." Oh dude. This is going to be really hard without the tv telling me the proper spelling. The screen that shows the correct spelling is so far away I can't see it. I will have to actually listen and type while the spellers spell. This could be a long night. I have no idea how the word was properly spelled because I didn't realize I would have to be transcribing her every syllable. I'll do better for our next contestant.

Tia Thomas. She gets shamaturism. I feel good about my spelling on this one. Oops. I missed an "e." It is shamateurism. I should have known better.

Austin Pineda. This kid has the same Buster Brown haircut I had when I was three. His word is trowliticious. It means "handed down." Oh, the reader didn't do a great job. Austin asked for the language of origin and the reader repeater the word. Austin was polite about it, asking for the language of origin again. Trallatitious. Oops. Tralatitious. My press sheet tells me Austin likes "watching television" and "eating confections." I feel like I could have been friends. Alas, he is already out of the competition.

Justin Song. His word is aurelion. Damn. I was wrong again. It is aurelian, and Justin got it right. Spelling Bee kids: 3 for 4. Red Fraggle: 0 for 4.

And now for some behind-the-scenes action. We are in a three minute commercial break and when we return there will be a feature segment, according to the disembodied voice. I assume the feature will be on our next speller, 12 year old Kyle Mou. Unfortunately, I will never see this segment because they don't show them to the audience. I can, however, tell you that Kyle likes reading, drawing, playing chess and playing computer games. His best subject is science and he is a member of his school's scholastic team and robotics team. This kid goes to Dunlap Middle School in Peoria. They have a robotics team? I wonder if the team consists solely of Kyle.

The commercial break must be ending because a different disembodied voice is telling us to sit.

Kyle is up with cryptorythym. He begins spelling cryptar...I don't know what Kyle spelled (he was too fast), but he was right and I was wrong.

Rose Sloan is up next. Her word is hemerolopia. Her voice sounds confident as she spells hemeralopia. Damn me! Rose is right.

Sameer Mishra. He has to spell basenji. I TOTALLY know this one!!! Glad to know my animal rescue work comes in handy. Seriously, I have found homes for dozens of cats, but don't know that I have ever been prouder of the results of my rescue work than I am at this minute. Sameer also knows how to spell the name of the dog breed.

Kavya Shivashankar. Dude! I remember this girl from the last bee. And...I'm right. My handbook says she came in 8th last year and 10th the year before. She has to spell empyrion. Initially I was going to spell it empirion, but Kavya asked if it came from the Greek word "pyre." It does. Good question, Kavya. I have now replaced that "i" with a "y." Of course, I am still wrong, and Kavya gets it right. It is actually empyrean.

We're on commercial break again. In looking through my press materials, it appears only one of these children is homeschooled. Is this possible? Perhaps the information I have received is incorrect? This might be the most shocking moment of the night.

Sidharth Chand has to spell tautological. Yay! I know this one too! Woo hoo! Sidharth and I were both right!

Catherine "Cat" Cojacaru. I wonder if she is related to that celebrity reporter Steven. It doesn't mention him in the press materials. She has to spell Heugonot. Which, having taken eighth grade history, I should totally know. Except...I don't. It's Huguenot.

Scott Remer. Scott is from Beachwood, OH, which is right next to where Gobo grew up. Does this mean I should be cheering for him? He has to spell digerati. Yay! I got it right. If I only knew how to spell Huguenot I would have spelled three words in a row correctly. Oh, and Scott got it right too.

Jahnavi Iyer. She has to spell caduseius. Really, I have no clue on this one. Apparently, it is caduceus.

We're done with round one. Only poor Austin, the lover of eating confections, was eliminated.

In looking at my press materials I see that there are prime seats, front and center, reserved for the media. Dare I try to snag one? I dare! I'm getting up and checking it out. Except...it is really scary. The seats are separated by a barrier and I don't know how to get in. Maybe not.

We're back. Samia Nawaz. Monogoneutic. By the way, because I got up to find the press seats I picked a new place to sit. I am now sitting next to a spelling bee family. (Actually, the large majority of the people here are spelling bee families.) They seem normal. Well, the only person I see right now is the mom. She says her husband and child are outside, the husband will be returning soon, and the daughter will not come back until later. Samia is given monogoneutic to spell. Yay! We're both right.

Did I mention the press people in the special section have headphones on? No one gave me headphones. They also have camera people. I only have my digital camera, so I guess I am my own crew.

Tia Thomas. Tia's bio says her highlights as a speller include meeting Gov. Schwarzenegger and Laura Bush. I think Tia might be a Republican. Her word is brancursen. She starts spelling brank...damn. She went too fast. But she was right and I was wrong.

Justin Song has Rorschacht. I should totally get it right. But I don't. It is Rorschach.

Kyle Mou. Trochiline. Kyle sped through so quickly I couldn't even guess a spelling. I am sure I would have gotten it right.

Rose Sloan. Alcarraza. Rose has a large cheering section. She was fast too. No clue how to spell the word.

The husband of the woman I was sitting next to returned and seems annoyed I am sitting in the chair that is his daughter's, even though she is apparently outside watching television. I think I'm going to go back to my old seat at the next commercial break. Spelling Bee Dad is also writing the spelling of each word on a piece of paper. I don't think he is blogging.

Sameer Mishra. Numbnut. Seriously. Sameer was all "numbnut?!" The entire audience is surprised and laughing, including Spelling Bee Dad to my left. Once Sameer got the definition he was all "oh, numna.!!" What kills me about this is that Sameer actually appears to know the word numna at all. I am guessing this might be the highlight of the evening. By the way, the word is spelled numnah.

Another break. I am going to try to get to the bottom of this press thing. I walk by the forboding press box, but realize the people there are wearing credentials that say A. Mine has a B on it. I can't find the meeting place for the Bs. Maybe I will try to find out at the next break. Three minutes isn't a lot of time to figure this out.

I am in the back of the room again.

Kavya is up and has epidyctic. Except that it is epideictic.

Sidharth Chand. Amateil. I don't think my spelling can be right because the word comes from Greek, and my spelling does not look at all Greek. The spelling is ommateal.

Cat is back up. She has boulangerie. Except I guess I am too excited about my trip to France. The word was not boulangerie (which is the correct spelling for a French bakery...yum...baguettes), but was rather boulangere.

Scott from the mistake by the lake. He has ranunculatious. Which is actually ranunculaceous. I feel like I am improving.

Jahnavi Iyer. He has Neitzchean. Nie...oh wait. He asked us to hold on. Starting over. Nie... He is having problems. Starting over again. Nie... tzchean. A roar goes up in the crowd. Damn me for flipping the i and e. So close. Oh, and I just looked up to realize Jahnavi is a girl. The 12 year old boys tend to have high voices, so when I heard her I thought she was male. Sorry Jahnavi. Seriously, as soon as I looked at her I knew I had been wrong.

Three minute break. Don't feel like looking for the press. The woman at the end of my row seems annoyed because I keep getting up, like I have ants in my pants.

Round three. Still only one eliminated contestant. I could be here all night! Someone else complimented my shoes!

Samia. She has escaveche. It is a cooking word. I guess I shouldn't be surprised I don't know it. And yet, Samia spells it the way I did. We win!

The Republican. Probalium. Or, as Tia spells it, propylaeum.

Justin Song. Sotiagraha. The reader has flubbed the word more than once. Justin spells it sattyagraha. Alas, we were both wrong. It is satyagraha.

Kyle the robotics fan. He spells lapiz so quickly I don't have a chance to guess. He's wrong--it is lapes. Two in a row go down. It is obvious when a speller gets the word wrong because the ding takes a few seconds to kick in, and the audience sits completely quiet. When they are right everyone immediately applauds. I am not sure how the audience knows the word is right, except that my guess is most of the people sitting here have been homeschooling their kids in spelling for three hours a day for the last six years and know how to spell all of these words themsleves.

Rose. Fumagellan. Or, as she correctly spells it, fumagillin. I had originally guessed that but decided it looked stupid and changed it. Oh well.

Sameer. He has chorian. The outermost membrane the envelops the fetus during birth. He asked for the word in a sentence and they gave him the definition again, but added the words "is the chorian." Boo spelling bee. It's like the South Park spelling bee episode ("Hooked on Monkey Phonics") where Kyle gets a word and asks for it in a sentence and they give him"[Word] is a really hard word to spell." The correct spelling is chorion. I didn't get it right, but am proud of myself for adding the "h." It was silent.

Kavya. She has martilato. Kavya "writes" her words into her hand. My brother told me before the competition that she was the favorite. She correctly spells it martellato.

Sidharth. Zearuth. Sidharth is 12 and has quite the moustache. Hercule Poirot would be proud. He spells the word ziarat. Wow. I was way off.

Cat. Bogateur. She is asking a lot of questions, including "can you give me any more help?" Laughter. She spells it bogater. Nope. Bogatyr. Bye Cat!

Scott from Beachwood. He wastes no time in spelling lemel correctly. I guess he didn't let Cat's elimination rattle him.

Jahnavi. She gets tarflesh. It is French so I am sure I am wrong. Hell, it's a spelling bee so I am sure I am wrong. Jahnavi is spending a very long time up there, silent. Parflesh. Nope. Cheers for Jahnavi, which interrupt the reader giving us the correct spelling. It is parfleche.

Three and a half minute break. Seven spellers remain.

I went on another quest for the press box. The materials claim there are 84 seats, front and center, for people with B press credentials. And yet I cannot find these coveted seats. I have moved to a different seat, which allows me to see the correct spelling of words. Oh, I am also next to the TV commentary. It is the best of all world.

Samia. Wakongo. It is a Mexican folk dance. Wapango. Nope. It is huapango. Poor Samia. That seems particularly tough.

Republican. She has ryton, which she correctly spells rhyton.

Rose Sloan. Sheitl. I know this word. It is a wig Orthodox Jewish women wear. The sentence they gave was classic. "Rachel was excited to shop for her first sheitel." I am so sure she was. She spells shetl. Nope. Sheitel. I was closer than Rose.

Sameer. He has nackarat. Except it is actually nacarat. He gets it right.

A FOUR minute commercial break?! Who knew? I am too tired to look for the press box. Just five spellers left, with three of them yet to go in this round.

Kavya. Ecraset. It means a crushed fabric. A clothing word I have never heard. Interesting. She tries ecrasee. Nope. Ecrase. Poor Kavya looks devastated. She does improve on her place each year, though.

Sidharth. Hosounah. Except it is posaune. Not only can I not spell, I cannot hear.

Scott from Cleveland. Thimile. Another Greek word. My people certainly know how to make spelling bee words. He spells thymale. Nope. Thymele. Poor Scott. He should have known it wouldn't end in -ale, right? Must be the substandard Cleveland public school system to blame. Aw, and did you know that Scott is socially conscious, volunteers regularly, and is deeply concerned about global warming and human rights? Well, he is! The press materials say so. I will miss Scott.

And then there were three.

The Republican lover, Tia. Last year Tia tied for 8th place last year. She started competing in the Bee at age 9. She gets oxylophytic correct. I was too busy typing to spell it (although I would have been incorrect).

Sameer. He gets synesthize, which means "to modify by a Chinese influence." Hm. The word is actually sinichize. I would have never gotten that one, even if I had actually caught on to the connection between Chinese and the sini- prefix.

Sidharth. Atielism. It is an absence of saliva. I wonder if he feels like he has atielism right now. Except the word is aptyalism. I'm guessing he knew it all along.

Oh yay! We're in our FINAL commercial break. And there are 22 words to go. I don't get it. What happens if we run out of words? How that we have a break, I will tell you a little more about our final three. You already know about Tia the Republican. Sameer loves to read, enjoys playing computer, video and board games, plays the violin and rides his bike and hangs out with friends. I am unsure when he finds the time for friends, considering he competes in Spell Bowl, Academic Super Bowl and the Indiana State School Music Association. Sameer's sister was a three year spelling bee competitor and coaches him. Apparently the student eventually surpasses the teacher because Sameer is in his fourth year of competition. Sidharth plays chess and soccer. He is also an avid philatelist. None of the interests of these kids are at all stereotypical of someone who might compete in a spelling bee. Nope. Not at all.

The Republican. She gets another word I have never heard of, apithiceur. She seems confused for the first time. Epificer. Oops. It is opificer. She gets a standing ovation. Except I remained seated. Sorry, but my back hurts.

Sameer, our competion-loving student. He gets hiferesis, which he spells correctly hyphaeresis.

Sidharth, the stamp collector. He gets coultourcom, and immediately asks if it is German. Kulturkampf.

Sameer. Tallegio. It is a soft cow's milk cheese. Tasty. Never heard of it, though. He gets it right with taleggio.

Sidharth. He gets something that sounds like entrouvavle. It is actually introuvable. Oh. I should have gotten that, since they said the meaning was "impossible to find," and the word was French.

Sameer. Esclandre. Yay! We both got it right.

Sidharth gets proscopia. He spells it prosopopoea, but it is actually prosopopoeia.

Although any good spelling bee follower knows Sidharth still needs to spell another word correctly some people seem confused.

Sameer gets the word gerden. It was actually guerdon. And Sameer wins. Sameer gets his trophy and when they ask him how he feels, he says "weak." I guess the trophy is heavy.

The bee is over. The press has been invited to ask Sameer questions, but I don't know what to ask, so I just file out with everyone else. But not before noticing that a kid has taped up letters at the back of the room that read "Siddarth Rules." Poor Siddarth. I wonder if he was letting his moustache grow as an homage to hockey players who don't shave in the playoffs. Perhaps tomorrow his upper lip will be bare.