Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Monday, June 02, 2008

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.


Blogger Isaac, your bartender said...

Mrs. Bartender and I were both pleased to know that Siddharth would be able to legally drown his sorrows following his tough defeat.

6/02/2008 1:46 PM  

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