Saturday, 29 November 2003


Listening to:

The sound-track to the computer game Railroad Tycoon II. The game CD to this comes with more than a dozen tracks of folk/country instrumentals that are really very listenable. I haven't played the game itself in ages (old games don’t die, they just don’t get played anymore), though I note that there is a part III sequel out now.

A recent movie:

Spellbound. This documentary film follows eight competitors in a recent iteration of the US’s National Spelling Bee competition. The whole field consists of 249 children, drawn from all over the US, and in at most the eighth grade, making them all about 12–14 years old. The finals of the competition are held in Washington, D.C., and once the field gets down to a certain size, it’s even televised on ESPN.

And this is a competition with no second chances. Get one word wrong, and you’re out. After having been introduced to the eight different competitors (well-chosen to provide great variety), watching excerpts of their progress makes for compelling viewing. One example is the young guy with parents who have emigrated to the US from the Indian sub-continent origin. He struggles to get “Darjeeling” while his intense father (who seems to take the whole thing more seriously than anyone else involved) watches despairingly from the audience.

There are charming interviews with parents, teachers and the children themselves. You really want one of those that you see to win, and you feel quite distraught when one is eliminated. Just take some consolation from the fact that one of the eight does win it. (They presumably filmed interviews with all of the 249 competitors and then selected eight to screen after the competition had finished.)

So, if you get the opportunity, I’d highly recommend seeing this very entertaining film.

Still reading:

Popper, The open society and its enemies.