Sunday, August 31, 2008

Andrew Sullivan, Updated--Again--And Again

Re-posted 8/31/2008, 11:30 p.m.

Original post: 8/29/2008, 1:29 p.m.: I don't mean to harp, but it took him only moments to make fun of Sarah Palin's kids' names.

What's the over-under on how long it takes him to use her Down's baby against her? Perhaps something along the lines of, What kind of family values lead a new mother to abandon her disabled baby in order to pursue her political future?

Maybe three weeks? Maybe less?

Updated from the comments: Whoever had 8 hours as the over wins.

Time for the next bet: How long until Sullivan suggests that Palin only had her Down's baby for political advantage? I'll give 3 weeks again. Seems like a sucker's line, though.

Second Update: Well, we have another winner! Sullivan passes on a rumor that Palin didn't actually even have the baby. And that the baby is fair game because, "This baby was a centerpiece of the public case for Palin made by the Republicans. They made it an issue - and therefore it is legitimate to ask questions about it."

At what point does David Bradley have a responsibility to protect his other writers and editors from association with Sullivan? If I were Jeff Goldberg or Ross Douthat or Jim Fallows or Mark Bowden--or any of the other very serious, very smart people at that great magazine--I'd be awfully uncomfortable having Sullivan as a colleague.

Sullivan is undermining the magazine's entire intellectual enterprise and laying waste to a brand that took a century to build. I hope someone over there is paying attention.

Third Update: Sullivan now says that there's a photo that "looks like it confirms" Palin's pregnancy. But of course, that's not enough either. He now demands "Just a simple confirmation from the doctor who was present at the birth."

Friday, August 29, 2008

The BSG Ticket--Updated

Watching Palin's introduction it became immediately clear that she looks uncannily like a young Laura Roslin.* This can only bode well for Palin. But the parallels don't stop at her looks. Like Roslin, Palin was basically a private citizen (Roslin was a teacher, Palin was a reporter) before being pulled into politics. Neither seems to have had any larger ambition, until events pulled them into prominence. And both were immediately discounted by outside observers as being unequal to the demands of their new positions.

But wait! There's more!

If Palin is Roslin, isn't McCain very much a Bill Adama? Both are Navy men. Both seemed destined to be passed over by a younger generation of hotshots, until a perfect storm elevated them to command. Both are tough old dogs with little patience for politics. Heck, Adama's staff even call him the Old Man.

Like Adama and Roslin, McCain and Palin should complement each other well. I eagerly await the moment in the VP debate when Palin is asked what she would do with Osama bin Laden if he were captured. One assumes her answer will be some variation of, "Put that thing out the airlock."

* Galley Wife S.L. observed this within seconds of Palin stepping on stage.

Update: Several astute commenters make the point that it's really more of a Tigh-Roslin ticket. I can buy that for a couple reasons: (1) The uncanny physical resemblance of McCain and Tigh; (2) Both McCain and Tigh were POWs; (3) McCain is reputed to have a temper somewhat approaching the Irish of Saul Tigh.

All of that said, in defense of seeing McCain as Adama, I'd argue that (1) Tigh is fundamentally, Adama's guy; McCain is his own man, for better or for worse; (2) Both McCain and Adama were hot-shot fighter jocks; (3) Most strikingly, Adama's Maverick-StreakTM long ago forced him to give up higher command ambitions. It's only by accident that he becomes head of the fleet. I think you could see very much the same thing in McCain's career. It's only a bizarre, perfect-storm of events--9/11, Huckabee, Rudy's crazy Florida strategy, Fred! siphoning votes in SC, Petraeus's brilliance in Iraq--which lead him to this moment. In a more ordinary time, McCain's constant tweaking of the base would have doomed him to the sidelines.

Also, McCain wouldn't resent Kara Thrace; he'd totally dig her.

Obama "Analysis"

You'll recall that I tried to preemptively top the praise of Obama's speech by doing a mock analysis of it earlier in the week. Other readers sent in their own attempts at parody. Below I'm going to reproduce a bunch of the parodies interspersed with the "real analysis" by various bloggers, commentators, etc from the last 12 hours. I defy you to tell which is which.

(A) Stunning. Simply stunning. This is the speech that changed America, that restored her to her erstwhile glory. Tears flood the eyes--and I am not someone who cries easily.

One forgets the native beauty of our founding commitment, and then one is reminded in words so powerful, so simple, so true. Mark my words: decades hence, we shall all look back on this speech and remember the brief shining moment when we were, truly, one nation, under God.

(B) This is a remarkable man at a vital moment. America would be crazy to throw this opportunity away. America must not throw this opportunity away.

Know hope.

(C) Indisputably the greatest political moment we have witnessed in many generations. Behold, America. You have been offered redemption. Seize the opportunity. Remind the world of the better angels of your nature. Now is the time. This is the place. Yes we can.

(D) But the dark moments pass, and this is why. There is still goodness in the land. It lives and walks among us, calling us back to our better selves. With this speech, Barack has brought light to the hinterland. No honest person, no decent person, could vote against him.

Know hope.

(E) It was as if the first three days were the Democratic Party's convention, when the usual lineup of pols and dignitaries got rewarded for their service, and the final night was Obama's convention, where Obama, all on his lonesome, defined the contours of the campaign and laid out what he meant liberalism to look like on his watch.

(F) In many ways it was less a speech than a symphony. It was a masterpiece.

Go ahead. Three of these are parodies and three are from various commenters. I'll even give you a hint by telling you who they are: Andrew Sullivan, Ezra Klein, and David Gergen. Tou tell me which is which.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tomorrow's News Analysis Today!

I'm in Denver so that you don't have to be. In times of immense boredom, I've taken to writing news accounts of upcoming speeches, with the idea of putting them up against actual analysis after the fact. So far, I've done pretty well, I think. Here, for example, was my pre-fab analysis of Michelle Obama's Monday night speech, which I wrote earlier in the afternoon:

Can you imagine a better speech? A better First Lady? A better woman? If Barack is the savior of our world, Michelle is the savior of our soul. The way she bared her family for all of America to see, inviting us in, to join them. The strength and courage in her every word. Like Barack, America is lucky to have her.

And here's the account Andrew Sullivan gave afterward:

One of the best, most moving, intimate, rousing, humble, and beautiful speeches I've heard from a convention platform. Maybe she should be running for president. You don't need any commentary from me. This was a home-run. And sincere. Thank God that in the end, the truth struggles out there. Just look at her mother's face.

Pretty close, no? So now it's time to turn toward the main event. How will the press react to tomorrow night's Obama revelation? Here's one idea. Feel free to come up with your own.

The bar was impossibly high. This man has already given the three most seminal speeches in modern American politics. He has already changed our perceptions of the possible. And yet there he stood on this sacred day, the columns behind him reminding us of Martin. Of Lincoln. Of our best selves. And he told us the truth: That we are one nation. That we do not need to fear each other. That strength and bluster are not one in the same. America will be a different place when this man is president.

Because of him, it is a different place already.

Too over the top, maybe? We'll see if Sullivan or others can't top it . . .

Great Moments in Law Enforcement

Without comment:

DENVER--Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic Senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.

Police on the scene refused to tell ABC lawyers the charges against the producer, Asa Eslocker, who works with the ABC News investigative unit.

A cigar-smoking Denver police sergeant, accompanied by a team of five other officers, first put his hands on Eslocker's neck, then twisted the producers arm behind him to put on handcuffs.

A police official later told lawyers for ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order. He also said the arrest followed a signed complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel. . . .

Video taken at the scene shows a man, wearing the uniform of a Boulder County sheriff, ordering Eslocker off the sidewalk in front of the hotel, to the side of the entrance.

The sheriff's officer is seen telling Eslocker the sidewalk is owned by the hotel. Later he is seen pushing Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, forcing him to the other side of the street.

It was two hours later when Denver police arrived to place Eslocker under arrest, apparently based on a complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel, a central location for Democratic officials.

During the arrest, one of the officers can be heard saying to Eslocker, "You're lucky I didn't knock the f..k out of you."

I'm sure there's a perfectly legitimate explanation.
"The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It's almost a feeling of a kind of high."

--Joe Eszterhas, who recently wrote Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith as well as Basic Instinct, Sliver, and Showgirls.

According to the Toledo Blade, Joe isn't faking. But if he converts, who's next? Tom Sizemore?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008


Probably almost no posting here for the next two weeks, not that you'll miss it. I wouldn't dream of sullying these pristine pages with stuff like this.

If you're needing political stuff though, I highly recommend this.

Friday, August 22, 2008

When the Music's Over

If you're a Doors fan, you might have been surprised to learn that the surviving members of the band have been in a legal dispute against each other--specifically Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger versus John Densmore. As it turns out, the former two had been on tour as The Doors. Technically they couldn't use the name unless all three were in it, so the official title of the group was The Doors of the 21st Century. Hmmm.

In any event, a California court has ruled that Manzarek and Krieger owe money from their tour, approximately $5 million, to Densmore as well as Jim Morrison's father and the parents of Morrison's wife Pamela Courson. Manzarek and Krieger's appeal was just turned down by the California Supreme Court.

Does anyone else find it strange that Jim Morrison's father is still alive?

Got Hope?

I remember talking with Galley Friend and Women's Soccer Phenom H.W. about the Hope Solo mess while the U.S. women's team was getting crushed by Brazil a couple years ago. H.W. patiently explained to me that Coach Ryan's decision to pull Solo in favor of Briana Scurry was a judgment call, but that Solo's complaining about it in the press was a worse sin.

Well, the U.S. team just spanked the Brazilians in a re-match. The key difference was having Hope Solo in goal. You would think that women's sports would learn something about professionalism from this: The most offensive aspect of the Solo controversy was that the players on the U.S. voted not to let her play in the next game. Because you, now, sports teams are democracies. There's a deep lesson about professionalism in all of this. (At the time, Czabe had a great email about the entire affair.)

My fear, however, is that some other lesson will be learned. The team will take away how important conflict resolution skills are, or forgiveness is, or some other crap.

As Czabe puts it, "Hey Greg Ryan? How does my ass taste now?"

In Defense of Czaban

I wrote a tiny bit about Daniel Snyder taking over Washington's only semi-respectable sports talk station before, but I've now blown that out a bit.

The takeaway: Snyder runs his radio empire the way he runs the Redskins, and with similar results.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day by Day

Variety reports that the current financial climate has had an impact on Broadway. Writes Gordon Cox, “Producers report some investors would now rather hold onto their money rather than pony up for a risky Rialto show, and many worry that the usual September downturn in ticket sales will be particularly brutal this year.”

Sadly, one of the shows to be cancelled is Godspell. Damn this economy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic Notes, 2008

I don't want to look like I'm down on Michael Phelps because I'm not--he's great and his endorsement deal with Frosted Flakes makes me like him even more. But in a certain way, Usain Bolt's performance is even more impressive.

Bolt shattered the world record in the 100M, running it in 9.69. The last 10M he was so far ahead that he dropped his arms and started looking off to his right. I've never seen anything like it. He might have 9.50 in him.

Then tonight Bolt won the 200M by breaking Michael Johnson's record, which was once thought to be unbeatable. Bolt finished in 19.30 and I haven't seen the 100M split, but I'd be surprised if he didn't run one of those pieces under 9.20.

And what's really crazy is that we have no idea how Bolt might run the 400M. He's only 22. And because of his build he could be a singularity in the sport--a dominant big man. Bolt isn't going to get 8 medals, but I think he's the more dominant athlete and my intuition is that he's the only person who's going to challenge his records in the medium-term future. He's going to places that no one thought possible, changing the perceptions of how those two distances can be run.

And one other thing: Bolt's the first athlete I've seen at these Games who looks like he's actually having fun. Lots of it. Every minute. He's such a joy to watch after sitting through all of the tough-guy swimmers and grimly determined gymnasts. He actually looks like he's thrilled to have all of us along for the amazing ride he's on.

That's pretty great.

Olympic Notes, 2008

That's Leryn Franco, who competed in her second Olympics today, throwing the javelin for Paraguay. She finished 51st, just a spot or two from last. Somehow, I don't think that matters.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic Notes, 2008


Do the other gymnasts look down on the trampoline types? Is it like the cheerleaders sneering at the color guard?

On Men's Synchro

Steve Sailor finds a great quote by Simon Barnes about men's synchronized diving:

It all looks like a wonderfully elegant gay suicide pact.

Trautwig Watch

Not only does Al Trautwig look like Dr. Emil Skoda, he sounds like him, too!

Olympic Notes, 2008

* First off, who knew the Jackson Five was still big in Japan?

* Second, did you see that great final in the 100M Fly? Boy, it would have been really embarrassing if the clock had showed Phelps winning by 0.01 seconds and he had finished in third!

I kid. Upon further review, Phelps did win, fair and square, despite how it looked at first to the naked eye. But two thoughts occurred to me watching that race:

(1) How in the world would they have called that finish before touchpads?

(2) Imagine the outrage there would have been if these Olympics had been held in the U.S. All of Europe would have cried about how we had somehow fixed the results. Thank God for the ChiComs!

* So how great is Phelps? He's plenty great. The greatest swimmer of my time, to be sure. (And by the way, did you see who was seated in front of Ma Phelps for the final race? The Thorpedo! He did not look particularly pleased at Phelps's achievement. Maybe Xenu can comfort him.)

But I think the fixation on his 8 gold medals in one Olympics is a little much for two reasons. First, only swimmers have any shot at winning that many medals in a given Olympics because of the number of different events open to them. They have a bunch of distances very close together (50M, 100M, 200M) in different styles. Plus the medleys. Plus the relays. It takes major greatness to be able to compete in different distances in different styles--don't get me wrong. But if you play tennis, you've only got two medals open to you. Most of the sports at the Olympics only have a couple medals at stake. Even track and skiing don't have that many opportunities for one athlete. It's no accident that the two most decorated Olympians are both swimmers. And if someone breaks Phelps's record, it will almost certainly be another swimmer.

Second, because of the reliance on medals from relays, only swimmers from a handful of countries have a realistic shot of winning 8 golds (Russia, Italy, France, Netherlands, Australia, Japan, USA, and a couple others). If you were the greatest swimmer of all time--even faster than Phelps in all of his events--but were from Rhodesia, probably couldn't win more than 5 golds because you wouldn't have the athletic infrastructure around you to create other top-level teammates to win in the relays.

So when people talk about how long Phelps's record will stand, it's as much a function of the very, very small pool of athletes who can challenge it (only swimmers from big, organized, developed countries) as it is the untouchable nature of the sheer number of gold medals.

* Finally, I did a small item about the theological sophistication of boxer Demetrius Andrade over at First Things. Omitted in it is my non-understanding of Olympic boxing. It seems like the safest sport at the games--badminton players probably get hurt more often. I understand why you'd want to design a set of rules to protect the boxers from injury since they're fighting so many times during a fortnight. I get that and understand that this necessarily leads to an arrangement guaranteed to produce almost no knock-downs, let alone knock-outs.

But what's with the scoring system? So far as I can tell--and if anyone actually understands the Olympic rules, please correct me--the system they use only counts clean blows to the head. Which means there's almost no reason to go for, or to guard, the body. If both fighters are just guarding their head, and punching for the head, doesn't that make what they're doing sufficiently different from real boxing that it's almost not the same sport? It's like have basketball without allowing layups.

(And when does MMA come to the Olympics? Oh sure, you can scoff, but if I had asked you 25 years ago when snowboarding would be an Olympic sport, you would have laughed at that, too.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Is It okay to laugh at this?

Let's stipulate to the fact that the following WWTDD post about Lindsay Lohan leaving her girlfriend for a dude is definitely mean and probably very offensive. But dear God, the funny:

I’m still amazed Lindsay held out this long. Lindsay is a whore. Whores need dick. God only knows how Sam kept her happy. The vibrators in that bedroom must be all next generation stuff.

Got ahead, try not to laugh.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brief Political Aside

I have not followed the Wehner-Sullivan cage match with any diligence, but one point in this Wehner broadside strikes me as obviously incorrect. Wehner writes:

For Andrew, almost everything comes back to the Bush Administration’s policies on interrogation and water-boarding, Guantanamo Bay, rendition, and whether the Geneva Conventions ought to apply to non-state actors and terrorists.

For Sullivan, everything comes back to Bush's fleeting, half-hearted endorsement of the Defense of Marriage amendment.

Olympic Notes, 2008

A few thoughts:

* Yes, the Phelps kid is a physical specimen and in very good shape and whatnot. But the French 100M free stud, Alain Bernard, is the scariest dude on the planet. He's not a Frenchman so much as a Gaul--he reminds you why they were a feared people several centuries back. Here, have a look:

Vince McMahon (or Freddy Prinze Jr.) should sign him up for the WWE tomorrow. He'd be the greatest heel since the Nature Boy.

* Roger Federer lost--in straight sets--to James Blake.

Let that sink in for a minute.

I love Blake. A lot. But he's a head-case with a terrible record against top players. He survives by beating the people he should beat but never, ever overachieving. He was 0-8 against Federer before today.

Blake played a pretty good match, but Federer looked terrible. As he has all year long, there were frame balls and mis-hits. At times he looked alternately frustrated, scared, and sad. His run as the greatest player of all-time is over, more suddenly and decisively than anyone ever could have imagined. The other players know it. None of them fear him anymore. Where they used to fear a match with Federer, they now look at it as a golden opportunity to get a big win over player who's vastly over-ranked. Drawing Federer is now like winning the lottery.

And the worst, most tragic aspect of all of this, is that Federer seems to understand all of this.

I'm more and more convinced that he'll never win another Slam. I now believe that it's possible (albeit unlikely) that he'll retire at the end of this season.

Galley Friend R.M. posits that what Federer should really do is retire from singles and commit himself totally to doubles, as an act of generosity to the sport. It would instantly create an audience for doubles, which is criminally underappreciated.

* Is it possible not to root for Misty May-Trainor and Kerri Walsh? I dare you to try.

I'm as averse to pre-packaged hype machines as anyone on the planet. But I've also been following beach volleyball since Karch Kiraly was still on the hardwood. I remember the halcyon Randy Stoklos-Sinjin Smith days. (Belmar AVP represent!) And May and Walsh are the real deal. Unlike Gaby Reese, they're really fun to watch, not just to look at. Here's hoping they get gold.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Marvel vs. DC

Turns out Robert Downey Jr. hates DC Comics:

“My whole thing is that that I saw The Dark Knight. I feel like I’m dumb because I feel like I don’t get how many things that are so smart. It’s like a Ferrari engine of storytelling and script writing and I’m like, ‘That’s not my idea of what I want to see in a movie.’ I loved The Prestige but didn’t understand The Dark Knight. Didn’t get it, still can’t tell you what happened in the movie, what happened to the character and in the end they need him to be a bad guy. I’m like, ‘I get it. This is so high brow and so fucking smart, I clearly need a college education to understand this movie.’ You know what? Fuck DC comics. That’s all I have to say and that’s where I’m really coming from.”

If you couldn't get enough of the New York Observer's profile of Steve Guttenberg, here is the sequel by Spencer Morgan:

“You know,” he said, “what actors are, are living pieces of art, and that’s what the museum gives me, too. You being on that screen, you’re a piece of art hanging on a wall!

“That’s why I like being really nice to people—they’re not seeing me,” he said, referring to fans who approach him. “They’re seeing a piece of art that they can’t believe came to life.”

Truly compelling stuff.

Meeza tinks sheeza in trouble!

The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday dares to take on George Lucas:

Friday marks the release of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," an animated spinoff that Lucas executive produced and that looks like precisely what it is: a television show that has been puffed up into a feature-length advertisement for itself.... But it's time to admit it: He's not a storyteller. For all of Lucas's command of myth, symbol and sweep, the nuances of narrative still elude him.... Once "Star Wars" became a multi-billion-dollar economy unto itself, when the movies increasingly served not "the story" but the games and the sound systems and the effects business and the lunch boxes, Lucas's weakness became his greatest strength. Who needed story when the audience would be satisfied with spectacle? He got rich, and we got Jar Jar Binks.

Hornaday compares Lucas to Thomas Edison (and not in a good way). She goes after THX 1138 and American Graffiti. And now she and anyone related to her will never, ever, ever, ever be invited to Skywalker Ranch. Ever.

David Effin' Grann

David Grann is one of the three or four best writers working today--his stuff is an unmitigated joy to read. Seriously, think of how rarely you actually get excited by a byline. His new piece is routinely brilliant.

(Don't forget, The Lost City of Z comes out in February!)

But Galley Friend D.S. sends in a keen observation:

I was just reading David Grann's latest essay in the New Yorker. It's about a sort of con man named Frederic Bourdin, who, oddly enough, adopts the identities of young wayward boys. And the article quotes a notebook Bourdin keeps, in which he muses on his fate and his own chameleon-like nature. Anyway, a line from the notebook is used as a caption beneath a photo of Bourdin. "Bourdin once wrote, 'When you fight monsters, be careful . . . you do not become one.'" He should also be careful not to become a plagiarist as that very famous line was written Friedrich Nietzsche. It's funny that the New Yorker missed this; and it's funny that the con man should even in his own diaries pretend he is someone he is not.

Anyway, Grann's article is, as usual, not to be missed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dark Knight Box Office Watch

At some point in the next couple days Dark Knight is going to pass Star Wars to become the #2 grossing movie (domestic, unadjusted) of all time. There's a font of interesting trivia about the DK's numbers here.

The two most interesting are the most weekends at #1 charts (consecutive and non-consecutive. Now these numbers only go back to 1982, so they don't include monsters like Snow White, Gone with the Wind, Jaws, etc. But still, if you had to guess the picture since 1982 with the most weekends at #1, what would you say? I wager that you'd get it right on the first or second or third try.

But if I asked you what two movies tied for third on the list of most #1 weekends, I bet you'd never guess, not in a million years. Don't cheat before you click through.

Get Me Re-Write!

This Variety story is great:

"Edwin A. Salt" is about to undergo a gender change.

Once expected to star Tom Cruise, the Columbia Pictures espionage thriller will be redrafted by screenwriter Kurt Wimmer as a star vehicle for Angelina Jolie. Philip Noyce remains attached as director and Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Sunil Perkash are producing.

Jolie is close to a deal to play the title character, a CIA officer who's accused by a defector of being a Russian sleeper spy and must elude capture long enough to establish her innocence.

At least it's not based on a true story.

Monday, August 11, 2008

"They say Ricky Watters blacks out anytime he sees a green shirt."

So far as I can tell, the only thing I missed from the blogosphere last week was the return of the Emo Eagles fan.

But it's fucking awesome.

Down some dark defile of the mind, terra incognito to the blithe and bourgeois notions of normalcy, lies a swath of consciousness shrouded in a substance as dark as Kevin Curtis is light. Shawn Andrews has seen this place. So, too, have I. Indeed, I’ve felt its wintry contours and been contained within its clammy manacles.

There is no 4th and 26 in this place.

Harry Potter Puppet Pals

My gift to you:

Courtesy of Galley Sis K.P.

Oh, by the way, there's more. This bit on wizard swears is fabulous:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympic Notes, 2008

It occurs to me that this very silly blog basically began as a vehicle of writing about The Khorkina. (Peace be upon Her.) The Olympics are back and Galley Slaves has only devolved in terms of its ambitions. So some thoughts on these Olympics:

* NBC deserves enormous credit for a number of aspects of their broadcast--starting with the Glorious High Definition. It's the best my plasma screen has ever looked--even Discovery HD Theater's Sunrise Earth looks like foggy gunk by comparison.

* Also, NBC is putting Mary Carrillo to use doing feature packages. Awesome. She's a huge talent. Could be the next Costas.

* All of that said, could Jack Donaghy please send out a memo forbidding the color commentators from using the phrase "It's all about [insert name, skill, result, etc]!"

* Also, you know what's a lot of fun to watch during the Olympics? Actual events. Packages telling us Olympic Stories to Make Us Care are boring. So are long studio interviews with people like the president of the United States.

* The ads are pretty impressive, too. My favorites are the incredibly detailed and beautiful spots for United Airlines. They must have cost a fortune. Southwest never has gorgeous, awe-inspiring ads. Hmmm. Maybe there's a lesson in there somewhere . . .

* Visa's ad featuring the Morgan Freedman voiceover, on the other hand, is ridiculous. Their catchphrase: "Go World." Sure thing. Let's give everyone gold medals!

* Watching Women's Synchro 3-meter Diving (I told you, I'm a sucker for this stuff), I couldn't help but notice that the judge from the Netherlands was the Paula Abdul of the event, spitting out 10s and 9.5s by the bucket. She was the high score for almost every dive NBC showed.

* During some prelim heat, the broadcasters were breathlessly recounting the twisted tale of French swimmer Laure Manaudou: She moved to Italy to be with her Italian boyfriend; she broke up with him; he posted naked pictures (and a sex video!) of her on the interweb, and--this is the best part--started dating her chief rival.

Hearing all of this it struck me that with the exception of the really big sports, the interior workings of most sports--not just figure skating and gymnastics--must approximate the world of ballroom dance.

* Did you know that Bart Connor and Nadia Comaneci are married? Oh sure you did. But did you know they also have their own website, I think not. They do speeches and personal appearances. I'm just saying.

* Is it just me, or is it hard to root against the Chi-Coms? During the Cold War, I not only wanted our jocks to crush the godless Reds, I wanted the Ruskies to suffer, too. I never forgave that mean Russian boxer for killing Apollo Creed. It just wasn't right.

But I kind of like the Chinese athletes. They aren't in the least bit threatening. Instead, the all seem vaguely put-upon. It's more apparent that they're victims of their government. So I guess I'm sort of pulling for them.