August 12, 2008
Olympics (Halfway Point)
Anyone who knows me well knows how obsessed I am with the Olympics. Every four years (or two, if you count the Winter Olympics), I'm basically glued to the TV for two weeks. This time around, I have my trusty dual-tuner TiVo working overtime, so I've been able to watch coverage on not only NBC, but also MSNBC and the USA Network. Now that the games are half finished, here are some of the notable events, moments, and people that have stuck in my head so far:
(1) Michael Phelps, obviously. NBC's coverage of the Olympics has been at the top of the Nielsen ratings this week--a nice change from four years ago, when they didn't get a ton of viewers--and I think this is primarily because of Phelps. My boyfriend Michael & I have been huge Phelps fans since the 2000 games, when he debuted as a 15-year-old, braces-wearing little boy, and it's still totally thrilling to see him in action. Here's a prime example:
(2) Birds Nest Stadium and the National Aquatic Center. Completely gorgeous, both during the day and at night:
(3) Benjamin Boukpeti of Togo, who won his country's first Olympic medal in kayaking:
(4) I usually tear up, or flat-out cry, at least ten times during the two-week coverage. My first teary-eyed moment this time around came when Debbie Phelps told the story of when her son won his first Olympic medal. "Near the warm-up pool, there was a chain-link fence separating fans from swimmers. With a sandwich in one hand and a medal around his neck, Phelps eagerly greeted his family. He held the medal out for them. 'Look what I did,' he said. That's all it took for Debbie and her two daughters to burst into tears, each touching gold through the fence."
(5) I love love LOVE Dara Torres. Total inspiration. Since I'm the same age as her, seeing her swim makes me feel a lot less old.
(6) The men's water polo match between Croatia and Serbia. I couldn't decide which team was sexier. Croatia won the game, and probably the sexiness match as well--they were like a pool filled with Mark Spitz (circa '72) clones. Hopefully these Croatians will singlehandedly make 70s mustaches come rocketing back into style. Here's a photo, which unfortunately doesn't do them justice or show the mustaches:
(7) South Korean women's weightlifting champ Jang Mi-Ran:
(8) Tiny 14-year-old UK diver Tom Daley:
(9) Of all the unparalleled exhibitions of beauty that have been making me hit the "rewind" button again and again, my favorite so far has been Italian volleyball star Luigi Mastrangelo. Good lord almighty.
(10) NBC is pretty damn good at tugging at the heartstrings with their human-interest stories of the athletes, and I'll admit I'm a sucker for all of them. I also got teary-eyed during the story of Poland's Otylia Jedrzejczak, who classily auctioned her 2004 gold medal for charity, but then was in a near-fatal car accident that killed her brother.
(11) USA gymnast Alexander "Sasha" Artemev does things on the pommel horse that I've never seen any other gymnast do. Even though he didn't medal in the all-around individuals, he impressed me just as much as anyone else. Here's an example of his skill:
(12) American swimmer Rebecca Soni (pictured below) unexpectedly beating Leisl Jones in the 200-meter breaststroke was pretty darn amazing.
(13) I loved the coverage of when volleyballer Kerri Walsh lost her wedding ring during a beach volleyball match (and when the dude from Beijing later found it in the sand). Below: Walsh and her partner Misty May-Trainer in action:
(14) I suppose one of the reasons I'm so obsessed with watching this level of competitive swimming is because I'm such a horrible swimmer myself. I especially love when the cameras linger on the winners' reactions afterward, especially in slow motion. My favorite of these moments so far (besides Phelps and the US relay teams, of course) has been Brazil's Cesar Cielo Filho (below) crying after winning the 50m freestyle.
(15) Phelps, again: this time, when he narrowly edged out Serbia's Milorad Cavic (below) in one one-hundredth of a second in the 100-meter butterfly. I've watched the replay over and over and over, and I still can't figure out how the hell he did it. (I also loved how friendly and sportsmanlike Cavic was, even while his team was protesting the finish.)
More to come!!!
August 11, 2008
Ted Solotaroff (1928-2008)
Last week, an important person in the world of literature (and a guiding figure in my own writing career), Ted Solotaroff, passed away. This obituary in the Washington Post tells more about his life and career, as does this one from the Jewish Daily Forward.
When I was a second-year grad student at Columbia's MFA program in writing, I had Solotaroff as a professor. To be honest, I didn't care much for the class. For the first 3/4ths of the time, I'm not sure Solotaroff really knew who I was; I was preoccupied with finishing Mysterious Skin, preoccupied with graduating, and therefore didn't contribute much to his mostly lecturing-on-contemporary-literature class. At the end of the semester, though, we had to turn in a writing project, and I gave Mr. Solotaroff the first 100 pages of my novel. He told me he was very busy and I probably shouldn't expect to see his comments for another 3-4 months. However, the following week, he gave me a call. He said he loved what I'd done so far. He offered to be my thesis advisor.
As it happened, his offer was an invaluable stroke of luck for me. Solotaroff had previously been an editor at HarperCollins. He said that when I finished Mysterious Skin, and subsequently found an agent for the book, we should send it to an editor at Harper named Robert Jones, who "would be the perfect editor for the novel." To cut a long story short, Solotaroff was right; Robert wound up being the guy who bought my book.
I know my story is just one small one in a gigantic group of writers--nearly all of them much more celebrated and widely read than I could ever dream of being--who were helped over the years by the always knowledgeable and generous Ted Solotaroff. Reading his obituary this week made me very sad. I was reminded of how grateful I was, and still am, for all his help.
August 09, 2008
I've been lazy as hell but I promise I'll update this again soon. Michael and I were at the Cape for two weeks. I haven't been writing, but I've had a lot of freelance work, so that's kept me busy. Our backyard garden is once again filled with tomatoes (heirlooms mostly this time around), cucumbers, and even 17 cornstalks. Today while mowing the unruly front lawn I was stung on each foot by two hornets--this coming on top of a lingering migraine--so I spent the day in a lot of pain, feeling sorry for myself. Then I watched the Olympics Opening Ceremonies. I'll be glued to the TV for the next two weeks, that's for sure. Here are eleven cool electronic-based videos, some new, some within the last few years....
(1) Trentemoller, "Moan"
(2) The Notwist, "Where In This World"
(3) Booka Shade, "Charlotte"
(4) Jori Hulkkonen, "Lo-Fiction"
(5) Loden, "Tenofour"
(6) Legowelt, "Disco Rout"
(7) Modeselektor, "The Black Block"
(8) Digitalism, "Zdarlight"
(9) Teenage Bad Girl, "Cocotte"
(10) Swayzak, "No Sad Goodbyes"
(11) Twine, "Endormie"