Look, coming out of the floor ... it's the Death Star! Aiieee! It all began in Nov., 2005, when China rolled out its nightmare-inducing Olympic mascots, which may or may not include a two-footed goat. And now it culminates in an orgasm of pomp, color and spectacle — like Walt Disney throwing up, as some comedian observed — in this morning's opening ceremonies to these 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Dazzling, to some. But to me, this photo epitomizes these opening ceremonies. Just what does this guy represent again? Dave, I'm afraid ... When did the opening of the games get so elaborate and confusing? Just light a sparkler, cut the ribbon and get on with the racewalking, people! But no, the Olympics are a showcase for the host nation, which needs to make an impression on the world. I blame Hitler, of course. In making the 1936 Games a commercial for Germany and Nazism, he set the stage for future, less-despotic governments to mark the event with their own brand. As long as giant spectacle outshines the actual sporting events they precede, politics will never be separated from the Olympics. China indeed threw one big, confusing party. Here are some highlights, via USA Today: • Early news: Pianist Lang Lang will be in the ceremony, good news for those of us who are fans of his Sesame Street appearance.Police beagles scour the area for bombs, snausages. • How many drummers? Vicki Michaelis has the answer: 2,008. • Vicki on the scroll: "Performers drew "propitious clouds" on the scroll, which "dissipate magically." If only the smog would do the same." • At the BBC, a reader asks Caroline Cheese how we (London) can compete with this? Good luck. Maybe they could reunite all the living actors who've played James Bond and Doctor Who? Or go completely different and get Monty Python, supplemented by the Comedy Store Players. • It's Lang Lang time! He's at the piano with a 5-year-old girl who started playing at age 4. • One glitch: Vicki Michaelis tells us the lights were out on some of the performers' pants. • The globe looks suspiciously like the AT&T logo before changing colors. • With that, we're off to the athlete parade, which will have an artistic twist — they'll walk across paper, leaving colorful footprints. • Searching the notes to figure out why they're playing bagpipes as Yemen enters, but no answer. • Global unrest row here — Pakistan, Palestine, then Cuba. • Looks like both athletes from Liechtenstein made it. Live: Opening Ceremony [USA Today]