Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Flight Blog #2: Los Angeles to Chicago

Sunday, July 9th 2006ad

(Battery Level: 100%)

The funniest moment of the televised broadcast of this World Cup happened just after the final, and it could only be seen on American TV. By far.

The penalty kicks have just ended. The Italians have won after 120 minutes of match time and the penalty shootout. Zidane chose the most inappropriate way to end his career in France, being red carded off the game. It will be discussed by everyone in the next few days. The whole world is watching Camoranesi’s hair tail being cut off in the middle of the stadium, and everyone awaits for the cup ceremony. Fans around the world, especially Italians, are just going crazy.

The TV Station (ABC) breaks for commercials. Then we are connected live not to Germany and the world cup, but to some god-forsaken Golf Tournament. The commentator says” We also had an exciting finish here with John Doe in the last ball”. Then they show a small clip of a guy hitting a ball from 3 feet away and putting the ball into the hole. He raises his hand to celebrate his achievement. “Now let’s go back to Germany”.

How lame is THAT? I have no words to describe how much I laughed when I saw that. I’ll try to post the video here later of our reactions during that moment.

(Battery level: 80%)

Anyways, back to 35,000 feet. I am flying from Los Angeles to Chicago, and then we are going to drive 2 hour and get to the resort at Lake Geneva where the conference is hosted (probably around 3am). I’ll start writing again during the flight, because I liked it a lot last time. It’s around 9pm, and the sky as I look out the window is beautiful: the surface is covered with clouds, but the sun is above them and about to set down. Hence most of the clouds have this pink-red sunset color. It won’t be for long (we are to arrive at Chicago close to midnight).

How are my neighbor passengers doing? To my left, a couple flying back to Chicago. Behind me, an annoying kid keeps knocking my chair. To my front, 2 sisters, and the older one (about 15?) has a laptop with a wallpaper of her kissing her boyfriend. To my right (across the aisle) a lady is choosing colors for her presentation. Erdem is sitting two more seats to the right (window), Reza still works on his presentation two rows in front of us, and Bing is somewhere even further. We will all meet Xiaodong, the last student member of our group traveling to this conference, AAC, and we will all drive to Lake Geneva.

(Battery Level: 74%)

Let’s start talking about whatever comes into my mind. First and foremost, the World Cup. From the 4 strongest teams of the first round (Portugal, Brazil, Spain, Germany), 2 made it to the semifinals and none to the final. Instead, 2 teams that played not so great football during the first round, Italy and France, turned out to play very good later on the tournament. The Italians had the best defensive line in the tournament. The French defense was also good, but after the match with Spain they only scored with a foul (vs Brazil) and two penalty kicks (one in each game). The Italians scored 3 versus Ukraine, 2 versus Germany, and one more versus France.

What about Zidane? How could he do this to himself? It the single most watched match in the world, he decided to behave like a child. Right when France was really trying to play good an they were advancing ahead and they could score. I don’t understand. But, he gave two unique moments for World Cup finals: First, the penalty kick. Tricky, and for a split second in the replay I saw his face being a little scared when the ball hit the crossbar first before crossing the goal line. Second, a genius will act on a unique way. When he decided to respond and take down his opponent pissed off, he didn’t punch him or kick him or push him. No, no, no. Zidane did it in his own way: he used his skull to attack him in the chest. No one will ever forget the gesture in the years to come.

Now Italy has 4 world cups. Four! They are the clear second best team ever after Brazil in World Cup trophies. They will be regarded with much more respect from now on.

Overall I liked this World Cup, especially the final games. True, the goals were few, and the teams had this idea that they can win if they just score once and then defend for the rest of the match. The sad thing is, it is mostly true. Once you advance, it’s tough to be brought down.

The other thing I loved was set of few young players that just impressed me with their skills. Messi, from Argentina; Ribery, from France; Van Persy, from the Netherlands; Rubinho, from Brazil. They all did great, and I’ll keep and eye on them in the years to come.

The next most important thing for me was the video system we watched it on. It is clear to me now that High Definition will soon replace standard definition broadcasts everywhere. In 10-20 years from now, we will look back into standard definition tv in the same way that today we look back into black and white tv. In the same way that color enhanced the feeling of tv, similarly high resolution and digital broadcast will enhance even more. Costas today knew that better: he sat close to the projection screen and said he felt like he was playing in the field. He was ready to jump into the screen if he could and give an extra pass.

(Battery Level: 61%)

Change of subject. Celebrity sights. One of the nice perks of living in LA is that every once a while you get to see someone famous in the streets or in a restaurant or bar. It happened to me twice this past 15 days. First, it was Mathew Perry from friends, in a bar with a mechanic bull on Sunset Boulevard. He was going in with a company of 5 as we were exiting. He looked old, with a reddish face and his posture was similar to what we are used to on tv.

The second sight was even more memorable. We went to Tony’s Tavern, an upscale excellent greek restaurant on Malibu. Many celebrities go there often because the place has good food and they actually live nearby. We saw Jessica Alba.

She looked pretty, but not like we are used to in the magazines and movies. She was eating in the corner of a corner table, in the shadows, with 4 more guys and a girl in her party. She ate small bites in this μη-μου-άπτου way (I don’t now how to translate this). We spend almost $50 on that night: the bill was exactly $100π, or $314. This is how much you have to pay here in LA in order to get similar quality food as in Greece (only that in Greece you would pay 5 times less).

(Battery Level: 56%)

It got dark now. The lady to my right is still working on her powerpoint. She is blonde, in her 40s, with red and tanned skin and long nails. Interesting.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2. I went to watch it on Saturday night like a good American: I bought tickets online, and stood in the line 1 hour before the movie to get good seats. The theater was packed. In fact, even 3 hours before the movie time you couldn’t find any tickets. They sold out faaaast.

It is Sunday night and it is almost sure that Pirates 2 will have the most successful opening weekend in the history, surpassing the previous record of $114M of Spiderman in the 2002 post-9/11 America. It’s a lot of money. Are they that good? The short answer is: no.

The reason of success of these movies is that they combine a lot of elements together in a very good way. There is action, there is (some) romance, there are popular actors, there is tragedy, comedy, a bit of sci-fi, a bit of spookiness. They also have beautiful locations they filmed at, and a $200M budget.

The movie was good, but not great. The first movie was of course original, but they also had a better story to back it up. The fighting sequences were more interesting in the original (ok, who is really interested in a giant octopus attacking the ships? It’s soulless to the audience). The movie was too long for the story, sometimes I felt they didn’t have to do all of these to get the characters moving on. The action was very often a bit too much than what was necessary.

There were many good things though that I liked. First, the looks of the bad guys. I think that all this half-sea and half-human theme worked very well and it was done excellently. The skeletons of the first movie seem too simple artistically in comparison. Second, I love Keira Knightley, I think she is perfect for these medieval-type roles. Third, I liked the smart action sequences, like the water wheel rotating in the woods and Captain Jack’s adventures with the pole post strapped on his back - I found the whole sequence very smartly written.

Overall I think the movie was too much eye candy. Too many details on the screen for the audience to absorb, and I found my brain over-burned at the end from the information. You just cannot see everything at once, and that was kind of annoying.

(Battery Level: 46%)

We will stay in Chicago after the conference for the weekend. What is there to do? I don’t know much about it. I know they have the Sears tower, the tallest building in the US. They also have the magnificent mile, a nice park right by the lake. I want to visit Bull’s stadium and get a picture with Michael Jordan’s statue in front of it. And we will have to find to do something on Sunday night. We won’t book a hotel for that night, since our flight is at 6am and we will go straight to the airport…

Me and Stavros booked tickets for the Hollywood Bowl for the week after the next one. We couldn’t decide when to go, so we booked for two performances, $45 each. The first one is named “Serenades”. I am not sure what to expect (νομίζω είναι οι ελληνικές καντάδες). The second one is Amadeus. Apparently they will re-create some of the scenes of the theatrical play (later the movie was based on that play). Since the movie is one of my favorite ever, it should be very interesting.

(Battery Level: 40%)

I am looking forward to my trip in Greece this summer. In 2003, I for my undergrad degree on July 23rd and on the 28th I was flying to the US for the first time. In 2004, I came back for almost two months. It was nice, but too long of a vacation period for me. In 2005, I went for 3 weeks in late May and early June, but it didn’t feel like summer, and everyone was still working.

This time I’ll be back on July 25th and for 2 weeks. I spent the insane amount of $1600, but I’ll be in Greece when I love it most: In the middle of the summer. I will spend my time in Ahinos, we have a small house there near the beach that is just perfect for summer. I miss just lying down in the chair in the night, and having these soft breezes of wind around my body. The feeling is just indescribable…

(Battery Level: 32%)

I think we will be landing in 20 minutes or so. It wasn’t such a long flight. After you’ve done LA-Greece a couple of times, everything else seems too less.

From United flight 124, somewhere over Illinois, over and out.