Monday, August 16, 2004

almost ready to go to Asia

I spent my weekend mentally preparing for the ordeal that will be tomorrow's 14-hour flight to Tokyo. I still can't fathom just how long I'm going to be on that plane. Up to now, my longest flight was an 8-hour return flight from either Frankfurt or Brussels (I've gone to Europe on business enough times now that all the flights seem to run together). The problem then was that after I ate the main meal, watched a movie, tried to sleep, and watched another movie, I realized I still had three or four hours left before we got to New York. It wasn't quite depressing (after all, I was in business class), but it wasn't an appealing thought either. Tomorrow, when I hit that four- or five- hour mark, I'll still have nine hours left. I'm bringing at least two books, eight or nine movies, a magazine, and my MP3 collection on my laptop. I assume I won't sleep much. At least I feel better than the guy we met at dinner on Saturday night, who was flying to Hong Kong today. He used to fly business class, but now that he works for his own company, he flies coach to save money. 14 hours in coach is why we'll never take a vacation in the Far East.

It only took me about an hour to pack this morning. Liz still can't understand how I can wait until the last minute to pack my bag. I'd already mentally packed the bag by deciding which clothes I wanted to take, so it was only a matter of getting everything together and squeezing it all into my small carry-on suitcase.
I'll feel guilty tomorrow when I take up almost an entire overhead bin with the bag, but the thought of rolling off the plane and through customs without waiting at baggage claim goes a long way towards assuaging my conscience. And I'm a man: I don't need to pack three ziplock bags of cosmetics and half a dozen pairs of shoes. In college, I spent a four-day weekend at the beach with a girl I was dating and her family. When we got to the hotel, she unpacked at least three bags of cosmetics, hair care products, and God only knows what else. For four days at the beach!! But I digress. I still need to pack some of my electronics gear, DVDs, and assorted chargers. I don't worry so much about my clothes getting there, but if I forget a charger or adapter, I'll stew over it for days.

We saw The Bourne Supremacy on Sunday afternoon. I think the first movie was slightly better, but this one was absolutely worth the trip. This film lacked some of the emotion of The Bourne Identity, but made up for it in thrilling chases and espionage elements. Matt Damon and Brian Cox were excellent (as they were the first time around) and Karl Urban, though he didn't say much, was effective as Bourne's primary hunter. Joan Allen was good, but not as effective as a character as Chris Cooper's Conklin was in the first film. Judging by the user comments on IMDB, many people were put off by the handheld camera work, but it didn't bother me at all. The handheld cameras made me feel like I was riding along in the car or running alongside Damon as he evaded capture. What I love about these movies is that little of the story is implausible. Unlike James Bond movies, Bourne doesn't rely on gadgets, charm, or wisecracks to get out of sticky situations. He devises a plan based on what he has to work with. And he gets hurt, which never happens to Bond. And unlike the muscle-bound heroes of movies in the 1980s and 1990s (Schwarzenegger, Willis, Stallone, etc.), Bourne doesn't overpower his enemies with brawn, but with his wits and cunning. He's a much more realistic character than anyone I've seen in this kind of movie in a long time. My biggest complaint with both movies is that they hardly use any material from Robert Ludlum's original novels. I'm amused by the fact that bookstores are selling paperbacks of Supremacy with Matt Damon's picture on the cover, though the book has virtually nothing in common with the film. There is a third book (The Bourne Ultimatum) but there's no way a third movie will have anything to do with the story. However, Ludlum fans will like the end of the movie, when a major detail of the novels finally gets mentioned in the films.

I had hoped to see The Village before I left, but we didn't have time. So I'll have to go another two weeks avoiding spoilers and hoping no one inadvertently gives away the surprise.

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