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Friday, December 31, 2010

A Holiday Trip down South, wwwaaaayyy down South!

On the night of December 29, 2008 I took off for a 12 day trip to Colombia, South America joining my Mom & Dad at LAX on a journey back to the country they were born in.  This is a diary of that time which brought out the highest joys and most heart-wrenching feelings for the good times & bad times and everything in between:

I jitter with nerves & shake with overwhelming anticipation.  I am running late, but no matter what happens or whatever I forgot I will be with my family from the old country.  It's almost as anxiety, as I could just jump out of my skin and slap myself.  Had to believe it's been 25 years since my last visit, but funny enough I still have the rounded sharp nosed face i did when I was 9 & hardly spoke any Spanish at all much less understood what everyone was saying.  "Hombre no entiendes, que pena" (Man you don't understand, how sad).  Now I can speak Spanish as if I was born there, but usually when I'm pissed off or proving a point (I become my Dad...pissed off).

DAY 1 - LOS ABUELOS Y EL BAPTISMO (The Grandparents & the Baptism)

Be it cliche or a homage to grand stories  great writers like Dante & Hemingway...We arrived in the true mile high town of Bogota', altitude 2,580 meters, just after noon to the airport appropriately named "El Dorado".  Along the way the country is exquisitely green with lush valleys & luminous mountains & hillsides.  Before entering the area near Bogota' the plane must ascend to clear the Eastern Cordillera Mountains or face imminent impact into the encircling earth that rises like a shield protecting the city.  Upon the descent you notice factories, 19th century homes and before the modern city with its numerous buildings of all sizes you can catch the glare of clear plastic green houses that cultivate the thousands of orchids & roses to be shipped all over the World.  A flight over the outskirts of town then becomes a sharp right where you pass the hometown's main stadium, "El Campin", home to both Santa Fe' de Bogota, Millionarios & also the National Soccer Team for various matches.  It's huge and looks like a shortened version of the Coliseum in Rome, but white.  A good landing by the boys from just down South via Mexicana Airlines we then head down a ramp with big ads promoting Colombian prosperity & unity.  You will find 10 times as many in the lobby leading to a double line that breaks off into 6 or 7 as you enter the Immigration/Checkpoint lines stationed by the 2nd most stern  serious officers outside of the BWI (Baltimore International Airport) cops.  I came to discover this once shooting some footage immediately after leaving the airport & being suspected of conspiracy to commit a "Terrorist Act", but that's for another blog ;7)

In this line are obviously women, but not just any women and not just 1 or 2 or a few, it is about a battalion of gorgeous women and many of them have had implants & other enhancement, but at least they got good ones cause it's like being in the VIP room at a Las Vegas nightclub on New Years...GEESH!  I do notice as my friend Janeth warned me to, "watch out for las plasticas", yes you guessed it, PLASTIC!  Now it has  double meaning as they'll use you like a credit card, but I was thinking more along the lines of all the plastic surgery...we rank very high and probably the highest in the Americas.  Anyhow, the few I do talk to are pleasant and I'm here for family so I can't wait to run into them.

All of us make it out of the checkpoint and there is a wall of people waiting for family on this warm sunny day in the nation's capital.  I walk out about 10 feet from the door and I hear the joyous screams of my Tia Cecilia (Santa Cecilia we call her as all the Garcia women go to church with more regularity as they get older and she is the oldest).  She runs to my arms and I to her as she had just visited us in LA back in '05 along with her daughter Monica.  After the warm greeting her son Carlos has pulled up in his White Nissan Pathfinder and hugs me just the same.  No matter the time that has passed, it's good to see family after all these years as our last connection was 25 years ago.

We make our way through the city and past numerous monuments, a statue of Botero you see here, a huge cemetary, schools and up windy roads to the neighborhood my Aunt stays at called El Retiro. It's quaint, very city though removed from the downtown area and has a lot of condos, shops, restaurants and stores.  We immediately go to a local restaurant known for it's caldo (or soups) which is extremely popular in the cold climate of this mountain city and it is just as good as mom's home cooking.  I am full and we head back to the condo to change for a lovely baptism in a little church for Sarita my cousin Monica's baby daughter.  Pictures inside and out to capture the event is followed by a trek back to the house to catch up, tell old stories (both good & bad) of family and friends present & past.    The cousins number 6 in this family and with their children we're talking 8 more.  They hear that I am a writer and grant me permission, even plead with me to tell the stories of the tragedies that have occurred over the years.  Let's just say a lot of bad things happened to a lot of good people in our family, though sometime they deserved it, it didn't have to go to the extent it went.  I will elaborate more as I come to learn more, but for now am just enjoying the company of people I haven't seen in oh so long and I'm proud to be one of them.
The air is crisp and the climate is cool basically year round, think of going to Big Bear in California or Denver, Colorado or a big town outside Appalachia. This is Bogota' and just the beginning of my journey into numerous climates, roads, monuments, celebrations, food and family.

Much has changed, but one thing remains the same as an old saying goes that my Father taught me, "Dios hizo el Mundo en 6 dias y en el septimo dia se descanso...pero dejo su mano en Colombia" (God created the Earth in 6 days and on the 7th day he rested...but he left his hand in Colombia).  Colombia, still the most beautiful country in the World...and don't you forget it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

World Cup 2010 Day 8: You Live to Fight Another Day

"Do you believe in miracles...YES!" Now do you believe in ties? Only if it gives you a chance at survival...or denies another from doing any better than you are. WHAT DO YOU MEAN DANIEL??? I mean the United States has fought hard enough to live another day and Algeria keeps England at bay for 90 minutes to keep them from moving ahead. Is that the best strategy, NO...but it's a strategy, but I have a better one. Serbia did what they needed to do, BEAT GERMANY! They did what? Yes, THEY BEAT GERMANY! Now aside from Spain losing to Switzerland (yeah that was hard to stomach) this was the BIGGEST upset in the Cup and shows that the Germans are not invincible. The best news for all involved here in Group C & D is that they are all STILL ALIVE! Like they say on ESPN, "1 Game CAN CHANGE IT ALL"

Friday morning at 4:30AM in California has most people dreaming away, but then you would have missed Serbia's frenetic victory over Germany in an outcome that few predicted (myself included) that has them just below Germany on goal difference, but like many are saying, "It's anybody's game now". After the 1st set of matches, Argentina and Germany looked like clear cut potential winners of the Cup, but now things are shaping up to be The Netherlands and Argentina with the added South American contention of Brazil and Chile staying strong.

So what exactly did Serbia do? With goals from Millan Jovanovic (not Milla Jovovich the actress) scoring a goal in the 37th minute and Lukas Podolski missing a crucial penalty kick in the 59th (not a good sign ever), Serbia beat a "top dog". Their stellar defense, who had shut out consistent World Cup Qualifier Romania 5-0 to qualify, stopped all the German Stars whether they were born in Poland, Brazil or have roots in Turkey, Tunisia, España and of course Germany. Whom do I speak of? Miroslav Klose (born in Poland), Lukas Podolski (Polish to the bone), Cacau (born & raised in Brazil till he was 13) and you can throw in a German-Tunisian player in Sami Khaderi, Mario Gomez Garcia (Spanish Father from Granada), Mesut Ozil (German born of Turkish descent) and even Dennis Aogo (Nigerian Father)...SERBIA BEAT A QUARTER OF THE TEAMS WITH ONE WIN, LOL. This is huge because Germany could potentially be out of moving on to the Round of 16 should they lose to Ghana and Serbia handles Australia for their 2nd win.

Ghana may not beat Germany nor tie them, but the Serbs will probably beat or at least tie Australia for 2nd place and a spot in the Round of 16.

I'm at work super early to hear the USA game on ESPN Radio as I can't just watch it online without being noticed, so the time delay has increased nearly ten fold. Luckily and unluckily my attention is heightened as the bar across the street has people cheering everytime the USA scores a goal or oohing and awwing when something interesting happens. If you were fortunate enough to see the US come back from a 2-0 first half deficit consider it a blessing, because it was one of the greatest comebacks in Cup history IMHO (in my honest opinion). The only one that was greater being Colombia's 4-4 draw after being down 3-1 in the first half to tie the then powerhouse Russia with their Goalkeeper nicknamed "The Black Widow" Lev Yashin. BUT THE US COULD'VE, SHOULD'VE WON...hey that's the way the ball rolls...or really the referee from Mali :(

Now in the 2nd, Slovenia did not have to change their game plan much, however a resolute US side took it right to the former Yugoslavia/Serbia & Montenegro combined team with goals from Landon Donovan (48th minute) and then Michael Bradley (82nd minute) had everyone ecstatic. First from the bar and then my boss whose feed was quicked and finally a 3rd goal by Maurice Edu in the 86th to 86 this match (kill it), but no, Mr. Mali was MALO (referee Koman Coulibaly (this name is too easy to destroy in English or Español) saw a foul? Yeah a foul on the 4 Slovenian players holding Americans from moving! But we just don't know. This would have changed everything and given us 3 points and a sure move on to the next round, but miracles keep people let us move on.

You may lose the battle, but who will win the war!

Again, don't forget one of the most intriguing films "The Two Escobars" will air again on ESPN Clasic's "30 for 30" documentary series Saturday June 26th at 10PM EST (That's 7PM for California, 8PM in Chicago).

You don't like it or you do like it, tell me about it, comment on my website leave me a comment on my board...and we can discuss, but save the real talking for the soccer field.

Friday, June 18, 2010

World Cup 2010 Day 7: YOU WANT GOALS, WE GOT GOALS!

Fans, critics and historians had been complaining that there wasn't enough goal scoring in South Africa. That it's totally boring if there's not a lot of goals scored being that in the past 4 World Cups the averages were 2.3, 2.5 & 2.7 (both in '98 & '94). Previously it was only 1.64, but after today it's up to 1.9, WHY?...Cause EVERYONE GOT IN ON THE ACTION!

The Greeks started off the morning (for us in the United States) with a sounding defeat of Nigeria 2-1 after Sani Kaita was sent off in the second half for shoving and throwing a kick at a Greek player during a dead ball as Nigeria held a 1-0 lead...until the end of the 1st half. Was it silly yes, was it warranted, HEY, according to seasoned Colombian referee Oscar Ruiz yes! It's just not tolerated this year. By the way (BTW) Oscar's inclusion in the Cup is the most action Colombia has seen cause we didn't make it this year and the Honduran Coach Reinaldo Rueda.

With a resounding 2nd goal in the 71st minute to seal the victory, the first for Greece ever, was not only historical but mythological. How so, well as I told my good comedian friend Angelo Tsarouchas, a Greek player was injured on the ground distracting the 10 man Nigerian team when this "Trojan like Horse of a play" (no disrespect it was a clean goal) nailed the backline of Nigeria. Yes Achilles slaughtered an Ethiopian warrior, but Nigerians are African you know your Greek mythology, ok enough CLASSIC HISTORY. I went so far as to ask Angelo, "Does Vasileios TOROSIDIS stand for Trojan Horse", hey it's all Greek to me and that puts them in contention for a 2nd place struggle with South Korea.

Let's switch it up to MODERN HISTORY. Understand that goal averages in the previous 4 World Cups dating back to USA '94 and started with Germany 2006 have been 2.3, 2.5 & 2.7 ('98 & '94). In 1990 the average dropped to 2.2, the lowest ever, after all was said and done with a 1-0 Final of Germany over Argentina.

Speaking of Argentina, they are now a huge favorite to win it all after a beat down of North Korea (Korea DPR) at the feet of, no not Messi, but Gonzalo Higuain. Don't know him, you better now, he just scored a HAT TRICK (3 goals in one game) for "La Albiceleste" who are now riding a 2 game win streak and practically guaranteeing themselves a spot in the Round of 16. The first goal in this 4-1 slaughter came from the shin of Park Chu-Young, the 2nd of this Cup, the first by Denmark. Now I've heard that Kim Jong Il will give players who perform well crappy jobs upon their return, but it wouldn't have mattered in this game as Argentina poured in on with Carlos Tevez attacking and feeding the fleet footed Messi who has gotten off more shots than anyone, but has yet to connect. The good news for the Korean is that he won't be shot, as crazy as Kim Jong is, like our unfortunate infamous son Andres Escobar in '94 for the same error in a decisive match versus the USA. Which by the way "The Two Escobars" will air on ESPN Tuesday June 22nd at 9PM EST (That's 6PM for California).

Did you know there have been 47 "Hat Tricks" in the World Cup since 1930, AMAZING! The only year that there wasn't one was in the last World Cup in '06..surprisingly!

This leads me to our final match with Mexico soundly defeating France in a "fast and furious" match that saw Les Bleus succumb to pinpoint strategy at the hands of El Tri. Now El Tri stand for 3 colors, but note that many flags (including France) have 3 stripes in them, also even and with nothing else...GO FIGURE! What was a nailbiter for the over a half turned into, ANOTHER HISTORY LESSON, when Javier "El Chicharito" Hernandez came on in the 55th minute to score less than 10 minutes later and beautifully beating out all defenders to face a lone goalie. WHAT'S COINCIDENTALLY HISTORICAL is that his abuelito (grandfather for you Gringos), Tomas Balcazar, scored a game tying goal for Mexico in 1954 against France. The only differnce being that this goal was the winner. So what did Mexico do, KEEP ATTACKING, which led to a penalty of another substitute in Cuauhtemoc Blanco that seared past the French goalie. WHAT IS SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THIS GOAL??? Blanco is now the only Mexican footballer to score in 3 different World Cups, FELICIDADES (CONGRATULATIONS PEOPLE!)

Let's take 1 MORE LOOK AT HISTORY! The average had started off at 3.9 goals per match in 1930 and peaked in 1954 at 5.4...WHAT! Yes 5.4 per match with guys from Hungary like Ferenc Puskas (One of the "4 Horseman of the Apocalypse" for Real Madrid's incredible teams of the 1950's), Sandor Kocsis (leading goal scorer in '54 with 11) and my personal favorite name ZOLTAN CZIBOR (Coolest name of any World Cup player ever). These guys were pulling off 8-3, 9-0, 6-1 victories, RIDICULOUS, but hey, they were that good, but not good enough, losing to Germany in a 3-2 comeback, CRAZY!

Next up Germany v. Serbia (Germans should be too much & win 2-1)
Our match of the day in USA v. Slovenia (We need this & can win 2-1)
A vindictive match for England v. Algeria (both want to prove their with, but England is the better team and will be sharp, so 2-0). Let's see how I do here ;^)

You don't like it or you do like it, tell me about it, comment on my website leave me a comment on my board...and we can discuss, but save the real talking for the soccer field.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World Cup 2010 Day 6: There's something that burns below the surface

Now what do I expect to see from Group H, HELL ON WHEELS! And with good reason.

Chile qualified 2nd in the South America Zone with the 2nd highest number of goals (32), which means a high powered offense, one point behind Brasil. Humberto Suazo scored 10 goals (tops in this leage), so what does that mean for Honduras??? HELL!!! Not to say, they don't have a chance to a 1-1 tie, being coached by former Colombian leader Reinaldo Rueda (the only Colombian in the Cup minus two referees...pathetic, I know), have much resolve. Is it enough, unless Carlos Pavon pulls off a hat trick, they probably won't win. Chile is an attacking, free flowing South American squad led by "El Loco" Marcelo Bielsa of Argentina and he has "La Roja" firing on all cylinders. 2-0 Chile and that's being conservative as I don't see a North Korea Brazil stifling 1st half.

Just a history lesson from my Dad, Spain has never been beaten by Switzerland, 15-0-3...and it's not about to happen today! I can concede that the game may be hard fought, Spain may be nervous or more so trying too hard, but this is not the current Brazilian, this is the undefeated and save The Confederations Cup (undisputed) top flight team that no one wants to face. So what happens, well expected would be a 4-1 or 3-0 victory, but as this first round has gone 2-1 is more likely. Is Switzerland as poor a defense as Australia? No, but Spain is an even better offense than Germany, even in the latest rounds of World Cups, so let's make it 2-0 just to be conservative. The Swiss would have to cut off lots of passes to have a chance and get lucky in order to be in it. "La Madre Patria" (Spain for me) is my overall winner and I'm taking it to the bank, not to be biased, but Spain has been killing everyone and I don't think their fury is going to stop anytime soon as they have a lot to prove....what better time to do it.

We get a treat today too, with the end of Spain v. Switzerland comes the beginning of the 2nd stage and that starts off with Uruguay v. South Africa. If you thought France v. Uruguay was hard to predict, this is even harder. Remember I called Group A the Group of Confusion, well now South Africa is playing inspired football despite being one of the lowest ranked entries into Fifa 2010 Finals, they are attacking, scoring goals, setting up plays and doing all the things France did against Uruguay minus scoring a goal. What France did do is play some very tactical defense and stellar counter attacking that may prove to be too much for the host nation. I do believe South Africa will get their chances, but if they don't capitalize, Uruguay will bring down the thunder and that means goals by Forlan and his friends and for that reason I see another 2-1 to the South American Charruas just as Brazil v. North Korea.

The gracious host will not make it out with a questionable French side still in it and Mexico always coming out of the group stage for the last 6 cups, but it's still open.

Today will show more competiveness, but with lowered results from the underdogs...Cinderalla only had so many ugly sisters ;)

You don't like it or you do like it, tell me about it, comment on my website and leave me a comment on my board...and we can discuss, but save the real talking for the soccer field.

World Cup 2010 Day 5 Wrap Up: What went wrong...or right

Show me an easy victory and I'll show you a near upset! That was the them for the 5th day of World Cup Soccer with all 3 favored teams narrowly escaping defeat or lucky to get a tie in what happens become a World Cup of the Underdog in many instances. We can't say who is the Cinderella just yet as the glass slipper hasn't quite found it's rightful owner. However, here are a few teams that might suffice.

In the first installment of Slovakia v. New Zealand, it was expected to have been an easy victory for the Slovakian team having beat many top Baltic and Eastern European squads, but had a lot of trouble with the "All Whites", not scoring until the 50th minute when Robert Vittek scored an impressive header, they seemed to be in control. 3 minutes of extra time and just over 30 seconds left in the game comes Winston Reid uses his own head and nails in the equalizing shot. What might have helped the Kiwi Nation, perhaps the high altitude of Rustenberg and a desire never to quit. Unbelievable, slightly. Shocking...for many, but mostly Slovakia. What does it mean, all teams in Group F are now tied.

The result of Portugal v. The Ivory Coast lead a friendly and energetic, soccer loving Portuguese coworker to my desk yesterday angry and nearly in disbelief, not to mention sour on their chances of going far. Why? Didier Drogba was on the bench until 25 minutes remaining in the game for La Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast in French), so they didn't have their star, plus he had just fractured his right arm when a jumping Japanese player crushed it with his knee in their last friendly. Portugal couldn't seem to get past the defensive effort by the highly touted "Elephants" and the former best player in the World, Cristiano Ronaldo just couldn't connect, although he had 3 clean shots on goal, one that hit the left post and another that sailed just over the top one. The Ivorians nearly stole the game on several counter attacks and are quite pleased with a tie having not been at full strength and facing the 2006 World Cup 4th place team who had looked awesome. Once again a staunch defense and relentless attacks by Gervinho & Tiote were barely stifled and in extra time Drogba nearly connected a through ball to pull off the upset, but was clearly bothered from his broken arm that he was clenching the entire time.

Who else played from Group G, big Brazil and little crazy communist Kim Jong Il led North Korea. After today, they don't seem that crazy as they kept up with the Brasileiros the until first half and nearly 10 minutes into the 2nd when Defender Maicon connected a solid whistling shot parallel to the goaline that curved just inside Ri Myong Guk's reach who had cheated to the center to cut off the cross. It was an amazing goal whether or not the Jabulani ball was to blame it was beautiful. At the 72nd minute, fair haired Elano connected a nice in step shot to make it 2-0 and Brazil seemed to be on a roll, however the 5 man defensive front of these Koreans thwarted several opportunities and shut down Kaka from doing anything. More shots came from Robinho, however he was off on several occassions and reminded me of Messi in Argentina's 1-0 win over Nigeria. Now who wasn't off in the 89th minute, Ji Yun Nam whose precision goal matched the accuracy of South Korea's 2nd goal by Park Ji Sung and had more ummph to it! Coincidence...I think so, lol. Trust me, eating at The Shark's Cove in Manhattan Beach, CA with 3 Brazilian ladies showed me just how scared and upset the Samba Nation was, cause it wasn't supposed to start or finish this way.

According to the team from the Asian Football Conference (AFC) who has impressed the most so far is South Korea (Korea Republic) with North Korea (Korea DPR) following a close 2nd.

You don't like it or you do like it, tell me about it, comment on my website and leave me a comment on my board...and we can discuss, but save the real talking for the soccer field.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup 2010 Day 4: Time to find your stride

Things are getting hot and heavy in South Africa and with the goal explosion of Germany's 4-0 tromping of Australia, things are starting to settle down and what's predicted to happen, by me, will happen. What does that mean, basically more goals, less nerves and players figuring out just how hard or soft to hit Adidas' incredibly aerodynamic ball...or do it from afar if you've got that much leg power. Seriously folks, how many balls can you send into the stands or way out to the right, this is not that Budweiser commercial where the mere site of the beer distracts the shooter.

So what's on tap, only some ever improving quality games and that starts when Denmark v. Netherlands (Holland) takes place to begin what many consider one of the best chances to with the World Cup that The Netherlands has had in years. This is the first Euro on Euro match of the World Cup with both teams previously even in terms of wins and goals. This time though both teams will be without some stars, the biggest being Arjen Robben, but it's not as significant as Denmark who are banged at all levels, most notably defense, most notably in Thomas Sorenson who has an elblow injury. If you don't have a top goalie, guys like Robin van Persie will make you pray for 2 week rain delays ;) Okay that's not going to happen, however what can happen is a 1-1 tie, but with all the confidence and solid play lateley from The Netherlands, they should roll 2-1. If not, this is definitely a big upset.

Well, well, well if it ain't my old friend Cameroon (beat Colombian in the 2nd Stage in 1990 on extra time, yeah it was big), ANYHOW! Now this is Africa and they are African, not to mention the least injured team still having their big star in Samuel Eto'o. Now Cameroon has never lost their opening match in 5 previous Cups, now they are facing a fast Japanese squad that has not scored many goals lately, in fact so few in their last 5 games that I don't see Japan scoring at all. Look for a 2-0 final that is not lopsided and if Japan shows up, 1-0, but Cameroon is king here.

Now I may look Italian to many and despite the fact that I am South American, I am not biased when I say, Italy is not the same team after winning it all in 2006 and they have not impressed much as of late. Fabio Canavarro is in this stellar Nike World Cup commercial directed by famed Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, so that tells you he's their #1 hope. Granted their always peaking around major tournament time, something is of, they're not as special. What's so special about Paraguay? Their top flight scorer was shot outside of a bar in Mexico where he plays Club Football and even though it was to the brain he has inspired his team by sitting on the sideline for these matches and has been featured in several tear-jerking commercials in Paraguay: His tragic shooting, recuperation and presence is motivation that is rare and leads me to believe Paraguay can overtake Italy and the #1 seed in the group.

So how will Monday end..with some surprises and a major upset, cause there is always 2 or 3 and a Cinderella team...not to mention her ugly sisters ;)

You don't like it, tell me about it, comment on my website and leave me a comment on my board...and we can discuss, but save the real talking for the soccer field.

World Cup 2010 Day 3: Show me what death may come in Group C & D

Sunday, Bloody Sunday!!!! One of my favorite all time songs and this is how the pitch will be left after 3 blown out matches from Group's C & D that might as well stand for "Come Death". This is not to say that it won't be competive, but the ante has been upped and the goal scoring and level of play continues to rise each day. How do I figure? Let's take a real hard & honest look at who is up for a thrashing and by whose hands. There is Game 1 with Algeria v. Slovenia, Game 2 features Australia v. Germany and another African-Baltic State affair in Serbia v. Ghana. What's the worry? Being over-matched and lacking experience. I'm not saying forget the whole sordid affair, but do your country proud by playing as hard as you can for 90 minutes, win or lose.

Algeria, is a proud nation that has been through a lot of struggles with it's true identity, it's varied communities and although it is an African nation it has been crossed by the original Arab Muslims, Nazi Germans and French Colonialism, but has a rich history. Unfortunately that has not led to much success in World Cup play, however this is the team that beat a tough Egyptian squad and shows confidence in it's chances. What's the problem? A battle hardened Serbian team who not only beat out the "Big Bear" in Mother Russia, beat has also beaten Quatar & New Zealand both 3-0 in recent friendlies getting better and better, but also know it. What you will see, Zlatko Dedic who is know for scoring big goals in big games and this is the World's biggest stage. I predict a 3-1 match with Algeria scoring an opportunistic goal that will have no bearing on the tempo of the game. Algeria is injured on defense and is not as "ready-tested", so beware.

So what's wrong with Australia, nothing if they were playing New Zealand, cause they have experience from qualify in the 2006 World Cup and moving on the Round of 16 with many returning starters....but have yet to overcome Germany. What will be a shining moment, Tom Cahill scoring a goal against a young and lightly experienced Manuel Neuer, BUT this is Germany, this is the Group stage and they are strong on tradition. Why kind of tradition, how about always playing tough and coming out of it on top with many a goal and strong defense that does not showcase Michael Ballack, but an experienced Phillip Lahm who has taken over as captain. I'm telling you know, cause I know Germans, I have German mixed family and friends and they are methodical, solid and put together many a blowout in this stage. Miroslav Klose, 2006 goal leader, partnered with Lukas Podolski with extra firepower from Schweinsteiger (great German name huh!) whose name you will hear often.

So Daniel, what's wrong with Serbia? Not Nemanjan Vidic who is a Manchester United star on defense will play strong and be aided up front by striker Nikola Zigic (these guys have the most uniquely cool names here). Although they are favored, I feel Ghana has more to prove after being the only representative at Germany 2006 after reaching the Round of 16 and winning 2 games after losing to eventual champion Italy.

When it comes to history, traditionally Serbia was the former Yugoslvia who have made many runs at the Jules Rimet trophy (named after the 1st FIFA President who started this whole storied game between nations). As of recent, Serbia had gone to the last World cup, but they are facing an African Nation on African soil. Motivation? Ghanians are extremely proud and even though Michael Essien is out, they have an experienced World Cup goal scorer in Asamoah Gyan and aren't afraid to show the World just how good they are. Funny enough they are coached by a Serbian in Milovan Rajevac so they will be more than ready and finish with a 2-1 victory to continue to be the number 2 qualifier for the 2nd Stage.

You don't like it, tell me about it, comment on my website and leave me a comment on my board...and we can discuss, but save the real talking for the soccer field.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup Soccer Day 2 Matches & Breakdowns

Group B to me is the Group of Traditions. Argentina will do well, score a lot and impress everyone into believing they can in fact win it all. Nigeria has always done well in previous World Cups since '94 yet funny enough lost to Maradona (in his last game) in the same year. They always entertain and play fearless, which is quite commendable. There is South Korea flying like crazy up and down the field, but speed alone does not cut it in the end and someone has to go down and they're just missing something (consistency), don't look for a repeat of 2002 when they went to the semi-finals. It's a bit early to tell, but I'm liking what I see in an even more fearless Korea, that doesn't look great on paper, but really looks to challenge. Lastly, although Greece has not faired well, they will turn things around, though it may be too late, scoring and challenging for the 2nd spot to move on depending on their match with Nigeria. This is a great group to learn from for Greece, but too hard to move on to the 2nd stage. But hey anything is better than losing all 3 games and scoring no goals as they did in their previous World Cup outting.

For today's match of Korea v. Greece, it is said that the little Koreans can't match up against the Greek towers, but the English Premiere league experience of Park Ji-Sung against an untested Greek defense that is not the Spartan line will score. Very different teams, very different styles and that means someone is going to go down. I would expect Theofanis Gekas to keep scoring as the #1 scorer in the World qualifiers, however this time Korea is the underdog and likes it so a 2-1 finish for the #1 answer qualifier would not surprise me.

What's the expectation for the Albiceleste in Argentina, nothing but a championship, so do you think that means waiting around to win, better yet score, HELL NO! Argentina puts so much importance on getting an early goal and dominating from the get go that it will be too much for Nigeria who does not have the same star power or unity as they have before. The South American 2 time World Cup winner is super loaded with talent and has show much unity and inspiration in the last year behind media darling (I say that with a grain of salt) Diego Maradona as their coach.

What's good for Nigeria, pride, playing on their own continent and with something to prove, but the Super Eagles would be hard pressed to beat this South American traditional winner and tradition shows Argentina over Nigeria, but this time 3-1. Look for Nigeria to challenge for 2nd place if the pressure of performing in your "homeland" isn't too much to deal with. Hey it works everywhere else in the World.

Now today isn't just about Group B, this Saturday the 12th of June, there are 2 groups playing and this next group displays one of the biggest, if not the most anticipated match of at least 1st games. Who do I speak of, why England v. USA and not all is hunkey dorey on the Island of the Brits at this point. What's wrong in England town? Well no Rey Ferdinand (who was their captain) means less experience and leadership in the backfield. David James in the goal for England, uh no, not today it's a guy named Green (Robert Green), but he's not their #1 so despite this indominatable English backfield with Terry & now King (good when not injured) your going to see a US team with Jozy Altidore back as the main striker and pressure from Landon Donovan & Clint Dempsey so London bridges will come falling down.

England will put pressure on up front with Rooney accompanied by Hackey getting fed by Gerrard and Frank Lampard (in his final World Cup appearance), but I don't think it's enough and they're not gelled as a team. The US has always played well one World Cup and bad another, well thank our lucky Stars & Stripes, this is an upswing year, so look for the US to make soccer-futbol super exciting again as they did in '94. Oh you want to talk about tradition? It was 60 years ago that the US beat England in the group stage 1-0 in a shocker. But what's more interesting to me is the large amount of players born here of immigrant parents such as myself who did well in '94 and even better in 1930 when they finished 4th (their best ever)...let's hear it for 80 years of tradition.

You don't like it, tell me about it, comment on my website and leave me a comment on my board...and we can discuss, but save the real talking for the soccer field.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Let's get right into it. To analyze a group you need to know about the past, present and very near future of highs & lows that run through every group no matter how good or bad. Now everyone had been talking about Group G: The Group of Death, but with all the changes in the level of play a lot more questions, concerns and changes of heart have led me to call Group A: The Group of Confusion..."lemme 'splain..."

The opening match defines the tempo of the group stages and in South Africa v. Mexico you have a defensive more conservative host nation warding off an attacking, fly whenever possible squad in Mexico that is much improved over the last 3 World Cups. Mexico will shoot from anywhere, yet often gets beat down in the box, however always play like they can win the game. For being scrappy, Mexico wins out 2-1. Mexico will also go on to overtake the French 1-0 in a match that will be hard fought, but Ochoa in the box is a fox and Blanco will set-up a shot that anyone of his forwards will easily put in Les Blues goal. Match of the series, Uruguay v. Mexico for all the marbles.

Uruguay as a 2 time champion and is the 1st winner of the World Cup. What does that mean, sometimes nothing, however with a renewed ferocious attacking strike-force in Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez supported by Sebastian Abreu at the forward positions you'll be hard pressed to keep them down. What do I mean, THEY WILL HURT YOU BAD! Uruguay gets past the troubled French squad 3-1 and takes the number 1 position. How? by going on to soundly beat South Africa and a tie with Mexico as they have such different styles and will spend more time figuring each other out. The goal is, TO SCORE MORE GOALS! and play tough defense so you can win more games and have a goal difference advantage. If you win 3 games of course you win, if you win 2 games you're almost guaranteed to move on the round of 16, but if you only win 1 game, you better score a lot of goals. Uruguay is a team that can score a lot of goals.

Now one of the major issues in this group is that the host nation has always come out of the group stage in all 17 previous World Cups, which I see happening in the lowest rank team in South Africa. What is scary, TRADITION ONCE AGAIN! Why do I say that? South Africa is not only playing at home, playing in the first World Cup in Africa, but have a deep sense of pride that has overcome much poverty, apartheid and for a time attacks by one of the most formidable armies in the World, England. This is a deeper sense of an evaluation that takes into account the simple fact that the English figured with rifles and pistols they would easily control and overtake a frenzied group of tribes who carried spears and leather shields. They were completely wrong and the Zulu Nation overran many a British line that led to much respect and in modern times several movies about it's leaders, battles and people.

Taking it back to France and you see a team that on paper is the strongest on paper in terms of pedigree, talent and experience yet doesn't play like it. Of course with the retirement of Zinedine Zidane they lost leadership, firepower and a sense of bravado that they have been lacking. France had been so lost, they nearly failed to qualify and only lucked out by one of those "mano de Dios" plays that you wouldn't expect to see anymore after such infamous a goal had been scored by Argentina's Maradona in 1986 versus England in the Quarter Finals. They're saving grace? Thiere Henry is coming off the bench and as an experienced striker who has played on the best teams, scoring several goals, he could be this Cup's Roger Milla of Cameroon in 1990's schlacking of Colombia (yes painful memories) by scoring goals of the bench and leading his team to the second round.

You don't like it, tell me about it, comment on my website and leave me a comment on my board...and we can discuss, but save the real talking for the soccer field.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Newport Beach Film Festival 2010 Opening Night Run Ins & Reviews

I came, I saw, but before me, Giants had conquered the Punk Rock World on the West Coast to the East.  These Giants weren't the Kings of Rock-n-Roll, though they stood on their shoulders, but they did it jumping up and down and all around, throwing tantrums, kicking down doors, knocking down tables, bad mouthing everyone's name and just not giving a damn cause they did it their way.  "We Were Feared", sounds like a cool title for a cool movie for a documentary, it was, except I didn't see it cause I came too late and saw another movie that had a punk edge...cause it involved a former porn star.
This wasn't a real porn star, but she could've fooled me in the mockumentary-like dramedy that was more tongue-in-cheek comedy titled, "Elektra Luxx" featuring Carla Gugino as a smokin' hot blonde haired porn star who stops hanging up her legs for the public life of teaching her deeply desirable traits to women from everyday life now that she's pregnant and doesn't know who the father really is.  Not it's not the Virgin Mary, though there is some "divine intervention" involved.
The film is introduced by a slick haired Latin gigalo looking movie reviewer (no, I was not cast in this film, but thank you) played by Joseph Gordon Levitt.  Yeah, that's what I thought, after he dropped the accent, because when he started with his adoration of Elektra Luxx I was buying it, so kudos from a man who knows how to do the accent to another who pulled it off.  Of course the sparsely fellow better known from "3rd Rock from the Sun" was funny, refreshing and still living in his mother's basement like a homage to Robert Deniro's "Rupert Pumpkin" character in "The King of Comedy", LOVE IT!

The fairly well known film festival is quite unique as it featured not only films by high profile directors, producers and actors, but a mix of truly independent films (feature length, documentaries, shorts including experimental pieces) from all over the World including countries, like India, Colombia (YAY!), Brazil, Mexico, Chile, France, Italy, Germany, Cameroon, Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Japan, Jordan, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Bulgaria, Nepal, Norway, Sweden, The UK, Ireland, Mozambique, Russia, China, Hungary, Indonesia even Canada and Tadzhikistan.  No it's not a sauce for Greek food (that's taziki), but a feature film called "True Noon"about a village in this country who were now separated with a barbed wire fence after the collapse of the Soviet Union who had worked together for decades.  Speaking of Rock, there is also a spoof Vampire Rock-n-Roll movie starring Alice Cooper, Dave Foley & Malcolm McDowell even Moby as well as a celebrity cast of punk rockers (Iggy Pop & Henry Rollins) who have grown long in the tooth, but  are re-energized after their female bass player is bitten by a vamp only to return with a "sexually charged charisma that drives audiences wild" (official review quote) .  Some of the films were about surfing (for obvious reasons being a part of the localles heritage), architecture & design, coming of age shorts and a plethora of documentaries along with a Youth Film Showcase, free seminars on filmmaking as well as rare Disney animation films.  "Jefe, do you know what a plethora is", oh yessss, I do Señor Guapo, but do you people reading this article?  HAHA...If you don't know the movie that line is from go watch "The 3 Amigos", I don't care how old or young you are it's hilarious, but for another article.  Despite the fact that more than 90 percent of the films were from US filmmakers, many of the documentaries were shot in and about people from war-torn Uganda, tours in Iraq (no not the friendly kind), survival in Tibet, disabled U.S. Olympians in China, a Polish female immigrant in 1880's America, running 75 marathons in 75 days, an environmentally friendly set with a green consultant, a soccer playing couple having pick up games globally, Muslim punker-rockers in Pakistan, the effects of the US-Mexico border, the unseen world of the bottled water industry, parallels of struggle in modern times & The Great Depression, whatever suits your liking could be had with such variety...ah variety, the spice of life.

(L to R: Editor of "We Were Feared" Katy Bright, friend, Producer York Shackleton, Director of the film Jon Mills, Jerry Roach & last Joe Escalante guitarist for the Vandals; photo by John Gilhooley)
Now I came to Newport Beach straight from my job in Manhattan Beach hoping to catch, "We Were Feared", directed by Jonathan W.C. Mills (no not Fields, he was an actor), but lucky for me I was able to enjoy it just on the reputation of this audacious and quite controversial film.  Why do I say that, read the papers or at least online background to a film that was partly previously released in 1981 under the title "Urban Struggle" by Paul Young with the help of the owner, Jerry Roach, of the former "Cuckoo's Nest" bar featured in the film which was the West Coast version of the CBGB in New York kidding.  Now I'm not being biased, but this was the place to be in the late 70's, very early 80's with bands like The Minutemen, T.S.O.L. , D.I., The Adolescents, The Descendents, The Circle Jerks, The Vandals, Black Flag (originally from LA, but added frontman Henry Rollins who hails from DC), even Iggy Pop, The Ramones and a group called Smile.   (THE RAMONES & JERRY ROACH)

Now when I arrived I was already late from the rains and increased traffic that prevailed that auspicious night and having never been to "Fashion Island" in Newport Beach I was like a lost customer at Home Depot looking for spackle when all I see is paint trying to find the best parking spot as well as location of the theater amongst the myriad of stores.  "Just follow the crowd" is the best bet and sure enough, up an escalator and around a corner is the entrance.  I run in only to be stopped by a volunteer with a purple shirt bearing the name of the festival who looks eerily like Dennis Hopper and said, "You gotta buy a ticket in the tent around the corner man".  He goes on to tell me that "We Were Feared" is probably sold out, but go and try.  I came to find 10 people all lined up for the same movie with that look on their face that they should've arrived earlier too save one svelt and sexy woman who on her cell phone mentions "Elektra Luxx".  If I was trying to ask her out, the gist of the movie would easily be a conversation starter, but I want PUNK ROCK DOC!!!  Other volunteers, who were all very professional I might add, start talking on hand held radios, "4 seats available and that's it", oh a chill just went over my body, but I'll stand in the back for 76 minutes while my preferred film plays.  Just a little closer and they allowed two more, 1 guy had a reservation while another pleads he was on a guest list, which has since closed cause the movie is about to start any minute.  So yeah, you guessed it, my luck had run out, but as the old adage goes, when one window closes another one opens up" except this one was wide open for I knew not what I was quite in for when I said, "Give me a ticket to Elektra Luxx, is it good" the cashier replied, "We all want to see it".  That's good enough for me!  "Dennis Hopper's look alike" who I will call Mr. Mike from here on as to not reveal a wonderful source of information after said film, takes my ticket and tells me to hurry up.  I reach a nearly packed house just in time.

As you had previously read, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and didn't answer or take a phone call from my ex-girlfriend who finally called me after leaving me for reasons I was still uncertain about.  Not only do I think it was not the right time to talk, it would be rude especially at someone's premiere as the director, producer or one of the actor's could've been sitting right behind me and I didn't want to get asked to leave.  95 minutes later the satisfied and cheerful audience was left with some funny outtakes that made the film that much funner to watch.  Upon exiting, more volunteers have tear cards for you to rate the film, which I gave an approval of "GOOD".  "EXCELLENT" to me would entail something from a film that was Oscar worthy, nouveau or very deep.  Just to note, Mr. Mike informed me that all the tear cards for "We Were Feared" came back EXCELLENT, he knows, cause he collected them. (Duane Peters & Jerry Roach; photo by John Gilhooley)
Now, I'm by myself, note different groups taking pics in front of the Newport Beach Film Festival banner inside the theatre so I get my picture taken too.  I know there's gotta be an after party after "We Were Feared", but only those who saw the film are invited.  Some of these invitees are bringing in beers, hootin' & hollerin' and figure I look like a filmmaker so as often happens, an attractive female tells me to come to the party to which I reply, "I wasn't invited".  Not only that but it's a "school night" (I had to work the next day & was tired), but to pay $20 to drink myself silly on Absolut & Stellas to drive home...not a good idea all by myself.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for partying, but when I can get better info from chatting with volunteers than hanging out with groupies & filmmakers who aren't looking to talk shop, I must move on.  As I make my way out I am fortunate enough to run into Mr. Mike again down the stairway leading to the parking garage.  We quickly start up a conversation about "We Were Feared" which he was not able to see either, but what he did see will either impress or shock you none-the-less.  Just a side-note, I had played high school football in Orange County and the team I played with the previous 3 years actually beat his Rancho Alamitos Football team in the Conference Championship game, SMALL WORLD, he wasn't bitter...just tripped out on the irony.
(Below a packed house, Duane Peters in the forefront; photo by John Gilhooley)

Now back to the story in progress.  To begin with, just as this night, Sunday's show was sold out and featured a Q&A with the film's producer & director for the media, but also a healthy handful of punk rockers from the Southland area.  Now here is were the story gets racy; before the start of the movie Mr. Mike peaked in to see the crowd which was ripe and raucous, but his attention was soon zoomed in to an old punk rocker "receiving fellatio" from a sexily clad blonde groupie who stopped before he was finished, unfortunately for others...he did finish.  This was just as raw and raunchy as the club that was closed down due to trouble with the police except at that time somebody was shot at and a police office was dragged down the street.  Now there was a shooting involved, but luckily nobody was hurt.

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