A man on a commuter train leaving Grand Central Station pissed off everyone on the train because of his cell phone. Was he talking at the top of his lungs? No, not exactly. He dropped his cell phone into the train’s toilet and proceeded to stick his hand into the toilet in search of his phone–he got stuck. Authorities had to use the “jaws of life” to get him out.

“The toilets are aluminum so I imagine he was down on hands and knees with his shirt rolled up and hand and arm down inside, trying to flush out his cell phone.”
–Jim Cameron of the Connecticut Metro-North commuter council.

I think it’s safe to say that if you drop your phone into a toilet and you don’t see it, it’s the toilet’s phone. Your relationship with the phone is officially over. Deal with it. This is another reason to stick with the free phones that come with cell phone service and not buy the latest $500 phone. Although, I doubt that even a $500 price tag would encourage me to embark in a toilet search and rescue.

Edwin Gallard, 41, of New York, is never going to live this down.

This guy from the Netherlands made a flash animation about the end of the world from California’s point of view. It’s pretty funny, check it out if you have the chance. And be sure to turn your speakers up so you can hear his accent. Big ups to Maria Labos for sending me the link.

The owners of a 7-Eleven in Santa Clara were happy to receive the $250,000 commission from selling a winning lottery ticket in the store. But they were even more stoked to find out they themselves had bought the winning ticket. The couple, who have owned the store for over 16 years, is now $49.7 million richer. Amazingly, they said during a press conference that they plan to continue to run their store and will also continue to buy lottery tickets.

(c) 2003 New York Times

Some people have heard the urban legend of the man that lives in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport. Sadly though, this urban legend is true. Merhan Karimi Nasseri has been stranded in the airport in Paris, France for over 15 years.

Nasseri is an Iranian refugee to Belgium that through an amazing tale of bad luck and circumstance ended up at the Paris airport without any documents or country of origin. He was traveling to England to receive assylum there and lost his documentation in transit. When he landed at Heathrow, London, they sent him back to Charles de Gaulle Airport–he has been stranded there since 1988.

In 1995, he was given an opportunity to leave the airport and return to Belgium under the supervision of a social worker, but he refused. In 1999, the French government granted him assylum in France, but he refuses to sign the papers because they identify him as Iranian, not British. Some say he is “afraid” to leave the airport and his mental health has deteriorated over the years. His lawyer even fears that he will die at the airport.

This website has a brief history of his plight, including a 1997 Boston Globe article and a 1999 article from the Irish Examiner. After additional research, I found a recent New York Times article (free registration required) about Nasseri and his dealings with Dreamworks. Spielberg is directing a film inspired by his real-life story. The Times article is hopeful, quoting Nasseri as saying that he was planning on leaving the airport soon. Let’s hope he does.

I have lived California for almost 25 years and am no stranger to wildfires. They happen in the late fall months when Santa Ana Winds kick up and feed what would normally be small brush fires into uncontrollable infernos. The current wildfires in Southern California have already killed 13 people and destroyed over 825 homes. These are the worst fires California has had since the Oakland Hills fires that killed 25 and destroyed more than 3200 homes over ten years ago.

Update: By late afternoon, the tally is still rising–13 people and 1,100 homes. Below, a crazy look at Southern California from an orbiting satellite showing smoke plumes billowing from the fires. It looks like a fifth of the state is on fire.

Southern California Fires From Space

On a lighter note, check out this photo series of Kermit the Frog chillin’ at the office. Just click on “slide show” and enjoy. Big ups to Sam for the link.

Supervisor Chris Daly Acting a Fool

Mayor Willie Brown returned to craziness in City Hall today after a trip to Tibet. While Brown was away, City Supervisor Chris Daly (pictured), was supposed to be the acting mayor of San Francisco for one day. He decided to use his temporary powers to appoint two vacancies in the city’s Public Utilities Commission. The move has been criticized by many as a violation of trust between the mayor’s office and the board of supervisors. It has also been described as political suicide by many polical insiders, since political opponents to Willie Brown typically don’t prosper. Earlier this year, Brown became engaged in a yelling match with Supervisor Peskin and screamed, “You are full of shit! You don’t know me, motherfucker, you don’t know what a killer I am!” Deeyam! I wouldn’t want to be Chris Daly right now–Willie knows Michael Corleone.

Fred Berry, the actor that played Rerun in the 1970’s sitcom What’s Happenning, died in Alabama at the age of 52. One of my favorite TV skits always happened on this show. Raj, Rerun, and Dwayne would always try to garner sympathy from people by lying about Raj’s mom being sick. They would tap each other as a prompt to say “Poor Mrs. Thomas,” eventually even tapping their intended victim. My best friend and I decided years ago that if we ever started a band it would be called “Poor Mrs. Thomas” as a tribute to this show. Homie will be missed.

I received a call from a headhunter today for the first time since June, 2002. This may very well be a sign that the economy is truly starting to pick up. I have no intention on leaving my current position, but it’s always flattering. Ah, I remember the good ‘ol days when headhunters would call us tech guys almost daily, when you could find a new job literally overnight, and we weren’t so much finding our jobs as we were just “choosing” them. It will never be like that again, but I hope we’re headed in that direction.

A man survived going over Niagara Falls today with nothing except the clothes on his back. Unlike other survivors which have gone over the falls in barrels and other makeshift devices, this man simply dove into the water and went head first over the falls. He pulled himself onto rocks below shortly after, to the amazement of onlookers and tourists. It is unknown if he went over the falls intentionally.

Update (10/22/2003): The man, identified as Kirk Jones of Canton, Michigan, said that his jump was “implulsive.” He will be charged by police and fined $10,000 for the stunt. Family and friends say that Jones had been considering the stunt for years in hopes of making money from the notoriety. What a dumb ass!

A 27-year-old Japanese man sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday afternoon after completing the 5,374 mile journey across the Pacific from Osaka to San Francisco. The trip took over two and a half months. Inspired by past Japanese sailors that have sailed around the world, the young man dedicated his trip, and his boat, to his deceased father. That’s awesome.

4 Stars

Lost in Translation is a beautifully shot film that captures the anxiety and sadness of two individuals that feel lost and without purpose in a foreign country. The Japanese scenery is breathtaking and the soundtrack, at times, hypnotic. Sophia Coppola establishes amazing mood as the backdrop to the plot.

Bill Murray does an excellent job in this film. He plays Bob Harris, a sad and sweet over-the-hill actor in Tokyo to shoot a series of commercials and print ads for Suntory Whisky. Bob does not know the Japanese culture or language and feels a bit disoriented. Sadly, he is also disoriented because he is away from his kids and the relationship with his wife is deteriorating, as evidenced in some very cold phone calls back home. He can’t sleep.

Bob meets Charlotte in the hotel bar, a young Yale graduate tagging along with her workaholic photographer husband who is on assignment. Charlotte is trying to find a sense of purpose in her life, and her lack of purpose is only amplified by Japan’s strange surroundings. Scarlett Johansson does an amazing job as Charlotte, portraying a young woman in crisis trying to find herself. She can’t sleep either. Bob and Charlotte find each other in this hotel in the middle of bustling Tokyo and share an immediate connection.

Read more

Kobe Bryant’s defense attorney called the discovery of another man’s semen and pubic hairs in the victim’s panties compelling evidence of Kobe’s innocence. Pamela Mackey wasted no time getting Detective Doug Winters to say that the yellow underwear the woman wore to her rape exam at a hospital the next day contained sperm from another man, along with Caucasian pubic hair. Legal experts say that the preliminary hearing has been a disaster for the prosecution. The judge will rule by Monday as to whether Bryant will have to face trial in the rape case. Stay tuned.

Incredibly, Rodney King is at it again. This time beating the hell out of his girlfriend. He allegedly tried to choke her and punched her in the stomach during a dispute this weekend. Damn, I remember he was acting a fool as recently as April (read old blog entry)–he is such a fucking loser. Therapy, Rodney, therapy!

3 Stars

Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico is current film in the El Mariachi saga. It follows the continuing exploits of El Mariachi (Banderas) while he seeks revenge for the death of Carolina (Hayek) and their daughter. The backdrop to vengance is a presidential coup d’etat being manipulated by a CIA agent (Depp).

Depp’s character is excellent, adding enough complexity and comedy to make the film very entertaining. However, the film does not have the raw sexuality and style of Desperado and relies on action elements that were already explored in both of the previous films. Although it is an entertaining film, it pales in comparison to Rodriguez’s earlier efforts.

4 Stars

Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill appropriately opens with words uttered by Ricardo Montalban’s Khan in Star Trek II, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Khan preceded the quote by explaining that it was an old Klingon proverb and Tarantino credited the quote as such. But there were those in the audience that knew exactly who said the words and when. This film was made for those people.

Who are these people? People who have loyally watched the Star Trek franchise go through its ups and, most recently, its downs. People who watched in awe as Bruce Lee fought his way up the pagoda in Game of Death. People who loved Japanese anime before Robotech brought it to the Western masses. People that would go out of their way to watch seventies Hong Kong films like the Drunken Master, Master of the Flying Guillotine, and Sony Chiba’s samurai classics like Samurai Reincarnation.

Kill Bill pays homage to all these influences and more with style. It doesn’t assume that everyone in the audience can identify the plethora of inside jokes and references to other films and genres. Instead it presents the concepts with a certain amount of style and grace that is reserved only for truly great directors.

It is a movie that exploits everything in extremes–like a comic book come to life–like, or dare I say, pulp fiction. And yes, even the extreme violence is done using extreme style. Blood doesn’t simply ooze out of severed limbs and body cavities, instead it sprays forcefully as if dancing through a concert of park fountains. It is a visual assault that grabs you and doesn’t let go.

It is nothing new, movies about revenge have been done before. However, the strong female warrior themes that are exploited in this film are concepts that are new to American cinema. Concepts that are long overdue and should be celebrated, even if the subject of revenge is “a little violent.”

So, I urge you not to kill Kill Bill, but to kill the critics. For taking the over-the-top pulp fiction violence literally, for not seeing the underlying message of female independence, and for not recognizing the stylistic genius of Tarentino for a few severed limbs. Kill the critics by watching this film en masse and proving that critical acclaim is never a vital ingredient for box office success.

In today’s preliminary hearing, a detective recounted the details of the case as described by the accuser. The details according to the story are as follows:

The Los Angeles Lakers star was joined by the 19-year-old woman on a tour of a resort where she worked, and the two ended up in his hotel suite, the detective said. After some consensual kissing, Bryant asked the woman to show him a tattoo on her back.

When she turned around, Bryant grabbed her by the neck, controlling her movements and preventing her from leaving, pulled up her skirt and raped her against a chair. She told investigators she told Bryant “no” at least twice, before bursting into tears as the five-minute attack went on.

During and after the attack Bryant kept asking, “You are not going to tell anyone, right?” She said she agreed at one point. “She said the reason she told him ‘no’ was for fear of…she didn’t want him to commit more physical harm to her.”

The accuser told the detective that she tried to pry Bryant’s fingers away, and he stopped. Bryant then told her to clean up and leave, and asked her not to tell anyone, the detective said in his testimony.

Before she left his room, Bryant told her that she needed to kneel down and kiss his penis, the accuser said, according to the detective. She did that because she was scared of Bryant, and he warned her several times not to tell anyone, the detective said, according to her. The accuser said she then went down and told the bellman her story.

It’s amazing that Kobe Bryant’s attorneys agreed to the preliminary hearing knowing that the details of the case would become public. Legal experts speculate that the legal team wants to cross-examine the witnesses. I just wonder when we’ll hear Kobe’s side of the story.

Phil Jackson stated in no uncertain terms that if Kobe Bryant cannot play this season due to the sexual assault case that he would want Michael Jordan to come out of retirement and play with the Lakers. However, Jordan immediately stated in no uncertain terms that this was not going to happen. Of course, this is what he initially said before playing for the Wizards. Stay tuned.

Never a dull moment in this state. Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to be our new governor today. I did not vote for Arnold. As a minority, I could not stand behind a man that once glorified Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. However, now that he’s been elected, I do hope that he will be able to lead the state effectively and with integrity until 2006.

Interestingly, the majority of the Bay Area voted against the recall, while the majority of Southern California voted for the recall. San Francisco once again illustrated that it is the most liberal city in the state with an 80% vote against the recall–that’s amazing. One thing is certain, regardless as to who is governor, I wouldn’t want to live any place else.

Now that the madness is over, the first order of business for the new governor and this legislature is to change the recall laws to ensure that these “do over” elections do not happen again.

In the eve of the election, I certainly hope that Californians will not vote Arnold Schwarzenegger into office. Alas, the recall is losing momentum in last minute polls. Our state holds its collective breath until tomorrow.

Big ups to our friends, Larry and Tina, who just created an entry video to appear on the next production of The Amazing Race. Most people we know only say they’ll tryout, but they actually did it, nine page entry form and all. We wish them the best of luck and look forward to seeing them on the show!

Only in New York. In another tiger story, police charged a Harlem housing project tenant with reckless endangerment after finding a 425-pound 20-month-old Siberian-Bengal tiger and a 5-foot-long 300-pound alligator in his apartment.

Antoine Yates, the 31-year-old owner of the animals was recovering in a nearby hospital from bite wounds inflicted by the tiger, although he had initially told police they were inflicted by a pit bull dog. Once at the hospital, anonymous calls (mostly from pissed off neighbors) alerted police to the animals.

According to authorities, the tenant had kept the tiger in the apartment since it was a 6-week-old cub. A team of animal control officers, police and Bronx Zoo workers removed the animals from the fifth-floor apartment on Saturday.

Roy Horn, superstar illusionist of the famous Siegfried and Roy Las Vegas magic show, was bit on the neck by a tiger on Friday night and was seriously injured. Immediately after the incident, Siegfried Fischbacher appeared on stage and told the 1,500 audience members the performance was canceled. Roy underwent emergency surgery last night and this morning he is still listed in critical condition.

The German-born pair perform six shows a week, 44 weeks per year and have been performing in Las Vegas for over 35 years. Their show is one of the most well known and most expensive in Las Vegas. In 2001, the duo signed a lifetime contract with the Mirage, but as of today the show is cancelled indefinitely.

Adding insult to injury, Roy Horn was attacked on the night of his 59th birthday.

“I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it.”
–Arnold Schwarzenegger, On Adolph Hitler c. 1975

Arnold denounced the quote that was published by the New York Times yesterday. According to the story, in a 1975 book proposal by film producer George Butler, Schwarzenegger reportedly expressed his admiration for Hitler.

Also, according to the book transcripts as reported by the Times on Thursday, Butler considered Schwarzenegger to be a “flagrant, outspoken admirer of Hitler,” who also frequently played Nazi marching tunes and “pretended to be an S.S. officer.”

The New York Times essentially confirmed allegations that were made by Butler and the crew of Pumping Iron over 25 years ago. I think it would be a good idea to check out the entire New York Times story for refernce at their site, but you’ll have to register.

Damn, two stories on the same day in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. We’re not talking the Enquirer and the Globe here, these are the two most reputable news organizations in the country. Arnold is getting terminated.

“So I want to say to you, yes, that I have behaved badly sometimes…and to those people that I have offended, I want to say to them I am deeply sorry about that and I apologize…”
–Arnold Schwarzenegger, Earlier Today in Reply to Los Angeles Times Story

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mark A. Popp
Bush Presidential Inaugural, January 20, 2001
Arnold is seen here fondling another ass!

Today, the Los Angeles Times published a story about Arnold’s sexist behavior. Six different women stated that Arnold made unwelcomed sexual advances to them on movie sets from the late 1970’s through the year 2000. The Times conducted and extensive seven-week investigation before publishing the article.

Then, there is the March 2001 Premiere article written by John Connolly. In this article, boorish behavior by Arnold towards women is documented from many different sources. According to the article, during a press junket in Europe he allegedly groped one reporter’s breasts to “check if they were real.” Just for the record, John Connolly and Premiere Magazine were never sued for defamation and the magazine stands by its research for the story.

Sexist and racist? There’s also the Slate article that uncovers Arnold’s close ties to Kurt Waldheim, a widely esteemed former secretary general of the United Nations who was running for president of Austria in March 1986 when it came to light that he had participated in Nazi atrocities during World War II.

According to the same article, in the famed documentary, Pumping Iron, Arnold makes a foolish comment praising Hitler. WTF!? This calls into question all of his fundraising and donations to the Simon Weisenthal center, which now seem very duplicitous. This is proof that money can buy legitimacy even if to this day Arnold has not renounced Waldheim, a Nazi war criminal, publicly. Mind you, this is the same man that is trying to rally the minority vote in California.

After looking past Arnold’s public image, if you are a woman or a minority, you really have no business putting Arnold into office. Not to mention the question of him being qualified to perform the job. Somehow I don’t see Arnold running the State legislature effectively, but maybe that’s just me. You be the judge.

Japanese schoolgirls, and some boys for that matter, dress themselves up in weird shit all the time. In fact, there are magazines devoted to the crazy fashions, which sometimes include dressing up like video game characters, cartoon characters, or even victorian sluts, also known as Gothic Lolita clothing.

One Japanese magazine called, appropriately, Fruits, shows pictures of young people in public wearing the most outlandish shit you’ve ever seen. These are actual shots of kids in Japan–crazy. Should you ever come across a copy of this magazine, you’ll want to make sure you empty your bladder before reading it.