The Heavenly Kings Arriving on the Red Carpet
CALL THEM THE HOMECOMING KINGS, the stars of the movie The Heavenly Kings, on the red carpet in front of the San Francisco Castro Theatre. From left to right, Cal grad Andrew Lin, Berkeley native and director Daniel Wu, Aussie-raised Hong Kong supermodel Conroy Chan, and the only real singer in the group, Hong Kong heartthrob Terence Yin.


Q: What do you get when you mix the Village People with the Backstreet Boys and add some Chinese four-spice?

A: Alive – the Hong Kong Boy Band.

The Heavenly Kings, the title of the movie that we saw on Friday night at the Castro Theatre, was our first of 12 scheduled movies – and I have to say, the evening was a home run. Having an excuse the schlep over to the gorgeous Castro Theatre is always a treat, but when you get the “full film festival experience” in addition…well, let’s just I’ll enthusiastically jump over a few more crack bums on the way. (C’est la vie en San Francisco!)

By “full film festival experience” and why we just love, love, love the SF Film Fest: Filmmakers often show up for their films and stay around to discuss the films after, either formally, on stage, in front of the audience, or can be found just milling about the lobby and informally chatting it up with movie-going peeps afterwards. Two years ago, we sat about 10 feet away from Metallica—aw yeah!, and three years ago, we were about 20 feet from Kevin Spacey. (So I just name dropped–so what?)

For the red carpet entrance, the Daily Nug photog (Nugget) said there were at least 20 or 30 women in the front who were screaming at the arrival of the film’s stars. Daniel Wu, who acted in several hit Hong Kong movies before making his directorial debut is a familiar face, as were the film’s other main characters in the film. Conroy Chan, a former Hong Kong male “supermodel”, Andrew Lin, a Hong Kong B-level actor and Cal grad, and Terence Yin, also a famous actor who had previously recorded an album. By the way, Daniel Wu, a Berkeley native, just won a Hong Kong academy award for this film for Best First Time Director.

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Castro Sign Friday Night

The 50th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival is finally here! This is the third year that the Daily Nugget was invited to cover the festival as press. Due to our busy schedules however, Mama and I did not attend the opening night film, The Golden Door, on Thursday night. However, we went to the Castro Theater last night to see a screening of the Hong Kong film,the Heavenly Kings. Mama will be writing a review of the film and I do not want to steal her thunder, so I’ll let her tell you about the film herself in her review post.

The atmosphere at the Castro Theatre was electric. Daniel Wu and his friends are pretty famous actors in Hong Kong, even if most American audiences have no idea who they are. There were several Chinese and Chinese-American girls that knew exactly who these guys were, as evidence by their screams and agitation when they came down the red carpet. Roger Garcia was on hand at the red carpet to welcome the director and actors to the screening.

Castro Marquee

Screaming fans, flashing lightbulbs, a little bit of mayhem on the side of the ropes–it was what I always had pictured red carpets to be, but in a much smaller scale. It wasn’t the Academy Awards or the Grammys, but it was fun to watch and take a few pictures. I had a tiny Canon point-and-shoot camera and was standing behind the “real” photographers from the Chronicle, WireImage, and other event photographers.

I was okay standing a few feet behind and taking in the whole scene–it was a bit surreal. If this night was any indication of the level of excitement at this year’s festival, then we are really excited about the 12 films that we will be watching this year!

The festival runs through May 10th. For tickets, venue information and a complete schedule, go to www.sffs.org or call (925) 866-9559.

Team Prada Marked

In this episode, teams made their way from Hong Kong to Macau and did several tasks, including an amazing Roadblock at the Macau Tower. There were no long plane trips or airports on this leg of the race, just good old fashioned hustle to get from one place to another. Teams were at the mercy of navigational skills for this entire leg, whether their own or their taxi drivers’.

Eric & Danielle who were marked for elimination and yielded on this leg managed to miraculously make up the time. Danny & Oswald were completely screwed by their incompetent taxi driver. The taxi driver drove them to the wrong location on the Detour and the wrong park for the Pit Stop. Danny & Oswald were to blame as well. They wasted a lot of time unable to find the Dragon Detour destination on foot.

Danny & Oswald were lucky to find the last non-elimination leg. Instead they are now marked for elimination, but somehow I doubt that they will be able to run a flawless leg to get to first place. They also will not run a leg like the one Eric & Danielle just ran. Team Prada is likely to go next, but I hope it’s Team Schmirna that goes.

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After six excruciating weeks, the law of averages finally caught up to the worst singer on the American Idol competition. I am sure that the show producers all exhaled a sigh of relief, knowing that sites like Vote for the Worst were unable to get Sanjaya further in the show. Adding insult to injury, Sanjaya cried like a little girl on stage while watching his “end of the road” montage. This guy may have an acting career due to his inexplicable popularity, but he should never ever sing again.

A family business that was founded in 578 closed its doors last year without much fanfare. Kongo Gumi, a Japanese Buddhist temple construction company, was in continuous operation by the founder’s descendants for 1,428 years! A key to success the family claims was to not always hand the reins of the business to the oldest son, instead they chose “the son who best exhibited the health, responsibility, and talent for the job. Furthermore, it wasn’t always a son.” The 38th Kongo to lead the company was grandmother of the 40th, and last, leader.

Despite the company’s history, it was a set of ordinary circumstances that led to its demise. The company borrowed heavily to invest in real estate in the 1980s prior to the Japanese real estate collapse of 1992-1993. Through the 1990s revenue dropped, and by 2006 revenue dropped to the point where it could no longer service the debt. “To avoid a similar demise, evolve as business conditions require, but don’t get carried away with temporary enthusiasms and sacrifice financial stability for what looks like an opportunity.”

I actually found a list of the world’s oldest businesses after reading this story. Now that Kongo Gumi is gone, the oldest business is Hoshi Ryokan, a family inn and spa near an underground hot spring in Japan. It is run by the 46th generation of family members and was founded in 718.

Cho Seung-Hui

The Virginia Tech Massacre shows us that school shootings are no longer a sport reserved for affluent emotionally disturbed suburban white kids. Cho Seung-Hui, the 23-year-old shooter, was an immigrant from South Korea that came to this country at the age of 8. Surely, he could have already been damaged goods when he got here. But he may have also been damaged, or driven over the edge, by our own ultra-materialistic hip-hop youth culture which is probably contributing to driving many of our kids crazy.

He wrote a play about a stepson and stepfather fighting with hammers and chainsaws. He wrote another play about students conspiring to stalk and kill a teacher that molested them. Was the shooter abused at home? Was he molested as a young child? We’ll probably never know. Sure, he probably didn’t have the best parenting. In other societies, people with poor parenting don’t succeed, but they also don’t go on shooting sprees. Why so much here?

What does this say about our society and culture? And more importantly, how can we make changes to ensure that this sport of school shootings doesn’t get corporate sponsorship? Our country is devoid of spiritual connection. People tend to value labels and luxuries instead of each other. Ultimately this may be what drives the kids to shoot. Hey, I am angry that Paris Hilton is a celebrity as much as the next guy, but it’s not worth shooting people over it. Is it?

Eric & Danielle Marked for Elimination

In this episode, teams made their way from Malaysia to Hong Kong. Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong must be the New York to Boston connection in Southeast Asia, because most flights there were booked. Danny & Oswald hustled to get on the first flight, the Beauty Queens and the Schminas got on the second flight, and Eric & Danielle trailed three hours behind on the third flight. At this point, I thought for sure that they were gone.

Luckily for them, this was a non-elimination leg and they were able to stay in the race. The producers edited the leg to build up tension, but everybody knew that even with all of Charla & Mirna’s mistaked that Eric & Danielle were really far behind them. Still, through the magic of editing they almost made it look close. We’ll have to wait for next week to see who’ll be in the final three.

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“Fortunately, nobody was using the toilets when the fire broke out and there were no injuries, the fire would have been just under your buttocks.” Not exactly what you want to hear from your toilet company, but that’s exactly what Toto said in reference to the three incidents of fire for their electronic bidet toilets. The incidents, due to a wiring defect, prompted the manufacturer to do a mass recall of 180,000 bidets in Japan. I guess you could say the company had a fire lit under its ass to fix this.

Self-Righting Object

Weeble Wobbles are played out! Recently two mathematicians from Hungary designed and built an object that rights itself without a weighted bottom. The mathematically constructed object (made of wood and pictured here) has just one stable and one unstable balance point. The object is like a pinched sphere, with a high, steep back and a flattish bottom.

The scientists noticed that their self-righting object looked like a turtle, but have measured several dozen turtles and found that turtles are nearly self-righting but need to kick their legs a bit to come all the way around. Since all of the self-righting objects the scientists have found are smooth and curvy, they wonder if it is possible to create a self-righting polyhedral object. They are offering a prize to the first person to find one: $10,000, divided by the number of sides of the polyhedron.

The scientists are guessing that a self-righting polyhedron would have many thousands of sides. So the prize might only amount to a few pennies. Smart!

PM PC Review from 1982

Here’s a link to a Popular Mechanics article that reviews the top 6 personal computers of 1982. On their comparison test were the Apple II, the Atari 800, the original IBM PC, the Commodore PET 2001, the Radio Shack TRS80 Model III, and the Texas Instruments 99/4A. Most of these machines came with two floppy drives and hard disk drives were sold separately. Personal computers, with a hard drives, had an average cost of $1,900 in 1982. That’s almost $4,100 in today’s dollars! PCs were so expensive at first that they were out of reach for most of the middle class. To put it in perspective cars were about $10,000 in 1982, so a PC was one fifth the price!

However, kids like me could buy used ones pretty easily a few years after their release, when new models made the older models less desirable. My first personal computer was a modded Atari 1200XL (it had an Atari 800XL OS ROM) that I bought used from a friend of mine, with all his software, back in 1985. He sold it to me because his family had bought an Apple IIC. I don’t remember how much I paid for it but it was less than $300 and I was pretty excited about it. Mostly because I could play Karateka and the Zork Trilogy in the comfort of my own room. These early computers were a lot of fun. Via BoingBoing.

Compromise, conformity, assimilation, submission
Ignorance, hypocrisy, brutality, the elite
All of which are American Dreams
— Know Your Enemy, Rage Against the Machine (1992)

Another American Dream is apparently to have a fancy ass casket at a discount price. What better place to find your final ode to consumerism than at Costco!? That’s right, apparently you can buy caskets at Costco now. Crazy.

DNA test proves that Larry Birkhead is Dannielynn’s father. He now stands to share multimillion-dollar inheritance from Anna Nicole’s estate.

Uchenna & Joyce Eliminated

In this episode, teams made their way from Poland to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. All teams chose sensible connections through Paris except for Uchenna & Joyce which chose a connection with only a one-hour layover in Frankfurt. You would think that after hearing the horror story from the last episode that they would have shied away from the tight connection. Instead they went for it, and it cost them dearly.

Uchenna & Joyce were so far back after missing their connection that the entire episode was about the remaining four teams. I totally forgot about Uchenna & Joyce stuck in Frankfurt until the very end of the episode. At least the race organizers sent them straight to the Pit Stop after landing in Malaysia to put them out of their misery. Surely it was because Phil needed to start heading to the next Pit Stop.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger will appear on an episode of MTV’s Pimp My Ride converting a 1965 Chevy Impala to run on biodiesel fuel. Mind you, this is the governor of the State of California! Where’s the decorum for this high office!?

Apple announced that it has sold 100 million iPods and 2.5 billion songs on iTunes. Wow! At an average cost of $250 each, that’s about $25 billion in iPods sold! I think it’s fair to see that their journey to the dark side is complete. Apple is now officially an entertainment company and not much of a computer company in terms of overall market share. Rock on!

Mama and I saw The Killers at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last night. The opening bands, Solar Cake and Howling Bells were, well, as crappy as other opening bands. Between the two openers, I have to give the prize to Solar Cake, since each and everyone of the Howling Bells songs sounded alike: slow tempo over processed shrieky vocals and over modulated guitars. Ugh!

The one thing that we noticed right away was the lousy audio mix for all of the bands. The vocalists were not mixed high enough and the bass was overpowering everything else in the auditorium. Not that the Bill Graham is known for its outstanding acoustics, but we have seen many other acts play there and sound great, including Green Day, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cake, Smash Mouth, and Third Eye Blind. You can get good sound at the Bill Graham, but not so much last night.

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The hilltop property above Hollywood that includes the Magic Castle and the Japanese mansion that houses the Yamashiro Restaurant is up for sale. There is no asking price, but the 10 acre property is sure to fetch a huge price. Part of the property can be developed, but the buyer must preserve the nearly century-old Magic Castle and Yamashiro because they are designated historic landmarks.

Team Guido Eliminated

In this double-sized episode, teams had to make their way from Zanzibar to Poland. All of the teams were given tickets on a flight that landed in Poland the next morning at 11:25AM. This was quite an equalizer. Some teams were at the travel agency for about four hours trying to book better flights. Amazingly, Team Guido left the Pit Stop almost a full 15 hours behind the first place team.

Luckily for them, Eric & Danielle were unable to book flights earlier than their pre-arranged flight. Those two teams were tied for last place. In Kilimanjaro, they missed their connecting flight and fell even further behind the other teams. Teams fell so far behind in fact that in the following leg teams started the next leg before those two teams even finished.

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A judge issued an injunction today against Vonage that bars it from signing up new VoIP subscribers. The injunction comes just one month after a jury found that Vonage infringed on three Verizon patents and ordered Vonage to pay $58 million to Verizon. Now it seems that Vonage will die a slow painful death instead of being decapitated.

A woman in Nanjing, China, fell from a sixth story balcony and suffered only minor injuries after her fall was broken by an 8″ high pile of crap. Luckily, or unluckily depending on your perspective, the pile of human excrement was being emptied from a backed up septic tank at the time of her fall. That’s some strange luck! The moral of the story: a shitty cushion is better than no cushion at all.

Cody’s Books bookstore announced today that it will be shutting its doors on April 20th, less than two years since opening its doors on Stockton Street in October, 2005. Andy Ross, the old-time owner of Cody’s, and now its President, told the Chronicle that only one store will remain on Fourth Street in Berkeley. Sad. That location on Stockton, next to the Virgin Megastore, must be cursed!

As announced back in July 21, 2005, James Doohan’s ashes will finally be blasted into space later this month. Apparently he’ll be going up in a rocket whose sole purpose is to blast some folks into space.

Mama and I returned from Vegas late last night and were substantially up for the trip thanks to Mama. While I broke even for the entire weekend, Mama was up enough to cover our accommodations and meals for four days and three nights! She was treating the blackjack tables as her own personal ATM and even hit up the poker room on the last day to come up even further ahead. Kickass!