I am heading off to New York City until Wednesday.  I am part of my firm’s National Hispanic Network Advisory Board and we are having a meeting at my firm’s Park Avenue headquarters.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to do some touristy things around the city even though I will only be there a couple of days.

A Brazilian priest wanting to break the 19-hour party balloon flight record took off from Sao Paulo, Brazil (see video) on Tuesday, apparently to never to be seen again.  I am really not making this up!  The priest took off strapped to hundreds of helium party balloons equipped with a satellite phone.  High winds took him off course and he reportedly was 30 miles from shore when he contacted authorities.  The Brazilian Air Force immediately went looking for him but suspended their search after two days.  The moral of the story:  if you strap yourself to nearly a thousand balloons not even god can save you.

During the next two weeks, 177 films will screen from more than 50 countries. It’s the largest film event in Northern California, and more than 10 percent of all movie tickets sold in San Francisco this year will be to a movie in this festival (kind of mind-blowing when you think about it – wow, SF really likes independent films!) Aw yeah, Nug readers – the SF International Film Festival is on. It’s the oldest film festival of its kind in the United States, and considered to be one of the Top-10 film festivals in the world. Sure, it’s a venerated, lauded institution and this is their main event, with a ton of notable world premieres, North American premieres and West Coast premieres scheduled — like the scheduled world premiere of Andy Garcia’s documentary on Cachao.  Andy Garcia not only directs and acts as a lead in the documentary, but he is rumored to appear at the opening of the film.

But why we love it: because even in a post-Netflix world, occasionally movies are a once-in-a-lifetime event. In 2003, we watched a screening of Oliver Stone’s movie about Fidel Castro, “Comandante.” It was scheduled to air on HBO three months after the film festival – big whoop. It was presumed that if you missed it at the film festival, it seemed certain that you would be able to watch it a few months. But what happened next sealed the movie’s fate: just a few weeks after the screening, Castro went on a rampage and executed a few people without proper trials. The international climate changed and for some reason, Stone was forbidden to screen the movie ever, anywhere, ever again. Stone, the only American film director ever granted permission by Castro to make a documentary about him, with exclusive months-long access to the reclusive revolutionary – all to be shelved like the McGruder film, and will need something like Freedom-of-Information-Act request to ever see the light of day. Who knew that one of Nugget’s early posts to this blog would be one of the few things ever to be written about it?

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Wesley Snipes as Blade

Wesley Snipes was found guilty of tax evasion charges in Florida in a case that started almost two years ago and is awaiting sentencing.  The IRS claimed that he owed $12 million in taxes because he filed false refunds.  Not only will Snipes have to pay these back taxes and interest, which have now been found to total over $15 million, but the Assistant Attorney General prosecuting the case wants Snipes to pay a $5 million fine and spend three years in prison!

Snipes attorneys say that probation is the appropriate punishment and submitted three dozen letters from friends of Snipes attesting to his character. Those coming to Snipes’ aid included Denzel Washington and Woody Harrelson. 

I think the most damning evidence is that documents filed by the IRS prove that Snipes shipped millions of dollars to accounts in Switzerland, Antigua and the Isle of Man to avoid paying taxes on that money.  Blade is guilty and he should get some prison time if you ask me.  Rich people shouldn’t continue to get away with this shit.  I pay my taxes, why shouldn’t this bitch?

Update: Snap!  Snipes was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

A chronicle reporter, Debra Saunders, was chastised by San Franciscans after she called people that earn between $200,000 and $250,000 a year "rich."  One lawyer said that "salary cannot make one rich because a ‘rich’ person does not need to work. Like Bruce Wayne."  I think this was an attempt by this lawyer to argue that the word "rich" pertains to a person’s wealth and not their income.  I mean really.  How spoiled are these people that contacted the reporter to complain!?

If you make $200,000 or more you may not be wealthy now, but you certainly have the means to amass a decent level of wealth over 20 years of earning that much money.  Over $4 million over 20 years to be exact.  Add to that several shrewd investments and compound interest and those $4 million in earnings could conservatively double.  That’s not a bad deal.  San Franciscans and the top income earners in the state just need to concentrate on what they have, rather than what they don’t have.

The reporter points out that people in that $200,000 or more earn more than 93 percent of the people in San Francisco and more than 97 percent of the people in the entire country!  She concedes that the top 5 percent of income earners pay 60 percent of the nation’s taxes.  These San Franciscans can argue that they pay too much in taxes, but they shouldn’t cry poor because "it looks bad to the other 97 percent."  I agree, be grateful for what you have and invest you spoiled babies!

Foreclosures in the Bay Area are up 300% for the quarter compared to a year ago. The bleeding will likely continue in the months ahead too.  Mortgage defaults, the first step to foreclosure, are also up about 150% for the quarter compared to a year ago.  Granted, things are not that bad in San Francisco county where only 124 homes were foreclosed out of the 6,579 homes foreclosed in the entire nine-county Bay Area region.

Audi R10 TDI #2

I took this photo of the Audi R10 TDI #2 as it flew
past us on turn 9 by aiming through a hole in the fence!

We are back from Long Beach but I haven’t had any time to download all of the photos off the camera except for this one. Watching the American Le Mans Series race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Saturday was a highlight for me because I got a chance to photograph my favorite car in action (pictured here).  It’s funny that after playing Forza Motorsport 2 it totally felt like I had actually driven some of the Le Mans Series cars, but seeing (and hearing) them live made me realize that Forza is only a game.  I will post the rest of the photos later this week.

Mama and I are heading to Long Beach to visit with family and friends and watch the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix.  We’re returning on Monday.  This race will be the last ChampCar race, since the open wheel racing leagues merged earlier this year.  Unfortunately it will be missing all of the top ChampCar drivers, since they all made their move to IRL.

Gamespot is reporting that pre-sales figures for the upcoming GTA IV video game are upwards of 6 million units and that the game is poised to generate $400 million in sales for the first week.  With those types of numbers it may be able to surpass The Sims as the top selling video game of all time.  GTA IV is scheduled for release on April 29th for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Nobody, absolutely nobody, would have picked the Lakers to be the top seed in the West heading into the playoffs.  But guess what player haters!?  The Lakers are the top seed in the West once again and will have home court advantage through the playoffs!  The Lakers have held the No. 1 spot in the West total of 14 times since the conference format started in 1970.  Kobe also had his 4,000th career assist in last night’s game, making him only the 16th player in NBA history to move past that 21,000 points and 4,000 assists.  I smell MVP and perhaps another ring!  Go Lakers!

Representin' with My Jersey

The Lakers could have traded Kobe when he had a meltdown, but they didn’t.  The Lakers could have traded Bynum when they received offers earlier this year, but they didn’t.  The Lakers could have given up on playing defense this year, but they didn’t.  The Lakers almost blew a 30-point lead last night against the Hornets, but they didn’t.  Where does that leave ’em!?  Pacific Division Champs with home court advantage and with an opportunity to be the top seeded team in the Western Conference.  I thought that they would simply miss the playoffs–again!

I was so happy about the news this morning that I dusted off my old Lakers shooting jersey (pictured here) that has been waiting to be worn until the Lakers were contenders again.  I wore my jersey proudly today and even had four or five people to express their support with "Go Lakers!"  In San Francisco!  That’s crazy! Not since the Kobe-Shaq days has there been this much excitement about these guys. If the Hornets lose one of their last three and the Lakers win two of their last three, including games against the Spurs and the Kings, they will be the top berth team in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs.  Go Lakers!

Frontier Airlines filed for bankruptcy but will continue operations.  Aloha, ATA, and Skybus filed for bankruptcy and completely shutdown in recent weeks.  American Airlines and other carriers with MD-80 aircraft have canceled many of their flights for inspections and maintenance.  You know, the inspections and maintenance that they should have been doing all along.

With all of these canceled flights, you would think passengers would brush up on the refund rules, particularly this one: "Passengers whose schedules are significantly affected by cancellations — such as when the only available alternate flight involves flying on a different day or includes an unplanned stopover — are eligible for a refund in lieu of a later flight."  People just need to learn how to stand their ground and demand refunds instead of being herded like sheep.

Mama called someone a freak-a-zoid this morning and it reminded of the song from Midnight Star.  And now, thanks to the Internets, I was able to find a video for the song that I had never seen before.  The video is freakier than the song itself:  it has a bunch of sadly dated computer graphics and the "whitest guy they could find" acting like a mime.  Wow, you gotta love the eighties.

HTML Tattoo

This tattoo means "end head, begin body"
in HTML markup

Here’s one of many nerd tattoos that you can find by Googling the terms nerd tattoo or geek tattoo.  Oh, and do not forget to Google nerdcore tattoo, because those nerdcore kids take the nerd hardcore and to a completely different level in my opinion.

My favorite of the bunch I looked at is one by the name of Mario Jedi, a mash-up of Donkey Kong’s Mario and a Star Wars Jedi Knight into one outrageously crazy nerdy tattoo.  Sure, Mario looks cool now on your bicep while wearing a Jedi Knight outfit but how do you explain that wrinkled mess on your arm to your grandkids.  How are they going to feel about grandpa then!?

"Ooh, that’s going to leave a mark!"

This was the question being asked by everyone along the planned Olympic Torch route by fans and protesters alike.  Where was the torch!?  Nowhere near the original route (see map below) because the route was changed at the very last minute.  Even members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors didn’t know about the route change ahead of time.  There were people that came from all over the Bay Area to see the end of the torch run at Justin Herman Plaza who were denied because the torch never got there.  I was bummed that I couldn’t leave work to go see the historic run, but I would have been really pissed if I got to the Embarcadero and there was no torch.  I guess it was a pretty good call not to go.  In all fairness, Newsom warned everyone that this might happen, but it still sucks.  It’s interesting to see the national news coverage from CNN, not nearly as much detail as what you get from SFGate on a local event.

Torch Relay Route Map

Please notice the extra special fuckery of starting at the planned start
of the original route only to almost immediately drive away.  Surprise bitches!

Spy Camera Sunglasses

Coolest spy sunglasses ever!

ThinkGeek has these sunglasses with an embedded 1.3 megapixel camera and remote control shutter built-in. The ultimate in "cool as shit" spy gear that would have made me "cuckoo for cocoa puffs" in sixth grade. It’s no fair that kids that have $100 will get a chance to wear these in school, museums and other places where cameras just aren’t allowed.  The sunglasses also allow you to enjoy your music via MP3 playback. Built-in earbuds allow you to play James Bond music as you take photos.

After the craziness in Paris and on the bridge, Mayor Gavin Newsom said the planned 6-mile torch route along the central waterfront and around Fisherman’s Wharf could change up to and even during the relay.  I guess they are going to try and keep the fans and the protesters guessing as to the route until the very last minute.  I predict chaos and hope to be able to get away from work to see it first hand on Wednesday afternoon.

Tibet Bridge Protesters

Three pro-Tibet protesters climbed the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge, reached a height of 150 feet above the roadway, and unfurled pro-Tibet banners earlier today.  One banner read “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 08,” and the second one read simply “Free Tibet.” The stunt was filmed and photographed from every possible direction (the photo above was taken by a Chronicle reporter) and is sure to garner a lot of national attention.  This protest by Students for a Free Tibet comes just two days before the arrival of the Olympic Torch on Wednesday.

I just read The Bizarre History of 10 Common Sayings and almost peed my pants.  My favorite one in the bunch is #4 "The Wrong End of the Stick," it’s laugh out loud funny.  You can just stop there because the top three are pretty lame and not funny in my opinion.  Some of the language in the article is NSFW so please use common sense in opening the link.

Protesters in Paris were so rowdy that officials extinguished the Olympic Torch and rushed it onto buses at least five times during the parade route.  The Olympic flame itself, lit from the birthplace of the ancient games in Olympia, Greece and used to light the torch, continued to burn in a small lantern inside the bus.  Things got so ugly that the last part of the torch relay was cancelled.  The torch was was to head into a sports stadium in south of Paris at the end of the relay.

Please keep in mind that the protests in London and Paris were in places where there isn’t a large Asian population.  San Francisco will likely have many Chinese and Tibetan people organizing to support and protest the torch relay respectively. And it seems that nobody is on the wrong side of this issue, which makes it complicated. With charged emotions on both sides, expect there to be a brouhaha during the torch route on Wednesday.

The Olympic Torch relay in San Francisco will start at AT&T Park and will make its way up the Embarcadero to Aquatic Park.  It will then return through Fisherman’s Wharf and down the Embarcadero to end its journey at Justin Herman Plaza across from the Ferry Building.  This short 6-mile route will be run from 1:00pm to 3:30pm on Wednesday afternoon.  Let’s get ready to rumble!

The Last Mistress

Asia Argento as The Last Mistress

We have finally made our film selections for this year’s festival.  As always, we will try and bring you a special report about the opening night excitement.

The opening night film this year will be The Last Mistress (France 2007), directed by Catherine Breillat.  The film is based on a controversial novel by 19th century author Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly.  The story centers on a Frenchman on the verge of marrying an innocent aristocratic young French socialite.  But before doing so, he confesses to an affair with a Spanish mistress to the bride’s grandmother. A surprisingly open-minded old woman, the grandmother seems to delight in every sordid detail of the young man’s relationship with his mistress.

The other films that we will be watching during this year’s festival are as follows:

Just Like Home (Denmark, 2007)
Black Belt (Japan, 2007)
Mataharis (Spain, 2007)
Water Lilies (France 2007)
Solitary Fragments (Spain 2007)
Shadows in the Palace (South Korea 2007)
Big Man Japan (Japan 2007)
Under the Bombs (France/Lebanon/England/Belgium 2007)
Secrecy (United States 2007)
Timecrimes (Spain 2007)
The 51st Annual San Francisco International Film Festival starts on Thursday, April 24th and runs through Thursday, May 8th.  Tickets are available on the film festival website or you may also order by phone by calling (925) 866-9559.  We look forward to seeing you all there!

Protesters in London tried to snuff out the Olympic Torch during relay but failed.  The torch goes on to Paris tomorrow and will be in San Francisco by Wednesday morning.  Stay tuned for similar mayhem when the torch arrives here.

Jay-Z and Beyonce

Jay-Z gets the money and the girl

Earlier this week, there was a story that Jay-Z was in the middle of negotiating a $150 million deal with Live Nation for tour performances over the next 10 years to promote 3 future albums. 

Well, apparently on Friday Jay-Z, 38, and Beyonce, 26, were married on Friday putting to an end a 6-year courtship.  They reportedly tied the knot in a small ceremony in Jay-Z’s apartment. Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities were spotted by paparazzi as they arrived at Jay-Z’s place on Friday and friends of the couple leaked the good news.  No official word from their publicists as of yet.

Well, if it’s true, this guy is big pimpin’ for’real!  All he needs to do is finalize the New Jersey Nets’ relocation to Brooklyn, New York and his plans for world domination will be nearly complete.

We walked over to Union Square yesterday not to participate in the Human Rights Torch protest, but to check out the size of the crowd.  Surprisingly, there were only a couple of hundred people there.  There were a bunch of cameras and news crews, so the event was well publicized.  But the attendance was expected to be a couple of thousand.  The guy on the microphone was not very charismatic and couldn’t seem to get the whole crowd excited about the cause.  It seems to me that  the whole protest was a big bust.

Today, the Chronicle ran a story saying that most Asians in San Francisco are fretting at the disrespect being shown to the Olympic Torch by these protests.  Many believe that the Olympic Torch relay should be a celebration of the strong cultural, historic and economic ties between San Francisco and shouldn’t be disrupted by political demonstrations.  Maybe this explains the low turnout yesterday in Union Square which is only a few blocks from Chinatown.

Asians in the city are also not at all pleased about a resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors that called for Gavin Newsom to receive the Olympic Torch with "alarm and protest."  A local attorney and community leader said the following:

"We understand your rights of free speech, by all means, but be a gracious host, be sensitive to the fact that in San Francisco one-third of your inhabitants are Asians…Many of us, Chinese Americans, in the city, we may not be supporting the Chinese government, but to politicize this game and to use this torch relay as a platform to bash China to me is unacceptable."

Since the Olympic Torch is only visiting San Francisco in North America, if public demonstrations or public officials do something to insult the Olympics it will only further sully the image of San Francisco in the eyes of the rest of the country, and the image of America in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Earlier today, upon returning from a walk to the Ferry Building (2.5 miles round trip), I noticed a strange bump on the top of my right foot.  The bump is pretty hard, about the size of a marble, and doesn’t hurt at all.  Weird right!? I of course went on a Googling expedition to find out what the hell it is.  After some searches, I found out that it is likely a ganglion cyst that developed from injuring my foot while walking 12-14 miles in a couple of days last week while in Washington, DC.  Either that or it happened when I twisted my foot walking to work the other day after my return from DC.  Either way this thing on my foot looks really weird, I certainly hope it goes away on its own soon.

Human Rights Torch

Woman holding the
Human Rights Torch.

Three separate torches will be running through San Francisco this week.  First, the Human Rights Torch will be making its way through downtown today, starting at 11:00am in Union Square.  On Tuesday, the Tibetan Freedom Torch will make its way through The City.  And finally on Wednesday, the Olympic Torch will make its way through The City on its only North American leg.

Many of the people attending the rallies and events are expected to protest the Olympic Torch when it is here on Wednesday.  The protesters just need a couple of days to practice yelling at some torches before the real one arrives on Wednesday.

Hopefully, the only thing burning will be the torches and the protests will remain peaceful.  A bunch of angry protesters with their own torches certainly wouldn’t be a good idea.  You should consider coming out to Union Square today to see what the controversy surrounding the Olympic Torch is all about.

Today, the third airline in one week filed for bankruptcy!  What the hell, everyone is doing it.  Not to be outdone by Aloha and ATA, Skybus Airlines declared bankruptcy and shut down.  Skybus is relatively small compared to Aloha or even ATA, which leads me to believe that a lot of smaller carriers are going to go down in the next couple of months.  With the most recent job figures, most economists now believe we’re in a recession so all kinds of craziness will ensue as confidence declines.  Stay tuned.

In the video above, please check out the drummer in the background.  He is totally channeling Tommy Lee in a spinning drum cage circa 1987 like on the Girls, Girls, Girls tour.  This guy seems totally out of place from the rest of the band and it’s funny as all hell.  He definitely stole the show in this performance.  Big ups to Meerenai for emailing me this gem.

ATA Airlines followed Aloha Airlines in declaring bankruptcy and shutting down.  Another one bites the dust!  ATA serves many airports, including Kona in Hawaii and Oakland where many travelers were left stranded and will have to make other arrangements to travel.  I wonder how many more will fold?

Mariah Carey

Mariah laughing all the way to the bank

Mariah Carey surpassed Elvis in No. 1 singles with “Touch My Body,” her 18th No. 1 single.  She is now second to only The Beatles, who managed 20 No. 1 singles in their illustrious career.  That is incredible!  If someone would have told me 10 years ago that this chick was going to someday be within striking distance to the Beatles record I would have said they were crazy.  I guess it helps that she is pretty good looking.

In Googling for a photo of Mariah for this post I found a whole lot of boob shots and crotch shots for her.  I picked this one because believe it or not, it was one of the more conservative photos and this blog is after all a family show.  I can’t help but think that if she didn’t look like a porn star that she likely wouldn’t be as popular.

I know she *can* sing, I am not saying that she can’t!  I just think that her overwhelming success wouldn’t have been possible without all of the bikini shots and the Playboy pics.    Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  It just adds to her allure.  I am sure that Mariah is going to juice her looks for as long as she possibly can.  After all, it’s a lot harder to sing “Touch My Body” when you are in your forties or fifties.  She is still looking hot so she’s working it.  Besides, you don’t want to see a grandma singing that song do you?

Google lays off 300 from DoubleClick making this the first job cuts in Google history.  Google had acquired DoubleClick last month, so this could just be a way of reducing overlapping functions.  Either way, its a reduction in force and a clear sign that the economic downturn is hitting everyone.

dot dot dot com redux

Score: 73% (11 out of 15)

How much do you know about Internet URLs?  Test yourself with this handy quiz over at mental floss.  I personally scored a 73% just by using common sense on some of the URLs that were part of the quiz.  I think a lot of people will be surprised as to where some of the URLs go.   How do you score?  Don’t cheat!

According to Matier & Ross (see third story in the following link), the Gettys will be hosting a $2,300 per plate fundraiser for Barack Obama in their Pacific Heights mansion this weekend where 400 people are expected to attend.  This makes the event the “hottest ticket in town.”  Amazingly, the story claims that Mayor Gavin Newsom will not be attending because he supports Hillary Clinton.

What!?  The Mayor is basically biting the hand that fed him for years and helped make him a multi-millionaire and a political force.  It it wasn’t for the Gettys, Gavin would be successful, but he would not be nearly as wealthy as he is now, let alone be Mayor of The City.  I wonder what the Clintons did for Gavin that makes him feel he owes them his loyal support in Hillary’s campaign.  It must have been something pretty good.  Oh if only walls could talk.

According to police, a group of Georgia third-graders planned to hurt one of their teachers by using handcuffs, duct tape and a broken steak knife.  The students assigned tasks to each other including covering the windows of the classroom and cleaning up (!) afterward.  Yikes!  Since the kids are only 8 to 9-years-old they cannot be charged for a crime under Georgia law.

Recent research shows no real advantage in using mouth-to-mouth CPR in outside-the-hospital cardiac arrest cases.  Additionally, the studies show that people are not likely to do mouth-to-mouth on strangers, but are willing to do rapid chest compressions. So the next time someone collapses in front of you clutching their arm or chest, remember that the mouth-to-mouth procedure is no longer required; using your hands only is just fine.