Little did I know, Mexico produces quite tasty wine. I went on a cruise to Ensanada , a little town in Baja with little expectations. At the risk of being a dumb American tourist, I literally followed a friend onto a cruise with no idea where I was actually going. We docked in Ensanada and got off… and my friend suggested visiting a couple of wineries on Ruta del Vino (the “wine route” in Baja).
I previously wrote about ex-campus-shooter Wayne Lo who dedicated a piece of art to Jason Tobin, lead actor of Chink, the movie that I produced. Little did I know, I already befriended Wayne on Facebook after seeing his art when we were shooting at Hyena Gallery. I became fascinated with Wayne’s story after Wayne dedicated his art piece to Jason Tobin, and we became friends and started chatting weekly on the phone.
It took me a couple of weeks to figure out how the system worked. They make you jump through hoops to connect with an inmate in America. I wanted to do a documentary on Wayne, but I realized that it would be impossible as Wayne told me flat out that his facility has banned all recording equipment after Columbine. The best I could do was to talk to him on the phone and visit him at his facility in Massachusetts.
After connecting with Wayne Lo (aka Skid Lo), an Asian American artist once responsible for one of the highly publicized school shootings of 1990s, who dedicated a piece of his art to actor Jason Tobin, I was fascinated by his journey to become an artist. Even Weezer dedicated a song called “Lullaby for Wayne” to him.
Wayne and I are about the same age, both Chinese immigrants, I have always wondered what it would be like to be Wayne and be faced with his situation, point-of-view and the events that took place. It took me almost two weeks of figuring out the communication system for our conversation to take place with Wayne at his medium security facility in Norfolk.
My favorite thing to do on Christmas Eve is to stay in, watch a marathon of Christmas-themed horror flicks, sip wine and eat chocolates. Unfortunately I will be spending Christmas Eve with my dad this year and he has absolutely no interest in horror films even though as a kid I made him rent every horror movie available. He would fall asleep snoring in the middle of them.
Here are some alternative programming recommendations for Christmas movies.
Black Christmas (1974) is a classic and must see for every horror fan. Directed by Bob Clark, Black Christmas is arguably the first modern slasher film made in history. It’s classy, well-made and atmospheric, most definitely on top of my Christmas horror flicks. However, don’t bother with the lame 2006 remake.
Surfing on Youtube, I serendipitously discovered filmmaker Mina Shum’s latest short, “I Saw You,” which premiered at the past Vancouver International Film Festival. It’s a sweet and beautifully made little short romantic drama that got dropped onto Youtube through a co-presentation between Cineworks Independent Filmmakers and The Tomorrow Collective without any publicity.
Even though the short is about chance encounters, can filmmakers simply rely on chance encounters on Youtube for audiences to connect with their films?
When I first got to Beijing, I was sweating and stressed everyday for an hour before going to a meeting because I had such a fear of the Chinese language. I grew up in a Chinese environment, learned Chinese till Grade 10 and (being a Cantonese speaker) failed Mandarin consecutively for two years in high school. My agency was kind enough to send a wonderful assistant to accompany me but I still got very stressed and self-conscious.
Killer turned Artist Wayne Lo, the first campus shooter in American history, dedicated this piece of art to our actor Jason Tobin in Chink. What would be a dedication you’ve made to another or any dedication made to you that you find inspiring or fascinating?
ALFREDO: Any blog that I’ve written about my family is, in the end, a letter to them – for them – to read a day, a year, ten years from now, to have an answer to the burning question, for example, of “What did dad think when I punched a hole in the wall when the Oakland A’s blew a last minute save?” If my memory is failing, or I’ve passed away, they won’t have to wonder – they can just read about it.
Compelling movies this year are proof against the myth that a good movie requires a villain. Good movies can be made without a villain or forced antagonist. Bell Hooks once said that she preferred “difference” over “conflict” and cited A Dry White Season as an exemplary film that accomplished that. Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are examples of compelling and meaningful movies completely bypassing the need for a conventional villain.
When I first arrived in Beijing, I was walking in Sanlitun with my good friend K who said she was going to get married.
“Married? You mean marrying Mabel?” I asked.
“No, I mean I need to marry a guy,” K said. “My parents knew about Mabel and I for years but they are still forcing me to marry a man. So I need to find a gay male friend to get married with. And then we’ll get divorced in a few years. My parents just won’t get off my back otherwise.”
I was immediately struck by K’s plight. K is a 25-year-old lesbian friend who lives in Beijing and, like many people LGBT or not, she still faces so much parental pressure to get married.
K’s story was stuck in my mind when, a few days later, I was brainstorming with my friend Xiaogang who runs an LGBT non-profit organization called Queer Comrades distributing LGBT short films on-line. Xiaogang also told me that he had an acting background and sort of left the stage to be in the non-profit industry.
“Would you be interested in acting in a short film? I have an idea to do a short viral film in China,” I asked Xiaogang.
From Beijing to Hong Kong, there is never an exhaustable list of exotic and tasty food to eat. However, I did get stomach flu in Beijing for a week before leaving for Hong Kong. It definitely made me extra careful about what I put in my mouth. The reality is you don’t know what you’re getting in China most of the time. But you’ve got to eat somehow, right?
Starting with the exotic, there is a chain restaurant in Dongzhimen called Lao Tou Jie (literally translated as Old Rabbit Street). Well, what do they serve there? Rabbit meat! Their specialty is fried rabbit heads. I opted to try their spicy rabbit meat with peanuts and green chili, which tasted like chicken.
In and Out in Beijing’s embassy area is an excellent Yunan restaurant. I savored some great dishes with some friends. This pineapple rice was quite exquisite.
I started off enjoying this viral dance video by 11-year-old Sean Lew when I first saw the tweet from the LGBT magazine Instinct. The more I saw it, the more queerious I became. Why am I fascinated by watching an 11-year-old Asian American boy (who isn’t “sexy”) doing Jazz Funk, the genre of “gay hip hop” that my teacher Viet named?
Really, I shouldn’t complain. It could have been a lot worse. I remember coming to China the first time when I was a pre-adolescent in the early 80s. There really wasn’t much to eat. We were travelling with a Hong Kong tour to Beijing and everything we ate tasted bland and the same every meal. Three decades later, things are a lot more different.
A Blue Shanghai (a gin based drink with Blue Curacao) from Transit Lounge, a little gay lounge run by Japanese guy in Shanghai where you can also buy a Viagra for $100 rmb.
Now my Chinese friends would complain that there aren’t enough good eats in L.A., which isn’t true because you really have to know where to find all the diverse cuisines in the sprawling city.
Being new to Shanghai and Beijing, where you’re getting constant scares of fake food products and alcohol, you really have to test your luck. Here are some memorable eats and drinks that I’ve had between Shanghai and Beijing, the two cities that I travel most to.