Best of Silicon Valley 2004

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Best of Silicon Valley 2004
Arts & Culture
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People & Personalities
Sports & Recreation
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Editor's Short List


People & Personalities
Editors' Picks

Best Brotherly Love
The Nijmeh Brothers, Falafel Drive-In

For over thirty years, the Nijmeh brothers and their family have manned Silicon Valley's favorite neon-bedecked pita spot with smiles and efficiency. At lunchtime, the lines can snake through the Falafel Drive-In's small parking lot, and yet stressing out over it is a ridiculous thing to contemplate. Not when visions beckon of deliciously crispy rounds of deep-fried ground chickpeas topped off with a creamy cool banana shake. Once, while dreamily contemplating this ideal lunchtime pairing, this writer realized that she was a couple of dollars short of being able to actually pay for it (it's cash only at the Drive-In). "No problem!" the bros exclaimed. "Just pay next time!" That's brotherly love. 2301 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose. 408.294.7886. (TV)


Best Guy to Sit Next to at a Game
Krazy George Henderson

The aptly named Krazy George Henderson truly drives Sports & Recreation fans crazy. On his website (, he claims, "I, Krazy George, invented, created and otherwise started the most famous fan participation routine in the history of the world." He's talking about the Wave, that literal crowd swell that has swept stadiums nationwide—ever since Krazy George invented it on Oct. 12, 1981, at an Oakland Coliseum playoff game between the A's and the Yankees. This blond cheerleader-for-hire graduated from San Jose State University and still cheers for the Spartans. He has urged on the San Jose Earthquakes for 15 years and is a fan of the San Jose Giants. Rah for Krazy George! (AB)


Best Asian Afro
Danny 'Dandiggity' Le

Asian hair is like a desolate stretch of I-5: long, straight, black and coarse. A few buddhaheads defy genetics (e.g., Rocky Aoki from Benihana), but local Vietnamese-American spoken-wordsmith Danny "Dandiggity" Le rocks a dome that's literally on another level. His high-top mop rivals Eraserhead and Christopher "Kid" Reid in height, weight and density. He started wearing Webster-style four years ago and "felt comfortable." According to Danny, the 'fro takes 10 minutes to style and lots of Rave hairspray (hold level 4) to get proper elevation and appreciative head nods. It's all about self-expression, he says. Getting honeys to touch it, now that's just a welcome side effect. "It's the ultimate icebreaker for meeting girls," Le reveals. "When they ask me about my hair, it's time for me to swoop in and ask them their name." See (TI)


Best Local Film Promoter
Todd Roy, Producer/Director of 'Kwoon'

Having made a small but impressive bundle in the stock market, Roy decided to become a filmmaker. His Internet series Kwoon concerns the adventures of a South Bay kung-fu academy. The loyal, brave but slightly dim students go up against rivals, mafia and mummies. The mayhem awaits on DVD ( The best parts of the disk—and Roy himself urged me to check them out—were the scenes of Roy at conventions promoting his labor of love while macking on the warrior chicks, fan girls and ex-Playboy centerfolds one finds loitering in the aisles of fantasy/comic-book cons. Perhaps more impressive even than Kwoon's epochal battles of good and evil are the extras on the disk. Here, in behind-the-scenes footage, we see Roy wielding the glossy stickers he made for the film: "BA GKF: BAD acting GOOD Kung Fu™," "It's like porn except with kung fu instead of sex™" and—most grisly—"It's Nipple Bloody Fun™." Roy's efforts to sell Kwoon to the world are refreshing to those who thought the independent showman was dead. You can make the best movie on earth, but unless you have the get up and go to sell it, it might as well be just another credit-card debt. (Note: a dedicated independent showman must use every opportunity to quote out of context. Example: "Kwoon is 'The best movie on earth!'"—Metro) (RvB)


Best College-Boy MC
MC Lars

He's been written up in Rolling Stone, and he's on steady rotation on MTVu, and he's not even out of the dorms yet. As his own verse puts it, MC Lars is "getting more love than Helen of Troy." Lars' Laptop EP includes a likable post-electronica autobiographical piece ("Straight Outta Stockholm"), a bold chorus of Anglophilia unabashed during these xenophobic times ("U.K. Vice Versa") and "iGeneration," a critique of his own schoolmates at Stanford. The extracurricular-loaded Lars has a rap show on KZSU and also does a frequently censored daily cartoon for the Stanford paper titled 27th Street. Wise if perhaps not street-wise, MC Lars must have been the only ex-Juggalo (translated: "Former fan of the loathsome Insane Clown Posse") at Oxford. (RvB)


Best Former Nun
Georgie Lamb

Georgie Lamb's passion is nothing like Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. A spunky former nun turned community activist, Lamb is a provocation only to those who oppress, whether said oppression occurs at her local school district or at the county's Adult Protective Services. She isn't afraid to speak her mind—she might even throw in a crude word here and here (former nun be damned); and, in her spare time, she cares for her 90-year-old mother. (NH)


Best Paletero
Manual Gonzalez Ruiz

Manual Ruiz has been selling paletas, the Mexican-style fruit-flavored popsicles, since 1992. He started out pushing a carrito, or freezer cart, for Delicias de Michoacan Paleteria on 24th Street. Five years and countless bell-jingling miles later, the 45-year-old Ruiz opened his own paleta business, Palateria 2000, in downtown San Jose. Now, he has 40 palateros, many of them immigrants just like him, working for him during the peak summer months. "You have to work hard during the summer months t o pay rent for the months when work is not available," Ruiz explains. "I help a lot of people who are unemployed and who are in desperate need of money to pay rent and feed themselves." 959 S. First St., Suite A, San Jose. 408.292.3918. (SS)


Best Community Activist
Jaime Alvarado

The 45-year-old Alvarado still lives in the same Mayfair home where he was born—so perhaps it's no surprise that he's been instrumental in implementing the neighborhood's plan for transformation. But Alvarado's knowledge of social justice and history of working with east San Jose low-income residents are what really set him apart. Alvarado, who is executive director for the Mayfair Improvement Initiative, has tackled issues such as adult education, affordable housing, preschool education, immigrant rights, unemployment and public safety. Prior to joining the nonprofit, Alvarado worked for 20 years as a journeyman electrician and was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332. He also served for three years as the executive director of the Movimiento de Arts y Cultura Latino Americana, the downtown-based agency that runs the San Jose Center for Latino Arts. (SS)


Best Public Art Connoisseur
Ben Y. Miyaji

Hearing a 56-year-old engineer say, "Without the arts we would be so bland," makes a person hope for Silicon Valley's arts scene. Third-term San Jose arts commissioner Ben Y. Miyaji has been promoting public arts issues for more than a decade—first, as a volunteer appointee, then as a boardmember for arts organizations. "I can't carry a tune in a bucket," says the amiable grandfather of twins, admitting that he lacks artistic talent. Yet he is so loved by the arts community that the commission has earned the respect of most arts groups in the valley. The humble Miyaji didn't want to be recognized without mentioning the hard work done by San Jose's Office of Cultural Affairs director Jerry Allen. "If it wasn't for Jerry and his staff, the artists and the community, we wouldn't have such a wonderful public-art program," he says. For more information on the city's public-art program, visit, or call San Jose's Office of Cultural Affairs at 408.452.5235. (SS)


Best Law-Enforcement Officer
John Mitchell

Two armed bank robberies last February in Hayward and San Jose seemed like stumpers until 42-year-old San Jose Police detective John Mitchell got involved. Robbers had confronted arriving bank employees, eluding police officers by fleeing out the rear door with cash. In both robberies, the suspect used a cell phone to receive and make calls to an accomplice. Through an exhaustive and innovative search of cell-phone-tower transmission records, Mitchell discovered that two numbers were used near the banks when the robberies were taking place and he matched a partial fingerprint left at the Hayward robbery to one of the phone subscribers. In coordination with Hayward detectives, Mitchell obtained search and arrest warrants for two Oakland residents who were taken into custody May 11, with the assistance of Oakland Police. Mitchell has received high praises from San Jose Police Capt. Ruben Guizar, who oversees the bureau of investigations. (SS)


Best Local Bush Bashers
Tie: Sam Schaeffer and Kathy Eder

The title of Bush Basher Extraordinaire comes down to a toss-up between Sam Schaeffer and Kathy Eder. One the one hand, Schaeffer is the San Jose World War II veteran who got so mad watching President Bush's aircraft carrier shenanigans ("Mission Accomplished!") that he invented the Bush Bobblehead doll. Meanwhile, Eder, a San Jose school teachers, created the Operation Hidden Agenda playing cards as a reaction to the Bush administration's Iraqi "most wanted" playing cards. Schaeffer's bobblehead doll has Bush the cowboy, complete with hat and scarf, awkwardly riding an oil drum. Eder's playing cards depict our most famous neocons and their friends on one side and educational information on the other. Who's the best? Well, maybe the sales numbers will decide in the end. (NH)


Best Homeless Advocate
Sandy Perry

When it comes to advocating for the homeless, Community Homeless Alliance Ministry's Sandy Perry has done it all. Listed as an Outreach Director on CHAM's website, Perry is far more than that. He knows the difference between affordable housing and extremely low-income housing, between talking about affordable housing and doing something about affordable housing. Most recently, Perry joined a California delegation to New York City for the Republican National Convention, joining in protest with the Poor People Economic Human Rights Campaign. Protest permits don't matter much to Perry; for him, the Republic convention represented "a spirit of exclusion, division, and denial of economic human rights." (NH)


Best Tutor
Dan Frantz, Place Kicker, San Jose SabreCats

As the eighth-best kicker in the Arena Football League last year, Dan Frantz didn't do bad, considering he was only a rookie. But where Frantz really excelled was in the classroom, where he scrimmaged last spring to lecture elementary students on the importance of leadership and teamwork. Though his speeches last only a half-hour, students seemed to appreciate the attention of a professional athlete—at St. Cyprian School in Campbell, the happy apprentices handed off handmade posters to Frantz and made him pose for pictures. (DH)


Best Downtown Pedestrian
Cindy Freebird

Almost every day of the week, Cindy Freebird can be found walking the streets of downtown San Jose, bumping into signs and crossing Santa Clara Avenue on the arm of a courteous citizen. She usually makes the trip from her Third Street home to Walgreens, where she loads up on chocolate, over to a Second Street burrito stand, then to Ben & Jerry's on Third, where she downs a chocolate shake. Originally from Chicago, Freebird (like the Skynard song, she says) contracted cyptococcal meningitis in Lancaster when she was 36. "On Dec. 13 I could see," says Freebird, now 46. "On Dec. 14 I was stone-cold blind." She becomes annoyed when asked why she walks around barefoot or if she's afraid a truck will accidentally run her over. She's also convinced she's not the only blind person walking around downtown. She can hear other walking sticks tapping the ground near her. "If I was alone, I'd still be happy," she says. "Being happy doesn't stop just because the headlights don't work." (DH)


Best Reason For Serving Nine Months in County Jail
Because of a Metro caption

The immediate aftermath of the Snitch telling us his story last September (Cover, "A Snitch in Time," Sept. 4, 2003) was not very pleasant for our Snitch. Mere weeks after the paper hit the streets, the Snitch was arrested, booked and thrown in county jail. He couldn't pay his way out, so he stayed there. For almost nine months. When he finally got out, he claimed that a Metro caption that described him "openly" stalking former girlfriends among other not-so-nice habits was why the law came down so hard on him. "They used it as Exhibit A!" the Snitch exclaimed with righteous indignation. No matter, the Snitch is out now and appears to face only probation. Meanwhile, he's hell-bent on making a book and then a movie about his life. (NH)


Best Moon Watcher
Youssef Ismail

Stanford grad and Santa Clara resident Youssef Ismail has been watching the moon for more than 10 years. He got caught up in the heavenly habit while searching for the new crescent moon in 1993 and hasn't stopped since. At the beginning of every lunar month, Youssef Ismail can very probably be found somewhere on high ground looking for the crescent. He has translated this love to photography and has amassed a revealing collection of moon shots, some of which can be viewed on his website, His photography can also be seen this October in Half Moon Bay during the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin & Art Festival. (NH)


Best Homeopath
Randall Neustaedter, O.M.D., L.Ac.

Fed up with taking two pills and calling the doc in the morning? Try visiting Randall Neustaedter. This Berkeley grad (class of '71) has practiced homeopathy and Asian medicine for more than 20 years. His book, The Vaccine Guide: Making an Informed Choice, is a classic for those trying to negotiate the often murky waters of vaccine decisions for their children. Dr. Neustaedter studied his homeopathy in London and his Oriental medicine in Hong Kong and specializes in offering natural solutions for the health problems of children. Classical Medicine Center, 1779 Woodside Rd. Suite 201C, Redwood City. 650.299.9170. (NH)

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From the September 22-28, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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