22 May, 2007

A Long Time Ago, In a Childhood Far Far Away...

Friday is the 30th anniversary of the opening of the very first Star Wars movie.1 I was seven years old when the movie opened and although I didn't get to see it until a week or two later, it was one of the most formative experiences of my childhood. That movie -- without hyperbole -- helped shaped the man I am today.

In 1977, I didn't like sports, I was made fun of for playing with dolls (action figures not being as cool as they are now, or were about to become), and I mostly stayed indoors reading -- I was a skinny geek without a purpose. But then I saw a wookie for the very first time on television. I begged my mother to take me to see Star Wars based solely on the appearance of Chewbacca in a commercial. She wasn't very interested in the movie herself, but finally relented after days of almost constant needling. She took me to the theater and dropped me off with a friend, four dollars and fifty cents in my pocket (enough for the movie and a Coke and a box of Red Vines), and an instruction to call when I was ready to come home. (Yes, it was a different era. That was back in the day when the movie theater employees wouldn't come in between movies to clean or kick people out.) Mom dropped us off and we stayed for three consecutive showings that afternoon. The sights I witnessed on that screen altered the way I would think about narrative, drama, and play even if I couldn't identify that shift at the time.

But I'm putting the brakes on right here because we're taking a turn. The subsequent story of my geeky childhood having new purpose is one that has been told before by other people ad nauseum.2 Anyway, that new purpose only lasted until 1981, when mom took me to see Excalibur and I soon thereafter discovered Dungeons and Dragons (a different story altogether) and martial arts.

This is about Star Wars and the thing that I have to be the most thankful for as a result of seeing it. Without a doubt, the most lasting effect that Star Wars has had on me is expressed in my love of foreign cinema. Seriously. Star Wars introduced me (albeit indirectly) to the Art House.

George Lucas claims to have been paying homage to Akira Kurosawa in Star Wars, but everyone who has ever seen Kurosawa's movies knows that Lucas was unabashedly and unskillfully plagiarizing Kurosawa. The plot of Star Wars is the plot of The Hidden Fortress (a rogue general and two bumbling peasants seek to rescue the princess from the hidden fortress), with scenes and style from Yojimbo ("I'm a wanted man...") and the Seven Samurai ("wipes" between scenes -- "suffering is our lot in life...") mixed with visual elements of Metropolis (C3PO) and Triumph of the Will (the entire Empire aesthetic) all wrapped up in a 1940s-style Flash Gordon serial potboiler.

I didn't realize any of this, of course, until ten years later. The first time I saw Yojimbo, I realized that the cantina scene in Star Wars was an almost perfect copy of the scene in the street with Toshiro Mifune cutting off the criminal brigand's arm after the criminal brags about what an amazing bad ass he is. That scene locked it in; I had to find more Kurosawa! After I rented The Hidden Fortress and The Seven Samurai it was official: Akira Kurosawa became my favorite director ever. My fanboy manlove for Kurosawa culminated when my undergraduate university showed a tattered and almost unwatchable 16mm print of Throne of Blood as a part of its Wednesday night foreign film series. After that remarkable experience (dimly) seeing my hero, Toshiro Mifune, on a big(gish) screen I became a regular devotee of the Wednesday film series, thereafter seeing classic films by Louis Malle (Frantic) and Jean Renoir (the Lower Depths), as well as contemporary art films like The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Henry & June. Ever since then, I have been drawn to foreign film and art house cinema. And I have George Lucas to thank (and Turner Classic Movies for showing Yojimbo).

I talk a lot of smack about George Lucas. His new films (and even Return of the Jedi) have largely spoiled the memory of the original Star Wars and made it less than it was when I was seven and eight and even twelve years old. But the curiosity that grew in me upon seeing a Star Wars-like scene wipe in a black and white film on late night television opened an entire world (literally) of art to me. If for nothing else, I must thank George Lucas for stealing from the best (even if he wasn't the best at presenting what he stole). My life is richer for his having done it.

Thank you Star Wars.

I am mindful that I feel: nostalgic
On the iPod: John Williams - Imperial Attack

1 Now redacted to be titled, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
2 It is the unifying theme of all of Kevin Smith's movies, it seems.

15 May, 2007


Several of Alberto Gonzalez's Harvard classmates ran this letter to him in a recent issue of the New York Times. If only the Mayberry Machiavellis read the paper. If only they could read.


May 15, 2007

Dear Attorney General Gonzales:

Twenty-five years ago we, like you, graduated from Harvard Law School. While we arrived via many different paths and held many different views, we were united in our deep respect for the Constitution and the rights it guaranteed. As members of the post-Watergate generation who chose careers in law, we understood the strong connection between our liberties as Americans and the adherence of public officials to the law of the land. We knew that the choice to abide by the law was even more critical when public officials were tempted to take legal shortcuts. Nowhere were we taught that the ends justified the means, or that freedoms for which Americans had fought and died should be set aside when inconvenient or challenging. To the contrary: our most precious freedoms, we learned, need defending most in times of crisis.

So it has been with dismay that we have watched your cavalier handling of our freedoms time and again. When it has been important that legal boundaries hold unbridled government power in check, you have instead used pretextual rationales and strained readings to justify an ever-expanding executive authority. Witness your White House memos sweeping aside the Geneva Conventions to justify torture, endangering our own servicemen and women; witness your advice to the President effectively reading Habeas Corpus out of our constitutional protections; witness your support of presidential statements claiming inherent power to wiretap American citizens without warrants (and the Administration's stepped-up wiretapping campaign, taking advantage of those statements, which continues on your watch to this day); and witness your dismissive explanation of the troubling firings of numerous U.S. Attorneys, and their replacement with others more "loyal" to the President's politics, as merely "an overblown personnel matter." In these and other actions, we see a pattern. As a recent editorial put it, your approach has come to symbolize "disdain for the separation of powers, civil liberties and the rule of law."

As lawyers, and as a matter of principle, we can no longer be silent about this Administration's consistent disdain for the liberties we hold dear. Your failure to stand for the rule of law, particularly when faced with a President who makes the aggrandized claim of being a unitary executive, takes this country down a dangerous path.

Your country and your President are in dire need of an attorney who will do the tough job of providing independent counsel, especially when the advice runs counter to political expediency. Now more than ever, our country needs a President, and an Attorney General, who remember the apt observation attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." We call on you and the President to relent from this reckless path, and begin to restore respect for the rule of law we all learned to love many years ago.

Yours truly,

David M. Abromowitz, Boston, MA, Jonathan B. Baker, Bethesda, MD, Valerie D. Bell, St. Louis, MO, Raymond Angelo Belliotti, Fredonia, NY, James S. Berkman, Boston, MA, McKey W. Berkman, Boston, MA, Scott Brown, Hanover, NH, Robert D. Chesler, Roseland, NJ, Armond Cohen, Cambridge, MA, David Currier, Freeport, ME, Stuart W. Davidson, Philadelphia, PA, Daniel M. Elkort, San Francisco, CA, Matthew E. Epstein, Newton, MA, Mary T. Esposito, Cape Elizabeth, ME, Gary M. Fallon, Seattle, WA, William L. Fleming, Seattle, WA, Jonathan A. Funk, San Francisco, CA, Keith Halpern, Cambridge, MA, Matthew M. Horgan, London, UK, Elaine Johnson James, West Palm Beach, FL, Keith A. James, West Palm Beach, FL, Emily Joselson, Middlebury, VT, Cheryl D. Justice, Los Angeles, CA, Meredith J. Kane, New York, NY, Susan Kaplan, New York, NY, David Karnovsky, New York, NY, Gregory F. Keller, Great Neck, NY, David Kelston, Cambridge, MA, Otho E. Kerr III, New York, NY, Marisa Lago, New York, NY, Kathleen Larocque, Santa Rosa, CA, Karen Levinson, New York, NY, Christine A. Littleton, Los Angeles, CA, Nancy R. London, Pacifi c Palisades, CA, Beverly R. Lopez, Dallas, TX, Julian W. Mack, San Francisco, CA, Andy Miller, San Francisco, CA, Barbara Moses, New York, NY, Beth H. Parker, San Francisco, CA, Wendy E. Parmet, Newton, MA, Brendan J. Radigan, Providence, RI, Catherine Redlich, Ridgewood, NJ, Michael B. Reuben, New York, NY, Clifford S. Robbins, San Mateo, CA, James Rosenthal, New York, NY, Rusty Russell, Cambridge, MA, Eric Schneiderman, New York, NY, Eric Seiler, New York, NY, Jeffrey P. Smith, Evanston, IL, Lorna Soroko, Tucson, AZ, Alan M. Spiro, Boston, MA, David S. Steuer, Palo Alto, Califonia, Kelvin R. Westbrook, St. Louis, MO, Mary Whisner, Seattle, WA, Jeannette Anderson Winn, Greenville, SC, Marshall Winn, Greenville, SC



I am mindful that I feel: impressed
On the iPod: nine inch nails -- uswiretap-20070219

13 May, 2007

I might have to sue Scott Meyer...

... for image likeness royalties. Seriously. This is a panel from his strip on planning a vacation.

And this is me and Comrade Snarky on vacation (sorry about the poor picture quality):

Scott, you have some splainin' to do!

P.S. As an added bonus, he anticipates our eventual meeting in a prior comic: How to Prove Which of You is the Evil Twin

I am mindful that I feel: fearful of our döppelcouple
On the iPod: Taproot - Mirror's Reflection

12 May, 2007

Tastily Tagged!

My friend Sandra tagged me for an interesting meme the other day (despite my being MIA for the last month or so while I psychologically reboot) that I cannot resist. The point is to list your five favorite local restaurants and give a little aid to someone who might be interested in why the places rate as favorites. I don't usually do memes, but this one is awesome, so buckle up!

The rules:
1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you. Include the state and country you’re in.
2. List your five favorite places to eat (locally) - any kind of food, whatever you like.
3. Tag 5 people (preferably from other countries/states) and let them know they've been tagged.

The Restaurant Reviewers so far:

Now to the restaurants (in order of preference, incidentally):

Indian: Khushboo - All right. So first on my list is a restaurant outside of Boston that's unreachable by T and actually requires a bit of a local's knowledge to even find, but Khushboo in Lexington Center is so awesome it makes me salivate just thinking about it. The atmosphere is, well, average, but the food is astounding. This is a restaurant that the missus, Comrade Snarky, and I go to for take out. We ran this place by our friend, Dave, who has been to the subcontinent several times and is married to a Desi, and he loved it. Authentic flavors and wonderfully friendly service. Prices are average for Boston but worth it because portions are generous. I tend to order doaba samosas and gosht (lamb) tikka masala. Get this and take it home.

Thai: Chili Duck - This restaurant on Boylston Street in Boston is a totally undiscovered gem. But in addition to being some of our favorite Thai cuisine, it is also eminently affordable. The only mark against them is that the servers never believe me when I tell them I want my dish "Thai hot." Seriously, I do. Make me cry. They're afraid of hurting me, but the food is entirely awesome, nonetheless. I recommend the tamarind duck.

Japanese: Fugakyu - The thing about dining in Boston is that some of the best places aren't in Boston. Fugakyu on Beacon Street in Brookline is reachable via the Green Line. It's a little bit of a schlep, but totally worth it. It's a little more expensive than say Chili Duck, but the quality of the food is worth it. The thing about sushi is that it is not like Pizza -- bad sushi is B!A!D! Fukakyu's sushi, on the other hand is some of the best in town.1 Fugakyu's atmosphere is a little hokey, but on the first floor you can sit in individually partitioned shoji screen rooms. Eating out with complete privacy earns high marks from me. I'm partial to the Unaju -- broiled eel glazed with sweetened soy sauce over a bed of rice.

American: Cambridge Brewing Company - In addition to having an excellent food menu unlike a lot of brewpubs (I like the the brick oven pizza, and the blackened salmon with chickpea ratatouille, wilted spinach and dijonaise aioli) this place has an exquisite selection of on-site microbrewed beer. If you like dark beer, the Charles River Porter is nigh orgasmic! Seriously, it makes me feel all funny down there just thinking about it. Get the $21 beer tower and call a cab home.2

Eclectic: Deluxe Town Diner - Okay, this is another one outside of Boston and off the beaten path, but if you can find this place on Mount Auburn Street in Watertown it'll totally be worth your time. It's an old timey art deco traincar style Diner with uncomfortable vinyl booths and a service counter. They serve the kind of all day breakfast my grandfather would love and have an excellent weekend brunch. But, the magic of DTD is in the dinner specialties: grilled lollipop lamb chops with yogurt-mint sauce, New Orleans jambalaya with shrimp, chicken and andouille over brown rice, and the American Wagyu "Kobe beef" burger. Wowsers!3

Okay, now I guess I am supposed to tag five people. I don't know who to tag who hasn't been already, so I'll do two three (if they're reading). Mikey (also in Boston - ought to be interesting), Dancewriter in Florida, and Amanda in Texas.

I am mindful that I feel: hungry
On the iPod: Marilyn Manson - Eat Me, Drink Me

1 Close rivals are New Ginza in Watertown and Blue Fin in Porter Square, Cambridge.
2 Note: directly next door to the left of CBC is Tommy Doyle's Pub. It is an unmitigated
<blink>SHITE family restaurant with below average Bennigan's-style bar food, a horrible pint of Guinness, and truly awful service. AWFUL! And we know someone who works there -- even with the inside tip we were ignored and treated like a burden by the waitstaff. Moving into the bar is no better, unless you want to watch shaky handicam video of the local soccer club's game in the public park across from Alewife T station on the big screen television. Every time we've been there I've left with sincere regret that we didn't walk the extra twenty feet to CBC. As a bonus, another hundred yards up to the right of CBC is Flat Top Johnny's. Lots of pool tables, CBC beer and appetizers. That's a worthwhile stop if you like billiards.
3 If you ever wanted to know whether you could survive prison, use their bathroom. It's about twelve feet long and so narrow I can touch one elbow to each wall simultaneously. Seriously, don't bend over to sit down or you'll hit your head on the wall in front of the commode.

05 May, 2007

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Jen's TexMex Margarita recipe:

  • ½ can limeaid
  • 6 oz. El Jimador Reposado Tequila
  • 2 oz. Cointreau
  • ½ oz. Rose's Lime Juice
  • >1 oz. lemon juice (to taste, for tartness)
Mix all in a blender with ice and blend. Rim a glass with lime and sea salt and you are good to go!


Soy atento que me siento: sediento
En el iPod: Tito & Tarantula - Angry Cockroaches

03 May, 2007

My Letter to PBS

01 May, 2007

Random Library Smut

This sort of thing totally gives me wood.

Back when I was an übernerd (as opposed to the simple geek I am now) I used to play role playing games. My longest lived and favorite character (to this day) was a werewolf psioniscist librarian. Oh, man, I need help.

I am mindful I feel: anxious
On the iPod: RATM - Maggie's Farm (in honor of May Day1)

1 Although I am neither a Communist nor a Wiccan.