East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Coming attractions: Sylvester Stallone

Rocky VI: Rocky Gets Schlocky

The aging Rocky Balboa is still mourning his wife while descending into deeper woes with the IRS. Needing money to pay his nursing bills, he comes out of retirement to fight women's champion Billie "The Blue Bear" (Lucia Rijker) on the "Million Dollar Battle of the Sexes" pay-per-view. Unfortunately, while entering the ring, Rocky slips on the ring steps and fractures his skull, putting him in intensive care. Despite aggresive lobbying by Clint Eastwood to put him out of his misery ("Damn it, even I managed to give up Dirty Harry at 53," Clint protests), Rocky recovers only to announce his re-re-retirement. Still short of cash, he signs a contract with Vivid to star in the erotic epic The Party at Kitty and Stud's II. Footage of this will be included in Rocky VII.

Rambo IV: Saving Private Lynch

John Rambo is angry. Angry at terrorism, angry at Jane Fonda, but mostly angry that he's lost his record for highest movie body count. Hearing of the Iraqi capture of Private Jessica Lynch (Angelina Jolie), he takes his Uzi out of the freezer and get to work. Eight hundred dead towelheads later, he must face his greatest foe... Rocky Balboa, who has renounced his Italian heritage and changed his name to Muhammad Hassan.

Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot II

Estelle Getty: "Jesus, Sly, you sure you don't wanna play my role?"

Last Days: The saddest music in the world [DVD note]

Starring Michael Pitt
Written and directed by Gus Van Sant

This much was never in doubt about Kurt Cobain: he rocked. Rocking is not something Gus Van Sant has ever done; as innovative as he's been, there's always been something Pat Booney about his aesthetics, though his queerness has distracted from this. It takes all off three minutes for Van Sant to get his star down to his waterlogged boxers, their fabric clinging to his oh-so-pert ass, while his bedraggled hair, bone dry, falls oh-so-indiscriminately over his face.

Unlike in The Dreamers, Michael Pitt isn't terrible, but then he's so objectified he doesn't have to project anything. This seems like a chickening-out from the director who actually got a good performance out of Keanu Reeves. Where in a Bresson film objectifying the performer is part of a larger questioning of beliefs and truths, here it's just pornographic in its failure of empathy. Never before has Van Sant revealed so much of his sophomoric centre (as far as I know, I'm not going to watch Finding Forrester to compare)--fascination with uncontextualised suicide is bad enough when it belongs to junior high goths.

To give him his due, the time-hops are neat, but if that's what you like, you might as well as watch Elephant again. Not only was that movie about something (although Last Days would've been better, or at least would've had less baggage, if it was genuinely about nothing), its intended moments of beauty had vigour. The only time that occurs here is when Blake/Kurt watches the video for Boyz II Men's "On Bended Knee" (an anachronism in Kurt's timeline, not that it matters). And even that mostly made me remember of a similar, somewhat funnier scene in The O.C. Lacking any reference to Blake's pain, all I could think was the poor bugger should buy a boat.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

November at the PFA

Looks like a particularly good month. The Peckinpah series, including Ride the High Country on the 4th and The Wild Bunch on the 18th, runs on Fridays, my designated night for doing my Peckinpah imitation (getting drunk a fights). The ongoing Tuesday night Alternative Visions programme brings out the big guns: Brakhage's Pittsburgh Trilogy on the 8th, including his infamous dissection of autopsies The Act of Seeing with one's own eyes, and Michael Snow's La Région centrale on the 15th. Meanwhile there's a Pagnol series--the double feature of Harvest and The Baker's Wife on Friday 25th should be worth being sober for--as well as Taisho Chic on Screen, a collection of Japanese '20s and '30s works, focusing on the then-emerging generation of Americanised kimono-burning women. Don't know what the highlights of this programme are, but I appreciate the chance to finally see a Naruse film, with more opportunities coming--they're planning on shipping Film Forum's retro here early next year.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Infernal Affairs II: Back into hell [DVD note]

Starring Anthony Wong Chau-sang, Eric Tsang Chi-wai, Edison Chen, Shawn Yu Man-lok
Written by Alan Mak Siu-fai and Felix Chong Man-keung
Directed by Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak Siu-fai

(Scene: Officer Wong's office. Triad comer Sam is eating takeaways, while Wong is smoking.)

Sam: Well, here we are at the beginning of Infernal Affairs II. Apparently we're friends this time.

Wong: Well yeah, it's a prequel. You know how it's going to turn out--at first we respect each other, but then you drift into greater brutality, and I realise what the triads are capable of. Where are Alan and Tony?

Sam: We know this is going to be a blockbuster, so we might as well save the salaries for part three. We've got Edison and Shawn instead.

Wong: OK, I can go with Edison turning into Alan, but pissy little Shawn into Tony?

Sam: Yeah, well on the bright side, trying to act like Tony Leung can only be good for your performance. Plus, more screen time for us!

Wong: Good, as long as we don't have to explain why Tony's membership in the leading triad family is never mentioned in the first movie.

Sam: Or why, that being the case, I'd let him anywhere near me. Anyway, with him out of the way, I own this movie.

Wong: Dude, I get the big tragic scene.

Sam: Yeah, you're good in it, but big tragic scenes are lame. I get all the cool little tragic moments.

Wong: Well as long as you admit I was better in the first one. Besides, this one isn't about the acting, it's about the cross-cutting.

(Cut to Sam's living room.)

Mary: It sure is!

(Back to Wong's office.)

Wong: Who was that?

Sam: Mary.

Wong: I love Carina Lau, but isn't she a little old to be playing the young Sammi Cheng?

Sam: No, this Mary is my wife.

Wong: The writers couldn't think of a new name?

Sam: It's complicated. And lame.

Wong: At least she wasn't on a rooftop.

Sam: This one has lots of posh mansions and dark alleys. It's contrast! This is especially cool in the huge centerpiece massacre.

Wong: Guess the directors have watched the Godfather movies to many times.

(Cut to offices of the New Yorker.)

Ghost of Pauline Kael: Hey, you can't watch the Godfather movies too many times. Except the third one.

(Back to Wong's office.)

Sam: Lady's got a point.

Wong: Well, we better get on with the movie. At least we know we'll live through this one.

Sam: Yeah, lot of good that'll do us.


Harriet Miers, radical feminist

At least according to Concerned Women for America.

Andrea Dworkin must be glad she's dead.

(Actually, the funniest thing in the article is that they complain that, when asked to name a figure of courage fighting against the odds, she names... Winston Churchill.

Winston Churchill isn't conservative enough for the American right. Despite the gap in erudition, I think Bush has a lot in common with him. Kanye would agree.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The official EBV election endorsements (in lieu of voting)

The correct answers for the Cali ballot measures are easy to work out--Libs and Progs agree:

NO on 73 thru 78
YES on 79 and 80

73 is abortion notification. Over and above concerns about abusive parents, the right to choose doesn't belong to grandma and grandpa.

74 is a 5-year probationary period for teachers, during which a school district can fire you without showing cause. Like it isn't hard enough convincing people to teach now.

75 would prevent public workers' voluntary union dues being spent on politics (currently mandatory dues can't be used for these purposes). They want to pass a law stopping the unions from doing their job.

76 is the "give Arnold total control of the state economy" measure. Enough said.

77 is the most convoluted method of redistricting I've ever seen proposed. It would cost millions, and there's no reason to think it would prevent gerrymandering.

78 and 79 both purport to discount prescription prices. Note well that under 78, such discounts will only be offered if the drug companies volunteer. Somehow it seems better not to allow the fate of our pharmaceutical supply to be decided by the goodness of GlaxoSmithKline's heart.

80 is re-regulation of electricity provision. Remember the good old days when California didn't have rolling blackouts? I don't, but I'm assured they existed, so vote yes on this.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks

Fellow foreigners who only know what we pieced together from that OutKast song should get past Diane McWhorter's first sentence (her fave Parks memory is of... the day she refused to move to the back of the bus! Whoda thunk it!) and read the rest of the succinct piece.

The Aristocrats: Shit stirrers [movie note]

Directed by Paul Provenza

To elevate a gross-out joke to boffo status, the teller must either remain poker-faced even after the punchline, or else launch himself or herself wildly over the top. Here, of those who are genuinely offensive or disturbing, only Eric Cartman has a sufficiently dead-on deadpan, and only Gilbert Gottfried (yes really, the first version more than the roast) is sufficiently nuts. But most of the time I'm thinking what Chris Rock must've been thinking: why are all these white folks laughing? Or maybe it's age: the BFG9000 and Mr. Hankey have raised the stakes for my generation (bestiality, shit-eating - yawn, although shit-drinking...) It's good to know we live in a world where this movie can be made, but that doesn't mean I ever want to see it again.

New Times buys Village Voice Media; nimbuses gather overhead

Story here.

If fellow fans of alt-media see any upside to this, please try to convince me.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A History of Violence: Blood simple [movie note]

Written by Josh Olson, from the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke
Directed by David Cronenberg

Cronenberg lacks real ideas about real violence: if violence is in one's genes it's inescapable blah blah. There may be something deeper--a recognition that the American West, like all civilisations, is founded on violence--but it's never more one of many clashing undertones. But though he's unable to implicate as citizens, he sure can implicate us as moviegoers. For what he knows is movie violence, and though this isn't as interesting, he's damned good at it. It doesn't take long before we're able to estimate fairly accurately how many more fight scenes there'll be, how many corpses to expect. Cronenberg serves these up with masterful choreography, then makes sure we see the shotgun-blasted faces afterwards. Cronenberg is interested in our range of reactions to screen bloodshed--when do we cheer? Laugh? Recoil? At my screening, the audience did all these things. Cronenberg wants us to know the difference between these responses isn't as great as it appears.

Those of us who prefer laughter should be glad he bothered to include a few jokes this time, the best of which involves Maria Bello dressing as a cheerleader. Cronenberg, surprisingly, does have real ideas about real sex. Viggo Mortensen's and Bello's two scenes are perfectly stylised to bring out their debauchedness, their mischievousness, and yes, their violence. One can only hope that "A History of Fucking" is one of his future projects. If he wants to adapt another graphic novels, well, I hear there's a lot of Japanese stuff out there... A MINUS

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Man Without a Past: Slight return [DVD note]

Written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki

When life turns to shit, why don't we just turn off our lives, jump cities, and start over? Kaurismäki posits that the root reason is memory: in that we recall times when loved ones were genuinely loved, but also in that our past behaviour acts as a physical memory, preventing us from changing our ways. This is an amnesia movie, only the amnesiac (Markku Peltola, pictured as a Man Without a Pabst) benefits from his ailment. There isn't any other heavy thinking in the picture: the first half depicts the protagonist's new life as a bum, the second sentimentalises down-and-outs of all kinds. It's a feel good movie, but I have nothing against feeling good.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: Hammer time [movie note]

Directed by Nick Park and Steve Box
Written by Nick Park, Bob Baker, Steve Box and Mark Burton

This time Wallace and Gromit are humane pest controllers; having too many bunnies in the basement to take care of, Wallace tries to brainwash the rabbits into leaving alone the townpeople's super-sized vegetables, but inadvertently creates the titular monster. Being a dog, Gromit never talks, and if you think Wodehouse wouldn't be as funny if Jeeves couldn't zing one-liners over Bertie's head, you'd be right--the jokes here, clever are they are (a degree from Dogwarts or a breakfast condiment called Middle Aged Spread) are superfluous. What makes up for this is that W&G's world is the good-naturedness: Gromit doesn't feel the need to prove his status as a superior being to anyone, least of all himself (which is why his coveting of the Golden Carrot rings false). To put it another way, we relate to Wallace, not Gromit, but we wish we had Gromit around to put things right for us. It's a fantasy of cosiness, one of the more admirable of bourgie aspirations.

Unlike The Corpse Bride, in which every frame sings, the animation is largely matter-of-fact, but that's give the mise-en-scene a physicality that makes their trademark chase sequences seem even more amazing. The final chase here, a romp through a fairground that becomes a quote of King Kong, isn't quite as breakneck as those of The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave, but it's still pretty sweet. A MINUS

Nobel savage

I've a hunch that Orhan Pamuk's Snow, more than any other novel this decade, will be read fifty, a hundred years from now, so if the Nobel committee want to give him the gong, they'll one day seem prophetic. It seems unlikely that his career achievements yet match up to, say, Roth or Kundera (I couldn't get through his previous My Name Is Red), but Snow is easily good enough to overcome objections on grounds of quality.

Pamuk is awaiting trial for mentioning the Armenian Genocide in an interview. The law he's accused of breaking isn't religious--it's a rarely enforced nationalist law against slandering the motherland--but the forces behind charging him are. It's unlikely he'll receive any penalty. Most of Turkey is ready to join the EU (at least as ready as Britain was), and reactionaries should not be permitted to prevent this. Of course one wishes that Turkey take an honest look at its history. But one wishes that about many nations.

EDIT Oct. 13: Pinter? I guess as long as it isn't for his poetry...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Everybody else is doing it--ten actors/actresses sorely underrated, in the sense that it's criminal they've never been nominated for an Oscar:

Paul Giamatti--even more for American Splendor than for Sideways.
Eugene Levy--would be the greatest of all comedians if Christopher Guest made every movie.
Tony Leung--Infernal Affairs proves he can roll without WKW.
Bernie Mac--suddenly revealed himself to be an actor in Mr. 3000, but only Slate's Movie Club noticed.
Mathieu Amalric--prevents Arnaud Desplechin's whirligigs from falling apart, sometimes.
Maggie Cheung--imagine if Nicole Kidman could discriminate between good and bad scripts.
Julie Delpy--so much better now Ethan Hawke doesn't need to be carried.
Tilda Swinton--that was all Jarmusch could give give her in Broken Flowers?
Charlotte Gainsbourg--needs to find a better occupation than saving her husband's misconceived flicks.
Just about every black actress, but let's start with Regina King--unless Oprah buys Hollywood, playing Huey in "The Boondocks" (!) is probably the best lead she'll ever get.

Most overrated? Jude Law (has impressed when working for greats Spielberg and Scorsese, has stunk otherwise) and Natalie Portman (at least Jude's best movie isn't Cold Mountain).

Monday, October 10, 2005

Banville gets the Booker, pity the book clubs

In recent years the Booker judges have made a habit of assembling a respectable shortlist, and then giving the prize to a sub par nominee. The Blind Assassin was lively but wasn't one of Atwood's five best. True History of the Kelly Gang was ambitious but false. Life of Pi was the worst book on that year's shortlist; magical realism without imagination is deadly. Vernon God Little merely got old fast. Then last year they got it spot on with The Line of Beauty.

This year: another lapse of judgement. I got a quarter of the way through The Sea before quitting. It's a bunch of old tricks: dislikable narrator has lost loved one, boo hoo, with sentences monotonously reminding you how elegant they are. Only explanation: John Sutherland, who made the casting vote, wanted to get back at the Independent's Boyd Tonkin (they've feuded since they judged the 1999 prize, and Tonkin has campaigned against Banville), who's pissed off about it: "Yesterday the Man Booker judges made possibly the worst, certainly the most perverse, and perhaps the most indefensible choice in the 36-year history of the contest."

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Broken Flowers: Don Juan's reckless dolor [movie note]

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch

In which Don Johnston (Bill Murray), being tracked by his hitherto unsuspected 19-year-old son, searches for the boy's mother, whoever she might be. He visits all his exes from the relevant period, whose faces look like screenshots from awfulplasticsurgery.com. Murray has the advantage of his original face, which he chooses not to use very much. His inexpressiveness has its uses, but I bet he previously thought that deadpan required the character to at least occasionally be funny.

Jarmusch sets up contrasts between Don's women--the hippie-turned real estate capitalist versus the lawyer-turned-animal communicator--which are too facile (they should've been contrasted with Don). Despite this, some of the performers make something of their roles; in particular, Chloë Sevigny as the animal communicator's domineering assistant, and Sharon Stone as Laura, a literal NASCAR widow. Younger than Don, Laura too has reached a point where it seems the last fork in the road is behind her--there's nothing left to do except see how things play out. She too wears a mask: hers is to hide her loneliness from the rest of the world, Don's is to hide his from himself. B PLUS

Second opinions:
David Edelstein: "the crowning performance in what I call Bill Murray's Loneliness Trilogy..."
Jessica Winter: "The cutesy snark of the set design overlays Jarmusch's typically skeletal economy of exposition, nudging the director's laconic approach to characterization into faintly cartoonish one-dimensionality."

M.I.A. @ the Grand: Day tripper [concert note]

In the 35 minutes she spent on stage, she repeatedly used her trick of bending the ends of lines into squeals ("ya-ya-heeeeYYYYYYY"). It's very riot girl, but unlike Kathleen Hanna, Maya Arulpragasam doesn't have a well-defined ideology. Wearing a shiny top and moderately short shorts, she's defiantly not of the boys. Instead, she's willing and able to use boys, like Diplo and DJ Contra, her main man on this show, like her Tamil Tiger dad. The gender clash in her music is less remarked on than the culture clash, but it's more useful: it's the only proof we have that she's a revolutionary. What can she get for $10, she asked us? "Anyting you want," we told her.

Maya came out for the encore in a T-shirt, because it really was too hot in there. "I just stir shit up, I don't know the answers," she told us, running the risk of undermining her art, which depends on its dangerousness. I think it makes her seem more dangerous; if she can't work out what to do about this fucked up world, it'd make it more likely that even if she doesn't go Patty Hearst, she might write a check to those who do.


Lots of borderline gigs over the rest the month: Tegan & Sara/Northern State, the Perceptionists, Gogol Bordello, Robbie Fulks. Gogol Bordello seem like they'd be the most fun to watch. Next must-sees (both in the East Bay, yay) are Amy Rigby at the Ivy Room, Nov. 9, and Youssou N'Dour at Zellerbach Hall, Nov. 11.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

HSB Day 2, plus, I Am Cuba

Unlike his boss John Prine, Todd Snider is best as a comedian, and that goes double in a setting like this. His stage schtick is impeccable (like the one about the grandpa who died "peacefully in his sleep, unlike the other occupants of the car") and his back catalogue has plenty of LOL moments, like his statistics song. His latest album, East Nashville Skyline, tops these easily, for example with "The Ballad of the Kingmen", which starts out telling the story of the "Louie Louie" band, but by the end has meandered into quoting "Let's Get It On"; and "Conservative Christian Right Wing Republican Straight White American Males", c.f. "tree-hugging, peace-loving, pot-smoking, porn-watching lazy ass hippies like me". That last one got the bastard an unprecedented encore. Good show.

[[Aside: There are surprisingly few CCRWRSWAMs; the thing about the Republicans is that currently you only have to be either/or to with them: either conservative Christian or economically right wing, whereas to be with the Democrats you have to be socially liberal/noncommittal AND economically centrist/left. Thus last year Kerry won the centre and still lost the election. The consolation for some Democrats is that the "either/or" strategy leaves you with an unstable coalition. Others of us wonder aloud how America ended up with only two parties, and shitty ones at that.]]

The rest of the day: Hazel Dickens, arguably bluegrass's greatest songwriter, was not in good voice. Kevin Welch, Kieran Kane and Fats Kaplin were agreeable. Guy Clark was fine, if you don't mind that he's even more low-key now than he was in '75. The Songwriters' Circle was a bit of a letdown, with Joe Ely, Steve Earle, Dave Alvin, Guy Clark (obscured) and Verlon Thompson (not pictured) playing three songs each and not interacting with each other. Rosanne Cash is a better singer than her late mother and a worse one than her great father. Her rocky new stuff was interesting, but I ran off early to get to the Balboa and see...

I Am Cuba (dir. Mikhail Kalatozov)

Holy crap. Early on there's one of the wildest takes you'll ever see, starting on top of a building, careening down and across the city and ending up underwater in a swimming pool. Cinematogapher Serguey Urusevsky has many tricks up his sleeve, but this is the sequence is the one that combines choreography in front of the camera (credit Armando Suez) and behind it, in a manner perhaps only matched by Sokurov's Russian Ark. The most distinctive feature of the rest of the film is its inclination to the oblique: few narratives have withheld the square-on view so determinedly. It makes you conscious of the existence of a world beyond the frame, which is a bad idea in a propaganda flick that's trying to sweep you along with: it reeks of artifice.

The story is what it is. The first of four sections shows a beautiful (of course) girl whoring herself out to Americans; not a bad allegory but a bad story. Then a tenant farmer has his land sold from under him. So we've seen how both urban and rural Cuban were being oppressed; the second half shows us what the do about it. A student takes part in a revolt against Batista's regime, becoming a leader. And a peasant refuses to harbour a revolutionary, but shockingly winds up joining the cause. These later sections, a little Commier than Gladiator, are more old-style agitprop in their heart-tugging and are thus much more effective.

It's impossible for me to think of Castro as a great leader just because he wasn't Stalin or Mao, and he looks pretty bad in most accounts of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but credit him for being the dictatorial Marxist leader who has most improved his people's lives relative to their neighbours (read about modern Haiti, and consider that there wasn't much economic difference between the two countries in the Fifties). I Am Cuba is weird because, oppression nothwithstanding, it paints at least some parts of pre-revolutionary Cuba as paradise. No wonder the Cubans and Russians hated it. As propaganda, it only works on aesthetes. And which dictator needs them?

RIP Ronnie Barker

(Rewritten for a younger international audience.)

A policeman comes home to his wife and says, "Honey, I have good news and bad news."

"What's the good news?"

"I'm getting a promotion. I caught one of the city's most notorious crooks after getting a tip off."

"That's great, darling. What's the bad news?"

"He was the serial circumciser."

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Countrier than thou: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Day 1

Painful decision of this festival was choosing between Buddy Miller and Rodney Crowell, playig simultaneously (Doc Watson, in the long run a greater artist than either, didn't get a look in). I chose Miller, hoping that he'd do his Dylan cover. A stunning "With God on Our Side" dominates Universal United House of Prayer: it's not the very best track, and doesn't compare to the Neville Brothers' still holier version, but it makes most of the rest of the album blur together in your memory. He didn't pull it out, but we did get a fired-up "Worry Too Much" and a couple of Emmylou Harris cameos (a little dirgey, would've preferred Julie). Miller finished early, and as I jogged past Crowell's stage, he was leading a singalong of "Like a Rolling Stone". Seemed like fun, although I don't think anyone remembers in what order the verses proceed. (Note: Buddy's backing singers were not quite the only other nonwhite faces I saw today.)

Jimmie Dale Gilmore's voice seems to divide people, but if you love it, you really love it. Today he played almost all covers, many from his new record, Come on Back. I'm still not entirely convinced by the covers on One Endless Night, which was Tom Hull's (the critic whom I agree with the second most) number one record of 2000 - I thought that a lot of the material didn't suit him. If today's show is any indication, Come on Back is probably stronger. The secret: loads of story songs. Now that Johnny Cash is gone, Gilmore might be country's greatest living storyteller, and it doesn't matter that the stories aren't his. When he tells the tale of the son of a fisherman from Saginaw, Michigan (just a terrific Lefty song that somehow I missed until now), he can't pull off the contempt and pity for the haughty father that Lefty produces: he's not playing the character. It's more like a reading of an old primary source, but geez, what a narrator Gilmore makes. His pitch wavers but his phrase shaping is exceptional: the individual notes aren't great but they're all perfectly placed in relation to each other (c.f. Dylan, but Gilmore's tone is somewhat more pleasant).

Steve Earle comes every year to play a set with his Bluegrass Dukes, which isn't ideal - the Del McCoury collab notwithstanding, he's better when he rocks out. But it was exhilarating to hear his two great recent political songs, the anti-war "Rich Man's War" and the pro-peace "Jerusalem" (we also got the controversial, failed "John Walker's Blues"), in this setting, I guess for the same reason neocons would get a kick out of listening to pro-Bush rap (only they wouldn't, even if it existed). Now if only he'd found a way to work in "Fuck the FCC".

Also: Del McCoury's studied intimacy is pretty freakin' amazing at his age, though I don't agree that old-timey implies good-timey. I wish I caught more of the Knitters, it's what all old great punks should be doing in their middle age. Gillian Welch isn't someone I've ever got, and that didn't change today, but the crowd adored her.

Finally: Koo's Tokyo Crunch (yellowtail and eel sushi with crunchy bits of tempura batter sprinkled on top) is pretty awesome.