My Top Ten Movies for 2012–Reviewed, Not Necessarily New

Happy New Year–the Year of the Snake in 2013!  Most of all, I want to again thank all of you for your responses and comments, and for continuing to read my blog!

With 2012 coming to an end, I wanted to take a look back at the movie reviews I wrote this year.  When I counted the reviews I have written this year (=21), I wanted to see what would be my top ten favorites.  It wasn’t easy, especially for independent films.

This list is not ranked –only my top ten for 2012, grouped by genre.

INDIES and FOREIGN CINEMA

1) A Separation  (March 23 review)– An Iranian “Rashomon”, this cinematic masterpiece offers a rare view of ordinary Iranians–both affluent and struggling. Minor misunderstandings morph into a slow-motion nightmare that threatens to destroy everything and everyone in its path.

2) Jiro Dreams of Sushi  (April 29 review)– This documentary is much more than a movie about the perfect slab of sushi.  “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” is a hauntingly elegant meditation on work, obsession, family, and the art of perfection, chronicling Jiro’s life as both an unparalleled success in the culinary world, and a loving yet complicated father.

3) Memory of a Killer (June 18 review)– With a fresh take on the revenge drama, this nail-biter transforms the hired assassin into a kind of moral hero: an aging killer with a conscience.   With an electrifying visual, almost palpable energy, “Memory of a Killer” is a highly original, disturbing and unforgettable thriller.

4) Scottsboro (July 10 review)– The history and analysis of this case deserves to be in every history book of 20th Century US civics. The landmark trial magnified rampant racism, denial of due process, and the continued North-South animosity that existed almost 70 years after the Civil War had ended.

5) Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (September 2 review)– The home-video footage of the explosive black waves surging towards the coastline of Sendai will render you speechless.  The scale and imagery are overwhelming. This superb film reveals healing wounds and healing people, even in times of disaster.

6) Between the Folds  (August 6 review)– The intersections between origami, mathematics, and science are manifested in a magical sleight-of-hand. I promise you–if you see “Between the Folds”, you will never look at origami, the same way ever again!

7) The Garden (December 3 review)– Juggling politics, race and religion as well as the rights of property ownership in a free-market society,  “The Garden” is an investigation into a complicated case of backroom dealings, racial tensions and the question of just who represents a community.

COMEDIES

8) Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  (June 30 review)– This charming movie, while a paean to the aging baby boomers who are cinephiles,  is also   a shout-out to chasing your dreams, regardless of age.  The hopeful message: it’s never too late to make things happen.

BIG STUDIO MOVIES:

Political and Sociological

9)  Iron Lady (January 12 review)– Meryl Streep’s award-winning performance is achingly honest in its interpretation of  Margaret Thatcher’s powerful intellect, motivations, even perhaps her unconscious.

10) Arbitrage (September 29 review) In this film we witness unrelenting evil and an underlying fear of capture, committed in the pursuit of money and glory.  No one is spared.  This is a morality tale–a tale of hell in a financial guise. Richard Gere gives a virtuoso performance as a man who has lost his way on Wall Street.

Honorable Mention in Action: 

11) Safe House  (February 21 review) Though this is first and foremost a guy’s action-packed blockbuster, there is something for the rest of us. What do people sacrifice in service to the government that others don’t know about and don’t care to know anything about?  Denzel Washington superbly plays the anti-hero in “Safe House” and retains his integrity!

 

“Babymoons and Doulas, Push Presents and Placenta Pills”–A New Riff on the Cycle of Life

 

We baby boomers may not know all the latest ways to celebrate one of the most miraculous stages of the cycle of life–the birth of a baby. Over the course of the past year, I have enjoyed learning about the 21st century style of celebration of birth.  Babymoons, doulas, push presents and placenta pills are now part of my vocabulary.

Take the term “babymoon”.  At first I thought maybe this referred to the new moon, a baby’s bottom, or a children’s book, like “Goodnight Moon”.  Wrong.  A babymoon is like a honeymoon, a vacation taken by the expecting couple to enjoy one last trip without a newborn baby–a romantic odyssey.  Baby paraphernalia, crying, sleeplessness, and all that good stuff is set aside for future vacations.

Next, is the “doula”: women who provide emotional support and advice especially during the first pregnancy, to encourage and guide through the often-frightening process of pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum recovery. Doulas recognize that pregnancy is not solely a biological stage on the cycle of life, but an intensely emotional free-falling dive if not gently steered and supported. While I have known of the medical professional,–the midwife who can assist with labor and delivery– the doula reassures young pregnant women who have many pressures on them both at work and at home.

Baby showers need no explanation.  But the term “push present” (aka “push gift” or “baby bauble”) was new for me. The push present is a birth token from the new father, perhaps reminding him that labor pains are no picnic and he better remember that.  As recognition of the young mother’s journey into motherhood, the push present symbolizes perhaps the most dramatic change in an adult’s life… for both parents.

Perhaps the most familiar but also the most surprising of all the new wonders of celebrating a baby’s arrival is placenta pills or “placenta encapsulation“, the trend of drying the placenta and then having it ground into a powder and packaged into capsules.  These placenta pills are thought to improve postpartum recovery, relieve anxiety and depression, provide nutrition, and even assist in breastfeeding.  But, you need a cooler or the hospital won’t give you the material to take to the doula or another pill packager.  (There are many advertised online in San Francisco).

These are wonderful new and old ways reintroduced into the celebration of life! I learned about the creative alchemy used to reaffirm the accomplishment of childbirth, but the miracle of birth remains the same.  While each generation reinterprets how they want to bring a child into the world, the emerging baby is still the most exciting part of the experience.

“Garrow’s Law”–The Gallows of a Hanging Court

I recently discovered a lesser known BBC series, Garrow’s Law (2009-2012), and highly recommend this superb British period drama based upon the life of 18th-century lawyer William Garrow. As the  barrister who demanded that the accused was  “innocent until proven guilty,” Garrow became the Perry Mason for the poor and unjustly accused.

But the extraordinary story of William Garrow might never have been dramatized had it not been for the online publication of the Old Bailey Proceedings (1674-1913) in 2008. (The Old Bailey is a reference to the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales). The historical legal cases are spellbinding.  From rape and burglary to murder, high treason and corruption, each episode begins with the accused being unable to afford defense counsel and not expecting justice.  Garrow and his mentor John Southouse work to uncover the truth, through rigorous cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, paving the way for habeas corpus and the modern legal system.

Thief-takers,  heinous opportunists  who were a byproduct of  the “kangaroo courts” of Garrow’s day, were private individuals much like bounty hunters, who paid others to steal and then either extorted money from the thief or brought him to the court to receive a fee for every guilty verdict.  Thief-takers play a key role in many of the court cases argued in front of a minefield of corrupt judges, witnesses, and jurors.

A major subplot running through the series concerns Garrow’s relationship with Lady Sarah Hill, an aristocratic figure with an interest in justice and the law. Lady Sarah’s husband is Sir Arthur Hill, an important politician and member of the government whose values diverge dramatically from Lady Sarah’s. 

The superb cast members (Andrew Buchan as William Garrow, Alun Armstrong as Southouse, Lyndsey Marshal as Lady Sarah, and Rupert Graves as Sir Arthur Hill) are all familiar to us from many BBC productions.  This series belongs among the very best that television has to offer! Garrow’s Law will satisfy a craving for stories both intimate and political. What makes the series particularly compelling is that each defendant seems doomed almost certainly to either execution or to a very long prison sentence. How Garrow overcomes what seems like insurmountable odds has us cheering passionately for justice for the accused. This BBC series should attract those interested in a delectable treat:  justice for those least likely to receive it.

 

The Garden–Harvest of Justice?

A 2009 Academy Award nominee for best documentary, “The Garden” is a powerful cinematic essay focusing in on the political and social battle over the largest community garden in the U.S, a vibrant 14 acre garden, in South Central Los Angeles. The origin of the 14 acres came from a defunct plan to build a municipal incinerator.  The city of Los Angeles seized by eminent domain a 14-acre site occupied by warehouses in South Central LA in 1986. The purchase price was $5 million.   From the ashes of the 1992 Rodney King riots, arose a lush garden of vegetables, blossoming trees, and fruit orchards offered by the local government as a therapeutic means of healing the wounds from the destruction to their blighted neighborhood.  Growing their own food, The Garden created community, an oasis in the midst of grim impoverished circumstances. The gardeners who cultivated little plots of land were mostly Mexican-Americans; some were African-Americans. All of them depended on the produce they grew for their food and as a source of additional income. The garden, above all, became a symbol of hope, their garden of Eden.

But then nothing involving the government is ever that simple. Seventeen years later, the incinerator was never built so the city sold the land back to the original owner. The price was about the same as in 1986. The deal was kept secret – until eviction notices went out in late 2003 to the 347 families who had been using the land for almost two decades. Why was the land sold to a wealthy developer for millions less than fair-market value? Why was the transaction done in a closed-door session of the LA City Council? Why has it never been made public?

In 2004, the gardeners received a notice to vacate, and The Garden captures the resulting two-year court battle and the impending threat of bulldozers ready to plow and level twenty-foot trees to rubble.  The Garden follows the plight of the farmers, from the tilled soil to the polished marble of City Hall.  Their plight became a celebrated cause–with Darryl Hanna, Danny Glover, Joan Baez, Martin Sheen, other celebrities, and the Annenberg Foundation supporting them.

Juggling politics, race and religion (opposing the gardeners are an African-American activist and a Jewish developer), as well as the rights of property ownership in a free-market society,  “The Garden” raises as many questions as it presents possible solutions.   When it comes to fighting city hall, nothing is ever simple.  “The Garden” is  an investigation into a complicated case of backroom dealings, racial tensions and the question of just who represents a community.

 

Lolinda–Gaucho Gourmet

Recently we had the good fortune of celebrating at Lolinda, the new hipster Argentine restaurant on Mission Street, in San Francisco. Sister restaurant to Beretta (Italian food), the massive warehouse used to be the home of Medjool, a Middle Eastern restaurant.  Now, Lolinda has been transformed into a sleek, dimly lit open space with two bars, dining area seating approximately 200 people (including some banquettes on the side). Fabulous food in a boisterous, somewhat noisy setting–very lively and urbane!

It’s a carnivore’s delight:  Argentina is world-famous for its churrasco barbecue style and chimichurri sauces.  The beef selections are imaginable and delectable with over seven different types of grass-fed, grain finished beef cuts (ranging from short ribs to blood sausage).    The fish and vegetable selections more than hold their own. Additional options include two types of ceviche and a handful of vegetarian offerings such as a pastel de choclo (squash, onions, raisins, and olives, cooked in a corn crust) and platano al horno (ripe plantains with queso fresco, and jicama salsa).

An affordably priced wine list primarily focuses on lesser-known varietals from Portugal, Spain, Chile, and Argentina including sherry and port and 20 options available by the glass. We had a full-bodied Malbec blend with  Cabernet: a bottle of Syrah Petite Fleur from Bodega Monteviejo winery, in the Mendoza region of Argentina.  I also had a superb glass of a Spanish rose cava that was a special feature that night.  There is a  shorter but exemplary selection of European and South American beers too.

Four of us were able to test this restaurant’s capabilities with a wide range of dishes:  ceviche de pescado, an unusual and delectable halibut with aji amarillo, fried corn, and sweet potato; grilled  artichokes with lemon aioli (alcachofas); charred vegetables with tiny beluga lentils on a bed of  frisée with almonds in vinaigrette (ensalada de lentejas), two types of empanadas–corn (maiz) with aji amarillo, ricotta and  salsa criolla as well as chicken (pollo) with raisins, potato and aji amarillo.  It would have been very difficult for us to choose between the two.

The grilled dishes came next: grilled baby octopus (pulpo) with  beans on a bed of  frisee; branzino with a medley of root vegetables in escabeche and mild pepper sauce (lubina a la plancha); hanger steak (asado) with onion, zucchini, red anticucho sauce, and crosscut beef short ribs (tira de asado).

Ending this feast was a crunchy culinary delight of   peanut butter mousse  (cajeta crust with  peanut brittle bits) with  dulce de leche ice cream with peanut crunch.  One of these was enough to enjoy with four spoons!  Lolinda is a must among the very newest restaurants in San Francisco!

Lolinda restaurant is located at 2518 Mission St.; 415-550-6970; open seven days a week, serving dinner on Sunday-Thursday 5:30 PM-12 AM, and Friday-Saturday until 1 AM.

 

Moxibustion–Moxie for Spinning Babies

Moxibustion Sticks
Last week while visiting our expecting daughter, we learned about moxibustion firsthand. A traditional Chinese medical therapy closely related to acupuncture, moxibustion involves using the mugwort herb (not Harry Potter territory) to supplement the benefits of acupuncture.  Mugwort is sold as black-colored cigar-shaped sticks, not unlike chubby incense. While Asian medical specialists actually burned the mugwort onto the patient’s skin, the Californian way of doing this is to wave the burning mugwort as close to the acupuncture point as possible without actually making contact.
Why, you may ask, would a pregnant woman be seeking acupuncture and moxibustion? Since our daughter’s baby-to-be is in breech position, moxibustion is believed to flip and “spin the baby”.   The latest medical trend among some San Franciscan obstetricians is to refer patients to acupuncturists who use pressure points (which are believed to stimulate circulation through the pelvic and uterine regions) as the target points for encouraging increased blood flow for women whose babies-to-be are in breech position. The acupressure point for the pelvis and uterus is the pinkie toe on each foot (!) We lit the mugwort cigars until there was a deep red ember glowing, and for twenty minutes we circled that pinkie, (see the technique on a You Tube clip),  circling and circling around that pinkie, not quite touching  our daughter’s skin. We concentrated but sometimes she retracted her toe when it became too red.
It isn’t hype if it works for the women who are “moxibustioned”.  The believers are on the Internet–look at the number of websites.  (See one example at spinningbabies.com) As for me, I am waiting for the verdict–the jury is still out (see research article  here) — but the moxie of trying to spin a baby-in-utero with mugwort was an experience I am very happy not to have missed!

 

“Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy”– Ink Dancing On Paper

The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is currently featuring an exhibit on Chinese calligraphy .  Two rooms house a wide range of calligraphic styles from the private collection of Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo. Video clips and animation aid the viewer in understanding the background for becoming a master calligrapher.

Chinese calligraphy and monochromatic ink paintings are closely related, dating from classical pre-Han through Tang dynasties (pre-3rd century BCE through tenth century CE).  Emphasizing motion and emotion through stroke pressure, the five very distinctive calligraphic forms require expressing individual interpretation within the confines of each style.

The first–the “seal” style– is the oldest, derived from the Shang oracle bones (16th-11th centuries BCE) carved for divination purposes.  These Chinese characters are very difficult to read because of their archaic nature.  However, they are quite exquisite and the most pictorial, the closest to the origin of Chinese writing.

“Clerical”, the second calligraphic style, refers to the boxy brush strokes developed by civil servants–a kind of “illuminations” style comparable to medieval Europe, that has evenness of width and brush pressure, intended for important government and religious texts.

  “Semi-cursive” is very quick, fluid, and idiosyncratic–like an individual’s personal handwriting style.  With some practice, most Chinese can read these characters.  However, the calligrapher must master judging the correct amount of ink into which to dip the brush in order to finish the character without lifting the brush.  Too little ink and the character cannot be completed.  Brush drag is extremely beautiful and dramatic, even bold–each stroke having differences of width, length and intensity of color.

Cursive or “Grass style” is the most spontaneous as well as the most difficult to read, a type of “short hand” requiring training to decipher, as some strokes run into each other and others are abbreviated or eliminated altogether.

And finally there is the standard style–the “Palmer” method of calligraphy–clear, neat, easy to read, used in newspapers and books.  This is the calligraphy each child practices for hours, painfully and slowly, each stroke separated by a lift of the brush.

The exhibit moves on to a few examples of American painters and printmakers who are influenced by Chinese calligraphers, including Brice Marden, one of my favorites.  On the second floor is the exhibit “Words as Art/ Art with Words”. Examples of paintings and calligraphy from Korea and Japan are highlighted along with Chinese paintings to emphasize how there are no bounds to the richness of interpretation of brush stroke emanating from calligraphy.

 

Dunhuang–The Caves of A Thousand Buddhas

Two weeks ago I visited the incomparable Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, a UNESCO World Heritage site, located in Gansu province, northwestern China, at the edge of the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts, directly north of Tibet.  These caves remain one of the most well-preserved, splendid sanctuaries of sacred art in the world.

Mogao Caves

From the 3rd century BCE through the 12th century AD, Dunhuang was a prosperous oasis situated at the entrance to the Silk Road, where ancient caravans of Bactrian camels, donkeys, and horses carried cargo for more than 7,000 kilometers from China and Tibet through the Middle East to the Mediterranean.  These merchants became purveyors not only of merchandise but also of ideas – religious, cultural and artistic. By the 4th century AD, the Silk Road had brought Dunhuang both commercial prosperity and a growing Buddhist community of monk-scholars and pilgrims.       

Silk Road watchtower

 

The artifacts (totaling over 45,000 items) include murals, paintings, sculpture and manuscripts, in more than fifteen different scripts and languages.  The history of interreligious relations in Dunhuang is a history of peaceful exchange involving Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism, and folk religions.  The early communication was followed, in some cases, by conversion but the region remained one of peaceful co-existence until the nomadic invasion of Islam in the 12th century.

Dunes of Dunhuang

Aurel Stein (1862–1943), a Hungarian-British civil servant working in India, made four perilous expeditions to Central Asia, beginning in 1901, removing thousands of   manuscripts from the ‘Library Cave’ (Cave 17). French, German, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese treasure hunters and explorers also took their toll on the collection.

In graduate school I had translated a third century Buddhist sutra, The Srimaladevi Sutra, a sermon by Sakyamuni about a woman who becomes a Buddha without waiting for rebirth as a man.  I have seen the original Dunhuang manuscript of the Srimaladevi at the British Museum, where many of the manuscripts are now stored.  Seeing the cave where the manuscript was transported by Stein to London was a dream come true!

Buddhist Pilgrim

Accompanied by a specialist from the Dunhuang Research Institute, we were able to see the celebrated “Library Cave” (Cave 17) where the oldest dated printed book was discovered–The Diamond Sutra–about the Buddha’s sermon at Jetavana grove. The Diamond Sutra is now housed at the British Museum. Virtually every cave has at least one image of the Buddha, various dancers, musicians, and Bodhisattvas in heavenly realms embodying a fusion of Chinese, Persian, Tibetan, Indian, and other regional art styles.  The magnificence and grace of the Mogao Caves left me breathless.

The removal by Stein of so much cultural and archaeological material from China has caused anger in China, and there have been calls for the texts and artifacts collected by Stein from Dunhuang that are now in the British Museum and British Library to be repatriated to China. Although the Chinese government has not formally requested their return, in 2003 an official at the Chinese Embassy in London stated that all artifacts should be returned to the ancient grottoes of their origin. Currently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding a visitor center and digital library of art to be completed in 2015, with the intention of preserving the fragile Mogao Caves. The Dunhuang art has been considered China’s Elgin Marbles.

A Shanghai High

Shanghai skyline
I want to thank Susie Berteaux  for being the guest blogger for the last two excellent posts,  “Fairy Tale Updated” and ” Go for Broke”, while I was having a wonderful two-week adventure in China. Shanghai, our first gateway city to China — aka “the Paris of Asia”– is renowned for its historical landmarks: the Bund, the Yuyuan classical Ming gardens, the French and British Concessions, as well as the extensive and growing skyline, the “showpiece” of the booming economy of mainland China.  
Shanghai is bisected by the Huangpu river,  a tributary of the famous Yangtze, and a wonder to behold at night. Riding on a boat with about a hundred Chinese tourists, we looked to the left to see what 19th century Shanghai looked like–Parisian in feeling–and to the right to see what the 22nd century might be.  Shanghai is “Paris meets Blade Runner”.  Words cannot describe the dazzling light show on the facades of 127-story gravity-defying skyscrapers with images projected and controlled by computer programs. They are jaw-dropping, stiff-neck inducing miracles of architectural design! These buildings are so unbelievable they looked like a movie set for “Mission Impossible”.  No wonder American action films (including the new James Bond movie) are partly filmed on location in Shanghai! Despite meteoric redevelopment, the old city still retains beautiful traditional buildings, both European and Chinese.  One of the most interesting in the Bund was the secret meeting place for the first Congress of Mao Tse-tung, carefully preserved with rare photographs of Mao and his key advisors.  Additional photographs of American and European politicians with Mao are also prominently displayed. During the Second World War  20,000 Jews fled Hitler’s regime to seek refuge in Shanghai and formed a vibrant community centered on the Ohel Moshe Synagogue, which is preserved as part of  Shanghai’s complex religious past.  (There is also a Muslim Street and mosques in the area.)

Shanghai Museum foyer

From neoclassical to art deco, Shanghai’s rich collection of architectural styles are visual teasers.  Award-winning international post-modern buildings are being constructed by the hundreds per year in this thriving metropolis of 25 million people. In recent years, a large number of architecturally distinctive– even eccentric– buildings have sprung up throughout Shanghai. Among the noteworthy examples of contemporary architecture is the Shanghai Museum, designed by prominent local architect Xing Tonghe.

Shanghai Museum exterior

Designed in the shape of an ancient Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE) bronze ritual vessel, the Shanghai museum has an entire floor (out of five floors) devoted to these exquisite 4000 year-old artifacts.  This is the best collection in the world. The building has a round top and a square base, symbolizing the ancient Chinese perception of the world as “round sky, square earth” and was partly designed by a French architectural team as well.

Shang Dynasty bronze

 

There is no way to truly communicate to anyone the splendor of this city, like no other I have ever visited.  Seeing is believing. This was a Shanghai high–a razor’s edge of fantasy and reality!

Fairy Tale Updated

The retelling of Fairy Tales of my childhood has been an interesting journey for me. If you know the children’s books by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (The Stinky Cheeseman and other Fairly Stupid Tales, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and others) you might know where I’m coming from.

The real trick in really appreciating the “new” look at fairly tales is that you have to know the original stories.  My parents provided me with a large sized Golden Book of Fairy Tales and read these tales to me before I could read and then encouraged me to read them myself when I started to learn to read myself.  Between the readings and the Walt Disney animated films, I feel like I am well versed in the love of these tales.

Now that my 17 year old grandson is spending his Senior Year of High School with us, I
seem to be finding lots of “new versions” of these tales in my Netflix queue.  The most recent of these movies was Snow White and the Huntsman, an updated take on the Snow White tale by the director Rupert Sanders.

This movie tells this tale with lots of special effects that really draws one into the darkness of the abandonment and need for approval that the Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) feels.  Misusing her beauty and power, the queen casts a spell of misery over her kingdom that leads the true princess, Snow White (Kristen Stewart  of the “Twilight” series), to escape her imprisonment in the depths of the grim castle. Snow White then fights her way through the dark forest that has many icky obstacles to find sanctuary with the very cantankerous 7 dwarfs (Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins and others)  with the help of the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth  of  “Thor”) that was sent to take her back to the Queen.

The special effects in this film are really beautiful and affective in so many ways,
it is beyond description.  The mirror, the ravens, the monsters, the forest, the costumes and  the makeup are all used to make this an interesting retelling of this tale of love conquers evil – and it isn’t just the love of the handsome prince that makes this a new version of this old story…

 

Snow White and the Huntsman

Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Toby Jones

 

“Go for Broke”

Hi,
Let me introduce myself to the followers of “Unhealed Wound.”

I am Susie Berteaux, friend of Diana and Doug, who has a blog of my own – “S&J’s Big Adventure(s).”

I guess, since I have my own blog, Diana thought that qualified me to be the  substitute blogger while she and Doug are traveling the vast, beautiful and  fascinating country of China.  When she gets back, we will all be waiting for her discoveries of art, culture and …food. I hope you all will find my postings as interesting and educational as Diana’s.

 

For this posting, I will “GO FOR BROKE!” as I attended the 11th Annual Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner for the “Go for Broke National Education Center.”

The dinner was held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in Los Angeles, CA.  Almost 900 attendees gathered on the 2nd floor of the hotel, for an evening with the surviving Nisei veterans of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service (MIS) along with their families and friends. This dinner is an annual celebration of these Nisei men who contributed so much to prove their loyalty to the United States by volunteering to fight in the European and Pacific Theatres of World War II.  The 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service (MIS) have become the most decorated military units in US history. Seeing all these men in their late 80s and early to mid 90’s who are our fathers, uncles, grandfathers and great grandfathers, who survived the loss of brothers, cousins and friends in battle far away from their families who were incarcerated in internment camps in some of the most desolate parts of the western United States, made me want to bring more awareness to anyone who is interested in loyalty, courage and love of family and country.  The Go for Broke National Education Center is a wonderful place that does just that.  I have copied some information from the Go for Broke National Education Center website to give you some information that has made me proud to be involved with such an organization.

Excerpts from the Go for Broke National Education Center website:

http://www.goforbroke.org/

 

HISTORY

In 1986, Japanese American veterans who had served in segregated units during World War II decided to create an organization committed to keeping alive their legacy of rising above prejudice and distrust to serve their country with unparalleled bravery and distinction.

Spearheaded by Colonel (Ret.) Young Oak Kim and Buddy Mamiya, the veterans embarked on a mission to build a monument as a lasting memorial to the patriotic men who served their country, even though their country had turned its back on their families.

In 1989 the organization was formally incorporated as the 100th/442nd/MIS WWII Memorial Foundation. For ten years, the veterans led a grassroots campaign to raise funds for the monument, and to secure a location in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district.

1998 was a watershed year as ground was broken for the monument, the Hanashi oral history program kicked off, and the organization held its first teacher training workshop.

Having completed their original mission of building the monument, the veterans established the Go For Broke National Education Foundation to focus on educational programs to preserve and perpetuate the veterans’ story.

 

….Over the years the organization has continued to develop its educational resources and outreach. We partnered with the Museum of Tolerance to tell the story of the Japanese American soldiers serving in the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion who were amongst the first to reach a Dachau sub-camp and render aid to the Jewish Holocaust survivors.

Our comprehensive video, “A Tradition of Honor,” paired with curriculum guides tailored to meet state standards, has provided the backbone for our teacher workshops.
In recent years, we have developed online curricula to support project based learning.

EXPANDED OUTREACH

In 2006 we made a slight name change to the “Go For Broke National Education Center” to reflect our vision of nationwide educational outreach.

Today, we’ve completed over 1,100 veteran interviews, taught over 3,000 teachers and 100,000 students, and we continue to welcome tens of thousands of visitors to the Go For Broke Monument.

 

More interesting facts from the website:

 

Military Record of the Military Units

The Japanese American soldiers of WWII proved their loyalty through the sacrifices they made in service to their country, the United States. The decorations and awards they earned are a permanent and indisputable record of their bravery and their patriotism.

For its size and length of service, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most decorated US military unit.

21 Medals of Honor (20 awarded on June 1, 2000)
52 Distinguished Service Crosses (including 19 Distinguished Service Crosses which were upgraded to Medals of Honor in June 2000)
559 Silver Stars with 28 Oak Leaf Clusters (in lieu of second Silver Star. One Silver Star was upgraded to a Medal of Honor in June 2000)
8 Presidential Unit Citations
1 Distinguished Service Medal
22 Legion of Merit Medals
15 Soldier’s Medals
4,000 Bronze Stars with 1,200 Oak Leaf Clusters (in lieu of second Bronze Star)
9,486 Purple Hearts
12 French Croix de Guerre with 2 Palms (in lieu of a second award)
2 Italian Crosses for Military Valor
2 Italian Medals for Military Valor

 

The Military Intelligence Service (MIS) was credited as having “saved countless lives and shortened the war by two years” by Major General Willoughby, General McArthur’s Intelligence Chief.

 

3 Distinguished Service Crosses
5 Silver Stars
1 Presidential Unit Citation (awarded June 30, 2000)
5 Legion of Merit Medals

Note: On   October 5, 2010, President Obama signed into law S. 1055, a bill to grant  the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442n Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, United States Army, in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II.

 

http://www.goforbroke.org/

I am humbled and proud of these Nisei men whose slogan was “Go for Broke” in war and  in peace the Go for Broke National Education Center  is “keeping alive their legacy of rising above prejudice and distrust to serve their country with unparalleled bravery and distinction.”

Azuki–The Sushi, Not the Bean

We’ve eaten at just about every high-end sushi restaurant that exists in any town we are in, looking for the Holy Grail of sushi, and some standouts have really  been memorable.  In San Diego, I believe that  Azuki belongs in the same category as the best we’ve been to: for its freshness, creative presentation, and quality of preparation.

Located in Banker’s Hill near Balboa Park, Azuki is both a “sushi-ya” restaurant and watering hole.  We arrived at the door (beautiful glass with azuki beans inside the panels) just as the Happy Hour was ending but the friendly sushi chefs encouraged us to get a drink and an appetizer before they would officially close Happy Hour.  

So, we sat at the bar and immediately ordered beer and sake, with spicy albacore tataki (sprinkled with yuzu, shichimi pepper, jalapeno, lemon zest with Hawaiian sea salt (usually $14 we were charged the $6 happy hour price!).

Then we ordered a few hot dishes: the hamachi kama (grilled yellow tail head chock full of succulent morsels of cheek flesh) and three types of tofu  were delectable. Some of their creative, whimsical  interpretations of sushi or raw food were amazing:  loved the Kobe roll–spicy rock shrimp with avocado and seared wagyu beef layered on top.  Just to push the eater over the top, truffle aioli and parmigiano reggiano were garnishes laid on the seaweed.  Also enjoyed the Vertigo roll–snow crab, scallops, hamachi with shiso leaves, cucumber and avocado to add green color and veggie flavor.  The classic sushi was beautifully presented and perfect, sweet, tender, and impeccable color.

Azuki is committed to using local and organic produce whenever possible and due to overfishing concerns with bluefin tuna, serves only more sustainable aqua culture fish and seafood. The menu of hot, cold, small and large plates means Azuki has something to offer all appetites – and budgets -, even for non-sushi lovers. The wine, sake and beer lists are excellent, too, so it would be fun for drinks only…or maybe that dessert I skipped.  Live music later on weekends could make Azuki an entertainment destination in and of itself.  If you are in San Diego, this is a must!