is arguably the greatest living jazz musician, the only titan from the be-bop era still active. Long a personal favorite -- I wore out my CD of his seminal Saxophone Colossus -- his live appearance at Disney Hall was unmissable for those of us who've never seen him. (Some of my biggest music-going regrets have to do with not seeing Miles, or Dizzy, Ella and Leonard Bernstein when I had the chance.) Only through the life-saving intervention of a friend who worked at the Music Center did my friends and I get in, but we were treated to a surprisingly robust set at Disney Hall last Wednesday. His signature muscular tone and easy swing remained intact even as age diminished his soaring solo lines. Now he relies more on showy solos from sidemen, including gimmicky but fun percussive duets, setting up for a forceful restatement by the Man himself. Sonny needs a longer breather now, but the dude can still play.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Identity politics and. It's a tough spot being a non-black, non-Jewish minority storyteller. Not only are you immediately ghettozied if you depict the ethnic minority experience, you're invariably met with two divergent responses: on the one end, you're lauded by self-absorbed ethnic warriors and numbskull multicultis with no standards (how else to explain the fame of uber-hack Amy "remove my" Tan?). On the other end, your stuff gets dismissed by smug, "high-minded" white types who extol the "universal" (read: white or Jewish) experience, perpetuating the sense of white entitlement that one eventually realizes is intractable. Admittedly, ethnic artists do themselves no favors by pandering to the first demographic: the majority of Asian-Am storytelling can be fairly described as trite mish-mash of: oppressive parents, assimilation anxiety, interracial dating problems, and leaden symbolism involving either chopsticks, kimchee, or somosas. Identity-relate issues have been province for earnest, witless "self-exploration" for some time now, but it took a stoner comedy to do it right. Let's be clear: this is a movie featuring oral sex with a bag of weed. But in their quest for White Castle burgers, Harold and Kumar stumble their way through a surreal night that's a metaphor for the Asian-Am experience, forced to avoid and/or defeat a gallery of White Types Minorities Love to Hate, including the patronizing old man with authority, racist white trash, fucked-up cops, crazy white trash, etc. They do this while touching on, but not belaboring, themes common to Asian-Am lit (racial self-loathing, a desperate rebelling against stereotypes, emasculation, demanding parents and pressure to conform, etc.). Some nice touches, like Harold's barely concealed loathing of the nerds at the Princeton nerd gathering, but none of this would matter if it weren't consistently funny. And Kal Penn rules.