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I finally saw Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). I wish I’d stayed virtuously ignorant.

As an avid movie-goer, I try to see all the Academy Award Best Picture Nominees before the annual self-congratulatory award show orgy. But this year I was late. So now playing catch-up, I finally got around to Birdman, which won Best Picture.

Birdman is the supposed black comedy featuring Riggan Thomson, an actor once famous for portraying an iconic Birdman superhero. It stars Michael Keaton as Riggan and who, for what it’s worth, was not a very good Batman.

With an annoying staccato drumbeat for soundtrack, the film depicts Riggan battling his ego, his family, his career, and himself while he struggles to mount a Broadway play. I battled, too, but to stay awake. Now I know why friends told me they wished they’d walked out of the theater midway into the 2-hour movie.

I will spare you the various analyses offered by film critics both of the paid and wanna-get-paid variety. Birdman is either a satiric tour-de-force or a surrealistic portrait or a hilarious high human comedy. Almost every critic in the world was left frothing as they lathered the film with rinsed and repeated praise. Call me an untutored Philistine but I thought it was undeserved.

Fortunately, not every well-known critic was stampeded by the herd. I savored what The New York Observer‘s Rex Reed said of it, “a miserable load of deranged, deluded crap masquerading as a black comedy called Birdman . . . . Some of the critics who embrace this kind of stupidity claim that Birdman pretends to say something witty about the perils of celebrity, fame, stardom, success and failure, not necessarily in that order, but I can find nothing good to say about any shard of the pretentiousness on view here.” 

Amen, brother. I’m only glad that instead of getting flipped the Bird at $10 per ticket at the theater, it cost me only $1.63 from the local Redbox.

My take on movies.

Occasionally, I like discussing movies here. And not always because of a or a connection to the legal system.

I’ve loved movies ever since I can remember, no matter that my earliest recollection is a sad one. At 6 years old, I recall watching a war movie with my dad and crying when the dog got killed.

Someday someone will explain why whenever there’s a dog in a movie, the pup always gets it. To this day, it persists as a cheap, manipulative directorial prop.

Far as I’m concerned, Birdman is just another film proving what I’ve said before. The . What critics call “good” — often mystifies, annoys or bores the rest of us.

“Critics,” I last wrote, “see so many films each year their souls are deadened. They’re left almost bereft of what passes for normal sensation. Consequently, their viewpoints and opinions become increasingly jaded. Unless a movie darkens, depresses and disheartens, it’s not worthy of acclaim. Unless the nihilistic characterizations make you want to slug back a fifth of vodka or jump off a building or slit your wrists, the movie is not an artistic success.”

Jump off a building? According to one interpretation, that’s what Riggan does in the end. Or does he? Who cares?

Call me unvarnished but when I go to the movies, I want to be entertained or educated. And once in a rare while — to be uplifted. No surprise, then, that critically acclaimed downers seldom translate into popular success.

Give me the other Bird, man.

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Next time I want a Birdman, give me the attorney with a beak — the other ex-superhero named Harvey T. Birdman of Birdman and the Galaxy Trio. Although he works mostly as a criminal defense attorney alongside other cartoon characters, he’s not emotionally tortured — even if he is a lawyer. So if I want surrealistic comedy, next time I’ll take the other Birdman.

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Photo Credits: Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, by Nathan Rupert at Flickr via Creative Commons-Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License; Captain Future: Man of Tomorrow, by Colleen A. Bryant at Flickr via Creative Commons; Português: El Rey, nosso senhor e amo by Angelo Agostini at Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

A life well said.

Long time readers know I’m continually inspired by ‘seize-the-day’ true believers of any age and persuasion, but especially by those still sucking the marrow out of life — even as the sun ebbs.

Last July, I was enthused by Oliver Sacks’ testimony to Sacks, a neuroscientist by profession, offered his life reflections about old age in a New York Times essay on the eve of turning 80. Besides being a time of leisure and freedom, Sacks observed that with old age, those remaining sands of the hourglass also provide a time “to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.”

A terminal condition.

But recently, I learned Sacks had returned again to the pages of the ‘Gray old lady,’ but this time to reflect anew not only about life — but also about “his luck” running out on learning that at 81, he has terminal cancer.

Writing last month, Sacks described how “a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver.” The news, he declared, gave him “a sudden clear focus and perspective” with no room left for the “inessential.”

Not to be unsympathetic, his was hardly the uncommon reaction. It was Samuel Johnson, after all, who long ago observed, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

All the same, Sacks resolved, “It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.”

And ever introspective, dwelling on the abruptions felt with the passing of his generation’s contemporaries, he poetically reflected, “There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

With his concluding thoughtful ruminations, I have to admit how much I gained from what Sacks said so evocatively. He was moving and meaningful. He again inspired those paying attention to live more deeply felt, more fully awake lives. “I cannot pretend I am without fear,” he wrote. “But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

“Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

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Photo Credits: Hourglass, by AliHanlon at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license; Bridge into fog by SPC Lasha Harden, U.S. Army at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license; Flaming From Behind, by AliHanlon at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license.

https://brandtao.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/groupthink.gif?w=411&h=231

In August, I reported the Arizona Supreme Court had directed the creation of a state bar task force to review “The Role and Governance Structure of the State Bar of Arizona.” But knowing how things roll around here, I had of meaningful reforms. In the words of Laurence J. Peter, “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.”

Groupthinking task force.

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Arizona Bar leadership is notorious for group-think; tone-deafness; and smug self-congratulation. Far as Bar leadership’s concerned, ‘Everything Is AWESOME!!!

business,attire,suits,cheering,emotions,excitement,facial expressions,groups,hands up,happy,jumping,men,people,women

 

Business as usual.

Entertainment 606The task force has met five times and even started prepping its “initial, and very rough, draft report.”  But ‘fugetaboutit,’ there’s nothing to clap about.

Zero-based inquiry? Dissenting opinions? After reading five meeting minutes, save for cosmetic changes consisting of renaming the Bar’s board; seating fewer board members; and imposing overdue term limits — it’s clear without dissenters on the task force, it was preordained business as usual.

When thirty-six percent of the task force is composed of past members of the Bar’s board of governors, four of them also past presidents, including the immediate past president — expect no surprises.

Then there’s this, the appointed task force “consultant” ‘splainin‘ things to underinformed task force public members is the Bar’s well-paid CEO. Or as former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi once said, “If I, taking care of everyone’s interests, also take care of my own, you can’t talk about a conflict of interest.” A mission and governance review with such guiding lights is like hunting with the game warden.

BoredThe recommendations so far:

“#1: The Task Force recommends amendments to Supreme Court Rule 32(a) to clarify that the mission of the State Bar of Arizona is primarily to protect and to serve the public, and secondarily, to serve its members.

“#2: The Task Force recommends “restyling” Rule 32(a) for clarity and for easier comprehension.

“#3: The name of the board of governors should be changed to the board of trustees. This change acknowledges the fiduciary responsibility of board members . . . .

“#4: The size of the board should be reduced to 15 to 18 voting members. The Task Force recommends a board of 15 members.

“#5: Some members of the board should be selected through an electoral process, and other members should be appointed.

“#6: A significant portion of the board should be public members who have no financial interest in the practice of law . . . .

“#7: To assure that appointed members have the skills and experience necessary for service on the board, a process should be created for recruitment, vetting, and nomination of appointees . . . .

“#8: Board members should serve staggered terms to preserve continuity of leadership and institutional knowledge.

Politicians 34“#9: Board members should have term limits. The number of terms depends on the length of terms, but generally, board members should serve no more than 8-12 years.

“#10: Attorney members of the board, whether elected or appointed, should have no less than 5 years’ experience as lawyers, and a clean disciplinary record for the 5 years preceding service on the board.

“#11: Court rules should include a process for removing board members for good cause. The Task Force did not define “good cause,” but it might include commission of serious crimes, commencement of or sanction for formal discipline, etc. The Task Force proposes removal of a board member on a two-thirds vote of the board, conditioned on the Court’s ratification.

LAW AND JUSTICE 12“#12: Ex officio members bring value to the board. The immediate past president of the bar, and an associate Supreme Court justice, should serve on the board as ex officio, non-voting members. The Court should appoint one law school dean as an ex officio member, with the appointment rotating annually or bi-annually among the deans of Arizona’s law schools.

“#13: The leadership track of the board of trustees should consist of three officers: a president, a president-elect, and a secretary-treasurer, who should serve one-year terms of office.”

Having the cake and eating it, too.

The task force glanced at the 148-page report submitted by the Task Force on the Role of the State Bar of Michigan — but like the guy that licks the frosting but leaves the cake, the task force only liked Michigan’s affirmation of mandatory membership. The rest was irrelevant.

This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Germany License.

Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Germany License.

To the surprise of possibly only a squirrel with a backpack, Arizona’s task force recommended “that Arizona continue to have a mandatory (integrated) bar.”  See Mission & Governance Draft Minutes

As for the Arizona Bar’s posture concerning the reason the Michigan State Bar Task Force was created, i.e., whether as a mandatory bar, the Michigan Bar could fulfill “its core mission of service to the public and our members within the constitutional boundaries defined by Keller v. State Bar of California” — well, that was given short shrift.

Not like it mattered that the genesis of the Michigan Task Force was a state bar letter to the Michigan Supreme Court opposing a Michigan Bill to make bar membership voluntary. Noting that the bill raised “questions about the operation of the State Bar as a mandatory organization that are most appropriately addressed within the judicial branch pursuant to the Supreme Court’s exclusive constitutional authority . . . For that reason, we write to request that the Supreme Court initiate a review of how the State Bar operates within the framework of Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 US 1 (1990).”

But since the State Bar of Arizona back-pats itself “Keller-pure” – the task force opted not to go there. ‘We’re good.’ Ditto on the Bar’s programs, services and activities — its amazingness is everywhere!

To review all meeting minutes and related documents go to AZCourts.gov

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Photo Credits: cartoon source “group think or team win” by brandtao;chart based on Irving Janis groupthink model by HaleyB3, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons attribution;11326426096.jpg and 113264261341.jpg by sideshowmom at Morguefile.com; Nom cake! by Sirenz Lorraine at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License.

The Eastern Seaboard may still be buried in ice and snow. But Spring beckons all the same. And come March — like swallows that supposedly always return to Mission San Juan Capistrano, U.S. lawyers receive their yearly state bar propaganda promoting that vestigial anachronism known as the annual state bar convention.

2015 Patrons ProgramLast month I received the Arizona Bar’s annual sponsorship solicitation letter ‘inviting’ members to underwrite the convention as “Convention Patrons.” Suggested donations range from $200 plus to $4000 plus. The Nevada Bar, where I also belong, likewise looks for convention sponsors. But not nearly as enthusiastically as Arizona’s Bar, which spends thousands of dollars in member dues to solicit each member by direct mail.

To pry open lawyer billfolds, the cover letter from Arizona Bar leadership that accompanies the patron contribution form extols (without corroboration) the convention as “consistently recognized as one of the finest in the nation” and asks members’ “help to maintain this position of prominence by returning the attached sheet with your contribution.”

Given such tireless entreaties, mandatory state bars never ever leave a lawyer’s consciousness. So notwithstanding that creaky old song about swallows coming back to Capistrano — likewise the truth is that swallows never ever leave Capistrano. They’re always around.

In the good ole’ summertime.

State bar conferences are usually held in summer preferably at climatically pleasant locales like, for instance, Seattle, Washington where the State Bar of Nevada’s Annual Meeting is set for July 9-11, 2015. Or lovely Sun Valley, Idaho on July 29th when the Utah State Bar’s Summer Convention features keynote speaker Citizens United author U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

All well and good — except locally. The Arizona State Bar holds its annual meetings in June and in Arizona — hardly a climatically pleasant locale that time of year. Summer around here means hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

And alternating the venues between Phoenix and Tucson is of little use. The average June temperatures in each city easily surpasses 100 degrees°F. And in Phoenix, site of this year’s Butt-Numb-A-Thon, the June thermometer averages 104 degrees°F. The good news for the Bar is that by keeping the air conditioning cranked up, bored conferees don’t wander far from the all-you-can-eat CLE buffet or from the shameless self-congratulation ceremonies.

Getting cheeky.

Another way to keep ‘cheeks in seats’ — at least per the State Bar of Wisconsin, is to headline the event with the likes of humorist, actor, and author Mo Rocca. Wisconsin holds its 2015 Annual Meeting in June at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and a Kenosha lawyer apprised me about this year’s speaker.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6c/WaitOctaviaMoR2.JPG/360px-WaitOctaviaMoR2.JPG

But Mo Rocca? In 2010, the Wisconsin Bar featured retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor delivering the keynote address. But in 2015, it’s the sobriquet sharing “Mo” whose fame comes via CBS Sunday Morning and frequent stinting as a panelist on NPR’s weekly quiz show, “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me.”

The other NPR quiz show panelists Tom Bodett and Paula Poundstone were probably busy. At any rate, they didn’t invite Dick Cheney who stirred up Wyoming lawyers when he was keynote speaker at last year’s Wyoming State Bar Convention.

So no matter years of lackluster attendance and past pronouncements about the demise of the annual cheesehead lawyer convention, it appears its death was “greatly exaggerated.” Instead, the Wisconsin Bar has come roaring back — with Mo Rocca.

Ready. Fire. Aim.

But in Arizona, no worries. Keynote speaker? Who knows? Last year, according to the bar’s website, the principal address was also by a humorist but leastways, that fellow was also a lawyer even though nobody I know had ever heard of him. Of course, the same may later be said of Mo Rocca.

If the Arizona Bar hasn’t thought of it, NBC News Anchor Brian Williams is probably available now that he has six months of extra time on his hands. Or maybe that’s not such a good idea since his honorarium would most likely top Mo Rocca’s.

But for now, those waiting with ‘bated breath and whispering humbleness‘ will simply have to wait longer for the identity of the keynote speaker. The schedule hasn’t been fully announced for Arizona’s 2015 feast of self-congratulation, even though there’s a theme. Reminiscent of “Ready, Fire, Aim” — it’s “Ready, Set, Practice.”

In the end, however, it makes scant difference. Like some 90 percent of my colleagues, I won’t be showing face at the convention — so all those marketing appeals will go for naught.

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Photo Credits: 010 022.jpg by butkovicdub at Morguefile; IMG_4895copy.jpg By carmemlucia at Morguefile; Mo Rocca by Infrogmation (talk) at Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license; Dick Cheney by DonkeyHotey at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; Brian Williams by DonkeyHotey at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

Bats and misconduct.

I had bats on my mind yesterday. First there was the report Thursday about bats causing pandemonium sending people screaming from an Arkansas courtroom. I’ve been in really old courthouses and know that rodents live there but this was a first concerning bats. Bats in the belfry Then also last night, I read not about bats but brickbats thrown by the Ninth Circuit over another case of prosecutorial malfeasance. Railing as I have over time, about the persistence of prosecutorial misconduct, for instance, here, here, here, here, here and here, all those posts have started to seem “like the [impotent] vaporings of the fellow with a large flock of bats in his belfry.”

 

Prosecutor punishment rare.

So here I am back in the same belfry. The problem is that state judges rarely punish the misconduct by at the very least, referring the wrongdoing prosecutors to state disciplinary authorities or at best, by sanctioning the transgressors by reversing the convictions. Furthermore, state bars hardly ever bring disciplinary complaints on their own against prosecutors. Consequently, state supreme courts almost never disbar prosecutors for dereliction, lying, or for failing to disclose evidence to the defense that deprives defendants of a fair trial. Baca v Adams. Courtroom 93The Los Angeles Times’ always insightful Legal Affairs Reporter reported last night about a January 8, 2015 Ninth Circuit hearing and the stern admonishment from the 3-judge panel about prosecutorial lying and the heedlessness of watchdogs in bringing misconduct to heel. See “U.S. Judges see ‘epidemic’ of prosecutorial misconduct in state.” Citing Napue v. Illinois, 360 US 264 (1959), which held that “the failure of the prosecutor to correct the testimony of the witness which he knew to be false denied petitioner due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the three judges were not amused in the unheralded case of Johnny Baca v Derral Adams, which was the subject of the hearing. Per Napue, prosecutors cannot suborn perjury — or lie as happened in the Baca case. 1152762_left_hand_silhouette-_womanAnd questioning why bad things don’t happen to people doing bad Judge Alex Kozinski declared, “You know it’s a little disconcerting when the state puts on evidence, the evidence turns out to be fabricated and nothing happens to the lawyer and nothing happens to the witness. So I have to doubt the sincerity of the State when it says it was a big mistake.” It was hardly a surprise, then, that given the findings of the state appeals court that the prosecutor lied and their own readings of the Baca file, that the judges wanted the State to back off. Judge Kozinski additionally noted that though the state appellate court found the prosecutor lied — since no discipline had been meted, then he opined that prosecutors “got caught this time but they are going to keep doing it because they have state judges who are willing to look the other way.” Watch the videotaped hearing below at about the 28:30 minute mark for equally biting criticisms, including Judge Kozinski questioning the absence of any inquiry or discipline by the state attorney general into the misconduct.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/36/Kamala_Harris_Official_Attorney_General_Photo.jpg/160px-Kamala_Harris_Official_Attorney_General_Photo.jpg

Calif Attorney General Kamala Harris

However, given the keen political shrewdness of California State Attorney General Kamala Harris who now aspires to succeed Barbara Boxer in the US Senate, she spared her office further embarrassment by timely accommodating the strong judicial intimations to stand down. Last Thursday when the bats were flying in De Queen, Arkansas, she and the new Riverside County D.A. filed the following motion: As for myself, unlike one optimistic commentator, who opined after the hearing, “Prosecutors who suborn perjury may finally have to pay the piper,” here in my belfry, I’m still skeptical.

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Photo Credits: New Bat, by Windell Oskay at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License; Bat in Belfry at The Phrase Finder http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/bats-in-the-belfry.html; Round Rock, TX: Mexican Free-Tailed Bats by Roy Niswanger at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License; Kamala Harris, by http://oag.ca.gov/about, official photo, California State Attorney General, Wikipedia Commons, public domain; kdjfdkjdkl.jpg by greyerbaby at morguefile.com license .

Pre-Super Bowl Trepidations.

I don’t have a team to root for in this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX. The Packers choked like Luca Brasi and the 49’ers were never in the hunt.

That said, I still plan to watch the game although not out of parochial loyalty because it’s hometown-hosted in Satan’s crotch.

Red carpet moment.

Thanks to the NFL’s marquee event, Arizona’s all over social media; the blogosphere; the traditional newscasts; and of course, all the sports channels.

Local chamber of commerce types have overstated their Op-eds and overcooked their media interviews with tongues and tails wagging like nervous Cocker Spaniels who piddle when guests ring the doorbell. Can’t fault them, though. This is Arizona’s red carpet moment.

“The Super Bowl of Sex.”

But the fact is, despite all the media hype and hoopla, I find myself agreeing with Matt Brown, one of my Arizona lawyer blogging amigos, who a few days ago was justifiably in high dudgeon not over the game but over crackdowns by “sociopathic authority figures” in the lead-up to the big game. Mix predatory cops, lazy prosecutors, broadly-worded criminal statutes and onerous mandatory sentences and you have a prescription for easy guilty plea deals for “Super Bowl Johns,” he opines in his post, “The Superbowl . . . Of Sex?,” which was not only aptly argued and titillatingly titled but amusingly angry.

Hookers not haboobs in Super Bowl forecast.

Matt’s a criminal defense lawyer and so he’s allowed to get deflate-gated over the “sleazy” and “desperate” entrapment tactics that make life so easy for local law enforcement feeding the “criminal-justice conveyor belt.”

According to local and national news media, the Phoenix forecast calls not for ‘haboobs’ — but hookers since allegedly, “hordes of sex-crazed Superbowl attendees are currently descending on our fair state with an unquenchable desire” for paid sex.

And while Arizona’s tourism boosters and business types want very much for the Super Bowl to give Arizona a chance to change its tarnished image, I tend to agree more with Matt Brown’s concluding paragraph, “If the powers that be in this state wanted to teach the rest of the country a lesson for thinking Arizona maybe wasn’t the cruel, backwards place it seems to be based on our government’s perpetual quest to out-stupid the rest of the country, mission accomplished. If the rest of the country is lucky, they’ll learn to not acknowledge us anymore. They’ll certainly not want to visit again, and I can’t blame them.”

But what about ‘dem Cardinals?

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Photo Credits: Ready to play, by frankieleon at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license; Juno and Melon summer 2012, by Ray Larabie at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license; DSC_0769 by Greg Gorman at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license;Satan’s Super Congress, by DonkeyHotey at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9c/2007feb-sushi-odaiba-manytypes.jpg/320px-2007feb-sushi-odaiba-manytypes.jpgA number of years ago when lawyering was not even a twinkle in my eye, I traveled to Flagstaff, Arizona on overnight business. For dinner that evening, my employee suggested of all things — that we have sushi. Ever dubious, I asked, “Sushi in the desert?” Well, he found a restaurant and we tried it. And let’s just say it wasn’t good.

Fast forward to 2015 and little has changed fine dining-wise in the desert. In particular, going out for sushi is a bad idea. Save for those folks who think ‘good sushi’ is oxymoronic, you still won’t find good — much less excellent sushi among the saguaro, scorpions, sand and sidewinders.

Phoenix sushi establishments can of course, buy overnight flash-frozen ‘fresh’ sushi-grade fish for a price. But the thing is — the farther from the coast — the more problematic a dependable palatability. At age 19, I learned that good sushi is not only about freshness, texture, and quality but about firm, dense, aromatic rice. I was fortunate to learn this from an Issei Japanese cuisine gastronomer who was my guide.

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/m/matthewhull/preview/fldr_2004_12_08/file0002050956242.jpgLast night with no thanks to Yelp, once more I stepped into the breach of my better judgment and tried a well-established local sushi eatery that was new to me. Like virtually all sushi establishments in the desert, it was another one of those prolific nondescript strip-mall restaurants. Not cute on the outside or the inside.

For not the first time, I was again burned in the desert. I’d forgotten the six essential things I’d come up with long ago to avoid wasting good money on bad sushi. Hope springs eternal in the human belly — “but man never is, always to be blessed.”

First, as any casino buffet employee can tell you, ‘all-you-can-eat’ is the triumph of quantity over quality. Steer clear of all-you-can-eat sushi.

Second, when the sushi chefs only speak Spanish, the odds are good they weren’t classically trained in Japan. Third, if the crab served is the pulverized, shaped, colored and cured fish variety, so much for authenticity.

Fourth, in the way you should bypass Mexican restaurants without any Mexican customers or for that matter, any ethnic restaurant sans its share of knowing native connoisseurs, avoid a sushi restaurant bereft of Asian diners. Fifth, if they don’t have uni on the menu, question their bona fides. And sixth, if the people recommending a sushi establishment to you think mayonnaise and cream cheese smothered cooked fish is sushi, your prospects are dimmed considerably.

In sum, if Portland, Oregon where I spent time last summer is Foodie Heaven, Phoenix and Maricopa County remain Foodie Hell. Forget my “Pho King VIP” credentials or the local paper’s smarmy boosters, you won’t find this town listed anytime soon on any credible top-rated restaurants list whether for sushi or anything else, not for instance, either here or here or certainly not here.

In the place that supposedly invented the abominable chimichanga thereby proving that anything can be deep-fried — when it comes to food, Phoenix remains a bad dining town.

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Photo Credits: Many types of sushi ready to eat, by Nesnad at Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; half_fish.jpg By matthew_hull at MorgueFile free photos;Crab Sticks, by Natto at ja.wikipedia at Wikimedia Commons, released under the GNU Free Documentation License; Waiting for Ramen, by Travis Wise at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution License.

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