March 20, 1998

  Volume 50A

Celebrating CSUS' 50th Anniversary

Number 41

[Food Review - Author to Speak - Animation Festival - Movie Review - CD Reviews]

'Secret' campus eatery provides luxurious tastes at a bargain


In the same building that houses CSUS' Riverfront Market, the University Center Restaurant seems hidden in some forbidden domain, a place that many assume off-limits to the public.

In fact, an informal survey of CSUS students revealed several things: the existence of this restaurant was not well-known; many who knew of it thought it was for faculty members only; students did not know hours of operation or means of entry into the establishment.

Walking past Burger King with the CSUS University Theater to the right, one glances to the immediate left, confronted by several large plate glass windows. Like some desert mirage, a scene emerges past reflected images of trees and passersby: formal table settings and vases of flowers atop white tablecloths, inside walls covered in works of art and each table adorned with a shimmering decanter of bright green olive oil.

What might this place be -- this inner sanctum? Because no means of entry is readily sensed, this question becomes even more tantalizing.

Rounding the corner and turning left, toward the entrance to the River Front Center, one encounters a small latticework, pergola-like entryway. Next to that is a small plaque noting the presence of the University Center Restaurant. One then travels down a corridor, makes a short dogleg right and is confronted by set of double doors. Venturing forward, one discovers, not an office, a conference room or a lecture hall, but the reality of that vision glimpsed from outside.

Friends, you have discovered a jewel in the form of CSUS' own University Center Restaurant.

Be quick in apprehending this gem, however, for this elegant eatery is open only for a few short, discrete moments in time. The restaurant is only open 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Its menu is "prix fixe," a set menu at a set price, but is modified weekly to offer diners of three courses, with three choices per course.

This reviewer selected the ginger-rubbed Atlantic salmon with a stir fry of baby bok choy, seared egg noodles and Thai chili sauce. My pasta-loving lunch companion chose the penne pasta with sweet varietal tomatoes, grilled vegetables and crumbled feta cheese. A confirmed Caesar salad fan, she picked that as her starter, pronouncing it one of Sacramento's best.

According to David Levy, assistant director of marketing for the CSUS Foundation, the facility is a converted cafeteria that was used as a dorm dining area and kitchen during the 1960s, when it was known as the North Dining Hall.

Levy notes that the restaurant not only accommodates both students and faculty, but off-campus lunchers are welcomed as well.

Most of the University Center Restaurant's current recipes were devised by former chef David Kemplin, formerly of Scott's Seafood Grill. Several weeks ago Kemplin's career path resulted in his departure. However, he has been replaced -- apparently most competently -- by Edward Lee.

Under his stewardship, the standards of culinary artistry as well as mastery over presentation, appears to have remained high. The result is a value-for-money combination that seems nothing short of extraordinary.

Having made several excursions to the University Center Restaurant, this observer noted consistent quality and competent and friendly table service.

Little, if any, delay in being seated or fulfilling orders also make this a highly recomended dining experience for students on the run. The University Center Restaurant receives four out of five stars.

Sampling of menu selections available
at University Center Restaurant:
  • Roasted red pepper and potato soup, butter lettuce salad with raspberry balsamic vinaigrette and goat cheese, Caesar salad with shaved asiago and garlic croutons;
  • Seared pork chops with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and caramelized onions, linguine pasta with wild mushrooms, blackened Pacific snapper with mango salsa and cilantro butter;
  • Gelato du jour, cappuccino cheesecake, sorbet of fresh black cherries, custard cake with glace

Speaker to discuss 'Being Queer in America'

Author and journalist Michelangelo Signorile will share his experiences with CSUS


What is it like to be gay in America today? That is a difficult question to answer -- but Michelangelo Signorile is ready to take on the task.

Signorile, who will be making his first appearance at CSUS on March 23, will be giving a speech entitled "Being Queer in America."

He plans to explain the "closet in America" and how it works as a larger institution in the gay culture. His speech will also include descriptions of some of his own experiences "coming out."

Signorile is a fascinating man with whom one can talk. He has a lot to say about issues facing the gay communities in today's society and his outlook is both refreshing and inspirational.

Multi-Cultural Center Director Leonard Valdez says the side of Signorile the campus will see is part of the excitement of hearing him speak.

Growing up in Brooklyn and Staten Island, N.Y., and coming from an Italian-American neighborhood, Signorile got his share of rejections throughout his childhood. He says he wanted to come out of the closet, but the environment was not the kind of place where he felt he could do it freely. He left town and attended journalism school at Syracuse University, where he received his degree.

After various jobs in the field of journalism, Signorile found himself in the middle of the practice of "outing." He became the focus of attention after revealing a number of closeted public figures as homosexuals, including Malcolm Forbes and former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Pete Williams.

Signorile's latest book, "Life Outside," is an in-depth analysis of hundreds of gay men across the country, each coming from a different outlet of the gay society. In it, he asks many questions and takes an eye-opening look at the status of homosexuals in modern American society.

"(H)ow we can make gay life more nurturing? I mean, there is so much to gay life that is positive. But there is also some that has been negative because of the way people have responded to homophobia in the culture," said Signorile.

"I'm probably living my life no different from any straight person who's a journalist. In terms of what I did choose to do was come out ..." said Signorile.

And coming out was not easy.

In the beginning, he says he was filled with anxiety about how his new decision was going to affect his loved ones. Initially, his family was shocked and upset. But today, Signorile says that they are a wealth of encouragement and support. He says the key factor to his success was time.

"What is true for most people is that you always imagine it will be worse than what it is. You always imagine that it's going to be the end of your life or something like that and the truth is it's the beginning of a whole new life," Signorile said of coming out.

Open your minds and ears and listen to Signorile speak. This best-selling author will be at the Redwood Room in the University Union at 7 p.m. on March 23. Admission to the lecture is free and a book signing will follow it at the Multi-Cultural Center, next to the Library Reading Room.

Cartoons come to Sacramento


If it's raining this weekend or you're nursing a sunburn and want to duck inside, head over to the Crest Theatre for the 20th anniversary edition of Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation.

This series of animated short films contain elements of comedy, inspiring art, and ... oh yeah, there's a bar downstairs when you come across one that makes your stomach turn.

The 20th anniversary edition features Oscar-winning and nominated animated shorts such as Nick Park's comedy "A Close Shave," and "Canhead" by San Francisco's Tim Hittle.

The Spike and Mike tradition began back in 1977 in California when the pair threw a day-long animation festival at Riverside City College.

"We tracked down animators and talked them into letting us show their films," said Craig "Spike" Decker in a phone interview with Oakland Tribune reporter Susan Young in April 1997. "We started establishing some good contacts and things just started growing from there."

This year's collection of films is just as eccentric as ever.

"Stressed" is an animated piece developed through a sequence of over 5,500 oil paintings. It explores the sounds and moods of the grind of everyday life (and death).

"Creature Comforts" features Park's clay animation. Animals at the local zoo are interviewed and give their thoughts on the very unnatural habitat provided for them by their fellow animal: man.

While attending the Animation Festival, some might have trouble deciding which shorts to applaud. Just listen closely to audience. They cheered most loudly at last Friday evening's show following "Chessmaster Theatre," in which the film concluded with one of the opposing chess players urinating on the checkered board ... standing ovation material, apparently.

If you're still not sure what this animation festival is all about, some may recognize the more legendary titles that got their start with Spike and Mike. Favorites such as "Beavis and Butthead," "Rugrats" and John Lasseter, who did "Toy Story," all got their introductions to stardom on the silver screen through the Festival of Animation.

The 1998 Festival of Animation will be showing at the Crest Theatre, at K and 10th streets, through April 9, but will only be on the big screen through this weekend. Tickets are $7 and are available at the door or through BASS. For more information call the Crest at 44-CREST.


Travolta, Thompson and Bates prove their worth with 'Primary Colors'


With an array of gutsy performances and a whiff of reality, "Primary Colors" has all the glitter and controversy that makes an otherwise normal movie terrific. If only the upcoming Associated Students Inc. elections could be this fun.

Virtually an extension of your nightly news, "Primary Colors," based on the book of the same title, is supposedly about then Gov. Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign run for president. Although the names are different, director Mike Nichols ("The Graduate," "The Birdcage") leaves no doubt that the characters here are based on Clinton and his staff.

To his credit though, Nichols makes a connection to the audience by displaying his sense of humor.

He starts out the movie with a shot of the American flag and a circus rendition of "Yankee Doodle-Dandy" playing loudly. As the camera floats down, you see the governor's handshakes, learning which ones mean respect and which ones mean "he loves ya!"

The movie is told from the point of view of campaign manager Henry Burton (Adrian Lester). He is basically forced into the position of campaigning Gov. Jack Stanton for president. Stanton's character, obviously being portrayed as Clinton, is magnificently played by John Travolta.

The rest of Stanton's staff is played by Maura Tierney ("NewsRadio"), Paul Guilfoyle and Billy Bob Thornton (who seemingly resembles James Carville).

Lester's character is quickly defined in a short scene with Stanton's wife Susan, played by Emma Thompson ("Sense and Sensibility," "Remains of the Day"). Thompson, doing a fantastic impression of Hillary Clinton, asks why Lester joined Stanton. Lester replies, "When he says he cares for the people, I believe him."

As the campaign moves on, Lester learns that, while this is true, Stanton is no angel. Eventually, scandals of adultery and harassment start to evolve, potentially hurting the campaign.

Stanton decides to bring in his "dust buster" and longtime friend Libby Holdman, played hilariously by Kathy Bates ("Misery," "Dolores Claiborne"). She quickly and energetically disposes of these problems in an effort to enable the campaign to continue strongly.

As Stanton travels from town to town, he continues to win the support of Americans. This is where Travolta is at his best.

With his ashy grey hair and his Clinton-squeaked voice, Travolta plays the then governor so good one almost forgets it is Travolta. One continues visualizes Clinton and, as the camera slowly zooms in on his stoned face (pun unintended), one hears his inspiring speeches and how every word and idea that comes out seems to be the right one, no matter how wrong it may be.

The story unfolds as a moral issue, bigger than the previous ones they solved, and starts to tear into the campaign.

Stanton has to decide whether to turn "negative" on his opponent, which he previously did not want to do. If he does, a story concerning him getting a 17-year-old pregnant may come out from his own campaign team.

The story nearly tears the team apart. It makes Thornton and Bates' characters leave the campaign and it leads to Lester's character having many questions about his once-admired boss.

The supporting cast is great, especially the characters played by Thornton, Tierney and Lester. And, despite Bates' and Thompson's attempt to steal the movie with their great performances, Travolta ends up way on top.

This is Nichols' best movie since his masterpiece "The Graduate." It has lots of humor and clever dialogue that seems to divert the audience from the political mockery that is happening.

After seeing this, "America the Beautiful" has a whole new meaning. Out of a possible five stars, "Primary Colors" receives five.



Gov't Mule


Even though both Warren Haynes and Allen Woody gave up their day jobs as guitarist and bassist for the Allman Brothers to focus on Gov't Mule, "Dose," the band's latest release, still sounds like a side project.

"Dose" is a "vibe record." The album floats along with loose, funky grooves and extended, improvisational solos. Instead of songs, this is actually a collection of jam sessions.

While not as comfortably structured as the standard verse-chorus-verse formula, each of these tracks is an example of true musical passion, inspiration and spontaneity. It only takes one listen to recognize that these are musicians who are in love with the act of creating music.

Throughout the album, Haynes lets his fingers guide him, exploring the boundaries of each song with his guitar.

Out of a possible five stars, "Dose" receives four and a half.

Battle Hymns

The Suicide Machines


On The Suicide Machines' sophomore effort, "Battle Hymns," the band delivers a manic 22 tracks in just over 30 minutes. In fact, all but three selections clock in at under two minutes.

Although clearly influenced by reggae and ska, this is a punk band. Sure, "Give," with its Mighty Mighty Bosstones-inspired sound, may have considerable cross-over potential, but, let's face it, the rest of the songs on "Battle Hymns" are too abrasive for the average listener.

With the exception of some tracks containing perky, reggae tempos, the songs are primarily composed of speedy power-chord riffing, machine gun drumming and throaty, adrenalized vocals. Lead singer James Navarro spits out venomous lines of aggression, feverishly denouncing general racism, hate and ignorance.

Even though The Suicide Machines give a spirited and energized performance, the album's brevity illustrates its lack of musical substance.

Out of a possible five stars, "Battle Hymns" receives three.