Thursday, January 29, 2009


The other day, Charles Memminger of the Star Bulletin (Honolulu) wrote about New York Times writer Katharine "Kit" Seelye mistaking President Obama's "shaka" sign to his alma mater's Marching Band as a "call me" gesture in her online blog. (She thinks at first it's a "call me" gesture, then a few minutes later, corrects herself. Check out the link to see The Man waving The Shaka. Cool.) Hey, that's a common enough mistake, right? Not a big deal. The big deal was when, according to Mr. M's column, Ms. S got so riled up she wrote back to tell him how upset she was (with him) and asked the Bulletin to publish her letter to editor.


Why can't Ms. Seelye just admit she doesn't know EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME? That sometimes she gets her facts WRONG? And why get so defensive just because a humor writer of a small free Honolulu paper pokes a bit of fun at you? Let it go. Self-importance should be left to the politicians and emerging rock bands.

And worst of all: Where's your sense of humor?

Oh. I remember. It escaped from the New York Times.
(Just kidding. But I didn't need to tell you that, did I?)

"Howzit, brah?" "Shaka!"
Wouldn't it be great if everyone in the current administration began using it? Aloha shirt Fridays would be fun, too. Can't you just picture Obama negotiating peace in the Middle East wearing a parrot-colored shirt? How can men stay angry while wearing loud floral prints? We should get the leaders of Israel and Palestine to wear aloha shirts. I'll bet they'd stop dumping bombs on each other.

Buddy N shows us the proper lazy way of displaying a "shaka."

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Saturday, January 24, 2009


There are times I become very envious of Americans.
I remember reading a British writer who was envious of the American ability to be casually friendly with total strangers. That's one of the things I love the most about the US, but what really makes me envious is their political optimism.

Japanese are completely jaded when it comes to politics. We've been driven to the brink of annihilation, to the depth of hell by our politicians, it's a wonder we have any trust left at all. When was the last time any Japanese person had any real hopes for his/her prime minister? Most of the time, we're just holding our breath, hoping he (and I can only use the male gender pronoun here!) won't screw things up big time. (Imagine having a succession of Karl Roves governing your country.) Change the world? Ha. Just don't muck things up for your own people! (And because of our history, we are really leery of any politician who starts meddling in other countries' affairs.)

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hawaiian Rainbow

"Have you noticed how everyone becomes an islander when they live here?" I mentioned to Big Dog. We had just come out of a Korean supermarket where a friendly, smiling Korean lady gave us samples of a puffed grain cracker (made on the spot by a machine that shoots out crackers with a huge bang.) She, and all the other Koreans working in the store, were not at all like the Koreans living in Tokyo or LA. "No matter where you're from, after a while, they all become Hawaiian. There's not as much tension between all the different racial and ethnic groups."

The rainbow is one of the symbols of Hawaii. It's meteorologically fitting because this state really is a land of rainbows -- you can catch dramatic ones almost every day! But sociologically it's fitting, too, for the way it's been able to absorb different cultural elements to make them its own. There is a lot of overlap between races and cultures and a whole lot of tolerance. Racial integration is more the norm here. Everyone seems to be of mixed heritage -- it really IS a melting pot!

Sure, the Islands have their own particular problems, but they also have so much to teach us.

A dualistic or monistic view of the world seems to be a particularly European/Judeo-Christian thing, but it's not a very inclusive way of thinking, is it? Us vs Them, Black vs White, Good vs Evil, etc. Great way to create conflict, rather than harmony.

Barack Obama, who spent part of his boyhood on Oahu (and is also multiracial despite all the focus on his African lineage!) is sworn in today as the new President of the United States. One can only hope this will bring some Hawaiian Rainbow Aloha Spirit to Washington.


...and another rainbow. (from yesterday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Waikiki)

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Feelin' Olu'Olu'

"We left LA for this?" Big Dog exclaimed incredulously as we arrived in Honolulu in tandem with a storm system. We had the Christmas freeze-out, but this week, it was perfect beach weather in LA. Now, in Honolulu, our clothes felt skimpy.

Dark clouds cascaded down the steep ridges of Oahu and dumped on us sporadically all day Friday. It was also so gusty that corridors between buildings would have made great wind turbines. But I was happy to be in Aloha-land again.

There is something about these islands that makes me feel...olu'olu'. I've never really felt I belonged in California, although I grew up there (even stranger, I feel more at home in Mexico!) but each time I come to Hawaii, it feels like I am coming home. And while I'd prefer to chill out in a little shack on the North Shore, I even like Waikiki.

I didn't care about the weather. I felt comfortable here in a way that perfect-climed California could ever make me feel. Sure, it's the blend of East and West, but it's also the way "funky" and "tacky" have slipped through the cracks and into the sleek, shiny and modern. It appeals greatly to the saboteur in me.

Newer resort areas around the world have been more successful in eliminating authentic and/or native funk. Travelers bemoan it, but the tourists seem to love and expect Disneyfication. This week's edition of the town's alt paper, Honolulu Weekly, featured an interview with a Bay Area travel writer who questioned why the tourism industry here would allow tourists to see the "gauntlet of ugliness" on the way to Waikiki from the airport. She suggested walls with murals. Yeah, let's hide "real" from the tourists! I wanted to tell her it was the row of grimy warehouses and little corrugated tin shacks housing diners and bars and mechanics that made me happy to be here. For me, that's Old Honolulu and it comforts me to see that they haven't been bulldozed to make way for another boring, homogenous, gentrified landscape of shops and restaurants you can find in Palm Springs or Scottsdale get the picture.

The pace here felt much faster after months in our little Mexican village where Big Dog can spend the entire day in his underwear. Back in our workaholic Tokyo days, we came here to chill out! Now I am enjoying the hustle and bustle of a real city. And yet, it is gentle in a way the mainland can never be. It's olu'olu', brah.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Santa Monica Freeway, Eastbound, Sunday 6:21pm

bejeweled city of excess
land of straight, rigid streets
and snaky freeways lit up
hot angry red lines glaring
"let's move it!"
hot expectant white lines fuming
"get going, asshole!"

and there, through the smog
rises the craziest moon, as big as jupiter
cresting over mountain shadow
so giant it makes you want to howl
aahhhwooooo! aahhhwoooo!
makes you want to jump out,
scramble between the cars on all hairy fours
instead we all crawl just a bit slower
for a better look

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Stop the Insanity

What a horrible way to end the year.

What a terrible way to start it.

(The photos are Very Graphic and not at all appropriate for general viewing. But as shocking as the photos are, it's more horrifying to think that we are capable of such actions.)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy!!! New Year

Just spent a week of tree pruning at The Ranch.

"You know, it's a strange thing about this place," I commented to Big Dog. "When I'm here, I am totally in its grip. There's some strange seductive power here -- like a siren song you can't resist."
"I know what you mean!" he agreed.

The weather was warm, clear and fabulous and I got to climb a lot of trees. (Plus JD, our friend who lives on the property was there to teach me some knife-throwing basics!) Some trees are more fun to climb than others, but I don't think there is any tree that's NOT fun to climb, so the little bits of leaf and Spanish moss and maybe a bug or two in my hair is all worth it.

"Why do people stop doing what they enjoyed as children?" I emailed friends. "Jumping on trampolines, making sand castles, climbing trees... I'm so happy to be doing all of these things again."

Well, today, I know why people stop doing what they did as kids.
My upper body is completely sore.

But here's what I think: I'm just not doing it enough!

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