Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Propaganda Techniques

Video Find of the Day

Great 1950s film that tells you everything you need to know about propaganda in an easily understandable propagandistic form. Weigh the facts against the purpose! Get as many different points of view as you can! Collect countless examples and whip them out casually in conversation to impress the highly impressionable!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Miles Davis

Video Find of the Day

Miles Davis recorded Bitches Brew in 1969. I was elsewhere at the time, but now I hear it, I like it.

NASNA 2007 Conference

Last weekend there was a NASNA (North American Street Newspaper Association) conference right down there in Portland, less than two hundred miles away! So Real Change sent a bigger than usual contingent to it. We had two vendors, a director, a reporter, an intern, a consultant, the unclassifiable Anitra Freeman, and the overly-classifiable me.

Bad lighting and a shortage of time and free hands prevented me from taking more than a few minutes of video. I broke the camera out first at Saturday's lunch in Portland State U's Farmer's Market. There was a shot of a Buddha, followed by me tracking down the sound of a jug band. It turned out to be the Sassparilla Jug Band, specializing in "Dust Bowl Folk".


Paula (to our left) and Anitra, rise to the challenge to become impromptu music video babes backing up the Sasparilla Jug Band. I display a low threshold for repetition toward the end, but I'm only just joking around.

Video Girls

Later than day I wanted video proof that the 2007 North American Street Newspaper Association conference was not all Farmer's Market food, jug bands and music video babes. There were serious workshops, too. Here, we see two brief clips of director Tim Harris of Seattle's Real Change newspaper leading a workshop on vendor issues, intercut with a typical surreal conversation between me (holding the camera) and Robert Hansen, Real Change vendor #1188.

Anitra wants all to know that Robert and I just clown around like this all the time and it's all in fun. I want everybody to know that if you couldn't figure that out yourself you probably can't figure out whether your socks go on the inside or the outside of your shoes without tossing a coin. So half the time we know who you are.

Tim mentioned the Real Change Wiki. It's here.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Umoja, Kenya

Video Find of the Day

I first learned about the existence of domestic violence refuges when I was driving cab in the 80s. Cabs were needed sometimes and it wasn't always possible to line up women drivers. I was called in on a few occasions, after promising never to reveal the location of the refuge or the identities of the passengers.

In Africa, in Kenya, there's a whole village that's been established by women who have been raped and "dishonored" and become homeless. It's called Umoja, which means "Unity" in Swahili. The video embedded below is a documentary about it.

If deciphering the on-screen French is a problem, there's an English version here, but you may have to wait longer for it to load.

In 2005, the Washington Post ran an article about Umoja.

See how the previous post referenced the City of Refuge in Hawai'i, and we ended up in Umoja? There's a madness to my method.

Springfield Tikis

Still on my first car trip across the US, in 1953, at about 3 years and about 9 months. We reached Missouri, where my Mother's family lived. The memory that stands out is eating at a restaurant in Springfield, Missouri, that had a Tiki Room.

The room had a high pitched ceiling with visible rafters. Along each of the long sides there were standing carved wooden statues, which I know now to have been copies of the famous statues at Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau, the City of Refuge on the Big island, where Hawaiian outcasts could escape death for breaking kapu.

It was yet another "gotcha' moment for my Father. I asked what the statues were about. I'd never seen anything like them. My Father said, "How can he not know what they are if he's so knowledgeable about all things Hawaiian?"

Even my Mother marveled at my ignorance. "They're tikis, stupid! They're Hawaiian gods! You speak Hawaiian, you should know what they are!"

I couldn't imagine what was wrong with me. I didn't know things I was supposed to know. I didn't know why. I didn't have any way of understanding that what they were expecting of me was absurd. Were Lani and Lono supposed to show me photos of every conceivable Hawaiian artifact during their lunch breaks in order prove some points to my parents months later? Were they supposed to bring copies of the statues to work, so I'd know how big they were?

Despite the pain at the time, I think they did me a favor. They created another link between the haole world and the Hawaiian world. It was a stupid link, but anything that could bridge the worlds could help keep the memories of the Hawaiian world alive.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ain't No Sunshine

Video Find of the Day

Freddy King does an awesome version of the Bill Withers song, sometime in the 70s.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Celtic Music, French Style

Video Find of the Day

Until I started looking around for French Gaelic videos I never saw dancing like this. This is from Brittany. One of the tags is "Breizh", which I've found is the Brittany Gaelic word for "Brittany". Things like that can help find more of this.

Check out the guy in the blue hat and the green jacket. Can you see him being played by Steve Martin? I can.

The title of the video is Tri Yann - Franzozig.

Technorati Sucks, Week 18

Readers of my other blog, Adventures in Bloggery, where I have been posting my Real Change Adventures in Irony column, may have noticed that the latest column hasn't been posted yet. The reason it hasn't been posted is that Blogger's damn spam-detecting robot thought it saw something about the blog that meant it might be a spam blog. So I had to send a message to Blogger to start in motion a process of having one of their humans read the blog and verify what you and I know quite well, that it's not spam. This is taking time, and I am getting peeved.

My first reaction, in fact, when all this happened, was to think, "Oh no, Blogger is now turning out to suck just like Technorati." Then I realized that I was overreacting. It's only been one day. I'm sure Blogger will come through.

Why am I sure? I'm sure because I know that Blogger, which is run by Google, HAS humans, somewhere, in charge of their business.

Which brings me to today's point. The robots have taken over at Technorati! That's why they suck so much! The robots are in control! THE ROBOTS ARE IN CONTROL!

Someone call Homeland Security. Don't you see? It's obvious! Sometimes they do what they're supposed to do, allaying suspicions. BUT OTHER TIMES, LIKE WITH THIS BLOG, THEY BREAK THEIR PROGRAMMING, AND RUN AMOK!

[Pictures: Above, one of Rossum's Universal Robots, from the Karel Capek play R.U.R.; Below, January 1931 cover of Astounding Magazine, art by Hans Waldeman Wessolowski AKA "Wesso" (1893-1947)]

Technorati is run by robots; robots suck; therefore Technorati sucks.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Video Find(s) of the Day

Here are two wildly popular videos having to do with Godzilla. Godzilla is what I think Jung would have called a highly numinous archetype. It's a deep "chthonic" (Jung loved that word) representation of the Anima. So is Snoopy.

ゴジラの新生活1:猫が大嫌い Godzilla Hates Cats

The title of this post is the Japanese for Godzilla. Here's a fun thing you can do with that fact. Copy the title. Paste it into your Google search engine. The topmost hit should be the Japanese language Wikipedia entry for Godzilla. Google will give you the opportunity to view a translated version of the page. Go there, and read some hilariously bad Japanese-to-English translation like this: "With series 3rd work '[kingukongu] anti- Godzilla which is released in 1962 of 7 years later' audience mobilization several 12,550,000 people and recording the series highest." Robot translators suck!

The Classic!: Bambi Meets Godzilla

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Seerauber Jenny

Video Find of the Day

My favorite song from the Three Penny Opera is this one. I love the very idea of revenge. I like to roll the word around in my mouth, re ven ge. reven-ge-ge. I love to think of wonderful ways to cause pain and to disable my enemies before dispatching them. I especially enjoy the revenge that involves the chicken, the super glue, the can of refried beans, and the Zippo. I also love Lotte Lenya, Bertolt Brecht, and Kurt Weill.

Flight Is Prohibited

Here's a random memory. After I was betrayed by the gas station attendant, my Mother pressed on with her demand that I be killed. Most of the talk went on behind my back, but I could hear a lot of it. Their "whispering" wasn't as quiet as they thought it was, or else they didn't realize how good my hearing was.

I think my hearing has gotten worse in the last ten years, but as late as 1989 I was surprising doctors with my hearing acuity. At that time the doctor giving me a physical got several feet away from me, brought out a pocket watch and told me to say "stop" when I heard it. I said "stop" immediately. She thought I didn't understand her. She held the watch up at my ear level, four or five feet away and said, "No, you're suppose to wait while I bring it gradually closer to your ears. Then, when you hear it, AND ONLY WHEN YOU HEAR IT, you're to say stop."


"I haven't moved any closer at all."

"I can hear it."

So she reversed the test. She pulled the watch away and told me to say "stop" when I couldn't hear it. She was almost out the room by that time. At least 8 feet away. She said my hearing was better than any 20-year old she'd ever examined. She asked me if I ever went to rock concerts. I said, "Never". At first she said, "Maybe that's it." Then she thought a minute, and said, "Nah."

Anyway, back to age three and 9 months, 1953. With all the talk about murdering me, I was terrified. Each night I thought I wouldn't wake up. So I started thinking about running away. We made a stop at another isolated gas station in the middle of desert. There was brush all around. I was small enough I could hide behind any of it. So I ran off.

I got maybe 200 yards away, when it hit me. What was I going to eat? What's here to drink?

I took a beating when I came back, for having thought of running away.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Louis Jordan

Video Find(s) of the Day

I think Louis Jordan is just inside my Father's dividing line between Music and the Junk Kids Play, on the Music side of it. After Louis Jordan came Shake, Rattle, and Roll, and nobody was trying to make music anymore, they just wanted to jump around, Dad said.

It's nice to revisit these old mile-posts.

The first -- The Green Grass Grew All Around -- is just... different.

The next two definitely inch toward Rock.

Early In The Morning



Nat King Cole, Route 66, 1950.

We left Seattle in the Spring. We left by car. It was the first of a total of eight trips my parents would make by car with me from one coast of the Contiguous 48 to the other while I was a kid. If you add in the one trip I made alone in 1980, that's a total of nine, which is an odd number, which means this must be the West Coast. Yes. Yes it is the West Coast. My math checks.

Where was I? Yes, we left in the Spring. I was not, this time, kept informed of the itinerary. I only have a very general idea of the route. I was too young, not four yet, and knew too little of maps or geography to make much sense of it anyway. So the trip was, for me, an extended exercise in feeling lost. Each new town we entered was a place I'd not only never seen before, but never heard of.

"What's this?" "It's Portland, honey." "What's Portland?" "It's a city." "Oh."

"What's this?" "It's San Francisco, honey." "What's San Francisco?" "It's a city." "Oh."


We didn't travel straight. We took a circuitous route because we had plenty of time. My Father didn't have to report for duty in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, for almost a month. So we went south and then turned east, through the Southwest. And, I'm sure, a long stretch was on Route 66.

I started early out asking strangers to help me escape my parents. My reasoning was that, as my experience with Aunt Lovilla showed, relatives were dangerous, because they had prior alliances with the parties involved. I couldn't get Aunt Ata to help because she was my Father's sister. She would always take his side. It was like they had a pact.

But strangers were unentangled. They could hear my story and decide on its merits. I assumed that some would say, like Lani and Lono did, they couldn't help because of the political difficulties of stepping in. But they wouldn't have any reason, I thought, to betray me to my parents.

At first it all went well, in the sense that nothing bad happened. Nothing good happened either. I just asked one stranger after another to help me whenever I had the chance to get away from my parents for a minute or two. I said my parents had tried to kill me once already, and my Mother still talked about killing me. I didn't mention the rapes because I didn't think it was necessary.

One person after another said one of two things. Either, "That's sad but what can I do? I can't kidnap you." Or they said, "How dare you talk about your own parents that way. You're an evil child."

I estimate that I spoke to about a dozen people altogether. They were gas station attendants, motel clerks, bus boys, and waitresses. The usual service workers you encounter on the road.

Somewhere in the Southwest we stopped at an isolated gas station off the highway. This was 1953, so the whole trip was on old-fashioned highways. There were no low-access interstate freeways then. While my parents were busy using the bathrooms or buying beverages I told the gas station attendant what I told everybody. He told me to get back in our car and he'd think about what I said, and maybe talk to some people about it.

He made it sound like I had won him over. I got into the car thinking maybe the police would show up to arrest my parents and they'd take me someplace safe.

Then I saw him talking to my parents. He was pointing to me. They were looking angry and each one was looking toward me, red in the face.

When my parents got into the car, no one said anything until the gas station was well behind us. Then my Mother shrieked, "I TOLD YOU HE REMEMBERED! WE HAVE TO KILL HIM NOW! WHO KNOWS WHO HE'LL TELL NEXT! EVENTUALLY SOMEONE'S GOING TO BELIEVE HIM!"

My Father interrupted a few to times to say, "QUIT SHOUTING!" AND "IF YOU'D SHUT UP I COULD THINK!"

All I could think of was, a total stranger betrayed me for no reason at all.

Lani was going to kidnap me and take me somewhere safe. When he couldn't do that he talked of killing himself. I'm afraid to find out what happened. I'm afraid he might have done it. But he never would have betrayed me.

Here I was among what were supposed to be my own people. I was an American child in America. These were typical Americans. Eleven were useless. Nearly half of those called me evil, for speaking the truth about my parents. And a twelfth betrayed me.

I wanted desperately to return to Hawaii and be back with real human beings with real souls.

Monday, July 23, 2007

John Lee Hooker

Video Find of the Day

Bad Like Jesse James

Not really a video, so much, as an audio, but well worth it.

"gonna take you right down, by the river side, now four is goin' down, ain't but three commin' back, read between the lines, what's goin' to happen to you, 'cause I'm mad, I'm bad... " -- whoa..., settle down there big fella, we can work this out, I was only just looking at her...

Fave Ancestor

We're finally into 1953! Events will seem to move faster now, because the highlights will be so spread out over time, and we won't talk about all the crushing boredom between them.

After our arrival in Seattle and an initial rush to get to the family gathering on time, we settled into a prolonged sleepy stay at my Grandmother's house. During a large part of this time my parents were off having some sort of life without me, while I stayed in my Grandmother's care.

My Grandmother was great. She was a sensible woman with a great sense of humor. She was the only one of my grandparents still alive then. She was a Roberts, and she wanted me to be proud of my Scots heritage. This heritage seemed to revolve around eating peanut butter straight from the jar, so as to avoid having to go to the trouble and expense of having to get the bread out. That, at any rate, was what I gathered about it at the time, being not four yet.

She also was a keen judge of human beings, and was able to see through my Mother to the bone and hated her thoroughly. This endeared her to me. She will always be My Favorite Ancestor That I Have Known.

[Above right: All Peanut Butter eaten on or near Beacon Hill had to be Sunny Jim Peanut Butter, because Sunny Jim Peanut Butter came from Airport Way South, and therefore tasted better than all other peanut butters.]

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Korean Drum

Video Find of the Day

Someone playing a Korean hourglass drum. I have no talent for drumming. Is this a student? He seems awfully good at it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Video Find of the Day

This made the hairs on my neck stand up when I first heard it on the radio in the 80s. I might have taken to it so strongly because I was just getting into housing after a bout of homelessness, so a Hosanna was definitely in order. Placido Domingo, Hosanna, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Requiem.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tom Lehrer

Video Find of the Day

I was inspired by the fact that this is Week 17 of my Perpetual Technorati Arc to write about math and math humor, because 17 is such a funny, funny, number. That, in turn, led me to think of Tom Lehrer.

This is a great video of one of his most notorious songs. There were rumors that the German missile-scientist turned American space-rocket-scientist Werner Von Braun wanted to have Lehrer sent to a camp all his own for this song.

Here's 3 more videos that don't show him but illustrate some of his songs. These show what I admire most about Lehrer -- his nerve. Back in those days it was unimaginable that someone would sing a cheery song about poisoning pigeons in the park. He did it and he made it work.

Reviews he enjoyed so much he used them for his album liners:
"Mr. Lehrer's muse is not fettered by such inhibiting factors as taste." - New York Times (9 February 1959)
"More desperate than amusing" - New York Herald Tribune
"He seldom has any point to make except obvious ones" - Christian Science Monitor
"Plays the piano acceptably" - Oakland Tribune

Did I mention he was a mathematician?

I've forgotten, if I ever knew it, what the contemporary inspiration for Masochism Tango was. I'm sure it wasn't Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Family Debacle

We arrived in Seattle in time for a big Christmas family gathering. The Browning family and various others related-by-marriage were collecting at my Uncle Fred and Aunt Lovilla's house. My grandmother lived in a house by herself near the crest of Beacon hill in South Seattle. Fred and Lovilla lived with two sons halfway down the hill, where they had several acres to grow vegetables and Fred's beloved irises.

It was not a White Christmas by a mile. The weather was so good that the family got together in the yard rather than in the house.

My Mother started in as soon as we got there bragging about what a linguistic genius I was. A few of my relatives might have believed her without any proof but Aunt Lovilla would not, and if there was anyone there my Mother wanted to show up, it was Aunt Lovilla.

My parents had got a Christmas present for themselves before leaving Hawaii. It was an album of popular Hawaiian music, including the Hawaiian Wedding Song, Aloha, and the Hawaiian War Chant, which was big in the States at the time. It was precisely the sorts of popular Hawaiian music that Lani detested.

I hadn't heard the album yet. My Mother brought it out and announced to everyone present that she was playing the Hawaiian War Chant, and that I could sing along and translate. This she said, would prove once and for all that I spoke Hawaiian fluently, and that she wasn't making it all up. There were 25 or 30 relatives watching, including my Father and his sister, Lovilla.

I couldn't find the version of the Hawaiian War Chant that my parents had. That was probably the Bing Crosby version. But there's this lovely Muppet Show version that gives the idea quite well.

Now, those are actual Hawaiian words there. It comes from an actual hawaiian song written in 1860. But there are several problems with asking me to translate it on the fly.

1) It's not sung by Hawaiians. It's sung by non-native speakers, who don't pronounce the Hawaiian words properly. 2) It's sung. How many times have you heard a song in English and not been able to make out the words? "Excuse me while I kiss this guy?" 3) It's a love song. I was 3 and a half. I had to have love songs explained to me even when I understood the words. 4) It was in the standard Kamehameha dialect, not the dialect I was learning. And of course, 5) I was still only just learning.

According to the Wikipedia article, here are the original lyrics by Prince Leleiohaku, who called it Kaua i ka Huahua'i, "We Two in the Spray."

* Tahuwai la a tahuwai wai la
* Ehu hene la a pili koo lua la
* Pututui lu a ite toe la
* Hanu lipo ita paalai

* Au we ta huala
* Au we ta huala

* Tahuwai la a tahuwai wai la
* Ehu hene la a pili koo lua la
* Pututui lu a ite toe la
* Hanu lipo ita paalai

* Au we ta huala
* Au we ta huala

Even now I can't figure this out. As best as I can tell these lyrics were written to be read by non-Hawaiians. The word breaks are in the wrong places.

In any case the opening line threw me for a loop when I was 3 and a half, and I never recovered. How would I have known what a Tahuwai is? It's an archaic word referencing a custodian in charge of water rights! The whole song begins with an obscure reference to colonial-period property management!

I simply was lost. It was gibberish to me then, and when everyone saw how lost I was, Lovilla said, "I could translate it that well," and everyone burst into laughter, except my Mother, who turned bright red.

Later she threatened me with bodily harm if I ever embarrassed her like that again. The threat rolled off me, because I figured I was in danger of bodily harm from her always, anyway. She had many times complained to my Father that he should have finished me off when he had the chance.

The threat that didn't roll off was the one I got from Lovilla a little later on. I got a chance to be alone with her for a few minutes, and used the opportunity to tell her that my parents had tried to kill me.

She said, "What are you saying to me? You're saying your Mother tried to kill you?"

"Not just her, both of them."


I got the message, and never asked her for help for anything, from then on. I wouldn't ask her for help breathing air in a room, if there was extra.

Technorati Sucks, Week 17

Here's my favorite sucky math joke. Q. What's special about the number 17? A. It's the smallest prime, the sum of whose digits is 8!

Ha, ha, I never get tired of that joke.

How does a differential topologist visualize 96-dimensional smooth manifolds? He first visualizes N-dimensional smooth manifolds where N is greater than or equal to some sufficiently large number. Next, he does a calculation on the side to confirm that 96 is sufficiently large, for the purposes of the present discussion. Then he substitutes 96 for N.

Theorem. A cat has nine tails. Proof. No cat has eight tails. Since one cat has one more tail than no cat, it must have nine tails.

Q. What is purple and commutative?
A. An abelian grape...

Q. What is glazed and filled with jelly?
A. A topologist's coffee cup.

A statistician is a person who thinks he's average because he has one testicle and one ovary.

What is the difference between a Psychotic, a Neurotic and a mathematician? A Psychotic believes that 2+2=5. A Neurotic knows that 2+2=4, but it kills him. A mathematician doesn't care what 2+2 is, so long as 2 and + are well-defined and the axioms determine the value of the operation.

How much does Technorati suck? Let S be the set of all ways that Technorati sucks. If I remove any one element of S, the remaining set can be placed in one-to-one correspondence with the original set S. That's how much Technorati sucks.

One of Life's Exceptions

When we returned to my Father he was livid. We had been gone more than twice as long as we were supposed to be. We were late for our plane. He acted like he would beat us both.

Phone calls to the airport were made, while the shrieking continued. Dad was informed that we could get another plane leaving a couple of hours later than the one we were originally to take. He settled down. As he relaxed, my Mother told him about the conversation with Lani, and how it proved she was right and he was wrong. I WAS speaking Hawaiian. He said to her, "How did YOU suddenly get to be the expert on what's Hawaiian and what's Pidgin?" She said, "I was there, I heard him, and anyway I know as much about it as you do, which is nothing, nothing at all, so shut up."

Since we had so much more time to catch the plane, my Father took us the long way to the airport. Leaving Schofield, he drove northwest instead of southeast, and we reached the coast. Then he turned and followed the coastal highway.

I was in the back seat holding the whistle, which my Father hadn't noticed yet. As Alaka'i I studied the whistle, turning it over and over, looking at all of the designs. One of the things that Lani taught me was that asymmetry is not a problem for Hawaiian art, so long as each side of a piece has the same power. I saw how the right and left sides of the red bird were carved differently, but they were equally strong.

Then I gave the whistle to Keiki Kona, telling him that it wasn't a toy, so he should be careful with it. Kona immediately played the whistle loudly.

My Father screamed at my Mother, "TELL YOUR SON TO STOP THAT DAMN NOISE!"

She said, "Stop playing the whistle, honey."

My Father said, "Whistle? Where did he get a whistle? I didn't give him any damn whistle!"

She said, "I was going to tell you. The nice Hawaiian man gave it to him, as a going away present or something."

He said, "Great. So I suppose he's forgot all about the ball I worked so hard at getting him. He's going to just play with this stupid whistle and drive me nuts."

My Mother said, "Well, about the ball, there's something,..."

"WHAT? Where's the ball?!" He pulled the car over, opened his door and got out of the car, and opened the back door on the driver's side and screamed at me, "WHERE'S THE BALL I GAVE YOU??!!"

I said, "I gave it to Lani."

My Father dragged me out and hurled me onto the pavement behind the car. Even though it was December it was a hot afternoon. The asphalt was hot, and I remember the air shimmering in the distance, as I got up off the ground. I don't remember a word he was screaming. I remember he knocked me down again, and then he snatched the whistle out of my hand and threw it toward the ocean, the screaming was just a meaningless muffled background noise to me.

I think I started to hate my Father at precisely the moment the whistle left his hand and sailed away. There wasn't a whole lot to love in that picture.

At that point in the coastal highway the bank of the road is formed by rocks which slant down to the sea. I don't think my Father's throw reached the ocean. I think the whistle landed on the rocks below us. I like to think it's still there.

My Mother had to stand in between us to stop him from hitting me more. She said if he was going to kill me to do it and get it over with -- he should throw me into the ocean -- but if not, he had to stop. They could explain a child disappearing at a rocky beach, but they couldn't explain a battered child.

Dad yelled at me to get back in the car. I said no. So he yelled at my Mother to get in. She did, and he started to drive off without me. I just stood there.

Then he stopped, and they sat in place, about a hundred yards ahead of me. After one or two minutes, the car back up to where I was, my Father got out, walked up to me, grabbed me by the arm and threw me in the back seat. We continued on to the airport.

On the way Kona was in tears because the whistle was lost, but Alaka'i said it was the memory of the whistle that mattered, and since he had committed it to memory it would still do what it was meant to do.

Just before we arrived at the airport we were driving down an avenue lined with tall trees. I imagined they were koa trees. Lani and Lono had told me that the great canoes were sometimes made from koa trees. Koa also means army, so in my imagination the trees turned into how I thought Hawaiian warriors might have looked, one for each tree. I had little to go on, so they looked like dozens of clones of Lani and Lono wearing feather cloaks and holding spears upright before them.

On the plane ride to Seattle my Mother brought up the subject of Kona. She introduced him to my Father as an imaginary friend. He told her he was glad she wasn't pushing the split personality idea anymore. Then he noticed that I called him Keiki Kona.

He said, "That proves he's not speaking real Hawaiian. Anyone who knows any Hawaiian knows they put the adjectives after the noun. If Kona is the name, then it has to be Kona Keiki."

I didn't know what to say. I just spoke it, I didn't know books about it. It was almost 39 years later that I found a Hawaiian grammar book in a Half-Price Bookstore and read that some adjectives, including many that begin with the letters ke or ka, precede the noun. They're exceptions.

Just like me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Video Find of the Day

Here's one of the first video providers on YouTube that I subscribed to. What we have here is a guy living somewhere in the vicinity of Manchester, UK, who has taught himself banjo, guitar, fiddle, lyre, etc., and plays Klezmer, traditional Irish, traditional Norwegian music, in Hillbilly, and/or Heavy Metal Style. In what appears to be his bedroom. For YouTube. How can anyone not love that?

You may want to protect your ears by turning the volume down.


Jewish/Gypsy Music Fusion


Ā Hui Hou Aku

After Lani gave me the whistle I remembered Kona and showed it to him. Is that confusing enough? Here's how it worked. I was there with my Mother, so in my mind, Kona was with me, instead of back at home. I had been Alaka'i while speaking and translating Hawaiian. But Kona was there and he would want to see the whistle, so I let him. Which made Kona take over from Alaka'i.

While the Kona personality was playing with the whistle Lani actually spoke with my Mother in broken English for a bit. I didn't catch it all but noticed when he asked about my little brother. My Mother said there is no little brother, there's just him, pointing to me. I looked up at her as Alaka'i again and said, "That's not true, little brother is right here. See? He's playing with the whistle." And I switched back and blew into the whistle.

My Mother laughed and said he's just talking about an imaginary friend he made up. But Lani, who had heard me talking about a little brother for a long time in earnest, looked worried.

Then he crouched down to my level and said, "Who am I speaking to now?" in Hawaiian.

I said, "Alaka'i."

He said, "I had hoped you'd make your last visit alone. I was going to take you away someplace safe from them. Now I'll never see you again. I'll never have another chance."

"I'll come back," I said.

He said, "No. You won't be able to."

Then a tear down from his eye. He said, "Even if you come back, I won't be here. I can't stand the thought that you'll never escape. I'm going to go away. Please don't look for me."

My Mother interrupted. She told me we were going to be in big trouble when we got back to my Father, for being so late. The sooner we got back, the better it would be.

The thought that I really might not see Lani again made me think of uku.

Uku is the law of reciprocity. If someone gives something to you, whether it's good or bad, you have to give them something in return of equal value, to keep the universe in balance. I thought I was obligated to give Lani something that was as important as the whistle he gave me. Ordinarily I could wait and do it later, but not if I'd never see him again.

So I picked up the ball and held it out to him, and told him he had to take it.

My Mother said, "You can't give him that, that was from your Father. Your Father will be upset."

I said, "Daddy will know I had to give it to Lani." I had a higher opinion of my Father's good judgment than was justified by my experiences with him.

Lani tried to refuse it. He said that uku didn't apply to a hō'ano'ano gift.

I should have listened to him about that. He was right, of course. The hō'ano'ano giving was completely outside of uku. But I couldn't see that in the short time that I had.

Finally, I talked Lani into taking the ball, and we said goodbyes. "Ā hui hou aku" -- until we meet again. Then he waved for a minute as my Mother, and the dog and I walked back home.

The last I saw of him, he appeared to hang his head in sadness, and turn away.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Video Find(s) of the Day

Two videos originating from the Garifuna people of the Caribbean coast of Central America. The first is from a concert featuring Aurelio Martinez held in Belize City, Belize, 2005. The second is a short film of Garifuna women singing and dancing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Video Find of the Day

Fred, the barbershop quartet, doing a short medley starting with "I Want to be Sedated", and ending with "Cocaine."

The Growing Gift

Even at the time, at the ridiculously young age of 3 and a half, I had enough sense of irony to realize what a joke it was that my Mother suspected Lani of being a pedophile. I think now it was based on 1) racism, 2) the fact that he was much older than she expected him to be (she later said she thought he'd be six or seven), and 3) she was a rapist, so it was easy for her to think anybody could be.

I've often noticed that the people I most have to worry about stealing from me are the ones who most often voice such suspicions of others. They suspect others because they do it themselves. If a priest berates his congregation about tithing every week, I bet he cheats on his taxes. My Mother taught me the pattern early.

Seeing me talking with Lani set her at ease, though. I assured her he was good, but I think what really settled her was how comfortable I was with him.

I explained how suspicious my Mother was to Lani, and pointed out the irony. I told him she thought he was evil like herself. He asked if I was really sure she didn't understand Hawaiian, and I proved it by looking at her and insulting her with a smile on my face. She just smiled back.

My Mother began asking him questions through me. I already knew the answers to a lot of her questions but she insisted on answers from him, so he had to say he was from Ni'ihau and a maintenance worker, etc., so I could translate and say the same things I already knew to my Mother.

Then she asked him things I didn't know the answers to. She asked him how old he was. The answer was a word I didn't recognize. Lani then showed that he knew some English words after all. He said in English that he was nineteen.

She asked him how well I was speaking Hawaiian. He said I was speaking just right for my age, and was ready to start school. She was surprised and said, "Start school? How old do you think he is?" He said he thought I was five or maybe six. She laughed and told me to tell him how old I really was, and I held up three fingers plus one bent finger to show the half.

So all along Lani and Lono had thought I was about two years older than I was, probably because I was bigger than a typical Hawaiian child my age, and they'd grown up among Hawaiians on Ni'ihau.

Lani said that, if I was that young, then my speech was very good for my age. He said my main difficulty was with number.

That one stray comment had a major impact on my life. I now realize that he meant grammatical number. Grammatical number is much more complicated in Hawaiian than in English. As well as singulars and plurals, there are duals, and additional sorts of "we" and "us" depending on how many of us there are and whether you are included in us, and different kinds of theys than in English, and I hadn't got it all down yet.

But I thought at the time he meant counting numbers. So later on I became obsessed with learning all about counting numbers, thinking I would make Lani proud. This ultimately led to a doctorate in mathematics.

Had I understood better what Lani was saying, it might have been a doctorate in linguistics.

I showed Lani the ball my Father had given me. He said it reminded him of something he had for me. He reached into a deep pocket and pulled out something. It was a sliding whistle. On top of it was mounted the carving he had been working on for months. It had turned into a bird which was painted red. The basic whistle itself, he said, was store-bought. It was white to begin with, and he had added decorations in red and black along the sides. He attached a feather to it. He apologized for not being able to get an 'i'iwi feather. It had to be a dyed feather. He also apologized for the shape of the bird's beak, he couldn't do a long 'i'iwi's beak with the wood he had.

He said that he made the whistle thinking I was older than I was. It was made as a hō'ano'ano gift.

'Ano means kind. 'Ano'ano means seed or to grow in accordance with one's kind. Hō'ano'ano means to help cause something or someone to grow the way they are meant to grow. Lani said that it was a tradition for a kahuna expert in such things to give a hō'ano'ano gift to each child when he or she reaches the appropriate age. Since human beings are creatures of ideas and imagination, the seeds of humans are ideas also. The gift is designed by the expert based on his knowledge of the individual child, to point to and stir the germinating idea that is already trying to grow in the child.

Lani said he was giving me the whistle even though I was younger than he thought, because he wouldn't be able to give it later. He told me I was supposed to meditate upon it once a day. It wasn't the physical object that was important, but the idea of it.

That, he explained, was why he worked so slowly and carefully on the carving. It was why he only carved it in my presence. Seeing him carve it was part of the gift.

He explained a little of the symbolism. The red bird is my 'aumakua because I was drawn to it by its song. Therefore there must be a song inside me, as part of my seed. Some of the decorations on the whistle represent the drum music I loved, and some pointed to questions about life I asked. There was a design that stood for flight, and for imagination, and the feather also did that.

But the main idea was that the bird needed the whistle to sing. The bird was very red and very Hawaiian, but he needed the white non-Hawaiian whistle to be heard. Lani said I wouldn't be able to sing my song to the world in Hawaiian.

[Below: Just an artistic suggestion of it, not really accurate.]

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mother Meets Lani

As the time came to leave Hawaii my Father took an entire week off, so it was looking like I wouldn't see Lani and Lono before we left. I wasn't really clear on the concept of that. I thought if I missed them that week I could come back the next week and see them. Fortunately there was a final meeting, but not with both of them.

It happened because the dog had to be walked before we left. My Father usually did that, but he was a control freak about packing so this time he had my Mother do it. I begged her to go with me to see Lani and Lono. My Father said not to take more than half an hour. I think my Mother went along with the idea just to get away from my Father, because he was getting irritable. Packing always made him surly because he didn't have any spatial sense. He blamed the suitcases at first, then anyone standing around.

So my Mother, Koko and I set off for Stoneman Field. Of course, my Mother had never been to see Lani and Lono, so she had no idea where we were going. I grabbed my ball as we left. I'd finally be able to show it to them.

A lot of what I know about my visits to my friends became evident through this walk. The reason I know about how many blocks down Leilehua Road I had to walk every day to see them is that on this one trip my Mother provided the count. I had only just recently learned the Hawaiian word for five, now I learned the English word.

My Mother was astonished that I had been wandering so far from the house every day. She complained that we'd used up half our time already, just as I spotted Lani. She was saying we'd have to go back right away.

When Lani saw me, he called me over to his side of the Avenue. At this point I was crossing the avenue myself as long as Lani or Lono was there to wave me over.

I started to cross but my Mother grabbed my arm and started yelling to Lani, "Who are you? What have you been doing to my son?" After that she let go of me to step off the curb to march over to him to confront him. But by then a car was on it's way. I ran and yanked her by the skirt and told her, "Not now, a car is coming!" It shocked her to realize that I'd prevented her from being hit, after all the times she'd told me not to cross unattended.

When it was clear again, Lani called out to me in Hawaiian to come over to his side of the street. It's odd to me now that I remember that the word for side he used, 'ao'ao, was one I didn't know before. But I got the idea and I led my Mother across.

My Mother was still wanting to know what horrible things the man was doing to me when we walked up, but if Lani understood anything she was saying he didn't let on. He just looked at me for help. I asked him in Hawaiian where Lono was, and he
told me Lono was out sick. It was another new word for me, 'ōma'i. We talked at length about the meaning of it. The word was funny to me because I knew ma'i to mean genitals. My Mother looked confused through the whole thing, then I explained to her that Lono "had a cold" because that was the only kind of sick I knew.

She demanded to know from Lani why he wasn't talking to her, and I told her it's because Lani didn't speak any English, but I could help. And I began translating back and forth for them.

I believe that my memories of Lani and Lono would have been lost forever if it were not for this one conversation. Up until this conversation my world had been in two pieces, each with its own memories consisting of a separate web of associations. The next 15 or 20 minutes of conversation, translating between Lani and my Mother cemented the two worlds together and made the memories of one world accessible through the other, because they intersected for that time.

Throat Singer

Video Find of the Day

Being Xenomanic, I'm often in the position of being blown away by something just because I've never seen anything like it before, because I want to be, and I go out of my way to make that happen. Then, people who know much better about what I've seen say, "you fool, that was just a beginner, you haven't seen anything good yet."

Since this guy says that scientists have identified 12 kinds of throat-singing, and he, a student, only does 6 of them, I'm inclined to think that's what's going on here. I can't wait to find the video of the guy who does all 12!

By the way, Ulaan Bataar is my favorite name of a city to drop into my writing in order to have specifically named a city, when the specific naming of a city is called for, for comic effect. I recall a documentary that claimed that the majority of the city's residents at any given time are just passing through. Even the city is nomadic.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Plate Dance

Video Find of the Day

A plate dance (Tari Piring) of the Minangkabau. Acording to the Wikipedia article these are the most populous matrilineal people in the world today, with a little over 5 million in West Sumatra, Riau, Indonesia, and parts of Malaysia. They are also almost entirely Islamic. Their name means Victorious Water Buffalo and refers to a legendary victory of the people over a threatening neighbor with the help of a well-prepared baby water buffalo. Hence also the taste in architecture.

When I showed this one to Anitra she tried to tell me they had to use adhesives on their hands. It's not done with glue, it's done with physics! That's inertia holding those plates on!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Smells Like Ritual War

Video Find of the Day

The description of this video on YouTube says, "Tijdens onze trip door Papua werden wij getrakteerd op de oorlogsrituelen."

The Babel Fish Translation to English:

"During our sniffing Papua we were treated on the war rituals."

Mmm, Is that a new perfume honey, or is that Papua?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Technorati Sucks, Week 16

Technorati has found a new way to suck! I don't know how they can be so creative!

Since Tim Harris registered his blog Apesma's Lament with Technorati, I naturally favorited it with them. Not because I needed Technorati to help me keep tabs on Tim's blog (I knew I'd be reading it regularly anyway) but because I wanted to see Technorati doing something right, to serve as a comparison when they screw things up.

Tim hasn't had any of the trouble I've had with Technorati, and up till now their updates of Apesma's Lament have been in order.

But today when I check "Posts from my 1 Favorite sorted by freshness" the freshest post of Apesma's Lament, the one posted today, wasn't there.

No problem I thought, anybody can be behind a little bit in updates. And in fact, all the other recent posts were listed. So, big deal, they just hadn't updated for this one day yet. By tomorrow everything will be there.

But then I noticed that the "freshest" post listed, "Tragedy Strikes, Cops Screw Victims" was listed as having been posted 4 days ago. That would mean it was posted July 9.

Well... ---->

Technorati is backdating Tim's posts for him! They couldn't have got the Tragedy Strikes post logged on their system before yesterday, because that's when it appeared. Tim didn't predate it. He didn't postdate it. He predated posts on an altogether different blog he just started up to feature his old Classics Corner column.

Could Technorati suck so bad it could predate posts just because it can? Just to screw up in new way for the sheer hell of it?


Red Dwarf

Video Find of the Day

I just discovered that people have put almost all the episodes of Red Dwarf on YouTube, one-third episode per clip. This can't be legal. But in case it is, or it isn't, here is one of my favorite bits, the opening of episode 3, year V, titled Terrorform.

For the sake of those who've never seen Red Dwarf, here's a quick synopsis. Three million years earlier the mining ship Red Dwarf experiences a catastrophic radiation accident which kills every human on board except the lowest ranking crew member Dave Lister, who has been placed in time stasis, a form of suspended animation, as a punishment for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of his pet cat, which is not permitted to be aboard a deep space mining vessel. Lister is therefore in all likelihood the last living human being in the universe. The only other biological survivor of the radiation accident was Lister's cat, which was hiding in the ship's hold and which was pregnant, and gave birth to a race of cats which over the 3 million years evolved into humanoid form, only one of which is left after a mass departure and annihilation and the deaths of stragglers. There is also the ship's computer, Holly, who starts out being male in form but transforms into the female form we see here. There is also Rimmer, who is not in this clip, who is a computer generated hologram based on the recorded personality of Dave's dead roommate, and an android Kryten who is discovered in season two taking care of a long dead crew on a long ago crashed ship.

The characters seen in this clip, in order, are Kryten, Dave Lister, Holly, The Cat (evolved from Lister's cat.)

The rest of this episode has been posted. I don't know why the labels say season 6, when everyone else, including my own notes, says season 5.

Red Dwarf VI - Terrorform Part 2

Red Dwarf VI - Terrorform Part 3

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Last Chant Learned

The last new chant I learned was the Kamanomano chant. There was an unusual prolonged torrential downpour that drove Lani and I indoors. We were in the gymnasium near the tennis courts. Lono was off somewhere else. I begged Lani to sing a chant and he lost patience and reminded me that the chants are spiritual. You just don't sing them any place, any time.

I must have looked really hurt and made him feel horribly guilty, because he immediately came up with a chant that he could feel comfortable singing in a gym. Years later I found it performed twice on tracks 13 & 14 of the Smithsonian Hawaiian Drum Dance Chants album. It was translated by Mary Pukui in the notes this way:

1. 'Eia o Kalani Kamanomano
[Here is the heavenly one Kamanomano]

2. Kamanomano heke o ke kapu
[The highest and strictest of the tabus]

3. Ka honu pe'ekua wakawaka
[The thick horny shelled turtle]

4. Pip'i ka unahi ma ke kua
[With scales up the back]

5. Hiolo ka unahi ma ke alo
[And scales that come down the front]

6. Ma ka maha 'opi o Kalani
[Along the sides of the heavenly one]

7. Kalani ka hiapo, kama kapu
[The first born, a tabu child]

8. Hānau mua o Hawai'i
[First born chief in Hawai'i]

9. Ka 'īlio nūkea ma ka lani
[A snout raised up to the heavens]

10. 'Eia la ke 'o nei
[Lo, here he is!

Lani's interpretation was unusually clear and specific. He said it was about something you could see in the sky at night. He gave a different translation of line 6, saying it meant, "in the cleft temple of the sky." That referred to a place where the Milky Way appeared to separate and return to itself. So it isn't a constellation, but a relative void of stars. The song is describing it as looking like a fabulous long necked turtle with snout raised and jewels sprinkled over and under it, and suggesting that he is an apparition of a great ancestor.

He touched the right side of my head at my temple, to explain the meaning of the word "maha." The touch reminded me of the car's strike, and it burned Lani's meaning into me.

Cumbia Triple

Video Find of the Day

First, Los Hermanos Flores.

Next, Crooked Stilo -- Cumbia Urbana.

Finally, Cumbia heavy metal parody.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Video Find of the Day

Apropos the last post.


Now that it's 55 years, one Bachelor of Science and a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a marriage, divorce, a house, and homelessness, later, I think the Huna that Lani explained to me is looking very good.

Western Science is cautious about knowledge. The idea that we all have to be objective and stick to observable facts and regard all theory as tentative until disproved is a great way to enforce the caution that science needs.

But the Huna denial of objective reality takes Western Scientific caution further. It regards theories as not even tentative but relative to the needs and aims of the theorist. The Huna as I understand it is more scientific than Western Science.

Also, after years of consideration, I've come to the conclusion that the core religious thinking of the Kahiko is not faith-based, but philosophy-based.

Lani said that the myths and legends were only for entertainment and illustration. He compared fabulous stories of Maui to stories of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or to the idea that God sits on a cloud and has a white beard. The Huna is the real religious thinking.

The Huna doesn't suppose that gods are persons. When Lani talked about moving in and out of mental states, he said the gods couldn't do that. A god is a mental state, he said. It's the way humans are superior to gods, that as persons we can change our minds, but gods' minds are fixed.

Today I would put it this way: the different gods represent the different possibilities of mind. They are like masks. People can move among them, putting them on, taking them off. You shouldn't let one get stuck on you. You're more than all of them.

It's a view that doesn't require beliefs at all. It's only a view. Like all the best views it survives by seduction, not force. It doesn't demand that you accept it, it entices you. It makes no sense to proselytize for it. It's not about believing, it's about seeing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Designing Mind

My last few months in Hawaii were frustrating. When my parents found out they would be leaving soon, they wanted to get last minute sight-seeing and beach time in. So my Father started taking vacation days and sick days off for excursions. Of course I wasn't in on the planning of any of this. I'd just wake up one day thinking I was going to see my friends, and instead I'm dragged off to some must-see tourist-trap.

On top of that there were hours spent in a hot car in a parking lot while my parents shopped at furniture stores for the kind of cheap island-style bamboo and wicker furniture that they had to have to remember Hawaii by.

The worst thing that happened was the arrival of relatives. They had to see all the sights all over again, that my parents had already seen. Here's my Grandmother and one of my cousins with me and my parents and the dog at a beach. Doesn't my Grandmother look like she's hearing a voice telling her to wade home? I think my Mother is getting ready to strangle me, as soon as the shot is over. My Father looks like he's having a rare Jeff Goldblum moment in his head. Ordinarily he wasn't at all Golblumesque. I'm much more Goldblumesque than he ever was.

The later conversations with Lani and Lono that did take place were all over the map. Literally.

There was a long conversation in which Lani talked about his theories of Atlantis and Mu. He talked about the lost continent of Mu as though it were a traditional Polynesian idea, when I am sure that it was mostly a Western European fantasy based on misreadings of Mayan texts. I think he mixed up the continent with Hawaiian legends of people also named Mu, who were said to have inhabited the islands before the Polynesians arrived, and might still reside hidden in the mountains.

There were stories of other predecessors of the Polynesians, including cannibals. That was just creepy.

When Lani brought up the Menehune, who were a legendary short-statured people of the islands, he managed to mix them up with Leprechauns. All in all, the sense I get in remembering it all is that I can't rely on much as being genuinely ancient Hawaiian. He filled in gaps with anything he could find.

There were some things that I'm sure hailed back to pre-colonial times. There were ghost stories. There was a strange tale about two shape-shifting gods or demi-gods chasing each other from island to island.

Then there was talk about the Huna. I don't know what to make of that. Could it be ancient, or was it extrapolated from Buddhist and Hindu beliefs? A lot of the natives who ended up on Ni'ihau, though they spoke Hawaiian, had mixed ancestry, including Japanese and Chinese. A strong Buddhist influence on the non-Christian holdouts wouldn't be very surprising.

At any rate I remember some of what Lani had to say about the Huna, traditional or not. He said that just because the word means "hidden" everybody thinks it's an occult secret, but the joke on everyone who thinks that is that the Huna isn't itself hidden, the Huna is about "hidden-ness."

He illustrated by pointing out that when he held the palm of a hand up to me, I couldn't see the back, and when he held the back to me, I couldn't see the palm. He said that the Huna begins with the simple observation that you can't be aware of everything all the time. There are always going to be aspects of reality that are hidden from you, and if you look at them, other things will go hidden. The Huna involves learning respect for what you can't know.

A related idea was the idea of mental states. He said there are many different mental states a person can be in. One state is good for one kind of understanding. Another state is good for another kind of understanding. There is no state that is good for all kinds of understanding at once. That's why there isn't just one god, but many, because there isn't just one way to understand and organize reality. Only mana comes in touch with everything. But mana has no mind.

Minds, by their nature, organize and prioritize. Therefore as soon as our minds awaken and we look out and see the world, our minds impose order on that world, which order is never universal. Some things come forward, other things recede, in accordance with who we are and the sort of state we are in. It even depends on how hungry we are, and what we eat. if we are flies, we look for shit everywhere, and we're happy to find it.

Once we know that there are different mental states that provide access to alternate views of the world, Lani said, that the next thing that Huna does is offer ways to move among the states.

Only one such method was discussed. It came up in a conversation a few weeks before it was time for me to leave Hawaii. I was told about sleeping mat designs.

This is something I've confirmed: Ni'ihau is known for its sleeping mats. The people make sleeping mats which are decorated with geometric designs called pāwehe. The designs featured repeated triangles and squares. There are checkerboard patterns, rows, and a few patterns that seem to grow out from a point.

The Bishop Museum has samples online. See artifacts numbered 02560, 02562, 02564, 02565.

What Lani added to this, which I haven't confirmed, is that long ago the designs weren't just for sleeping on, but were for meditating upon.

The idea was, the meditator would sit and by some means, draw one of these designs. There were chants suitable for different designs depending on the state the practitioner wanted to achieve. While singing the chant the meditator would add to the drawing as his mind and aims moved him. The design would be an evolving ki'i of the state he was reaching toward.

I don't know if the Huna really involved such practices, or if a Taoist injected such ideas into the blend of post-colonial tradition after Ni'ihau was established as a native reservation. Or did the original Polynesian settlers in Hawaii bring such ideas with them from Asia?

What I do know is that a lot of this thinking would later be very difficult to integrate with my Sunday School lessons.


Video Find of the Day

Leadbelly singing a work song, Take This hammer, ca 1945. One of three from a longer video available without embedding.

The first 35 seconds the screen is black while Leadbelly explains the song. Hang in there.

Tiki, or Ki'i

I followed Lani's progress closely as he worked his carving every day. It was slow; he only worked on it during lunch for at most five minutes any given day. Some days he wouldn't work on it at all. He would appear to meditate on it. I eventually found out he wasn't working on it except at lunches. He wouldn't say why.

Lani's carving was a ki'i. That's Hawaiian for "tiki".

People think tiki are idols. Here are six tiki or ki'i:

Ki'i are images. They can be drawings, diagrams or sculptures. They can be visages or representations of visages. They can be accurate or schematic, abstract or concrete, realistic or symbolic. The word tiki, or ki'i means image, not idol.

By the way, the one above that looks like an idol, at the lower right, is a symbolic expressionistic image of a Maori ancestor, and is no more an idol than Michelangelo's realistic but equally imaginary portrayal of Adam at the upper left.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Video Find of the Day
(for my 58th birthday!)

Here's a promotional video for Starshine Burlesque, a weekly burlesque show in the East Village of Manhattan.

I like all kinds of burlesque. Literary burlesque, comic burlesque, barefoot burlesque, fancy dress burlesque. My favorite burlesque has to do very much with the pig bladders, but I won't try to describe how that is, now.

Anyway, burlesque, it been very good to me. Therefore, I be very good to burlesque. So, if you have $5 and you are ever in the East Village on a Thursday night around 10 pm, give it to these people, so they keep doing this.

Or, send them $5 right now, in the mail. Starshine Burlesque, 332 East 11th St., New York, NY, 10003. I will never be paid for saying that.

If you liked that, here's a half-hour vlogger's post with interviews of the people responsible for Starshine and some more snips of performances. And don't forget to check out the other offerings of burlyQ, who provided the video above, including the complete video of GiGi LaFemme's Star Wars act.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Video Find of the Day

The Aleksandrov Choir, AKA the Red Army Choir, doing an awesome performance of Kalinka, while the Leningrad Cowboys (who are from Finland!) dance around.

To learn about the song itself, try reading this Wikipedia article and figure out why it starts out telling you a Kalinka is a snowball tree, which is deciduous, and ends up telling you it's a juniper tree, which is not.

[Upper Right: Leningrad Cowboy Beer.]

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Heavens and Heavens

I had a conversation about heaven and hell with my Hawaiian friends. It was sometime after my 3rd birthday. I had asked my Mother if we were Christian, because Lono had said we probably were and I wanted to be sure. My Mother assured me that I was Christian, as I had been baptised. I told her I didn't know what that meant, so she told me I'd had water sprinkled on me.

"That makes you Christian?"

"Yes. It means you will go to heaven if you keep being good."

"Where's heaven?"

"It's a place in the sky where everybody is happy all the time."

"Where in the sky?"

"I don't know; ask your Father when he gets home."

Instead, I reported back to Lani and Lono, because they gave reliably clearer answers. I said we were definitely Christian, but the heaven thing needed explaining.

They tried, but it made no sense to me. "It's a place in the sky." OK, how do I get there? I don't fly. "God carries you up." Right. So if it's in the sky, why can't I see it on a clear day? "It's invisible." Right. So how can I have fun there if I can't see all the fun things you get to play with, cause everything's invisible? "You don't have fun, God just makes you happy." How? "He puts happiness inside you." Why do I have to go to the sky for that? "The alternative is Hell. You don't want that."

I asked what Kahiko had to say about all this. They told me that ancient Hawaiians didn't make such things a big central issue of their worship. I said, yeah, but they think something about it, right?

So Lani said that some people believed in reincarnation and some didn't. He said that of those that believe in reincarnation some believe you take a rest between lives and some don't. Of those that think that you rest between lives, there's general agreement folks don't rest all in the same place. So there isn't heaven and hell, there's heavens and more heavens, different ones for different people.

Of course we sidetracked for an explanation of "reincarnation". I then wanted to know if all the Hawaiian heavens were invisible heavens scattered around throughout the sky, and I was told that, no, they were where you couldn't see them because they were all in the ground.

But isn't that where Hell is? Doesn't that mean Hawaiian heavens are all hell? No, Lani said (with some exasperation now), because Hawaiians don't regard the Earth as evil the way Christians do.

OK then, how do I get to one of these heavens, I said.

Lani told me about jumping-off places. After you're dead your soul goes wandering around until you find a high place, called a jumping-off place, where if you jump off from it in the right direction the ground will open up for you and you will fall into your own special heaven.

If you jump the wrong way? The ground doesn't open and your soul is broken in the fall, and is doomed to linger at that spot forever, wishing it had chosen better.

How do you know which way to jump? You don't. But you'll know when you've found a jumping-off place because there will be the souls of dead children all around the bottom waiting for you to get ready to jump so they can shout directions to you and try to trick you into jumping the wrong way, just to be mean (as children often are.)

It's a lovely horror story which visited some real living anguish upon me several years later when I took it too seriously. I'll save that for another time but for now, here is a painting I made in the 90s of a jumping-off tree pretty much as I envisioned it hearing the story. Just the faces of the broken souls appear out of the darkness. The tree glows because it calls the dead soul to climb up into it, to jump from it. The children's souls at the bottom, trying to confuse the jumper, are brightly colored by mana that the dead can see.

At the lower left some demons haunting the jumper are hanging about. Our jumper ought to jump into the middle of them. That's the trick. By the way, the smiling demon at the far lower left will smile for you upside-down, too.

Helen Kane

Video Find of the Day

Helen Kane was the model for Betty Boop. She was the original Boop Oop A Doop girl. Here's a 1931 video of her in all her glory. Because he loves her, she says, she loves herself. "I don't want to be your friend," the professor says, "I want to be your husband." "Oh," she says, "so you just want to make up temporarily!"

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Murdered Dream

A few weeks after my 3rd birthday the roll of photos that included that day's shots were developed. My Father brought them home and laid them out on the coffee table like he was sure they were his best ever. Within minutes my parents were embroiled in an argument: Did the pictures which I posted for Another Crappy Birthday constitute proof that I had two personalities or not?

Not much earlier I would have been allowed to hear such an argument in its entirety because they wouldn't have thought I could understand enough of it. But now they figured I might catch on, so they sent me to bed. It never occurred to them though to check how well the sound carried into my room. I could still hear whenever they talked normally or louder, and they couldn't be bothered to whisper for very long.

My Father never let up telling my Mother she was wrong, but he finally said he would give up photography because of it all. Hearing them arguing, I thought he was quitting because he didn't want to see what was wrong with me in his pictures. I thought it was my fault that he was quitting.

The next day I told him I wanted to talk to him in private about it, "man to man". He thought that was pretty cute.

I said I didn't want him to quit photography because of me. First he chided me for eavesdropping. Then he said he wasn't doing it because I had a split personality -- there were no such things. He said he was quitting because a good photographer would have seen my changing moods when taking the pictures, and not been surprised by them in the developed shots. He was quitting because he was finally admitting to himself that he didn't see human expressions when setting his shots up.

It didn't make a stitch of sense to me.

I had no sense of how good or bad he was at photography, but I didn't see what that mattered. The way I saw it, his love of photography ought to be like his love of me. If his photography isn't very good, that doesn't mean he should kill it.

I still feel very strongly that interests shouldn't be destroyed just because they only stand at knee height. You don't kill children. You let them grow whichever way they reach. Your interests are more than you. They are living things in their own right. You should let them go.

He offered this consolation: He'd finish exposing the remaining film he had, before putting the cameras away for good.

Andy's Gang Clip

Video Find of the Day

Way back in March I was speaking of My Early Humor(s) and mentioned the sanguine, or bloody, humor (the hot moist one) represented by Andy's Gang. At the time, I could not find any adequate videos of Andy's Gang (AKA the Buster Brown Show) to inflict upon you. But that has all changed, as I have discovered video provider iraRona, who has provided the clip below along with hundreds of other oldies.

Please understand what this means to me. I watched this show when I was 5 years old. Television was new to me. I watched it as a horror film, with my hands over my face, peeking out between my fingers. I screamed every time I saw Midnight because it was supposed to be a toy, and therefore had no business being alive. I screamed every time I saw Froggy the Gremlin because I knew he was going to do something horrible to Andy. Then, I laughed and laughed, because Andy was so dumb.

These were my formative influences. This is why I am what I am. I don't show this to try to justify myself. I only want people to understand the root cause of my...

Technorati Sucks, Week 15

Varieties of Sucking Experiences

You're in college, and you have to write a paper about a philosopher. William James, a certain well-known philosopher, once said the only time he could understand Hegel, another well-known philosopher, was when he (James) was high on nitrous oxide. Your professor wants the paper to be on Hegel, not James, and you have no drugs up to it.

You're 10, school's out, it's raining, and this is the only thing on TV.

Life sucks and, not only that, they ban your commercial in Britain for saying so, because "it's too harsh."

You have Technorati working for you.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bobby McFerrin

Video Find of the Day

"If you wanna be anything you wanna be, you got to know math." -- Bobby McFerrin

"Just don't overdo it." -- Dr. Wes Browning

Wonders of Healing

I'll give away an ending of a thread of my memoirs away right now. I don't have a split personality anymore. An old email signature of mine read, "Harnessing Stupidity Since 1991." I picked 1991 partly to be random but also partly as a private reference to a period of re-integration which marked the end of the split for me.

For the record, I don't think "dissociative identity disorders" are disorders. They're just styles of being. So I don't much care about the debate the psychiatrists have over whether they "exist" as disorders or not.

[Upper right: Not my problem.]

I also don't like that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is called a disorder. It's like calling a scab a disorder. If you know anything about scabs, you know that they amazing wonders of healing.

You would never call someone who'd been injured sick for having a scab. You would call someone who was injured and bleeding sick when a scab didn't form.

Anyway, the fact that I can recall the Hawaiian years as easily as I can is due to that 1991 re-integration.

The memories were never lost. But they were always Alaka'i's memories, so they were accessible only when Alaka'i was "out." So I couldn't have written these memoirs unless Alaka'i came out for long enough. The re-integration shared memories so it no longer mattered anymore.

The reason the memories were segregated to start with was to protect Kona from the knowledge that my parents had been so mean to me, so that he would be capable of loving them.

My parents died in 1978 and 1980. After that it was no longer necessary for any part of me to love them.

But in 1952, when I was 3, that was an urgent need.

For a while Alaka'i spent time trying to create edited versions of the events of the previous 3 years that would cover up the abuse, so that Kona could have as long a past as he did. But it was too complicated. So he finally gave up and let Kona only remember back to his own creation.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Besame Mucho

Video Find of the Day

I first heard Besame Mucho in Mexico when I lived there in 1961-62. There was a hugely popular version that was played everywhere at that time. Ordinarily hearing the same song over and over again would kill it for me. I have an extremely low tolerance for repetition. But I couldn't get enough of this one. I've been rooting through the many YouTube versions and found two I like.

Besame Mucho
[Kiss Me A Lot]
by Consuelo Velázquez [pictured]

Besame… besame mucho,
[Kiss me… kiss me a lot,]
como si fuera esta noche
[as if tonight was going]
la última vez.
[to be the last time.]

Besame… besame mucho,
[Kiss me...kiss me a lot,]
que tengo miedo perderte,
[I am afraid to lose you,]
perderte después.
[to lose you in the end.]

[1st two verses repeat.]

Quiero tenerte muy cerca,
[I want to have you very close,]
mirarme en tus ojos
[to look myself in your eyes]
verte junto a mi,
[see you next to me,]
piensa que tal vez mañana
[think that perhaps tomorrow]
yo ya estaré lejos,
[I will be far,]
muy lejos de aquí.
[far away from here.]

[1st two verses repeat.]

Here's a good clean vocal version by Dutch-Egyptian singer Laura Fygi. The car in the video has awfully familiar styling for me.

The version I heard in Mexico had a long instrumental bit that resembled this one by Ray Conniff and His Orchestra.