Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hilo Days: It Weren’t No Chopsticks

I was born with a perpetual musical earworm in my head. Dad could play the violin, banjo and harmonica, and he passed on his musical genes to me. Not only did I take piano lessons, I ended up playing the clarinet in the Hilo Intermediate and Hilo High School bands.

In college, some friends and I formed a folk-singing group and I played the tenor ukulele, guitar and recorder.

Here’s the story I wrote about my piano adventures in my old Hilo Days website.

A Born Pianist

That summer [of 1956], I picked up two more activities. I adopted stamp collecting all on my own, but piano lessons were forced on me.

Mom and Dad always came up with stuff to cramp my style. If it wasn't Japanese School, it was those consarned piano lessons.

Sister Dayle had started taking piano lessons a couple of years before and was really not bad at all. This being the case, our parents decided to buy a piano.

Now, a family cannot have a piano in the house with only one child able to play. Actually, I think they had a grand plan in their heads all the time. The plan was for all their children to take piano lessons.

They succeeded.

After Dayle had proved that musical talent ran in the family, it was time for Craig to learn music. Then Audrey, then Eric, then Karen.

Much to everyone's surprise, I turned out to be quite good. My regular teacher had quit after I'd been taking lessons for a year or so (it was not my fault), and Mrs. Kunitomo, who ran the studio, took me under her wing.

I remember my first lesson with her. I wasn't doing so well sight-reading a new piece she had given me, so she started scolding me and telling me that I really needed to practice more. Then, she asked me how long I had been taking lessons, and I said one year, and she got quiet real fast.

"Really? I thought you were a fourth-year student! Then, you're good!"

The Miyamoto Legend grows …

The highlight of my piano career was a duet I played with a fellow student in a recital at the Gaspro auditorium. The piece was "The March of Wooden Soldiers." He played the first piano part and I played the second piano, and we brought down the house with the lively piece.

Our teacher at that time was Miss Shinn, and that magnificent performance and resulting accolade kind of made up for an earlier recital she put on, where everything went wrong. Students had forgotten their music, the duets were out of synch, music sheets fell off the piano, and I got confused at one point and had to stop for a second before continuing.

I continued with my lessons through my sophomore year in high school, before I was allowed to retire. Throughout high school though, I bought popular sheet music and continued to play. As usual, Mom and Dad were right. Piano lessons instilled a deep of appreciation of music in me during my adolescent years.

My own two sons would benefit from this experience as well. When they were kids, we forced them to take lessons. Call it "passing on the agony."

Speaking of the piano, Obachan surprised me one day. Out of the clear blue, she decided to play the piano. I don't ever recall her touching the piano before, and I'm sure she never had a lesson in her life. On this day, however, she sat down and began plinking out a tune — for some reason, Red River Valley sticks in my mind.

And one day, as I was playing Elvis' It's Now or Never, she walked over and asked, "Where'd you learn to play Back to Sorrento"?

Sometimes, Obachan could be amazing. You just never knew what she could do, or knew.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Where Hawaii Ranks 47

Hawaii is an expensive place to live. We who live here tend to forget that sometimes. I feel it's my duty as a loud-mouth blogger to bring this up time and again.

So here we go ... again. But I'll start off with something a bit more optimistic.


Least-Stressed City (WalletHub, 2016) 
  1. Fremont, CA
  2. Irvine, CA
  3. HONOLULU, HI
  4. Madison, WI
  5. San Jose, CA

Most Expensive Coffee (The Council for Community and Economic Research, 2015) 
  1. HONOLULU, HI ($7.56 average per cup)
  2. (Tie) San Francisco, CA ($5.99)
  3. (Tie) Kodiak, AK ($5.99)
  4. Oakland, CA ($5.98)
  5. Olympia, WA ($5.89)

Highest Overall Tax Burden (WalletHub, 2016) 
  1. New York (13.12%)
  2. HAWAII (11.86%)
  3. (Tie) Maine (11.13%)
  4. (Tie) Vermont (11.13%)
  5. Connecticut (10.9%)

Worst State to Make a Living (Moneyrates, 2016) 
  1. HAWAII
  2. Oregon
  3. West Virginia
  4. Maine
  5. California

Where $100 Is Worth Least (Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2014) 
  1. District of Columbia ($84.67)
  2. HAWAII ($85.62)
  3. New York ($86.43)
  4. New Jersey ($87.34)
  5. California ($88.97)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Things I Didn’t Know

It’s amazing how ignorant I am. For example, I did not know that:
  • If you get a kidney transplant, the original ones stay put. The new one goes in your pelvis.
  • From the time of its discovery until it was stripped of planetary status, Pluto still hadn’t made a complete orbit around the sun.
  • Matches were invented after lighters.
  • Raise the bed of Lake Superior and both North and South America would be under a foot of water.
  • If caffeine is your enemy but you love coffee, drink a darker blend; lighter coffee has more caffeine.
  • Suitcase wheelies didn’t exist until we went to the moon.
  • Saudi Arabia, with all its desert, imports its camels – from Australia.
  • It rains diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter.

I did not know that, did you?


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Phone Pix 73: Bed, Bath & Beyond

Bed, Bath & Beyond always seems to display some intriguing items on their sales shelves. They simply invite customers to snap their picture. So who am I to pass up the opportunity.

Here are some pix I took the last time I visited the BB&B at the Fremont Hub in California on April 19, 2016:









Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime Video)

 
If you're a fan of alternate history science fiction, then you have to watch the Amazon video series, The Man in the High Castle. But your problem is, it's not on commercial television—network or cable. You need to be an Amazon Prime Video subscriber.
 
To watch it on your home television set, you need a streaming device like Roku. Or, you can watch it on your phone or some other mobile device (e.g., iPad, tablet, laptop).
 
The Man in the High Castle is based on the 1963 Hugo Award-winning dystopian novel of the same name by Phillip K. Dick, the same novelist who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), which became the film, Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford. Other movies based on Dick novels include Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and Adjustment Bureau.
 
The premise is simple and intriguing: What if the Allies had lost World War II? How did that happen? Well, for starters, the Germans dropped a nuclear bomb on Washington, D.C., wiping out our leadership. Then, things got worse.
 
 
Our western states are now a puppet government of Imperialistic Japan (the Pacific States of America), and the eastern half of America is now a puppet government of Nazi Germany (the Greater Nazi Reich). The Rocky Mountain states serve as a buffer zone between the two occupiers, who are now in a tense Cold War of their own.
 
It's 1962. Adolph Hitler's famous black hair and mustache are now gray. Although under oppressive rule, and despite the ever-lingering tension, Americans move about fairly freely. The Resistance is functioning in secret; subversive enemy spies are everywhere. Bibles, while not exactly illegal, are hard to come by. Everybody's searching for a newsreel film called, and destined for, "The Man in the High Castle."
 
The early principal cast of characters is excellent and includes:
 
 
  • Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), whose sister hands her an apparently genuine black-and-white movie newsreel showing historical World War II scenes that we are familiar with—the fall of Nazism, Japan's surrender. But how can this be?
  • Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank), a double-agent searching for the Resistance contact in Colorado. While waiting for contact, he meets Juliana, discovering later that she's the operative who took over after her slain half-sister.
  • John Smith (Rufus Sewell), a former American citizen and now an SS Oburgruppenführer investigating the Resistance in New York. He is Joe's handler and a cunning and ruthless pursuer.
  • Frank Frink (Rupert Evans), Juliana's boyfriend, a Jewish-American war veteran fearing for his life. When his sister and her kids are killed in his stead, he plots to assassinate the visiting Japanese Crown Prince and his wife.
  • Nabosuke Tagomi (Cary-Horiyuki Tagawa), the trade minister of the Pacific States of America with an agenda that moves toward a puzzling season-ending revelation.
  • Ed McCarthy (D.J. Qualls), Frank's co-worker and friend who does what he can to curtail Frank's life-threatening plans, placing himself in dire jeopardy.
 
Rolling Stone has named The Man in the High Castle one of the best 40 science fiction television shows of all time. Season 1 (10 episodes), which I’ve completed, is currently on Amazon Prime. Season 2 will be available on Dec. 16, 2016.
 
Warning: If you are offended by stereotypical racial and religious denigrations, you may want to skip watching this series. Plus, this was the '60s, so everybody smokes ... second-hand smoke be damned.
 
 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Not So Fun, Fun, Fun

I was watching the Brian Wilson biopic, Love & Mercy (2015), on Amazon Prime the other day, so my head is still full of Beach Boys music today.

There's some great music in the film, and one can't help but sing along.

Back in the '80s, I used to walk around the office with earphones connected to my Walkman (remember those?), off-tune lyrics spilling out of my mouth, just a-rockin' and a-rollin' ...but that's not what I wanted to talk about.

Anyway, Brian Wilson is played by two good actors: Paul Dano (Wilson in the '60s) and John Cusack (Wilson in the '80s). The movie covers a lot of his healing relationship with Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), his second wife. Y'know, Elizabeth Banks is such a pretty woman ... but that's not what I wanted to talk about.

Paul Giamatti played 40-something-ish Eugene Landy, Brian's psychologist, who looked a little weird with long curly hair. He quickly got on Melinda's (and my) nerves with his controlling manner ... but that's not what I wanted to talk about.

Umm ... you know how you sometimes get into singing along with the radio or audio clip, just swinging with the lines of a popular song? I do that all the time. And sometimes I get the words all wrong.

Like I thought it was "She drives me crazy, like long blonde hair," when the British group, Fine Young Cannibals, was actually singing, "She drives me crazy, like no one else."

Which finally brings me to my point: Ever since the Beach Boys released "Fun, Fun, Fun" in 1964, I've always thought the accompanist rift line was (and always sang it as) "You're shooting the line, shooting the line!"

Good thing I turned the closed captions on when I watched Love & Mercy. I was shocked to learn that the actual lyrics were, "You shouldn't have lied, shouldn't have lied!"

A light bulb went on in my head. Her daddy took her T-bird away! Why? Because she told her daddy she was going to the library, but went to the hamburger stand instead. She lied; she didn't shoot the line. I should have paid closer attention to the lyrics and not just the music.

Wrong, all these 50+ years, and no one corrected me. I feel so stupid.

And that's what I'm talking about.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Election Yard Sign Survey

Kirk Caldwell and Charles Djou
Election Day is a little more than two months away, and it appears challenger Charles Djou has a 3-2 campaign yard sign lead in the non-partisan race for Honolulu mayor over incumbent Kirk Caldwell

I'm talking of course about the usual plethora of campaign signs posted along the one-mile segment of East Manoa Road between my home and Manoa Marketplace. Every election year, I take my survey and prognosticate based on my count.

Save for the U.S. presidential and the Honolulu mayoral races, it's a yawner of a General Election coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 8. There are no state or federal House of Representatives or Senate yard signs staked in yards, or hanging from hedges and fences. No Board of Education or Office of Hawaiian Affairs signs either. No Honolulu prosecutor signs.

It's odd, but the candidate with the most yard-sign support on my little stretch of road I use to get to and from Manoa Marketplace, Asia Manoa restaurant, and my barber, usually wins the election.

Will Kirk Caldwell's controversial rail-completion plans get derailed? Are voters tired of what they perceive is incompetence and deception? Will there be a change in Honolulu Hale (City Hall) this year?

It remains to be seen, but the sign count usually doesn't lie.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Phone Pix 72: Culture and Occasions

In my Phone Pix Miscellaneous bag are a number of pictures related to culture and the celebration of various occasions. It's time I emptied the bag:

Greeting Cards, Nov. 8, 2013, Safeway Manoa, Honolulu, HI

Stone Lantern, July 24, 2014,
Honpa Hongwanji, Honolulu, HI

Memorial Plaque, July 24, 2014, Honpa Hongwanji, Honolulu, HI

Table Centerpiece, 1st Birthday, July 14, 2014,
Japanese Cultural Center, Honolulu, HI

Japanese Kimono Dolls, July 14, 2014,
Japanese Cultural Center, Honolulu, HI

Comics Display, April 18, 2015, Wow! ComicFest, San Jose, CA

Toy Windmills, March 21, 2016, Fremont Hub Center, Fremont, CA

Monday, August 29, 2016

Vikings (History Channel)

Thanks to Roku and Amazon Prime, I have been able to catch up with every episode of “Vikings,” the gory historical series about the Northmen as they went about their plundering ways in what are now England and France.

My Facebook friends had posted about the show, and although I’d been eager to watch it, the scheduling prevented it.

It’s a gutty series (literally), with well-developed characters that include a host of unfaithful spouses; one loses track of how many lovers the warriors and women have taken. Still, it apparently is how the Viking society functioned.


Ragnar Lothbrok was a real-life Dane who ruled in the 9th Century. His sons—Ivar the Boneless, Bjorn Ironside, Halfdan Ragnarsson, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Ubba—became legendary figures in themselves. Ragnar was married to Lagertha (three times), Aslaug, and Þóra Borgarhjǫrtr.

The second half of Season 4, it’s been announced, will debut later this year. According to the History Channel series creator Michael Hirst, Season 4 Part 2 will focus on why King Ragnar returnd, after his self-imposed banishment following his stinging defeat at the hands of brother Rollo and the Parisians of Frankia.

You will remember that the final episode of Season 4 Part 1 began with a 10-year leap forward in time. It’s then that we met his sons by Aslaug, grown up and apparently ready to prove their worth in the season(s) to come.

Spoiler: Ragnar and his former wife, Lagertha, will get back together again.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An Evil Scheme


Earl Pickles is a wise old man. I have learned a lot from him about getting out of household chores.