Saturday, May 30, 2009

See You in September

Last night, Jay Leno hosted his last Tonight Show and closed with a very touching feature.

During his 17-year run, many staff members married (many to each other) and had children – 68 of them in all.

The very first child born during Jay’s era is now 17, arriving three days after he took over from Johnny Carson. It was amazing to see her walk on stage after they flashed her baby picture up on the screen. Something like that makes you feel rather old.

Then the curtain rose, revealing all 68 children, some in their parents’ arms. What a sweet close to the show, and a beautiful lasting legacy for Jay Leno, who moves on to prime time in September.

Thanks, Jay, and au revoir … we’ll see you in a few months.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Better Late Than Never

I love stories like this one.

A 30-year-old university student in Perth, Australia, and her family were having financial problems, so she decided to re-check some old lottery tickets she had stashed in her drawer.

One of them – a birthday present from her father – was a winner. A $13-million (Australian) winner. And it was going to expire on July 22.

She apparently didn’t read the papers, which had been reporting that the winner of the region’s largest-ever Lotterywest Lotto prize had still not stepped forward.

At first, she was ecstatic because she thought she’d won $13,000. And then she rechecked her commas and decimals and realized she’d hit the jackpot.

By the way, the prize converts to more than $10.3 million US.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Danny Gokey

I didn't watch very much American Idol this year, not even the finale. But I did catch glimpses every now and then, and did get to see the top three finalists as they performed on "Regis and Kelly Live" this week.

Idol winner Kris Allen was okay, and runner-up Adam Lambert was incredible.

But the one with the most compelling story was Danny Gokey, who rounded out the top three.

I remember tuning in to the closing moments of Idol over the weeks so I could catch the beginning of "Fringe," which started on Fox immediately after. And each week, Danny caught my attention. Maybe it was his glasses and he reminded me of Elvis Costello.

Then today he told the story about how he had just one chance to audition for Idol because of his age (29).

A month before the scheduled audition in Kansas City, his wife died. Instead of shutting himself off from the world, crawling into a hole and missing the audition, he instead did what his wife had wanted him to do - he auditioned.

And the rest, as they say, is history. I wish him all the luck and success he deserves.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is It a Woman Thing?

I was having breakfast at Eagle Cafe this morning after dropping off some prescriptions at Costco, when I heard a woman in the booth next to mine talking to the waitress:

Waitress: Good morning, are you ready to order?
Lady: Yes, I think I'll have the waffle. I try to have a waffle at least once a week.
Waitress: Do you want whipped cream and strawberries?
Lady: I have diabetes, you know, and shouldn't ... really.
Waitress: Just plain then?
Lady: I think I'll have the whipped cream. I don't like strawberries, the seeds stick in my false teeth. I'm 70 and didn't sleep too good last night.
Waitress: Coffee?
Lady: No, the doctor said I shouldn't have caffeine. But I love coffee.
Waitress: Decaf then?
Lady: No, I don't like decaf. My blood pressure is pretty high but the doctor gave my Toprol so it should be okay. I'll have regular coffee.
Waitress: White or whole wheat toast?
Lady: Whole wheat. The doctor said I need more fiber.

There's more, but I think you get the idea.

Why is it that some people (and I've noticed it's mostly women) feel a need to explain every decision they make? Especially to a stranger in public where everybody around them can hear what they're saying?

I now know the lady has high-blood pressure, is 70 years old, she doesn't like strawberries, she didn't sleep well at night, and has waffles at least once a week. She wears false teeth, loves coffee and her doctor has prescribed Toprol.

And, she apparently doesn't get enough fiber in her diet.

It's gotta be a woman thing. They must learn this from their mothers. No?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

I just thought I'd let others with a talent for creating a message with cartoons talk for me today.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Doing My Part

Let’s see now. Hormel reports profits are up, the U.S. Humane Society will honor turtles tomorrow, and Monday is Memorial Day.

I’ve done my part in the past. I wonder if I need to do more.

HORMEL: Profits for the 2009 fiscal second quarter are up 4% from last year. Yep, I’ve done my part all right, by eating a lot of Spam. I had a couple of slices this morning for breakfast, as a matter of fact.

TURTLES: Saturday, May 23, is World Turtle Day, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Yep, I’ve done my part in the past, eating turtle soup in a number of fine restaurants (mostly in New Orleans).

MEMORIAL DAY: It used to be on May 30, but they’ve changed it to the last Monday in May. Yep, I’ve bought Memorial Day poppies every year from the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Do they still do that? (I wish they'd change it back to May 30.)

Do I need to do more? Maybe on Monday I should have turtle soup and Spam for dinner while thinking about those who’ve died in wars? That sounds reasonably reasonable to me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hallmark Left Me Hanging!

Earlier this week, I DVR-ed “Blackbeard” (2006) on the Hallmark Channel, expecting a well-done pirate adventure story that I could watch at my leisure.

Last night, I watched it. As expected, it was a quality production worthy of the Hallmark cachet, a great story interwoven with high-quality-production scenes. The acting was good, and the budget obviously was quite considerable.

The cast is a worthy one, with Angus Macfadyen as Blackbeard. He was Robert the Bruce in the Mel Gibson epic “Braveheart.” Rachel Ward is cast as a pipe-smoking tavern owner, and Richard Chamberlain as the nefarious governor of New Providence in the West Indies. Stacy Keach plays Capt. James Hornigold, who was supplanted by Blackbeard as the pirate ship’s captain.

The movie was rolling along, and then in the last 10 minutes or so, I began wondering how they were going to tie everything up neatly. But the movie continued at its non-frantic pace until the protagonist, Royal Navy Lt. Robert Maynard (Mark Umbers), posing as a pirate, was marooned on an island.

And then, the movie ended. WHAT??? Nobody told me this was a multi-parter! Not the TV schedule, not even the Hallmark Channel’s website, which I checked this morning.

I did find the film on Amazon.com, and discovered that the movie is in two parts. The bad thing is that I can’t find a listing for the continuation on Hallmark anywhere in the near future. So now, I’m left hanging with a decision to make.

Option 1: Wait for Part 2 to run somewhere.
Option 2: Purchase the movie from Amazon.com for $7 or so.
Option 3: Forget the whole thing.

Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Clean Up That Mess or Else!

Now here’s a man who knows how to get his point across.

Andrew Mizsak of Bedford, Oregon, couldn’t stand his son’s messy room. So he called 911 and sicced the cops on little Andrew Jr.

Well, maybe “little” isn’t the right descriptor. You see, Andrew Jr. is 28 years old. Apparently incensed over his father’s admonition to clean up his room, Junior flung his food across the room and shook his fist at his father.

Dad Mizsak knows ‘bout petulant kids (he’s a school board member), and how to deal with them. So he called 911. But then when the cops showed up, Dad relented and didn’t press charges. Why? Andrew Jr. is a political consultant and Dad didn’t want to ruin his political career.

Andrew Jr. was suitably contrite and promised to keep his room clean from now on.

I kid you not.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kikaida II (Memories)

Two memorable events occurred during the Kikaida/50th State Fair days in 1974.

The first was the Daiei Store autograph event at Pearlridge Center. As I drove the troupe over to the shopping center, I had the radio on and heard the traffic helicopter guy report a massive traffic jam leading into the center.

Daiei had advertised its event, and hordes of kids and their parents were determined to get a first-hand view of the television sensation.

When we got there, Jaycee Stan Wada directed us to a secure parking era and told me, “You’ve got to see this.” I entered the second level of the mall through a side door and almost fell down in astonishment. There were thousands of people there (later estimates totaled 10,000).

Pearlridge Center on Kikaida Autograph Day

We had scheduled photo ops, so we sent Kikaida and the bad guys out in shifts to accommodate the crowd, situating them at various points throughout the mall to avoid being crushed by the stampede.

I remember escorting one out into the crowd. Moms and Dads were holding their kids out at arm’s length exhorting them to “Touch him! Touch him!” My feet were being stepped on constantly and a couple of my toes were black and blue the next day.

We had two Kikaidas working that day. I was summoned to help rescue one who was exhausted (those rubber suits were extremely uncomfortable and HOT inside) and wanted to come back into the passageway but couldn’t because fans were blocking the doorway.

Stan and I got there as quickly as we could and opened the door from the inside so Kikaida could slip in. The crow began to push in, so put our palms flat against the doors, leaning heavily against them, pressing hard against the entrance that by now was pulsating from fans pounding and trying to get through!

Kikaida took off like a shot outside into the parking lot where another Jaycee directed him to the right. As soon as he disappeared, we released the door and a horde of several dozen people rushed in and down the hallway in pursuit. The Jaycee at the other end pointed to the left as if to say, “He went that-a-way” and everybody turned left.

There was no way the actors were going to get into the sponsoring store and participate in an autograph session, so the store manager was informed that we were taking the actors away for their safety. When last I saw the manager, he was trying to mollify an angry parent who was demanding he do something about the unsafe conditions and unruly crowd.

Daiei suffered a lot of damage to their store that day and I’m sure lost a lot of merchandise. They even ran a full-page newspaper ad apologizing for the autograph session that never happened.

What a day THAT was.

Bob Nagao, Al Tamayose and Kikaida meet Gov. George Ariyoshi

The other event was bringing Kikaida to the State Capitol to meet Gov. George Ariyoshi. His appearance was supposed to be secret (we didn’t even tell the news media), but as soon as we entered the Capitol rotunda, hundreds of kids and their parents magically materialized from all directions and surrounded the star.

It was amazing. Somehow, somebody in the governor’s office told a Capitol worker that Kikaida was coming, and the news spread like wildfire. Nobody let on they knew, but they apparently yanked their kids out of school and brought them to work with them.

Kikaida was an amazing attraction that resulted in one of the most successful 50th State Fairs in recent history, raising lots of money for the Jaycees to run our community projects the coming year.

I’ve never seen anything like it since. We did bring in Zaboga the next year, enjoying modest success, but nothing to compare with Kikaida.

I am fortunate to have been involved with this one-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.

Kikaida event pictures by JN Productions.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kikaida I (The Warm-Up Guy)

If you were a kid in 1974 and saw Kikaida on stage live for the first time in Hawaii at the 50th State Fair on Sand Island that summer, then you’ve seen me at work.

I was the guy who warmed up the kiddy audience for an hour before the show actually began, and the one who began the countdown to the start.

Kikaida was a terrific sensation, and star of a TV show that JN Productions brought to Hawaii. I remember our early discussions with Joanne Ninomiya where we outlined how we would try to bring him here. It wasn’t easy, but with the help of then-Sen. Spark Matsunaga, we were able to quickly arrange visas for the group.

Do you know that the Honolulu Jaycees and JN Productions put the whole thing together in less than six weeks? That was an amazing feat that still stands today as one of the great achievements of the Jaycees and the 50th State Fair.

The 1974 fair was held on unimproved, dirty Sand Island and we were worried the public would be reluctant to squeeze over the small bridge and park in the dust. We needn’t have worried, thanks to Kikaida. Once word got out that Kikaida was coming, the sponsoring Honolulu Jaycees’ office became a beehive of activity.

The Japanese actors who came were great! The actor who played Jiro (Kikaida’s alter ego) didn’t make the trip, but the actor who played Kikaida himself was here. As a member of the entertainment committee (a laugher of a description), I was pulled off of all other duties and took sole charge of the troupe.

My duties as the “warm-up guy” were unexpectedly thrust upon me. The ticket lines formed early and them grew lo-o-ong. We had anticipated this, and set the adult tickets much higher than the kids’ in hope that just one parent would accompany the child into the show. This ploy didn’t work, but it sure increased our revenue.

The line into the tent was lo-o-ng and kids and parents were getting restless. We had volunteers offering water, but that was little help. So we let the crowd in.

There they were, all in their seats – adults in bleaches at the periphery, and the kids on the ground in the middle. One hour to go before show time and the natives again were getting restless.

Our president Bob Nagao and fair chairman Al Tamayose thrust a microphone into my hand and shoved me toward the kids with but one direction: “Entertain them.”

Have you ever tried to entertain a kid for 10 minutes, no less an hour? It was endless, lemme tell you. But you know what? It was fun. I interviewed kids, talked to parents, led practice cheers, found out who their favorite characters were, asked them what schools they went to, sang the theme and elicited an uproarious peal of laughter when I got the words wrong, told stupid jokes that the kids thought were hilarious and had the adults shrugging their shoulders and shaking their heads.

I kept looking at the guy at the sound mixer and he gave me signals as to how much more time I had before the show started. Soon, much to my relief, he signaled one minute to go.

So, being a child of the age of space launches, I began a countdown. The kids started getting excited! There was a rising anticipation in the adults! The high-pitched kids’ chatter grew in volume and intensity!

I started a second-by-second countdown at 30 seconds to go, and when I got to the final 10 seconds, the kids all joined in spontaneously. When I hit zero, I yelled “Let’s gooooooo!” The opening theme blasted out of the speakers, as deafening as can be! The kids cheered and screamed and generally just went out of their minds!

I stumbled backstage, immediately forgotten by the audience who was now in the hands of professional performers. My face was dripping with perspiration and I was totally exhausted. Bobby shoved a cold beer into my hands, and we meandered to the edge of the tent and watched as the Kikaida phenomenon began a new chapter in the world of Hawaii children’s entertainment.

Day after day, we packed the tent. Day after day I did my thing, pumping up the excitement and on occasion, dealing with an irate parent or two who resented being relegated to the bleachers in the boondocks, unable to see the stage because some of the kids were standing.

It was marvelous!

During one of the off-days, I took the Kikaida troupe on an around-the-island tour. My wife and sons were with me and I’m sure the older remembers romping with the samurai. The younger son was only a couple of years old and probably doesn’t remember a thing.

Perhaps my best non-performance memory was taking them to dinner. Boy, could those guys eat. They were all lean, and they didn’t eat all day except for a light breakfast so that a full stomach wouldn’t hinder their performances. They were quite professional in that regard.

However, when they did eat, they didn’t just eat, they ATE!

At one meal I remember distinctly, they had a large bowl of saimin noodle soup to start, then a chef’s salad, then a big ol’ hunk of steak or prime rib, and a huge hot fudge sundae for dessert. I’m talking about EACH of them ordering that.

A large bowl of saimin soup would fill me up. A chef’s salad would fill me up. A steak or prime rib would fill me up. And I wouldn’t have room for a dessert as large as a hot fudge sundae. Man, could those guys eat!

So, today as Japan department store Shirokiya celebrates the 35th year of Kikaida. I offer my congratulations to Joanne Ninomiya, the Honolulu Jaycees, and everybody involved in staging the Kikaida events over the years.

I’ll talk about some Kikaida memories tomorrow.

Kikaida picture by JN Productions

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mamma Mia!

Mamma mia, that’s one spicy meatball! Yeah, yeah, I know that’s from an old (1975) Alka-Seltzer commercial, but it sure does describe the ABBA musical now playing in Honolulu.

It’s a spicy show that has its audience on its feet, just as it did during my three other Mamma Mia experiences.

I won’t get into the story or the songs – you’ve heard or read about those many times already.

I’ll just talk about my Mamma Mia experiences. I’ve seen the show twice in Las Vegas, last night at the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall in Honolulu, and once in the movie theater. Each experience had its own charm and personality.

The first time I saw Mamma Mia was in Las Vegas. The wife and I sat about 10 rows from the stage in the middle. The entire audience was on their feet during the last two “concert” numbers. I mean, the house was rocking and went wild when the Donna and the Dynamos came out in their flashy performance costumes.

Last night’s Honolulu’s audience comes in second; I’d say maybe 90% of the audience participated in the singing and dancing. The enthusiasm was definitely there, but I did notice the audience included some rather elderly people in the second row who either just weren’t into ABBA, or would just rather not make spectacles of themselves. The wife and I sat in the front row, left of middle.

The most non-interactive audience was the second Vegas showing I went to. I don’t know what it was, but very few were on their feet during the concert renditions of “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo.” But except for that, I enjoyed this experience the most. I sat in the second row just behind the musical director and her electronic keyboard. Wow, could that lady make music!

And then of course, there was the movie. The advantage a movie has is its ability to shoot on location and interact with magnificent scenery. The disadvantage that Mamma Mia the movie had was that Pierce Brosnan played the male lead Sam. He did a credible job singing for the first time in a movie, but just doesn’t have enough depth in his chops.

Still, at the conclusion of the movie, I and many of the audience who probably had already been to a stage production stood and danced and sang along with Meryl Streep.

By the way, I got off my chair and danced again when I watched it at home on Blu-Ray after it came out on dvd.

Yep. Silly, huh? But that’s what the Mamma Mia experience is all about. Ya gotta get into it!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Back Up Your Computer NOW!

Even Grimmy knows the value of a timely back-up.

Which reminds me, I need to get a portable hard drive to facilitate MY back-ups. I vaguely remember that we have a Costco coupon that meets this very need.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Baby in My Arms

I held the Baby in my arms the day that He was born,
He smiled at me as if he knew the joy in me that morn.
I watched them sing Emmanuel to Baby from the loft,
Filling Heaven’s songs of love, beautiful and soft..

I felt His love within my breast, close to beating heart,
And heard the herald’s trumpets sound, their happiness impart.
A touch upon my shoulder by blessed Mary Mother
Told the presence on this day, of the Baby’s Holy Father.

This Baby, He was born to us, so we might find a world
Of joyful peace and promises, hopes and dreams unfurled.
With tears that sparkled from within, a swelling deep inside,
He filled me with a growing hope, with shining, rising tide.

The Baby slept in my embrace, peaceful slumber eyes,
Dreaming prayers, giving us His wishes in disguise.
A star beamed down upon the Child, illuminating all,
Beckoned royals bearing gifts, responding to its call.

I held the Baby in my arms, He gave me all I need.

I wrote this poem on Dec. 21, 2004, in a moment of Christmas spirit. It lay tucked away in a document file until today, when I was thinking of my new grandson and remembered that I'd written this.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pah-dan Me

Here’s another Hawaii “speak-ism” that caught my ear the other day. Many people born and raised in Hawaii pronounce the short “e” in some words like an “a” as in bag.

Here are some examples:

· “Beg” becomes “bag.”
· “Better” becomes “battah.”
· “Sweater” becomes “swattah.”
· “Forget” becomes “forgat.”
· “Cigarette” becomes “cigarrat.”

I think it has something to do with the inability to form what used to be called “pear-shaped” tones. Instead of keeping the jaw steady and widening the lips, people drop their jaw and open their mouths more.

Try it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Surf's Up!

The surf was up today at Waterfront Park and the parking lot was full of cars with board racks on the roof. And what a beautiful day it was for a walk.

Watching the surfers at Point Panic was absolutely mesmerizing and we weren't able to get in any sustained walking. I just had to stop occasionally and watch someone wipe out.

Most of them were riding short boards, but there was one fella on a semi-long board using a paddle stick (or whatever those things are called).

That's one thing I've never learned - surfing. I had every chance when I was at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but never took the time. Now that I have lots of time, my body is terribly unbalanced.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sometimes It Pays to be Late

When it came time to make reservations for our Mother's Day gathering this year, I wasn't in town, and so the chore of finding a restaurant that could accommodate us all fell upon my brother-in-law.

Normally he'd pick The Pagoda Floating Restaurant, because he and a few other members of the family feel very comfortable there, despite them knowing that it's probably my least-favorite place to have a buffet meal. And yes, at gatherings such as this, we are locked into buffets.

Thankfully, they were booked for the day. Whew!

So instead, we wound up at Sam Choy's Breakfast Lunch & Crab, where the buffet menu wasn't bad and the taste was pretty good. I have no complaints about the Mother's Day outing.

In retrospect, any place would have been satisfactory, as long as it wasn't the Pagoda. The food there is okay, but I'm just so tired of that place and have gone on record (many times) saying so.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Ford Model T

Remember a few weeks ago I accidentally erased a photo I'd taken with my cell phone of a Model T Ford?

Well I came across the Model T again yesterday, and this time I was careful to save the picture correctly on my phone.

It was parked in a space almost directly across my car in the Manoa Marketplace lot.

Fortunately, the spaces in front and to the left of the Model T were empty, so I was able to get a fairly uncluttered picture.

Neat, huh?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Snuggie Heaven

A couple of months ago, I got some Snuggies for the chilly women in my family to use on cool Hawaiian winter days and nights. I know, I know ... whoever heard of Hawaii weather being unbearably cold anyway.

If you live in Hawaii long enough, temps in the low 70's are enough to send you rummaging through your closet for a sweater.

We're planning a trip to San Jose in a month or so (what, again?), so I ordered four more and had them sent directly to my son's house. I couldn't see having 'em delivered to Hawaii and then having to lug 'em to California. For one thing, they'd take up too much luggage space and we all know what THAT means, re the fees for extra bags.

Which reminds me ... my favorite comic strip "Pickles" had a funny episode on Snuggies:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Something Fishy Here

One of the last things I did in the Silicon Valley area before coming back to Honolulu was visit 99 Ranch Market, a supermarket specializing in Chinese imports.

We went there after a scrumptuous dinner at Joy Luck Place in Cupertino with my son's parents-in-law, who had come from Toronto to spend a month in San Jose helping out with our mutual new grandson Joey.

What impressed me the most was the seafood case. Outside of Pike Street Market in Seattle, and Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, I'd never seen one quite like it.

Excellent variety of fresh fish, and they'd clean and process it any way you wanted.

Fish heads, fish heads, eat 'em up, YUM!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Is This a Case of Over-Exposure?

Would you say that Food TV star chef Rachel Ray is a bit overexposed? She has a couple of shows on Food Network (I've lost count), a TV talk show, a magazine (or is it two? or three?), and at Lunardi's Market in Los Gatos, CA, the other day, I saw five of her cookbooks on sale.

Over-exposed? Perhaps. Then again, you gotta feel happy for the big breaks she's been fortunate to have over the past couple of years.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Walk in the Park

The wife and I went for a nice walk today in Almaden Community Park, located in the San Jose community where my son's family resides.

Hawaii never fails to impress me with its natural beauty, but Almaden Park is testament to the fact that beauty can be created by people who care about where they live.

The Community Center pictured here stands magnificently alongside the Louis Benoist Gardens, a veritable palette of rose bushes created more than 60 years ago. I could not contain my awe at the care given to the roses - not a dead leaf or wilted petal to be seen anywhere.

I didn't even notice it was drizzling.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Armor-Geddon is Near!

There's something satanic about the outward appearance of this shop in San Jose's Westfield Shopping Town - skulls and swords and knives and fantasy stuff.

It's actually kind of entertaining to wander through this small shop, although to be quite frank about it, I half expected the people inside to be dressed all in black with a plethora of silver rings and studs hanging from their eyebrows, lips, noses, tongues and ears.

But no, the guy inside was dressed just like a regular guy.

I hung around inside for a while 'cause I've had this thing about knives all my life - they're fascinating and someday I'll show you my small collection if you're interested. And surprisingly, the guy behind the counter was extremely knowledgeable about the knives and swords he had in his shop.

Unfortunately, he didn't have any antique blades available. If he had, I would have hung around a little longer, and who knows, may even have made a purchase. All of his stock was newly produced.

Still, it was fun in his shop.