Archive for January, 2009

Songs Shape Our Scrapbook of Memories

January 30th, 2009

When Barack and Michelle Obama did their first presidential dance, as Beyonce sang  “At Last” (  at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball in Washington D.C., it was a defining moment in history.
We all saw it; I was at home, glued to the proceedings on TV; surely, you'll remember where you were when you saw it, too.

It was an inescapable wedge of history, linked to a melody. It spoke volumes,  made great TV, was ballyhooed on the Internet, and later lavished in the papers and magazines.
Songs, indeed, shape our scrapbook of memories.
Certainly, those who were actually at the first-dance inaugural shall never forget the time, the place, the joy, the jubilance, the historic nature of that specific moment.
“At Last,” an old hit of Etta James, instantly became a new symbol of change. At last, no more George W. Bush and the woes he created like the Iraq war or the post-Hurricane Katrina debacle. At last, an African American knight and his first lady, the beacon of hope  for a better economy, for a better life, for better governance, and yes, for change.
Music plays a lasting role in our stroll down memory lane. You often remember what you were doing and when and where you were doing it ... with a song attachment.

Like your first  crush, your first date, your first kiss. A song comes to mind — one you never forget.

Mine is “To Sir, With Love” ( ), the Lulu hit from the movie by the same name; my wife and I saw the film at least a dozen times in our courting period before we got married.
You must recall your prom theme or song, pegged to your high school profile. It might have been “Unchained Melody,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “You Light Up My Life,”  “What a Wonderful World,” “Imagine,” “Good Time Together,” “A Whole New World.”
Mariah Carey’s “Hero” ( became an instant anthem after 9/11, when television — for days — transmitted the chaos of terrorism at the World Trade Center, where firefighters and police tirelessly searched the rubble for victims. A companion tune for that moment in time: Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” (, resurrected to become the pinnacle of patriotism.
Earlier, Bette Midler’s “From a Distance” (  became the signature anthem for the first Persian Gulf War, adored by those at home separated from loved ones in battle.
Sometimes, a song plays in the soundtrack of your mind, as you're doing something mundane — like traveling. The tune that pops up when you’re buckled up in your  airplane seat  might be “Honolulu City Lights,” with pangs about abandoning everything you love about home. Or it might be “Home,” the tune from “The Wiz,” which yearns for the comforts of home. Or Michael Buble’s “Home” (
One of the formidable “moments” on TV was defined by the late Israel “Bruddah Iz” Kamakawiwo‘ole’s “Over the Rainbow” ditty, with iconic humming intro and ‘ukulele strumming, on NBC’s “ER” series, laced with sadness, not gladness.
An homage, combining “What a Wonderful World” with “Rainbow,”
(, reflects the deep emotional resonance of the fictional Dr. Mark Greene (played by Anthony Edwards). When the storyline tapped his death, “Rainbow”
( was an integral element that cinched a place in the hall of memory-making tunes — Dr. Greene hears his favorite lullaby via earphones when he dies.

Yes, songs encompass life and death; they ring a bell, tug at the heartstrings, evoke a tear, enrich an unforgettable memory.

So, what's your fave song for a special moment in your life — the tune that lives on puts a smile on your face, whenever you hear it?

How to br-r-r-rave the chill

January 29th, 2009

Baby it's been cold outside and inside — yesterday, today, possibly continuing tomorrow.

How cold? Socks on the feet time, haul out the extra blankie time, wear long jammies to bed time.

So what's a shivering soul to do?

Some tips to get into warm mode and rev up the body temps:

Avoid the flicks that will chill and frost the psyche. Like:

• "Fargo" — murder and mayhem in the deep freeze.

• "Eight Below" — rescue dogs in the Antarctica.

• "Alive" — downed plane with a, gulp, element of cannibalism.

• "Dr. Zhivago" — splendor in Siberia, but makes you want to order a (faux) mink.

• "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" — family adventure with much too much blankets ... of white.

• "The Thing" — something's alive and threatening in the Antarctic.


Instead, watch flicks that make you believe warm. Like:

• "Lawrence of Arabia" — war in the dunes...and rediscover Peter O'Toole.

• "The Long, Hot Summer" — heated romance, with sweltering sweat.

• "Dune" — endless oppression amid miles of sand.

• "The Endless Summer"— the definitive surf film that makes you think beach and ocean.

• "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" — gays on the outback, with oodles of fun.

• "Walkabout" — aridity-aplenty with aboriginal twists.

• "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" — postapocalyptic mayhem in the desert.

• Any mindless Frankie and Annette beach fling ("Beach Blanket," "Bikini Beach," "Beach Blanket Bingo") — the endless summer fantasy from the 1950s and '60s.

Foods to avoid — or you'll get brain freeze:

• Popsicles.

• Shave ice.

• Frozen margaritas.

Tonics to slurp:

• Chazuke.

• Miso soup.

• A glass of wine.

Share your thoughts about warming up...




Boy oh boy oh boy ...

January 29th, 2009

You’ve seen and heard them before: cherubic youths with high-pitched voices and animated faces, projecting enthusiasm and aloha to spare when they sing “We Are Young Men of This Country,” a trademark song.
Cute and charismatic, this is The Honolulu Boy Choir, a world-renowned organization of Island youths who serve as musical ambassadors of Hawai‘i.
And now’s the time to join as prospects  are being recruited to join a time-honored tradition of sharing the songs and dances of the Islands to audiences here and abroad.
The season’s final auditions will be held this Saturday, so it’s prudent to acquire a time slot to try out. To secure an audition time, call 596-7464.
If you have a young son, or know a member of your family or a neighbor down the street who might be a fit for this incomparable experience, take action now.
It’s a privilege to join and not all may qualify.
Boys between 7 through 12, who have a sunny disposition, the smarts to match pitch and the willingness and enthusiasm to learn the wonders of Island song and dance to perform as an ensemble, are eligible.
A positive attitude is a plus; discipline and commitment are also welcome attributes.
Experience is not necessary; if your child has talent, this will become obvious as he learns the craft of choir singing.
Aside from a $50 processing fee each year to cover the cost of a music lyric book, rehearsal CDs and an official Honolulu Boy Choir, there is no cost to join. Subsequent fees will be assessed to cover uniforms, once a new member is deemed ready for prime time.
A few scholarships may be available for those needed support.
If selected, the youth will be expected to attend rehearsals from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Makiki Christian Church, 829 Pensacola St. Attendance and participation will be mandatory; occasionally, additional practice sessions will be scheduled, notably when performances are coming up. Three unexcused absences will lead to termination.
The Honolulu Boy Choir operates on a 10-month program, from January through December, with vacation time pegged for July and August. An infrequent call for convention work may be in store during the summer months.
The late Roy Hallman founded the choir in 1973 with his wife, Nyle, as accompanist, with members from as many as 40 Island schools; the Hallmans had a 20-year association with the boy choir.
Membership usually is  60 boys  whose ethnicities represent the diverse Island cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, reflecting a distinguished rainbow of happy faces and adorable voices.
The Choir’s repertoire, similarly, represents a United Nations-like roster of music, tapping contemporary, ethnic, folk, traditional and religious music, with hula adding a unique dimension and charm.
The choir’s signature song is Keola Beamer’s “We Are Young Men of This Country,” as well as the seasonal “Twelve Days of Christmas,” with added Island-specific lyrics.
The choir has been called Hawai‘i’s Ambassadors of Music and Culture.
Anyone with a memory to share, about an offspring or ‘ohana member who previously performed wth The Honolulu Boy Choir?

Out of the 'Forrest' — for military folks

January 27th, 2009

He now is known as the star of CBS’ “CSI: New York,” but actor Gary Sinise  has roots in theater, notably the Steppenwolf  Theatre Company in Chicago, which he co-founded.
I’ve seen him do theater in New York — the plays were “The Grapes of Wrath” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” — and Sinise is a remarkable take-charge performer who makes his characters come alive with passion.
He’s also a musician, and thanks to an Oscar-nominated role in “Forrest Gump,” Sinise has become an integral force of the Lt. Dan Band, named for the character he played in the film which earned  him a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
Good news: he’s heading to Hawai‘i for two concerts expressly for U.S. troops and their families.
Bad news: civilians need not — well, cannot — apply.
The first show is at 7 p.m. this Friday (Jan. 30) at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kane‘ohe.
The second is at 7 p.m. this Saturday (Jan. 31) at the Hickam Air Force Base.
Both performances are private and free, part of a USO entertainment tour. Sounds like the real deal in fortifying unity, patriotism and family ties.
“For years now Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band have shared TriWest's mission of supporting U.S. troops and their families,”  said sponsoring TriWest Healthcare Alliance president and CEO Dave McIntyre, Jr., in a release.  “They provide more than just a concert.  They provide an opportunity for those in the military community to unite, relax and just have fun.”
“I spend time with troops and participate in USO tours every year because I love it and it's very important to me,” said Sinise.  “We all want to feel appreciated and valued, and our troops are no different.  They never ask for praise or recognition, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve it.  They actually deserve even more and our troops in Hawai‘i are in for a treat.”
For his ongoing support of the U.S. military, Sinise was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian honor to citizens who have performed exemplary deeds in service of our nation.
In the Lt. Dan Band, Sinise plays electric bass, and the band rocks out covers of Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Linkin Park and even Jimi Hendrix.
But since the gigs here are for the deserving military folks only, tell your pals in uniform about this wonderful opportunity. The rest of us can drool.

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Hoku vs. Grammy Awards ...

January 26th, 2009

The 2009 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards season begins this week, when eligible contenders must submit entries by this Saturday to qualify for this year’s awards.
The 2009 Grammy Awards — with local finalists already selected — will be revealed Feb. 8 in a CBS televised ceremony originating  from the Staple Center in Los Angeles.
The awards leagues apart, but the local music community will be watching with eager eyes and ears. The outcome of the Na Hoku could trigger continued exposure in next year’s Hawaiian Grammy award, since eligibility period overlaps for some product.
So: if you’re an Island recording artist, producer or techie with releases issued in the 2008 calendar year ending last Dec. 31, now’s the time to toss your hat into the race for the Hoku Awards. This the homegrown entity with a long history.
For an entry form and details, go to the Website of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts,
Prospects must have been released in stores or via digital retail services (such as iTunes and by last Dec. 31.
The date for the Hoku event has not yet been announced.
Neither has the date been confirmed for the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Awards, when the following will be honored:
•    Keola and Kapono Beamer, known for their signature hit, “Honolulu City Lights,” and pioneering work in contemporary and traditional Hawaiian music.
•    Cecilio and Kapono, another landmark contemporary Island musical duo.
•    Eddie Kamae & the Sons of Hawai i, prolific exponents of traditional Hawaiian music.
•    George Helm, noted falsetto singer and Hawaiian activist.
•    John Pi‘ilani Watkins, kumu hula and prolific Hawaiian composer.

The 2009 Hawaiian Grammy nominees are:
•    “Ikena,” by Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho.
•    “‘Aumakua,” by Amy Hanaiali‘i.
•    “Force of Nature,” by Ledward Ka‘apana and Mike Ka‘awa.
•    “Hawaiian Slack Key Kings: Master Series Vol. II,” by various artists.
•    “The Spirit of Hawaiian Slack Key,” by various artists.

So which of the awards are you more emotionally or culturally attached to, the local Na Hoku or the national Grammy — and why?

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