Archive for January, 2009

Oh, oh ... Obama's O'ahu outed again

January 23rd, 2009

The secret's out, again.

President Barack Obama's favorite places to eat, surf, snack, sleep and hang out — complete with a map of O'ahu — are featured in the February Conde Nast Traveler.

It's a beaut of a two-page spread — three, if you count the editor's letter page — that spills the beans about where the 44th president, and our most famous local-boy-makes-good. slurps shave ice (Island Snow in Kailua), fine-dines (Alan Wong's), chows with friends (Indigo Eurasian Cuisine in Chinatown) and lunches (Kua 'Aina Sandwich Shop on the North Shore).

The he-did-this-here, he-did-that-there feature, reaching a visitor-inclined readership, includes places he has made famous even while he was a senator:  Kailua, where the Obamas stayed earlier; the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, where he was ensconced pre-president time, and Halona Blow Hole, where he scattered ashes of Toot, his grandmother who died two days before he became the 44th president.

Yep, Punahou (his alma mater), Sandy Beach (where he body-surfed) and the University of Hawai'i-Manoa (where his parents attended college) are part of the hot spots.

In a Zippy's mention (he didn't visit, but had widely commented that  he was ready for Zip-min), the magazine makes an error, recounting incorrectly that President Bill Clinton dined at the Kahala location, when, in fact, it was the Zippy's at Koko Marina Center in Hawai'i Kai.

Coincidentally, Zippy's commemorates Obama in this inaugural month, discounting its Zip-min through the end of January, with a $7.40 special, which is $1.20 less than normal. The classic saimin, with shrimp, kamaboko, egg and char siu, hits the spot during these cool nights.

Something that the Obama 'ohana would likely enjoy at the White House, if this omiyage could easily be transported to Washington D.C. Right?

I wish in mentioning Obama's casual manner while in vacation mode, the magazine would use the local lingo: slippahs instead of flip-flops.

Oh, and the Conde Nast editor's letter? It recounts the chance  sighting, and subsequent meeting, of resident-author Paul Theroux, who was at a nearby table with pal Pico Iyer, when the junior center paused for a bite and engaged in cordial conversation, acknowledging that he had read both writer's works — Theroux and Iyer frequently contribute to Conde Naste —and Theroux is a best-selling author whose latest is "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star."

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Is Kai Kalama Hawai'i's 'Idol' to worship?

January 21st, 2009

From an Island perspective, an “American Idol” contestant named Kai Kalama, 26, may be the one to watch and root for this year.
His name is Hawaiian, his look is Jawaiian, he’s got sweetness and tenderness with an edge. And the background melody featured on his “AI” bio was definitely local— Bruddah Iz’s melodics from “Over the Rainbow” — capped with bittersweet flavors: Kai wants to sing and win to provide a home for his seizure-inclined mom, even avoiding girlfriends to focus on mom’s well-being.
It’s all fodder for support and attention, shared on “AI” on Tuesday night.
Turns out Kai Kalama is from San Clemente, has made a pretty good impression among the panel of four judges (Simon Cowell, with lesser enthusiasm), in the initial stages of the 2009 competish now under way.
Kalama sang The Platters’ “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”  — the final one to compete and the one who boasts the most promise — and earned passage  to Hollywood from “AI’s” panel of four judges. And maybe some tears in some eyes, too, what with his hardship-at-home story.
He auditioned in San Francisco. He’s known in his home port as a club singer, at such sites as OC Tavern, Molly Bloom’s and BeachFire, performing with his band, Off White, according to the Orange County Register.
He looks very much hapa — like a dude from Hawai‘i   — and indeed could have Island ties, though his roots and lineage did not surface in his interview and chat with the judges.
Debbie Ward, who lives here, e-mailed me and pondered about Kalama’s origins, thinking that this could be our Jasmine Trias. In other words, the candidate of choice for mass support this season.
“Can you find out more and write about Kai Kalama, one of the American Idol contestants? He tried out in San Francisco and is going to Hollywood.  He's from a large Hawaiian family in the Bay Area, is a musician/singer (used to be in a band called Off White) and sure looks like a local boy,” said Debbie. “ I think lots of us Hawaii fans of American Idol are going to want to find out more about him and support his talent.”
The folks at Fox’s “American Idol” do not allow access to contestants, once the competition begins, and bios at this early start of the race aren’t posted.
But Kai is on the radar of new judge Kara DioGuardi, who dismissed Cowell’s barbs, with beaucoup praise for the youthful trouper, and garnered unanimous yeas from Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.
One viewer said on (where video can be seen): “Kai Kamala not only has an amazing voice ... plus he's got a big heart, the way he spends his days caring for his sick mom.”
At this stage, he’s certainly is a contender.And a good bet for Islanders, if no other local wannabe shows up.

What's your take?

The first shaka

January 20th, 2009

The shaka has gotten the presidential seal of approval.
Yessiree, President Barack Obama, Punahou Class of 1979, flashed the Island shaka — with the thumb and pinkie outstretched — as his alma mater marching band whizzed by performing “Aloha Oe” today.

Obama thus made history — he's the first president ever to shaka a crowd.

Not to be left out, first lady Michelle did the shaka thing, too. Ditto, daughters Malia Ann and Sasha.
Oh, wow, they all smiled — huge Cheshire cat  smiles — punctuating their glee with upheld shaka. So the aloha spirit lives in D.C. land with remarkable ease.
Unless you were right there near the presidential reviewing stand, you saw the Obamas'  nonverbal “howzit” before a televised audience of millions.
It helped that Katie Couric, who visited Hawaii before during her “Today” show tenure, acknowledged the gesture. But CBS’ frontline reporter Nancy (sorry, I didn’t catch her last name), who also is a Punahou grad, proudly pointed out the shaka as the first family took turns shaka-ing and smiling.
Does this mean we now can openly communicate with the Commander in Chief, a local boy, with a shaka, and not show disrespect?
Yes we can.

You don’t know Jack…

January 19th, 2009

Jack Johnson’s decision to cancel his annual Kokua Festival— usually a mecca at the Waikiki Shell for mellow musical fellowship — is not surprising. Really.
It’s smart.
While not a popular move, the 2009 cancellation demonstrates Johnson’s seasoned wisdom,  financial practicality and plain ol’ savvy. Why risk his green machine, bent on saving and protecting the environment, which could end up with red ink?
Johnson, the greenest-thinking dude in Island music, is above the curve in calling off his show this year, after five previous successes for his non-profit Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation.
The event has been the anticipated Earth Day highlight for local and visiting fans.
In pulling the plug this year without specifically saying why, Johnson might have taken a page from the Matt Catingub’s Hawaii Romance Festival manual of practicality; this ain’t gonna be a good year for Island music spectacles.
With the dour economy, the high rate of unemployment because of downsizing and evaporating business plus unrelenting foreclosures, Johnson no doubt had to make a hard decision: soar on the coattails of earlier successes, or ride the wave of uncertainty and daunting challenges that could have meant hardship for his camp.
Methinks he did the right thing.
Sure, having no show is a huge disappointment  for his diehard followers. The first inclination might have been that a concert this year — in a climate of recession — might have been just the tonic needed to ease the blues and provide an emotional lift.
Some even think the weak economy might have kept away an invasive species — the affluent big-ticket folks from the Mainland, who quickly devoured the tickets like locusts last year with online reservations, leaving locals without passage. Local bros tend to wait till the last minute, even buy at the door; they’re not traditionally early birds.
Yeah, but would locals shell out money they don’t have to ensure a profitable margin and a sellout for Johnson and ‘ohana for educational programs in keeping Hawai‘i green?
Coulda shoulda woulda won’t  resolve outstanding bills.
By the way, Johnson had a pretty good 2008; his “Sleep Through the Static” CD (Brushfire/Universal) was the year’s No. 8 best-seller (Lil Wayne’s “The Carter III” was No. 1 on the Top 10, Beyonce’s “I Am ... Sasha Fierce” was No. 10). That’s an achievement worthy of one beeg hurrah!
As for Catingub, in two earlier outings, his romantic series have had red ink splattered on the blotter despite some wonderful roundup of local and visiting talent. By putting the event on hold this year, when the economic climate is worst than ever, Catingub as the pops/jazz maestro will have time to recoil and recover from earlier dips and  reinvent the event when conditions are better.
Johnson also must know that a bad economy does not a good festival climate make.
We applaud him for his bold, if unpopular, stance.

Local boy Keanu Reeves:
Add chambara to his matrix

This, I gotta see. Keanu Reeves as a sword-swinging samurai?
Reeves, who has Island ties and is part Asian (Chinese) is set to topline Universal’s “47 Ronin,” an 18th century chambara epic of  honor, loyalty, sacrifice and revenge, based on historical incidents that has had several reincarnations in Japanese cinema.
In “47 Ronin,” he’ll be one of  the samurai, in what is envisioned to be a stylized mix of fantasy and grandeur of  “Lord of the Rings” and “Gladiator,” with plenty of  gritty, even grueling, swordplay. Remember, classic samurai films of yesteryear had sharp, swift sword moves that chopped off limbs and, gulp, heads.
Chris Morgan, who co-wrote “Wanted” and penned the upcoming “Fast and Furious” for Universal, is doing the script, supposedly custom-fitted for Reeves, whose Island-based father is half-Hawaiian and half-Chinese. The samurai role won’t be his first as an Asian; you recall, he early played “Little Buddha.”
A director is yet to be named.
Hmmmm, if  this one flies, Reeves could be at the head of the class for a remake of “Seven Samurai” or “Yojimbo”... en route to becoming the next Toshiro Mifune.

It's Show and Tell time...

January 14th, 2009

Welcome to Show and Tell Hawai‘i, a new blog, dedicated to the performing arts — music, theater, clubs, TV, films — and  other entertainment-related fun, like dining, partying, ticket-buying, and, yes, some name-dropping.

There will be commentary and observations — you may agree or disagree with the postings — with high-fives for folks and things warranting hurrahs, hisses for the waste-time stuff. You will play as much of a role in expanding the entertainment profile in a very scary period — the economic outlook remains wobbly and some  treacherous challenges are ahead. Hopefully, there will be bright lights and sunshine amid the cloudy picture.

This blog is intended to be an online companion to Show Biz, my newly-launched Sunday column, in The Advertiser’s Island Life section. It'll likely be more casual with see-sawing viewpoints from your keyboard to mine.

So let the show begin ...

Flickers and snickers:
A curious case of the pits

Went to see “The Curious Case of  Benjamin Button” a few nights back at the Regal Dole cinema, and Brad Pitt’s transformation from old guy to youth was fascinating. The makeup is the real  star here, but there's substance and emotion in Pitt's portrayal.

But it was a nearly three-hour outing, what with the pre-movie commercials and previews, and this is a film that requires perseverence. One couple brought an infant into the darkness, frequently spoiling the mood of the drama. Methinks that's a big no-no.

It’s the pits, yes, but it’s not a new problem. However, it’s an annoyance no one needs and it’s just as bad as a cell phone going off and someone answering and having a conversation.

This is an issue of rights  and etiquette — from opposing factions. Should folks seeing a movie expect a climate of quiet concentration? Yes, when it's not a family film like, say, "Bedtime Stories." Should parents with a child be free to attend a movie together? Yes of course. But not always.

Yes, the infant cried. Several times. No, neither parent took the kid out to hush or comfort him/her. Not once. A couple looked back toward the errant noise — but you can’t give a stink eye in the darkness. There were a few anxious head-movements, as the largely adult crowd tried to pinpoint the distraction. It wasn't the kid's fault; blame the selfish parents.

Which prompts me snicker further and raise a timeless question: Shouldn’t movie theaters, as stage theaters often do, enforce minimum age for children beyond the motion picture industry’s parental guidance rating system, and thus define when a kid younger than, say, 4 or 5, can be part of a screening totally meaningless to a toddler?  What do you think?

Island Sounds:
Something hip-hop

“Alive and Well” (Ekahi Entertainment)
Genre: Contemporary, hip-hop.
Distinguishing notes: King Kekai is a prolific and productive fella, who wrote  all 10 tunes here (with a couple of collaborators) and the title song featuring Hoku Haiku summarizes his spirit: “Hawaiian hip-hp is alive and well,” he declares to a catchy beat,
Guests artists like uke whiz Troy Fernandez shares the limelight (check out “Lovely Day”) and Jawaiian tempos prevail (“Island Girl”). The genre, however, is plagued with repetition and recurring rhythms only  clubbers and dancers will applaud.
Our take: “Alive” is swell for your next party.

Televiewing tips:
A funday Sunday

If you’re home Sunday (Jan. 18), KGMB-9 revives two classic TV specials produced by Phil Arnone: “IZ — the Man Behind the Music” airs at 6 p.m., exploring the legend that is Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole, followed by “C&K — Back in the Day” at 7 p.m., strolling down memory lane with Cecilio and Kapono. Great music, great memories, great moments. Two of  the good things from Channel 9’s archives and worth watching again and again.

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