“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
--- Douglas Adams

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Playing Lloyd Bentsen to a Stranger's Dan Quale

This morning in the elevator up to my office I overheard a conversation. It went like this:

Guy #1 - Dude, do you have your Chuck Norris Halloween costume ready?
Guy #2 - Yeah, all except the poncho.
Me (interrupting) - How's your roundhouse kick?
Guy #2 - What's that?

"What's that?" "WHAT'S THAT?" Who thinks they could be Chuck Norris for Halloween and not know what a roundhouse kick is?

Here's how I should have responded had he not gotten off the elevator so soon,"Dude in the elevator, I've seen Chuck Norris movies. Some of my best friends have seen Chuck Norris movies. You sir, are no Chuck Norris."

I'm not even going to address the bit about the poncho.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Crabs, Cowboys and Kuleana

Last Sunday Hubby and I dropped The Kiddies off at their grandparents' house and went to see Na Lei Hulu perform at The Palace of Fine Arts.

Great show on the whole, but to me there were two dances that stood out. The first was He Mele
Pāpa’i, A Song for the Great Crab. This particular hula was just a part of a suite of hulas written by Puakea Nogelmeier and dedicated to Kapalakiko, or San Francisco. If one can scurry in hula, nā kane certainly succeeded. The way they moved their "claws" and moved their feet across the dance floor perfectly mimicked a group (scuttle? hermitage? clutch?) of crabs. I only wish I had the vocabulary to explain to you how intricate and well choreographed it was.
The second hula was danced to a song called Nā Vaqueros by Kuana Torres Kahele off his CD Kaunaloa. First, I loved the way the Spanish and the Hawaiian languages intertwined. It took a second to register that I was looking at two different languages ("Nā" being Hawaiian a plural indicator of a direct object and "Vaqueros" being Spanish for, in simple terms, a cowboy) when I read it in the show's program. My familiarity with hearing the Hawaiian language being spoken in actual speech as well as song is almost as well cultivated with my familiarity with Spanish. Not that I speak Spanish. I mean, I could get by, which is more than I can with Hawaiian. The point I'm trying to make, I guess is that I'm used to hearing both languages so much that I had to think when it came time to distinguish between the languages in the song. Needless to say I really liked the song, and don't tell Hubby, but I purchased it on itunes. The best part about hearing the song was watching the hula that went with it. Three beautiful wahine danced this number. The way they moved together was flawless. It was by far the best hula of the whole show.
So last night Hubby and I were talking about the show and he posed an interesting question. He asked me what would happen if someone other than a member of  Na Lei Hulu danced the hulas in the show. I wondered what he meant. I don't know if it's happened with great frequency, but Kumu could certainly teach us any dance that he's created for the performances if he chooses. They're his dances. They're his to teach. I'm guessing that he could also teach us any dance that he's learned from his Kumus. He's certainly done that. And just as people sample music and turns of phrase, I'm certain that there are many moves in many hula dances where bits and pieces of dances have been adopted or repurposed. Also, I'm sure there are signature moves that one learns. In fact, I know that to be true. We've learned dances before where when we get to the end Kumu tells us the dance ends with "auntie's ha'ina" and the whole class knows what that means.
I think what Hubby was really getting at, though, is it OK if someone had say, videotaped a dance from a show they saw, learned the dance, then taught it to other people? My guess is that it's probably happened, but that it's really really bad form. It's not something that any honorable person would do. Doing so would probably ruin your reputation as a hula teacher, or a student of hula. Not to mention the bajillion negative aloha points it would give you. On a smaller scale, though, I'm guessing it's not even OK for me to teach a hula dance. I may know my halau's version of Puamana or Kawika inside and out, but I'm a student. It's not my kuleana to teach, only to learn. 

I guess the answer to Hubby's question boils down to this: if it's not yours, it's not yours to share.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Captured Knowledge

Last night in place of hula class I attended a lecture, that my halau hosted of course, by noted linguist and Hawaiian language professor Puakea Nogelmeier.

I was so tired this evening. I was coming off of a short business trip; a short, but a bit of a tiring trip. I wanted to go to see Kumu Puakea speak. I knew, as a member of my halau, it was my responsibility to go listen to the man speak. I wanted to. I'd been looking forward to it since I heard about it a few weeks earlier. It was Puakea Nogelmeier, c'mon. I'd be crazy not to go see him speak. Tonight, though, I was tired. I dragged my booty the school to see him. I'm so glad I didn't talk myself out of it. I would have been regretting it for the longest time if I hadn't gone, forever even.

At first when he was speaking I typed notes into my blackberry. Thinking that people would mistake me for tweeting the presentation, screwing around on facebook, or just not paying any attention, I stopped. I didn't want anyone to think I was being disrespectful.

During his presentation, Kumu Puakea spoke about his history, his last 40 years in Hawaii, what brought him there and why he stayed. The stories he told captured the sentiment of other experiences I heard about from other people. Hawaii captures you. There's something about it that draws one it. Its power pulls you in like a receding wave and only to be knocked over the head with another.

I think I could sum up the evening with the over-riding theme that knowledge is the most valuable thing that can be shared, and it's our responsibility to share what we have. Once shared, it isn't forgotten (you may run the chance of it being misinterpreted, however). Giving knowledge is not like giving away a material item. When I share something with someone, what I've shared is still mine. I haven't lost it. In fact, I've made it more real by experiencing it again in its retelling.

It's like a cup that never empties, yet never gets too full for more.

So, in the spirit of what I learned from Kumu Puakea last night I'm starting a new feature on my blog. I don't know what I'm going to call it yet, but I'd like to start writing a recap of what I did at hula the night before. I have a week to think about the type of things I should include. I'm sure you don't want to read "first we watched the class before us dance the last 10 minutes of their class time, then we got into our pukas, then we warmed up, then we danced some stuff, then we sat down and talked, then we danced some more, then we went home" and I'm sure my Kumu wouldn't appreciate explaining all the dances step by stem "the first verse is kaholo right, kaholo left, two 'uwehe . . . " I imagine recaps will be more personal, "I finally nailed that one move that's been giving me grief the last few weeks" or "we learned some concept or another that kept me up last night and I just have to share it."

The more I write, the better I get at expressing myself and making myself understood. Maybe writing about hula will help me be a better dancer.

We'll see how it turns out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Living off the Fatta' the Lan

When I was about 19 I had this one boyfriend. One weekend we went to Tijuana, Mexico with a buncha his friends. We drove down in a honda civic filled with way more people than seat belts and got a hotel room on just on the inside of the US border. After getting all gussied up for a night on the town, we left the hotel walked across the border and hopped in a waiting cab to take us to Revolution Avenue.

Almost immediately after getting out of the cab I saw some street vendors selling hot dogs wrapped in bacon. I was so grossed out by them. They smelled yucky, the bacon was grey and the man who was cooking them had dirty hands. I told my boyfriend that there was no way I'd have one of those. He looked at me, smiled and told me I would be singing a different song 10 beers and 3 hours later.

Turns out I did sing a new song. After drinking and dancing all night I was dehydrated, inebriated, and hungry. I got a hot dog wrapped in bacon and boy did I enjoy it. I did not enjoy it about an hour later when my stomach admonished me for putting that greasy late night snack inside me, but boy was it yummy in the moment.

Which brings me to today.

I was looking at a menu this morning. There was a quote from John Steinbeck on the menu. It said "When they become delicious you've had too many." It comes from "The Short Reign of Pippin IV." I have to say right now that I've never read it. If I have completely missed the point of this quote, please keep in mind that I saw it on a menu that has offerings on it called "Candy's Ranch Chicken," "Lennie Small's Soft Polenta" and my favorite, "Living off the Fatta the Lan Molten Chocolate Cake."

My thought is this - Shouldn't the first bite be delicious? Why should delicousness take a while to kick in? Deliciousness should be there from the first bite, shouldn't it? Or was John Steinbeck referring to hot dogs wrapped in bacon, cooked on the side of the road in Tijuana and served to drunk teenagers who are too young to drink in their own country so they drive an hour to another one and drink there? I don't know.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fierce Heart - Book Review

I just finished reading Fierce Heart by Stuart Holmes Coleman. I enjoyed it immensly. 
I got the book at a garage sale. The sale was held to raise funds for Surf for Life. You can read about Surf for Life here.
I had heard about the book when it came out in April 2009, but never got around to reading it.
When I first started reading the book I thought that I should have read it before I went on huaka'i last May, but as I got towards the end of the book I'm happy my procrastination paid off and I read it now. Having read it after my trip, I was able to think back at the places we visited, and through reading this book, gained even more understanding, and developed a deeper level of admiration and respect for the people of that area.
Fierce Heart chronicles the lives of modern day heroes and role models in Makaha, HI. A town located on the west side of O'ahu, Makaha has the reputation for being local-centric; a town known for holding as tightly as they can to a culture and a way of life that doesn't exist the way it used to on the Islands anymore. I don't think the people Mr. Coleman introduces us to started out thinking they were role models, and probably for a long time didn't want to be considered as such. They were just normal people living the way they thought life should be lead. But because of the lives they lead, people took notice. They noticed their genuine spirit, their generosity, their honesty. I'm not saying these people were perfect. There are plenty stories in the book where Mr. Coleman writes of fights breaking out, people drinking too much, taking too many drugs, etc. The people he writes about certainly weren't angels. They did, however, have a certain quality about them that made you take notice, and made you want to be around them.
The book itself isn't the best piece of literature I've ever read. Sometimes the sentence structure was hard to follow. It didn't seem to have a very good flow. It was more of a stream of consciousness. I don't think it had to be perfect, though. What I enjoyed about the book was the story. I wanted to learn more about the people in the book. By the end of the book I wanted to be next door neighbors to all of them.
One of the people written about was Rell Sunn. I first learned of Rell Sunn though this documentary I saw on PBS. I first saw it at a time when one of my sisters was going through a similar experience as Ms. Sunn. I was so touched by her story.

The Girl did a report on Rell Sunn in the 2nd grade.
After I finished Fierce Heart, I watched the documentary again. There was some overlap of the people in the book and the people in the documentary. It was nice to put a face to the name.
One of the things that made the book and the people in it more real to me was the fact that when we were on huaka'i last May I met two of the people mentioned in the book and visited Makaha Farms, Ka'ala Cultural Center, two places that, although not mentioned in the book, hold a connection to the land and the people the book is about. 
The book, the place, and my experience all have a deeper meaning to me because of each other.

Welcome now my friends to the show that never ends

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Nice Pictures - Where'd you steal them from?

Some of the pictures in my blog were taken by a photographer called Julie Michele. Some of the pictures were either taken by me or someone I know. Some of the pictures were ripped right from the internet, mostly from google image searches from photographers to whom I may or may not give credit.

Rest assured I make no money from any of it.