DUKE – A Great Hawaiian , by Sandra Kimberley Hall, 2004, Bess Press, 112 pages, $10.95
Sandra Kimberley grew up at the famous Australian beach where Duke Kahanamoku taught Australians how to ride the waves on a long board in 1914. She arrived in Hawai`i during Duke's centennial and promptly launched a new career as a freelance writer, and this little book is her second about the great surfer-statesman Duke Kahanamoku.
I have to admit that I haven't read a lot about Duke yet (the "yet" being thrown in to protect my future safety), so that might influence my opinion of the great little book. Having said this, I really enjoyed it, even though I'm not a surfer. Duke was an remarkable human being in all respects – surfing just being a part of the amazing life story of this man who was, in Kimberley's words, probably "the greatest aquatic sportsman the world has ever known." I'm not going to recap the whole book - but Duke, born into families with royal Hawaiian bloodlines, started out as a delivery clerk and hack driver. From that humble start, he went on to become a medaled Olympic swimmer, surfing champion, surveyor in the Honolulu Water Department, Hawai`i's Aloha representative to the World, a movie star and Sheriff of the City and County of Honolulu for 26 years! And yet, through all this notoriety, Duke remained true to his Hawaiian roots – enjoying time with his ohana, eating local food and sharing his kindness and generosity with everybody.
Kimberley's book is just right. She tells Duke's story smoothly and succinctly and with plenty of photos (on every other page, actually). This is the kind of book that visitors will want to take home and locals will want to keep sitting around for visitors and friends to read. (And now I'm finally no longer ignorant about one of Hawai`i's greatest heroes!)
HONOLULU CSI – An Introduction to Forensic Science and Criminal Investigation , by Gary Dias and Robbie Dingeman, 2004, Bess Press
I know – what does this book have to do with Hawaiian culture? Well, not much actually, but it's quite fascinating and it WAS written by a " Honolulu cop!" This is Dias' and Dingeman's third (and I suspect not last) book. Their first book (Honolulu Cop) was reviewed here in 2002. The authors continue with their great combination of humor (some of which is pretty corny) and professionalism, making this book another fun read.
Given all of the TV shows covering it, it would be really easy to think that a book about forensic science would be boring. Well, a college textbook maybe, but not this one. That's probably because: 1) there are lots of descriptions of real-life scenes here, and 2) (drum roll please) there is "try it yourself" stuff!! For example – you know quick glue – the glue that will glue your fingers together? Did you know that it can be used to lift fingerprints off things (no, not off your fingers)? Me neither. It's called "cyanoacrylate fuming." The technique was discovered by accident in Japan and it has even been used on whole cars by the Honolulu Police Department! You can do it yourself using a mayonnaise jar, some aluminum foil, tweezes and superglue. These little goodies are scattered all thought the book, EXCEPT in the firearms section (whew!).
There are chapters on Crime Scenes, Fingerprints, Blood, Firearms, Arson, Explosives, Impressions, Documents, Injuries, Graphic Art, etc.
Plus, there's an excellent forty page section on personal crime prevention. There are chapters here on securing your home (both inside and outside), street smarts, safety in your car, workplace safety and preventing sexual assault. I used to work for a police department, in the Crime Analysis Unit, and I guarantee that if you follow Dias' recommendations here, you will be far safer than if you don't, by leaps and bounds.
ISLAND GRINDS – Good Food, Real Value and Local Atmosphere in Hawai`i's Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurants , by David Goldman, 2004
We all love good food – locals, family, visitors, night marchers (no, wait…). But... nobody wants to go "broke da wallet" for broke da mouth, right? So this will help out! Here is a guide with 119 of the best family-run bakeries, delicatessens, cafes, grills, etc. that you'll find in Hawai`i (well, actually, it mostly focuses on O`ahu, but it does cover all of the islands).
He hits many of the Big Iisland's standards like the Manago Hotel, Ken's House of Pancakes, Kona Mix Plate, Teshima's and the Ocean View Inn, but only gives Paul Muranaka's in the old Kona industrial area his "Da Bes`" star. Oh well. His descriptions are great though. And reading through the whole book has given me some great ideas about dishes to look for here, like maybe spicy Japanese clams. If you're heading for O`ahu and want local grinds – this is a "must have."
This Isn't a Picture I'm Holding: Kuan Yin , by Kathy J. Phillips with photography by Joseph Singer, 2004, University of Hawai`i Press
The bodhisattva Kuan Yin remains one of the most popular figures in Buddhism, loved and worshiped throughout Asia for over a millennium. Arriving in Hawai`i with the first Chinese plantation workers, her presence has grown in the Islands. In Chinese, Japanese, and Korean temples in downtown Honolulu and Palolo Valley she towers over worshipers and their gifts of oranges. Her image, reproduced by the dozens, crowds Thai and Vietnamese shops there.
Here Phillips and Singer celebrate Kuan Yin's many incarnations in words and images that exhibit humor, poignancy and for me at least, inscrutability! An excellent introduction examines Kuan Yin and her place in religion, legend, art, changing social prescriptions for gender (she started out as a "him" – Avalokistesvara – in Indian Buddhism) and the everyday lives of Hawai`i's people
It's only fair to tell you that I'm not a fan of modern poetry – which is most definitely the genre here. Nevertheless, I did understand some of the poetry and liked all of the excellent photography. I suspect that readers with a better appreciation for modern poetry will find the whole book quite excellent, especially since it was in last month's top ten best-selling local titles in the literature category, using figures from the Hawaii Book Publishers Association.
MADAM PELE, True Encounters with Hawai`i's Fire Goddess, Collected by Rick Carroll, 2003, Bess Press
I don't need to say a lot about this book other than, "buy it – it's great and really fun to read." Ah well, one other thing maybe. Don't read it on one of Snoopy's "dark and stormy nights" because some of the stories are really chicken skin kine. Carroll has collected twenty-three fantastic stories about Pele involved in all kinds of situations. Just a sample: a visitor in the Volcano House Hotel goes to the restroom while her husband waits in the hallway just outside. She hears somebody come in and sees a tall women with long black hair in a white dress standing at the sink. Upon leaving the restroom, the visitor sees a picture of Pele on the wall and asks her husband if she is the owner of the hotel because she was in the restroom. Her husband says, "nobody went into the restroom except for you." Hmm…
KAHANA – How the Land Was Lost, Robert H. Stauffer, University of Hawai`i Press
Kahana is a detailed study of the Kuleana (homesteads) in one ahupua`a (land division) on the north shore of the island of O`ahu. The reason that the author chose this area to study is because previously unavailable land-tenure records have recently been released by the State Archives for this area. By 1920, Mary Foster had obtained ownership of almost all of Kahana. Fortunately, she kept meticulous records – the database contains over 2,500 conveyances, including careful notes on all transactions. As a result, it's possible to construct a nearly complete picture of exactly what happened in this ahupua`a . (Today, Kahana is home to Kahana Valley Park, a "living park" where over 30 native Hawaiian families live, nurturing and fostering native Hawaiian culture.)
The loss of Hawaiian lands into Haloe (foreign), American ownership started with the Great Mahele (Division) and it happened very quickly due to Hawaiian ignorance of Western law." Most of us would probably agree with that statement, right? Guess what? It's wrong , on all counts!
Hawaiians had no concept of private land ownership – it was all commonly owned (but by the ali`i , of course). The Mahele (1846-1855) converted land into a commodity that could be bought, sold and mortgaged. Prior to the Mahele , kuleana and ahupua`a were inseparable – afterwards this was not true. This was a totally foreign concept to Hawaiians, and it undermined the existing traditional interconnected social system. Very simply stated, the Mahele divided Hawaiian land into two classes. The developed kuleana land went to families. The rest of the ahupua`a (usually undeveloped) was split between three groups: absentee landlords who were usually high ali`i , the King, and the government (which was totally Haole dominated).
Convention says that the ali`i received a lot more land than commoners did. That's true, but if you look at the value of the land, it was about equal since the kuleana were developed and the ali`i's portion of the ahupua`a was not. Most of the ali`i's lands had been sold off by 1893, much of it to Chinese owners, not Americans! But native Hawaiians did use Western law to buy some of it back by forming Hui's (associations) to purchase it. The Hui Movement was a very important but seldom mentioned part of the history of the land in Hawai`i. Unfortunately, it ultimately failed. If kuleana or hui land had been reserved solely for ownership by native Hawaiians, the land ownership picture in Hawai`i today would probably be very different.
In Kahana, an absentee ali`i ended up with land worth $60 million in today's dollars. Leasing it out might bring in $1.5 million a year. But… this ali`i had a lifestyle that required $14 million per year (see last month's book review of "The Royal Torch"). So she mortgaged it off to get money and it was all sold to non-Hawaiians within 6 years! The Hawaiian monarchy did the same thing with a lot of the government's land. In contrast, most of the kuleana remained in the hands of native Hawaiians for a generation or more.
Stauffer goes on to explain in detail how the Hawaiians lost their land and then explores how it actually happened in Kahana. While he does this, we learn a lot about how the traditional Hawaiian social system functioned and more about the Hui Movement. While tedious at times, this is an excellent new book and a tremendous addition to the history of Hawai`i. If you have even a passing interest in how the ownership of the land here passed out of Hawaiian hands, then Stauffer's book is a "must read" for you.
Blue Latitudes , Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before Tony Horwitz, 2002 , 480 pages
Blue Latitudes is irreverent and witty and it makes you laugh. It's also been described as "a sneaky work of scholarship" by another author. That's an apt description. As you cruise along through this long but fascinating book, it will dawn on you that Horwitz has put in quite a bit of time doing scholarly research on Captain James Cook and his voyages. He could have easily produced a big yawner history book, but he's done exactly the opposite – it was a real "page-turner" for me. A few words about the author are in order. Horwitz is known as both a humorist and as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He has written about other cultures before, so we're not dealing with a novice in that regard, and you can tell.
In three epic journeys, from 1768 to his death in Hawaii in 1779, Captain James Cook charted most of the South Pacific, the coast of Alaska, and parts of Antarctica. Despite the fact that he redrew the map of the world so accurately that his charts of New Zealand were used by the Royal Navy until 1994, Cook is now a relatively obscure historical figure. In many of the places he visited he remains little more than a legend; most of them not particularly accurate. Horwitz attempts to put Cook's discoveries into perspective by sharing his research, visiting the same places that Cook did, and interviewing many local people regarding Cook (which in most cases turns out to be more interesting because of the people themselves rather than because of what they know about Cook).
The primary characters in the book include Horwitz, his friend Roger Williamson (an Aussie free spirit dedicated to wine, women, and fun), Captain Cook and the colorful Joseph Banks (the Endeavour's Naturalist/Botanist). While Cook is primarily content to chart coastlines and pursue similar mundane activities, Banks is much more of a "people person" and, being relatively uninhibited (in numerous ways), is far more interested in getting to know the native populations, especially the women! (A quick warning – due to the graphic discussions of the amorous proclivities of Cook's crew, as well as other depictions, this isn't a book for young readers.)
Horwitz constantly plays Cook's reception by indigenous cultures against his own observations of the same cultures as they exist today. When you're just about getting saturated with reading about Cook, Horwitz zings you off to the roughest bar in Alaska, to an interview with the King of Tonga, or to a rowdy town party in the Australian outback. All the places Cook visited are vastly different due to 200+ years of contact with the so-called "civilized" world. Horwitz covers many areas in detail (including Tahiti, Bora Bora, New Zealand, Australia, Tonga, the Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii), using a combination of Capt. Cook's journals, Joseph Banks's journals, drawings by Cook's artists, research by Cook biographer John Beaglehole and interviews with local inhabitants.
Cook was a strange and complex person, and so, in certain ways, is Horwitz. They were made for each other, as it seems, and the synergy really works. By the time you finish Blue Latitudes , you will feel like you know them both fairly well.
Captain Cook was way ahead of his time. He was amazingly tolerant and considerate of the native people that he encountered, even to the point of being seriously concerned about the potential negative impacts of his contacts. In a way, he was the first explorer to attempt to follow the "prime directive" of "Enterprise" fame (except that he failed – sexual attraction and availability were just too much to fight). In one of his journals, Cook even noted how the Native Americans living in the British colonies had suffered from "civilized" contact! B ecause he returned to some of the same places on his third voyage, he began to understand the negative impact of his own discoveries through seeing the greed, the prostitution, the illness and everything else that he and his men had brought. Notes of despair began to appear in his journal entries. His "enlightenment" wasn't perfect however, and it was ultimately this imperfection that resulted in his death in Hawai`i at the hands of the native Hawaiians.
One thing that you don't really learn in Blue Latitudes is why Horwitz chose Cook instead of someone else, like Columbus or Magellan. Well… that's because he married an Aussie and he stumbled onto Cook's journals in Sydney (in other words – pure serendipity). Also, Cook's voyages were fairly recent – about the time of the American Revolution (Cook wasn't aware that the colonies had revolted). This, as well as Cook's straightforward personality, makes Cook's journals very accessible for modern readers.
Horwitz is not an expert in cultural anthropology, history, or seamanship. Many of his sources of information are ancedotal or secondhand and are a result of his contacts with locals that he encounters during his journey. Almost right away, his buddy Roger turns into a stereotypical "drinking buddy." Some reviewers have complained about this and have said that Blue Latitudes would have been better if some sort of cultural "expert" had been involved. I don't agree. As readers, we can relate to Horwitz' story a lot better without the presence of an "expert."
There are just tons of fascinating tidbits of information scattered throughout the whole book. One that I found especially interesting was that Cook's meticulous surveying and delineation of village boundaries, fishing zones, etc. in New Zealand has been the basis of modern land claims by the indigenous Maori people there. He also made an observation around 1770 that can be said to be haunting the Hawaiian Independence movement today: " It doth not appear to me to be attall difficult for Strangers to form a settlement in this Country. They seem to be too much divided among themselves to unite in opposing …"
Fascinating as a biography of the complex Capt. Cook, as a modern adventure to "romantic" South Pacific islands, and as casual research on cultural anthropology, this is an exhilarating and fast-paced story. If you decide to read this saga, be sure to check out it's companion website at www.bluelatitudes.com. There's also an excellent interview with Horwitz on the website of Powell's Bookstore in Portland: www.powells.com/authors/horwitz.html.
Chicken Soup from the Soul of Hawai`i, by Jack Canfield, Robin Rohr et.al., Health Communications, Inc.
If you think you don't get emotional reading books, you must not have discovered Chicken Soup yet. I got teary-eyed a lot with this one – it hits you hard right in the na`au (gut). Not just a few times, but over and over and over. The Hawaiians (and many Asian cultures) believe that the "gut" is our body's energy center and therefore the center of our being. If that's the case, then Chicken Soup is right on target!
I'm not sure how to even start describing this book in words because it's not written for your head – it's written for your heart. Even though it's in printed form, there is lots of Hawaiian mana (spiritual energy) here that bypasses your head and goes straight to your heart. Chicken Soup is about the universal human experiences of love, hope, faith, endurance, perseverance and transcendence; but from a Hawaiian perspective.
This is an especially good read for anyone who is struggling with life in general, who they are and where they are going (which probably includes most of us). Many of the stories show how the values of the Hawaiian culture can be applied anytime, anywhere and by people from any age group. The book's general philosophy is pretty much contained in a quotation from Auntie Abbey Napeahi: "I am a Kahuna. Where I come from, I am considered an elder of my people. I am considered a master of helping others to identify themselves and find the courage to become all that you really are. That is the responsibility you have to the rest of your Family. That is what you can do to contribute to the Earth that is our home."
The mo`olelo (stories) in Chicken Soup come from lots of well-known people like Irmgard Aluli, Robert Cazimero, Sam Choy, Bo Derek, Evan Dobelle, Clint Eastwood, Don Ho, John Lake, Darrell Lum, etc. In other words, the list reads like a "Who's Who" of Hawai`i (and elsewhere). But there are many "just plain folks" in there too – people that many of us have probably never heard of. The authors have thoughtfully included brief biographies of many of the story's authors in an appendix. For some reason, it seems important to many of us to know something about who is giving us these pearls of wisdom. It's interesting how we still want to validate these messages to our hearts with our intellect, even though they all stand fully on their own, regardless of who they came from. I wonder what this says about Western culture?
This is very much a "talk story" book, even though it's unidirectional (from Hawai`i to the reader). It was designed that way from the start and it took the four compliers who worked on it more than four years to put it together. The compilers state the books' philosophy in the back and explain that part of the proceeds from this home-grown, inspirational collection of stories goes back to the Hawaiian culture via support of several island organizations that are directly involved in cultural preservation efforts.
Chicken Soup is divided into 9 topical sections, and the best way to give you a feel for what the stories themselves cover is to list the sections: "On Aloha, Making a Difference, `Ohana (Family), Talking Story, Living Your Dream, Turning Points, My Hawai`i, Island Wisdom and A Matter of Perspective."
In the "On Aloha" section, for example, there's a collection of kindergarten children's definitions of Aloha, one of which is: "Aloha means that I remember you even though I haven't met you yet." Sounds like a Kupuna (elder) in the making to me - age seven going on eighty??
In "Making a Difference," there's a story about a young, divorced, nearly penniless mother of two young children facing Thanksgiving with nothing to eat in the house except for three hot dogs. On the way back from eating the three hot dogs in a park, an old woman who lives downstairs in their apartment complex invites her family in for Thanksgiving dinner and even sends bowls of leftovers home with them. When the young mother tries to return the borrowed bowls the next day, she finds the apartment where her family had dinner vacant and the manager informs her that it's been empty for twelve weeks and that there is no "old lady" living in the complex. This young mother later founded Angel Network Charities.
In "Ohana," you can read about a hanai (adopted) boy who rides a public bus to school every day. He soon notices a crippled woman who is always on the same bus but gets annoyed with her because, with her cane, she is very slow getting on and off of the bus. One day, a group of tough boys decides to jump him as he gets off of the bus, but the crippled woman screams at the gang and chases them off by hitting them with her umbrella. Many years later the young man discovers that the mysterious woman was his biological mother who was watching out for him every day.
In "Talking Story," we learn that "Pele's Curse" (where you get bad luck if you take lava back to the mainland from the islands) is really just an invention of the rangers and naturalists at Volcanoes National Park to stop people from taking rocks from the park. The problem is that it worked too well – the park receives over 2,000 pounds of returned rocks in the mail every year. The sampling of some of the letters that accompany the rocks is great! (There's a whole book on this subject: "Powerstones: Letters to a Goddess" by Robin Rohr.)
In " Turning Points," we read about how Hurricane Iniki, which devastated Kaua`i in 1992, destroyed everything owned by a young man struggling with severe chronic depression. Resurrecting his childhood fascination with photography, he took his $18,000 insurance check and started an entirely new career as an ocean landscape photographer. By way of a lot of hard work and a little luck from Hawai`i, he is now a famous surfing photographer.
This is just a sampling of the one hundred wonderful, heart-felt stories
in Chicken Soup. I don't have space to tell you about any more of them – you
will have to discover them for yourself. All of them are filled with
hope, inspiration and love – qualities that we all desperately
need to successfully navigate and to do more than just survive in today's
insane world. They are a special gift from a unique group of small islands
in the middle of a very large ocean and you won't want to miss a single
A Call to Hawai`i – A Wellness Vacation Guidebook, by Laura Crites and Betsy Crites, Aloha Wellness Publishers, Honolulu
This is one of the most interesting and unique books about Hawai`i that I've come across in quite a while (actually it came across me – it just showed up in the mail recently). It's quite unusual because the authors look at the Islands from the unique perspective of health, healing and wellness. I've seen the Islands mentioned as a source of some of these things many times before, but I've never seen a book that looks at Hawai`i as a whole through that particular lens alone. Looked at that way, the view is new, different, and pretty amazing.
The Crites have put together something here that is far more than just a compendium of healers in the Islands, though it also partially serves that purpose. It's a fairly complete personal guide to vacationing and exploring Hawai`i with a focus on wellness, as opposed to treating wellness as something that can happen as an offshoot of a "vacation in paradise." When I first skimmed through it, I thought, "Oh great, another new-age fluff book." I was wrong.
One thing that's very special here is that the Crites really understand Hawai`i's spiritual side, including a deep and sincere appreciation for the Hawaiian culture, and that's still unusual (though getting less so, thank goodness.) They begin many sections of their book with quotations from Tales from the Night Rainbow, which got my immediate attention because it's my favorite book about Hawaiian culture. In the Introduction, they jump right into explaining why they believe that Hawai`i can make a special contribution towards making the world a better place by providing each of us with a powerful place to advance our own "personal journey toward wellness of mind, heart, body and spirit…" From there they keep right on going and really deliver the details.
Chapter 1 is a work of art all by itself because it contains about the most succinct explanation that I've seen of exactly what Hawai`i means to me! I'm going to quote from the Crites again because there just isn't any way to summarize it or say it better. "What is it about Hawai`i? We believe it is a combination of three things – aloha (the generosity and loving spirit of the Hawaiian people), `aina (the beauty and energy of the land and environment), and mana (the spiritual energy present in this most isolated land in the world). All of these qualities are intertwined and deeply influenced by the native Hawaiian culture." They then explain these crucial Hawaiian concepts in further detail and finish the first chapter by telling us these three things "provide the perfect launching point for your journey toward wellness." That sets the tone for the whole book.
In Chapter 2 we hear that anybody who takes this kind of wellness voyage will get more lasting benefits from it if they plan ahead for the journey. Figuring out where you are now is part of the process. Another part is determining what it is that you want to achieve. The Crites have come up with 6 general types of voyages: Inner Pilgrimage, Nature as Healer, Relaxation and Rejuvenation, Complementary Treatment Therapies, Fitness and Sports, and Travel to Serve Others. Pretty comprehensive! Chapter 3 then goes into more detail on each of those "voyage types," including examples and practitioners. (And of course, the chapter started with a great quotation from Tales from the Night Rainbow)..
Subsequent chapters constitute Part II, which is titled "Planning the Voyage." Each chapter covers one of four main islands (Hawai`i, Maui, O`ahu and Kaua`i) and starts out with an overview of the island that focuses on that island's uniqueness. Following that is a section titled "Twenty Ways to Pursue Balance and Harmony on the Island of ……". Between them, the twenty titles cover all of the 6 "types of voyages" that I mentioned above. The selection of the twenty titles is based on the particular strengths of each island. Examples for the Big Island include: 2. Connect with Your Source at a Sacred Site, 4. Open to the Wisdom and Meaning of Hawai`i – Experience a Hawaiian Tradition, 9. Let Nature Do Its Healing Magic – Visit a Garden, etc. Next is a "Healing Accommodations" section that covers accommodations arranged by geographic area for each island. There is a good balance of pricing for the accommodations – something for every budget. Closing out each island chapter is a resources section, which includes many listings for each type of "voyage." (Since this book was partially funded by a grant from the Hawai`i Tourism Authority, these sections are a combination of free and paid listings).
The book's overall structure is a brilliant idea – it all flows together perfectly! Another strength is that it doesn’t just focus on "commercial" resources like accommodations, attractions and practitioners. Ample space is devoted to rejuvenating or spiritually focused activities that are not only often free, but are very significant components of the Hawaiian culture. Examples for just the Big Island alone include mention of free labyrinths, heiaus (ancient temples), the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau (City of Refuge), festivals, hula events, modern temples, hot pools, natural steam baths, gardens, waterfalls, beaches, farmers markets (some of which I didn't even know existed), ancient hiking trails, volunteer activities, etc.
Reading over the information on the practitioners gives you quite an exposure to the variety of "alternative" health practices that are available today – and the Islands seem to have them all (I'm a Reiki healer, myself). The Crites are careful to not judge any of the modalities that they list and they try to give a little explanation for most of them – just enough to give the reader a feel for what each practitioner is doing. They do, however, issue a warning that there are "no guarantees" for many alternative healing practices and that most are gentle therapies that work more slowly (and often more safely) than traditional Western medicine does. Fair enough (and true).
This is a wonderful book – there's something in it for everybody. It's definitely a "must have" for both visitors and residents.
Honolulu Cop, Reflections on a Career with HPD, by Gary A. Dias
I worked for a police department for over 15 years as a civilian, not a sworn officer, so I guess you could say that I was on the periphery of “the family” but not totally a part of it. Nevertheless, over that period of time I got a pretty good feel for the “law enforcement” personality. Gary Dias does a very cool job of giving the reader a glimpse of that unique family, and he does it with humor, grace and insight. I would definitely have enjoyed working for him!
Gary spent 27 years with the Honolulu Police Department. He started out (like everybody else) as a rookie street cop and worked his way up through the system to the position of major, with a lot of ups and downs along the way (also like everybody else). His career wasn’t unusual for the HPD, and that’s a GOOD thing, because it means that what you read here is an interesting story by an honest, ethical, hard-working member of a major police force. If Dias represents a typical Honolulu PD career employee, and I think he does, then the citizens of Honolulu are in good hands! Police work in Hawai`i is a little different than on the mainland – it’s always been pretty “people” oriented and you can see that in “Honolulu Cop.” Dias is a compassionate person and is a great example of what professional police work is all about. On the other hand, he doesn’t pull punches when it comes to telling readers about some of the bad things that happened in the department. Now he’s the manager of security at the Queens Medical Center in Honolulu. People in the Honolulu PD that worked with him respect him and they like his book!
One of the really nice things is that Dias’ writing style is of the down-to-earth, talk-story variety. So what he has turned out isn’t a cop’s book for cops, but a cop’s book for everybody. I think that anybody whoi reads it will enjoy this book, whether they are directly involved in law enforcement or not. Dias is simply a great story teller. If you are in law enforcement, you’ll find yourself chuckling and smiling a lot as you recognize familiar situations (like when you get promoted to sergeant and are looking forward to being assigned to a beat near your home and you get assigned as a desk sergeant in the worst part of town). As a “civilian” looking at the “inside” for the first time, you’ll find yourself thinking “Oh, that’s why they do that” or “I’m glad I’m not a cop” or maybe even sometimes “What a bunch of jerks.” Dias tells a whole bunch of great stories. In a lot of them the joke is on him (which he learns to take in stride, which is mandatory in a police department if you’re going to survive).
To give you a few examples of the kinds of shenanigans Dias writes about, there’s the story of the crook that was collared in a very wet canal, the gasoline in the planter box outside of the Kane`ohe Police Station and what the Fire Department thought about it, the ghost incident, the recruit and the Judo instructor, etc. The stories go on and on, but strategically placed in between them is a lot of interesting information about how a big city police department works. One thing that was fairly unique to the Honolulu PD was that the officers had to use their own cars for patrol work (which they still do here on the Big Island). That generated a lot of crazy incidents. “Honolulu Cop” is just plain fun to read!
One of the grandest of all of Hawaiian sagas is the story of Pele’s journey across the islands in search of a home. As the story goes, she originally settled on Kaua`i, but was flooded out there by her sister Namakaokaha`i. She kept moving across the island chain to the east, but was flooded out on each new island where she stopped until she came to Hawai`i itself (the Big Island). Here she still thrives today after having settled into a volcano so large and deep that her sister cannot flood her out. (The modern ending to her story is that she is building a new home for herself, Lo’ihi, off of the southern coast of our island. She’ll have it completed in about 10,000 years. Drat – guess we’ll miss the “housewarming” party!)
Nordenstrom’s book is a wonderful telling of this story for children, but it’s actually equally appealing for adults too. The artwork is fascinating, brilliantly colored and really unique because it’s all collage! The illustrations are a mix of acrylic and watercolor paints which were applied to large sheets of paper. Then the artist / author cut out the pieces and arranged them like a puzzle to form each illustration. The results are very striking. I’d love to buy 2 copies of this book, cut out all of the illustrations, frame them and run them around the walls of a room to tell Pele’s story. Oh, I almost forgot – the writing is excellent too!
On the back of the jacket, the publisher says, “In this wickedly satiric romp, Paul Theroux captures the essence of Hawaii as it has never before been depicted.” After reading Theroux’s slow and ultimately boring 424-page tome to bizarre sex and weird people, my reaction is “and I hope that it’s never depicted that way again.” The Seattle-Times reviewer says it’s “full of… surprising insights.” Did they read the same book?
I admit that the first third of Theroux’s book held my interest pretty well, in spite of the superficial forays into various cultures of the Hawaiian Islands, the totally worn-out stereotypes and the bizarre sexual exploits. Is it all supposed to be satire? After that, it started to seem like just a collection of way-too-similar short stories with a constant theme of weird and/or perverted sex. Perhaps if I had read a lot of his other travel novels, I’d have a totally different take on this one. Maybe it’s an “in” novel for Theroux fans. But… if you want to really learn anything about Hawai`i – don’t look here. If it weren’t for the “Hawaiian” characters, it could just as easily be called “Dumpy Hotel, Anywhere U.S.A.” Is that the whole point? Who knows.
For some reason, I'm not a big fan of myths and legends - I can't handle big doses of them. That being said, I have to admit that the Hawaiian culture has a wonderful body of myths and legends, like the saga of Pele and Hi`iika, for example. But this little book has just the right amount of content (10 legends) and just the right amount of complexity for my level of interest. That probably means that it's just about perfect for young adult readers - long enough to hold their interest, short enough to not bore them.
Joseph Campbell said that some of the functions of myth and legend are 1) realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder we are, and experiencing awe before those wonders, 2) supporting and validating a certain social order, and 3) how to live a human life under any circumstances. The ten legends in Maguire's book demonstrate these three functions pretty well. Not only that, but they all revolve around local Kona sites, locations and/or natural objects. With a little bit of detective work, you can locate the places that are mentioned in the book.
One of the legends tells about a hidden cave in a dry area that a farmer filled with hand carved canoes made from `ohi`a wood to hold water dripping down from the roof of the cavern. Because of his secret water supply, he was able to grow crops when others in the area couldn't. When the Maguires started their ranch, they put a redwood water tank in just such a cave and piped the water to the ranch house. And they also found ancient `ohi`a wood in the cave !! Was it the same cave?
"Kona Legends" is a pretty nifty little glimpse into Hawaiian
culture from the 1800's. You might also want to check out it's companion
book from the same publisher - "Hilo
The Crowes' book is a new addition to the "guidebook" literature of Hawai`i. A guidebook it is, but one with a specialized focus on historical sites that are, in many cases, a little off of the "beaten path" of the average tourist. There is an obvious steadily rising interest around the world in the "magical" places of indigenous peoples, and I suspect from it's design and format that the Crowes' book is aimed straight at that market. This is a slick, partly "coffee table" type of book that's also meant to be actually used.
The authors start out with a good preface that emphasizes understanding and respect for Hawaii's sacred places, including instructions on how to view such sites and admonishments not to remove stones, leave inappropriate offerings, etc. Following this is a short (4 pages!) discussion of the culture of the ancient Hawaiians.
Each site has it's own numbered mini-chapter in the book; the sites are grouped together and organized according to which of the main islands (excluding Kaho`olawe and Ni`ihau) it is located on. The material on each site has the same format - descriptive narrative of the site, followed by "people" material (often including interviews and/or stories from local people or scholars) and then directions to get there. In addition, each island's section has a few recommended day trips connecting the sites together and a few suggested places to stay. This format helps the book flow well and also holds your interest since it reads much like a novel. It's a good concept and the Crowes have executed it well.
The Crowes have put a lot of time and energy into this book. They have done research at the Bishop Museum and the State Archives. They have interviewed a significant number of local people and "experts" to collect stories about the sites that they cover. They have trecked all over Hawai`i to actually visit the sites and photograph them for the book. All of the sites they have chosen are outstanding from historical, cultural and religious perspectives.
But one thing disturbs me. The authors seem to have a fixation with the macabre and the sensational - especially human sacrifice - throughout the book. A quarter of the sixty sites that they cover were involved in human sacrifice in some way and they always mention it very prominently. The text over-uses uses phrases like "terrible chain of Heiau," "idols leering," "most horrific,""dark, desecrated," "horrible personage," etc. As another of this fixation, they even describe Mo`okini Heiau in Kohala as having a "gloomy interior," which is totally misleading. I've been there many times - it's not even covered - the whole Heiau is totally open to the sun! Apparently, the authors do not sense that the mana from the human sacrifices was cleared away nearly 25 years ago.
"Exploring Lost Hawai`i" does succeed in providing an interesting, readable overview of Hawaii's ancient sacred sites, but in the process it portrays the Hawaiian culture in a somewhat negative, inaccurate manner, which is unfortunate. With all of the research and work that the Crowes invested in this project, I think that they could have produced a much better book.
For a less splashy, more balanced and more detailed, but still very readable,
guide to the Big Island's historic sites, I recommend Van James' "Ancient
Sites of Hawai`i." It's great all by itself, but it can also serve
as an excellent (and necessary) companion book to "Exploring Lost
Tsunamis are mentioned in many books about Hawai`i - every guidebook talks about them, but only briefly, though some of them will mention the Tsunami Memorial or the Tsunami Museum in Hilo. If you want a little more information about tsunamis than the occasional paragraph or two though, it seems to be necessary to jump to a scientific textbook. For most people, including me, that's way too big a jump. Well, now we don't have to go that far - "Tsumani Man" has arrived to fill the gap.
Fredericks' book begins with a description and photograph of Dr. Dudley sitting and waiting on the roof of the Naniloa Hotel in Hilo for the tsunami of 1944 to arrive. The tension mounts and then the book abruptly heads off into it's well organized chapters. Topics covered include the making of tsunamis, the story behind Dr. Dudley, his project to collect Hawaiian residents' memories of tsunamis that have hit the Big Island, historical accounts, tsunami safety, etc. During the course of reading those chapters, you will discover that nothing happened in 1944, despite the melodramatic beginning to the book!
I was aware that there had been a tsunami in Hilo in 1960 that resulted in development along the waterfront being prohibited (which it still is), but I wasn't aware of the tremendous damage that was done. More than 580 acres of land were submerged, over five hundred buildings were demolished and damage reached more than fifty million dollars (that's $300 million in today's dollars, or almost $8,000 for every single person in Hilo today!) There's also a fascinating legend about tsunamis that has a gigantic tsunami wiping out everything on the Big Island when the people forgot to thank the gods for their food.
"Tsunami Man" plods a little once in a while, but it's a good
way to discover more about tsunamis in Hawai`i in general and their impact
on the lives of people on the Big Island in particular.
In Good Company, by Cedric Yamanaka, University of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu
Yamanaka grew up in a working class family in Kalihi (O`ahu) in the late 70's. He did the things that a lot of guys that age do - playing ball, hanging out, dreaming of being a Dallas Cowboys quarterback. He wasn't a very avid reader, but at some point he drew on a natural talent and began to write about these everyday experiences. He went off to Boston University, where he received a full scholarship based on his literary talents, but returned to the University of Hawai`i for graduate work. Yamanaka is currently working as a reporter for KITV in Honolulu and raising a son with his wife. This is his first published anthology of short stories.
These are well-written stories that combine an intimate knowledge of local culture, the use of pidgin, attention to detail and excellent writing skills. They are about everyday people leading everyday lives on O`ahu. Most of Yamanaka's stories start off with a short "hook" sentence that draws you into the drama of the story, like "What causes a man to commit murder?" That one's from "What the IronWood Whispered," which is one of the best stories in the book. Many stories don't have neat, tidy endings, which leaves your mind churning and trying to imagine what happens next. Yamanaka covers themes that are simply part of being human - isolation, abandonment, the need to validate one's self, making ends meet, and the remarkable insights that can come from chance encounters. Plots in the stories are often predictable - you can see them coming almost as soon as you start the story. But that's OK - Yamanaka's strength is in developing his characters so that they carry the meat of the story instead of having the plot do it. One minor weakness is that many of the stories begin to sound the same as you read through the anthology. You always seem to be aware that the author is there as narrator - but it's still excellent literature.
The Other Side of the Island, Yvonne Perry, John Daniel & Co.
Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about Yvonne Perry, other than that she was born and raised in Hawai`i. Her working live has spanned a great variety of occupations; horse show announcer, journalist, swimming teacher, tourist guide, hula dancer and auctioneer. Her stories have appeared in as number of Southern California publications.
Perry's book is a strange one and I've been debating with myself whether to review it or not for several years. It can almost be considered a collection of vignettes, as opposed to well-developed short stories. Her vignettes often focus on the darker side of Hawaiian life (hence the title), even thought she could have taken many of them in a different direction. It's almost as if she has a penchant for pain and loss. Maybe her dedication is a clue - "For Emma, who taught me how to tame my dragons." Never-the-less, these are good stories - stories about fisherman, farmers, the poor, the crazed, the aged and children - her best work here appears in the stories written about children. She also often deals with our love-hate relationship with much of nature. More often than not, her stories focus on a theme to the extent their location in Hawai`i is more coincidental than fundamental. This isn't great literature, but many of her stories have deep, haunting echoes that lead you to pause and reflect after you finish one. The strange thing is that there seems to be something more than just your mind at work during that pause
A Hawaiian Life, by George Kahumoku, Jr., Kealia Press, Maui
George Kahumoku Jr. is a fine Hawaiian slack key musician - I happened to catch him in concert recently. He's also an excellent story teller. In fact, his whole life is one big fascinating story. For example, he drowned at the tender age of six weeks. Nowhere to go but up from there, literally! (You'll just have to buy his book to find out more about his amazing near-death experience - I'm not going to tell you any more about it.)
Kahumoku grew up as a participant in two cultures - Hawaiian and Western. Fortunately, he was raised in a fairly traditional setting by his grandparents. As a young man he started a pig farm but was wiped out by television (long story), gotinvolved in cock-fighting, went to China, dealt with cancer at the age of 27, busted a ukulele into a million pieces before his musical career started (strictly by chance), looked for his grandfather all over Hawai`i but finally drove by him on a street in Hilo, got drug out to sea by a shark, shut down a resort hotel by cooking fish on a bonfire on the lanai of his room, etc. Are you getting the picture yet?
Kahumoku didn't have to make anything up to write a wonderful book - all he had to do was to tell stories from his own life. Although he was very stubborn, through the process of living his fascinating life, Kahumoku has learned to embrace the best of what both the Western and Hawaiian cultures have to offer, thus becoming a modern ancient Hawaiian (not an easy thing to do). He uses that awareness to generously give back to both cultures. Right now he's a teacher in the "Special Motivation" program at the Lahihalua School on Maui, as well as a farmer and a musician.
The intimate stories in his book give the reader a poignant, very personal
window into traditional Hawaiian culture. It's also a window filled with
humor, love and respect. Once you start reading these wonderful tales,
you won't be able to put down the book until you've finished it. The only
thing is that you have to keep reminding yourself that it's not fiction!
(Check out Kahumoku's
The Polynesian Family System in Ka`u Hawai`i, by E.S. Craighill Handy and Mary Kawena Pukui, Hawaiian Classic Reprints, Charles E. Tuttle Company
This is probably one of the most singularly informative books there is for anyone interested in the "old ways," especially on the Big Island. While not written in the 1800's by authors who lived during those days, it was published in 1958 by two distinguished scholars, one of whom is of Hawaiian descent. It was originally published by the Polynesian Society of New Zealand in 1958 but is now commonly available both new and used in reprinted form. I feel very lucky to have acquired an original hardbound copy several years ago.
We need to take a diversion here to talk about Mary Kawena Pukui. Born in Ka`u in 1895, she was given by her haole father to his Hawaiian mother-in-law. Hawaiians did this commonly, as you will read in Pukui's book, but it was unheard of in "haole" society. Fortunately for all of us, the grandmother that raised her knew no English and was wise in the ways of her ancestors. This meant that Pukui had no choice but to master Hawaiian and to learn something of the old culture. Fortunately, Mary Pukui also chose an academic career, which has resulted in a tremendous enrichment in the world's store of knowledge of the Hawaiian culture and language; it is almost impossible to overstate the magnitude of her contributions. She was declared a "living Hawaiian treasure" in 1976 and received a Baha'i award for service to humanity in 1984.
The Polynesian Family System covers an incredible amount of cultural territory while focusing on a limited geographic one. It is divided into the following sections: The Dispersed Community, The Physical Environment, The Legendary Setting, The Kinship System, The Life Cycle, The Psychic Phase of Relationship, Traditional Manners and Customs of the Social Order, and Ecological and Historical Perspective. I can only give you a few hints of what is covered in each section, but I hope that it's enough to pique your curiosity and make you run out and grab a copy!
The Ka`u region of the Big Island is unique in that Ka`u's people considered themselves to be a single tribe or clan, all of whom were descended from a single family (ohana). Pukui herself is descended from the lineage of the ali`i and kahuna of Ka`u. Hawai`i in general and the Big Island in particular was a predominantly dispersed community, even though the population of the Big Island appears to originally have been about the same as it is today! The reasons for this dispersal include the political system being poorly developed and also the intense use of all local natural resources, extending from the sea to the tops of the ridges at the ends of the remotest valleys. This traditional and practical land-use system tended to create relatively independent societal units, especially in the context of the ruggedness of the Big Island. Contrary to popular misconceptions, Hawaiian food production was not primarily focused on the ocean. Hawaiians were outstanding agriculturists, more so than anywhere else in Polynesia. Since people were very dispersed in Ka`u and there was less clustering of people there than elsewhere in Hawai`i, the fundamental social unit remained the extended family (the `ohana).
In building homes, Hawaiians practiced their own form of the currently popular practice of Chinese Feng Shui by consulting specialists in location and position before building a structure. The mua (men's eating house) was also where the family gods (`aumakua) lived. Women were separated from men in many ways; they were not allowed to eat in the mua, had to live in their own house (hale) while menstruating, could not touch the large fishing nets, were restricted from eating certain foods, etc. The women's food was even cooked in separate outdoor underground ovens (imu). This separation extended to everyday duties, food gathering, etc. Women were not considered to be inferior to men - men and women just had clearly defined (different) roles.
For Hawaiians, relationship was everything. But there was/is a critical difference between Hawaiian and Western concepts of relationship. For Hawaiians, establishing, maintaining and honoring relationships with everything in their "universe" was critically important. The Hawaiian universe consisted of many kinds of kin (both living and dead) going back for many generations. These relatives also included various deities (like Pele), `aumakua (ancestral Persons embodied in nature), the sky (Wakea) and the earth (Papa) - the original sources of everything, and various kino lau. (Kino lau are "alternate" forms that gods and `aumakua may take and include almost any plant or animal in Hawai`i.) So when the Hawaiian people talk about the emotional trauma that the damage-to and loss-of their land (the `aina) has caused, they aren't talking about it in a scientific, objectified sense. They are talking about it as kin - a concept that totally eluded the Western "discoverers of Hawai`i and that still isn't understood by many people today. Pukui goes into these relationships extensively in several chapters. There is a very in-depth discussion of the role of the `ohana and it's relationship to the land (`aina) and to the functions of society in the Ka`u district. The authors extend the discussion into an exploration of how the Great Mahele (division of land in 1848) could have been done completely differently based on families instead of individuals (which would have solved many problems that the division created).
Family relationships were very complex and very important and greatly misunderstood by Western people who viewed the Hawaiians as "savages." Take the myth of Hawaiian promiscuity for example. Before a person became an adult (usually around the age of 20) they were expected to have learned most of the skills required for their gender and class, taking into account their personal aptitudes. Sexuality is a skill and can be learned by practice. Skill in that area was expected by the time a person was ready to marry, just like other skills were. Once married, continued outside "practice" was generally heavily frowned upon. As in many other areas, negative attitudes towards early Hawaiian cultural practices were and are the result of a smug attitude of superiority and a lack of understanding of a non-Western culture.
The chapter on the Hawaiian life cycle is very interesting. Hawaiians celebrated almost every milestone in a person's life; especially those events from birth to birth (i.e. - to when a couple has their first child). Children were cherished in Hawaiian society and a tremendous amount of care and effort went into raising them, to which Pukui devotes a lot of discussion.
One of the most fascinating chapters is the one on the "psychic phase of relationship." This chapter covers what can be labeled as "religious" subjects. For Hawaiians, the concept of "religion" as a separately identifiable subject was incomprehensible. "Religion" consisted in great part of the extension of the kinship system into the non-physical dimensions, including time. It was not identifiably separate from life itself. Here Pukui touches on such subjects as the larger meaning of relationship, spirits as mates (fascinating), multiple forms of ancestral brings (kino lau), the significance of dreams, mediumship (both good an evil), spirit sending, prayer, healing, controlled spirits (chicken-skin time), memorial feasts, etc. This chapter alone is worth the price of Pukui's book and makes spellbinding reading.
This is probably as good a point as any to interject a pet peeve of mine. There are many people here in the Islands and on the mainland who teach various "Hawaiian" spiritual and/or psychological systems that are in whole or in part based on Max Freedom Long's "Huna" system involving the "three selves" (unihipili, uhane and `aumakua). As Herb Kane has told me, "'Huna' as invented by Max Freedom Long is not expressive of the Hawaiian religious system or any Polynesian thought system. Indeed, the meaning of the term (in this case, knowledge which is hidden, kept secret) is contradictory to the idea of widely disseminating it, whether by publishing, lecturing or demonstration." Nowhere in my studies of Hawaiian cultural material or in conversations with Hawaiians have I found historical support for the details of Mr. Long's (or any other) "Huna" system. If you read Pukui's book, you will gain a much more accurate picture of Hawaiian religious practice.
The "Traditional Manners and Customs " chapter of Pukui's book is kind of a hodgepodge of things. It is a little different from the other chapters in that it is in great part a collection of sayings and admonishments. As you read them, you realize that the codes of individual responsibility, expectations for their leaders and learned wisdom of the early Hawaiians was in no way inferior to those of their Western "discoverers." A typical Hawaiian saying would be "Ka hana a ka makua, , o ka hana no ia a keiki," which literally means "What parents do, children will do," meaning that the best examples for a child are his parents. Many Hawaiian sayings are more subtle than this one. For example, "Nahu no oia I kona alelo" translates to "He bites his own tongue." It refers to a person that criticizes certain behaviors in others and then turns around and does exactly the same thing.
The final chapter, contributed by Elizabeth Handy, consists of a brief natural and "human" history of the Ka`u region. Interestingly, it lays to rest the common misconception that the European discoverers were the only ones who wrought major changes in the landscape of Ka`u. The landscape that the original Hawaiian colonizers of the area saw was probably quite different than what Captain Cook saw in 1779, which is in turn quite different from what we see today! Handy discusses the impact that the early Hawaiian settlers, the missionaries, Kamehameha I, continued foreign influence, epidemics, natural disasters and the sugar industry have had on the region.
While not particularly easy reading, this book is an important classic. It makes a major contribution towards helping the Western mind understand the Hawaiian mind, and that's something that is still desperately needed in this new century.
Sea Turtles of Hawaii, by Patrick Ching, University of Hawai`i Press
Just like millions of other folks, I've been totally in love with sea turtles ever since I first met a pair swimming in Kahalu`u Bay years ago. They are so popular now that everywhere you go there are sea turtles - but mostly of the souvenir kind. Earrings, shot glasses, aloha shirts, coasters, art prints, photographs, paintings, postcards, pendants, erasers, tank-tops, toys, hats, bronze castings, wood carvings, tattoos, refrigerator magnets, pens, pins and on and on and on. The danger here, I think, is that since their images are so ubiquitous, people will think that the real thing is just as numerous and become complacent about helping to save them from extinction. They still desperately need our help folks!
One personal characteristic of mine is that I tend to read about and/or study to death anything that I'm seriously interested in (Hawai`i included). Strangely enough, I haven't done that with sea turtles (or honu, as they are known throughout all of Polynesian). I didn't even own a single book about them, until this one came along. At some deep level, I think that I don't want to intellectualize the honu. They are very special to me - sacred even. And so, out of respect, I don't want to learn about them out of a book. I want to get to know them on their own terms, on their time, in their space.
I confess - I have looked at books about honu. A big problem is that most of them tell you 100 times more than you ever wanted to know and you have to be a marine biologist to understand what they're saying in the first place (with apologies to George Balazs). Fortunately, Ching takes a completely different approach in his new book.
Ching is a world-renowned nature artist and photographer (as well as an ex-Wildlife Service ranger), and has put together what is basically a beautifully done scrapbook on the sea turtles of Hawai`i. It's a combination of snippets of conversations with native Hawaiians, recollected stories, scientific "factoids" in narrative form, gorgeous photographs and some of the author's own wonderful paintings. There are chapters about the significance of the honu to the Hawaiian culture, the turtles' life cycle, modern threats to the worldwide turtle population, native gathering and both ancient and modern conservation efforts. He also discusses each type of honu that is found in Hawaiian waters (though they don't all nest here), devoting several pages to each of 5 different species, including excellent photographs.
I learned quite a few new things from Ching's book. I had no idea that the largest honu ever found was a leatherback that weighed more than 2,000 pounds! I was also vaguely aware that few hatchlings made it to adult life, but it's less than one in a thousand now. Many turtles have become so used to people that they will swim right up to snorkelers and divers (they are naturally curious). Since they have had ample reasons to fear human beings in the past, this new behavior may not be in their best interests!
So if you want to learn a lot about Hawaii's sea turtles (but not be overwhelmed) and see some great photographs and artwork, then is the best book that I've seen. It's captivating for adults but yet basic enough to use to teach children about them too. If you love the Hawaii's honu, don't miss it. If you get interested enough to want to know more, there's a good bibliography section. And if you want to jump in and help to save them, please check out Turtle Trax at www.turtles.org !!
The University of Hawai`i - Hilo; A College in the Making, by Frank Inouye and Edward Kormondy, University of Hawai`i Press
I know, you think I'm crazy. You're wondering why I would review a book that sounds so absolutely boring. Well for one thing, because it actually isn't. I love Hilo, but haven't really paid a lot of attention to the University there. After reading Inouye's book, I realized that (fortunately) Hilo residents have held the exact opposite attitude about their university for the last 55 years! As the introduction states, "The University of Hawai`i-Hilo is a story of what a community can accomplish when it is focused, organized and determined." So this book is, as much as anything else, a snapshot of the community of Hilo itself as seen through a somewhat specialized focus.
The author doesn't pull punches; he admits that his first view and impression of both the university campus and Hilo was "disappointing and somewhat depressing." After all, he was looking up a gravel driveway at a three-story, battered old wood building (built in 1856) that had once been the home of the Hilo Boys School. Next to it sat an aging, leaking gym building that had no heat, no showers and damp cold concrete floors in the dressing rooms (which had only just recently been split into male and female sections). There were only 3 permanent part-time instructors who taught classes in Japanese, Business and Physical Education! Also, at that point, it was a two-year institution - quite a far cry from today's campus!
As Inouye began to work with the principals of Hilo's schools, the Hilo business community, other educators and the parents of Hilo's students, his attitude about both the fledgling University and Hilo changed dramatically. At that point, most of the University's students were Hilo High School graduates - and they were tremendously supportive of their slowly growing school. One of the more innovative ideas that came from the students themselves was that of visiting every high school on the Big Island at least once a year with a "caravan" of UH-HB students who would promote the University to future enrollees. Later marketing efforts would bring in students from other islands and the mainland.
One of the features of this book that helps make it interesting is it's structure. Inouye himself wrote the three main chapters in the book; "Historical Development," "Hilo - a Perspective on the 1950's" and "My Years at the University of Hawai`i - Hilo Branch." The rest of the chapters are the contributions of various other University administrative staff such as Director, Chancellor, Provost, Dean, etc. Several things stand out: 1) While these are very educated individuals, their heads aren't up in the academic clouds - we can relate to their experiences and frustrations, 2) The University administration in Honolulu gave little more than lip service support to the Hilo campus for many years, 3) the internal politics of Universities is pretty intense, 4) organizations in Hawai`i tend to be run from the top down (remember my comments about globalization in Hawai`i) and 4) stories about the same events can vary widely depending on who's telling the story. There are some really fascinating contradictions between the different authors in Inouye's book as well as some wonderful glimpses of Hilo town, especially in the 50's and 60's. One really surprising fact is that Chancellor Miwa spoke out publicly in support of the use of Hawaiian pidgin as a valid language in the early 70's! For an educator to do that was unheard of 30 years ago; Hilo was ahead of it's time.
if you are interested in the University of Hawai`i - Hilo (not
to mention academic politics) and in some good stories about Hilo itself,
this is a good read. It does bog down along once in a while (see, I admit
it), but it's worth it.
Public Policy and Globalization in Hawai`i - Social Process in Hawai`i, Volume 40, 2001, Department of Sociology, University of Hawai`i at Manoa (A collection of articles by various authors - chapters are referenced by the author's name in italics.)
The negative effects of "globalism" are nothing new to Hawai`i - they started when Captain Cook landed here in 1778 and have never let up since. In Hawai`i, almost all planning is done at either the county or the state levels, which is in marked contrast to planning practice on the mainland. The limited local autonomy and decision-making power that exists in the state today is a legacy from external influences that began when European guns, money and administrative knowledge enabled King Kamehameha to unify the islands in 1810. This focus on centralized governmental decision-making began in the monarchy and was strengthened and extended by the authoritarian patterns of the Protestant mission, the plantation management system in rural areas, and the Provisional Government of the annexationists. (The annexationists, after all, modeled the Republic of Hawaii's constitution after that of Mississippi - the least democratic state.) Later, the "Big Five" strengthened this structure even more through their alliance with the Republican party and their control of the islands' plantation, shipping, infrastructure, and financial systems. After the Democratic party seized power in the 1960's and 1970's with the help of the unions, they quickly fell into the established pattern of extremely centralized government, even as they passed some of the most socially progressive legislation in the United States.
Hawai`i's economy has always been oriented towards foreign markets and is classically dependent. Its economy is heavily export oriented, not self-reliant, balanced or diversified; its major economic sectors are controlled by foreign-owned corporations; its class structure is sharply stratified; and its political institutions and processes disproportionately benefit a ruling elite linked to global capital. (Ira Rohter)
Given that historical perspective, let's take a minute to explore "transnational capitalism." What is it? International ("cooperation between nations") capitalism has existed for a long time - it's simply the trading of goods across national borders. However, the production of goods (by a large corporation, for example) commonly remained concentrated in a few countries, and the corporations involved had some sort of national identity (for example, IBM is usually associated with the United States; Toyota is usually associated with Japan). We are now entering the age of transnational ("going beyond national boundaries") corporations. This means that huge corporations operate on a global scale where everything is decentralized (production, finance, marketing, etc.) and can take place anywhere in the world (can you say "sweatshop;" and guess who's solidly behind NAFTA and GATT?). The only remaining central focus is the corporation itself. What disappears when these huge corporations take control? Local planning. Local values. Ethnic and cultural identity. Diversity. The Aloha Spirit? This is the juggernaught roaring down on Hawai`i. It's gaining strength here and, unfortunately, the State of Hawai`i and the governor are holding the door wide open. Hawai`i's historic top-down governance model is a great fit for transnational corporations, but it's a terrible fit for her citizens.
Amid all of the hoopla about "free market capitalism," one fact stands out - transnational capitalism actually needs the cooperation of high-level governments like the State of Hawai`i to flourish. During the last three decades, public policy here has been providing the jauggernaught with a feeding frenzy at the expense of the citizens of Hawai`i. It started with the onslaught of mass tourism, which pulled Hawai`i rapidly into the capital-banking-multinational corporate sector. As the boom continued, larger and larger quantities of money began to move out of Hawai`i as foreign corporations began buying more and more land, high-priced hotels and luxury condominiums. This left less and less money for the expansion of local trade and manufacturing. That's one reason that "Lucky you live Hawai`i" has become "Lucky if you can live in Hawai`i" (John Witeck)
As Witeck explains in one of the chapters in this thought-provoking book, Governor Cayetano's 1994 election plans included promoting Hawai`i as being more friendly to business and correcting the state's "anti-business" climate. Instead of focusing on Hawai`i's unique qualities (such as enlightened social policies, quality public schools, excellent universities and colleges, premium health care, elder care, child care, her multicultural people, geographic location, weather, recreational resources, healthy environment, etc.), the state has chosen to focus on promoting Hawai`i's appeal to investors and corporations as a place where cheap labor and low business costs prevail. Parts of this plan included things like: 1) reducing income taxes for people in the top tax bracket, 2) cutting corporate income taxes by 50%, 3) increasing the general excise tax (a regressive tax) and 4) eliminating the State Land Use Commission. This kind of reactionary thinking focuses on the theme that economics is primary - that everything that benefits private enterprise (i.e. - transnational capitalism) is good. Is this the value system that we want for Hawai`i in the 21st century?
Here is what globalization has done for Hawai`i, often with the encouragement of the state through changes in public policy: (Robert Stauffer):
1) Changed the focus of labor from independent retail to wholesale service
by giving away the raw materials of the tourist industry (local sights,
sands and surf) to overseas owners.
But there is hope, for the seeds of awareness and resistance have been sown. One of the best examples of this was the fight to stop the infamous Oji Paper, Ltd. pulp tree plantation project right here on the Big Island. As Ira Rohter says in his article, "This was an extraordinary victory for local residents who had taken on the combined might of the state and county administrations." The plantation mentality is still alive, especially among Hawai`i's political elite, and this fuels the continuing conceptualization, planning and introduction of such mega-scale projects that are often the brainchilds of transnational corporations. But these kinds of projects are being increasingly challenged. In the case of the Oji Paper project, many residents of the east side of the island were directly affected by aerial spraying of chemicals, drifting smoke, etc. Local residents, physicians and environmental activitists worked together and also brought in outside experts who testified to the environmental damage wrought by eucalyptus plantions elsewhere in the world. People began to talk about the insider-friendly decision-making process and the potentially greater benefits of renting state land to "local farmers, ranchers and foresters" instead of huge, impersonal corporations. Ultimately, this concerted community action resulted in the State Board of Land and Natural Resources (the one the governor wanted to disband) denying the permit by a 6 to 0 vote after a 14 hour public hearing. This marked a big turning point in Big Island politics.
According to Rohter, many Big Island residents no longer "want to be dependent on industrial-style agricultural, or on building prisons, spaceports, and large resorts, which... allow most profits to be siphoned off by multinational corporations." A widening circle of Big Island citizens are unwilling to accept decisions that are passed down from the top.
So what's actually happening here? The plantation-era system of political control is breaking down on the Big Island (the adoption process used for the new County General Plan is a good example of the changes that are taking place). Locally born residents are becoming more willing to speak out and they are developing their own alternatives to large-scale, multinational development. People are becoming interested in diverse, sustainable economic activity as union workers, small business owners, Native Hawaiians and a few progressive corporations work together to forge a new vision for economic growth on the Big Island.
This is ka `ano `ano - the seed. The entire future of the state of Hawai`i may rest on nurturing this delicate plant to maturity and protecting it from the storms of transnational capitalism. We all need to help by getting involved. After all, whose island is it? It doesn't belong to the bureaucrats or the corporations - it's ours.
Healing with Hawaiian Plants (Comments)