Archive for the ‘Popular Culture’ Category

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What Makes a Good Blog?

January 8, 2009

Let me begin with I don’t have the answer. But, it’s something I’ve been pondering ever since we began our foray into the blogosphere.

What makes a good blog? Is it one that engages readers far and wide or one that draws like-minded people to a particular nexus? Does it inspire positive action or purely entertain? Is the sign of success tens of thousands of readers or a smaller number of active participants in an intriguing dialogue?

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These are the questions I posed to our little hui of native bloggers. Inevitably, our discussions led to more questions than answers such as, “Why are we doing this anyway?” Hubris aside that any of us could begin to portray the depth of Native Hawaiian thought, why indeed are we doing this and can we hope to be successful?

“I think we’ll be successful if we can get people to expand their ideas of who Hawaiians are,” shared contributor extraordinaire Ikaika Macy. “I’m proud to be one full on moke, but I’m also proud that I’m using the skills and education given to me by my ancestors (both Hawaiian and haole) to make a difference in my community.”

“That’s why I’m part of the hui,” continued fellow blogger Caroline Ka‘ahanui. “There are so many really impressive Hawaiians who need to start speaking up. And, if we can at least help to get conversations started, to me that’s success.”

Mulling over these discussions, it occurred to me to look at the blogs I read and ask why I follow them. What makes them successful for me?

kam-mastWhile I read a lot of blogs for work (like Mack Collier’s Viral Garden and Chris Brogan) and for news (e.g., The New York Times’ The Lede, and KCRW’s Left, Right and Center), I love reading about what makes Hawai‘i Hawai‘i (like Ryan Ozawa’s Hawai‘i Blog and Nathan Kam’s Kam Family). Note, Native Hawaiian bloggers, send us your links. We would love to hear what you’re saying.

melissaThere is one constant I noticed among these diverse blogs – each has a particular voice. If you’ve ever read Melissa Chang’s Urban Mix Plate or Amber Naslund’s Altitude Branding you know right away who wrote it. Like most of the bloggers I follow, their voices (and hence personalities) are clear and consistent.

So with only these few criteria for success, we humbly put it before you the readers, what makes a good blog? Share your thoughts, we’re eager to learn.

Mahalo

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A Dozen of 2008’s Best Books

December 15, 2008

alfredAlfred & Emily
By Doris Lessing
In this intriguing blend of novel and memoir, Doris Lessing combines aspects of her parents true lives in World War I England with an imagined world in which their paths took very different turns. Also, on this list of bests should be Ms. Lessing’s Stories.

mercyA Mercy
By Toni Morrison
While not always a convincing narrative, A Mercy is still a complex and powerful fable set in colonial America. Ms. Morrison once again shows that she is one of America’s finest writers.

book-coverBetween the Deep Blue Sea and Me
By Lurline McGregor
How does heritage impact one’s life? This is the primary question behind Lurline McGregor’s debut novel. Responsibilities to past, present and future are explored in the absorbing Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me.

breathBreath
By Tim Winton
Seemingly a novel about surfing, Breath is a haunting coming-of-age story. Tim Winton blends his talent for beautiful prose with a tale of youthful fervor and fear – and learning to live with both.

a-case-of-exploding-mangoesA Case of Exploding Mangos

By Mohammed Hanif
In this extremely timely satirical novel, Mohammed Hanif uses his biting wit to illuminate the complex events of modern-day Pakistan (and, yes Virginia, it is funny).

daphneDaphne
By Justine Picardie
Okay, I’m a geek, but I loved this story of Daphne du Maurier and her obsession with the Brontës (especially Brontë brother Bramwell). Daphne sucked me in with its twisting tale within a tale storyline.

godGod and Gold
By Walter Russel Mead
In this compelling look at the spread of a common English-speaking culture, God and Gold argues that the United States is the logical successor of Great Britain’s empire building. While the connections are sometimes a little murky (or missing), Mead rationalizes the rise of the Anglo-Americans.

irregThe Irregulars
By Jennet Conant
The Irregulars is a fascinating telling of kids book author Roald Dahl’s life before Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach when he lived the clandestine life of a spy. Perhaps not the most historically relevant story, it is nonetheless entertaining.

northernThe Northern Clemency
By Philip Hensher
Booker Prize finalist Philip Hensher has a way with language that shines through in this well told tale of English family life. The Northern Clemency combines an impressive ability to animate both characters and settings with a skilled comic timing to craft an immensely satisfying narrative.

not-quiteNot Quite What I was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure
By Rachel Fershleiser
Compiled from submissions to SMITH magazine, which asked readers to send in six-word memoirs. From “most successful accomplishments based on spite” to “found true love, married someone else,” these snippets give fleeting insights into how people see themselves and those around them. Too bad, I can’t write a six-word synopsis.

unaccustomed_earthUnaccustomed Earth
By Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth is a stunning collection of stories. Ms. Lahiri hauntingly illuminates both the ties that bind families together and the rituals that doom them to isolation. Her masterful portrayal of cultural and generational chasms provides a definite “must read.”

ft_vowellThe Wordy Shipmates
By Sarah Vowell
Another nod to my inner geek, Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates makes the list of top books of 2008. An amusing concoction of pilgrim history and pop culture, The Wordy Shipmates definitely entertains.

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Newspapers – A Boon or Bust

November 30, 2008

When I was little, my mother would gather me upon her knee to read the newspaper with her. Not just the comics, but the whole paper. Hard news, features, recipes, the entire thing.

I learned to read this way. But, more importantly, I learned to think. Many of the beliefs I hold today were formed then – discussing with my mother the meaning of the words we sounded out. As we read about the gas crisis, she explained why it was important to care for our resources and how our actions impact not only ourselves but those around us. She spelled out for me that we live on a small island, and therefore need to be even more considerate of our ‘āina so that it can continue to provide food, clean water and shelter. I am an environmentalist today because of discussions we had when I was five.

As I grew older I learned that our practice of using the newspaper as a learning tool is a family tradition, dating back five generations to a time when Hawai‘i was the most literate nation in the world.

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In the late 1800s nearly every Hawai‘i adult could read and write. And, they were encouraged to write down everything – stories, myths, blessings and curses, as well as news – and to send them to one of the myriad of Hawaiian language newspapers. These papers were literally the nation’s history.

It was during this heyday of people’s journalism that one of my kupuna began assembling his children to discuss news items. Understanding that the Hawaiian culture and nation were under attack, he used the newspapers to teach his keiki who they were as Hawaiians and how they fit in both the ancient and modern worlds.

Therefore, it is with pride that I carry on this tradition with my child. Just as my mother did before me, I gather my son on my lap and we pour over the day’s news. Recently, we discussed what it means to vote, how to decide which candidate to support, what election topics are important to us and why.

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Imagine my satisfaction as my son made his own decisions on significant issues. When he learned that his teacher and I stood on different sides of the Honolulu rail transit debate, he questioned each of us on why we believe as we do. Taking the gathered input, he made up his own mind.

I couldn’t be more proud. My seven year-old has shown that he will not be a mindless voter. Instead, he will seek out information and deliberate upon it before deciding what is right for him.

If only every voter would follow his example.

Yes, the newspaper has been a wonderful tool, introducing my child to the broader world. But, it has also had its drawbacks.

Now that my son knows how to read, we can no longer skip over unpleasant stories. This weekend’s paper detailing the horrors of Mumbai and the senseless holiday shopping deaths have left both of us with larger questions of life and death and of right and wrong.

I’ve tried to teach my son that people are not bad, but sometimes they do bad things. We can hate actions, but not each other. These distinctions are becoming much harder to preserve as he reads and learns more. And, I’m wondering if I’m doing him a disservice by introducing him to too much too soon.

While I am grateful to my mother and kupuna for giving me the gift of loving newspapers, will my son see this as a gift or a curse?

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Hau‘oli Lā Ho‘omaika‘i – Happy Thanksgiving

November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving is one of the occasions that has always given me pause. The thought of my horse knowing the way through the white and drifting snow sounds awesome. Every Hawai‘i kid would love to go careening through a snow covered landscape (or how about just seeing real snow for once). And, the annual turkey feast is not to be missed – of course with some obligatory island add-ons like fresh ahi and my mother’s Portagee sausage stuffing. I love spending this time with my family.

However, the pilgrim story is another matter. As a Hawaiian (native I mean versus hailing from the state), the celebration of one people’s survival at the expense of another seems rather disloyal.

Therefore, instead of donning doublet and breeches, I have chosen to pour my ambivalence into the greatest of American’s pastimes – television. Where else can the horrors of the human experience be served up so proudly with pratfalls and canned laughter?

face1So, with a nod to Sarah Vowell, author of the hilarious puritan exposé The Worthy Shipmates and voice of Violet Incredible, here are a few holiday memories to brighten the day.

Hau‘oli Lā Ho‘omaika‘i ia Kākou – Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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Some of our favorite Thanksgiving episodes

Friends – Phoebe and Joey experiment with turkey

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – ‘nuff said

WKRP in Cincinnati – Turkeys away

Happy Days – The first Thanksgiving

Roseanne – A family celebration

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To Tweet or Not To Tweet

November 21, 2008

A few months back, some friends and I were having an email conversation. As messages flew through cyberspace, someone asked “Why aren’t we using Twitter for this? After all, that’s what it’s for…”

I fully admit that I’ve been more than a little reluctant to join the throngs of mini-bloggers. I just couldn’t see the point. Does anyone really care what I’m doing right now? And, isn’t this just one more thing to track?

“What, you’re not on Twitter?”

“What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know all the cool kids tweet?”

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Well, I’ve never been one of the cool kids and I’ve always been slightly lazy. My email and IM accounts deliver messages just fine, thank you very much.

With the vehemence of their response, you would have thought that I kicked a dog. My friends were sure I was holding up my torch, ready to set fire to their virtual community. It’s as if I said, “I rebuke you Twitter in the name of the 19th century. I will not forsake my quill nor abandon my manual typewriter.”

Of course, their reactions made me dig my heels in further – or at least appear to. I don’t really have anything against Twitter or those who tweet. It was just fun to rile them up. Can’t you just talk with me? Have you entirely lost your ability to interact with people in the real world? How sad that you’ve become a virtual slave!

So, it’s with hat in hand, that I now admit that I have succumbed. Friends Melissa Chang and Nathan Kam played to my Pake side.

“Isn’t it your JOB to know what’s going on? To talk with people?”

“You can talk with an entire community of influential people at once. And, they’ll pass the word on to their friends, who will pass the word on to their friends. Isn’t this the definition of grassroots marketing?”

folliwing

With that, I stuck my toe into the Twitter waters.

As the Hawai‘i publicist for Cirque du Soleil, I was handed a challenge – how to get people talking about my show when the only thing on people’s mind at the time was the now historic presidential campaign.

Nathan, as always carrying the banner for social networking, said, “put it on Twitter.”

He cheerfully spread the word through his Twitterverse (I kid you not, there is an entire lexicon of Twitterese) that Cirque du Soleil’s Hawai‘i show was not to be missed. He even proposed (and got) a Twitter specific discount. While I was grateful for the help, I still watched from the shore as this virtual community began rallying around my show.

The final push came as Melissa and I had lunch – she sat there tweeting away. “So and so says you should do this… so and so says you should do that.” How could anyone withstand such an assault? I caved and opened my Twtitter account.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised. When Melissa introduced me to her Tweeps, many sent kind messages of welcome. It’s somehow reassuring to know that the niceties continue – even in cyberspace.

I still question if anyone really cares what I’m doing right now and if this is just another tool to which I’ll become addicted. But, it has been fun and informative – and it definitely did help my show.

I don’t think I’ll ever be as social as Melissa and Nathan. However, maybe with a little coaxing I’ll put down my quill. Just don’t ask me to give up my typewriter.

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Guilty Pleasure

November 21, 2008

At this very moment I’m supposed to be crafting pithy sales pitches, little gems of engagement designed to get you to spend your hard earned cash on a plane ticket to an oh so lovely vacation spot. But, how can I – or anyone for that matter – fashion believable justifications for irrational behavior when I have the best distraction in the world right here on my desk. Hulu.com.

For what more could a work-avoiding girl ask than mediocre television at the touch of a button? It’s absolutely addictive! Granted few shows that I would actually watch if I were at home are posted, but that’s its charm. Where else can you find Land of the Giants, 30 Rock and Arrested Development all in one glorious place?

While such greats as The Partridge Family and The Riches beckon, by far my most insistent work nemesis is Ghost Hunters.

Following the antics of our favorite paranormal investigative plumbers, Jason and Grant (how I wish I came up with this one), Ghost Hunters come to the rescue of poor scared souls living and working in ghostly haunts. With reality cameras in hand, they use a battery of “scientific” techniques to prove or debunk an entity’s presence. Classic!

Each time I watch, the same gnawing questions arise. Why do ghosts only come out at night? Can’t the TAPS (Trans Atlantic Paranormal Society) team turn on the lights? Why do ghost hunters whisper – can’t ghosts hear whispers? Do ghosts only show up on low-quality grainy video?

But, none of this really matters. It’s still the perfect waste of time. Scanning, rewinding, pouring over frame after frame of infrared footage trying to catch a glimpse of the irrefutable “evidence” that Jay and Grant find so easily. No one can deny its appeal.

So, as my workmates think I’m toiling away writing meaningless copy, here I sit with ear buds in trying to pick up on disembodied EVPs (electronic voice phenomena). It’s the perfect work day.

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Just because it’s funny

November 18, 2008

There’s absolutely no reason to post this on the Mana‘o Ulu Wale blog, other than I think it’s funny. Laugh out loud funny.

I’ve always been a big fan of David Sedaris. From the first time I heard Santaland Diaries, I was hooked. His writing often combines humor and a pathos with which we all can relate.

This linked story is a little long (about 24 minutes), but nonetheless worth the listen. This clip is from the NPR show This American Life.

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And, because more is more. Here are a few more David Sedaris clips.

The next video is from a reading he did in Brazil. So, in case your Portuguese isn’t muito bom you can fast forward past Mr. Sedaris’ introdução (about 50 seconds in).

And, because I’m still going through election news withdrawal, here’s a piece on the undecided masses.

Click to see full article

Click to see full article

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