Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Hawaiʻi on Top of the World: Ka Wēlau ʻĀkau

We at the Hawaiian Sybarite have only just returned from a trek to the North Pole. No, really. The North Pole. Ka Wēlau ʻĀkau.

Our inner Viking delighted at the frozen vastness of Greenland, not to mention the utter strangeness and familiarity of Iceland before that and, of course, we love nā mālamalama o ka ʻākau—the Northern Lights. But the experience made us realize one thing with cold clarity: we are Hawaiʻi.

Hawaiʻi's flag near the magnetic North Pole, outside Qaanaaq, Greenland.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 34: Hawaiian Fig-Macadamia Tart

Last in our series of holiday favorites is this rather simple but elegant tart of figs and macadamias. We find it a refreshing option to this season's usual hegemony of pumpkin pie and the sickeningly-sweet pecan pie.

We suggest that you make the effort to use vanilla from Hawaii or Tahiti. Both have a distinct taste; Tahitian vanilla is famously floral and heavily perfumed— in contrast to the the rich, dark liqueur of Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla—while the aroma of Hawaiian vanilla falls somewhere between Tahitian and Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla extremes.

In this recipe, the florid spiciness of Tahitian vanilla is in natural company with the earthiness of figs and macadamias. This tart is perfect for those celebrating Kalikimaka in Hawaiʻi, whether in person, in spirit, or in mind only.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

© 2010 The Hawaiian Sybarite

Monday, 22 November 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 33: Thai Kabocha-Sweet Potato Curry

Trust us: Pure visual appeal alone is reason enough to prepare the next installment in our series of local holiday recipes. Since our education in the myriad uses of kabocha, we've been looking to use it any way we can, and for this red curry, it's æsthetically joined by Okinawan sweet potato, carrot, yellow bell pepper, Thai chili, generous amounts of Thai basil and basil flowers and (we think crucially) toasted pumpkin seeds.

At the table, adjacent to sticky rice (which always manages to defy tasteful presentation), the shades of orange and yellow are sharply contrasted with the deep purple of the sweet potato and the green of the basil. Texturally, there is a balance achieved between the comforting heaviness of pumpkin and sweet potato, offset by carrot and bell pepper, enlivened but also lightened by Thai red curry and made sweet by aromatic Thai basil, and topped with a surprisingly reasonable, crunchy addition that would've never occurred to us—pumpkin seeds.

This recipe appeals to us in so many different ways. It's autumnal and it would be perfect for persnickety, vegetarian Thanksgiving guests (like us, for instance). It's familiar comfort food, but it's also spicy and exotic. It's local and it's Thai and it's reminiscent of American Thanksgiving traditions, and we defy you to find another food that can claim all three of those descriptors.

What's more, we love this recipe because it's part of the answer to the question of the moment, to us at least: What to do with the bushel of kabocha that we have in our shed?

click to enlarge

© 2010 The Hawaiian Sybarite

Friday, 19 November 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 32: Tahitian Kabocha-Date Bread

Second in our four-part series of local holiday recipes, the following comes to you from our relatives in Tahiti. It's something like Tahiti itself: Simple enough at first glance, but upon closer inspection, nuanced, worldly, refined, elegant and a sensory pleasure.

click to enlarge

© 2010 The Hawaiian Sybarite

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 31: Hawaiian Banana-Kabocha-Macadamia Bread

Kabocha (カボチャ) is one of the great culinary pleasures of autumn. For those unfortunate few who remain unacquainted, Kabocha is a smallish, versatile and surprisingly rich Japanese pumpkin.

The name Kabocha itself actually comes from a corruption of the word Cambodia, the pumpkin having arrived in Japan from that country courtesy of Portuguese sailors in 1541. Kabocha then traveled to Hawaiʻi with Japanese immigrants from the southern prefectures of Japan—mostly southern Honshū (本州) and Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Kumamoto and Fukuoka on Kyūshū (九州), where Kabocha (かぼちゃ) was known by its alternate name, Bobora—Bobora being the Japanese adaptation of the Portuguese word for pumpkin, Abóbora.

Kabocha loves the tropics, and it's established itself across Polynesia. It's especially popular in Tonga, Tahiti and, of course, in Hawaiʻi. Until the Second World War, it was still known by it's regional Japanese name, Bobora, which was also a Hawaiian Pidgin term for a hapless, newly-arrived Japanese immigrant. From the 1950s, the pumpkin has been locally known as Kabocha, coinciding with the period when large-scale importation of Kabocha to Hawaiʻi began, mostly from the United States and Central America.

Local production is still important, however. We recently were witness to an unexpectedly lively discussion amongst local farmers about the multitudinous uses of Kabocha. We're great lovers of tenpura Kabocha, but Kabocha gelato? We had no idea. Thai Kabocha curry? A revelation. Banana-Kabocha-Macadamia bread? As it turns out, an old family favorite.

And as the first installment of a four-part series of local holiday recipes, we're sharing this recipe for Banana-Kabocha-Macadamia bread, a creation, we're told, of the Latter-day Saint colony in Lāʻie, Oʻahu.

click to enlarge

© 2010 The Hawaiian Sybarite

Friday, 22 October 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 30: A tour of the Lāʻie Hawaiʻi Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church)

Hawaiʻi's Taj Mahal, the Mormon (LDS Church) temple in Lāʻie, will be open to the general public for three weeks starting Friday, 22 October, 2010.

The temple is noteworthy in that it was the first Mormon temple erected outside of Utah, being first dedicated on 27 November, 1919, but to those familiar with the religion's history, this shouldn't be surprising.

To make a very long, outlandish story shorter, the Mormon narrative sharply diverges from Christianity in the belief that, sometime around 600 BCE, a group of Israelites sailed to the Western Hemisphere and established themselves somewhere in the Americas. These Israelites ultimately splintered into factions, principally: the fair-skinned and righteous, the Nephites; and the swarthy, wicked Lamanites. Eventually, Jesus dropped by the Americas after his resurrection and imparted His religion, all peoples were united, and peace reigned for 84 years in the hemisphere.

Then, slowly at first, Lamanite darkies started to fall away from Christ's faith, abandoning themselves to wickedness and sin. After ca 230 CE, war erupted between the Nephites and the numerically-greater Lamanites until, finally, in a series of wars from 236 to ca 400 CE, the "true believers in Christ," the Nephite nation, were completely liquidated.

Importantly, though, before the Nephites were utterly destroyed, their two final prophets and military commanders, Mormon and his son Moroni, transcribed the history of their people and of their religion on tablets that are now knowns as the "Golden Plates." Moroni, in anticipation of his death at the hands of Lamanites, buried the plates in what is now Wayne County, in New York state, whereafter Moroni, the last Nephite, was killed.

On September 21, 1823, the resurrected Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr., and commanded him to first retrieve the Golden Plates from the Hill Cumorah and then to translate the plates into English, so that God's true religion could be once again known to the world. Joseph Smith did just as he was instructed, translating the plates from an unknown script called "reformed Egyptian" to English using at lease two seer stones (rocks, basically). Smith would carefully place the seer stones, known as the Urim and Thummim, in the bottom of his inverted top hat. The Urim and Thummim (plus top hat) would act as miraculous translating goggles, and it was in this manner that Joseph Smith translated the Golden Plates, a work that we now call The Book of Mormon.

This shameless conman and his misogynist cronies were driven out of New York and Ohio and Missouri and Illinois before they walked across the Great Plains to Utah, at that time not fully under the direct control of the United States government, which they dubbed the State of Deseret. The settlers quickly got themselves into trouble with the United States government, famously when they butchered an entire wagon-train of settlers bound for California, the so-called Mountain Meadows Massacre of 11 September, 1857.

With the word out in the United States that Mormons were, at best, a band of polygamist heathens, the nascent church met with little success in its efforts to attract converts. It was decided that the best course of action was to direct the missionaries to England and Scandinavia, not least because, as populations, they were the whitest, blondest and therefore most righteous. Surprisingly, the church succeeded in attracting converts, and, importantly, settlers, nearly all of whom quickly departed for Mormon colonies in the State of Deseret.

At around the same time, the Latter-day Saints sent their first contingent of missionaries to the Sandwich Islands, arriving on December 12, 1850, in Honolulu Harbor. The day following their arrival, the missionaries climbed a hill above Honolulu (Pacific Heights) and constructed the first (albeit crude) Mormon place of worship in Hawaiʻi and prayed. From then on, the church has enjoyed unusual popularity, not only in Hawaiʻi, but across Polynesia.

This popularity isn't completely unwarranted. Though the position has changed, originally, Mormons considered Polynesians to be the forgotten remnants of sainted, Nephite ancestors, and they largely treated them admirably, at a time when purported Christians were shamelessly exploiting Hawaiians (Jack London remarked at the time that "It comes with rather a shock to learn that in Hawaii the obscure, martyrdom-seeking missionary sits at the head of the table of the moneyed aristocracy.") and even stealing their entire country. In addition, the Mormon emphasis on hearth and home must have resonated with the culture-shocked Hawaiians, who loved their extended families and were reeling from demographic decimation and cultural collapse. It's our suspicion, also, that Mormonism represented the "Other" in the minds of both Hawaiians and Haoles of the late 19th century; If Anglicanism was a slap in the face to the children of the Calvinist missionaries, Mormonism was a dead fish wrapped in newspaper on their front lanai.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints centered their colony in Hawaiʻi in the Koʻolauloa district of Oʻahu, at the ancient place of refuge in that district, Puʻuhonua o Lāʻie. The colony prospered, so much so that by the turn of the 20th century a temple was considered justified.

Mormon temples are quite different than meeting houses. The latter are simply the weekly places of worship, similar to regular Christian churches, and all, members and non-members, are welcome to attend. Temples, though, are the holiest of holies in Mormonism, and not only must one be a Mormon to enter, but that Mormon must be in good standing in the church, pass an interview with their bishop and receive something called a "temple recommend," all just to gain entry to the temple.

That's why we read with such interest when the First Presidency of the Church announced a public open house at the Lāʻie Hawaiʻi Temple. This three-week period is a rare chance to enter the temple—something that many church members never get to do.

The open house and the tours that accompany it are possible now because the church has not yet re-dedicated the temple after its recent renovation. Since the temple was completed and dedicated in 1919, it has only been open for tours once before, in 1978 when it was similarly reopened after renovation.

This is the public's opportunity to see for themselves whether Mormon temples are repositories for cryopreserved cadavers (we've heard the names Walt Disney and Howard Hughes mentioned) or immense caches of Pepsi (caffeine-free, we assume) and AK-47s; or whether there is evidence of animal-sacrifice or Masonic rites; or whether members of the church really wear green aprons and confectioner's hats and give secret handshakes while in the temple (we're not telling).

We suggest that you make your reservation and an excursion to Lāʻie. We predict that it will be nothing if not a memorable experience, whether you simply learn the rather banal truth, as we see it, that Mormonism is just plain mass-delusion and groupthink with genuinely friendly people, or whether you only relish in the sight of the spectacularly white temple—itself a "pearl of great price"—standing out against the extravagant black-green of the Koʻolau.

The Lāʻie Hawaiʻi Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is located at 55-600 Naniloa Loop, Lāʻie 96762-1299, Hawaiʻi, adjacent to Brigham Young University—Hawaiʻi.

For Lāʻie Hawaiʻi Temple Open House Reservations, visit http://lds.org/reservations/ 

Friday, 15 October 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 29: Anatomy of a Tulip (2010)

The closest that we've ever come to affection for corporate America came in the early-1990s, courtesy of (yes, shockingly, we know) United Airlines.

Hong Kong's airport was still the storied Kai Tak (啟德機場) in those long-gone days. The airport's single runway had been carefully inserted on a tiny sliver of land between Hong Kong's mountains and harbor. Owing to the surrounding topography, pilots landing at Kai Tak would descend over Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour and Western Kowloon, passing over the beacon on Lion Rock while executing a tricky, tight 47° final turn, at low altitude, to (hopefully) line up with the airport's runway.

photo © Phil Wells

For any lucky enough to remember, the sight was spectacular—particularly on days with low cloud clogging the mountains. On those days, the scream of engines would be heard, but nothing would be seen. Then, almost instantaneously a 747 would emerge from the murk in a steep bank.

We remember a searing, sappingly hot and humid day in the summer of 1994. While absorbed in some forgotten banality, we heard the familiar sound of approaching engines, and looked around for the horizon, but saw nothing but block after grimy block of flats. Resigned to seeing nothing but laundry fluttering from open windows, we looked upwards again when the sound of the approaching aircraft became even louder and more piercing.

Then there, through the whites hanging on lines, was a United Airlines 747. For a short second after seeing that flash of red, white and blue, something felt familiar. It was as though we had seen a handsome, familiar face among the rows of hanging ducks that lined the streets of Hong Kong. Maybe we heard the last few bars of Rhapsody in Blue and thought of the shiny, muscular United States. Maybe we saw the image that we've seen dozens of times before over the past quarter-century: Diamond Head framed by United Airlines Tulip-emplazoned tails at Honolulu Airport. It reminded us of what's probably the love of our life—Hawaiʻi—and it made us smile.

Many things about that experience we vividly remember, but more than any, we remember the brilliant white tail emblazoned with the familiar United "Tulip," the sylized capital "U" logo created by American design legend Saul Bass for the airline in 1974.

Saul Bass is an American hero, a jack-of-all-design-trades. Beyond United Airlines, he designed now-iconic logos for AT&T, the Girl Scouts, Kleenex, Quaker, United Way, Warner Music Group and, ironically, Continental Airlines' "meatball" logo (1968-1991).

Bass is also known for his contribution to the cinematic arts. In particular, he created famous opening title credit sequences for famous films "The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)," "Vertigo (1958)," "Anatomy of a Murder (1958, with Duke Ellington, no less)," "North by Northwest (1959)" and "West Side Story (1961)," among many others.

Now, decades later and after many crises, United has recently merged with Continental Airlines. To be fair, over the last decade the airline industry has seen rocky, sometimes downright grim days, but the United "leadership" have never lost an opportunity to demonstrate their incompetence and venality.

Don't want to figure out how to pay for your employees' pensions, after you and your predecessors have frittered away their retirement money with foolish, risky investments instead of traditional, conservative investment in the bond market? No problem when you're a member of United's corporate leadership; The answers are simple if you're a CEO at United: fuck 'em with a closet-stick!

Forget the pensions. Forget the pensioners. Blame the unions (since, clearly, they're the ones ruining the United States), but keep your own incomes at vulgar levels. To give just one example, in 2006, United CEO Glenn Tilton's compensation was nearly $40 million. That's right. Forty. At the same time, United employees received generous lessons in the "cyclical nature" of "free markets," and other fantasies.

So by comparison, something like the deletion of a much-loved logo is actually quite minor.

Trivial, really.

That being said, the leadership of the new corporation created when United and Continental merged have decided to keep the United brand—a smart move—but have elected to delete United's iconic tulip in favor of Continental's...mirrorball...or globe...er, something...(?).

Almost immediately after the announcement, an outcrying of lament began among those who consider the Tulip part of the US' patrimony, along with the flag and Dolly Parton. Facebook pages sprang up; Online petitions began to circulate; Blogs, like this one, commented angrily about the asinine decision, but it all seems to have fallen on deaf ears at United.

From a commercial perspective, it beggars belief that Continental's bland, unidentifiable logo would be chosen as the emblem of one of the United States' most visible brands. Why quit a logo with longstanding, widespread popular recognition for one that almost no one can conjure from memory on command? It doesn't seem sensible, even by the already low standards of sensibility that we hold out for United's corporate directors.

Our hope is that United is trying to educe an empassioned response from the public, calling—even demanding—for a return of their beloved Tulip, something along the lines of the conspiracy theories surrounding Coca-Cola's experiment with "New Coke" in the 1980s. We hope that United is subtly pulling the publicity strings, and that after "overwhelming popular demand" the Tulip will be triumphantly returned to the tail of United aircraft where it belongs, and in so doing, that it will have created a feeling of renewed likability and familiarity with the United brand after years of acrimony between the airline and the flying public.
That's our hope. The only trouble is that we're not sure that the people at (we kid you not) Wacker Drive are that clever.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Mahalo Norden!

Tak, Danmark, for at være vores tredje mest besøgte land! At du blot besøge vores blog er alle de tilfredshed, at vi kræver, men til vores Skandinaviske familie og venner: Mahalo og tak for dine beskeder! Og hold læsning—The Hawaiian Sybarite elsker dig!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 28: Honolulu Civil Beat

The buzz is officially out, and Civil Beat's moment has arrived.

Honolulu became a one-horse town this month, or rather a one-newspaper town, after the "merger" of the Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. We suspect that the death of the Advertiser was the opportunity that eBay founder and Hawaiʻi resident Pierre Omidyar had been praying for, and he launched his oft-whispered-about news service, Honolulu Civil Beat, at almost the exact same time as the Advertiser's shuttering.

Civil Beat has (so far) got the plot mostly right. They aren't attempting to capture breaking news stories; readers can get that information from large news organizations or from Civil Beat's correspondents' Twitter feeds. Instead, Civil Beat intends to differentiate itself from its competition by the increased depth and duration of its reportage. Whereas other news organizations relay to their audiences a one-way report on discrete stories, the Civil Beat journalists discuss specific topics over a longer term with website users.

And discuss, they do.

Those Civil Beat readers who would like to gain full access to the all the website's features will have to pay a $19.99 monthy fee (amazingly, via PayPal), but once they do, they will be able to participate in Civil Beat's discussions ad infinitum.

We think that this is a very clever move. News outlets must have discussion forums; it keeps the audience engaged and steers them away from the dangerously democratic world of the Blogosphere, where things could, at any moment, spin completely out of control when people decide to start thinking and analyzing for themselves. The problem so far with most such discussion forums is that the anonymity of internet posting allows participants to post writings that would never be fit for conventional printing. Often, and particularly with issues related to identity political issues, the conversations become little more than 10th-grade vain-little-girl/plain-little-girl, ad-hominem hissyfits.

Honolulu Civil Beat has wisely taken steps to solve that problem by charging for access and by collecting the fee via PayPal. Firstly, the price alone will deter many would-be undesired posters but more importantly, paying via PayPal will likely identify someone responsible for the user's account. What's more, real names are used on Civil Beat's website, and these factors have, at least so far, gone far to engender a civil atmosphere suitable to the website's mission.

We still have questions about charging $19.99 for online news. Everybody does, though. Honolulu Civil Beat's greatest challenge is, in our eyes, that nobody expects to pay for news content online. We also have questions about the website's lack of visual interest (where are the arresting photographs?) and still sparse content. And also, why isn't Catherine Toth on the Civil Beat staff? She is, after all, Honolulu's Best Journalist.

We do have faith in Pierre Omidyar. He knows the internet—he's a true pioneer—and we assume that he's at least several steps ahead of us. As for us, though—we're not subscribing yet. It'd be money wasted, because we would be banished from Civil Beat in a matter of days since we wouldn't hesitate to voice our opinion that Linda Lingle is a "despicable, old hag."

Friday, 18 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 27: The Goodnight Kiwi

Hawaiʻi desperately needs an instantly recognizable animal mascot. Humu­humu­nuku­nuku­āpuaʻa perhaps? Nēnē, or will Canada accuse us of filching their national bird? How about the Wallabies of Kalihi?

Aotearoa New Zealand has no problem with their national animal identity. At the mere mention of "kiwi" quite specific notions are top-of-mind: pathetically cute, flightless bird; outdoorsy pseudo-Englishmen; a country that not only always sits at the grown-up table but should be presiding over it permanently; and a hairy, testicle-like fruit that's green on the inside, full of vitamin-c, that nobody much likes.

Aotearoa has put this kiwi to work just about everywhere, so we hope that it has good union representation and a cracking lawyer. One of our favorite memories of Aotearoa in the 1980s is the national bird working as "The Goodnight Kiwi."

In those halcyon days before TVNZ was broadcasting what we'll charitably term "entertainment" 24/7, the broadcasting day was sweetly capped with The Goodnight Kiwi. He would turn off the last bit of programming, put on a muzak version of "Hine e Hine" and then retire to his nest at the pinnacle of the TVNZ transmitting tower, accompanied by his best friend—a curiously sized cat.

When we were young and in Aotearoa, we couldn't get enough of this. We loved thinking of the kiwi out on the horizon somewhere, sleeping under the Southern Cross; we found it all endlessly reassuring and charming. All these years later, we're still willing to suspend our disbelief that a kiwi has the manual dexterity to place a tape into a player or to operate a lift, and we can not ask ourselves why the cat is so small or why the cat isn't doing what cats famously do in Aotearoa—eat kiwis. It's just wonderful.

Hawaiʻi needs something similar. We needs more romantics. We need more verve. We need more people passionately devouring life. We need more people passionately in love with Hawaiʻi.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 26: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky

Yes, we know that the gray, murky world of human affairs is anything but sybaritic. We're featuring this particular Quality of Life Improvement because we believe that it may actually change your life for the better, in a way that's different from a holiday on Maui or a new pair of Louboutin pumps—the normal fare for The Hawaiian Sybarite.

Noam Chomsky is to us like Betty White: someone who's not allowed to ever die, or at least not allowed to die before us. Together with perhaps Norman Finkelstein and Marianne Faithfull, Chomsky is one of the few living heroes that we have, and it will be a dark day for us when he's gone.

Chomsky, known originally for his work in the field of linguistics, came to be known as a political figure when he wrote in explicit opposition to the war in Vietnam in 1967. He soon became better known for his articulate, often disturbingly accurate political talks and essays rather than his life's work in linguistics and, according to the New York Times, in the intervening four decades has also become "the most widely read American voice on foreign policy on the planet today." Though now 81 years old, his prolific output of political commentary has continued at pace to his latest book, Hopes and Prospects.

Hopes and Prospects contains—hold on to your hats—Chomsky's hopes and prospects for the future of humanity. Critics of Chomsky abound, and one of the criticisms most often assigned to him is that his work is heavy on vituperation, doom and blame but runs thin on practical solutions. Chomsky contends that he offers plenty of rational, even conservative solutions, but they simply aren't the ones preferred by those in power.

Hopes and Prospects is intended to present contemporary problems (interestingly and appealingly, the chapters are arranged geographically) and then offer workable solutions.

"In dissecting the rhetoric and logic of American empire and class domination, at home and abroad, Chomsky continues a longstanding and crucial work of elucidation and activism," reads the book's review by Publisher's Weekly, "[and] the writing remains unswervingly rational and principled throughout, and lends bracing impetus to the real alternatives before us."

Of local significance, Noam Chomsky attains an almost sainted position with us at The Hawaiian Sybarite because he never forgets the crimes committed against Hawaiʻi by the United States. In Hopes and Prospects alone, the subject of US aggression against Hawaiʻi receives two mentions. While we pray that he will eventually give us his evaluation of the hopes and prospects for our archipelago, in comparison to the catastrophes and atrocitites that beset those nations mentioned in Chomsky's Hopes and Prospects, our very real grievances appear to be less urgent.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 25: Teenage Engineering

The Teens from Stockholm have just released a few demo videos featuring their upcoming OP-1. For those of you who don't know much about the project, please go to its website to first explore and then enjoy! For those of you who know a bit more, please feel free to skip straight to enjoy!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Update: The new Hawaiian Airlines long-range fleet

As we reported last month, Hawaiian Airlines has recently taken delivery of its first two Airbus A330 aircraft, with 10 more A330s on order. At the time of the first aircraft's arrival in Honolulu, few details were known about the interior fixtures and fittings, but we're pleased to now be able to relay the following information from the Kam Family Blog:

"Passengers flying in coach class on Hawaiian’s A330 will enjoy the comforts of the new aircraft, including more legroom and a state-of-the-art on-demand entertainment system. High-resolution LCD touch screen monitors in each seatback allow each passenger to choose from a wide selection of movies and video programs, audio channels and video games. Each system also includes a USB port allowing connectivity for personal media players. First Class passengers on Hawaiian’s new A330 aircraft will enjoy the added advantages of larger in-seat LCD screens and iPOD compatibility."

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 24: "I'm Not in Love"

"I'm Not in Love" by the English group 10cc is one of our most favorite songs, but one that sadly never seems to come up on our iPod's shuffle feature, which is a shame, because it happens to be the rarest of quantities—a unique pop song. "I'm Not in Love" is wistful, clever, romantic, forlorn and sweet simultaneously. Moreover, it expresses a genuine feeling: the cruellest labyrinthine that is the struggle to relate to the one that you're hugely in love with when you're no longer so young and when you're already set in your ways and when you have constructed an impenetrable palisade of ego-defenses.

We're dedicating this one to someone very special—you know who you are—and we hope that he enjoys it.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 23: Arne Vodder

The work of one of our favorite Danish Modernists, Arne Vodder, is now back in production.

Great Dane Furniture has obtained the license to many of Vodder's most recognizable designs, which are, thankfully, being produced in Denmark by Danish cabinetmakers.

Arne Vodder (1926-2009) trained as an architect and was a student of one of our great heroes, Finn Juhl, and the influence of Juhl's cool, un-dogmatic approach to design is immediately apparent in Vodder's work. After training with Juhl, Vodder then worked with the venerable Danish furniture-makers Fritz Hansen and, most famously, with Sibast Møbler.

It was with Sibast that he created his most famous pieces of furniture, almost always with his trademark: flawless construction of rosewood or teak, sensuous curving handles and judicious, often unexpected, use of color. In particular, Vodder is remembered for his credenzas and desks produced by Sibasts' cabinetmakers in the 1950s through 1970s. But while his designs remained popular in Scandinavia, the changing tastes of the non-Nordic consumer and the growing scarcity of tropical woods in the 1970s meant the end of production of his designs for Sibast.

For the last 40 years, Vodder's work has been available in ever-decreasing quantity only at auction or from dealers of vintage furniture. Now, Great Dane Furniture has reissued some of his best-known furniture, including two dining tables, two chests of drawers, a bedside table, a hall table and a coffee table, with all production now in European oak and American walnut.

We always love a back-story, and this one is great. Apparently, the proprietors of Great Dane Furniture befriended Arne Vodder on one of their buying trips to Denmark, and not only did Vodder agree to allow his furniture to be reproduced by Great Dane starting in 2009, but the production process of was overseen by the architect himself.

"Arne said the project would keep him alive for a few more days and it did, but sadly on the evening of December 27th* he passed away," Great Dane's owners said. "The truth is it will keep him alive forever in design history. We have lost a great talent and a true friend."
*redactor's note: December 27, 2009.

The Arne Vodder range of reissued classics is available from Great Dane Furniture, 116 Commercial Road, Prahran, Victoria, 3181, Australia, (03) 9510 6111

Friday, 11 June 2010

Hauʻoli lā Mōʻī Kamehameha

Today is Kamehameha Day, and this is one holiday that we like. Established by proclamation of Kamehameha I's great-grandson Kamehameha V in 1871, the holiday commemorates Kamehameha's unification of the eight principal Hawaiian islands and the establishment of the unified Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. This is a particularly noteworthy Kamehameha Day because it happens to be the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.

For those of you in Hawaiʻi, we hope that you enjoy the festivities. For everyone, in Hawaiʻi and elsewhere, we hope that you will first consider and then judge, with something as close to critical objectivity as possible, the events in the Kingdom over the last two centuries.

In the generation preceding Kamehameha, Kahekilinuiʻahumanu of Maui (Kahekili II) united all Hawaiian Islands, with the notable exception of the Island of Hawaiʻi, for the first time. Kamehameha, born with the heralding of a comet in the Kohala district on the island of Hawaiʻi in 1758 (or maybe 1737) managed to first unite the islands and then deftly navigate the treacherous malstrøm of competing colonial powers, while also promulgating the Māmalahoe Kānāwai, an acknowledged ancestor of today's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

That's the popular story, and it may be true. But a different, complementary history of Kamehameha I also exists: Kamehameha I, the beginning of the end.

In contrast to Kahekili II, Kamehameha I enthusiastically engaged the European powers, in particular Great Britain, and in 1794 he asked Great Britain to establish a protectorate over the Island of Hawaiʻi in exchange for a warship to fight Kahekili II. To many Hawaiians and their supporters, the subsequent history has been little more than a series of disappointments and catastrophes.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Māori met Europeans with warfare, and have retained a measure of their land, culture and dignity. In Hawaiʻi, Kamehameha I met Europeans with the Aloha spirit, and Hawaiians have been denigrated ever since. Kamehameha drew Europeans into his court, married them to local noblewomen, and appointed them as governors of islands—the Welsh sailor Isaac Davis as governor of Oʻahu and the Englishman, John Young, as governor of the Island of Hawaiʻi.

More Europeans came, then Americans, then Calvinist missionaries. By 1890, U.S. minister to Hawaiʻi John Stevens was able to happily inform U.S. Secretary of State James Blaine that "the native population of 60 years ago is reduced less than one-third … and it is continually growing less." Stevens could barely control his excitement as he reported that "just one-half of the total population is of the original Hawaiian race," with only "a small proportion of the lands and other properties and in their possession."

In 1892, John Stevens, still in his official capacity, wrote to newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Forster that "The value of the Hawaiian Islands to the United States for commercial and naval purposes has been well understood by American statesmen for more than half a century. To postpone American action many years is only to add to present unfavorable tenencies and to make future possession more difficult." Stevens concludes his letter with his command: "Americanize the islands, assume control of the 'crown lands.'"

It's all very sensible—from the American perspective, and only when the American public has been properly trained in doublethink, so that they are able to destroy one nation while simultaneously lauding their own democratic humanism and perceive no ethical contradiction therein.

In Stevens' letters, the opinions of Hawaiians about their own country are absent, but it wasn't especially important what Hawaiians thought. Nor was it important what the growing Asian population thought; That was made explicit.

"There are such a large number of Chinese and other cheap laborers on the islands who cannot be trusted to vote intelligently," Charles L. Carter, a member of the Hawaiʻi Provisional Government's Annexation Committee, told the New York World, "that if universal suffrage was declared the whites who represent almost the entire business interest of the country, would be outvoted and powerless."

This subversion of democracy and passionate opposition to basic human rights continued through the twentieth-century. Hawaiʻi's 1959 Admission Act plebiscite was conducted in brazen disregard of the United Nations charter, and therefore both U.S. and International Law. It is an impressive achievement of the United States' intellectual class that the Admission Act and Hawaiʻi's status as 50th state—both cynical frauds—are the subject of almost no critical media debate. The American propagandists' counterparts in Beijing or Moscow are no doubt envious that they can't have such an easy job in silencing dissent and liquidating their conquered neighbors.

The United States' commissars have done their jobs so well that next month, we in Hawaiʻi will be encouraged to take part in the utterly grotesque exercise of celebrating the independence of the uninvited messianic colonizer that destroyed our own independence, and in fact continues its mission to destroy what's left of our country.

Few things are truly intractable, and the case of Hawaiʻi v. The United States of America is actually a simple one, since nearly all facts are uncontested by both sides. For today, Hawaiʻi will, in the words of Francine du Plessix Gray, "remain profoundly hedonistic and provincial, a sugar-coated fortress, an autistic Eden, a plastic paradise in which the militarism and racism of the American empire are cloaked by a deceptive veil of sunshine and of flowers."

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 22: The Joy of Sake

Hawaiʻi's King David Laʻamea Kamanakapuʻu Mahinulani Nalaiaehuokalani Lumialani Kalākaua-a-Kapaʻakea, the endearingly dissolute Merrie Monarch and last reigning king of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, was a true sybarite generally and, in particular, a famous appreciator of sake. In fact, when King Kalākaua arranged a dockside sumō tournament to honor the arrival of Hawaiʻi's first Japanese contract laborers on 8 February, 1885, the tournament prize was a cache of sake barrels.

We assume that the rikishi were pleased with their liquid purse, but the next day's edition of The Honolulu Advertiser wasn't particularly impressed; the article's author generously described sake as, "[a] fine beverage … not 'catlap' at least."

Sake had to be imported to Hawaiʻi until December, 1908, when Hiroshima-born Tajiro Sumida delivered the first products from his newly established Honolulu Sake Brewery. The brewery's first vintage was a disaster; Hawaiʻi's heat, humidity and sun conspired to spoil the newly-brewed sake.

But Sumida's brewery gleaned priceless lessons from their initial frustrations. The brewery introduced a major innovation to the sake industry when they refrigerated the fermentation area of their brewery—a necessity in Hawaiʻi—and the practice that was soon adopted in Japan. Hawaiʻi sake brewers introduced stainless steel equipment to the brewing-process, and were the first to use California rice in the manufacture of sake. Maybe most significantly, in 1958 Honolulu brewmaster Takao Nihei identified a mutant strain of yeast, used today throughout the sake-brewing industry, that produced far less froth in the brewing vat during fermentation, thereby increasing production yields per-vat by about one third.

With Hawaiʻi's contributions to the world of sake in mind, it is appropriate that Honolulu is home to the largest sake tasting event in the Americas: The Joy of Sake.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the event, and for the second year it will be held at the Honolulu Academy of Arts this August 19. We're told that over 300 sakes will be offered to participants, which will be paired with tasting plates from "some of Honolulu's best restaurants."

We at The Hawaiian Sybarite especially like the detail that sake vessels made by local ceramicists from the Linekona Art Center will on offer. A classy move.

In a vulgar tone, the organizers of the event inform us gleefully that "As a special perk for Academy members, Joy of Sake will again have premium tables," before continuing to explain, in bold, that "This year, the premium tables will be cordoned off in an exclusive VIP area. This members-only benefit was a hit last year—they sold out in days."

The phrases "cordoned off in an exclusive VIP area" and "members-only" turn us off immediately and the foregoing quotations demonstrate our suspicions: that the likable concept of the event—the appreciation of an ancient cultural institution with our fellow citizens—is, to many of the event's participants, reduced to little more than an excuse for tawdry pretensions and obvious displays of wealth. Sake is mostly incidental to the affair.

What: The Joy of Sake: America's Largest Sake Celebration
When: Thursday, August 19, 2010, 6-8:30pm
Where: Honolulu Academy of Arts, 900 South Beretania Street, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, 96814-1429 (808) 532-8700
Price: Individual: $80 per person. VIP reserved seating: $150 per person.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 21: Marvis Toothpaste

A dentifrice for gourmands, Marvis is Italy's answer to Tom's of Maine.

Tom's products are always useful and inoffensive, as well as exceedingly responsible, but sometimes your teeth are desperate for something more than fluoride-free spearmint, and that's not even taking into consideration the feelings of your opinionated palate.

As luck would have it, Italy saves the day with it's knack for turning the dull drudgeries of banal existence into minor events in themselves.

Marvis toothpaste is an Italian classic of both industry and design. The packaging isn't exactly minimalistic, and it's obviously not an unchanged classic of design identity, either. It's an apothecary-approximating pastiche, and a charmingly incoherent pastiche at that; This toothpaste may be the only conversation-piece of its kind, and it looks much too good to be secreted behind the moldering door of a medicine cabinet.

Marvis' different toothpastes all start as the classic "strong mint" formulation. and are then modified through the addition of carefully selected aromas, including: Jasmine, Ginger and the intriguingly named "Aquatic Mint," which is described by Marvis only as "a 'sweet, cool' touch of mint with the cool freshness of the sea."

We're partial to Marvis' Jasmin Mint toothpaste, which tastes to us something like Jasmine tea wth mint, and is almost as refreshing. We can't think of any toothpaste more appropriate for summer in the tropics.

Marvis toothpastes are available from drugstore.com and C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 20: Tenzin Phakmo

Tenzin Phakmo, a Tibetan visual artist born in Nepal, will be exhibiting his work for the first time in Hawai'i with a show opening on Wednesday, June 9.

Currently based in New York, Tenzin was born in Pokhara, Nepal on New Year's Day, 1981. He attended schools in Nepal and India, and was a student of revered Nepalese artist Guru Alok Gurung.

"Working with local Nepali artists steered my art more into a Nepali Art. But, later on as my artistic abilities matured, it felt in need of an origin, a base and a big sense of who I was; that is when my art felt a strong connection with my Tibetan heritage. My love for strokes, the richness in color always gave form to beautiful imaginations and as always I wanted to be true to the reality of images, I started taking photos before I started a painting," Tenzin explained about the process of creating his art. "My imagination shapes the initial idea of a painting, followed by my photos and then I try to do justice using both. In reality, each painting of mine has a distinct story behind it. Some paintings have a certain relationship with previous ones, whereas some stand alone."

With the encouragement of his Guru and the friendship of Maj Andrew Duncan of the British Gurkhas Nepal, Tenzin participated in numerous group exhibitions, and had his first solo exhibition in October, 2004. Tenzin's work is now part of the collection of Manhattan's Rubin Museum of Art as well as being included in the personal collection of Dolan Rubin.

Tenzin Phakmo's exhibition will open with an evening of mini spa treatments and light refreshments on Wednesday, June 9, at Allure Hair Studio and Day Spa in Manoa.

Date: Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Time: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Location: Allure Hair Studio and Day Spa, 2801 East Manoa Road, Honolulu, Hawai'i, 96822
RSVP: (808) 988-3350