And on the other hand...

Click here for The Yin Side where the other half of me holds forth!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Catching the Wave

Got calls in the middle of the night and a lot of emails warning us of the potential tsunami expected as a result of the Chilean earthquake. I was deep in sleep after coming home late from La Boheme, where the Wizard, surfing his iPhone between acts, announced that there was an 8.8 quake in Chile.  So the earth continues to adjust itself, I thought. Images of Port au Prince mixed in my dreams with singing Parisian Bohemians in the snow.

Unbeknownst to me, a lot of people apparently were out and about at 3 a.m. stocking up on gasoline, water, rotisserie chickens and vodka.  This morning, the Wizard has been monitoring the radio, which doesn't seem to have much to report except what MIGHT happen.  The last time I saw so much eager news coverage like this, I was witness to the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese, essentially a non-event. I can only hope this is the same.  And now, with CNN on, it reminds me of watching Hurricane Jeanne coverage with my father in Ocala...until the power went out..for four days.  Not a non-event.

We don't live at sea level,  although a lot of recent O'ahu development has been in the Ewa plain, former cane fields where no one in their right mind would have wanted to build a house, but now the last available space for exploitation. It IS at sea level, a broad flat expanse that begs for a wash of ocean now and then.

Hyped up with fantasy movies of huge comet- and meteor-generated tsunamis ...and of course memories of the real devastation of the 2004 Indian Ocean event, everyone called to let us know "It's coming your way."   When you are at the center of things, and nothing is  happening though, it is hard (for me, at least, not a very OCD person) to get too excited...just amused.  One does all one can...and waits.  Still it seems like the rest of the world is salivating at the potential:

Urban Legend Image

The Real Deal in 2004

But so far, at noon, not much to report.  Got to go watch CNN!  Hope the power stays on.

EPILOGUE at 1 p.m.:
My initial impulse in this post was to title it "Ignoring the Wave," but that seemed like inviting disaster. But it would have been more appropriate!  Still, better safe than sorry. For a little local flavor of the panic, look at this.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My State of Happiness

Before we moved to Hawaii (for a job), I never wanted to come here. I am still a little bemused by tourists who wander, awestruck, about Waikiki and Maui; the tourist experience is not the same as actually living in "paradise." But living here does have its pleasures.  Where else could you have a simple weekend in a setting like this (our last Thanksgiving in Hana, Maui)? (Click image to see in GREAT detail.)

And so this state of happiness was confirmed by a survey which rates Hawaii, this year anyway, as the happiest state in the nation in which to live. Could it be the climate? The food? The people? The distance from the other 49? It's a tough economy, schools have a bad rep, and jobs--well, work is work, no matter where you go. According to the survey:
The well-being score for each state is an average of six sub-categories, including: life evaluation (self-evaluation about your present life situation and anticipated one in five years); emotional health; work environment (such as job satisfaction); physical health; healthy behavior; basic access (access to healthcare, a doctor, a safe place to exercise and walk, as well as community satisfaction).
Well, we do have good health care, and an environment that makes it possible to maintain and enjoy good health. The economy is another matter. It's happy state if you have a source of income: for most of us that means a job.

There is a saying here: "Lucky you live Hawaii."  And I might add, "Lucky you work Hawaii." To which I now must go.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Is it really that time again?  Now, as anyone who knows me knows, I am REALLY a cat person, but I do like dogs.  So as I am poking around on Yahoo news, I discover that it is again Westminster Dog Show time, in just an hour really.  Part of me regards dog breeding* as all that is wrong with humanity -- preoccupation with bloodlines, perfection of physical qualities, fastidious and stylish grooming, competition -- but the dogs are really pretty. I'm not sure they don't know it.

The Yellow Emperor (a 3G** cat) is totally bored with it all, but I always watch, hoping that one day a Basset Hound will win Best of Show. (Not likely. Hounds don't do well.)  Everyone else pays attention to the winter events like the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, the Grammys and the Oscars.  But I do like to see these pooches, who look just like last year's and the year's before, parade before judges who clearly see (and feel, how they poke around their jaws, hips, and balls) things I cannot begin to fathom.

The Wizard never grew up with dogs (except for a pathetic Rough Collie named Lad who was really his sister's).  But there were always dogs in and out of my life.  Cocker Spaniels were a rage, I guess, in the '40s and '50s...we had one who was vicious, bit me in my four-year-old tummy while arguing over a slice of bologna; he was relinquished to someone who took him despite the dog peeing on his leg.  Then there was was a Springer Spaniel, a Bushie dog who loved my father, but pretty much ignored everyone else; she was said to be gun shy (and spayed), but that didn't stop her from having a litter of repulsive illegitimate puppies.  I remember my father gently helping deliver those mutts, who later had their tails docked, for what reason I never understood. Posey the Springer was relinquished to someone else for some other reason I never understood.

Then came Funny the Basset, a gift from my father in some sort of apology for chastising me when I pierced my ears.  She arrived on Valentine's Day.  I called her My Funny Valentine.  She stayed with us until my mother was too ill to tolerate a dog; this poor dog was again relinquished to someone who could properly care for her. (I had long since left home and was not in a position to have a dog.)

After Mom died, Dad went through a series of tiny dogs, Toy Poodles and Pomeranians, (much like his own mother's Schnauzers and Terriers) who must have reminded him of the dog in his youth who fell off a bridge to be run over by a train.  He later actually ran over one of his own poodles, leashed to his camper -- oh, this is too sad -- and dragged off before he realized she had not been releashed, so to speak.

The Wizard and I had a Collie cross for a while, when our son was little and we lived in the country, a dog who "came with" a rural house we bought. ("If you don't want him, we'll shoot him," the former owners said.)  Eleven years old, he had a life of his own, and frequently raided neighbors' trash and garbage, until he finally succumbed to a gunshot wound through his tail.  Poor beast had a crooked lower jaw as a result of an altercation with a coal truck and had lived on morphine for a few months.  He was a good dog, but more wolf than lap pet.

Since then (and before, the wolfish collie got along quite well with our **first generation of cats), all our housepets have been felines, except for a few birds who always insisted on flying away. Cats are easy, I think.  They demand little (except food), share your bed if you let them.  All you have to do is litter box duty. It doesn't matter if they're black or white. A friend is having some difficulties with a cat who likes to poop on her feet.  Having a pet is all about the poop.  You either follow your beast on a string with a plastic bag, or scoop it out of a smelly sandbox into a plastic bag. Or change the paper in the bottom of the cage. (To be sure, scoopable cat litter ranks up there with the iPod and the dishwasher, among the great technological advances of the 20th century.) Still, I worry about landfills filled with plastic bags of dog and cat excrement and newsprint covered in birdshit.

What does this say about us?  Egyptians mummified their cats.  We preserve their poop in plastic?

*If anyone out there wants to suggest that I watch Best of Show...I have.  It's hilarious. (I just love that Bloodhound.)

**We have had three generations of cats: 1) Gollum and her three kittens (Gimli, Pippin and Tom) , plus the wayward Paddy Jo; 2) Mao Da Lao, Mao Xiao Xin and Mao O'Wau; and now,  3)  Fifi and The Yellow Emperor  (aka, Lao Hu).  Somewhere between Posey and Funny, the dogs, as a child I had a totally white tomcat named Laska, who came to us at the same time Alaska became a state.  Laska was not impressed with Funny.

Northern European Wuxia?

Yesterday a matinee. Wagner.  Die Walkure. (Review the plot here if you don't know it.) I don't really like it, but I still enjoyed it.  I drifted off a bit in middle of the first act, bored by the lengthy posing of characters waiting to sing, but regained full consciousness just as Siegmund yanked the sword from the tree that grows in the middle of Hunding's house.  This could be wuxia.  Magical weapons, revenge, father-daughter conflicts, incest, adultery, betrayal, broken deals, battles, horses, filial piety. And wolves. But not much chivalry. Except for the magic swords, pretty much like life as reflected in the daily news.

Still, Wagner, and this whole Ring Cycle thing seems like ultimate guy fantasy to me. All about obligations and contracts, kind of dreary in a way. And when it comes to emotional German music, I prefer** Beethoven (and Mahler) to Wagner, and what I've seen of Wagner always seem me.  Maybe it's that fire thing (which in this production was reduced to a light-show, no real flames from gas jets).

In any case, Brunnhilde and her band of biker chicks could take a lesson from Chinese wuxia femmes fatales...lose the leather, try a little colorful silk and do something with your hair!   (Though in this production they weren't sporting the expected horned or winged helmets, but looked like they had robbed some medieval Italian academic's closet.) You can still have your swords and flying horses. But maybe practice a little tai chi.

While Brunnhilde is agonizing (martyring herself, really) over her own inability to quite fulfill a contract with Wotan, her father, basically an emperor whose Mandate of Heaven is in jeopardy, I just wanted her to tell him he was full of it.  But as the Wizard pointed out, "You can't say that to a god."

Well, why not?

So I endured Die Walkure.  In two weeks, as part of the season-ticket bargain, the Wizard gets to endure La Boheme (the opera that was practically a character in a favorite film of mine, Moonstruck).  I kinda wish they would have picked that one as the offering for Lunar New Year.

**Though there's a nice clip of Bernstein here conducting the conclusion;  I still prefer Italian opera.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Park and Rock It

Was very pleased with the kind efficiency with which the Hawaii Opera Theatre exchanged our Friday night opera season tickets; the Wizard has an engagement that trumps Wagner -- imagine that!-- so we needed to swap our tickets if possible.  So instead of a late night Friday, we can get an early start on Die Walkure at 4 p.m. Sunday.  Not exactly a night at the opera, but certainly a more civilized time to get home.

And all just as well.  Tonight in the mail, a notice from HOT advising all holders of the Friday tickets to be sure and get to the theatre to park early; the lot is expected to be jammed with people attending a Bon Jovi concert (not the Wizard's event) at the big arena adjacent to the opera hall.  I have reasonable doubt that the Bon Jovi ticket holders got a similar warning.

I wonder if our regular opera seat neighbors will wonder if we decided to forgo Wagner for Bon Jovi. Well, we'll just catch up with them in two weeks, at La Boheme.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just Like a Chinese Painting

Intense shooting pains in my arthritic thumb joint in the middle of the night should have alerted me to the deteriorated morning weather conditions: dense sooty gray clouds and hard rain.  Driving to work, I struggled through an intense downpour and then realized it might be better if I switched on the wipers.  This revealed to me a scene of great beauty (compensating for my hand pain).  A featureless opaque oatmeal sky, limited visibility, with silhouetted trees marching to the horizon in increasingly faint inky layers, the seven shades of Chinese ink. Just like a brush painting. I drove down from the plateau where we live (the downlooking view adding to the sense of a Chinese landscape) and the virtual scroll painting continued, albeit with occasional hazy highrises in the distant mist. I once thought I might paint a contemporary version of these scenes, but now it seems so wrong.

Then I remembered: tonight begins my next round of brush painting classes,which should keep me Sinologically jazzed until my planned May trip to the Middle Kingdom. I searched for some flights on line yesterday and concluded that earning miles on my preferred carrier is not worth the cost or the extra time; United likes to take Honolulu folks to LAX or SFO first, before arriving in Shanghai.  (This is not so bizarre as an intinerary I was presented a couple years ago, from HNL to Beijing, a 54-hour flight which featured stops in Amsterdam and Frankfurt. Get a globe, people!)  I will probably go on my usual Asian airline, Korean, which makes the trip pretty efficiently in 13.5 hours (and sometimes on 747s) through Seoul (regrettably, through Incheon and not the funky old Kim Po). So I won't get the miles, but I can save time and a lot of cash.

So driving through the driving rain, I recalled a trip down the Li River more than 15 years ago, a little tour out of Hong Kong to see the fabulous formations in the Guilin countryside.  I may have already blogged this memory, but it came to me so vividly this morning.  We had been drifting along the river in one of the flatbottomed boats, marveling at the beauty of the karst landscape when it started to rain.  Most of the group went below where a perfectly timed lunch was ready. We were neither feeling hungry nor social and decided to stay above, irritating the crew who had to stay on the upper deck with us to make sure we didn't steal the souvenirs on offer (but covered against the rain).  But we all became enchanted with the cruise in the mist; overcoming his frustration on having to accompany the pesky tourists in the rain, one of the crew members tried his English to remark: "It's beautiful, isn't it...just like a Chinese painting." Not unlike below, but mistier.
Not My Photo
We returned from the river cruise to a restaurant in Guilin which was memorable not only for the rat runnning around in the overhead light fixture, but for all the paintings decorating the walls, all for sale. I acquired a wall scroll that was better than any photo I could have taken of the scenes. (I had neglected to carry enough film--remember that stuff?).  But the painting is completely accurate, in mood and memory.

Not My Painting