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April 17, 2011

Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro playing the traditional Japanese folk song “Sakura” at the Prayer for Japan benefit on April 8. An amazing, heartfelt tribute by a world-class musician. Apologies for the shaky camera work. I shot it on my cell phone and had the kids bumping into me for half of it.

Here’s a bonus track: Jake covering the tune that made him famous (outside Hawaii). I’ve never not seen him play it at any of the performances I’ve been to. It’s definitely the set closer that everyone’s always waiting to hear him play.That annoying kid that keeps talking over the performance – that’s mine.

Unfortunately my cell phone ran out of batteries after this because after the Harrison number he did an improv jam with Kenny Endo that was pretty interesting. Kenny just blew me away, what a phenomenal talent.


Sushi Sasabune

March 27, 2011

Quite simply some of the best sushi I have ever eaten. This coming from a decade-long resident of Japan. It is that good. For many years we lived down the street from a very reputable Tokyo sushi-ya, but that was minor league ball compared to this stuff. While Sasabune can’t beat the freshness of sushi at, say, Tsukiji (NOT to be confused with this Tsukiji), the preparation is world-class elite. We sat at the bar, feet away from genius. Every dish was on the level. The pinnacle for me was the tai with a bit of its marinated liver floating on top. The uni, my favorite of all nigiris, ran a close second. You will pay top dollar to eat this sushi, and it is worth every penny, perhaps even more.

Sunrise for Japan

March 20, 2011

Like many people, my wife wanted to do something to help Japan. She and her friend came up with the idea of a free yoga class to raise a little money and send a message of love and support. If you live in Hawaii or will be here next Saturday, please stop by Kapiolani Park for an hour of yoga for a good cause. Mizuho will not be collecting donations on site, and there are three ways to contribute: by handing a donation to Mizuho at her weekly Open Air Yoga class, by placing it in the donation box at Yoga Hawaii studio in Kaimuki, or via Paypal. All donations will go to the Japan Red Cross.

Keeping Tabs on Japan

March 20, 2011

It has been a challenge sifting through the media coverage of Japan post earthquake/tsunami, trying to separate facts from the hype. I have found that the best accounts come from those on the ground, who are not part of the media machine, but are living through it as best they can. Among other resources (Facebook, emails and Twitter), a couple of blogs that I am linked to have been providing some great coverage:

Lost in Translation

The Expat Almanac

Also view Gil Chavez’s Tweets, which have acted as a running commentary throughout this thing.

Thanks, guys!

Then We Came to the End

March 13, 2011

The popularity of the office as a setting for human drama and Swiftian absurdity in contemporary TV and film says something about this particular juncture in time we find ourselves living through. The book version of The Office and Office Space, Then We Came to the End is a remarkable first novel by rookie author Joshua Ferris. Ferris has an keen ear for dialog and paints scenarios that are simultaneously more gonzo and yet capture the real essence of the office life more faithfully than its celluloid predecessors. In this he excels. Where he comes up short, in my opinion, is in his decision to switch gears midway through the book to a firsthand depiction of an ad exec’s inner turmoil over a serious personal issue. While he nails the tenor of low level employee life with aplomb, it seemed like he lacks the knowledge and chops to depict the inner life of a professional middle-aged woman in crisis.  The pages suddenly ceased to turn and I found myself skimming ahead. Fortunately this passage only drags down a few chapters or so, and then we return to the pungent, poignant black humor tinged with sadness that he does so well. Also noteworthy is his use of the first person plural (we) for telling most of the story, which could seem gimmicky in the wrong hands. Ferris uses it deftly and effectively, almost hypnotically as a kind of mantra. In this era of “collective wisdom” and “social connectivity”, it resonates.

Thar She Blows

March 6, 2011

Went out whale watching last weekend and learned that marine life is a lot harder to shoot in a live environment than it looks. On the way out we were trailed by a school of dolphins that bobbed and weaved around our vessel. They were friendly but aloof, coming close but refusing to do any crowd pleasing. Before departure, I was imagining it would be the same with the whales, that they would lumber over to our craft to socialize and mingle with their terrestrial brethren, maybe pose for a couple shots with the kids. It was not that easy. Not for a lack of whales. We were on the water for around two hours and saw numerous groups and pairs, mostly from a distance. Often a fountain of spray would shoot up and you would turn to point your camera at nothing. The shot above was the closest we got to a little group that was swimming about 100-200 yards off our side. For some reason, every time we pointed out whales to Kyle, he said, “Shark!” I guess whales weren’t exciting enough for him.

Branding Heineken

February 27, 2011

Honolulu can be a bit off the beaten track when it comes to the latest in business and culture, so there is an extra sense of appreciation when something cool from the outside world lands in Hawaii. Last week AAF-Hawaii organized a presentation by Remco van der Sluis, the managing director of Holland’s dBOD, a creative agency responsible for, among other things, Heineken’s visual identity. Remco regaled the crowd with his tale of Heineken’s recent brand refresh, which centers around a new iconic bottle design and a subtle update to the legendary logo. The update is not as bold as Starbucks’ recent refresh, but similar in approach. More interesting were some of the creative niche campaigns they came up with: aluminum bottles with graphics that change when exposed to black light (for the raver set), a super-chilled Heineken poured from a special tap and served in a branded glass, and a design-your-own-bottle campaign that allows people to custom design and order their own original bottles online. Each of these campaigns, Remco points out, are ingenious ways of getting consumers to pay a premium for what is essentially exactly the same product. Who says design can’t give you a measurable return on investment?