Skip to content


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?

Designing Brand Identity

February 22, 2011

95% of business books are useless self-promotion. Books on branding, a sub-genre of the category, are no different.

Designing Brand Identity falls in 5% worth owning. It tackles its subject matter with an organized clarity and breadth of scope that is unmatched. This is truly one of those books that won’t sit on your shelf looking pretty and gathering dust. The first section of the book delivers an excellent overview of the fundamentals of branding, the second covers many major phases of a standard branding process, and the third provides a strong set of case studies. You can imagine yourself returning to it again and again for a refresher on parts of the branding process you may be less familiar with. It is also well designed, which is both a relief and a pleasure. There is nothing less credible than a poorly designed book on branding.

In short, this book belongs at the top of the canon with the Aakers and Neumeiers. I wish I had bought this book years ago.

Mmm, Buffalo…

February 21, 2011

Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play. And are invited to the dinner table.

As anyone who grew up playing Oregon Trail can attest, big game was once a staple of the American diet. Today it is a rarity, and not just due to scarcity. Our palettes, tamed into pasteurized submission by the food industry, are no longer comfortable with the broad notes of wild animal flesh.

On a recent trip to South Dakota for my grandfather’s funeral, I became a little obsessed with the idea of eating something wilder than a Lutheran casserole. Several runs through the town of Brookings took us by a restaurant with the minimalistic name Pheasant Lounge, and each time we passed, with diminishing levels of sarcasm, I suggested we eat there.

A final night’s stay in Sioux Falls led to a far more elegant solution to my craving for game. A little internet research yielded up a promising-looking downtown establishment called the Wild Sage Grille.

I’m going to cut to the chase here. The Wild Sage Grille was an awesome experience. If you ever find yourself in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, you will be missing out if you do not treat yourself to a meal there.

The restaurant is nestled within Cherapa Place, which, I am told, is the city’s first LEED certified building. It is a comfortable space, with really beautiful contemporary art pieces along the walls that feature the main menu items: buffalo, pheasant and elk.

I started with a Crow Peak 11th Hour IPA, a hoppy, sweet pale ale brewed in the Black Hills. First out was a pheasant soup with chunky garden vegetables. It was a good setup for a great entree: Buffalo Ribeye with potato de jour and late harvest vegetables. The buffalo was surprisingly tender, just exquisitely prepared. More of a musky flavor than beef, as if a bull had bred with a sheep. To me, that kind of flavor has so much more character than your everyday beefsteak, but maybe I’m just a sucker for all things pungent, intense and different. The walleye my brother ordered was also really well-prepared.

Almost forgot about dessert. We ordered a carrot cake with big, intense chunks of carrot and some kind of whiskey bread pudding. The choice of dessert somehow prompted the appearance of “Whiskey Lady”, a character who enlivened the conversation with her eccentric ways, capping off a very memorable evening of family and food.

A Wonderful Life

February 20, 2011

My grandfather passed away at the end of January at the ripe old age of 89. He lived a full life, with plenty of action, adventure and family. Knowing this softens the blow of his death. Still, with his passing, and my dad’s death last year, I’m feeling a sense of vulnerability as the last in the line of male Williamsons, along with my brother. I know it may sound odd to think that way in this day and age (as if we were some kind of fading ancient race of noble lineage), but I feel it nonetheless.

Or, as my mom bluntly put it: “He was the last solid guy left in the family. Who can I depend on now?”

Anyway, rather than dwelling on the twilight of the Williamson clan, I’d rather say a few words to celebrate the life of the man I called Grandpa. Here are some highlights:

Born and raised in South Dakota. If you take a look at the boyhood picture, note the flatness of the land. That’s South Dakota. Incidentally, I was curious as to what YCL stood for, and Google spat up Youth Communist League. So there’s my grandfather as a young communist. (I’m actually quite curious to find out if that’s what the YCL really stands for.) UPDATE: My Aunt Kristin did a little research and found out that YCL likely stands for Young Citizens League.

Served as an Infantry Captain in WWII in Europe.

Married my grandmother, just the loveliest woman ever. They were a dynamic duo. Had one son (my dad) and two daughters.

Traveled to Jordan in 1955 to provide consultation to their government on irrigation practices. The middle photo, as you might have guessed, is from that period. I have his passport from that period, with stamps indicating travel to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Italy. The handwriting in the passport looks amazingly similar to that of my father’s.

Lived in Alexandria, VA while working for the federal government as a soil scientist. This was fortuitous because it was in an Alexandria high school that my mother and father met.

Keen outdoorsman for most of his life. Hunter, fisherman, and gardener.

Artist and craftsman. In later years he turned his attention to woodworking, making children’s toys and carving iconic Christmas decorations that all of us have stockpiled over the years.

Card shark, coffee drinker and prankster. His approach to life was full of merriment and (small) mischief.

And, as my cousin Brooke reminded us, he was always whistling.