Follow by Email

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Serpent Has No Eyelids: a true story

The Serpent Has No Eyelids: a true story.

My other snake of September turns out to be not a snake at all. On this French island, Belle Ile, after the tourist horde leaves, the paths by the ocean fill up with fast and brilliant green lizards. Mindy and I always wait for their appearance because it means we've got the place to ourselves (along with our friends, the locals).

But last year I found a dried dead snake in a flower valley, and was mystified. Perhaps because Hawaii and Ireland are both sans-serpent, I assumed Belle Ile was, too. Then came this year, and a living version showed up, neatly curled, in the sandy path to the beach.

Only, our friends explained, it was really a lizard--the Orvet--and the only way you can tell is by looking into its eyes. Because it has eyelids, and snakes do not. (Reminding me of Will Smith confronting the agile alien in the opening scene of Men in Black.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Our Neighborhood Is Under Attack From Reality Show Zombies

Here's a slice of today's reality that might give you pause--or, rather, make you wonder if there is such a thing as a "pause" button on real life. Because yesterday the reality tribe invaded our neighborhood...

Evening walk down to the park. It's a nice quiet time. But the little park is packed, with a circus-style 3-ring hyperactive group of hooting, water-squirting, butt-sliding-on-grass 20-somethings. It's a little over the top, we think, trying to have a chat with a friend and check out the surf. But--wait--are those really human beings? Or are they...

Reality show people.

Yes, here in our little beach park. A quiet place, suddenly filled by professional reality show tryouts, beefy guys and bikini'd girls, bodies covered in vegetable oil (!), frantically "having fun" for evaluation purposes.

No cameras, just fake people faking fun at 110 percent.

Because there was no visible explanation of what was going on, an onlooker could be forgiven for thinking he'd wandered onto a Club Med For Robots. The scary part: until we realized what was going on, we were feeling vaguely sad because our "live" lives could never be this much fun. (Or oily.)

It's intriguing how closely the contestants could approximate human beings, like the replicants in Blade Runner. I suppose some might even pass the Turning test, with proper coaching. Mindy heard one girl getting some advice: "Show more commitment. Get into the spirit. You've got to try harder."

So here is what humanity looks like when they're simulating humanity: using that vegetable oil-covered slip-n-slide with a ramp to boost them into a doughnut pool, kicking soccer balls, throwing footballs, doing handstands, chasing each other screaming, smiling relentlessly, teeth bared, butt cracks showing, wardrobe malfunctions a la Janet Jackson (it takes practice to lose just half of your bikini top).

There's a bottom line to this. It's not for the squeamish. You can stop here and feel vaguely superior but also haunted, even threatened by these oily zombies from the fun factory. Or face the reality of reality show people:

They must be destroyed.

Because? They're the real zombies.

How can I tell? They eat brains.

Yours, mine, their own. They don't discriminate.

So we must.

Meet you in the park with torches and pitchforks at sunset. Bring some salad and French bread to sop up the oil.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

And Then There Was None: Hawaii's Newspaper Merger Leaves a Big Black Hole, Perfect for Raising a Fetid State of Corruption

DATELINE HONOLULU -- SLUG: Collapse of journalism, Honolulu Star-Advertiser style

Today's 16-page A section of the newly merged newspaper, which included the editorial pages, had only 1 staff article, 2 signed columns, and an unsigned editorial. The main local contributions were letters. Everything else was off the newswires.

In the 2 weeks since laying off over 100 people and merging the two daily papers, this is what you get--a news vacuum big enough to swallow an entire state. Imagine the joy of the political-business class, who can do what they please without oversight...

But the other question is where are the 100 journalists who still work there? Or should we say "allegedly" work. I'd like to see their contracts.

When you consider that the four local TV network outlets consolidated into one about six months ago--not waiting for FCC approval--the bland smiley face/frowny face Island style of journalism is creepily omnipresent. As a preview of an all-entertainment state--or else a reversion to pre-journalistic 1853 Hawaii--it's undoubtedly a laboratory in how to mentally starve a democracy...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

General McChrystal Loses His Head

"And so, General McChrystal, would you care to repeat what you said about me and Joe Biden? Hmmmmm? Cat got your tongue?"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kayne West's Porsche Crashes Next-Door: A Cultural Appreciation

It's not a great picture, but you get what you can at 4 a.m., which is what time it was when Kayne West's black Porsche rammed our next-door neighbor's garage door. The impact nearly threw us out of bed. The street was filling with people as I came down the steps in my skivvies. Gas pouring out of the car, which didn't even brake, to judge from the lack of skid marks. A last second wrench of the wheel kept Kayne alive, if he was at the helm; though of course his spokespeople denied this. Said he wasn't even in Hawaii. And later, the car was reported stolen, after the fact. So much for all those anti-theft devices that render a modern luxury car secure.

The photo above is the only one in existence, but despite my call to TMZ, no takers. So my career as a paparazzi is on hold. Fortunately, Kayne rented the house a couple blocks away while he was here to make an album with Jack Johnson, whom he met through Ben Harper. You can see where this is going: Kayne West's Slack Key Hawaiian Throw-Down, a downlow expression of exotica, with lots of marimba action.

In the morning, the damage is apparent (second photo). The house in question used to be a modest classic Hawaiian 1940's style, then a defrocked Judge bought it and turned it into the Parthenon, then a candy heiress bought it and added a 7-fountain roofdeck pool. We call it The Bordello. It's a horrible eyesore, but for awhile on Saturday morning it had a certain architectural modishness, thanks to a certain black Porsche--which added $150,000 to the value of the house, if only until the towtruck arrived to haul it away.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Looking for Mister Fat Finger

"Operators of Drones Are Faulted in Afghan Deaths" -- NY Times headline, May 29, 2010

"The civilian deaths highlighted the hazards on relying on remotely piloted aircraft to track people suspected of being insurgents. In this case, as in many others where drones are employed by the military, the people steering and spotting the targets sat at a console in Creech Air Force Base in Nevada."

If you've ever wondered how the drone jockeys of Creech AFB, Nevada, spend their evenings after a day of remote control killing...

There's only one place to go in Creech, and that's the Bar at Indian Springs. Otherwise, a long couple hours drive to Las Vegas. So you get off your shift, stretch your back, step outside--not knowing if you'll find day or night, you're always surprised to have to squint in the sun--and with that feeling in the pit of your stomach that won't go away, you decide you need a drink. Get in the car and drive. Park in the dusty lot. You step into the bar. A bar named Bar--that's the ticket to amnesia. So you've only been out in the bright sunshine for 15 minutes and here you are, back in a dark shadowy cave. You order. Nobody bothers with small talk. Not near an AFB. Mind your own business. Which is to stare your hands and wonder why you didn't wait before pressing >Enter
Or, more likely, to order another cold one and say "F*** that, you did your job. Let God sort them out."

Monday, March 08, 2010

Hormone disruptor shampoo given to young girls at Alice in Wonderland premiere: HuffPo by Mindy Pennybacker

The author of Do One Green Thing lands a post-Oscar punch: what were they thinking giving out falsely labeled organic shampoo at the Alice in Wonderland premiere? Do they want all the young girls to get smaller, smaller, smaller...?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Why Hawaii Won't Ever Get a Huge Tsunami: a contrarian view (with farewell video of evacuation orders via loudspeaker)

Here's the way it was on Saturday morning at 5 a.m. back in those innocent days when we still believed in Papa Tsunami. The very able fire dept truck goes by, broadcasting the evacuation. These are top-notch professionals. (Hawaii firefighters are unique in that they take part in a lot of water rescues, probably more than fire calls.) Next we see a pickup truck loaded with coolers of food and water and a longboard, driven by a local gal. Neighbors on the curb are beginning to draw up plans.

And now, here's something the Tsunami Center won't tell you, as a parting thought: the Hawaiian islands are the most isolated chain in the world, and as such are at a very far remove from the major earthquake fault subduction zones in the Pacific Rim. If you think of the Rim as a circle, Hawaii is in the center. Though there is an active volcanic earthquake scene on the Big Island, these kinds of earthquakes are shallow and unlikely to affect even the neighbor islands in any significant way. I'm from California, where earthquakes are a real threat. My grandfather wrote most of the first earthquake-resistant building code after the 1933 Long Beach quake. He consulted in Chile's reconstruction after the 1960 quake. We grew up talking, and reading about, and comparing experiences with earthquakes in our house.

And my point is this: Hawaii is too far away to ever receive a full on 20+ foot Indonesian-style tsunami except (note emphasis) in those fjords and harbors which funnel the wave force, such as at Hilo, which is the only major population area to suffer a serious loss of life and damage. While there will be tsunamis in the years to come, they will be in the 1 to 4 foot range unless an earthquake even stronger than the largest ever recorded--Chile 1960--strikes opposite those fjords and harbors. At 1 to 4 feet, there may be street flooding and beach erosion and major inconveniences and some loss of life--some dumb surfer is going to get it, one of these days--but nothing compared to what the East Coast goes through 3 or 4 times a year with Nor'easters.

This is the sort of prediction that can outrage people. It can weigh like an albatross if proved wrong, but I'm willing to make it in order to emphasize the kind of provincial and panic-based thinking that goes on, still, in the places that are funded to protect us. They need to keep that funding going, so the danger has to manifest frequently enough to keep the budget line alive.

The places where tsunamis do horrible damage are those closest to the Pacific Rim subduction and strike-fault zones. Japan. Indonesia. Chile. Alaska. The Pacific Northwest. California. They're at the outer circumference of the Rim, not at the center, as we are.

Monday, March 01, 2010

TSUNAMI WRAP-UP: it was all about the shopping, folks

Increasingly likely that the tsunami, while serious in Chile and in theory, was highjacked as an excuse for the media and hotel folks to cook up a huge one-day shopping event that would boost the sagging local economy, raise TV ratings (and hence ad rates), mention all the stores and gas stations (advertisers) where you could stock up, and virtually force the tourists to order room service food in the expectation they'd be marooned for a week.

To be clear: the threat was real, but the Pacific Center knew by 6 am it would not be a major event, yet they and the Hawaii powers let an entire day unfold at crisis tempo.

We know how media works: it's exactly what happened with The Weather Channel in the two years following Katrina. Expecting an increase in hurricanes and preparing to get bought out, TWC turned every weather event into a catastrophe. And then sat there mumbling while no hurricanes hit the US for the next two years.

The plantation mentality in Hawaii is to just say, "Thank God nobody was hurt," and ignore the flaws and scare-mongering. Unfortunately, the odds of a free press shedding any light on the subject just went down a lot, given the fact that the day before the Tsunami alert the two Honolulu papers, The Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin, merged. The latter paper buying out the former and closing it--and this six months after all four local TV news stations merged.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

waiting for the Hawaii tsunami that wasn't

What we find is that rumors are their own kind of natural disaster. A siren at dawn. Loudspeakers on a truck. A sea of people moving this way and that, taking orders--buy 7 days of food and water, stay in your hotel... It's also true that this is a drill for The Next One. My problem with that? It's the third such drill this year in Hawaii. And I wonder what the experts knew and when they really knew it.

For instance, the local Star Bulletin led with a front page story on Tourism Returns to Hawaii, and buried the AP report on the tsunami on Page 5. This in Hawaii, where a similar Chile quake in 1960 devastated the islands? If it were truly news, and the Star Bulletin truly a newspaper, wouldn't that be on the cover?

My green author and blogging wife, Mindy Pennybacker, put some of these thoughts up on Huffington Post and drew a sharp series of "how dare you" comments. Yet we were in New York City on 9/11 and know people who lived that day because they disregarded those very pompous experts who like to believe they have the right to herd us like sheep.

running to higher ground TSUNAMI

Last view of Kapiolani Park in Honolulu empty as a police cruiser warns of a tsunami wave. Gotta run to high ground now. Aloha!~

TSUNAMI civil defense radar on Diamond Head

Back from a walk around Diamond Head. The civil defense mobile radar is in place. The sea has filled with boats, as owners and sailors are taking them out to be safe. An unusual sight, like Dunkirk on a sunny day. The farmers market at KCC was open, so I bought 3 papaya, choy sum, manoa lettuce and 3 organic chocolate bars. I credit my emergency ration response to Do One Green Thing, the new book by Mindy Pennybacker. And, yes, that's my plug for the day!

TSUNAMI VIDEO we go down to the sea to see

Here is our walk from the house to the beach this morning at 6:30. The sirens went off. The emergency trucks came by telling us it's a mandatory evac. We talk with neighbors about where to go (up the volcano on foot). Got water. Got Spam. Here comes the next siren, much louder.

With the wave now expected to arrive at 11 am we have a few hours. How to spend them? I think we may go for a walk around Diamond Head, stretch out. Cell phones are out, the evacuation zone maps online are crashed. Gonna see how long the Internet holds up.

This is when ham radio suddenly becomes relevant again.

TSUNAMI will head straight up our street in 5 hours

Here's Coconut Avenue, looking up at Diamond Head from the beach access. Which also will be the tsunami access in 5 hours. Think of this as a "before" shot.

TSUNAMI as economic opportunity? who's making money?

Lot's wife looked back. Should I?

Or should I just keep blogging?

This is a job opportunity, right? The new economy would call this an example of Shumpeter's "creative destruction" - and I'm going to be there to cash in on the ground floor. I bet a lot of fish will be left high and dry when the suckout comes. Probably find some spare change.

In the meantime, the merchants are opening up ahead of time for those early bird specials.

TSUNAMI PATH to our house: no picnic

This lovely scene may shortly witness untold destruction: Le'ahi Beach Park, South Shore Oahu, under the Diamond Head volcano. The predicted 12 foot tsunami will come rolling up here in approximately 5 and a half hours. We live 300 yards inland, at the end of the street. Photo: Don Wallace

TSUNAMI still no daylight doing preparedness drills

Filling the bathtub and looking out to sea in the dark.

Charging the cell phone, the Canon PowerShot and the Sony DV-mini-cam (professional quality).

We have matches, bbq propane. Canned food and drink. A bottle of Laphroaig.

The announcers saying lines are forming at gas stations, stores. Tourists will go to higher floors of hotels, third floor and up. Buses are coming.

A 12 foot wave is coming. That is going to be HUGE. It's serious.

Our Filipino tenant came up to warn us. He got a call from his grandmother in Manila, where his family was dislocated by the cyclone flooding and he lost his grandfather. We'll keep an eye on him, and he'll keep an eye on us.

TSUNAMI 5:17 am the experts already sent their families away?

Hmmm. On the tube here the experts let slip their families evacuated hours ago. That should tell us something.

We're at the end of Coconut Avenue, where it runs straight from the ocean up to our stairs. About a quarter mile from the surf break known as...wait for it... Suicide's.

So far we're holding. They're saying add water for 7 days. Food. Oops. Better get busy!

p.s. mayor hanneman is unavailable, on a junket to the Mainland. thank heavens we don't have to listen to a politician

TSUNAMI the bulldog knew at time of quake

Marley the neighbor's bulldog went missing right around the time of the Chile quake. No birds chirping, though. The popular indicators of a major event like tsunami, quake seem to be missing - except for the newscasters sternly warning us to not go swimming.

Still, a big one coming. Our third this year. Can't remember even one in the last 33 years. That says something, according to Pat Robertson. I think it's because we haven't passed comprehensive health care with a public option.

TSUNAMI 4:55 am report Hawaii

ONLY 2 CANS OF SPAM??? What kind of emergency is this that they ration fried processed meat byproducts? Only in Hawaii. 4:51 am Tsunami Time.

TSUNAMI coming here

We're up at 3:30 am in Honolulu getting word. Sirens at 6 am. We will probably be forced to evacuate, and the road below us forms a highway to our doorstep on the slopes of the volcano. I've got an urge to just climb up Diamond Head and film it. Mindy is deciding whether or not to surf it. Kidding.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Amazon wants to control all content? Bad news for all of us

Once again, Amazon still won't sell any books from Macmillan, even though it says it will. With the e-book a reality and this one company, Amazon, controlling 75% of online sales, book pubishing is heading down the road music industry took after Ticketmaster gained control of all concert venues. It's not a free market ...if one company owns it. Especially when the day is approaching when a post like mine will result in my books disappearing from Amazon as well.