Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The end of the year and Oughts review

It's that time of year again. The timer on the current year is expiring and the clock of the new year is about to begin ticking. Funny thing about time passing. It was just ten years ago that we were celebrating the new millennium. Many people were worried about the Y2K bug and would our world continue to function as it always has. At the same time we were looking forward to what the new millennium would have for us. Now the Oughts Decade has passed. I'm trying to avoid the debate whether this was the first decade of the new millennium or not, if the decade goes from 0 to 9 or 1 to 0 so I'll stick with the Decade of the Oughts; you know, where the first three digits were 200. In the blink of an eye ten years has come and gone, what has happened during that time. Time for reflection and planning.

I remember on December 31, 1999 watching the TV, glued to see the celebrations around the world. From Chatham Island to the Samoas, the new millennium swept across the globe. Standing on Waikiki Beach that night feet in the sand, feeling the breeze on my face and watching the fireworks both there off shore and down at Honolulu Harbor I was in debt, going through a buy out at work, and wondering if the lights would go off on the island. Luckily, the lights stayed on.

In July of Ought One, me and 60+ other employees were pulled into a meeting with the VP of Customer Care of the company who had flown in from Texas. After being bought out a bit over a year earlier they were shutting us down. Was I mad. No. I had learned that as an employee you are just like the copier paper. You are there to be used for the business to make money. I gave them my time and skills and they gave me a pay check. They had also sent me to Kansas on several occasions to work on a project for the company.

As people were leaving the call center, on Friday, September 7, I interviewed and was hired on the spot for a position with a computer training company. That was the last day the Honolulu Call Center was in operation. I started on Monday, September 10. The next day, the equivalent of this generation's Pearl Harbor happened with the attack at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I was able to keep my position.

In Ought Four a major mile stone had been accomplished with getting out of debt. My last credit card was paid off and I started a savings account. The feeling was something that I hope more people can feel. I had to fight with the credit card company to send out a last bill showing the zero balance. I wanted proof that I had cleared my obligation to them! Since then people have poked fun at me because I did things like not have cable and for a long time I had dial up and not high speed internet access.

Technology was changing and in Ought Five I bought my first digital camera. It was exciting to come into the age of downloading photos instead of developing film. Podcasts entered my life, specifically Disney podcasts. Then it happened again. The company that I was working for was going out of business. Luckily I was hired by the training company that bought the customer list from the old training company. I worked there just three days and my first extended trip to Disneyland occurred. It was a great time taking over fifteen hundred pictures with the new camera. It was at this time I discovered that dial up wasn't going to cut it anymore. Uploading the pictures made me realize that I needed high speed internet so I signed up for DSL access.

Another first in Ought Five was my first Honolulu Marathon. I hadn't done race training so I walked it. There is a huge sense of accomplishment crossing that finish line for the first time. Just seconds under nine hours, hurting feet, chaffing, sun burn and blisters didn't diminish the feeling. It was almost as intense as the feeling of paying off the last credit card.

Ought Six brought another technology toy to me. I purchased my first video camera with my tax return and started posting videos up on YouTube. The new job had some advantages, the first was it was only four fifths of a mile from my house. When my car died I didn't worry since work was so close. It was easy enough to catch the bus or take the twenty minute walk. The second advantage was the company's international conference was taking place in Orlando. I was given the opportunity to attend. The trip allowed me to visit Walt Disney World for the first time in seventeen years. Ten days at Walt Disney World in Florida was followed up by six days at Disneyland in Anaheim. It was here that I met in person the head of the Disney Podcast Network which is a collection of Disney podcasts and a forum for discussion along with other members of the discussion boards. Friendships had been born on that trip I know will last a life time.

Meandering Mouse Club TV, my Disney podcast came about in Ought Seven as a result of an event at Disneyland, the first official DPN Westfest. I was asked by the head of the DPN to join the DPN as a video podcaster. He liked the videos that I had posted up on YouTube. The influence of the DPN helped me go to the Hong Kong and Tokyo Disneyland resorts in a single trip. I then headed back to Walt Disney World that same year with a new high definition camera. It was the year of the Disney trips. In October with all the videos of Hawaii up on YouTube I actually started the Trapped in Paradise podcast, a video podcast about Hawaii that I had been talking about for several months.

Ought Eight was the year of the social network. Plurk and Twitter were coming into their own. Facebook was taking off. I had upgraded my phone to a camera phone with data and internet access. It was amazing to start seeing people's real time updates from their daily lives or in my case their Disney trips. Work was getting tough with the downturn in the economy. There were signs happening that the company was in trouble. This year had a trip to Disneyland for the DPN Westfest event and then in October a trip to Disneyland Paris. In about eighteen months I had managed to travel to all the Disney parks around the globe. To the best of my knowledge, I was the first podcaster to travel to all the parks. Through social media, I heard of all sorts of people that I know personally or indirectly loosing their job.

The big change for Ought Nine was being laid off from my job in March. Frankly, it was all for the best. I was happy! Since I didn't have a job, I have been able to do all sorts of things including taking a creative writing class, going to all sorts events and places that before I wouldn't or couldn't do, wrote a novel and did the Honolulu Marathon for a third time. Without the restriction of working regular hours I was asked to be part of the In The Loop podcast which talks about the amusement park industry in general. Thanks to Clint and Pat for the opportunity. Being debt free and having a savings account has enabled me a level of freedom that I wish could go on forever.

Standing on the beach during the waning moments of the twentieth century, did I know that I would be participating in marathons, traveling to the global Disney parks, to personally produce video content or be part of audio content that could be consumed globally, to meet friends around the globe via the internet, write a novel, be debt free, be involuntarily shuffled between four employers like vegetable cans at the grocery store, be traveling for work to Kansas, Texas and other locations in the US or end the Oughts by writing a blog post and tweeting to friends welcoming in the new year as it passes though the different time zones? No way, not in my wildest imagination.

When the clock rolls from December 31, 2009 11:59:59 to 12:00:00 on January 1, 2010 the Oughts decade come to the end. What will future hold, who knows at this point. I do remember someone telling me, the best way to predict the future is to create it. I hope to accomplish many things. I realize that I need to set goals and not resolutions. Having strong enough goals will lead to the discipline necessary to accomplish those goals. One goal is to write a book that will be published. The other is to be self employed. With four involuntary job transitions over ten years, I want to create my future instead of leaving it to someone else, letting them dictate my future. Let it be on my shoulders, not some board of directors or other business owner.

Traveling is another option that I really want to embrace. Visiting overseas locations in Asia and Europe was so exciting! I hope to have more experiences that are just as exciting! Developing myself so that I can help others needs to be a priority. Since being laid off, I have realized that I hadn't spent time to work on myself as a person. If I don't improve myself, how can I expect to help others?

I've been so very blessed. Back in 1999, my future was bright and I didn't know it. I believe this statement from Jeremiah 29:11, "I know the thoughts I think of you says the Lord, thoughts of good and not evil, thoughts for a hope and a future". I stand on this promise. I expect 2010 and beyond to be even brighter than the Decade of the Oughts. I wish for and believe the same for you. As we say in Hawaii, Hau'oli Makahkihi Hou!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Movie Review: Avatar in IMAX 3D

So I finally did it, I broke down and paid the $15.00 to see Avatar in IMAX 3D. On the back side, Regal Theaters isn't going to get any soda money out of me for a few more shows. Although Regal claims to have IMAX, it's not the huge screen like we used to have in Waikiki or the one at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I guess could be called IMAX Lite, check out the details here. I ended up missing the first show of the day and went to the second. When I arrived 30 minutes before the movie, there was a huge line ticket line and once I headed inside, there was a big line to get into the theater. About ten minutes before the show started the theater was already so crowded that groups of people were breaking up into single seats. I haven't seen a show pack out like that in a l-o-n-g time.

Directed by James Cameron, the same guy who directed the highest grossing film of all time, Titanic; this film has been reported to cost between$300 and $500 million dollars to create. If you're going to spend that kind of money, why not make it a long one, 162 minutes running time so if you split the difference it cost about two and a half million dollars per minute. In the area of gee whiz incredible looking film, this has it. For the story, the dialogue and plot run a little long. It could have been tightened up. (Side note: As I write this James Cameron is on Jimmy Kimmel and the number of $500 million was bandied about between the two, so that would mean about $3.1 million per minute to make)

A former jar head, Jake Sulley (Sam Worthington) is brought to the planet Pandora. He's part of a plan to move the Na'vi natives to another area so that his employer can get into an area to mine for rare and very lucrative mineral. The idea is to put his conscience into an avatar, a body that is composed of the DNA material of the natives and his own. The avatar project is controlled by Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver). Once in a body that can handle the environment, Jake can mingle with the locals. While roaming the landscape, he meets Neytiri of the Na'vi (Zoe Saldana) who teaches him about the planet. But that plan takes time and the Colonel (Stephen Lang) would just like to use firepower and might to take what they want.

The Na'vi are produced using motion capture like Robert Zemeckis did in Disney's A Christmas Carol. The result is much different since the Na'vi are humanoid but not humans. With their blue skin and extended height, it works where it didn't quite in Christmas Carol.

As you get to see Pandora, the imagery is breath taking. The types of plants, animals, and the scope of the different environs are simply amazing. The look of many of the flora and fauna remind me of vertebrae and invertebrates that you would find in the deep ocean where no light exist. They appear to have bioluminescence and at times look like the planet was splashed with those special paints and then someone turned on the black light. Ever see Michael Jackson's Billy Jean where he walks the street lights up? The Na'vi's footsteps produce the same effect on Pandora.

At times the visuals are overwhelming and that contributed to the feeling that the movie was too long. I'm not saying they were bad just that my mind spent time trying to comprehend just how massive objects and locations on Pandora really were. A couple of times I had to shut down my mind from trying to figure out "how would that be possible?" and trying to work out the physics. I had to remind myself just to accept it and Cameron did a good job not trying to get caught up in those details.

As mentioned earlier, the plot needed some help . Some times the details weren't given which was good but at other times too much was given. I really think something that would have helped out is if Cameron took a clue from Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the guys from South Park) in Team America: World Police. " When you need to put yourself to the test, and show us a passage of time We're gonna need a montage! MONTAGE!"

Cameron has also taken a page out of Hayao Miyazaki's story background as shown in Ponyo and Princess Mononoke using Gia or Mother Earth or in this case, Mother Pandora. This subject often included in a plot when the antagonist wants to take resources from the planet. They don't hit you over the head like An Inconvenient Truth, but they don't let it pass either.

Come Oscar time, I'm sure that this movie will be up for a number of awards. Just like Titanic, I feel confident in that they will take awards in the area of technology and background. Awards like sound effects editing, best editing, and best sound will probably go to Avatar. If it doesn't win best visuals, I'd be shocked. I don't think that any of the acting awards will be heaped upon the actors in this movie although they may be nominated.

When it comes time to head out to the theater, you'll have the choice of regular 2D, 3D, or IMAX 3D. I did enjoy the 3D with the depth that it added to the movie. It wasn't the 3D that comes out of the screen, but having the depth really added to the experience with the huge scopes they were trying to convey. When I came out of my show there were lines for each format waiting outside of the lobby to get in and enjoy with the IMAX 3D line being the longest. Too bad the Polynesian Cultural Center didn't show Avatar on their IMAX screen this weekend. They could have made a killing!

The show was rated PG-13 due to some of the violence of the battle scenes and fighting.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Honolulu Marathon Mania!

Today, December 13, 2009 was the 37th annual Honolulu Marathon. Let me say right up front, a big mahalo nui to all the people who have supported me through Plurk, Twitter, or Facebook Status updates. You don't know how much it means to me. Even Jeff on his trip to Tokyo checked in. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

This unemployment "thing" has allowed me to do some things that I've wanted to do but hadn't. I've done the marathon twice before but walked the course in 2005 and 2006. With a thanks to Trace over at the Disney Dudes podcast, he clued me into the Couch to 5K program. Long story short, with the program I am able to run 5K or just over three miles in about 35 minutes.

The game plan for the marathon was to run one mile, walk one mile then repeat the last two steps until course is complete. The target time was 6.5 hours. That's what I was hoping to do! Ahh the Dream!

So night before the race, I headed to bed at 7pm in order to get 8 hours sleep. Unfortunately, I was woken twice by some one in the neighborhood shooting of aerial fireworks. Hawaii does allow fire works, but only for the Fourth of July and New Years but aerials are as they say in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Right Out!

The alarm went off at 3am. Got up and walked down to the course. I wish I could get credit for that walking. It's 1.25 miles from The Apartment in Paradise to the starting area. Arrived at 4:15am. The Hawaii Kai Jaycees help with the starting line and I know them. It was then I realized that I had forgotten my bus pass to either 1) allow me to get a bus off the course if I didn't complete or 2) take the bus from the finish line. Mahalo to my friend Peggy who loaned me three bucks!

The starters gun when off and the fireworks that they use to start the marathon immediately followed. It happened at 5am but it took me almost 19 minutes to get across the starting mats with almost 24,000 entrants. Thank god for chip technology! I clicked the i-pod to kick off the Nike+ to record the event and provide music.

Everything was going well. Down Ala Moana blvd, up Nuuanu onto King, turn onto Piikoi back onto Ala Moana Blvd then Kalakaua Ave which is the main drag through Waikiki. One of the parts that I like about this walk is heading past all the buildings in the downtown area that are decorated for the Christmas season. I love watching all the tourists, especially Japanese tourists stop to take pictures of the sights.

At the end of main section of Kalakaua Ave is Kapiolani Park where the marathon ends. For those people doing the Marathon walk, they left at this point and the rest of us heading up Monsarrat Ave and turned right onto Paki Ave. From Paki Ave, participants turn left to head up Diamond Head Road. By the time I had got to this point, the winner had already crossed the finish line. I still had 20 miles to go. At this point, I discovered, while I had music from the i-pod, it wasn't recording the run data. DANG it! Diamond Head Road has the steepest incline and highest elevation, about 125 feet above sea level for this course. Everything is on track except for the i-pod mix up.

At mile 8 and 9 is where my problems started. I slowed down to grab Gatorade and water. I then tried to start running again and my outside of my knees were giving me issues. When I started down the slope of 18th Ave, I could really feel the pain on the outside of the joints. UGH!

Onto Kilauea Ave and then Kalanianaole Hwy.

I hit the wall in that I was sort of like a car in idol that wouldn't shift into gear. I couldn't get my body to bend the knees high enough to get into a running mode. Well, I could keep walking anyway. By this time the sun was high and my coconut woven hat was providing protection from the sun.

The only thing that is really giving me an issue at this point is the knees. The feet seem to be OK and the new Under Armor shorts are doing their thing. Energy gels are being consumed and no need for that biological break. Along the way I'm taking a few pictures and video and tweeting them up to the Internet.

Four more miles and I'm heading into Hawaii Kai. My fingers are starting to swell. Part of running a marathon for the time that I'm on the course.

I realize at this point as I go by the 30K timer (about 16 miles) that I am WAY off pace and that dream of 6.5 hours to finish is not going to happen. My fingers become sausages and I really can't bend them anymore to send text messages or push buttons.

Travel around Hawaii Kai and then back out to Kalanianaole Hwy for the return trip. As I'm approaching the Waialea Country Club and Kealaolu I'm thinking that I'm not going to be able to beat my last time and maybe not even the time for the first marathon. Crap!

Onto Kahala Ave and I start to feel some things. The Under Armor has done its best but between the sweat, heat on my back and the time, the chaffing starts. I can also start to feel a blister on my foot. I have four miles to go. Heading up the slow incline to Diamond Head I feel argh-y (for lack of a better term). Two kilometers and I'm heading down the steeper incline. My knees are screaming at me and I feel a blister on my right foot and toe. I'm beating myself up because my grand plan to better my time hasn't worked out the way I had hoped.

As I entered Kapiolani Park, there are some people on the side cheering runners onto the finish line. I wanted to try to run the last part of the marathon, but my knees would not cooperate. As I approached the finish line, my coconut hat got noticed by the announcers. They thought I was someone else, a local businessman that created the "Live Aloha" bumper sticker, but they finally looked at the roster and got my name and announce it. I crossed the finish line at 8:34:13 which was 9 seconds shorter than my chip time from my first race. The chip time brought it down to 8:15:31. Almost two hours longer than I had hoped.

I took my winner shot and then hobbled off the course and out into the park. I wasn't able to get a winner t-shirt as I was late coming in and they ran out of 2XL. But I did get my winner medal. And an apple! And some oatmeal cookies! I'm not worried about the t-shirt as I'm not a t-shirt type of person with the opu (stomach) that I carry. I headed to the bus stop to go home. I then tried to text message but the fingers were still fat so I said "swollen fingers...can't txt" in a tweet. Easier to tweet when you're not walking and waiting on a bench. It was painful going up the bus stairs and the driver was kind enough to only have me pay $2.00 since I didn't have $0.25 in change, only another dollar bill. I couldn't wait to get home to clean up and start treating my body.

It took me 25 minutes to get from the bus stop to The Apartment in Paradise. Normally when I'm not in pain it is a four minute walk. I had to thank the drivers on the second side of the road for waiting for me while I was still crossing and they had the green light after I had received the white walking guy and then the flashing red hand.

Once home I took inventory of the body. I learned on my first marathon, don't remove the shoes. The feet swell and the blisters form. Leave them alone until you want to take off the shoes and not put them back on because trying to stuff swollen blistered fee back in there creates more pain. I love looking at the kaleidoscope of colors the feet turn. I have blisters on the side of the ball of each foot. Left foot, small toe blister on the inside between toes. Left foot big toe fine, but toe next door, blister under the toe nail. On the right foot, blister under the big toe nail and all around the toe nail next door as well as the small toe. No blisters on the bottom of the feet. All the toe nails that have blisters around them, will probably fall out. First time it happened was freaky, but I know what to expect now.

Knees are stiff, but better than during the race. Under Armor did as good as it could. Forearms, slightly sunburned as well as the side of the neck. My back is fine as well as my neck. I've learned to keep upright during the marathon. But, I didn't relax my shoulders and they are sore. On my inside right upper arm and left chest under the arm I do have some chaffing there from the seams of the shirt. I should be back to normal in less than a week for all but the toe nail issues. With walking and stand being difficult, I ordered pizza and chicken wings for dinner.

To the people who serve Hawaii by volunteering to hand out sponges, spray water, give out drinks, man the starting line, helping at the first aid stations and finish line or just cheer along the course encouraging people, a Big Mahalo Nui to all of you.

The students at Hawaii Pacific University say that the marathon has over a $100,000,000 economic impact to the State of Hawaii. I don't think you know how much your smiles, cups of cold water, sticks of Vaseline (no they are not serving energy gel on a stick at the aid stations), shaka signs or other words of encouragement mean to the people on the course.

Lastly, part of the marathon experience in Hawaii is the way that people dress to run. We have Maori and Hawaiian warriors, brides and grooms, regular and sexy Santas with accompanying elves, and a plethora of animated characters including Pikachu and Dragon Ball Z denizens. One person that amazes me is Geta Man. He runs with the traditional Japanese wooden sandals (see example here). In the past I couldn't imagine what it does to his feet. Well, today I could. He was sitting down in the area leading up to the finish line. The place where the velvet straps cover his foot was rubbed raw and looked nasty. But he still does it every year. Hope to see him there next year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Movie Review: The Princess and the Frog

For many months now we've been bombarded with stories both on TV and in writing about Disney's return to hand drawn animation and their first African-American princess, Tiana, in The Princess and the Frog. The movie has been playing in limited release in Los Angeles and New York and today (December 11, 2009) finally was made available in general release. While there was a hint the movie would be hit with Tiana costumes selling out at Halloween, I can say that the movie was worth the wait.

The last attempt at hand drawn animation done by Disney was back in 2004 with Home on the Range. That movie was forgettable. It was so forgettable that I had to look up the movie on IMDB to remember what it was. Since then John Lasseter and the Pixar gang came on board with Disney. One of the qualities that Pixar is known for is having a story with a solid plot and characters that have depth and emotions. With Lasseter as the Chief Creative Officer, that philosophy rubbed off and wa-la, we have a story with charm, character, depth and that holds your attention.

The original story from the Brothers Grimm had been reworked to bring us the story of Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), an African-American waitress in 1920's New Orleans who dreams of owning her own restaurant. In steps Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) and his assistant Lawrence (Peter Bartlett) who run into Voodoo practitioner Dr Facilier (Keith David) who wants to bring over his friends "from the other side" and turns Naveen into a frog. In the twist to the story instead of the kiss returning Naveen to his human form, Tiana turns into a frog. Some twist as it's been in every preview and ad for the movie. Naveen and Tiana in their journey to transform out of their amphibian form meet Ray the firefly (Jim Cummings) with a heart bigger than his butt and Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley), an alligator who blows a mean horn and has the dream to join a jazz band.

Dr Facilier is right up there with the Disney villains. Called by Tiana, The Shadow Man, with voodoo magic on his side, he uses it to his advantage. While the movie is rated G, the minions that he is able to use to help carry out his plans were somewhat scary. As shadows that were able to grab people and objects, it was a dark side that is normally not explored in these sort of movies.

The scenery is detailed and beautiful. The mansions, the riverboat, downtown New Orleans, and the French Quarter look amazing. Out in the bayou, the greens and other vegetation draw you in. When Tiana and Naveen meet Ray and Ray introduces the rest of his firefly family I sat their with my mouth open. I loved the use of light and the points of light to tell the story and accent points in the journey. Marvelous! There was some computer animation to add to the movie. Just as the ballroom was computer generated in Beauty and the Beast, the computer was an adjunct tool rather than the only tool used.

With Randy Newman providing the music, it filled in the missing pieces to round out the experience. New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz so of course that was included along with Zydeco and a gospel choir selection. While for me no one song stood out, they all combined to move the story forward.

The one sequence that did stand out for me was "Almost There". Tiana is working hard as a waitress saving her money to be able to achieve her own dream. She is telling her mom about her plans to take a broken down location and turn it into an experience for good food with good friends. The animation changes to a stylized form and the dream that she is passionate about leaps off the screen with the music, lyrics, animation, imagery and color that make you almost taste the gumbo that she wants to serve in her new eatery.

In regards to how the bad guy is finally taken down, I was thrilled that they didn't resort to the age old, time tested and honored method of dispatching the baddy. The Evil Queen, Maleficent, Clayton, and Gaston all met their end falling over some sort of precipice. When Dr Facilier met his end I was like "Yes! This is different!!" A definite thumbs up on how the bad guy was vanquished!

There have been some comments in the press and online about The Princess and the Frog riding on the coattails of the election of Barrack Hussein Obama as the first African-American President. This is a bunch of hog hooey. This movie has been in the making for over three years and then Senator Obama announced on February 10, 2007 his Presidential aspirations. In the second half of 2006 Randy Newman was selected for the music and casting calls went out. Both events predating any announcement of and election of now President Obama. Who knows, maybe he was inspired by the movie to run for the highest office in the land?

Off my soap box. It's a wonderful story about both wishing and working for your dreams to come true. I'll be seeing the movie a second time as I know there were a lot of details that I missed the first time. There are many visuals to absorb in the 97 minute running time.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Movie Review: Transylmania

Well, it was bound to happen. With vampires showing up in both the movies and on TV, someone was bound to make a spoof movie. Transylmania is that movie. I was expecting something along the lines of the Scary Movie franchise. Turns out they were trying to take themselves a little more seriously having a legitimate plot and some legitimate laughs. Neither were very consistent.

The basic premise of the movie is that Rusty (Oren Skoog) has met Draguta (Irena Hoffman), a hot looking Romanian chick on the Internet. He decides to study abroad in Romania in order to hook up with her. In the processes he has managed to convince a number of his friends to go with him. As they travel over they find out that the school, Razvan U, is located in a castle that has a vampire history in a book written about the school by one of the school's professors, a vampire slayer, Teodora van Sloan (Musetta Vander). Skoog gets double duty playing Radu, the head vampire.

So initially the movie starts of as a road trip, then a buddy movie with LOTS of buddies. Usually buddy movies are two friends, or maybe four with couple pairings; this movie had ten. Two of the students are stoners. There is the vampire lore set up at by the telling of the castle history and several love stories both with human and vampires included. Add in some of the physical and visual "humor" of a Scary Movie and mix well. Unfortunately, when the cupcaskets come out of this oven, some are topped very nicely and others are half baked.

The stoners are Pete (Patrick Cavanaugh) and Wang (Paul Hansen Kim) who are always looking for the good buzz. They add the Harold and Kumar element to this movie. Funny thing is Wang's hair is a tribute to Bride of Frankenstein. They were the funniest thing about this movie.

As the vampire slayer van Sloan, Vander does an OK job. Although watching her where she is out trying to kill Radu or teaching her students about self defense reminded me of Catherine Zeta Jones in The Legend of Zorro. Very feisty and sexy dressed up in all the leather. They just needed to add the soft light filter. Grrrr.

The cornerstone of the movie was about Radu and his love Stephania and a music box. This sets up all the conflict for the movie as Radu searches for the music box in order to get Stephania back. This by itself as the plot for a regular not satiric vampire movie would have worked on it's own. Vampire finds sorceress, vampire looses sorceress, vampire works to get sorceress back, a tale as old as time. The majority of the rest of the plot seems to be taken from recycled Scooby Doo scripts. "I would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those dang kids!"

With the castle, I'm not sure how much was stage and how much was real. In the credits they did thank various Romanian agencies. There were a number of scenes both inside and outside the castle where you could see the actor's breath. For this movie, I have to believe it was real. I couldn't see them visually adding this as a special effect especially since no one was complaining that the place was cold or uncomfortable that way. Think Jack and Rose as they became ice cubes, that was an added visual.

The movie has fart jokes (sorry, but do they ever get old? and a small tip of the hat to Young Frankenstein), getting stoned, buddy misunderstandings, good guy/bad guy look a likes, weird sex positions, bared breasts and vomiting that all earn this one hour thirty two minute movie its R rating.

Should you go see this? Well, if you have some loose change at the bottom of you pocket that adds up to the price of the matinee ticket and you really, really have to do something with it, eh, why not. If you're tastes are a little bit higher, I think Planet 51 is still playing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fear and excitement about the Honolulu Marathon

Today I received my packet for the Honolulu Marathon. It brought some feelings to the surface that I haven't had in a while.

I remember my first marathon back in 2005.


I was excited. I did a lot of walking so I figured 26.2 miles shouldn't be a problem About half way through I had some pains in my foot. What do to? Well, half way done...gonna complete it. When I finished, I took the bus home and big blisters on my feet and under my toe nails, chafing that was bad, sunburn and overall soreness. But I had done it. I had problems walking for two days. I had walked the course just seconds under 9 hours from the time the gun went off but in 8:35:22 chip time. I hurt for a week and a couple of weeks later I lost a toe nail. BUT, I had done it!


In 2006 I did the marathon again, but this time I was better prepared to walk the course, learning lessons from the previous year to be applied to this year. I spent a little bit of money to help avoid the pain. I had under armour compression shorts, under armour shirt, energy gels, better shoes and music, sun screen, and a woven coconut hat (Hey, it got me noticed at the finish line besides keeping the sun off my face). I did much better and only ended up forming blisters during the last mile. I didn't improve the socks from the previous year. As a result, I ended up with 7:51:42 chip time. I didn't run as I had hoped but again, I had completed the task at hand.

I went to Walt Disney World during the 2007 marathon. It was good that I didn't participate even though I had paid for my entry. It rained and there were problems with the timing chips. Last year, 2008 I was asked by a group of JCs to help at the starting line. I was part of a group of people that helped the runners get started and then cheered them on as they came down Piikoi Street and turned onto Ala Moana Blvd heading into Waikiki.

This year, I once again signed up. A slight difference for this outing is that I had been laid off. As a result, I actually had a chance to do some training. I was clued into a program called from Couch to 5K. Again, Mahalo nui to Trace over at the Disney Dudes podcast. In nine weeks I went from not being able to run a minute without heavy gasping and pain to being able to run for 3.1 miles, a 5K distance. I wish I could say it was a breeze for the 5K but not quite. I just know that I can run consistently for a 5K distance and not end up doing a technicolor yawn.

So the pickup packet notice arrives today and I had both fear and excitement flood my body. I will be attempting to run part of the course. The game plan is to run a mile and walk a mile repeat last two steps until course is completed. My target is 6.5 hours chip time. That would put me crossing the finish line between 11:30am and noon HST. I have excitement because I'll be taking on a challenge that I haven't done before...RUNNING on the marathon course. But I have fear because I know what sort of pain just walking the course provided the first year.

Then why do it? Because as much as I hurt the first time I participated, it didn't compare to the elation that I felt when I crossed that finish line. The prize of self accomplishment outweighs the pain. If you'd like to follow me, my runner number is 584. On Sunday, December 13, you'll be able to go to and put in my number. As I cross the various check points (starting line, 10K, half marathon, 40K and finish line) you'll be able to see the times posted almost in real time. In addition, I'll have a camera phone with me on this go around and I plan on posting up to the web to my facebook, twitter and flickr accounts. I hope you'll come along for the ride!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

New Moon is supposed to have a big opening weekend leading into the Thanksgiving holiday. It probably will regardless of what I write here. Team Vampire Edward or Team Werewolf Jacob? Could care less, I just wanted to see a good movie. I saw the first movie and only know the story by the movies.

The first movie Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) meets this mysterious person, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). I bit of mystery, a bit of intrigue until the big reveal, he's a vampire. He can read other peoples thoughts but not hers. She's attracted to the bad boy vampire who pulls her bacon out of the fire a couple of times (avoids getting crushed by a car and possible brutalization by some thugs). They get along. Alright, I can deal with that.

We get into this episode the heroine Bella is all moody. She's having her birthday getting older but Edward being a vampire is permanently frozen physically at age 17 although he's really now 109. She doesn't want to loose him so she's asking him to turn her into a vampire. He says no because she doesn't understand the ramifications of becoming a blood sucker including the state of her soul.

Through a series of events Edward says that he must leave her forever in order to protect her. She wants to go. He says no and disappears. She chases after him but he can move super fast and she can't so there's no way she's going to catch him. She figures he'll come back to protect her so she decides to sleep in the forest. Never mind about her dad and his concern that his daughter is missing.

Bella gets all depressed and hangs in her bed room ignoring the world as it passes by. She finally decides to join the living. While out with a classmate she ignores the classmate for another reckless act with possible thugs on a motorcycle. During the escapade Edward appears to her. She figures that the adrenaline rush causes the Edward image. She decides that she'll trying riding a motorcycle to try to get Edward back. She enlists her childhood friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) to help her repair a motor cycle. During the process she starts to fall for him.

When the bike is finally finished Jacob tries to help her to ride and she ignores him and speeds off. She does see Edward images again before skidding into a rock where she hurts her head. Jacob comes over and takes off his shirt to wipe up the blood. In the theater, the ladies went wild and made cat calls since Taylor put on 30 pounds of muscle in order to keep the role.

Turns out Jacob has a gene as part of his American Indian heritage that is responsible for his transformation within the storyline. He and several others can transform into werewolves at will. They don't like vampires and there is a treaty between the two sides. He tries to protect her and shows his love towards her.

Jacob cares for Bella, but she used him to get her rush via the motorcycle. Through out the movie everything that people tell Bella not to do, she does. She has feelings for Jacob, she has feelings for Edward, she ignores her father, she dismisses the warnings of both the vampires and the werewolves. That is what put me off on this episode of the series was Bella's character.

She was self centered not caring about the feelings of her classmates, her dad, Jacob or Edward. She wanted what she wanted and screw the consequences or who she might hurt either physically or emotionally in the process. She didn't even care about the state of her soul as long as she could be with Edward. I found that me, me, me attitude extremely annoying and as a result it was hard for me to watch this film. Although I didn't look at my watch, I sat there wondering why this movie was dragging on and when it would be over. Ever been to the party and there's that ONE person who annoys you and you can't get away? Yeah, I'm sure you know what I mean. This selfish self absorbed character just grated on me and caused me to not enjoy the movie.

Was the movie good? With the "the world has got to center around me" attitude of Bella, I found it hard to watch this 2 hour and 10 minute "love" story.

Something that I did find interesting during this movie experience was the number of young kids in this movie. Even with the PG-13 rating, the themes were a little advanced for the number of 4-8 year olds that were in the theater. Another distraction though the movie were cell phones. I didn't hear anyone talking on them or having them ring, but the number of cell phone screen lights that were present through the movie was a little surprising.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sight Lines

Living in Hawaii for 20 years, I've watched a lot of changes happen to the local landscape. When Hawaii became a territory the main source of revenue was the plantations for sugar and pineapple. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, tourism took over as the main economic engine that drives the state. Throughout the architecture has reflected these influences and now with the amount of people living here and changes in technology, the landscape changes are more pronounced.

Hawaii has always been known for its natural beauty. Tropical rain forests, white sand beaches, streams running from the mountains to the ocean, and rainbows are very symbolic of what people expect to find in the older islands. Images of spouting lava, red glowing rivers and steam plumes as these lava rivers hit the ocean creating new land describe the Big Island of Hawaii. Native Hawaiian built structures based on the environment on each island.

When statehood happened, Polynesian Pop was an architectural style that had wide influence. Lush outdoor setting with lots of vegetation, A-frame buildings, tikis, hanging colored lights, fish nets, wood carvings and tiki torches punctuated the style in Waikiki. Many of the residences both in and outside Waikiki were one story plantation style homes.

As more and more people flocked to Hawaii more and more buildings were constructed. More and more land converted from agriculture to some other use whether residential or commercial. In Waikiki, the hotels which were spread out started to go up. Where you used to be able to see multiple vistas, the views got limited. The buildings sprang up and the views went down.

On the Big Island large lava fields are receiving building and turfs. The sugar cane and pineapple fields on Oahu are making way for shopping malls and planned communities.

In my own neighborhood, construction has been happening again. This time it's been taking down some of the medium sized buildings and taller buildings are going to be built. In the mean time, as the structures are ripped down beautiful views are returned. While I know that I won't be able to enjoy these views forever, I've got to take advantage of them while they exist.

On the corner of Kapiolani and McCully there used to be a strip mall that contained the Supercuts that I patronized for many, many years. It was sold, and ripped down. For a time, travelling Diamond Head on Kapiolani, there was a view of the back end of Diamond Head that hadn't been seen in years.

Another location on Kapiolani that is just being torn down over the past two weeks has revealed a view to the back of the Manoa Valley. As the building was coming down in parts, I'd sit at the bus stop across the street and over the passing days have more of that beautiful vista revealed sort of like the curtain being pulled back to reveal what's on the stage.

In Waikiki at the International Market Place they have removed some of the buildings revealing other buildings that haven't been seen in decades. Some of the old Polynesian Pop design of old Waikiki gets to see the light of day again. I wonder how long I'll get to see them as I know that change is constantly happening. I feel confident that somewhere there are plans just waiting for the economy to turn around before they'll be executed and the sights I get to see now will be gone.

Change is going to happen, there is nothing we can do to stop it. With the beauty of Hawaii I just need to make sure that as these once hidden vistas are revealed, to take advantage of them and enjoy them before they once again disappear.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Movie Review: Pirate Radio

These days when you think of pirates, Johnny Depp is probably what comes to mind. In Pirate Radio you have Bill Nighy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Nick frost, probably not anything like you would have thought of in a million years. The year is 1966 and these pirates are not plundering and looting for treasure, they are pirating the airwaves. The Rock in Roll world is alive with The Kinks, The Who, The Hollys and lots of other groups that begin with the word "The". The British government won't allow this music on the regular radio so a rogue band of DJs organized by Quentin (Nighy) start broadcasting 24 hours a day from a ship off the coast of Britain that is outside of the jurisdiction of the government.

We follow Carl (Tom Sturridge) , a expelled high school teenager who is sent to the boat by his mother. He is introduced to the the eclectic, colorful band of DJs by his god father Quentin. Most of the DJs are British with the exception of The Count (Hoffman) who is from America. The only female on the boat is Felecity. She's the cook and a lesbian. To make up for the shortage of available women, they have Sexturdays where a supply boat brings over not only food and mail but women who stay for the weekend.

While the station hangs out on the North Sea, back in Parliament, they are trying to figure out a way to get these people off the air. They considered them immoral and reprobates among other things. This falls to Sir Alister Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) who in turn hires a gentleman by the name of Twatt (Jack Davenport) to actually come up with the details of how to do it. These two were wound very tight. Actually, they were wound so tight they could have doubled for the rubber bands on a balsa wood airplane.

The government tries different machinations to get them off the air waves while at the same time we watch and hear what is happening on the boat. Just how to you play table football on a boat that is rocking? While Carl is not a DJ, we see the various DJs working the microphone and turn tables. Some DJs with mouths constantly moving and some hardly saying anything at all. As they are on the air we hear a selection of music from the time. In turn we see how their listeners are reacting to the music. As some of life's events happen to the crew they in turn share it with their listeners. One of the editing decisions that I liked was they had several groups of listeners that they revisited with each of these events.

In the end, the government finally passes a law that will outlaw the pirates because one of the neat things about being the government is that if you don't like something you just pass a law to make it illegal according to Dormandy. Will the government be successful with their attempt, will the pirates being pirates find a way to keep going? You'll have to go see the movie to find out.

This movie for me was very enjoyable. Along the lines of 2003's Love Actually (another Bill Nighy film), this was very British from the clothing (broad vertical stripes) to the language (snogging) and the culture (Boxing Day). The ensemble cast and their interactions, the editing, the music pull together for a fast moving 138 minute movie. The editing of the audience actions and reactions gave the movie a great energy. These are rogue DJs in both action and language so the R rating is well deserved, but don't let this be a distraction for not going to see this movie.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Movie Review: 2012

2012 is probably what you'll spend on this movie for ticket, popcorn and soda if you go by yourself to a matinee show. My cost was $20.75, so pretty close. Why do I mention popcorn? Because this is a good popcorn movie. Roland Emmerich who brought us Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow brings us his latest "Look out world, something bad is about to happen" movie. Clocking in at 2 hours and 38 minutes, you could go through a LOT of popcorn. For me about about 90 minutes into the movie that large soda needed some attention, if you know what I mean other than that, it moved right along.

In this apocalyptic movie the reason the world is going to end has nothing to do with aliens as in Independence Day or nature getting back at mean old nasty man for not treating the earth like a goddess from The Day After Tomorrow. This time, it's pure physics and science with a bit of spiritual thrown in on the side. At least science and physics that make for the storyline. The planets are about to align and sun spot activity is throwing off neutrinos bombarding the earth's core heating it up causing the destabilization of the crust which is as you know where man lives. This end of time is tied in with Mayan calendar which stops in 2012 and the beliefs of other indigenous peoples. Based on this movie we know why their calendars stopped.

We are given a glimpse back in 2009 of what's happening. A scientist in India played by Jimi Mistry of The Guru (cute movie worth a look on rental) calls scientist friend Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to the world's deepest copper mine. Satnam (Mistry) shows Adrian some pretty shocking evidence and theorizes as to what's going to happen to the earth. Adrian runs back to Washington DC and informs the President's Chief of Staff, Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) of the bad situation. We then get glimpses over the following years of things happening like the evacuation of people from Chinese highlands to make way for a dam and the replacement of the Mona Lisa with a copy to keep if safe from vandals.

We jump to the year 2012 where we meet our hero Jackson Curtis played by John Cussack who is a published author lives in the LA area who lost his family in the process of ignoring them while be focused on his book. Since his book didn't do all that well, he drives a limo to help make ends meet. Through a series of events he ends up meeting Adrian in Yellow Stone National Park and Charlie Frost a conspiracy theorist. Charlie (Woody Herrelson) has been broadcasting to the world that it's about to end, the world governments know about it but are leaving the people clueless.

Jackson ends up back in LA just as all hell breaks loose. Apparently Adrian's time lines and calculatons aren't right, a recurring theme along the way. They have less time than expected. Jackson gets his old family along with the new husband in the limo and then navigates through a crumbling LA avoiding fissures, upheavals of land, falling highways, sky scrapers being reduced to pebbles and scattered cars better then any professional stunt driver. How does he know how to do this? It's never explained. He's either very, very skilled or just one massively lucky son of a gun!

He gets to the airport and again, oh so lucky, Gordon, the new husband has an inkiling on how to fly a plane. Time and time again, this family is very lucky to miss massive disaster after disaster. They have to go back to Yellow Stone and then Las Vegas and finally over to China where the G8 have been building giant arks to save people.

All through out the film, time tables get pushed up. Decisions have to be made. Do you be very pragmatic as Carl does throughout or do you take the humanistic approach which is Adrian's part of the movie. These are questions dotted throughout the movie. Do you just forget about people and worry about yourself, do you risk your life for family and what about strangers people that have had no connections prior to this moment.

There are several tsunamis in this film as crust breaks and the mantle of the earth shifts. There is one scene reminiscent of Deep Impact where the wave is coming and one person stands there knowing what their fate will be in 4, 3, 2, 1 seconds. I can't help but think, back in 2004 in Indonesia and more recently the Samoas while they didn't have a 1500ft wave heading towards them, they had to make decisions like these as water was rushing in and around them. While I hope that no of us ever have to make these kinds of decisions you have to wonder what would I and what could I do if placed in this sort of situation.

Enough of the reality for a moment let's jump back to fantasy. For this film you really have to suspend a lot of what you know in order for this movie to work. Cars jumping over things and not damaging the under carriage, that a plane can fly through an ash cloud and not have the engines get choked out, that the secret can be kept and that ships the size shown in the movie could have enough natural resources, technology and man power to build them in the given time frame are among some of the points that you leave scratching your head.

The special effects were incredible. The film is rated PG-13. While we see hundreds and thousands of people dying enmasse, you don't see it happen directly. You see a body afterward or just before, but you don't see that last second directly. Emmerich likes to take out the White House in his movies and this was no exception. Seeing large land masses ending up bobbing in a sense like ice cubes in a glass or a wave washing over part of the Himalayas were eye candy. Irwin Allen would be proud of the ocean liner meets big wave scene. For me, seeing his interpretation of what would happen to my home in Hawaii was interesting. If this one tower near me was gone I could see Diamond Head from my Apartment in Paradise which would definitely be a hot spot!

So take a healthy does of suspension of belief, grab that large soda and popcorn, sit down and just have a good time. If you buy some of those white cheese, cheddar cheese or kettle corn sprinkle toppings for the pop corn, it will be all that much more fun!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Movie Review: A Christmas Carol

Let's get something straight right off the bat: Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol is a ghost story. Everyone over the age of four should know the basic story of how meaney Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by four ghosts to help him find his humanity again.

This version is done by Robert Zemeckis of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Back to The Future fame. He used the Motion Capture (MoCap) method like he used in Polar Express, another Christmas story and Beowulf. For those of you who don't know, the actors wear a special suit with all sorts of sensing devices that are picked up by cameras set around the stage. The computer catches the location of the sensors and thereby captures the actor's movements. This allows the director to place the actors actions in a virtual world to be mimicked on a virtual actor. We'll talk a bit later about how this MoCap affects performance.

The movie was released in regular, 3D and IMAX 3D formats. In my area, the IMAX costs $15.00 per show and has no matinee prices. The 3D version has a $3.50 upcharge on either matinee or full price. I really don't find that the 3D adds a whole lot so I chose the regular format.

The movie started off like some of the old Disney classics. They zoom into a book which opens and the story is told. After that, they started in a place that I had not seen before done in a movie. Granted, I haven't seen all versions, but I've seen many of them. My favorite is the 1970 musical version entitled Scrooge with Albert Finney and Alec Guinness. Zemeckis' starts with Marley's death and then jumps to the point where most people are familiar with the story.

Jim Carrey provides the performance for Scrooge and Gary Oldman handles the role of Bob Cratchit who we now get to see in the office of Scrooge and Marley. From here, it was obvious what Zemeckis wanted to do with the 3D. The soaring over old London bringing you through the streets, showing people in their everyday affairs and just how mean Scrooge is.

Scrooge goes home and runs into the ghost of Jacob Marley, also done by Oldman, who in an attempt to save Scrooge from his fate tells him about vists from three other ghosts, which were all done by Carrey. For the first encounter with Marley, you get an idea of why the movie has a PG rating. After Marley leaves and Scrooge views some of the specters roaming the earth, you fully understand that the PG rating was justified. There were several gasps from the audience during Marley's visit.

The ghost of Christmas Past is symbolized by a floating flame. This was an interesting interpretation. What I didn't like was the ticks that were added by Carrey to the character. They seemed out of place.

The Ghost of Christmas Present was represented as most productions have shown him as a large jovial man with a hearty laugh. What impressed me about this sequence is that instead of Scrooge and the Ghost flying to the different scenes by themselves, the Ghost turns Scrooges building into a space ship of sorts and transforms the floor into a transparent portal from which they can observe the action. Scrooge doesn't leave his living room.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was also represented well. Many shots of this Ghost weren't a solid figure, but of a shadowy malevolent presence. It was very effective. This part also had the one item that I didn't like and that was a funeral carriage and black horses with red eyes driven by the Ghost chasing Scrooge through the streets of London all while Scrooge is shrinking in size until he's the size of the rat.

Finally we end up back in Scrooge's abode with him being exuberant that he's alive feeling "as light a feather" as he determines to make up for all that he's lost. As the movie ends he heads over to his nephew Fred's (Colin Firth) to reconnect with the only family he has.

While the story is not new, Zemeckis decided to play straighter to the original text. Usually the part of Ignorance and Want are ignored as well as showing just they kind of person Bob Cratchit is as he attempts to slide on an icy street.

The looks of London and settings are wonderfully set with the cobble stone streets, the lights of the buildings, the smoke eminating from chimneys and the opulence of some and the needs of others are established early. It adds to the beauty and expressiveness of the film.

What was disconcerting at time was the MoCap and some of Carrey's actions. When Scrooge discovers that he's still alive, some of the actions that Carrey performed for the character is something that I don't think they would preform during the time frame. At other times there were actions and vocals that just didn't match. We catch little things like the slight movement of a mouth while laughing. The computer didn't catch them and the post production didn't added in those subtle movements. The eyes for this production were better than some of the other MoCap movies already done, but not quite right. Lastly were some of the skins. Scrooge himself looked great. Several of the other characters looked like they were plastic with colors painted on. They really didn't look textured. For the couple of characters with flawless beautiful skin, they looked too shiny like they were porcelain, not a flesh.

Was the movie worth the price? I say yes, despite some of the looks of the characters and their actions, the overall story told and the settings were engaging enough to overcome those flawed items. Reminder it is a ghost story with a PG rating for this 96 minute film.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A beautiful day in Hawaii

Last Friday, October 30, 2009, was a blast. It was one of those days "Lucky you live Hawaii" was meant to describe.

First thing I did this day was go for a jog. I have been following the Couch to 5K program to get into running. I've signed up for my third Honolulu Marathon this December. The first two I walked. This one, while I don't plan on running the whole event, I would like to run part of it. This Friday was the last day of the prescribed program. I set the Nike+ for a 5K preprogrammed distance run. I ran around the Ala Wai playing field and then over the McCully bridge to go along the Ala Wai Canal itself. This is the canal that was dug in order to allow the swamp area to drain to allow Waikiki to become what it is today.

Originally uploaded by coconut wireless

Passing other joggers, looking at the canal and enjoying the views of the Ko'olau mountains were sights the canal run offered. Looking towards the back of Manoa valley and St Louis Heights just make you break out in a big smile. In the canal I could see some of the fish swimming and moon jelly fish floating in the water. I managed to run the 5K in 35:22. I was very proud of myself. Thanks to Trace for mentioning the program on his podcast which he co-hosts with Wayne, The Disney Dudes.

I got home and showered quickly as I was supposed to go with a friend to check out the closeout special at the Star Market near where I live. I'm in year 20 of living in Hawaii and Star has always been there at the intersection of King and Beretania in Moiliili. Rene stopped by to pick me up and we attempted to find parking. We couldn't get in the lot so we parked on a nearby street and walked in. Although the prices were cut 25% across the board, it was off the full retail price. A two-liter bottle of Coke or Pepsi was $2.89. Not a discount since you could find the same item on sale for $1.50 or $1.33 at other stores. We left empty handed.

Rene then invited me to go with her to a place called Boots and Kimo's. It was in Kailua and had pancakes that were to die for by her own words. I asked if we could stop by my place so I could put on an aloha shirt over my tank top which was looking a little frayed. She said sure.

On the drive over she let me know who would be joining us. It was Daisey who was new to Hawaii and her friend Tom visiting from the mainland as well as a former co-worker Susan and her boyfriend Roman. As Rene and myself arrived, we had a minor miracle happen, the parking spot right in front of the doors to the restaurant opened up. We slid into the space without any trouble.

In front of Boots and Kimo's were several benches. It was one of those places that served breakfast all day and always had a line. We went in and the place was small and packed! There were nine booths that held four people each. We placed our name on the waiting list and took a seat outside. We were shortly joined by Daisy and Tom. We talked story for a while when the waiter came out to take our order. We were about to tell the waiter to take someone else as we were waiting for two more people when Susan and Roman arrived. Roman ended up with an unexpected day off due to the budget issues of Hawaii. We have furlough Fridays when certain state offices close down. His company had a contact but since the office was shut down, they couldn't get in to do their work.

The menu consisted primary of the breakfast items and it all looked good. Rene had pointed out the size of the pancakes so she said we could split an order. I had the Maui Wowie omelet. No, none of that vegetation was included! Rene was right about the pancakes. The sign over the restaurant says "Home of the original Macadamia Pancake Sauce" and that sauce was soooo ono! It was very easy to taste why the place had a line the way that it did. Even the Japanese tourists were waiting outside to get in and enjoy the local fare.

Daisy and Tom wanted to go to Lanikai Beach which is a few miles away from the restaurant. Roman mentioned that his cousin would be able to get access to some equipment at a beach in Waikiki. We all jumped in our cars and headed back to our places to get beach equipment and met up again at the beach outside of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Tom was there waiting. Daisy had to go back to run an important errand.

At the beach!
Originally uploaded by coconut wireless
Myself and Rene set up on the beach that faced the ocean with Tom. I did a little bit of swimming in the Pacific. It was the first time in several years that I swam in the ocean. I've walked around Waikiki and skirted through the waves as they lapped up on the beach on many occasions but it had been a while since I put on the swim shorts to take a dive into the deep blue.

After a little bit of a wait Susan and Roman showed up with cousin Ash. Ash was able to get us some equipment that we used in Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. The lagoon is named after the man who was considered an ambassador for Hawaii. A respected surfer, Olympic swimming champion and all around gentlemen are attributes to describe Duke. Tom and Roman and Ash took out stand up paddle boards. Rene and Susan went to find some drinks. I watched our bags.

Tom had been out for about 20 minutes when he returned and he offered me his board. I took it out. This was my first time on any sort of surf board. I noticed right off the bat that the water in the lagoon was colder than the water in the ocean. I pushed off and paddled around on my knees for a bit. I finally decided to try to stand it. Attempt one....failed. I didn't get in an upright position when I lost my balance and dumped. OK, kick up onto the board and get back on my knees. Try attempt number two. Almost got up but dumped again.

By this time Ash and Roman paddled over and gave me some tips to get up on the board. When I mentioned about the cold water Ash told me that the hotel was pumping deep ocean water three miles off shore to fill the lagoon. AHHH, that's why so much cooler! With the tip I managed to stand, but I didn't get the board moving fast enough so I dumped for a third time. At this point I was getting tired but the fourth time proved to be a charm! I was up on the board and moving forward. I paddled around for a bit but was getting tired. It was more exhausting than the run that I had several hours earlier!

About the time I was getting off the board, Daisy returned. She went out for a bit when Ash got us some wrist bands for the pools on property. We cleared off of the beach and headed into the pool area. The pools, slides and spas were very nice and got nicer as we started to watch the sunset.

I had a meeting that night for the kick off of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the Hawaii region at McCully Zippy's. When people mentioned that they were hungry, I mentioned Zippy's since that is where my meeting would be. They agreed and we drove to the King Street location. I had the local favorite, Portuguese bean soup and then had to bolt from the sit down restaurant part of the building to the quick service side.

The NaNoWriMo meeting was fun as about 40 of us who would partake in the exercise of writing a novel in 30 days met. I picked up a plot bunny that the local leader had made for participants. It was fun hearing people give a random tone of writing picked from a bowl against a random selection of text from a book. The text seemed like gobbledygook but after hearing a few it was obvious that if was from a Dr Seuss book; Fox in Socks to be specific. It was a good ice breaking exercise.

From there I walked the mile and half back to my Apartment in Paradise. It was an exciting day and one that happened in a somewhat unplanned manner. Those are some of the best times!

I'd like to give a big mahalo nui to Rene, Daisy, Tom, Susan, Roman and Ash. I've not used your real names as I don't know if you want them publicized. It was a day that I'll remember for a long time.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Movie Review: This Is It

Four months after Michael Jackson's death we are being allowed to see what he was doing in those days prior to his death. This was director Kenny Orgeta's love letter to Michael. One should not expect to see the concert it is a documentary about that process. You will get to see what goes into the making of a multi-million dollar concert as conceived and executed by Michael.

For someone like myself who loves to know how things work, this was very engaging. Through out the movie the viewer is given snippets of the audition process, the lighting, stage set up, set transitions, dance preparation, special effects, props, pyrotechnics, and music arrangement. The announcement at the O2 Center in London was covered and the crowd was just wild about the possibility of seeing Michael Jackson's comeback concert. For the people who got tickets, if the show had gone on they would have been treated to a larger than life spectacle that would have been deserving of one called The King of Pop.

Michael is all about the process in this documentary. From the announcement of the concert, meeting the dancers, talking to the lead background vocalist, going back and forth with Kenny, trying different arrangements dance steps. It was an insight to Michael that we, the general public never really got to see.

The collection of video was taken during the start of rehearsal process and watching how it was stitched together while at one point with disconcerting, it showed the evolution of what would have been the final product. We see part of the rehearsal taking place in a room with black walls. We see them in the Staples Center where they were putting together the massive stage. First just a stage and some lighting. Then more lighting. Later we see the massive video screen in the back that would have added lots of dramatic effect to the concert. The clips are not shown in order. Some of the first musical sequences we get to experience are with the what looks like largely completed stage. Some of the songs at the end just have the minimal stage.

Michael himself. There were times during the movie where I got choked up. There is no denying that the man was born for music and entertainment. While the movie didn't get into anything outside of the concert we all know about the circus that surrounded his life. In my mind, I was hoping that these concerts would go well for him so that we could once again enjoy Michael the entertainer. With his death, this will never get to be proved out. He showed that he still had it. I constantly was drawn to his feet and what he could do with them to move around the stage held me spellbound.

With the rehearsal still in process we are treated to the what would have been moments. For Smooth Criminal we get taken backstage to see the taping of what would have been the background video. Combining live action, green screen, and the meshing with old movie footage. We watch as the movie cuts back and forth from what would be shown on the screen to what is happening on the stage. During Thriller we watch as corpse rise from their graves and are taped. Kenny and Michael are there giving directions for the dancers/actors as they watch on a special monitor using 3D glasses. In the last number we watch the background videos and then see a computer 3D mock up of what was to have played out on the stage.

What would have been if Michael hadn't passed away. Although I wasn't going to see the concerts there in London, I'm glad that I had a chance to see that Michael was as creative as ever putting this performance together. When you go to see the movie, make sure you stay through the credits. There are little bits added in there for you. Lately I've made it a habit to stay through what I call the "Blue screen or rating"

This movie is rated PG due to some of the crotch grabbing we've seen in Michael's choreography before and running time of 112 minutes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Movie Review: Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

This was a fun movie! Went to the first show of the day at my local Regal Cinema. The complex had a lot of people for two reasons. One, the Hawaii International Film Festival was heading into it's last weekend. Two, the State of Hawaii due to budget issues had the public schools out on furlough Friday as well as many state departments. The theater was pretty packed for the first show of the day at noon time.

The movie starts and we see some interesting animations that were eye catching. In particular we see two figures that are treated like puppets that go through a number of events and situations encountering weird items. Once the live action starts we are introduced to two best friends. The good boy Darren (Chris Massoglia)and Steve (Josh Hutcherson)the bad boy. They find a flier inviting them to the Cirque du Freak that has been around for 500 years. In the conversations we learn that Darren has a thing for spiders and Steve has a massive interest in vampires.

At the show we are introduced to Mr Tall (Ken Watanabe) who heads up the Cirque and a number of other freaks like Alexander Ribs (Orlando Jones) who has a waist no bigger than a softball, Madame Truska (Salma Hayek) who not only grows a beard but goes into trances to foretell the future, Evra the Snake Boy (Patrick Fugit) who while looking like and plays with snakes would rather be playing rock music and Lartan Crepsley (John C Reilly) who controls a rare spider thru flute music.

During the show Steve recognizes Crepley as a vampire and afterward begs to become a vampire but is turned down by Crepley saying Steve has bad blood. Steve is very upset at this. Due to an accident, Darren begs Crepley to save the life of his best friend Steve. Crepley agrees but only after Darren agrees to become part vampire to serve Crepley. Being part vampire allows Darren so be out during daylight. Steve later learns that Darren has become part vampire and is furious with him. He felt it should have been him while at the same time not knowing that Steve's deal saved his life.

We learn through Cepley about the Cirque, its inhabitants, and about factions within the world of vampires. He sets up the framework of what vampires can do (ie flit around very fast) and can't (ie turn into bats). Crepley and a few others including Gavner Purl (Willem Dafoe) have figured out how to survive in a non threatening way to the general population while many other vampires live in the old threatening ways. There has been a truce between the two sides. Mr Tiny (Michael Cerveris) wants to see the two sides battle and devises a plan that pits the two sides of the vampire world which now includes having the two best friends go against each other.

The look of the freaks is impressive with their different powers/abilities/mutations. The plot was inventive and the special effects were wonderful. I was particularly impressed with John C Riley. Most of the time he plays a character that gets on my nerves very quickly. As Crepley he plays it smooth as a person who has been around the block a few centuries and really doesn't want to get caught up in other people's affairs. There was comedy, but he didn't come across as a buffoon. The part was wonderfully understated and the comedy was not over the top.

The run time of 108 minutes passed very quickly. It's rated PG-13 due to thematic issues and violence, death and dismemberment include in there.

The ending leaves it open for sequels and I will be looking forward to them as the saga continues. The movie is based on the first three books of a 12 book series. This should give them time to expand on some of the detail of the other freaks and explain why Mr Tiny wants the two sides to battle each other. Hopefully they keep the remaining movies as good as this one.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Movie Review: Law Abiding Citizen

This is one of the movies where "The Man" gets what's coming to him. What is justice, what is revenge, what is right and what is wrong are questions that come up and are explored in this 108 minute R rated movie.

The movie starts quickly. A dad is tinkering on something while his daughter does some arts and crafts with letter beads. The door bell rings and the wife tells the husband to get it. As soon as the dad (Gerard Butler) gets the door, he gets clunked on the head by a baseball bat. The two bad guys tie him up, stab him and tape his mouth shut with duct tape and then clunk the wife when she enters the room. The wife then gets raped as the husband observes. Their daughter enters the room where the one criminal says that kids like him. You know that is bad and no good is going to come of it.

They jump to the court, the badder of the two bad men turns a deal with the prosecuting attorney Nick (Jamie Foxx). Clyde, the husband, doesn't want the deal and wants to go to court but Nick, afraid that his conviction record might not stay intact decides the deal is better. Clyde wants to see justice for his wife and daughter but is told that it's not what you know, but what you can prove in a court of law. No consolation for a deeply grieving husband. Nick is seen by Clyde shaking hands with the criminal.

Jump forward 10 years. The execution of the second criminal goes wrong and dies in agony. The first criminal has bad things happen to him too. This causes the police to suspect Clyde. He is arrested and taken into custody where is appears that his main target is Nick. While Clyde is in custody people associated with the original trial are picked off one at a time in some both brutal and high tech manners. How could this be since Clyde is locked up? Who is helping him and how is he able to pull them off? That's where the majority time of the movie takes place.

It was tough to watch at times due to the brutality. At times is was tough to watch due to the attitude of the legal system. I think at one point in time or another we all get upset with the system and the way it works whether personally or watching what happens with other people in the news. Law Abiding Citizen looks at some of the emotions that happen on both sides of the issue.

The movie didn't break ground in any of the cinematography, special effects or anything like that. The plot was intriguing and kept my attention as several twists and turns were presented and I didn't look at my watch once during the movie. There are scenes of severe brutality and blood and should be left to adults. A good first run movie.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

I didn't know what to expect from this movie and I got it. Having seen the previews for a few months, I checked out the book at Borders to refresh my memory. It was a short book, very short. There is a video on youtube that is narrated and uses the pictures from the book and it runs a total of three minutes. So this movie releases today with a PG rating and a running time of 101 minutes. How do you get from that short blurb into something so long? That is where director Spike Jonze with the help of Dave Eggers have to fill in the missing parts that weren't part of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book.

In the book, we know that when Max puts on his wolf outfit he creates mischief. In the movie we see Max played by Max Records that sometimes he wears the wolf outfit and sometimes he doesn't when he creates his mischief. It's not really clear why he's causing mischief, there seems to be several reasons, one of them being daddy issues which seem to be a common reason these days.

Instead of being forced to stay in his bedroom and have it turn into a jungle, Max runs away from his mom played by Catherine Keener. He keeps running and running until he finds the boat and sails for a long time to an island where he eventually finds the wild things. The meeting is rather interesting. The wild things have names, and voices and attitudes and attributes that weren't part of the book. Max reveals himself to them and they make him king after some chit chat.

The images of the beasts are right from the book. Created by the Henson Company, they look great. It's obvious due to the lip movement that these are not audio animatronic items like Mr. Potato Head who is the barker at Disney's Toy Story Midway Mania. The faces are computer generated. For me, they are memorable and I bought it.

The main beasty is named Carol, a guy voiced by James Gandolfini. He wants to be happy, but KW (Lauren Ambrose) left him. We don't know if they were married or dating, we just know that he's upset that she's spending time with Terry and Bob. You'll have to see the movie if you want Terry and Bob explained. Judith and Ira are a couple (Catherine O'Hara and Forest Whitaker). Alexander, Douglas and the one character without a name, the bull beasty complete the menagerie (Paul Dano, Chris Cooper and Michael Berry Jr). Through their dialog, it sounds like they all have issues from not being listened to, to loneliness, to insecurity and self deprecation. Quite a bunch of heady items for a "children's" movie.

The beasties except Carol aren't sure about making Max king, but they go along to make Carol happy. When Max declares, Let the Wild Rumpus start, they go through the forest and start destroying things. I'm sure down the road some environmental group will complain that the movie sets a bad example for kids. Doesn't matter that it was filmed in Australia, they'll complain.

Eventually after a few misadventures and bad decisions, it's discovered that Max really isn't a king. To avoid the emotions of the wild things and the possibility of becoming a snack to one of them, Max journeys back to his home where like all good stories his mom is waiting for him and embraces him heartily.

Some of the set designs are amazing. The look of the world had me going wow! In the previews you see an idea that Carol turned into reality and it looks awesome. The big home that they built makes me wish I could do something like that with branches.

Is this a kids movie? Not really for the small kids. It has a PG rating for a reason. There are fights, people and wild things get hurt. There is talk of eating Max. Some of the emotions that are shown both in the real world at the beginning of the film and those of the wild things themselves might need some explaining. Really. During the first part I thought to myself, this kid needs some anger management therapy. Would I call this movie a classic? No, not in my book.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Movie Review: Couples Retreat

Let me say up front, what attracted me to this movie in the previews was not the story, but the location. As soon as I saw the images, I knew this was filmed in Bora Bora which is part of Tahiti, French Polynesia. For over a decade I've had fliers from the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort hanging on my wall as a place that I want to go. The bungalows over the ocean with see thru floors and an outdoor lanai that leads down to the's BEAUTIFUL and this coming from a guy who lives in Hawaii! While not the BBLR, it was filmed at the St Regis Bora Bora.

So what's it all about? A group of four couples, three married and one dating go to Eden a luxurious resort in Bora Bora to work on their relationships. Well, actually only one couple, Jason and Cynthia (Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell) wants to work on their relationship, the other three are there because the foursome were going to get an awesome Pelican Package pricing deal and are told they don't have to participate in any skill training aka relationship counseling sessions. While there they can enjoy what the island has to offer in the way that any world class paradise resort can offer.

The four couples fall into the stereotypes for these types of movies: Jason and Cynthia are having problems conceiving and wonder if they should call it quits and get divorced. Dave and Ronnie (Vince Vaughn and Malin Ackerman) have work, house remodeling and two boys to keep them busy in their daily lives. Joey and Lucy (Jon Favreau and Kristen Davis) are the ones who have been together since high school due to a pregnancy and once the daughter is out of the house in a few months plan on getting divorced. Lastly is Shane and Trudy (Faizon Love and Kali Hawk) a divorcee who is having trouble understanding why he's divorced and is now dating a 20 year old to fill the hole in his life.

Once on the island they discover it's an all or nothing deal for all the couples, all participate or all go home. After enjoying a delectable meal they decide that it can't be that bad and are willing to go through the skills training. In steps Jean Reno as Marcel, their training leader and his assistant Briggs played by Temuera Morrison of Star Wars Jango Fett fame. Marcel will help them explore their relationships and what is their animal spirit guide. Huh, what? Every other time we hear about animal spirits it's based on a person, not a couple. Weird mumbo jumbo stuff if you ask me.

The couples go through large and small group sessions and private counseling. We discover their hopes, fears, pains, loves, insecurities, and perceptions play out in the various settings. Several of the funnier moments of the movie are when Salvadore (Carlos Ponce) comes to train them in yoga. His long hair, chiseled body and speedo make the men uneasy and the women weak at their knees. With the beach scenes you do see the guys and they were not in shape...the women on the other hand were in shape for the movie and looked HAWT!

In the end the three married couples figure out their paths and the dating couple come to their resolution with an unexpected twist. The animal spirits are awarded and let the end credits run. Again, what with the animal spirits...did the screen play writers watch too much Brother Bear? Make sure you stay to the very end to get an easter egg.

Was it Was it Both sexes got some eye candy on the screen and the location shots are eye candy by themselves. I wouldn't pay full price, but I would pay a matinee price to go see it. It has a PG-13 rating due to some very awkward sexual scenes that you probably don't want to have to explain to someone who hasn't gone through puberty and runs for 107 minutes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Discovering Waikiki...still

I'm starting my 20th year of living in Hawaii, live 1/4 of a mile away as the crow flies and I still am discovering new things about Waikiki and haven't "done it all."

I had some time this afternoon and decided to go down to Waikiki to get inspiration for my Trapped in Paradise podcast. I got on the number 2 bus at the Kapiolani and Kalakaua intersection and took it all the way to the Kapahulu and Kalakaua stop. I usually don't take the bus that far down when I'm heading into Waikiki. Most of the time I walk into Waikiki.

After getting off the bus I was right in front of the Park Shore Hotel. I moved forward to walk into the lobby but then realized I passed two other hotels, the Queen Kapiolani and the Waikiki Grand. For both of those hotels, I don't remember being in either one since I moved to Hawaii. In the Queen Kapiolani I walked up to the 3rd floor where they have their pool.

There were only two people in the water and they were talking. I went over to the edge facing the road and looked out to see the famous Hawaiian landmark Diamond Head as I had never seen it before. It wasn't blocked by trees, I was looking over the trees at about tree level to view it.

The day was hot and humid with a capital H. On the pool deck was a soda machine. I was able to get a 20oz diet pepsi for a buck thirty five. Ho! That is quiet the deal, so I plunked in exact change and got my drink and headed out of the building.

Walking through the Waikiki Grand there was nothing special there. No special stores, art work, decor or furniture were to be found. The one big positive was that they had a door that entered Teddy's Bigger Burgers from the lobby. There I have eaten a number of times. They have good burgers!!

The original location, the Park Shore was next. I didn't go up to any other floors. The last time I was in there I was visiting a friend who worked the front desk. Outside there was an event going on and this person came in asking for the restroom. My friend Buddy said they were reserved for hotel guests. After the person left we both looked at each other and questioned who the person was. We realized that Buddy had told Michael Nakamura the Chief of the Honolulu Police Department that he couldn't use the Park Shore restroom. Not sure if he ever got scoldings for that one. I exited the lobby through the ABC Store. There used to be a long hall way that lead out to Kalakaua Ave but it has been long gone.

I walked along Kalakaua Ave past the Waikiki Beach Hotel, headed past the Marriott and then over to Saint Augustine's Catholic Church. At one time there was a Father Damien museum inside. In just a few days as I write this Father Damien will become a Saint within the Catholic Church. I couldn't get inside to see if that museum still existed as it was locked up with signs posting hours as they are doing renovations to the facility so access was restricted.

I headed over to the Pacific Beach Hotel. I used to go to that hotel every Sunday evening as my gym is located on the second floor and has a great view overlooking Kalakaua Ave and the beach. I'm still paying my monthly gym dues, I should probably start getting back there and enjoying the views! Anyway, in the back of the hotel they have a restaurant with a special fish presentation. Not cooked fish, but live fish. I was happy to see that it still exits.

From there I entered the lobby for the Waikiki Resort Hotel. This hotel caters more towards the Korean traveler. It's been over a decade since I've been in this hotel. The last time was before Ron, one of the bellmen that I knew, passed away from bladder cancer. I followed a set of stairs and found myself looking at meeting rooms and the pool. They had restrooms that weren't locked so I decided to use them. With all the humidity, I was really sweaty so I splashed myself with water. When I exited the door, what was right in front of me? A Coke machine. This was $1.25 for a 20oz bottle. Note to self, stop buying soda inside of the ABC Stores and use the vending machines. It's about a buck cheaper per bottle!

I passed through Waikiki Beach Tower, my first time in there, and headed to the Waikiki Circle Hotel. Walking up a ramp towards the registration desk on the wall next to the elevators was the story of the hotel. It was the first hotel on Waikiki owned by an Asian who was a female! The story told of how she came over from China, was in an arranged marriage, overcame a number of obstacles to own the hotel and how it is now owned by generational family members.

I cut through the Hyatt Regency before heading over to Kings Village. I haven't been there in years. In many ways the place looks the same, but it was different as they have had turn over in the shops. One hidden gem was a small museum that had memorabilia from old Hawaii. Two display cases had mugs from a number of old Waikiki hotels and restaurants as well at other locations in the US that were part of the Tiki pop that was part of the culture of the 50's and 60's. For me seeing an original mug from the Bali Hai in San Diego was exciting. In case you can't tell by the name of the blog, I like tikis.

The Princess Kaiulani was next. I had been in there last Christmas. Their chefs do an awesome Christmas Village made out of chocolate and having animated pieces including a train and chair lift that bring the village to life during the holidays. I exited the building out the side and took a short path back up to Kalakaua Ave in front of the International Market Place or IMP.

The IMP over the past number of years has been changing. It's full of carts that you used to haggle prices with the owners. Most of the owners are immigrants with their carts of trinkets, treasures, and some trashy tourist items. Today, the wares have a price tag...most of the time. In front of the IMP there was one guy handing out flyers for shave ice. Not a big deal but this one was different. He had a rig he was wearing around his chest. From the back side were two rods sticking up. Attached to the rods were a balloon that had a picture of shave ice. It had wires running between the balloon and the back pack so I'm sure at night it could have lit up to advertise the cold tasty treats.

At this point I decided to leave Waikiki. I was hot and very sweaty by this time plus I had another errand to run. Waikiki even when you think you know it, you don't and that's part of the fun of it.