Reading this Honolulu Advertiser Island Commentary and browsing my journal entries from college have inspired me to update this blog for the first time in months.
Advanced apology: I've mulled over these thoughts so many times that they are stamped on my mind like the rainbow dots my favorite kid-time sprinkle cookies left behind on my fingers. (And yes, that came to me as I was munching on them just now.)
Very yummy cookies
I have an identity crisis I like to term "white girl in Hawaii" syndrome. To understand this, you need to know a little about my background. My Mainland heritage comes from my mother, who is Minnesota-bred, and my paternal grandfather, who was from Wisconsin. Both ended up in Hawaii, my mom after she'd met my dad at a teacher's workshop in Pennsylvania and dated him long-distance for two years, my grandfather while he was stationed here in the Army and met my then high school-aged grandmother after seeing her hula dancing in Waikiki.
My Hawaii roots: My maternal grandmother's ancestors arrived in Hawaii in the 1880s with the first influx of Portuguese immigrants who came to work on the island plantations. My grandmother allegedly has a certificate showing that it was her ancestor who was among the first to bring the ukulele to Hawaii. She also remembers Pearl Harbor and the family legend of her uncle unknowingly shielding himself under a gas truck at the base during the attack. My dad's birth certificate shows he was born in the Territory of Hawaii. And I was born and raised here on Oahu.
What's the identity crisis? I'd say that 95 percent of people from Hawaii and the Mainland don't think I'm from here. I'm a pale Caucasian with a slight Midwest accent thanks to going to college in Illinois. Having returned here after school, it feels more than ever that I'm a stranger in my own home state.
And before this turns into a whiny diatribe, I'll let one of my whiny, rambling college journal entries say it for me:
12/11/02 10:45 a.m. Northwest flight heading towards Pacific & LA:
Heading home is always such a great feeling. You've said goodbye to fall quarter syllabuses and books, bad late night coffee and cold Midwest weather. And you're headed to your beautiful birthplace where shorts may be worn again and the mountains are far from Illinois molehills. Christmas preparations are ahead and the faces of your parents and silly younger brother at the airport are a welcome sight after four airports and no sleep the night before flying. But maybe you don't feel like you belong either there or in the Midwest anymore. Maybe it's like being stuck between two places and neither your dorm room or your worn-in bed at "home" feels just right. You ask yourself why you aren't more thrilled than you are to be going to Hawaii for three weeks -- a wonderful vacation in the eyes of mainland residents and their persistent "Why'd you come here (to Chicago) for college?" queries. There is some attraction to things mainland-ish, like first snow and mittens, creaky radiators and bare trees, mainland clothes, acceptance of pale skin like mine, beautiful pink and blue sunsets inhabited by telephone pole crows and dipping temperatures, the change in seasons, the Chicago accent, the potato-based meals. You like it, sure, and even more than you did last year -- maybe -- and you just might end up living here someday. And when people in Hawaii AND people on the mainland [inadvertently] make you feel like you have no right or reason to be from Hawaii -- born and raised -- my goodness, just look at you -- where do you go? Where do you belong? Anywhere? But heading home is always such a great feeling. Right?! Yah, little bit of conflicted internal monologue going on there. And I still, seven years later, don't know where I belong.
We all have our favorite things in life, right? And while there are certain things that I will always love no matter what (pugs, Jane Austen, and Velveeta Shells & Cheese to name a few), I love the surge I get when I've found something new and exciting that feels like I should have known about it forever. Some of my latest thrilling "finds" that are new to me but probably not to a lot of other people:
Tim Tams My new favorite cookie, or biscuits, as they are called in their country-of-origin, Australia.
Yummy, crispy, chocolate-covered biscuits. I first tried these on my trip to Sydney this past summer, and now they can be had at local stores. And I don't mean the kind of foreign import that keeps the same brand name but is really made by an American company and doesn't taste as good (see Cadbury Dairy Milk made by Hershey's versus Dairy Milk actually made by Cadbury). There is even a drinking technique using them called the Tim Tam Slam.
Eric Hutchinson I heard Eric Hutchinson's song "Rock and Roll" on the radio a few weeks ago coming home after a rough day and I instantly perked up. Then I got to see the Jason Mraz-esque musician perform at Lulu's in Waikiki this past weekend, and he rocked the tiny, packed venue. I like that his songs are clever, catchy and honest. Take a sample lyric from "Rock and Roll": "Another chance for cheap romance/Doesn't count cause the room is spinning/Nothing to lose tonight they both are winning." A fresh take on the stale bar/club scene.
Here's Hutchinson performing back in 2007.
From what I saw at his Waikiki performance, he's upgraded his wardrobe since then but the sound's still the same.
Tough Love The only reality shows I watch on a regular basis are "American Idol," "Project Runway," and "So You Think You Can Dance." Just wanted to clarify that I'm not a reality show junkie. But I recently heard about a different kind of dating show called "Tough Love" on VH1 and decided to watch. This series is headed by male matchmaker Steve Ward, who gives women having trouble finding love, insight into how a guy's mind works, and not in the awful "The Pick Up Artist" way either. The women in turn learn how to connect with men. One downside to "Tough Love" is that it tries to follow the usual reality show formula of putting a bunch of a girls in a house together and hoping for the most drama possible. Luckily, the women so far have ended up supporting each other rather than trying to gouge each others eyes out. Besides that, the most compelling aspect of the show is Steve's truth-telling, and when you see the women "get it." My housemate and I enjoy this semi-trashy but strangely educational show and we even got her mother-in-law watching.
So there you have it: Tim Tams, Eric Hutchinson and "Tough Love." My current obsessions.
The mendhi design I got at a recent Bollywood event (serendipitously occurring right as I'm obsessed with Bollywood). The temporary pigment stain comes from crushed up henna leaves combined with oils and other ingredients. I stood in line for almost two hours waiting for this so I was sad it wasn't as good as other mendhi designs I've gotten before. But I had to give the woman a break. She'd done at least 50 other designs that night.
While I was waiting my turn I had fun watching the crowds dance and picking out Bollywood songs the DJ played that I recognized.
The music, the dancing, the melodramatic acting ...
Bollywood movies have been a favorite escape for me since college, when several dormmates would show Indian movies during weekly movie nights. My first Bollywood movie was the Academy Award-nominated "Lagaan," which is set during British colonial-rule and focuses on Indian villagers taking on their local British authorities during a cricket match in order to not pay a ridiculously high lagaan, or tax. Plus there is a romance, because what is a Bollywood movie without a love story ... and many musical numbers with huge casts ... and a three-hour running time?
I think my love of Bollywood is really an extension of my love of musicals. I grew up adoring the Rodgers and Hammerstein films and MGM spectaculars. If I wasn't reading, you could find my 8-year-old self watching "Easter Parade" with my grandma, dancing in front of the TV to "Fan Tan Fanny," or belting out "Oh What Beautiful Morning." I was always an odd child.
Photo credit: DeaQuartet.co.uk
After falling out of favor, musicals have made a semi-comeback in Hollywood thanks to films like "Moulin Rouge" and "Chicago." But Bollywood has always been about the singing and dancing. To some American viewers, the plots and acting of some of the films might seem implausible. How exactly did that dancing couple suddenly get transported to a meadow in Switzerland?
I don't care. I find the fantasy of Bollywood irresistible. When I need to be carried away, a Bollywood flick will do that. I know that India is not just like the epic, glitter-strewn country depicted in its movies, just as the U.S. is not same as it is often depicted in Hollywood movies. But, from my non-expert eyes, the whole point of Bollywood seems to be embracing the celebratory aspects of Indian culture, allowing people to forget about their cares and be swept away by their emotions. I think that's what any good movie does.
Like it did last year, my local art museum recently had a Bollywood week, and I went and saw nine hours of Bollywood - "Om Shanti Om," "Veer-Zaara" and "Dhoom 2." So right now I'm a Bollywood addict. I've scoured YouTube looking for Bollywood clips, read Wikipedia entries on the history of Indian cinema, and topped off my Netflix queue with several Hindi movies.
However, I think I may need to taper off soon. I've caught myself quietly singing Hindi songs as I walk to the gym, dreamt of Hrithik Roshan walking in slow-mo towards me as a catchy whistling tune plays in the background, and teared up at the thought of being separated from my one true love for more than two decades because he's been falsely imprisoned defending my honor. I could be reaching the overload point. That's OK. The next time I need a singing/dancing/drama fix, I'll turn to Netflix.
Enough of my describing Bollywood. Here's "Maahi Ve," a wedding lovesong in "Kal Ho Naa Ho" that makes my heart jump every time I hear it. I especially love it when Shahrukh Khan (or really the person that does his singing) shouts out "Everybody Sing!" You'll probably want to as well after watching it.
My dad and I spend much of our days near computers at our respective work places. Because of the easy access, we'll often have these back and forth e-mail conversations that begin with one thing -- perhaps him suggesting a link for me to look at -- but they quickly devolve into back and forth jabs and one-upmanship, all delivered with great familial affection, of course.
A recent example taken verbatim from an e-mail exchange:
Dad: Ever hear of a quartet named Anonymous Four? Their song just came up on Pandora. Nice.
"Anonymous 4 Biography The vocal group Anonymous 4 formed in 1986, originally comprising Johanna Maria Rose, Susan Hellauer, Ruth Cunningham and Marsha Genensky. So named in honor of the designation given by musicologists to the unknown 13th-century Parisian student whose writings detailed the vocal polyphony he heard at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the ensemble's performances also explored medieval chanting and polyphony, combined with elements of poetry and narrative; debuting in 1992 with An English Ladymass, the Anonymous 4 immediately topped Billboard's classical music charts, a feat repeated by their 1993 follow-up On Yoolis Night. Subsequent efforts include 1995's The Lily and the Lamb and Miracles of Sant'iago, 1996's A Star in the East and 1997's 11,000 Virgins. After completing A Lammas Ladymass, Cunningham left the group in 1998 and was replaced by Jaqueline Horner. Legends of St Nicholas followed a year later. ~Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide"
Me: I actually saw them in concert with Karen back in our soph/junior year at Northwestern. She'd been a fan of their music and suggested we go. They were very good. Oh, look, I one upped you again. Double :P :P.
Dad: Who is your father REALLY!!?? Me: Some mysterious European royal?
Dad: You mean James II of Scotland?
"James II - a full-on idiot and fanatical Catholic. He was such a fanatic that even Louis XIV (who destroyed France's protestant--Huguenot--minority with despicable brutality) cautioned him to move slowly. As the Durants put it,James was "suicidally immune to advice." To be fair, however, he was not a tool of France. Whereas his predecessor (and brother) Charles II was content to take huge subsidies from Louis to follow France's line in European politics; James II refused and Louis turned off the cash. As Lord Macauley put it (might have the name wrong), "If James had been a Protestant or even a moderate Catholic, he probably would have had a decent reign" and the Stuart dynasty would have probably lasted a lot longer and, perhaps, the present Royal family would not be German (the "Windsors" real name is Saxe-Coburg-Gotha--from Prince Albert's family name--changed by George V during WWI because of the understandable anti-German feeling at the time)."
Me: Well if I was several hundred years old he could be my father. Perhaps I have some French bloodline connection from mom's side. Because there ain't no royal blood in you. :P
Dad: Me no like you!
Cost of raising and educating your only daughter: $335,000+ Raising your daughter to be as sarcastic as you: Priceless
TV Current: Chuck, The Office, Lost, House, Law & Order (Original, Criminal Intent), Project Runway, Scrubs, Mad Men, The Big Bang Theory
TV Classics: Due South, Alias, Gilmore Girls, Star Trek: NG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise
Music: Josh Groban, The Weepies, Imogen Heap, The Beatles, Rufus Wainwright, Norah Jones, The Corrs, Ben Folds, Collective Soul, The Cure, John Mayer, Coldplay, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Keane, The Shins, Ingrid Michaelson
Movies: Shawshank Redemption, Amelie, Rushmore, The King of Kong, Grosse Pointe Blank, American Beauty, Gigi (NOT Gigli), North and South (BBC), Mostly Martha, Casablanca, Good Will Hunting, Monsoon Wedding, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Clue, Bollywood films