December 29, 2003

The weather service issued a flood watch for the island over the weekend, but our much-hyped storm turned out to be rather wimpy. Thunder and lightning but little else. It's not rained for much of December; I wonder if that's normal?

Watched Blue Car the other night. It's sort of a Finding Forrester (or any other older mentor encourages a young person to find his or her own voice movie) meets Lolita's Humbert Humbert. Unremarkable and predictable, but then I guess there's only so much you can do with the encourage-a-teenager genre.

Drove up to Kilaeua to see Cold Mountain in the theater/community events hall there. Nifty space. Before the lights flicked off, I kept forgetting it was a movie we would be seeing and not the local children's theater group. The movie itself was good, a solid piece of work by all involved. Somewhat lacking in emotional depth but very thorough in its "any war is bad" message. Interesting to see the Civil War from the Confederate perspective; I've often only seen the view from the North, righteous and victorious.

The best part of the last few days: The Dogs of Babel. Finally, a really excellent read: evocative, poetic, emotional, haunting. Perhaps the most accurate portrayal of grief I've ever read. A beautiful book.

December 26, 2003

I'm approximately halfway through The Briar King, and that's probably as far as I'm likely to get. Although mildly curious as to how the story will work out, I'm finding I really don't care. I may "release" it with Book Crossing. . .

Ian's apprentice is off to the mainland for the holidays, so we're on a vacation, of sorts. Tuesday and Wednesday we drove down to the Poipu area of the South Shore for further adventures in snorkeling at Prince Kuhio Beach and Lawa'i Beach. These beaches are less protected from the open ocean than other places we've snorkelled, but we can add more interesting fish to our found list: a blue parrot fish, a flat bottom feeder who disappears when lying still on the sand, and a humuhumunukunukuapua'a, the unofficial state fish of Hawaii. We probably should have bought ourselves the larger guidebook to Hawaiian fish when we picked up our reef shoes and a copy of the Ultimate Kauai Guidebook.

We broke in the reef shoes by exploring Gillin's Beach and the Maha'ulepu area. Lithified sand is surprisingly sharp but delightfully alien. We explored the tidepools there, finding our first Hawaiian sea anenome, several enormous black crabs and many nudibranchs in various degrees of sand coverage. When undressed, sea cucumbers are unexpectedly colorful and rather slimy to touch. Yesterday, we took the reef shoes riverwalking up Makaleha Stream. Along the way, we scrambled through a bamboo thicket (thinking of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and found several sea hibiscus flowers floating downstream. Each flower starts the day bright yellow in the morning then slowly darkens to a beautiful rust color before falling of the end of the day.

December 21, 2003

We made another attempt at snorkeling yesterday. I may be starting to get the hang of this. I'm reasonably certain we saw yellowstripe goatfish (stirring up sand with their wiskers then nosing forward looking for lunch), several convict tangs, a threadfin butterfly fish (he looked woven), Moorish idol (one of the Finding Nemo fish), possibly some yellowtail coris, a handful of long and skinny trumpet fish, and several others we couldn't find on our find-a-fish card.

Finally saw Pirates of the Caribbean last night. It may be the silliest movie ever. I remember precisely one thing from the ride in Disneyland: the "working women" gathered around the kegs of rum, showing the sailors a good time. I suppose that tableau is memorable to many people since it managed to work itself into the movie. Interesting, though, that this is the memory I have of the ride. I think I was 9 or 10 at the time, so I probably didn't even get it.

December 19, 2003

While grocery shopping yesterday, I finally read the signs by the Hallmark display: "Christmas, Thursday, December 25th." That means this winter holiday is less than a week away. Driving home, I noticed the hibiscus along the road, saucer-sized blooms in red, pink, orange and yellow. Is it any wonder I'm not in a Christmas-shopping mood?

For years, I've listened to (and given) assorted rants about the increasing commercialism of Christmas. Somewhere, I probably still have a holiday decoration emblazoned with "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," an ironic and problematic statement. Nowhere has that been more obvious than here. I've seen exactly one palm tree dressed up in tiny lights. There are more Santas then I can count, all fat and jolly and bundled in fur-lined red snowsuits. There are oversize snowflakes in front of Safeway, streamers of red and green tinsel at Longs, and a collection of drying evergreens wilting in front of Big Save. With the trappings so obviously imported from somewhere else, it's apparent that the holiday itself is foreign. We're not celebrating the birth of the Savior of Man in some desert town two millennia ago. This holiday is about Victorian romanticism, winter in New England and a sort of aggressive nostalgia that goes beyond rose-colored glasses.

This painting-over reminds me too much of a certain species of missionary who brings not just the Gospel but a belief in the white man's superiority. Salvation for the savages in the form of proper clothing and afternoon tea. I'd like Christmas adapted for location, with lights strung on palm trees, garlands of hibiscus flowers, and "Santa" gone native in shorts and a T-shirt.

December 17, 2003

We spent the necessary three hours in line last night to be able to see the very first show of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King at midnight. It's playing at the only multiplex (four screens!) on the island. I keep meaning to determine the distance to the next nearest theater showing it. . .

Excellent movie. I'll be very disappointed if Peter Jackson does not get Best Director from the Academy this year. The entire Lord of the Rings epic clocks in somewhere between 9 and 12 hours, and Jackson deserves recognition for the consistent look, feel, and quality of the entire trilogy.

One of my favorite moments: Eowyn, Princess of Rohan, finally fed up with the men around her telling her that her proper place is overseeing the women and children and not on the battlefield, disguises herself and rides to war with her king. When he is wounded, it is she who stands between him and the Nazgul lord who would finish him. After Eowyn decapitates the Witch King's dragon and successfully deflects his sword, the Nazgul lord still mocks her, "Don't you know who I am? No man can kill me." In response, she sweeps her helm from her head, freeing her mane of blond hair, and retorts "I am no man" before she runs her sword through his face mask.

December 16, 2003

Finished Into The Wild last week. One of Ian's editing apprentices gave it to us as a going away present when we left Los Angeles. The book is about a young man who, upon graduating from college, donated all his money to charity and headed into the Alaskan wilderness, where he starved. I'm still not sure what Dave was trying to say.

The author argues that it was not this man's intention to die and explores the various reasons he might have had for heading into harsh country with a rifle, 10 lbs. of rice and no map. But once armed with a potential indictment against society (the young man grew up in suburbia, had a very strained relationship with his parents, and hated the injustice of capitalism), the author doesn't do anything with it except note that it is tragic the young man didn't live to outgrow his ideals and accumulate enough sin of his own that he might forgive his parents. None of this changes the fact that the book is good; I had trouble putting it down. I'm just sorry to see the missed opportunity. Then again, perhaps that is appropriate.

By the way, I have finally added two new quilts to the gallery.

December 08, 2003

Spent Saturday morning on the beach while Ian reacquainted himself with his boogie board. I watched a pair of tiny, translucent crabs excavate new homes, appearing at their doorways to throw bundles of sand an average distance perhaps five times the length of their bodies. A golden mutt hung out in the shallow water, leaping into waves as they came ashore, always looking seaward, watching her surfer. Another dog, a black lab, refused to stay ashore but kept swimming out to his person, a woman in a flesh-toned bikini who had to haul the dog onto her surfboard and bring him to shore at least three times.

It's rather strange to have the sun rising over the water. I've discovered a flaw in my sense of direction: until now, the ocean has always been in a generally westerly direction. Here, the ocean is all around, but our closest access to it faces east. Ian is trying to use the Hawaiian directions "makai" and "mauka", "toward the water" and "toward the mountain". We pick up stray bits of language as we travel: nearly four years after Germany, I still ask for the time in German. I have vague ambitions that "menehune" remain part of our vocabulary - it's so much more poetic than QuikStop.

I know I don't usually mention work here, but an article/pitch thing under my name is actually published on a site I don't own. It's more militant than I actually feel about things, but the response so far has been good.

December 05, 2003

Reading Wicked, another book which came with the house. The story is good, worth re-reading since there is so much meat in it (What is evil? Where does it come from? What about destiny? Free will? The ties of love and family and moral obligation?), there's no possible way to get it all the first time.

We went for a small evening stroll last night and ended up walking to town. When we got home, I did the math and figured we walked 7 miles. Oops.

I made my first attempts at snorkeling earlier this week, mostly just using the mask and holding my breath while looking at the fish in Lydgate Park. Very cool. We've tentatively planned to go to Poipu this weekend and practice some more. I'm hoping the clouds clear a bit for the excursion; at Lydgate it was pouring hard, cold beads of rain when we left the water, making the trip to the car a more intensely wet experience the swimming in the ocean.