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Archive for July, 2010

Aloha kākou! Here’s this week’s question:

What is the Hawaiian word for the color GREEN??

  • Please post your answer as a reply to this message.
  • All correct answers will be eligible to win a special email message from me.
  • One winner will be randomly chosen at 11:59pm EST.

WillYOUbe this week’s lucky winner?

Good Luck!

Happy Aloha Friday!

**Crooner Update: You guys are GOOD! Once, again, you were all correct! The word for GREEN in the Hawaiian language is ʻŌMAʻOMAʻO! I love how that word sounds. And I love how it feels to say it! Go ahead… try it. You’ll love it!

So…. thanks to the technology at, this week’s randomly chosen winner is… (Drum roll, please…) KAPUNOHUʻULA ! Congrats! And be sure to check your email inbox for a message from me!

Mahalo to all of you for playing! I hope you’re enjoying the ALOHA FRIDAY TRIVIA CHALLENGE as much as I am! And I hope you’ll all play again NEXT WEEK!

Happy Weekend, gang!

Strum On!

A hui hou…



Inspiration Is A Two-Way Street

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Accidental Hawaiian Crooner at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles (July 2010)

The Accidental Hawaiian Crooner at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles (July 2010) (Photo by Wendy VW Hawker)

I was sweating. Not the “big drops” kind of sweat you might have after a long run. This was cold and clammy sweat.

My throat hurt. I was exhausted.

I had just finished my second day of talks at Otis College of Art and Design in LA.

As I’d shared in an earlier post, my friend Jeanie had asked me to come and talk about my version of “The Creative Process” and my philosophy of SHOWING UP AND SAYING “YES!” to her students.

Jeanie thought my story was entertaining. Unusual. And hopefully inspiring.

She thought the singer–who had been trained to stand in the crook of grand piano while wearing a tuxedo and then finds himself wrapped in a modest scrap of fabric tied around his waist with an ʻukulele in his hands–might be able to talk about ART and its crazy path. She hoped I might be able to illustrate how we wonderfully crazy art-folk set out in one direction and then, if we are lucky, we find ourselves on the wildest ride of our lives.

I was exhausted because of the physical process of standing and speaking for several hours. But I was also exhausted from sharing the details of my story.

I had decided that I wasn’t going to shy away from the truth of my experiences.

You see, most of the students I was speaking to are in high school. They are the same age I was when I went through one of the hardest periods in my life. They are the same age that I was when I was diagnosed with severe major depression and an eating disorder. They are the same age I was when I had to make a choice–to let myself fade away or to fight and survive.

While the details of my life are unique to my own “journey” I trusted that some of the students would be able to relate. I think it was the photographer, Diane Arbus, who spoke about how we, as artists, need to avoid working in a generalized way. We need to be specific. The more specific we are, the more universal the message will be. Yes… I was telling my personal story, but I knew that it would strike a chord with some of the audience. And hopefully, they’d see that they have a choice, too.

I wanted to share my passion for music. My belief that Hawaiian music changed my life. Even though our disciplines were different–these students are involved in visual arts–the process and passion are the same. Sketching in oil pastels is remarkably similar to strumming an ʻukulele in that respect!

I had spoken the day before to another one of Jeanie’s classes. The energy was totally different.

When I speak, I speak from the heart. I detest speakers who show up at venue and deliver a prepared speech. I can’t stand when people just “show up and press PLAY.” There’s no life in that method. I show up with a few notes. A mind map. A few simple “anchors” to help me refocus if I need them. And then I let the energy of the audience determine where the discussion goes.

So it was interesting to see how each class had “steered” the course of the talk by their reaction to different points I’d brought up. Or by the questions asked as I spoke.

The first class I’d spoken to was small. The setting was intimate. We had a chance to really sit and talk. They asked a lot questions throughout my “speech.” It was really interactive. A lot of fun.

The second class was larger. It was harder to read their faces as I spoke. There were less questions in the beginning. I was really hoping that I was reaching them, but I wasn’t sure.

As I wrapped up the discussion on the second day, I was sweaty. Spent. Shaky. (I really wanted to take a nap!)

Somewhat timidly, I opened up the discussion for a Q&A period. As a speaker, this can be really fascinating part of the day. It shows what points you were able to really “drive home” in during the talk. It shows what points need further clarification. And it can act as an “energy thermometer”–a way to see if you’ve totally lost youraudience.

I was excited to check in with them and see what THEY wanted to know.

Having been a student in a college of fine arts–and having lived in NYC for the better part of the last 15 years–I anticipated a lot of questions about the business of art. About what it feels like to face harsh criticism. About living an artistic life in a major city. About riding the waves success and failure at different times.

I scanned the room and looked at their faces. I smiled, trying to encourage them to ask questions.

“Go ahead,” I said. “It’s okay. You can ask me anything. I’ll answer as honestly as I can.”

Most of them looked down at their hands. Averting my eyes. I was beginning to wonder if I’d lost them early in the talk. If they were bored out of their minds and just wanted to get back to their still life drawings they’d been working on when I arrived in the class.

And then one young lady in the front row raised her hand.

I was elated. Someone had a question.

“Um… I was wondering… How many times have you been in love?”

That was one of the greatest questions I’ve ever had to open a Q&A session. By asking that simple and personal question, she opened the gates for the other students to come forward and ask their questions. The discussion continued until the end of the school day.

Two amazing days with two amazing classes of students. Unbelievable.

I went to Otis hoping to inspire the students. And these talented young artists inspired me more than they’ll ever know.


Aloha kākou!

I always have my iPod with me. It’s my personal jukebox.

Living in New York City, I spend a lot of time traveling underground via subway–and those rides can be long and boring! But having a collection of great music with me at all times keeps me from losing my mind. I can escape to a tropical isle with the push of a button. Portable paradise!

Here are the TOP 3 SONGS from my iPod this week:

1. Waiakanaio (Ledward Kaʻapana’s recording on the album Black Sand)

From what I read, the song was composed by George Huddy for the group Hui ʻOhana. I love how Uncle Led plays this as an instrumental piece–kī hōʻalu-style.

Letʻs face it: the guy is a MASTER musician. And when he plays the 12-string guitar, it shimmers. To me, it’s the sound of light dancing on the surface of the ocean. I love it.

2. Over (Keahiwai’s recording on the album Local Girls)

I have been feeling so nostalgic this week! I found a mix CD that I made from my “extensive” Hawaiian collection when I first started listening to Hawaiian music–and this song kicked it off! Keahiwai was DEFINITELY a huge group at the time. And I couldn’t get enough of their sound.

I remember streaming KCCN FM 100 on the computer at work. I haunted Tower Records here in NYC and combed through their limited Hawaiian selection. I think I bought every CD they had!

Now, for those of you who consider yourselves to be Hawaiian purists and will turn your noses up at Hawaiian “pop” or “Jawaiian” music, please note: A lot of the music we call “traditional” today was once the popular music of the time.

I remember thinking Keahiwai’s music connected me to the islands. Folks were listening to them on Hawaiian radio stations. And I was listening in my apartment in NYC. A bridge between our islands…

You’ll love their tight harmonies. You’ll love their great and catchy hooks. And I’ll bet you’ll find yourself dancing around a bit when you hear it. I do. Their music still makes me smile.

3. Jingle Bells (In Hawaiian) ( Genoa Keawe & Her Hawaiians’ recording on the album Santa’s Gone Hawaiian)

While working at an amusement park one summer, I learned about a tradition that I quickly adopted: Christmas in July! It was so fun to try to create a holiday feeling in the middle of summer. We put up a decorated tree–complete with homemade ornaments because the stores didn’t have any for sale in July!

So… before the month ends, I wanted to keep the tradition alive and listen to some holiday music. This week, I’ve been hooked on a gem of a recording of Aunty Genoa Keawe & Her Hawaiians. It’s truly a classic–and how cool to be able to play the “sounds of yesteryear” using today’s technology!

Classic + Fun = Awesome

What are YOU listening to? Drop me a line and let me know!!


Wielding the Mighty Sword…

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I met up with some members of my LA-based writing group last week.

It was an act of courage.


Because writers are strong and fierce warriors. They wield pens like mighty swords.

What are they battling?

The fear of creating. The choking feeling that comes up when faced with a blank page. The fear of exposing their feelings, opinions, desires, secrets… all of which will INEVITABLY come through in their writing.

In an earlier post, I wrote about a writing workshop that I’d taken with Lynda Barry in the Fall of 2008. In that workshop, I made friends with two of my fellow classmates. We formed a writing group. We were joined by two more folks. Five of us met every week at a Starbucks in North Hollywood. We WROTE together every week. We READ to each other every week. It was wonderful.

I was saddened to learn that the group has evolved. Two of the original group have moved on. (I know… I know… Everything’s gotta change.) But two of them still meet on a weekly basis–and they’ve been joined by another writer. The tradition continues!

After a day of speaking at Otis College of Art and Design last week, my good buddy, Jeanie (my Otis “connection” and one of the original folks from my writing group) asked me to come to her house and write. It would be a mini-reunion. We would been writing the way we’d learned from Lynda Barry.

I was exhausted. My throat was sore from the hours of speaking. I was a bit “raw”, at least emotionally–that often happens when I share the details of my own personal struggles and triumphs. I hadn’t slept more than a few hours the night before. And, of course… I said “YES!”

How could I pass up the opportunity to write with some of my buddies?

And how could I pass up the opportunity to really practice SHOWING UP AND SAYING “YES!”

So we sat at two tables on a hill behind Jeanie’s house. There were five of us. One woman was attending for the FIRST TIME. She’d heard about Jeanie’s writing group and decided to take the plunge.

Jeanie offered peaches–fresh from from a peach tree beside the tables. There was a pitcher of water. Someone had brought a bottle of wine to share. We lit incense to keep the mosquitoes away. Evening approached quickly. We lit a lantern. Dogs barked in the distance. I thought I heard a coyote howling.

“Maybe I’ll just watch,” said the woman who was joining in for the first time.

“No,” Jeanie said. “You HAVE to write with us.”

We explained the process that Lynda Barry had taught us. We drew an envelope from the word bag. We prepared our work surfaces. We chose images. We answered 24 questions. We read a poem. We set the timer.

And then we jumped in and wrote. We took the plunge. Together.

The first word was “baseball.” It’s funny how five people can write such compelling (and different!) stories about baseball. Perhaps it’s because we’re all dying to tell our stories. Dying to share. Even though we’re deathly afraid inside.

After the writing, we share. We take turns reading what we’d written. We lower our eyes as we’re read to–it helps to take some pressure off of the reader, who’s reading their words for the first time. No editing allowed.

“Maybe I’ll just listen,” said the woman who was joining for the first time.

“No,” said Jeanie. “You have to share. Trust us…”

The experience is raw. The experience is beautiful.

Out of respect for the other writers, I won’t say what they wrote about that night. I wrote about being a young boy on a baseball team. And the piece was about so much more. It ended up being about my relationship with my mother. Strange how that happens, huh?

So that’s why I say writing is like being a mighty warrior. **Please see the Crooner’s Update at the bottom of the page.**

We show up for the battle. And just like in the movies, the real battle is the “unknown.” We take the plunge together. We surrender to the process. We’re lead down paths we didn’t expect. And we face what comes up–as it comes up.

Writing is a practice that TRULY demands courage.

The woman that joined the group for the first time that night made everyone cry when she read her piece. The piece was beautiful. And knowing that she was sharing in this process of creation was beautiful. She showed up. She said YES .

She trusted the process. She trusted us. And most importantly–she trusted HERSELF.

When she picked up the pen, she wielded a mighty sword.

I think they should set a place for her again this week.

Something tells me she’ll be back…

**Crooner Update (7.29.10)

Tonight I picked up a copy of Laraine Herring’s new book, THE WRITING WARRIOR. I’ve been really excited to read this new work. One of her previous books, WRITING BEGINS WITH THE BREATH, has been a constant companion–a book I keep within arm’s reach at all times. She’s a brilliant writer. She’s a brilliant teacher. She has a way of making sense out of the whole “crazy writing process.”

I was laying in bed and reading the introduction when I started thinking: OH NO! What if it appears I’m stealing images from Laraine Herring?! That’s the LAST thing I want to do!

Did she create phrase WRITING WARRRIOR? I don’t know. I’ve known about the book’s title. Perhaps that’s where the seed was planted. But I mean her no disrespect! She’s my hero!

If you write, you know the courage it takes to face a blank page–and the courage it took that night in Los Angeles for us to come together and write and share with each other. You’d understand why the image of the “writing warrior” stood out in my mind.

PLEASE buy Laraine’s books. They’re wonderful. You can pick them up at your favorite bookstore. You can order them through your favorite online seller. But please check ‘em out. She’s a master teacher. I learn from her every time I open one of her books.

I love her work. I know you will, too…


Looking Through the (macro) Lense

Monday, July 26, 2010

macro lense flower and pollen (Jason Poole)

thru the macro lense: flower and pollen (7.25.10)

Hey gang! Aloha kākou!

I just got back to NYC after a whirlwind trip to LA.

The coolest part of the whole trip? I went to there to “teach” and ended up learning so much! Isn’t that ALWAYS the best?

I’m exhausted. And need sleep in the most desperate way!


When this blog launched, I made a promise that I would do my best to publish a new post every day–Monday through Friday. So here I am. Showing up and saying “YES!” to the site. And say “YES!” to the process. And best of all, I get the chance to say “Aloha” to all of you!

I have so many stories to share. So many wonderful experiences to tell you about. But I don’t want to try to write too much when I’m literally “punchy” with exhaustion.


I thought I’d share a picture from the weekend. You see…

One of the cool things I learned about while I was there was how to really PLAY with my “point and shoot” digital camera.

I’ve always loved the idea of taking pictures. But I’ve never really enjoyed the process. But my buddy, Wendy–who’s a true photo freak (in the best way!)–showed me how to have a lot of fun with the little camera thatʻs small enough for me to toss in my pocket every time I head out the door.

A very dangerous thing, indeed!

I can see myself spending HOURS a day taking pictures.

It helped me to change my focus. To see things in a different way.

Is it even close to being a “perfect” photo? No way!

Is it cool? I think so.

Was it fun to learn to PLAY with a camera? ABSOLUTELY.

Learning to play. Changing my focus. Pretty deep stuff, wouldn’t you say??

1 Comment

Aloha kākou! Here’s this week’s question:

Aunty Irmgard Farden Aluli wrote one of the most beloved hulas about her childhood home, PUAMANA . What island was Puamana located on?

Fun Crooner Factoid: This was one of the first hulas that I ever strummed and sang for a LIVE hula dancer. All I can remember about that night was being so nervous–afraid that I would forget the lyrics!

  • Please post your answer as a reply to this message.
  • All correct answers will be eligible to win a special email message from me.
  • One winner will be randomly chosen at 11:59pm PST.

WillYOUbe this week’s lucky winner?

Good Luck!

Happy Aloha Friday!

**Crooner Update: RIGHT ON! You guys are ALL COREECT! The answer is … MAUI. And week’s winner, chosen by the technology and, is… (Drum roll, please… ) NOHO!!

You guys rock my world. I’m so glad you participated in this week’s TAHC’s ALOHA FRIDAY TRIVIA CHALLENGE. And I hope you’ll play again next week.

Happy Weekend, gang!

A hui hou…