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Archive for September, 2011

Aloha kākou!

Here’s this week’s question:

Which of these four Hawaiian words means SUN.

A.  UA


C.  LĀ


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

Will YOU be this week’s lucky winner?

Good Luck!

Aloha Poʻalima! Happy Aloha Friday!

**Crooner Update:

You all are AWESOME!  And I’m really impressed by your knowledge of the Hawaiian language!  Every word learned is another step toward keeping this beautiful language alive and spoken.  Mahalo for that!

The correct answer is C.  LĀ.

And this week’s winner, chosen randomly from all of the correct answers, is… (Drum roll, please…) NORMAN!  Congrats Norman!  You’re this week’s Trivia Superstar!

A giant MAHALO to each of you for taking the challenge this week.  I hope you’ll play along next week, too!

Happy Weekend, gang.

A hui hou…



Writing and Rhythm

Thursday, September 29, 2011

thomas the cat, writer, jason poole

Thomas the Cat is a fantastic writing companion. He reminds me that naps are important to the creative process. (NYC 9.29.11)

I’ve been up to my eyeballs in writing these days.

The Self-Imposed/Self-Directed Writing Retreat that I did last month was incredibly beneficial.

(Please click HERE and HERE to read more about that.)

Let me tell you, locking yourself in a hotel room with nothing to do but WRITE for a couple days can be a really effective way to tackle a project head on!  It got me to put my ʻēlemu (buttocks) in the chair and put my pen to the page.  I generated a TON of short pieces–rough drafts and sketches to be used in what is now lovingly known as “Jason’s memoir-esque project” or “Jason’s writing thing.”

But it also opened up some old wounds.

Some things that I haven’t thought about for a long time managed to find their way into the stories. Long-buried memories started digging their way out.  It’s been wild.

So now I’m really going.  I’m writing.  And creating.  And discovering.  And REdiscovering.

And it’s awesome!  (Most of the time.)

And sometimes it’s terrifying.


I’m still trying to find my rhythm.

I mean, there are days when I start writing and I can’t stop.  I put all other things on the “back burner” and give in to the muse.  I become OBSESSED with writing.  And those days are a lot of fun! But at the end of the day, I see that I’ve neglected all of my other “duties.” (And that can be problematic.)

Other days, I manage to do a little writing, but it’s rough.  I stumble.  I stammer.  It doesn’t flow–it barely gurgles.  (And sometimes it’s just downright painful putting one word at a time on the page. Like my writing arm is wrapped in heavy metal chains.)  And that seems to affect other areas of my life that day, too.  Everything becomes a chore.

And then there are days when it flows freely–I write with a sense of purpose.  I manage to get at least a rough draft of an idea down on the page.  A sketch of story.  And then I can go about the rest of my day and take care of the things that require attention.  A day when I’m in the FLOW.

I know it’s not unusual.

It’s just new for me because this whole “writing thing”– the “writer’s life”– is new for me.

And I’m figuring it out as I go along.  One day at a time.

To use a musical metaphor: it’s like not being able to see the whole song–and taking the piece one measure at a time.

But trusting, all the while, that the finished piece will sound great.

I mua!  Onward!

Right on.

How about YOU?  How do you find your rhythm?  Drop me a line!  I’d love to hear from you.


The Crooner’s Weekly “TOP 5″ (9.28.11)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ukulele Croonerʻs Weekly TOP 3 iPod Jason Poole Accidental Hawaiian Crooner

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 5 SONGS from my iPod this week:

1. Home Kapaka (Kahauanu Lake Trio’s recording on the album At The Halekulani Hotel)

I love this song.  And that’s a good thing, too.  I’ve played it about 100 times this week!

Some of our NYC-based hula dancers asked if I’d learn it so they could have live music while they rehearsed.  (And you know how much I LOVE to play for the dancers!)  Unfortunately, I wasn’t as familiar with the song–or at least the lyrics of the song–as I’d hoped.  And that was a great excuse to really immerse myself in studying the song.

I looked through my CD collection and found several different versions.  Each one of ‘em distinct.  Each one of ‘em perfect in their own right.

But this week, while I’ve been strumming and singing, I’ve been hearing Kahauanu Lake Trio’s version in my head.  It’s very polished.  Very refined.  Very representative of their sound–and the sound of the Halekulani Hotel in Waikīkī.  Dreamy…

2. Home in the Islands (The Brothers Cazimero’s recording on the album The Best of the Brothers Cazimero )

Wanna feel like you’re back in the islands?  Looking for a song to create a mood?  Look no further.  This is it.

From the opening sounds of the guitar and the first taste of the Brothers Cazimero’s tight harmonies, I’m back on Oʻahu–tooling around in a car with the windows down.  It takes me there instantly.

Robert Cazimero sang the song at the piano–as a solo– when he was here in NYC this past weekend. When he sang it, I got a little choked up.  That familiar aching in my chest because I want to be in the islands.  Auē… (Please click HERE to read more about that performance.)

Thankfully, this recording takes me there–and that means I can go to Hawaiʻi in my mind just by pushing PLAY.

*Please click HERE to visit the Brothers Cazimero website.

3. Waiomina (The Hoʻopiʻi Brothers’ recording on the album Nā Mele Hoʻoheno)

I love leo kiʻekiʻe, Hawaiian falsetto singing.  And who does it better than the legendary Hoʻopiʻi Brothers?!

I was riding the subway downtown this week and my music was playing in “shuffle” mode. This song came on and it brought an instant smile to my face–which is really saying something since it was a packed subway car during rush hour!

The song has that powerful paniolo (cowboy) feeling built into it.  A wonderful and wild strum on the guitar and ʻukulele.  And fantastic harmonies in their distinctive soaring vocals.

Come on.  It’s so ʻono!

4. Hana Calls (Ernie Cruz Jr.’s recording on the album Portraits)

This song has been a favorite for a long time.

I first heard it on a Kaʻau Crater Boys album, Tropical Hawaiian Day.  The song was fast and fun.  And it featured their distinctive brand of harmonies and ʻukulele flair.

I was thrilled to hear it again on Ernie Cruz Jr.s solo album.  A blast from the past.  A little slower than the earlier version, but still a song that moves along like a sailboat that’s caught a good gust of wind.

(Interesting to note that the Kaʻau Crater Boys recording is in the key of G while Ernie Cruz Jr.’s solo recording is a fourth higher–in the key of C.  When I’ve had the pleasure of singing it with slack key guitar players, I like to sing it in G–it’s an easy/friendly key for them.  But when I’m jamming the song by myself, I like to do it in C.)

*Please click HERE to visit Ernie Cruz, Jr.’s myspace page

5. Liloa’s Mele (Sonny Chillingwoth’s recording on the album Endlessly)

I love kī hōʻalu (slack key guitar) music!  It’s no secret.

And Uncle Sonnyʻs masterful touch makes everyone of his recordings a delight to listen to.

I needed to listen to something soothing the other night. (Insomnia and I have become friends, again.)  I started looking through my collection of slack key albums and put together a playlist of songs that would soothe my stressed nerves.  It was heavenly.

And this song was a favorite, for sure.

But I have to admit that I had a hard time just closing my eyes and listening to it–or I should say I had a hard time listening to it mindlessly.  As I listened, I had to sit up.  I had to imagine what his fingers must have looked like while he played this song on the guitar.  A real master.

The album’s liner notes tell a nice story about how the song was written for one of Uncle Sonny’s grandchildren.  What a legacy he’s left for them!

*Please click HERE to visit Dancing Cat Records’ Sonny Chillingworth page.

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

And, as always, a giant MAHALO to Puna and the gang at for being an awesome Hawaiian music resource. You all make the world a better place!


Super Special Bonus Post: UNCERTAINTY

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jonathan Fields was one of my favorite speakers at the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR in June.

He closed the whole event with a talk about UNCERTAINTY—and it was the perfect venue for it.  The place was packed with creative types, including many who’d already “taken the leap” and left the security of their conventional jobs and were out in the world making a difference in a unique but uncertain way.

Let’s face it:  there is safety in doing what’s expected of you.  I sat behind a desk for over 10 years at a corporate gig.  And I’m so grateful for that experience.  It helped shape me as an individual.  It provided with me with the safety and security of a steady income and a daily “place to report” while I did a lot of soul searching.  It helped me discover who I am—what I like and what I don’t like.  It sustained me while I was growing.

And that safety helped inspire me to take the leap and go after my heart’s true calling.

When Jonathan spoke at the World Domination Summit, I got chicken-skin.  Goosebumps.  He echoed my philosophy of SHOW UP AND SAY “YES!” which has lead to the some of the most incredible moments of my life.

Great reward requires risk.  It requires UNCERTAINTY.  Maybe risk of failure or rejection.  (Ok… maybe risk of death or dismemberment, too… )

But it’s the uncertainty and the willingness to SHOW UP AND SAY “YES!” that makes the success taste even sweeter.

Jonathan’s new book, appropriately titled Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance, launches this week and I’m so excited.   (So excited that I pre-ordered multiple copies.)  Please click HERE to see the fantastic book trailer.

He’s put a call out to folks who read his blog to share their stories of  times where they danced with uncertainty—and won.  A story “contest” of sorts… with opportunities to win some cool stuff.  (Please click HERE to read about his “story contest” on his blog.)

But the thing that stood out most to me was the opportunity to share a story of  overcoming the nervousness and going for it.

Sharing a story of SHOWING UP AND SAYING “YES!”  After all, you never know who will read the story.  Maybe the person who needs it most.

And maybe that person is you.

Here’s my story:

broken hip, IT fracture, jason poole

An x-ray of my hip, 4 1/2 years after the accident

Showing Up and Saying “YES!” to Hula (and how that changed my whole world)

I woke up with a thud.

I was laying on the floor, having fallen out of my bed.  A loft bed about six feet off the ground.

And I couldn’t get up.  Immobilized by the pain.

At the hospital, I found out that I’d broken my hip.  Quite an unusual thing for a 28 year old healthy guy to do.   Instead of just bouncing when I hit the ground, I pulled a Humpty Dumpty.  I broke.

You know how the hip has a “ball in socket” connection?  Well, I cracked the top of my femur—essentially breaking the “ball” off.  Auē…

A wonderful team of surgeons put me back together.  But they told me that I might have some problems with my leg because they had to cut through my quadricep muscle in order to fix the bones.

They were right.

The bones healed beautifully, but the muscles healed with scar tissue that pulled so tightly, it made that leg a little shorter.  And that caused me to walk with a limp.

That’s NOT what you want when you’re an aspiring musical theater actor who’s convinced you’re  right on the cusp of career success.  Yes, I wanted my “big break” but not like this. (Insert groans here.)

I began a rigorous course of physical therapy.  My therapist was awesome. She tried a myriad of approaches to help my leg to heal, but nothing seemed to work.  The difference in the length of my legs remained—and so did the limp.

Right before my accident, I’d been introduced to Hawaiian music by a coworker.

I’d never heard anything like it.   In college, I’d been told that music had a direct physiological response, affecting both the brain and body.  This music reached down inside me and touched a part of me that I thought was dead—killed by the constant rejection in the theater world and the crazy rush of living in NYC.  Hawaiian music found my soft spot and woke it up, again.  I listened to it non-stop.  It became my refuge.

For my 30th birthday, my partner-in-crime bought me a gift certificate in the form of a class card—enabling me to take five hula classes with a teacher in New York City.  He thought it would be a wonderful way to take my love of Hawaiian music a step further.  I thought he was crazy.  I’d gotten the message loud and clear: NO MORE DANCING.

But the more I thought about it, the more excited I got.  What was the worst thing that could happen?  I already had problems with the leg.  I was already resigned to the fact I’d probably always have the limp.

Could taking a hula class really do irreparable damage?

I often hear folks describe a nervous feeling as “having butterflies in the stomach.”   And that’s a lovely and illustrative way of putting it.

I felt like I had butterflies the size of eagles flying around inside my stomach.  Butterflies with fangs.  And long talons.

I did it.  I took the class—even though I’d been told “NO” by everyone–including my physical therapist.  Even though I knew I was risking possible damage to the leg.  Even though I knew one class may undo any progress I’d made.

I did it because I had to do it.  My gut said,  “YES!”

(And I’m so glad I did!)

In hula, one of the first things you learn is a step called a ka’o—a movement that slowly stretches the hips. 

It’s the gentle “sway” you see when you watch a hula dancer.  In that first class, I spent a long time working in this position.  It made me sore—but in a familiar way.  This was the “good pain” I remembered from dance classes.   The pain that proved you’d been working hard.

Then I took a second class.  By this time, the monstrous butterflies had returned to their normal size.  No more fangs or talons.

And then it was time for me to go back to physical therapy for a regularly scheduled visit.

My therapist measured each leg at the start of the session and she gasped—my legs were the same length!  Hula had done the impossible: it had stretched the scar tissue.  I was healing!

Eventually I stopped physical therapy and turned exclusively to hula as my healing modality.

And hula lead to me learning to the play the ‘ukulele.

And the ‘ukulele lead me to study music in Hawai’i.

And those studies lead me to my kumu, my teacher.   And to my heart’s desire—helping to perpetuate a culture found in Hālawa Valley on the island of Molokai.  (And I’m learning how to do that with one foot planted in the islands and the other rooted in NYC!)

The lesson in all of this?  I’ve learned to make friends–well, at least acquaintances who nod kindly at each other–with UNCERTAINTY.  It’s a part of life.

Yes, I still get the butterflies.  But I’ve learned to dance with them. (And who knew they danced the hula?!)

Right on.


Strummin’ in the City (#34)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

kamaka, ukulele, 6-string, tenor ukulele, central park, nyc, columbus circle, lili'u

Kamaka 6-string tenor (Lili'u) 'ukulele at the fountain in Central Park (Columbus Circle, NYC September 2011)

A lot of folks find it hard to believe that I carry my ‘ukulele with me all the time.

But you never know when you might feel like strumming!

And as Pops is always quick to advise: E ho’omākaukau. Be prepared.

Ah… the life of an urban strummer!

(Do you like the ʻukulele in the photo? Check out for some of the best ʻukuleles on the planet!)

kika lei, na kamalei, robert cazimero

Mahalo to Robert Cazimero & Hālau Nā Kamalei O Lililehua for the beautiful kīkā (cigar flower) lei (NYC 9.25.11)

It’s Monday and I’m sitting at my computer.  But my mind is reliving this past weekend.

The one and only Robert Uluwehi Cazimero was in town!

And he graced NYC with not one but TWO fantastic evenings of music and hula.  A performance he called “On the Island.”

(I only managed to catch one of the two shows–the Sunday performance–because I was working on Saturday.  However, I was thrilled to be sharing Aloha at a birthday lūʻau.  That’s a good job to have!)

Have you guys had the chance to see  the legendary Robert Cazimero in action?  Ah!  The best!  There’s a reason he’s known as “the voice!”  Seriously, he opens his mouth and it’s like… well… it’s awesome.

And oh! The hula!

He brought four members of Hālau Nā Kamalei O Lililehua (his hula hālau/school) with him and they generously shared the gift of hula with the audience.  Their style is instantly recognizable–and it’s no wonder they are one of the most famous hālau hula in the world.  (They are the subject of the award-winning film NĀ KAMALEI: THE MEN OF HULA.  Please click HERE for more information.  It’s one of my all-time favorite films.  I think I’ve seen it about 2 billion times.)  The men representing Hālau Nā Kamalei O Lililehua were:  Alvin “Gunnie” Hanzawa, Keola “Bully” Makaʻiau, Kaliko Chang and Keo Woolford.

And NYC’s own Eleanor Trillana was featured as a solo hula dancer! (A stunning hula dancer who brought tears to the eyes as she glided on the stage.)

The show was exactly what one would hope for when one goes to see a show presented by Robert Cazimero.

Incredible vocal and piano stylings.  Stories.  Laughs.  Amazing hula and chant.

He shares from his heart.  100%.

I loved being able to sit and soak in all of the magic of the evening.   And it was incredibly cool to be surrounded by folks who have come together to celebrate an evening like this.  An audience filled with like-minded (Aloha-minded) people.

But I have to tell you…

My favorite part of the evening was the intimate reception after the show.

Robert and the dancers “hung out” with us.  It was so informal.  No receiving line.  No formal handshakes.  Instead it was a chance to mingle in small groups.  A chance to share laughs.  A chance to share hugs.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with/working with Kumu Robert before he was in NYC. (Please click HERE to read more about that.)  I love having the opportunity to just walaʻau with him.  Just “talk-story.”  (And I love that he provides me with an opportunity to speak in Hawaiian!  I’m sure I butchered the language at times. Thankfully, he seemed to understand what I was trying to say.)

He may be known throughout the world as “the legendary Robert Uluwehi Cazimero.”  And I will faithfully purchase every album he records–either solo or as one half of the equally-legendary “Brothers Cazimero.”

But I’m so glad to also know him as Robert–a man who’s quick to laugh and hug and tells really funny stories.

He reminds me that “Hawaiian” more than just DNA.  Hawaiian is respect.  For the culture.  For the language.  For the stories. For the music. For the hula.  For the land.  For the people.

Mahalo to Kumu Robert Uluwehi Cazimero and all of the dancers for sharing Aloha with the people of NYC.

Right on.

(And a giant MAHALO  to the Wāhea Foundation, Hula Nation and to everyone who worked so hard to make the weekend a success!  You ROCK.)

*Please click HERE to visit Robert Cazimero’s website.

*Please click HERE to visit the Brothers Cazimero’s  website.

*Please click HERE to visit Hula Nationʻs website.

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