photo by EfrankE

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Twilight Eclipses my Comprehension

So, it’s that time again. Twilight Fandemonium hit with last night’s, 4,000 North American Theaters’ 12 a.m. to 3 a.m showings generating more than $30 million.

I suppose I shouldn’t comment on the phenomenon, not having seen the picture, and my earlier post, Twi-night of the Living Dead laid out my questions regarding “The Saga”, but really, how could the “Twilight” movie characters possibly be more compelling than Gary Cooper in High Noon, or Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter?

There are no reports that people lined up, breathlessly anticipating the midnight showing of those two great films. Were audiences simply more sophisticated in the 1950’s, or what gives?

Eclipse audiences are reported to display the same giddy response that might result from Congress passing a balanced budget amendment with a term limit rider – or say, would accompany the announcement of the elusive, yet-to-be produced, truly effective, hair-re-growth product.

The most famous vampire personage, Count Dracula, based on the historical figure, Vlad the Impaler, was an intolerant, cruel tyrant who ran pointed poles about 3” in diameter through his victims with the entry point being "where the sun don’t shine". As the victims were raised on the skewer, the weight of their bodies sank them further down the pole, the top of which eventually emerged somewhere around the clavicle. Death was slow and excruciating.

It baffles me how the proponent of this process might inspire any sort of romantic entertainment without extensive artistic license and heavy editing. Granted, the lead actors are reputed to possess physical traits that most women admire, but let’s be frank, these guys are freaks and their bites carry the risk of rabies at best (via the werewolves) and could consign you to an eternally soulless journey to nowhere (via the vampires).

It’s all a good romp, of course, until you find you have to submit to a series of painful rabies shots to the abdomen or can no longer tell if you got the part in your hair straight because your image no longer reflects in a mirror. Logically, wouldn't movies be the logical vehicles for effectively communicating these important warnings to our young people? And we wonder why they end up as walking tattoo billboards and jewelry display cases.

Anyway, I’ll present the opportunity again. If anyone can explain what the appeal is of these vampire/werewolf story motifs I would be interested in hearing from you.

Apologies for re-using the graphic from a previous post, but Baby Daughter is working 9 hour days, 6 days a week now and can no longer serve as my Photoshop-savvy assistant.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Appliance-dependency Helplessness in Hawai’i

In today’s headlines, the U.S. President continues to tout the “Recovery Summer”, while the most publicly-visible and influential Keynesian economist, Paul Krugman, upon whose analysis and opinions help drive the president’s economic stimulus policy, states that we’re at the beginning of a Third Depression (either to be long or great).

Perhaps to emphasize the point, the Dow Jones industrial average has dropped 428 points (4.2 percent) in the last four days, currently down 14.5 percent from its 2010 high in April. Investors appear to be choosing liquidity over capital investment. This sort of trend generally is taken as not a positive development for architects,

However, this is not my most preoccupying concern. The most vexing problem lately has been getting the laundry done.

Some months ago, various of my progeny and their family members, together with us, their parents, moved into one house to help manage reduced incomes resulting from the contracting private sector economy.

There are eight of us here. Several of us play soccer, some surf, one is a triathlete, training sometimes twice a day, and there is a one year old, and we generate dirty clothes regularly and efficiently. We used to do 2 or 3 washer loads a day, until our 7 month-old Maytag washer broke down in a noisy, grinding and ultimately, irritating, though non-agitating (if you know what I mean), way. That was 6 weeks ago.

Four weeks ago, the repairman came out to fix the washer. He took off the top and front panel to reveal at least part of the damage. Concrete rings around the front and back of the drum, presumably functioning as counterweights or stabilizers, were cracked and chipped. The repairman said he would order the replacement parts and call me when with the date they were expected to arrive.

He never called. After repeated calls to his number, I was told the part would arrive a week ago last Sunday. I called on Monday last. No answer. The next day, his receptionist told me the part was on factory back order and wouldn’t arrive until July 16.

Skipping many uninteresting steps. I called the factory. They located a distributor with the part. It arrived yesterday. There were no stabilizer rings. I’ve called twice to the repairman to ask how to proceed with repairs. Neither call has been returned yet. Week seven begins.

We live on an Island, 3,000 miles from the nearest continent. Obtaining certain goods has always been a patience-building exercise. Usually, we just tally it up as part of the price of Paradise. I don’t know how many more weeks must yet pass before our warranty-covered repairs are completed. Patience-building time and Paradise price inflation are both growing.

In the meantime, the local laundromat is prospering in the down economy from the many bags of dirty clothes we wash and dry there every week at no small cost of time and money (Paradise premium rates).

If only architects provided a service that had to be obtained every week…

Monday, June 28, 2010

Swimming in the Sky

This seems an odd contrast to the state of the world economy right now, but it is spectacular.

Are those things up there trees growing out of a 55 story building?

Yes, they are.

The Marina Bay Sands development in Singapore with its infinity edge swimming pool raised 650 feet into the air was designed by Moshe Safdie, with the concept based on a a deck of cards.

A refreshing dip at the ol' swimming hole.

Safdie was the architect who designed Habitat '67, a prefab, modular building system of stacked cubicle-shaped units with openings between them to allow in light and air. The building was constructed for the 1967 Montreal Expo world's fair. As architecture students in the early 1970's,we studied this building as part of our design education.

Habitat '67, Montreal, Canada

Back to the Marina Bay Sands.

So much of our experience of the world now seems to have its origins in Walt Disney's imagineering approach to entertainment in the 1950's. Incongruity, illusion and gravity-defying effects that began in avant garde art in the early to mid-twentieth century have moved into the mainstream environs of daily life through technology.

From Circue du Soleil to CGI graphics in movies and television product ads, and now, more and more, the built environment physical reality is distorted, senses are confused and one's understanding of the place he occupies in the world is challenged.

As technology continues to overwhelm us with greater and greater levels of complexity and control over our lives, quality human relationships become that much more important to help anchor us in reality and serve as an affirming reminder of personal significance.

Click here for the Daily Mail source article and photos of other areas of the development.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ride the Wild Slick

Breaking wave at Orange Beach, Alabama, about 90 miles from the BP oil fountain and now a universe away from Surfers' Paradise.

Oil Slick Orange, the complementary color of Ultramarine Blue.

Sad times.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Advertising from My Formative Years

Back in the day, ads carried quite different viewpoints than those currently in fashion...

Influential or not, somehow, most of my compadres still turned out okay.

Click here for a sample gallery.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is This Really Necessary?

The U.S., currently fighting in two undeclared wars in the Middle East, now has about a dozen warships being positioned in the Persian Gulf against Iran, presumably to be employed militarily in yet another conflict politicians have neither the will nor strategy for winning.

Senator Alan Simpson has said, viewable on video at youtube.com, that within the last month or so, the Social Security system started paying out more than it is taking in.

The Gulf of Mexico is being destroyed by oil and chemicals jetting out of the ocean floor at pressures that defy current technology’s capabilities to resist.

Joblessness and underemployment continue to weaken the economy and harm families’ abilities to manage themselves, while government “borrowing” reaches forward to enslave yet additional future generations under burdensome debt.

After adding another $3.1 trillion to the deficit, the economy is still faltering. Banks are failing at twice the rate of a year ago and the FDIC has used up its reserve funds.

In the face of this and other national problems of crisis proportions, the U.S. president has pushed for legislation to do what?

Create more walking paths and biking lanes. $1.2 billion dollars worth.

Setting aside whether or not this type of activity necessarily falls under the purview of the federal government, is this really the wisest utilization of resources by a government teetering on the brink of bankruptcy? Will this "investment" contribute to commerce and lasting growth in employment?

Perhaps this strikes others differently, but when I read of fiascos like this, I have to wonder if certain of our leaders are in touch with reality at all. My daughters, serving as babysitters in their early teen years, executed their duties far more responsibly.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Canada Makes Kona Newspaper Banner Headline

Yesterday’s local newspaper, West Hawaii Today, featured the top headline: Oh, Canada! Nation’s Economy Suddenly the Envy of the World.

The story reports: “The 20 world leaders at an economic summit in Toronto next weekend will find themselves in a country that has avoided a banking crisis where others have floundered, and whose economy grew at 6.1 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year.”

The article particularly notes that, “there was no mortgage meltdown or subprime crisis in Canada. Banks don’t package mortgages and sell them to the private market so they need to be sure their borrowers can pay back the loans.”

Grrr! Lucky so-and-so’s, who could've ever thought of running banks like that?

“The banks are stable because, in part, they’re more regulated. As the U.S. and Europe loosened regulations on their financial industries over the last 15 years, Canada refused to do so.”

Well, yearh, if you're gonna cheat! How are U.S. banks supposed to compete with that?

“The banks also aren’t as leveraged as their U.S. or European peers.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and take a guess that Canadian banking system laws aren’t written by former Goldman Sachs executives now embedded in their nation's government.

“Our banks were better managed and we had better regulations,” says former Prime minister Paul Martin, the man credited with killing off a massive government deficit in the 1990’s when he was finance minister, leading to 12 straight years of budget surpluses.”

World leaders have noticed: President Barack Obama says the U.S. should take note of Canada’s banking system…”

Yeah, well, I wouldn’t recommend anyone holding his breath waiting for that to happen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day, Dad

From humble beginnings in Sioux Falls to living in Europe to our graduations and careers, you and Mom provided us with so many good opportunities, experiences and great family memories, the cost of which I could only really appreciate years later.

Sometimes it may have felt like the world was on your shoulders, but you took it all in stride and made things good for the family. Only after years of fatherhood, myself, did I come to appreciate how exhausting that was for you, at times.

I think I shot this photo when you were 15 years younger than I am now. I remember being somewhat concerned that you bought a gas-powered push - rather than self-driven - lawnmower when you were turning 40, because I expected to be leaving home in a couple of years and without me around to cut the grass, wasn't sure you'd be okay with that. Forty seemed so old to me back then. Guess my worries were way misplaced. Oh, to be 40 again now, myself!

Thanks for setting a great example for me of being a good father, Dad. I love you.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

When You Need to Rent (Soccer) Fans, Who Ya Gonna Call?

Why, the Chinese, of course.

One of the stranger FIFA World Cup news stories to appear (so far) regards North Korea enlisting around a thousand PRC Chinese to pose as their “fans” during their soccer matches in South Africa.

Funny thing is, most of the Chinese who comprised the “fans volunteer army” knew next to nothing about soccer or the World Cup.

Evidently, the problem for the DPRNK was finding enough butts to fill their allocated seats at their games, butts that, presumably, could be trusted to return home at the end of the World Cup games. They managed to provide only a “group of 300 [who] had been carefully chosen by the North Korean Government.”

Being that the Norks were only able to “carefully select” 300 of their own people, they arranged for supplemental Chinese nationals to don the same red fan uniforms as their own people with the objective of providing support for their players.

You know, it has to be said, it’s bad enough when teams surreptitiously bring in ringers to play for them but when you have to fly in artificial fans, well, that that sets a new standard for the pathetic.

The London Evening Standard subject article reports, “Although they [DPRNK fan group] sang their national anthem loudly, the group tended only to cheer when directed by a man who stood before them like an orchestra’s conductor.”

Still, the Chinese were reported to be enjoying the games, cheering conductor and all. Can’t find any fault there. Lemons into lemonade: Wear a red uni and score free seats to a world class quadrennial sports event.

In a further botched attempt to endear North Korea to the world, the team’s “manager Kim Jong Hun rebuked a journalist for not using his country’s full name – Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea,” the same article reported.

Democratic People’s Republic, Banking Reform Bill... since when does a name of something have anything to do with accuracy of terms, anyway, right?

The saddest thing is, the North Koreans played decent soccer in their opener while losing to perennially strong Brazil by only one goal, and their back four defenders played very well together. You’ve got to give respect to the players. Obviously they’ve trained hard and have developed their skills, and playing in the shadow of an oppressive regime can’t be easy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Beautiful Game with the Annoying Sound

If you've watched any of the FIFA World Cup games, you've had to listen to the constant background noise from the vuvuzela crowd competing with the commentators' description of the action.

The noise is relentless and is reported to be at 127 decibels (for comparison, a chainsaw in operation is about 100 decibels; a jet taking off is 130 if you were to be standing next to the engines).

For the uninitiated, here's a guide to proper use of the vuvuzela.

click on image to enlarge

Personally, I hate the blankety-blank things.


Monday, June 14, 2010

A Tie is as Good as a...Draw

This would have been more timely on Monday, but I just saw this today.

I guess it's a cultural thing...

click on image to englarge


Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Hidden Exposure of the Truth

The catastrophic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is the most devastating ecological disaster in U.S. history, and the repercussions will likely be felt around the globe for years to come.

While it's no laughing matter, I'm posting this video because the interviewee seems to so closely mimic the defensive replies, rather than solutions, or at the least, a timely, coordinated, national response by government and industry. Avoiding blame seems to have been the paramount concern by those who self-identify as leaders upon whom the public might be expected to rely.

As you watch this, see if anything truthful can be identified behind the obtuse response to questions.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Heroic and the Honorable

Thoughts running through my head today…

Today, Friday, is nearly over. Today was King Kamehemeha Day in Hawaii, a state holiday commemorating the king who conquered all other Hawaiian kings and united the Hawaiian Islands as one nation.

King Kamehameha

Tomorrow morning, Hawaiian Standard Time, is the World Cup Football (soccer) match between England and the USA. It will be the first time in 60 years the two national teams have played each other in the World Cup. The host country for the quadrennial World Cup games this time is South Africa, a nation a half a world of time zones away from here.

Some of us in the family watched the movie, “Invictus” a couple of weeks ago. It is a very sanitized version of the story of how the South African national rugby team began to reconcile blacks and whites and unite the Rugby Championships host nation of South Africa during a time of great tension, shortly after Nelson Mandela became president.

History, as written by winners of wars, identifies as heroes, those who, often violently and through persistent use of bloody force, conquer their enemies and establish their subjugation. Sometimes this appears to work out for the better, sometimes for the worse. Sometimes it seems the jury is still out on the effects of the outcome.

King Kamehameha accomplished an extraordinary goal and is honored as a hero today. Warfare during his reign was up close and personal. The defeat of foes was accomplished through stabbing, slicing, bludgeoning and crushing with low-tech, handmade, though very lethal, weapons in a style of fighting not much different from warfare from ancient times in Asia and Europe. Kamehameha’s achievement was accomplished by killing a lot of people.

“The Battle of Nu’uanu”, painting by Hawaiian artist, Herb Kane

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years on charges of sabotage. He was leader of the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC). Violence was considered a necessary tool to overcome the established government’s policies and practices of apartheid, a system that precluded the black majority of South Africa from freely participating in the political, economic and social spheres of the nation.

Nelson Mandela

One tool of the ANC was necklacing. I remember seeing this atrocity on a cable TV news program in the 1980’s. The ANC would tie up anyone they felt was an enemy collaborator, lay him (or her) on the ground, put a car tire around his neck, fill it with gasoline and light it on fire which produced a horrifically slow and painful death. Winnie Mandela, Nelson’s wife, affirmed this as a necessary and defendable practice. I don’t know for sure whether Nelson gave public assent to its use or not, but his followers must have believed they had his tacit approval to do this. Eventually, the ANC and its allied organizations became victorious in their goal of ending apartheid and assuming political control of the nation as Nelson Mandela was elected president. He worked as president to achieve a multi-racial democratic government.

Tomorrow, if the US wins against England, the victorious players will be acclaimed, no doubt by some, as heroes of the game.

Team USA, 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

If you were to ask a group of parents if they would wish their children to be courageous, chances are most would say yes. If however, you were to ask these same parents if they would wish for their children to be acclaimed as heroes by killing a lot of people, many might decline. Most would probably be quite happy if their children became “heroes” by winning an international competition as representatives of their nations.

We live in an imperfect world. Heroism can be an imperfect designation. Many of history’s heroes carried with them a lot of bloodguilt of the innocent to their graves. There is only One who is capable of judging them with perfect justice and mercy. Heroes win victories for their nations. True honor, though, can be hidden from human eyes, and might only be seen by the Lord.

I realize that my life benefits from the heroic actions of many people who have gone before me and that I am blessed to live in a country that still enjoys a lot of freedoms many others don't have. Still, I would rather have as my closest friends the honorable, than merely the heroic.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Will This Be on the Test?

I can just imagine the father of the writer of the question on the notice below - "Ya know, you buy 'em books, you send 'em to school,..." (drops chin to chest and shakes head back and forth slowly)...

Click on image to enlarge

Actually, I miss the long-gone days of learning when my classes were full of guys always ready to respond to anything logical and important with an irrelevant tangential comment like the one above. Made the days more interesting.

h/t to lumberjack

Monday, June 7, 2010

Best Version in a Long, Long Time

Couldn't pass on posting this. Talent-rich performers, evidence of lots of practice and absence of massive ego display.

The imagery is blurry but the sound quality is good.

I'd love to be able to sing this well when I'm six.............ty!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Think I Found Your Problem Here

The U.S. labor department released May employment figures last Friday. The government hired 431,000, mostly temporary, census workers. Private sector employment increased by just 41,000 jobs, a decrease in number from 218,000 in April.

Here’s the problem from my point of view as a professional and businessman:

Government jobs are characteristically regulatory. They don’t produce tangible consumer products, like food, housing, cars or appliances. These jobs generally do not contribute to an increase in the nation’s commerce; they actually subtract from it’s production potential, as regulatory jobs add to the cost of production, which must be paid for by the end-user, or consumer, as part of the product price.

That’s not to say that all government jobs are a waste of money. I believe there is a benefit, for example, in safe food and drug laws and their enforcement, assuming that this is taking place free from corrupting influences. Logically, people employed to oversee the safety of consumable products do add value to the products if they keep the products from poisoning us, yet these still are costs to be paid for and not products in and of themselves.

I do not believe that the more government we have, the better our lives become. Many government jobs are little more than political patronage positions useful to politicians for wielding greater political influence. We’ve had a U.S. Department of Education for over thirty years and educational achievement is worse than before it existed. I don’t see why we wouldn’t benefit from eliminating that multi-tens of billions of dollars department cost.

Government jobs are cost factors, not potential profit centers in terms of business. In business, when costs cause a desirable product to exceed the market value of the product, the product generally does not sell, business activity declines for that product item and people cannot be employed for it’s production. When too many products are priced beyond the market’s ability to purchase them, the economy declines. The bigger the government, the greater the regulation cost, and the higher the product end-user cost.

The U.S. government is already running an unimaginably huge deficit. Is it really in the best interests of the country to hire another 431,000 government employees when their costs (wages, benefits, offices and other operating expenses) must be paid for by taxes from another mere 41,000 producers (more than 10 to 1, “costers” to producers?)

There is a tipping point, the question is, are we there yet? I’ve said this before but, when the regulators overwhelm the producers, a country cannot be sustained economically any more than a healthy body can be sustained when the number of parasites overwhelm the host. Eventually, the death of both must result.

If I were in charge of things, at the very least, I would try to start eliminating Federal Departments of Round Pegs Into Square Holes instead of increasing their number. Increasing the cost and difficulty of producing consumer goods in this country is not a useful policy direction. Especially not if the goal is to increase the employment of producers.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Keauhou Store

If you look at a maps of the flatland, farming areas of the Midwest you’ll notice that towns are located an average of about 8 miles apart, sometimes a little closer or farther, but not much farther.

Towns were birthed in earlier times based on the distance a farmer could load up a wagon, hitch up his horse team and drive to town, unload his produce, buy supplies and return to his house in one day’s time. Overnight stays for farmers were often impractical for several reasons, one being the care of the livestock.

Here in Kona coffee growing country, there remain longstanding general stores at a much closer distance together, I’d say every two to three miles. They served the surrounding coffee farmers and field workers and their children. They are often located right at the old Mamalahoa highway edge of road, I’m guessing due to minimal regulation in pre-statehood Hawai’I, and as a practical response to the steep slope with rapid topographic drop-off.

These general stores resemble those of American frontier western towns of the latter half of the 19th century in that they are built of wood and often present a tall vertical facade in front of a pitched roof, usually double pitched, but sometimes a single-pitched shed roof.

I’ve driven by some of these buildings for years. Many had become quite deteriorated in appearance. Recently, restoration and refurbishment seems to be trending among at least some of the shop owners.

The Keauhou Store is one I’ve always particularly liked. The front facade features a stepped up parapet with radius corners at the height transitions, recalling the streamlining effects seen in buildings of the Art Moderne style popular, on the Mainland anyway, between the 1920’s and 1940’s.

The stepped facade follows the pitch of the roof behind with outer fa├žade portions stretched out to emphasize horizontality (customary of A.M.) while allowing the higher central portion to create kind of a dwarf-ly “monumental” presence. This is an eclectic building. The facade above the porch roofs is smooth, as you would find characteristic of
Art Moderne examples, while the under-porch and side portions utilize the more rustic board and batten cladding.

You can see the drop-off from the road. This building is only about a mile to a mile and a half from the county’s water department offices and base yard. I suspect county water is now available. The rainwater catchment system may now serve as an irrigation source for nearby coffee trees or other farm crops.

The Keauhou store strives for a symmetry that might be more commonly seen in Neoclassical or Italian Renaissance styles, yet finally gives way to its utilitarian needs with the left side projection. In spite of its stylistic anomalies, there’s something unexplainably appealing about this building. I’m looking forward to its completed rehabilitation.

Also somewhat recently refurbished and about 7 miles northward is the K. Komo Store. The store appears to have been constructed, much like buildings going back ages, for commerce on the ground floor and the merchant’s living quarters above.

In both buildings, parking arrangements are left pretty much to the driver’s imagination. Four-wheel drive vehicles might find more parking options.

The K. Komo Store – Note the covered, raised boardwalk, another feature seen on some frontier town buildings.

Not sure the purpose of the top-forward projecting windows. Glare reduction, maybe? I believe these are a recent addition.

As always, click on any photo to view a larger image.