6/30/10

It's a bird, it's a plane ... no it's a car!


Okay, how can I sort in an orderly way the whole gamut of thoughts, emotions, and questions that are bombarding my mind about the flying car invention? Yes, I said flying car! - a car and plane combo (carlane?), in other words. And I'm not referring to my family's white Toyota Stout pickup of the seventies, especially when I was the driver and people started naming the truck the va'alele (plane), and so it followed that I gained a notorious reputation - with the old and the timid at least - as the 'ave vaalele (pilot).

Anyway, the flying car is an invention by Terrafugia, a company founded by MIT graduates.  Wait, before you utter a sigh of shock and disbelief, that "M" is for Massachusetts - not Manukau Institute of Technology (Auckland, NZ)..LOL!... which shares the same acronym with its world renowned US counterpart.

I've seen a video clip (here) of the Terrafugia Transition - the official name of the flying car - and apart from its price tag of almost $200K (US), I am in awe of how the carlane will revolutionize transportation and commuting in major metropolitan areas.

I understand that there will be laws and regulations that will govern the operation of this invention. But there will also be those who will break the law if only to test the limits of such laws. For example, imagine driving down a long highway, and you're late to an important meeting, plus a traffic jam up ahead. Well, I'd expect to see the car taking off into the air, provided of course you have sufficient takeoff space.

The flying car also lends a whole new meaning to the kids asking the parents to borrow the car: "Dad/Mom, can I borrow the car ...and plane?" The conversation can take on a whole new path: "Are you driving or flying?" "Both"... Heheee.

And what if the highway patrol chases you and you take off flying? And will your license now be called a "pilover's or drilot's license" (from coining "pilot" and "driver")?

6/25/10

The Toy Ploy

If your child were given a first choice between a toy and a hamburger, which one would he/she likely pick? I’d say, the toy.  If you don’t believe me, just take your child/grandchild to McDonald’s.  Let me rehash the typical scenario.

A parent drives up to the drive-thru and orders a happy meal for the child in the back seat. The voice through the muffled speaker promptly goes through the scripted questions. One of the questions- if you’re lucky - is: “Boy or girl?” If not, you’ll get something like “Poeh or keoh?” which often incites an immediate repeat request.  If the parent was unaware of the whole nature of a happy meal transaction, he/she would think that McDonald’s was being discriminatory in its services. Well, not at all. The question is based on the complimentary toy that is included in the happy meal. There’s a boy version and girl version of the toy, which is usually a promo item for a current movie or other media frenzy.

Presently, some people are suing McDonald’s for what I call “the toy ploy”. The plaintiffs claim that kids have become obese and overweight because of the seemingly subtle manipulative sales tactic of using the toy to woo the children back for more fries, more hamburgers and more high fat, high-calorie foods. The claims are aimed at the toy's role of creating addictive patterns of behavior in children.  In this case junk food addiction.

Incidentally, what about the toys in cereal boxes? How about the toys/prizes in the Cracker Jack boxes? Maybe the difference is that the former is good healthful food and the latter is ...hmmm...well, who eats cracker jacks anymore, let alone something with the word “crack” in its brand name?

By the way, the next time you watch a television commercial for a Cereal brand, be assured of finding kids in the clip. Why? Well it’s mostly kids who eat cereal. True, but there is another stealthy reason also: Kids actually have significant influence on their parents’ shopping choices, and certainly in America and other places - not Samoa, at least not during my childhood years.

Remember some typical responses when, as kids, we asked our parents for something at the store? Let me indulge you.

Ia lou guku i pa ai le po, e? (Need a slap?) E a, ua fia sasa oe? (Need a whack?) Soia, koe o kupe o o’u kuli lea e kokoe! (Stop it, I only have my patellas/kneecaps left) E ke koe fai mai loa e palasi! (One more word and you’ll get knocked over).

And all those still happened even after the perennial lectures and warnings before leaving the house not to ask for anything while at the store.  Kalofa e, ia ka ika! ...no toy ploys ...and no happy meal, just crappy meal.

Hey, but look how I turned out? (chuckle chuckle)...not so crappy, aye? ...faiga a le kama o kalo, the so-called “Samoan steroid”.  And so back then, as a Samoan kid, I surely would have picked hamburger over toy. 

By the way the plaintiffs in the case and most parents believe that the real crappy meal is McDonald's Happy Meal.  And that's the essence of the "Toy Ploy" ...or as I would prefer: "Toy Story 4".

6/22/10

Clouds and Lawnmowers

Well, I’m back to the real world.  And I’m not referring to some metaphorical physical locality as much as to a state of mind context. I thought I had better make that clear otherwise I’ll be implicating Arizona in our short respite, let alone being vilified by some Arizonians as a result.

Despite some flubbed and frustrated plans, time was well spent with daughters and family.

What? Flubbed and frustrated plans? well, at least I thought so ....

First, my pastoral and rustic fixation was not served by not driving on Hwy 89 - to and from Arizona.  On our way there, we got to the crossover point at which to link with 89, but it was around twelve midnight and I did not want to venture into some unknown and unfamiliar territory in the middle of the night; it was foolish to have even tried, I was convinced. Daylight would certainly have made a difference.  As compromise, however, I silently promised to take Hwy 89 on our way back to Utah.  But even that did not materialize due to the forest fires around the area (Flagstaff) during which about a thousand homes had to be evacuated.

Second, one of our grandsons had planned for me to take him to see Toy Story 3 on Saturday (opening weekend). I was sick in the stomach Friday evening and it got worst before movie time so I was unable to go ...Bummer! Oftentimes when vacationing, and we get sick, people always say it’s one of three things specific to the new locale: drinking water, weather or the air. It’s definitely not the water. Who drinks tap water anymore? Now we drink bottled water from far away and exotic places like Switzerland or Fiji - whoohoo Fiji! - and even as close and local as Utah. (In case you didin’t know, the recent Great American Water Taste Test named Beaver, Utah as having the best bottled water in America.)  Beaver is one of the small cities through which we pass on our way to Vegas/Arizona.  So my mishap was likely due to the weather, air, OR ...something I ate!

Third, Sunday morning (Father’s Day) I was planning to get up early for a jog - before the heat wave onset - but by then I still wasn’t feeling well enough. I still tried though, but the closest I got was standing outside looking up to a clear blue sky with the sun in my eyes - no clouds anywhere. The Carpenters hit song "Top of the World" was humming in my mind. In Arizona, clouds are as rare as lawnmowers - go figure!  So I went back inside and settled for a butt-on-couch-with-eyes-on-tv morning eating suafa’i and French bread with butter for breakfast. Quite a nutritious meal, aye? We’re talking about fats and carbs all in one sitting. Oh, and the Sunday to’ana’i of taro, lu’au, shrimp, crab legs, fish and dessert (ice-cream) did not help either. No there was no green/veggie salad!  And if all of that is not enough, the 24 hours total of sedentary driving capped off the calorie invasion of Father’s Day weekend.  In that case, I’ll make sure to double or triple my gym hours this week together with a heavy dose of racquetball.  Ubetcha!

Arizona temperatures averaged 104 degrees during the weekend and it was just too hot for moi. You step out to drive to the store and the difference between near-frigid cold inside and the heat outside is an experience in extremes. The difference brought back memories of my Apia sojournment while attending Samoa College - and Leifiifi.

Remember McKenzie’s? ...the store with the cold gusting air condition?  After school my friends and I would always go into McKenzie’s just to feel the colder-than-cool air-condition - not to buy anything. Then right next door, we would walk through the BWS building which had a climate-controlled feel of its own. Some members of our clique would be audacious enough - bordering on rudeness and disrespect - to raise their gold lavalavas like ballet tutus just to get the cold air underneath. Some girls did the same thing too.

All in all, in some serendipitous sense - for me at least - the experience of the hot-cold osmosis in Arizona became a cordial and placid deja vu, while time spent with family is certainly priceless and to be treasured forever.

Once again, I’m back home now where the cloud-hovered mountain peaks seem like a larger than life landscape painting, and where my Saturday sleep-ins are cut short (pun intended) by the crackling sounds of lawnmowers, especially at this time of year.

Is this the real world?  It’s mine alright ......

6/17/10

Traveling "south of the border" ...to Arizona

Within the next twenty four hours, my sweetfatu and I are going to Arizona for the Father’s Day weekend. During the last few times we visited Arizona, we had been driving on I-15 South to Las Vegas, then Hwy 95 - which I dread because of its sinuous nature and lower speed limits - and then connecting to I-10 East to Phoenix. Total driving time is usually a maximum of 13 hrs (same time it takes to fly from LAX to AKL, NZ), and a minimum of 11-12 hrs.- that is if I keep letting the pedal kiss the metal. This time though we will be doing something different; we will take Hwy 89, which is shorter since it runs a direct North-South course as opposed to the detouring curve of Interstate 15 to Vegas.

Sometimes I wish there was an autobahn - as in Bundesautobahn, regarding open speed limits - between Utah and Arizona. Speaking of autobahn, it reminds me of travel stories from countries of the Eastern Bloc of yesteryears and how a traveler's papers should always be “in order” to guarantee safe and hassle free transit.  Arizona, with its new and controversial immigration laws, is like a newly-minted Eastern Bloc country, and therefore might as well be on “south of the border”. And so as visitors, we feel a bit apprehensive and somewhat paranoid, even as perfectly legit and legal US residents.  I hope we don’t get into some nightmarish experience like being at a Beirut war zone roadblock.  Arizona is a beautiful state nonetheless - it’s got the Grand Canyon and has mostly nice weather like Samoa.  Anyway, along the way, I'll be humming and singing the song: “Arizona, take off your rainbow shades.  Arizona, have another look at the world....Arizona, hey won’t you go my way!”

6/9/10

Preaching to the Choir

Well, I’m sure you have already heard or seen the clip of Obama’s speech at a high school graduation circulating in viralsphere in which a choir member (boy), seated behind the President, snoozed during the speech. Wow, thank this boy for giving us further confirmation and irony on the expression “preaching to the choir”.

And please excuse my belaboring of the “whose ass to kick” incident (re: previous post) but I’m not surprised if Mr. Obama is anxious to meet the kid and kick his ass for the ignominy.  Now, if I were the kid, - for humor's sake at least - I’d tell Obama that he had been taking some dope and I can assure you that he will immediately be exonerated and pardoned.  Mr. Obama’s reply will of course be: “...been there, done that.”

6/8/10

“Whose ass to kick....”

Mr. Obama is in hot water because of his administration’s pathetic and terrible handling of the oil spill in the gulf compliments of BP. Obama has been known to be real cool under pressure - according only to the Democrats, that is - until now that he has felt the sticky oil starting to seep and creep up his ass (Obama’s term) and British Petroleum’s arse (to be linguistically correct). During his interview with Matt Lauer, Obama said that he knows “whose ass to kick” when it comes to the responsibility issue for the spill.  Whooh! Mr. Obama is talking tough, better watch out. I hope he’s not on dope - again!

Now I won’t be surprised if the obscenity becomes eternally associated with Mr. Obama and his presidency. After all, perhaps the most popular acronymic interpretation of his name - OBAMA - is:
One Big Ass Mistake America.

So “whose ass to kick”? For the oil spill, I don’t know whose muri to kick, but come 2012, it's Mr. Obama’s ass (the donkey, that is, the symbol for the Democratic Party) that should be kicked out of the White House.

6/4/10

To Blog or Not to Blog:

In mimicking Bill the Bard [of Avon], let me declare my once-held dilemma: “To blog, or not to blog, that has been the question”. Well, I have finally opted for the former - obviously!  Why blog? I deplore boredom and idleness. But I also like to spew my thoughts - convoluted and chaotic as they often are - from the lobes of my brain and deep recesses of my mind onto some computer or other gadget screen where I hope to find such thoughts become more orderly, palpable, organized and, most of all, intelligible.

Lord Byron once said: “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” Now, besides such extreme, I also need to improve on my writing skills and I feel that the best way to hone them is to - ummm, you guessed it - WRITE!  Writing, for me, also represents freedom, therapy (I suffer from writer’s block from time to time. Isn’t that normal though?) an ambition, and a means of self expression.

Oh, and another reason for blogging - to beat Vegas odds in making some “you know what”. Cha-Ching?  No, not that...yeah rigghhttt!  Well, I will finally get to afford a ..... (I’ll let you know when I finally buy it, so stay tuned.)  If you keep clicking and coming back for more, the sooner I will be able to buy it, or them.  Ok, let me pull my tongue back from my cheek now.  Anyway, I hope you find in my malae an answer to your own WIIFM quest.

Leis, Tattoos and Schools ...in Utah

Yes I live in Utah. How long? ...does it matter? Well, long enough to have forged and formed an opinion (yes, opinion) about the place. I call it home, anyhow. Utah has consistently ranked high - nationally and internationally - in terms of livability, health, fitness, recreation, natural beauty, etc.,  Utah does have its flaws nonetheless it’s a great place, nice people and nice weather - not all around though. I enjoy Spring, Summer and Fall. I cannot, and will not, say the same for Winter until I have managed to learn and enjoy skiing, snowboarding, bobsledding or other winter activities. Yeah riiggght, like I would even start to give them any serious thought.  I do however enjoy snowball tossing and fighting, and only because I don’t throw rocks anymore - not as an amusive pastime as I did in Samoa though.

But leis and tattoos? What’s the connection? Well, they both trace their origins - hence etymologies - to Polynesia. “Lei” still keeps its Hawaiian spelling and morphology while “tattoo” is a transliteration of the Maori, Tahitian and Samoan “tatau”. The art itself is practiced the world over.

This is the time of year for school graduations in Utah (and elsewhere in the US) and Polynesian students definitely stand out - if not in the academic sense, certainly in the cosmetic and ornamental sense. You can tell a Poly kid from miles away - they all seem to be modern and mobile miniatures of the King Kamehameha statue (the one in front of Iolani Palace) on Kamehameha Day. I’m talking about the graduates being draped with leis - candy leis, flower leis, yarn leis, leaf leis, etc., Sometimes the leis keep piling up to cover the graduates’ heads and it’s not uncommon to find them squinting from beneath their sweet and fragrant head-and-shoulders adornment. I’m sure some of their post-march pictures will attest to such revelry.

Well, bad news at least for some Poly students in some Utah schools. Leis are now banned during graduation. Nooo?? Yeeeess!! But don’t fret ....yet. It may not be racist or prejudicial (as with most accusations and criticisms of Utah) on the part of these school boards. You see, palagis and others have taken the lei concept and created their own versions. On Wednesday evening, I’ve seen some palagis with leis made of blinking lights - like those on Christmas trees. Some looked like zombies with their blinking leis. And I’m not talking about those blinkers you get at most carnivals either. These looked like new innovations based on the lei concept.

And the tattoos?  Visible tattoos, for both students and teachers, are also banned in some if not most Utah schools.

So, a couple of Polynesian cultural relics - leis and tattoos - which have made their way into the mainstream American culture, are now gradually being restricted and regulated, apparently for the “common good” - however you define that; at least the “common” aspect.

6/3/10

Schadenfreude (pron. Sha-den-froy-dah)

All of us do it, or get it. It’s a disease, a very debilitating and paralyzing one, at least to the spirit - first. But though it attacks our inner selves first and foremost, it eventually wiggles and gnaws its way into our outer physical bodies, because of the inevitable interaction and interdependence between body and spirit. By the time it has reached our outer limbs and skin, it may have already revealed deadly symptoms of incurable leprosy. Medical doctors - and the medical profession - may not have any idea of what you’re talking about if you try to tell them that you suffer from schadenfreude even with implicit eloquence and undefiled German pronunciation.

For Samoans, the disease manifests itself in familiar expressions such as “Ua make ai lea [bleep]!” (Curse on him, for he rightly deserves the mishap.)  In other words it’s the pleasure and satisfaction you get from the misfortunes of others - it’s malicious satisfaction. You’re happy that someone else has suffered and experienced some mishap or bad luck.

In a physical confrontation, schadenfreude is akin to punching your opponent even while he’s already down or surrendered.

Have you had your first attack of schadenfreude today? How many more to go? Faifai malie (take it easy).

Question:  If happiness and satisfaction help us emotionally, and in turn boost our physical health, as proven by the medical profession and others, does it matter how we acquire such happiness and satisfaction, especially on a strictly emotional basis?  Put simply, does it matter if we get our doses of happiness and satisfaction through schadenfreude or other diabolical means?

So are you Samoan?

As you may have guessed by now that I am Samoan - if not, now you know - therefore, many of the articles, letters, poems, etc., you find here, have Samoan or Polynesian themes, meaning and application. However, I will also include writings on other subjects and topics with popular and/or wider appeal. Something for everyone, i se isi faaupuga (in other words).

I will also try to introduce and preface some of the posts with proper background and context. Here’s the first one - a poem about Samoa’s traditional-to-modern socio-political system. A “matai” is a titleholder or chief/noble and is usually the head of a family, clan or village. Both men and women can hold matai titles.

Serf the people

yesterday
matais were demigods
and demigoddesses.
they ruled the titles
and brooded the land.
the more titles they had
the more land
status
power
and wealth they owned;
and the people
bowed
and served the demigods

then the sky burst,
bringing a new morn,
a new day
and new way.
a new Matai rises
to curse the old gods
and goddesses
demigods and
demigoddesses
no more matais but One;
and matais obliged.
dust to dust -
and matais consented,
'cause a matai’s anatomy
is water rock and earth combined.
many matais morphed
into politicians,
while the people
bowed
and prayed to The Matai

then comes another day
the land turns to gray
and matais turn impotent
and infertile.
they try to arise
and fantasize
as gods and goddesses.
they divorce The Matai
to claim more titles
more power
more status
more wealth
thus more land
so they can
serf the people

but comes yet another day
with its more noble way
to become again -
a matai
a politician
a demigod
a demigoddess;
and still the people
till
plow
and bow
to the silent act
and decree:
serf the people.

6/2/10

Meaning of Blog Title:

Malae o Letalu simply means "Letalu’s Square" or "Letalu's Court".

What is a malae?
A malae (in Samoan), marae (in Maori and Tahitian) mala’e (in Tongan) is basically the village square, or court. It is somewhat analogous to a Greek agora.

A malae is a large rectangular clearing in the center of a village, used for social, political and religious assemblies. Although a Samoan malae may be different in appearance from a Hawaiian one, or others, the concept is the same throughout Polynesia.  For the Hawaiians, a malae is mainly used for religious activities, hence the sacred character attributed to such places. Stone was also the main material used.  A Samoan malae, by contrast, is usually sandy or grassy.

One of the most notable parts of the protocols for the festivities and gatherings in a Samoan malae is the performing of traditional discussions, oratory and discourse. It is from this role and context of the malae that I borrow my blog title.  For those in the know, the title - more phonetic than syntactic- can also be a pun on “Malae o le Talu”, a familiar and important historic malae in American Samoa where, in 1900, Tutuila - the main island - was ceded to the United States.