Happy Thanksgiving

“And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, ....
Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
And it pleaseth God that He hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not His hand in all things, ....”
~ Doctrine and Covenants 59: 15-21  (Emphasis mine)

Although the above scripture was given within a similar context of time and place as the very first Thanksgiving, the principle - of thanksgiving - is timeless, and so is the scripture.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! 
Oh, and Go COUGARS!!! .... Beat Yelping Utes! .....LOL!

Tuesday Blizzard

So was the blizzard a much ado about nothing, after all?

Companies let people go home early. Stores were packed. Games were canceled. Schools were closed early. And I was home eating suai’a and faalifu kalo?  Wow! ... (Thank you Bea and Una!)  Yes! I think we should have more blizzards ...hahaa.... It’s part of living in Utah! 

These pictures by the Deseret News effectively captured the ontogeny of the monster.

And the winner of the blissful blizzard attire award .... iiiiiiss ... guy in shorts!.... LOL!

Who said there's no such thing as a generation gap? ....LOL! ... Write your own caption.

Sarah Refudiated

Okay back on the home turf  ...

So, Sarah who?  Sarah-one-letter-too-many-in-PALIN-in-the-you-know-what!...LOL!

Yes, she is credited for the new word “refudiate” - coinage of “refute" and "repudiate” added this year (to what? ... book of refudiated words?). Exact definition is still in the refudiating phase..

But here are some examples of how I would use it.

1. Sarah’s new reality show “Alaska” has been “refudiated” evidenced by a 40% drop in viewership from its debut several days ago.

2. The voters did refudiate the McCain/Palin ticket in 2008 race because of Sarah’s refudiable personality.

3. The voters will refudiate Sarah in 2012, when - not IF - she decides to run for POTUS.

Incidently, last night, daughter Bristol who was rumored to win DWTS was also ....[drum roll] ...refudiated by the fans and voters of the popular dancing show.  Bristol calls these voters haters.

Oh, and now a peek into what Sarah scribbled in the palm of her hand (cheat sheet) for interviews some time ago.


Outside Looking In

First of all, here are some excerpts of letters in the Samoa Observer recently vilifying those of us outside Samoa.

“...we have our own media in Samoa that can look into the tsunami Fund report and interpret for themselves and report on their findings if the funds were handled transparently and accounted for!”
“And by the way, what is it with these supposed Samoans living abroad being ashamed and bad mouthing our Government?”
“What in the world do you know about what we literally go through as people living in Samoa? You only think you know from what you read and hear.  Try coming over, work here, school here, live here, breathe and eat here, before you talk about here.”
“...but at least Samoa is in the hands of Samoans, run by Samoans, and being in charged [sic] by Samoans.”

Here’s my response - printed November 20, 2010.
Dear Editor,

One needs to “live [in], breathe and eat Samoa” in order to know and/or understand Samoa is a flagrant misconception.

Here’s a lesson on perspective - literal and figurative. Imagine yourself immersed in the middle of a large corn field, or in a ma’umaga with wide laukalo well above your head. You can only see your immediate spot and location; your perspective is quite limited.

Likewise that’s how you feel sometimes living inside Samoa - or any other place for that matter. You have some advantages being in that place, but there are drawbacks as well. While in that place, you can develop and acquire a tunnel vision perspective.

You can even develop an insular and territorial complex as well, even to the point of detesting other Samoans outside Samoa - as in your letters. Moreover, you can become self-censored because of any ties, affiliations and other relationships at home. Therefore, you run with the crowd, so to speak, wherever it takes you and you become passively supportive of the status quo.

Now, in contrast, imagine someone in a helicopter - representing an outside perspective - hovering above the ma’umaga. He has a better view and perspective of your situation, your whereabouts and even an easy way out of the thicket.  The one in the helicopter also has a better view of any imminent danger, like a large ferocious wild boar with curled tusks coming towards you.

Similarly, some of us, outside Samoa, are able to see your situation from a far (pun intended) better standpoint. Hence, do not discount other perspectives and viewpoints albeit critical and countervailing.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of people in Samoa who share with some of us “outsiders” the same and/or similar opinions about the government. In fact they may be a lot more disgruntled, disaffected, dissatisfied and embarrassed with the present government than some of us expatriates.

Those disgruntled ones at home even write to this paper voicing their concerns, dissatisfaction and grievances. Except for a few “brave” ones who disclose their names, most do not apparently for fear of repercussions, retribution and retaliation.

I’m sure you’re withholding your names too for similar reasons, especially that there are people at home - possibly family members, co-workers or other acquaintances - that disagree with your arrant support for the government. You see, we can detect that from outside - hovering and looking in.

Of course Samoa has its own media that can look into the tsunami report, but how fair and transparent will that be if it’s government controlled - or affiliated - media? Moreover, the outside media has every right to file a report of their own especially because the funds are from those countries. They want to know if the money is spent effectively and appropriately. Why would the PM become very upset with the scrutiny if everything is in order and meticulously documented?

And of course Samoa is in the hands of Samoans, as claimed, which is wonderful and fantastic.
However, the truth is that some would rather be ruled by a non-Samoan who cares deeply about Samoans than by a Samoan who is indifferent to and condescending of his own people; and definitely not by a Samoan who regards other Samoans - and others - as idiots.

I le ma lenei, se oute mautinoa lava e toatele ma anoanoa’i nisi o i matou o loo aumau i atunuu i fafo, ae sili atu lo matou iloa o Samoa - i soo se itu lava, e aofia ai le gagana, tu ma agaifanua atoa ma le tulaga o loo iai le malo - nai i lo nisi o loo alaala ma nopia’i i Samoa.

O lea, e le talafeagai ma e le agatonu ni tuua’iga ma faasea e faapea e matou te le o malamalama i tulaga o iai Samoa. E pei ona faatomua atu, e le faapea a e nofo i Samoa ona faato’a iloa lea ma malamalama i le tulaga o iai Samoa.

Lastly, faamolemole we “outsiders” don’t just “read and hear” anymore, we also now “see” - timely, if not in ‘real time’ - what’s happening at home through modern technology. In fact most of us outside Samoa have seen the notorious TV3 video clip a hundred times while some - if not the majority- in Samoa may not have seen it at all.

O lea, amana’ia ane se manatu, e tusa lava fo’i pe e pei o le timu e pa’u i le tua o le pato, ia ae o le mea sili o lo’o velo se ‘aso.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~ Aristotle.
(“O se faailoga o se mafaufau a’oa’oina le mafai ona faia o ni fetalaa’iga e tusa lava pe le taliaina ma talitonuina.”)

LV  Letalu


Think local and global

(printed in the Samoa Observer 17 November 2010)

Dear Editor,
The PM’s rambling and outbursts are indicative of an old man with a confused and flustered mind resulting from obvious discombobulation. I think TV3 is quietly having a blast and a feeding frenzy - which only get better and more ambrosial - with our PM.   The outside media can actually have him pilloried if they want. In the US - the media kingdom of the world - this type of “polimediarama” is a media’s bacon; it’s a carcass to the media vultures.

What’s pathetic is that with his vainglorious and lordly attitude especially of calling all other people stupid and idiotic, the PM has now become intransigent and has perhaps severed any lifeline of advice and counsel from an advisory body (if there’s one) and from those ( if there are) who may be responsible for damage control in the PM’s Office. (Then again this is a divinely appointed government which is infallible and therefore does not need to be corrected.)

The PM needs to at least be aware that in today’s media-saturated world, there’s an expression that says: “He who controls the media controls the world.” 

Now that can be interpreted in the PM’s favor being the one who controls the media - and everything else - in Samoa, therefore he can still weather this drama and crisis domestically at least.  However, he should not underestimate the power and influence of the outside media in casting him as being audacious, arrogant and bullheaded.  In other words, domestically, he may come out unscathed and still, amazingly, win elections.

Conversely, at the same time, he can be viewed as a stinker by the outside world, let alone by Samoa’s closest friends of NZ and Australia.  Such effects can hurt his political career but more adversely his reputation as an individual.

Think local and think global. Punimatatogo plus Puniloa represent a balanced, wise and discerning “core”. Samoa is not independent in the strictest and more inclusive sense of the word.

Lastly, a simple word of wisdom: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” (“E lelei ona avea ma se tagata taua, ae sili atu ona taua le avea ma se tagata lelei.”)

This should be an effective antidote for the petulant, belligerent and unbridled PM.


An Update

After reading the Samoa Observer article (yesterday) about a court decision involving land dispute and banishment in a village in Samoa, I couldn’t help but think that the court arbitrators must have read my blog ...LOL!  A village fono decision to banish a family has been overturned by the Court.

Here’s another important development in the ongoing clash between the faa-matai and democracy, as discussed in one of my posts dated October 15 titled “Faa-Matai and Democracy - An Analysis” from which the following excerpt - as prologue - is taken:

"Land Ownership
Democracy: Private ownership
Faa-Matai: Communally owned, and intrinsically attached to chiefly titles (matai).

Here’s a question that may not have been specifically answered as far as land ownership is concerned. Who owns family land in the village - the village or the aiga? The Land & Titles Court, handles and resolves cases involving land disputes among families, hence land virtually belongs to the aiga. Yet, when a family is banished, the expression goes, “ua faasa ma ele’ele o le nu’u” (“they’re banned from village lands”). Of course there’s village land that will be off-limits to the culprits, BUT the land they live on is theirs, and I’m sure there are banished families that can subsist and sustain their everyday lives on their land (incl. access to government roads) without ever setting foot on the rest of “village” lands. Banishment is cruel and deprive families of their rights to their land. Where does the village council get its authority to ban an aiga from its legal and rightful property? It may come from the communal mandate on which village administration is based, if not some frivolous eminent domain regulations or confiscating powers of the village council. Or it could be based on the village’s claim and control on matai titles which, ideally, are inseparable from customary/traditional land ownership."

Compare that with these excerpts from the article on the ruling (compare matching color-coded text):

"The Land and Titles Court has rejected an application from Tanugamanono village to legalise the eviction of a family from their village."

"The hearing was before the Vice President of Land and Titles, Fuimaono Nonu, on Friday 5 November. In its ruling delivered a week later, the Court accepted Ms Tutuila’s application to return to their property and live in Tanugamanono."

"The family of Faumuina Tutuila was ordered to leave their home and store within a month. Fuimaono told the Court, the gist of the village’s application was to legalise the banishment of the family from all lands belonging to Tanugamanono."

"Vice President Fuimaono pointed out the village’s decision to evict the family was harsh considering there are other forms of punishment which could have been used against the family."


...makua mea lelei a ....(... remarkably nice things ...)

Yesterday, I went to this store that sells Poly produce like taros, yams, green bananas, etc. I asked the Asian female owner: “No taros?” She said “Noh, noh d’tarloh” Do you have yams? “O, oofee?” I was both excited and impressed that she knows the Samoan word for “yam” so I said “Yes, yes ...” She said: “Ing tha pox” pointing to a cardboard box on the produce counter. So I bagged about seven average-sized tubers then got two cans of coconut milk. I had a plan in mind; though the mind was now going through a quick flashback of its own of some bygone years in Samoa. Almost independently, it was doing some culinary matchmaking - Samoan style. I could hear the words “faalifu ufi” several times but the only match that kept bouncing back was “koko Samoa”. No, I want some “mea lelei” (“nice food” - the expression bothers me every time it’s mentioned in the context of food and feasting, as if other foods are “leaga” or “faale-lelei”), besides we had “koko Samoa” at home, so I did not need any.

Meanwhile my eyes were busy scanning the shelves. And I saw some “mea lelei” - cans of pisupo, camp pies, herrings in tomato sauce, etc., My visual neurons relayed the message to the brain for approval, and the brain retorted “No!”. The brain also was almost exclusively in Samoan culinary mode - meaning, steaks, hamburgers, burritos, lasagna, etc., were all pushed to the back burner . I turned around to look at the freezers lined along the opposite wall. I started reading the labels above each one. “Lamb” says one label ..“Yes,...makua mea lelei a ..” ...I ambled over, opened the freezer and there was one huge unopened box sitting at the bottom. I turned around and asked the lady “Do you have some lamb flaps in a smaller bag?” “Yes, I huv wung more barg in da pak!” “Is it American or New Zealand?” I asked, “Nooh Seelun” she said ... “Ia, makua mea lelei a....” came the mind’s repetitive lampoon. Of course mamoe is not “mea lelei”, if it’s not from the land of the kiwi, the hongi and kupe (no, not that kupe). Now according to my taste archives, mamoe Niu Sila is long overdue for a spot in the five-year increment storage schedule, and so it’s time for some fresh NZ mamoe “flavours and savours” - - and not “flavors and savors”. ....lol!

...how does the saying go again? ...“...you can take the boy out of the country but you cannot take the country out of the boy?” ...Ia ga! ...ae maise a le kama o kaumafa, cause I can be assimilated in most other aspects of the mainstream culture but food tastes and cravings are hard to change.... ...fagusea, faisua, kuikui, fai’ai fe’e, oka and farai mamoz ...... ia makua mea leleeeeeeeei a! ...



(printed in the Samoa Observer, November 6, 2010 under "Letters to the Editor")

In Savea’s recent editorial "Dictatorship and Politics" he stated this: "Here in Samoa, someone may have to invent a new name for "dictatorship" to suit our political system and way of life."

Now, whether serious or just tongue-in-cheek, the suggestion is still worth a prodding (pun intended), at least in a risible and satirical approach, which the following intends to borrow.

I suggest "Pricktatorship". It has a nice ring to it especially in mimicking "dictatorship". But more than that, it fits the notion and objective of the editorial’s "request".

"A’itui" is a contractive pronunciation of the factual expression "a’a i tui" which probably has come into the Samoan language through the Bible, as the translation for "kicking against the pricks" (Acts 9:5). The native meaning is understood by many Samoans. The etymology - of the English version - however may not be apparent to many.

The expression comes from the practice of tilling or ploughing of the soil using oxen to pull the plough/plow. If the ox - or oxen - strays from the furrow it is jabbed or poked by the ploughman using a prick (tui) - a long stick with a sharp point. It is a means of exerting control, influence and authority. The prick inflicts pain on the animal and the more the animal resists or rebels, the more it is jabbed. Hence it is hard to "kick against the pricks". The same instrument and concept is also used in herding animals like sheep and goats.

As a metaphor for Samoa’s current political system, "pricktatorship" is founded on the root word "prick", which can be interpreted - literally or figuratively - to mean different things within the political context.

"Prick" collectively, can refer to the government or ruling party (HRPP) which is inflicting pain on the people/subjects keeping them reined and restrained. As a result, the people are "pricked" into conformity, compliance and passivity. The people therefore are dumbfounded and have become stupefied - and "stupid". As effectively articulated in the editorial, the people are "stuck in the mud of intolerance and futility ....[and] are made to look like fools...."

Pricks, individually, are the HRPP "herdsmen" running around with their pricks (no pun intended) pricking people into passive submissiveness and goaded servility. Our "political genius" is the master prick, living up to his name - Tui.  So as Samoans, today, we dare not "kick against the pricks" or the "Prick" and we might as well, in translation, say: "Aua le a’a i tui" or "Aua le a’a ia sTui" - "Mister Prickster!" On the same takeoff,  HRPP just as well stand for the "Human Rights Pricking Party".

"Prickmanship", is just as applicable, if not equally effective. It’s a pun on "brinkmanship" - a political coinage of the Cold War years which is based on the threat motif.  Moreover, the stick seems a fitting political symbol in light of another popular political expression by Teddy Roosevelt - "speak softly but carry a big stick".

So while others - according to the editorial - had the "barrels of the guns", Samoa has its pointed pricks or sharp sticks. Befittingly, therefore, we can say that presently the government (HRPP) controls and dictates using "pricks, sticks and tricks" - or, simply, Pricktatorship.

Ia manuia le alo atu i faiga palota Samoa.


Suspicious "Mines"

Wow! I have something in common with one of the Chilean miners rescued just recently. It’s the admiration for the late King of Rock ‘n Roll - Elvis. This particular miner was on the Letterman Show last night. Through a translator, he chatted with the show’s host - David Letterman.

The miner recounted some of the experiences he had with other miners while trapped and waiting for the rescue. He was asked to comment on some of the things they did to maintain their sanity and keep them entertained. Mr. Letterman then said that he had heard stories of him (miner) singing Elvis songs with the group. The miner nodded affirmatively and then soon started to sing some lines from “Suspicious Minds” one of Elvis’ all-time favorites.

The late night show band immediately picked it up with an instrumental backing and soon the miner was on his feet with a “whole lotta shaking”, pelvic gyrations and kicks complete with arm twirls and drum cues typical of the Elvis’ Las Vegas rendition. Simply hilarious!

Here’s an interesting impression I had while watching and listening to the interview, but especially having to do with the song “Suspicious Minds”. While it may have been the miner’s favorite, it was also fitting and ironic in the words of the verse he sang which contains the allusion of being trapped. It goes: “We’re caught in a trap; I can’t walk out.....we can’t go on together with suspicious minds”.

Anyhow, the miners’ ordeal is one of hope, heroism and survival. It’s one that typifies the strength, valor and durability of the human spirit; and apparently it didn’t hurt either to have a bit of rock ’n roll in the mix - both of which (rock and roll), incidentally, are things native to mines.

For these miners, this might be a good protest chorus:
“We’re caught in a trap, we can’t walk out .......and we can’t work on together in suspicious mines.”


"Be calm as a dove but discerning as a serpent."

"Filemu pei o le lupe, ae atamai pei o le gata."

The ongoing saga between Samoa’s PM and John Campbell is already a hot news item. The PM is in the “hot seat” while Mr. Campbell keeps and maintains his cool. Personally, I think the PM does not look composed or dignified on that TV3 (NZ) video. He looks agitated and I feel for him. He desperately and urgently needs help in his media dealing skills especially those that would make him calm and cool under pressure - namely impromptu interview pressure. I don’t think that he’s the kind of person who would have handled that well since he has always been belittling, belligerent and petulant. Perhaps the biggest liability in such demeanor is the fact that the whole country looks bad when its leader loses his cool and composure in such circumstances - especially with a foreign media.

There’s an irony in the whole exchange. The PM tells Mr. Campbell to have some manners and respect and yet he disrespects Mr. Campbell by slamming the door of the SUV in Campbell’s face. (Wait a minute, was that an LHD vehicle? ... more on that later.)

I have some suggestions for future candidates for the PM post.

As part of their tenure/term, if not their preparations, they need effective training in media presence, appearance conduct and mannerisms.  In today’s world of ubiquitous and pervasive high-speed communication, it’s critical if not obligatory for leaders to be current and competent in these areas. They need to learn how to remain calm cool and collected in the presence of cameras, lights and fact-finding microphones.

Candidates also need to undergo psychological evaluation. This is not a farfetched suggestion, by the way. Certainly we don’t have any nuclear weapons and secret codes but public embarrassment by the leaders - especially in foreign deals, liaisons and involvement - is just as damaging and insulting to the people. In fact the luma (public humiliation) concept is well etched in Samoa’s social and moral conscience and psyche and so sanity and self control are effective and necessary antidotes.

Lastly, welcome to the Internet and Youtube age - not a conch shell and lali (large wooden drum) one. High-speed streaming technologies are pervasive and powerful forces as well as the norm in today’s global society. If bad news traveled fast yesterday, today it travels in super meteoric speed measured in seconds and nanoseconds. In the real world of contemporary politics and its media dependent nature, a candidate can lose an election or even ruin his/her whole political career from a gaffe, an outburst or other bloopers. Samoa politics is not immune to this, if not now, very soon.

At least consider the favorite Samoan expression: “Filemu pei o le lupe ae atamai pei o le gata.” (Be calm as a dove but discerning as a serpent.)

This is Houston: "Damage control mode!  Damage control mode! ...Over!"


Happy Days

We’re approaching that part of the year that we Samoans often refer to as “aso fiafia” (happy days), and especially for those of us who live in the US, ‘cause our aso fiafia start sooner than those in the islands. In October, it’s Halloween ...so we say “Happy Halloween”, then in November we celebrate “Thanksgiving” and yes, we say “Happy Thanksgiving”, then come December with Christmas and again we say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” ...ioe, o le heppi lava ...!!

But I never had much of a penchant for Halloween. In fact it’s gotten worse in Utah because of the cold weather. I believe that candies are nowhere enough incentive to be out in cold and wet weather - if lucky - of late October, let alone in a funny or ridiculous outfit. ...hahaha.... But all that is changing s-l-o-w-l-y.  The kids love it though that even the cold rain this past weekend did not stop them. I guess I like Halloween as long as I’m inside and not out there knocking on doors with frozen knuckles. Another family came to our house last Saturday and asked: “Where’s the singing Elvis?” ...they remember the year when I greeted the trick-or-treaters each with a different Elvis song. Adults too enjoy dressing up in their favorite costumes. Some companies encourage their employees to wear costumes while others have jovial and convivial Halloween parties.
Family costume party 2010
Our family, for several years now, had been holding a Halloween get together - a costume party. Everybody dresses up in their favorite costume and we have treats, snacks, desserts, and sometimes a typical Samoan feast of kalo, palusami, pisupo, mamoe, etc. (Now that's my kind of partay.) We also have lots of fun games during which the men are pitted against the women. We play charades, pictionaries ... perform skits, talents, etc. ...something for everyone...the children ma le aiga akoa uma lava - immediate and exteeeeended ... :)

I actually do not like to spend money on a costume, I’d rather be creative and use anything lying around the house. I’m cheapo! ....hehehe.... Actually, last time I had a bought Elvis costume- a cheap one - but it was for/from another gig. And this year I had to go with my other idol Vin Diesel (re: Idol Worship post) of triple X (xXx) and other action thrillers. I drew the tattoo from memory - a rough replica of Diesel’s armband ... dabs of face paint on face, arms and neck ... sunglasses, of course, a cutoff and a couple of chain necklaces .. and ... voila!!

"triple X"
The most hilarious costume of the night - though extremely unorthodox and tragicomical - was the pregnant nun (pic is copyrighted...lol). It quickly reminded me of another Halloween in California some years ago. A fellow employee dressed up as a nun (an impregnable one...punning of course ..haha), and a customer came in and told her jestingly: “That’s the closest you’ll ever get to being righteous.”

If that customer is right, then I think I’ll keep a habit hanging in the closet, just to get that righteous feeling, ... even if I have to cross-dress to get it....LOL! Conversely, I doubt the priest’s robe consigns the same righteous feeling, considering the much publicized scandal.

Anyway it was a fun night, like other previous costume parties. Thank you family ...keep it up! ... again, o le Heppi  lava!