3/31/11

A Special and Unique Place


Me doing the coconut demonstration - PCC 
Can you be more Samoan outside Samoa?  In my case, Yess!  Now, remember this is coming from someone who was raised at the center of typical Samoan life - in the village, in Samoa.
How is it possible to become "more Samoan" outside of Samoa? Some will find the assertion more philosophical and theoretical than practical. Others may approach it from a relative standpoint with justification, if not rationalization. But I see it from a purely practical and empirical perspective especially in the context of Samoa’s social and ethnocultural traditions.

In Hawaii at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC), I demonstrated many of the tasks found in Samoan everyday life. The three main ones were: climbing the coconut tree, starting fire using just two pieces of sticks and husking the coconut, cracking it open and extracting milk from its meat (kernel). Not only had I actually done these chores, but the frequency - several times a day - went well beyond the normal native daily occurrences. In Samoa, I would climb the coconut tree perhaps only twice a month, if at all. And I was never able or had to start a fire without using matches or a lighter. Only in the woods where occasionally some older men would start the fire using the native sticks method as a last resort. At the Cultural Center, starting a fire by rubbing sticks only took me 20-30 seconds; the demonstration is then repeated for every group of tourists/guests.

During special celebrations and culture days, I had a chance to tautu (distribute) ‘ava (ceremonial drink) to guests and VIPs using proper traditional etiquette (re: picture below).  I had not - and would have not - had a chance to do that in Samoa.

I was also introduced to some rare and special cultural protocols - often reserved for special occasions - at the PCC. For example, I participated in an “'ava faatupu” (kava ceremony to welcome a king) when the late Malietoa Tanumafili II visited the Center. Ta'alolo (a procession of gift presentation), a traditional Samoan custom was common during my years at PCC.


If one has not been to the PCC, he will think this picture is of Samoa

So the claim and argument that the Polynesian Cultural Center is a staged exhibition is hogwash.  I learned more about Samoa there - in Hawaii - than I was ever able to learn in Samoa.  In fact I felt more “proud” of the Samoan culture in Hawaii than I would have felt in Samoa.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a special and unique place. It is a living museum!

3/30/11

The Best of Times ...

...young and so in love

It was the seventies. It was the best of times for some sectors of American society - but also for one or two on one tiny semi-primitive island in the Pacific.

I graduated from high school (Samoa College - "Samco") and did not want to go anywhere but back to the village. I was already fed up with school, tired of being pinioned by rules and conformity dictated by society’s norms and expectations. I wanted simplicity. I wanted freedom, which for me, had much to do with living the simple life in the village. I developed a fervid repulsion for life in town (Apia). With its more modern institutions, the town for me was a symbol of subjection and control. In fact I missed half of my senior year having already developed a deep disgust, not so much for school, but for the so-called city life.

But while in the city, I learned about life in America - in delay mode because of distance - especially the counter cultures (hippie movement and others) from movies and from magazines. I remember reading and following the story of Patty Hearst, and fascinated by the pictures of the Vietnam War in Time and Newsweek magazines.

After graduation, I was not one of the smart or lucky ones to have been offered a scholarship for further studies overseas (not surprising for someone who spent half his senior year in the village). So I retreated to the village. I did not look for a job - against my Dad’s urging and persuasion. In a very real sense, I became a rebel just for the sake of being rebellious, and not for any clear defined cause or reason.

The hippie revolution in the US was waning but its far reaching ripples had already sparked some fledgling and nondescript offshoots among me and my peers. I let my hair grow long. It seemed that I wanted to imitate the popular culture of the time though there was something more profound that I was craving. And no, it’s not the destructive stuff like drugs, alcohol and tobacco. (They’re not profound in any way shape or form - well easy for me to say ..LOL!)  In fact, I never - at any point in my life - developed a liking or desire for any of them. Never had and never will. I’d die to know why because all my best friends and most of my peers smoked and drank. (Peer pressure revisited!) At Samco, I remember some of my friends snitching some hydrochloric acid from Chemistry period, mixed it with Coke and ...drank it! Oh, and in case you’re curious, sex among young people was a taboo and not as free as the hippies and Margaret Mead had premised it. LOL!

So after Samco, and back in the village, I did not mind tending our family’s taro and banana plantations up in the mountains. It was my main responsibility and I enjoyed it. There was something satiable and fulfilling in farming and in the woods. Personally, it was therapeutic for the fettered impact of the Apia years. If the village was a single dose of freedom medicine for me, the mountains certainly tripled it. It’s amazing that several years later, at the university, when I read Thoreau’s account of his time at Walden Pond, I was awe-inspired. I found in Thoreau - and Emerson - validation of my post high school years and the yearning for pastoral simplicity and the rustic village life.

And so in the village I lived my dream of being an emancipated young man - or so I thought, since I was still expected to care for the family farms. Young adult boys were also under strict village council rules governing outside influences of the hippie culture especially long hair. To this day, I still do not know why my dad (our family chief) was not penalized for my afro. My friends’ dads were all fined for their sons’ hippie afros. I suspect that by that time I was already back in town working, and either I was always absent from the village or the chiefs were obsequious to me - especially when they needed someone to help with some of their transactions in town like vouching for them as recipients of remittances.

I had already met Dearie at the time; we met while we were both in high school. She attended Church College in town too. Our villages are about three miles apart so we were able to see each other from time to time. We would meet at dances and at my rugby games where she would bring oranges and drinks. We were married and I joined the LDS Church of which she was a member. I loved attending church with her (picture). Those were some of the best times of our lives; it has been a dream ever since.

Jake Heaps, who?


Jake Heaps and Donny Osmond

In case you’re wondering who Jake Heaps is in the PostScript of the previous post, well here he is several days ago with ...[drum roll] ...celebrity Donny Osmond during BYU Spring football practice. Speaking of celebrities, Jake Heaps, the current BYU quarterback, will most likely become the next BYU athlete - like Jimmer - who will be in the spotlight in the next few years.

And no, Donny is not a coach; he was just there to meet Jake...and gave him the following advice - as reported by the Deseret News:


"I told him to always be mindful you are representing not only yourself, but also BYU and the LDS Church, and that the adversary knows that, and he will be trying to work on you. [Yeah, like Rick Reilly.]


"I told him to stay humble and stay well grounded. You play in a filled stadium, it can go to your head. I've done that; I've performed in filled stadiums and know what it's like, I know that feeling. But when it's over, you have to be who you are because that — with all the stardom and praise — isn't your real life. You have to be you.


"Elvis Presley [yes, he’s da man...haha] taught me that. He'd be on stage performing, but when it was over and I met and talked to him, he was just a real nice man with things he had to deal with just like everybody else. He told me to be careful, to never forget who I was," Osmond said.


"I'd advise Jake to stay close to his family because, in the end, they are the only ones that really matter. And they'll be there for you. My family has always had my back all my life, and that really means something."
Good advice Donny!  Now let's go beat those other guys ... on ESPN!    Hahahaaa!!

3/29/11

The roiled and riley Rick Reilly

Like other Jimmer and BYU fans, I too have something to say about this Rick Reilly.

Who is he anyway?  If Reilly - hereafter called “riley” as in “emotionally stirred” - claims to be anyone “famous”, then he may only be known for notoriety and being spiteful and bitchy as in his malicious article on Jimmer Fredette, BYU and the LDS (Mormon) Church. Riley seems to be really good at shooting (no pun intended) good people down. 

What I also find unbecoming - and possibly vile - is that ESPN, for which Riley works, just last year signed a multi-year TV contract with BYU for football telecasts. I would suspect therefore a good working relationship between ESPN and BYU, hence not offending the LDS Church which owns Brigham Young University. Instead Riley sees the LDS religion as the culprit and problem in BYU athletes and fans - according to his comments. That’s subtle yet potent religious bigotry there, Mr. Riley.

Therefore, Riley’s article can be a demonstration of corporate arrogance and indifference, which can translate into something like "BYU needs ESPN not the other way around." In the business context that may be true, but in the ecumenical world, normal, respectful and civil human relationships are critical and in most cases contributive and valuable to successful business dealings as well.

Of course Riley praised Jimmer as being a great, polite and smart kid. But then he contravenes all that by attributing those to Jimmer being a Mormon and a BYU student, who - according to his profiling - is overly pious at best and hypocritical at worst. Here, Riley speaking of Jimmer and BYU students:
“Great kid, though. Polite, smart (good chess player, whiz at Sudoku), studies his Bible in hotel rooms. Maybe that was the problem. Fredette and the largely Mormon BYU Nation should've never been made to come to New Orleans. You can sin just by osmosis here. You should have seen some of them on Bourbon Street, the freshly scrubbed Cougars fans, horrified to find themselves among the window strippers, the hurricane chuggers and the bead catchers.”
Hence the article is also a blow and assault on student morals. Riley seems to be someone who cares only about sports and sports only. He cares only about the athletic skills of students - not morals, not values. I’m sure that’s why he’s a sportswriter, but then in that case, by all means, write strictly about sports and not vilify or denigrate athletes' and fans’ religious beliefs, whether it’s BYU, Notre Dame or any other university.

Further, the perennial debate between the so-called “student-athlete” and “athlete-student” in terms of priority, I wouldn’t be surprised if Riley is an avid supporter of the latter - athlete first and foremost and student after, if at all. His advice in the above quote is “Bring your athletic skills and not your Mormon morals and values when you come to play.”  In essence, Riley is saying that a basketball tournament - and any other sport tournament for that matter - is war and governed only by the law of the jungle. Fights, brawls, dirty play and all other uncivilized behavior are fair game. That’s a subtle impugnment on not only BYU and other universities but NCAA rules as well.

It’s good, great, desirable and gratifying to win games, but winning is definitely NOT everything. There are more important things in life than winning basketball games.  Perspective - on sports and on life - was badly needed in Riley's article.

Some say that Riley is a sportswriter and has won Sportswriters awards. So WHAT? Or is he using that as a license to dog Jimmer, BYU and the LDS Church? Or was he trying to expand his fame and notoriety at their expense? Possibly! If so, then, that’s one thing Riley has done well - albeit in a conniving way - since now more people have tried to find out who he is; he never existed before as far as most people - let alone sports fans - are concerned. However, today, compared to Jimmer - a kid and newcomer - Riley pales in comparison. More people know - and will know - Jimmer than Riley.

So far, if googling is any indication of popularity, Jimmer Fredette trounces Rick Reilly twofold - by the millions. Without a doubt, there are other Rick Reillys - but not Jimmer Fredettes - in the world, so that would further bring his numbers down, down .... Down with “Riley”! - aka Rick Reilly.  He has been Jimmered!

PS: Jake Heaps, watch out for Rick Reilly; he is coming after you.  He can and will sack you!

3/22/11

Jimmer Show Continues ...

Jimmer keeps jingling and jangling! ... in other words keeps making noise in College Hoops!  He scored 34 points against Conzaga over the weekend advancing his BYU Cougars to the Sweet 16. This week (Thursday), Jimmer the Rimmer will face Florida, a team BYU beat - in double overtime - in the first round of last year's post season Tournament.  Deja Vu  Bradaz!

And two weeks straight, Jimmer is on the cover of Sports Illustrated (SI).  He is also SI's Player of the Year as cited below:

Player of the Year: Jimmer Fredette, BYU
"He became a national phenomenon -- known as "The Jimmer" -- while leading the nation in scoring at 27.9 points per game. He dropped 47 on Utah, 43 on San Diego State, 42 on Colorado State, hit an innumerable amount of long-long-distance threes, and is the only logical choice for this award."

GO JIMMER and The COUGARS!

Vini and Tapaga

Lalomanu Beach
The distance between Vini and Tapaga is much closer in real life than it seems in the picture

These two seascape features in my village (Lalomanu) have etched a place in the social lore, traditional oratory and music of Samoa.  Recently, they have been featured in the lyrics of one of the soundtracks of the movie Tautoga Gausia.

Vini is the name of the capsized canoe-shaped island (the same one in my blog header picture). Compared to its nearby counterpart and sidekick - Tapaga - Vini is more visible and more popular especially after Lalomanu Beach became a famed tourist attraction.  In fact, Vini has become a distinctive feature of the beach in photos and promotional material. Vini, I think, is to Samoa what Diamond Head is to Hawaii. It has risen to the level of a national symbol, at least in the tourism context. It has therefore garnered a unique distinction like most remarkable and conspicuous landforms elsewhere.

Tapaga - better known as Cape Tapaga - on the other hand, is the promontory opposite Vini. It is smaller and not as popular though quite significant in advancing Vini’s traditional, cultural and oratorical nuance. Tapaga  used to be the location of the only hospital in this eastern part of the island (Upolu). The hospital has since been moved inland.

When I was a young boy, my uncle Dr. Hanipale was the primary physician at the hospital. His house was at the top of the promontory; so we would always walk out to the farthest point or tip of Tapaga and sit enjoying the spectacular view. I was in awe of the enormity of my immediate surroundings. If memory serves me correctly, it was my first lesson, impression - visual intellectual and psychological - and reminder of the reality of the diminutive presence of man within the totality of his natural environment, even despite his pervasive and profound influence and impact.

Tapaga’s cool and soothing sea breeze can even lull one into some island enchantment. This highest point at the tip is close to a hundred feet - if not higher - from the sea below. Being there is like standing at the bow of a cruise ship looking down to the sinuous ocean surface. From our bare rock seats, Vini  rises precipitously in front of us. It occupies our whole and immediate gaze. The experience is similar to sitting inside an IMAX theater with Vini taking up the whole screen - the island blocks any further or farther view of the vast open ocean. It is so close that you can literally see the landscape details and different tiers of the island flora. Also, on a clear calm day, you can see schools of fishes, notably of the large ones, and even sharks in the ocean below.

So the familiar expression “Ua feagai Vini ma Tapaga” (“Vini and Tapaga face each other”), that is often heard in chiefly oratory, is used mostly in speeches of welcome celebrating safe arrival and a joyous coming together of two or more parties.

For more information on using the Vini and Tapaga idiom in its usual traditional context, check the Motuga’afa section/tab.

3/21/11

A Ray of Light


by LV  Letalu

Within today’s terror threats and fright,
shines forth hope from a ray of light.
It’s both a friend and fiery fiend
with a dire warning to send.
It prowls with its might,
claiming victory and right.
It spreads its wide wings;
it zings and it stings.
It swims at night,
with ammo for fight.
It seeks after any unrest
and quells a tyrant’s quest
It rivets its laser light
on every dictator’s sight,
issuing democracy’s caveat
calling for all evildoers’ defeat.
It is democracy’s stealthy device,
in validating virtue while vilifying vice.

____________________
(inspired by the unrest in Lybia)

3/17/11

American Idol Update

Last night on American Idol, I played - as usual - the role of a fourth judge from the comfort of my bed. And my top three, since my last update, have not changed.


1. Pia - She was - and still is - AWESOME. She is the one to beat. I tell you, AI would love to crown Pia the next American Idol today, and I don’t blame them. She has the voice. She has the looks. She has the personality, stage presence, everything. She is the complete package. My prediction is that Pia can certainly outdo Carrie Underwood. If America does not go with Pia, then something is certainly amiss.


2. Scotty : This kid is amazing. I learned last night that Scotty and I share an admiration for Elvis. But that will not influence my vote as still the number two finalist. He does not need to covet #1. He is already a #1 country singer. In fact, I think he is going to be better than Brooks, Travis, Chesney or McGraw. Scotty is the voice and face of Country Music in the next decades. Hands Down! He is young and he will have a long successful career. Even your grandchildren and great grandchildren will adore him.


3. Lauren : She did a lot better last night than last week. She has a country style and voice too. Still a #3 but she will be a star nonetheless, similar to the likes of Tricia Yearwood-Brooks, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill, Miranda Lambert and others.

Honorable Mentions :
Stephano - The most improved therefore the most likely surprise.
Casey - Great and talented. The problem is that he’s overqualified! Yes, there is such a thing as "overqualified" in music, at least in pop music and AI. Lol!
Paul - I like Paul’s unique and raspy voice - if only Rod Stewart had not already claimed it.
Jacob - He has a great voice and has his own niche which falls just outside of the pop boundary and Idol "genre".

The rest should be eliminated in the next few weeks.

Think Single ...Nooot!

...not that single! ...not like ....hmmm....Cher? She’s single.

Actually, this is about something else. Something related to what you may have just been doing in order to access this blog. Typing. More specifically typing official standardized documents.

The consensus out there is that, today, with all the computer software-generated documents, there is only ONE (single) space after a period or colon. Yes, one space, not two spaces - anymore. And so they tell us to undo the "two spaces" rule our typing teachers had taught us.

Why? Well, the explanation goes something like this: During the typewritozoic era, the typewritersaurus had monospaced (fixed-width) fonts - meaning that every letter whether narrow (like "i") or wide (like "w") is allotted the same amount of space/spacing. (See the example below.) Therefore in order for a break - after a period or colon - to be visually obvious, two spaces were needed. Today word processing software programs have solved that problem using proportional fonts.

But wait a minute, there is still an asterisk (pun intended) in that explanation. Fixed-width fonts are still found in these word-processing and printer software programs. And so what does that mean? Well, it means if the "two spaces" rule was based on the monospaced fonts - which are still around - then it (the rule) should still apply - and not ditched.

Notice the following example:

Proportional: The dog is running after the pig. The pig is going to jump.
Monospace: The dog is running after the pig. The pig is going to jump.

So, yes, we can still use monospaced fonts and therefore, the "two spaces" rule should still be relevant. (Unless of course the space character has been proportionally modified in connection with the monospaced fonts, so that a document does not look sparse and "loose" with two spaces.) Incidently, there are still industries whose documents use fixed-width fonts as a standard. For instance, the movie industry still requires scripts to be written in Courier 12, a monospaced font.

I am a two-spacer - sometimes, at least for matters of taste and aesthetics. I think that the two spaces rule is not an anachronism - yet. The monospaced fonts - hence the two spaces rule - are still alive, and spanning several decades and eras like ... hmmm.....Cher?   

Otherwise, think single?

3/15/11

The View

Tsunami, a killer of dreams
Dreamhouse
Who doesn’t like the view of the ocean - a lake or any body of water - from his balcony, room, porch or deck? It’s a dream view. It is also an expensive view, hence oceanfront property is always valuable and costly. The fact is that the ocean is a natural magnet. There is something in the sights and sounds of the ocean that soothes, comforts and heals. That something impacts the whole being - physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s especially therapeutic to those - like myself - who are cordoned, shackled or tethered to an enclosure such as an office in a landlocked downtown high-rise. So when these prisoners of modernity take vacations, chances are they will go to places where there are beautiful beaches and towering hotels with rooms with “the view”.

You would think that someone who was born, raised and grew up - for a significant part of his life - just a block from the ocean would be tired and repulsed by the view. Naaah!!  In fact I long and yearn for it every day. But could the yearning be a result of having lived in a landlocked state for the last two decades? No, I doubt it; in fact I adamantly demur. My blood is literally an ocean gushing through veins and vessels forged, thickened and nurtured by the silver crests and the gentle lapping waves, by the enchanting and pristine waters of blue lagoons and by the unspoiled natural seascape. Therefore, the natural oceanfront experience, for me, is visceral.


Fogalesolo (A)
 So it has been a dream for me to have a house on the beach with a thatched hut or bungalow over the lagoon (yes, EXACTLY like the picture "Dreamhouse" above). The problem is that there’s another element in the picture now - a sea monster, aka ‘tsunami’.  So inasmuch as I admire the dream house with its ideal location, I am bothered by the invisible yet remorseless and cruel beast lurking beyond the horizon. And yes, the beast DOES exist, it just needs to be awakened.

Having watched my former friend-turned-fiend in action recently in Japan and other places - but especially in my very own island backyard two years ago - I have reviewed (punning of course) my dream. And like most people along my coastal home stretch in Samoa, I’ll move my dream inland to this high oceanfront property (Fogalesolo (A)).  It belongs to my family. It looks quite safe from a killer tsunami too. But how safe is it from a killer earthquake? A ha!  Come to think of it, it’s okay. With this property, I’ll live on the edge - literally and figuratively - everyday (don’t we all sometimes?).

In other words, I can be a real stubborn rebel and a risk-taker at times, so give me a nice location with the ocean view - tsunamis, earthquakes and all - and I’ll build my dream house. Fogalesolo (A) seems ideal. It’s quite a point and a view. Who knows, may be in my old age, I’ll pen my own version of “The Old Man and the Sea” or better still, call it “My Point of View”.

******************************
(PS: My condolences to tsunami victims in Japan. May the good Lord comfort and gather you “as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.” )

3/9/11

"Tail" of Two Donkeys

1. A Dead Donkey - entrepreneurship or entrepreneurshik? ..Hahaha!  This first one is just for laughs ...

There was a young man named Ahmed who bought a donkey from old farmer Farouk for $100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. When Farouk drove up the next day he says, 'I am sorry but I have some bad news - the donkey is on my truck but he be dead.'

Ahmed replies, 'Well then, just give me my money back.'

'Can't do that,' burrs the farmer, 'I went out and spent it already.'

Ahmed sighs, 'OK just unload the donkey anyway.'
Farouk then asks, 'What are you gonna do with a dead donkey an' that?' I'll raffle him off,' laughs Ahmed.
The farmer exclaimed, 'Aargh, you can't raffle off a dead donkey.'

But Ahmed with a big smile on his face tells Farouk, 'Sure I can. Watch.
Just don't tell anyone the donkey is dead.'
A month later the farmer Farouk met up with Ahmed and asks,

'Whatever happened to that dead donkey?'

Ahmed answers, 'I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at $2.00 each and made a huge profit.'

Totally amazed the farmer Farouk enquires, 'Didn't anyone complain that you had stolen their money because you lied about the donkey being dead?'

'The only one who found out about the donkey being dead was the raffle winner,' chuckled Ahmed, 'so when he came to claim his prize I gave him his $2.00 back plus $200.00 extra, which is double the going value of a dead donkey, so he thought I was a great fellow.'


AND second one for inspiration ...

2. A Live Donkey - A Fable for Our Time

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out a way to get him out. Finally he decided it was probably impossible and the animal was old and the well was dry anyway, so it just wasn't worth it to try and retrieve the donkey. So the farmer asked his neighbors to come over and help him cover up the well. They all grabbed shovels and began to shovel dirt into the well.

At first, when the donkey realized what was happening he cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement, he quieted down and let out some happy brays. A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well to see what was happening and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was shaking it off and taking a step up. (Shifting)

As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he continued to shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, to everyone's amazement, the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!

Moral:  Life is going to shovel dirt on you. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Every adversity can be turned into a stepping stone. The way to get out of the deepest well is by never giving up but by shaking yourself off and taking a step up.

What happens to you isn't nearly as important as how you react to it.

Author Unknown

3/4/11

Gimme a Jammer

...a mobile phone jammer!!


With the ubiquitousness of cell phones and other gadgets, the annoyance that a person sometimes gets from the repetitive clicks, the plethora of ringtones and loud, invasive, rude - sometimes profane - conversations is painfully aggravating. I think it’s high time to legalize cell phone jammers!

One day, on the bus, a guy was on his cell phone talking with his girlfriend. The conversation was not only decibelically high, but was punctuated by profanity. In many other settings where one needs some quiet time and reflection - even in a public place - the sound of a loud ringtone or intrusive conversation gets on that person’s nerves. In my case, I would feel violated and will have been glad to have had a jammer on me! ... Se o le kala mogi lava. Haha.

Oh, and what about the erratic car in front or next to you on the freeway, drifting in and out of your lane because the driver is on the phone? Well, I wanna “taser” his cell phone.

And this one is equally if not more annoying. At the home front. I mean the deprivation of quality family time because all the children - and adults too - are always on “bended heads and elbows” squinting at their nimble fingers flirting and fiddling with keys, buttons and touchscreens.

So several weeks ago, I enacted a “gadget freeze” rule during family meetings and discussions. I was frustrated with everyone’s busy fingers and hands - while glowing like zombies’ phallanges from the light emanating from the mini screens - and not paying attention to the discussion.

Can you imagine the whole gamut of possibilities - both good and not so good - that these cell phones and gadgets can create in our everyday lives as families? I mean, on the downside, the whole family can conspire against you the parents - or parent. The children can communicate and plan against you by texting each other while, at the same time, you’re trying to give your parental counsel or spiel, or trying to have a nice family-oriented conversation. These tech-savvy nerds can plan and execute a coup or insurrection in a completely civil and non-violent way. And the liberal media will hail them as MLK’s heroes or Ghandi’s disciples of civil disobedience. They will be exonerated and fully justified by a court of law.

But think about it. Your home can become a microcosmic Egypt. In that case, what do I do as a father and patriarch? Do what patriarch Mubarak did, and turn off the Internet? Confiscate the gadgets? NO! ...Ok, I know, Gimme a JAMMER!

So here’s a warning to cell phone users, drivers (or automobilers - if you catch the pun) and home front nerds and nerdesses: If your cell phone suddenly stops working while you’re within a 100-yard diametrical range of yours truly, don’t go calling your cell phone carrier ... as soon as you start using the common code and password “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”, your cell phone will start working again..... LOL!

...and as is common among band members, we say: “Let’s start JAMMIN’!”

My American Idol Update

Okay, having listened to the ladies sing on their night, I think I’ve changed my mind on who is going to win - Pia! Pia Toscano. My top three will still include Scotty - Pia, Scotty and Lauren (Alaina).  By the way, these are my own picks and we will see how close they are to America’s. And even if these three do not win, they will win somewhere sometime down the road, because the have already proven their natural talents and being at the front of the pack. They will definitely have contracts waiting for them. This is by far the best group (Top 10) that AI has had since its inception - I believe. There are excellent and great talented singers in the current 10 finalists, but most of their genres are “unconventional” if not of the Idol mainstream and prototype. Again, Pia, Scotty and Lauren - in that order for the 2011 American Idol. Good luck to all the contestants!

3/2/11

...a beat of a different drum

Several of my hobbies include singing, writing, reading, learning, designing, drawing, sports and playing the guitar - but not drums.

I have played in bands for as long as I can remember. I play lead/rhythm guitar and also am - most of the time - the lead vocalist. But I haven’t taken the time to learn to play the drums at the same or similar level - I can play a slow song and that’s about it. As a band member/guitarist, I prefer playing with a live drummer - using real drum sets as opposed to programmed/arranged drumming or drum machines.

There are advantages of both, but a live drummer makes a band more bona fide in every sense of the word. The flexibility of a live drummer in adjusting to the beat improvising and general ad-lib augmentation make the overall playing experience in a band fun, fulfilling and enjoyable. The advantage of a drum machine is found in additional and variety of percussion sounds - and automation. But unless the sequencing is well programmed, electronic drumming can be a hindrance, not to mention technical and other difficulties and/or failures.

Drumming is another front - albeit a less popular one - on which the battle between man and machine is fought. And man still has the edge. Case in point - a drum machine still has to be operated by a person. And so is with perhaps all other machines and automation.

l-r: nelson(bass) loi(keyboards) self(lead guitar) percy (rhythm guitar)
back: sega (drums)
I still have a goal of learning to play the drums (mind you, I already know how to play with them). And if not for social enjoyment alone, it’s for the stimulation and growth of the brain’s neurons from the challenges in the learning process which have proven to contribute tremendously to healthy mental capabilities and faculties - even into old age. This is true with any new challenge and undertaking.

Oh, I was watching American Idol last night and the men were awesome. A few years ago, I picked Carrie Underwood who has a great CM voice. This year, I’ll pick another CM favorite - Scotty McCreery. He sang John Michael Montgomery’s “Letters from Home”. Scotty was great. I like his voice. I think he was born a Country singer. And if he doesn’t win, he’s already on every CM label’s radar and you will hear his name on the Country charts or when performing on CMAs in the next few years.

3/1/11

Current Anomalies in Samoa’s Democratic Efforts

Some months ago, I wrote a letter to the Samoa Observer challenging the proprosition requiring all Members of Parliament (MP) to hold a matai title, which afterwards was passed into law anyway. My objection was based on the incongruity of traditional status society with ideal democratic culture. The attempts therefore to impose and mandate matai title requirements for MPs may prove errant, discriminatory and possibly illegal. This was the crux of my letter.

Now I understand the intention and desire of the Prime Minister (PM) and others to infuse, perpetuate and maintain traditional status and dignity of the matai (chiefly) system in Parliament (Fono). I further understand the desire and wishes of many to design and fashion a cultural democracy for Samoa, which seems a good and lofty idea - though only in theory, at least. Practically, however, it’s a challenge at best, and an anomaly at worst within the ideal context of democratic ideology, a system which Samoa - claiming as a devout advocate - flaunts in the face of Pacific dissident nations like Fiji.

The anomaly is audaciously evident against the modern legal system backdrop, which is supposed to be the bellwether institution for democracy, especially in maintaining its judicial independence. Unfortunately, Samoa’s judiciary - especially as of late - seems a puppet in the ambidextrous manipulative hands of the present government, defying and turning a cold shoulder to democratic principles and ideals.

In the letter, I specifically used the Individual Voters’* MPs as an anomaly. These representatives were asked to acquire matai titles - which is as easy as "buying a loaf of bread", according to the PM. The PM apparently may not have had a keen foresight and profound understanding of the matai system. Although a matai is considered the "head" of a family, appointed by the family, his authority is granted by the village fono and therefore the full execution of his office and power has to be within the confines and demarcations - social and otherwise - of the village fono. In essence, a matai cannot exist and function independent - or outside - of a village and its fono. A title - like the individual - in the Samoan context, has its tupuaga (origin) as well as its faasinomaga (heritage/legacy).

This puts the MPs for the Individual Voters at odds with both the culture and government, hence creating, at least, a political and legal conundrum. Of course they can easily acquire or "buy" (in the PM’s analogy) their titles. But to what village will their monotaga** be rendered? Which pulenu’u/sui ole nu’u (mayor) will sign their monotaga declaration? The PM, the government and the courts, I’m sure, can still circumvent the issue by referring these MPs to the "village of their titles" in order to meet and satisfy the election requirements. But what does that do to the dual loyalty and conflict of interest issues that will certainly percolate?

With its monopoly on power now, the government can and will do anything. The courts will swim along too - upstream. In fact I think the government can create a traditional village for the Individual Voters complete with its faalupega (salutations), a fono and pulenu’u just to accommodate the law. If not, the PM and government can always make exceptions for the Individual Voters’ MPs. Or can they? They have already rescinded the matai title "exception" for these MPs and to grant them a monotaga exception, will only reveal and expose their - to use the PM’s favorite word - "stupidity". Don’t even be surprised if the government ends up passing a law creating a special category for these matai titles and call them "dummy" (no pun intended) titles. Or might as well bring back the matai palota (ballot matai) who do not render any monotaga.

Furthermore, does the definition of a monotaga pass legal muster? As it is presently - with the absence of a concise fair and legal definition - the pulenu’u/sui o le nu’u will have to SUBJECTIVELY decide if a monotaga has been rendered by a particular candidate. This subjectivity can be a seed and tenet of totalitarianism and dictatorship. It certainly is a legal blooper.

But it all comes down to this scenario: A typical electoral matai candidate and Individual Voter candidate both have matai titles. But both had not satisfied the monotaga requirement, and so the former is punished while the latter is rewarded. Something is definitely amiss in this case.

Would the monotaga - with all its portentous complexities - had been an issue, or questioned, if the all-matai Parliament law had not passed?  The government has certainly opened a can of worms and a pandora’s box by mandating matai titles for all MPs. When the PM suggested to the candidates for the Individual Voters to just go to their families to get a title, he apparently did not anticipate other obligations of a matai to come into play, especially when most have now been regulated.

And here’s a sad but plausible truth: With its adamant efforts to forge a pure traditional Parliament (Fono) with all "pure" matai, and in light of present developments, the government (HRPP) may view the Individual Voters Roll as a thorn and prick on its side.
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*Individual Voters Roll contains Samoan citizens of foreign and mixed descent and their spouses and naturalized citizens. These voters have two representatives (MPs) in Parliament. IVR members do not belong to a typical Samoan village hence are not part of the typical electoral districts which are largely governed by traditional Samoan socio-political elements - mainly the matai system.

**required services rendered by a matai (chief) to the village to which his chiefly title belongs.