9/27/16

So Maui Has Been Stripped of His Costume?

Disney has acquiesced and has halted/pulled the Maui costume as a result of some complaints by a few vocal Polynesians in the name of cultural appropriation, skin color, etc.  And these fellow insular and territorial Poly’s seem to be feting this as a “victory” now, and probably are having a costume party of their own. Malo!

But, if I may crash such a party and say that Disney assented, like any other big corporation would, not necessarily because of any cultural infringement, appropriation, concerns or reasons, but, more or less, for their own bottom line. Speaking of bottom line, the whole squabble was, to borrow from The Bard, a much ado about nothing.  And in a slightly different context yet still applicable - and still Shakespearean - “.... [it was] a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” ...implicating of course a particular “almost Poly” YouTuber. (Ahem!)

Now that Disney has decided to settle its case, let me try to settle some of the things that have been misconstrued by certain protesters during the controversy.

Polynesian Culture or Cultures?
Polynesia means “many islands” and therefore “many cultures”. Obviously. The many archipelagos are diversified geographically and culturally and have evolved to create unique cultures of their own despite some similarities, mostly in legends and mythologies.  I submit therefore that there is no such thing as a Polynesian culture, in the simplest and most basic meaning of the word. Polynesia is used more as an abstract identity and label. And in case you didn’t know, at least for kicks, there is an island group called French Polynesia in Polynesia (chew that!). But this particular complainant seemed to have tried to make references to some Hawaiian practices and traditions as tenets of a larger and homogenized Polynesian culture. One culture should not intentionally and/or actively transfer or impose its peculiarities on others. That simply is far-fetched, if not blatantly ethnocentric.

Tattoos Sacred?
They may have been “sacred” in the distant past, but not anymore.  Culture is a social phenomenon and therefore changes with time, especially with the introduction of Christianity that changed many of the taboos in Polynesia, including tattoos.  Samoa, one of the most religious countries and may be the only Polynesian culture to still actively practice the art of tattooing does not consider its tattoos as sacred anymore, at least in the strictest sense of the word; as well as how it was used in the argument against Disney. Tattoos instead have become commodified and therefore have largely lost their original meaning and significance.  The patterns and designs are now abused and prostituted; printed/duplicated on fabric, clothes, plastered and etched on automobiles and other surfaces.  That’s hardly appropriate for anything that’s considered sacred, I must say.  And this commodification, unfortunately, has been perpetrated from within - by the natives themselves.  Which brings me to the next point.

Cultural Appropriation?
If Disney were a Polynesian company, the intrusions and appropriation would have been fine with other Poly’s regardless of any offensive improprieties.  Cultural appropriation does not necessarily have to be committed by outsiders only - it can be from within as well, especially within a diverse group like Polynesia with its varied cultural constituents.  For example a Samoan filmmaker can appropriate other less dominant Polynesian cultures. But I’m guessing, therefore, that we’re still preoccupied, burdened and hurt by the aftermath of the colonial and imperial eras that we’ve duly become overly sensitive and adamantly adversarial against outsiders.  I think it’s about time that we move on. (“Can we all just get along?”)  Sometimes when one keeps insisting on his/her rights and  “right of way”, the outcome is often a crash and/or clash with others. I’m not saying that we should be absolutely passive in all things - far from it. But a mere costume is something that shouldn’t ruffle our feathers, cause our combs to stand up (Chicken!) and get our adrenaline rushing. Save them for many more important issues.  There’s too much of this PC business today!  And believe me, whatever modification or change is made to the costume, there will always be some who will be offended.  And then when there’s no costume, someone will accuse Disney of prejudice and discrimination since all other Disney characters have costumes - but not Maui.

Sole Proprietor of Brown Skin?
And since when did we Poly’s copyright, monopolize and patent brown skin?  There are many other brown-skinned people in the world, mind you. As I said previously, does that mean that we shall now start protesting the sunbathers at the beaches and customers in tanning salons?  And most certainly, by the way, there are also those whose skin colors are fair, darker, etc. who’d claim to be true “Polynesians” or trace their origins and roots to Polynesia.  So we can blame Disney for marginalizing Polynesians; but how about Polynesians marginalizing Polynesians?

So, again, please lighten up (multiple puns intended)!

Finally, with reference to the protesters’ stance, one of my favorite Samoan adages is “Atonu e sa’o ae le a’o” (“[you] may be correct but not right”).  In a nutshell, correctness often connotes a particular conformity within a specific time, setting and subject whereas rightness involves a broader and more inclusive sphere, context and continuum.

Faafetai Lava!



9/23/16

Book of Mormon Lessons for Our Day

It was my turn to teach our Sunday School class (English) this past Sunday.  The lesson was on chapters 1-5 of the Book of Helaman in the Book of Mormon (BoM).

One of the claims about the Book of Mormon is that it was “written” for the latter days (today, our day).  And this lesson certainly supports that claim.  These particular chapters contain some of the parallels and similarities between the BoM societies and those of today.  The chapters describe - among other things - secret combinations which are groups/individuals that engage in secret dealings, carry out killings, murders, violence and have secret signs, codes, communication, etc.  And in light of the events of this past weekend in New York and New Jersey (explosions and bombs), present-day gang activities, etc. the lesson seemed all the more pertinent.

The chapters/lesson also cover some political pandemonium of the times and which has relevance to the present pandemonium in US politics, specifically the current presidential election. There are warnings in the lesson that need to be heeded, at the very least by America, considering not only its association with the BoM (Americas being the “lands” of the BoM) but also its role in the world as a leader in democracy and  religious freedom.  Remember, too, that America was founded by people who were mostly seeking freedom of religion.

This election again is already known for its strange, demeaning, vicious and degrading nature with its two final candidates unlike any others before.  According to polls and surveys, they are the most untrustworthy and the least popular.  It’s the first time that this has happened.  The real unfortunate thing about the two nominees is that they can be a direct reflection of the present American electorate - The People.  Despite other mechanisms in the American electoral process, the people, in a very real sense, are still “the voice” in these elections.

The “voice of the people”

“Voice of the people” is a phrase that is found throughout the Book of Mormon.  It is a metaphor whose meaning is the same as today's majority rule. It underscores the wisdom and trustworthiness of the voice of the majority especially in democratic elections.  So in the beginning of the lesson, I told the class to ponder this question: “Should the voice of the people always be trusted and/or right?”

The consensus was a  “No!”, and the implication is that it depends on the general disposition of the people, whether good or bad.  Simply, if the people are good, their voice would be right; if they are bad/wicked, their voice would reflect that disposition.

The BoM affirms that:
“... it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right ....” (Mosiah 29:26)

In the first four chapters of the text (Helaman 1-4), the voice of the people appointed the right and good individuals to be leaders (judges), including Helaman himself in chapter 2:

“And it came to pass that Helaman, who was the son of Helaman, was appointed to fill the judgment-seat, by the voice of the people.” (Helaman 2:2)

This means that the majority of the people were still good/righteous and were in control, but within the space of about 20 years, the voice of the people had changed.  Those who chose evil outnumbered those who chose good.

“For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.” (Helaman 5:2 emphasis mine)

In other words society had become so corrupt and immoral that the majority of the people chose bad over good, and wrong over right.

In political philosophy, this condition is akin to what is often referred to as the “tyranny of the majority”. ( “Tyranny” can be substituted with other words like wickedness, ignorance, pride, etc.)  It’s a nightmare for any civil and moral society when such condition exists.  The hedonistic and corrupt changes in the BoM societies came about because the people had abandoned and rejected God and their hearts were set on their wealth and riches.  Pride had therefore been planted  in the hearts of the people who had shunned the commandments, hence their downfall. Do these have any parallels today?  I think so.

Again this presidential election is unlike any other before. The Republican Party which is a party of conservatism and traditional values is apparently in turmoil.  Its foundation has been rocked and shaken and will likely never regain its traditional footing and religious leanings. And the people are actually supporting these changes much to the chagrin of the party’s base supporters.  The numbers of those who would choose the bad leaders seem to be gaining in popularity more than those who would choose otherwise.  What is more interesting perhaps is that this hypothesis/trend coincides with other related findings like the one below.

A recent article in a local paper cites this from a Pew Research survey:
The share of religiously unaffiliated voters [“nones”] in the Democratic Party has surged over the last 20 years, leading to a growing God gap between America's two main political parties, according to a new Pew Research Center study.
The percentage of Democratic voters who identify as "nones" has nearly tripled in two decades, growing at a faster rate within the Democratic Party than in the U.S. population as a whole. "In 2016, nearly 3 in 10 (29 percent) Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters are religiously unaffiliated — describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or 'nothing in particular' — up from just 10 percent in 1996," Pew reported.
Today, 12 percent of Republican voters are religiously unaffiliated, a 6 percentage point increase over 20 years, the study noted.

A separate study by the Public Religion Research Institute notes that
...nones now make up 25 percent of the American population, making them the single largest “faith group” in the U.S., ahead of Catholics (21 percent) and white evangelicals (16 percent).
The trend is worrisome because obviously these numbers (“nones”) will not likely to decrease.  America in general is becoming more secular and godless.  Within a period of 20-50 years, who knows what kinds of leaders will be appointed by the voice of the people if the present trend holds - starting with this year’s elections.  Another perhaps more disturbing finding in the above survey is that most of the “nones” are found among young people, who will be the “voice of the people” in the future.  Alarming?  I definitely think so.

There’s some optimism and hope however at least by a well-known pastor and theologian Timothy Keller in his new book “Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical" in which he claims that secularism, not religion, is set to decline.  But this is more a global prognostication.  In America alone, sadly, the trend is in the opposite direction according to this finding:
It should be noted that many of the fears and warnings surrounding secularism's increase stem from a 2015 Pew Research report that found the share of Christians in America decreased from 78.4 percent in 2007 to 70.6 percent in 2014.
This finding seems to reflect the current and recent socio-political issues and changes in America.

The obvious question is: What would the “voice of the people” be like in 20 years in America? What kinds of leaders will they choose?  If the present pattern continues, it doesn't look encouraging.

So is there hope?  Despite the gloomy outlook, my answer is “Yes!”  The lesson’s solution - and mine too - is found in the sure foundation mentioned in this verse:
And now, ... remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.  (Helaman 5:12 - emphasis mine)
(Note: Being unaffiliated with a religion does not necessarily mean or imply not believing in God.)

9/19/16

Utah - Happiest State in America 2016

...from People.Com

"Excuse us as we pack up all of our things and purchase a one-way ticket to Utah.

A new study from the personal finance website WalletHub set out to find the happiest states in the country across 28 metrics, from emotional health and income level to sports participation rate. And the happiest state in America was … Utah, followed by Minnesota in second, North Dakota in third, Hawaii in fourth and Colorado in fifth.

As the intro to the study notes, "Income isn't the only determinant of personal happiness. Apart from financial security, a pleasant state of being also depends on other factors, such as one's physical health, personal purpose and social connectivity." Utah excelled in three categories in particular – the state has the lowest rate of heart attacks, at just 2.7 percent, as well as the highest volunteerism rate, at 45.2 percent. Utah also has the lowest divorce rate in the country, at 15.97 percent. (To put that in perspective, the highest divorce rate is in Washington D.C., at 31 percent.)

The unhappiest state was named West Virginia, which was found to have the third-highest depression rate, third-highest obesity rate and first-lowest volunteerism rate in the country."


Wow, looks like I was part of the study .....Hahahaaaa.

Cue Pharrel Williams' "Happy" and clap along...

Salt Lake City, Utah

Moana Halloween Costumes - Already?

This is a sentence from a previous post in this blog on Moana:

“Remember, also, Disney will settle on an outfit that's marketable and can be sold as a proprietary costume. Profit, after all, is the bottom line, and therefore Disney's main goal.”


Well, that main goal is here now.  The Moana Halloween costumes are out - ahead of the November premiere of the film.  And already they are mired in controversy again with some Poly’s protesting complaining about the Maui costume, which is a body suit (brown, of course) with tattoos, a necklace and skirt.  Some have vented their frustration based on the cultural aspects, saying that skin (brown) is culture not a costume.

Wow.  Really?  Welcome to the 21st century, not the Flintstones era, people!

The brown body suit costume is offensive?  What’s next? Standing at the beaches and at indoor tanning places protesting those who want to change the color of their skin to brown, albeit temporarily?  Oi kafefe (Oh what kerfuffle! .. hahaa my own translation) 

Why not complain about the price of the costumes?  Yes, they are in the $40-$50 dollar range (US), equivalent to $90 - $100 Samoan money, for example.  But that can be resolved and/or negotiated. See, the good thing is that us Poly's don’t have to pay the full price.  It maybe free after all.  Why and how?

Well, let’s look at it this way, if you are a Poly parent with real Poly kids (i.e with brown skin), then two thirds of the costume is already “bought” - and owned for life (unless of course you do the Michael Jackson thang, if ya know what I mean).  The necklace and skirt can actually be made at home, with the seashells and leaves from just outside/around your house.  If you live outside Samoa, you can use any leaves, or get them from any craft store and string 'em up. What’s left then is for you to go crazy with a body art marker and draw some tattoos on his “natural body suit”.  Oh, how about the muscles? Well start taking your sons to the gym, or better yet, take them to McDonald's - they'll get big there quicker.  LOL!!

As for those dressing up like Moana, just make an outfit like the one in the Disney picture. Your true brown Poly daughter will not have to paint herself brown.  And then during Halloween - which is growing/gaining popularity in Samoa - all the little girls will be Moana - and what an effective bonding activity for the girls that will be.

So stop being overly sensitive, culturally. Lighten up!  I'm sure there are a lot more pressing issues involving Polynesia than a mere Halloween costume.  It'll be quite a treat, not a trick.  Or maybe think about starting a Polynesian Media Association and file for the royalties from the sale of these and other Moana items. lol!!  Ia fai aku ai fo'i.

9/12/16

The Prevaricator and the Fabricator

...aka Clinton and Trump respectively.

Warning: A quasi-humorous post.  You can laugh like those guys in the picture!

three "real politicians" and a model ...lol!
photo: twitter.com
Besides being the most disliked, most unfavorable, most unpopular, the least trusted, etc. Presidential candidates in modern history, their health (physical, mental and emotional) have been another issue recently raised as a concern. Because they’re both... hmmm....old? And based on their demeanor during the campaigns I’d say that health is certainly a serious matter with the two nominees.  Relatively speaking they both had shown signs of some mental and physical degeneracy.  Trump recalling some events and things that did not happen while Clinton recalling things that did happen but was not sure how they happened.  Trump calling Clinton a liar and a prevaricator, and Clinton calling Trump a racist and a fabricator. Really? Or are these what we call real genuine politicians?  Is this politics at its worst - or best, as in the context of the real nature of politics as we know it?  Some people say the health of the candidates is a non-issue. Oh yeah?  Apparently these are the same people who have considered civility, respect, honesty, decency, truth as  non-issues too, and probably why it has gotten to this point with the two least trustworthy candidates for president - Ever!

Anyway, health-wise, let’s start with the letter “C” as in, yes, Clinton.  Her “C”ough has been a Concern, as first reported by NB“C”.  Her speeches are occasionally marred by it and  she would often pause for some water.  A few years back, she fainted and reported to have sustained a “C”oncussion.  Some have said that should be enough to disqualify her from being President.
Now it’s been reported that she fainted over the weekend and has been diagnosed with pneumonia, or should we say Ceumonia (Clinton’s pneumonia).

And the infamous emails? Investigation has found that Clinton did share and/or leak Classified and Confidential documents. The FBI, or whoever, pointed out to her that the documents were marked with the letter ...yep, “C” - meaning “Classified/Confidential”. And know what her answer was?  She said she thought it was to mark alphabetically the paragraphs!! Really?  Were there paragraphs A & B then? NO!  If she was serious, then I think we need to look at the Concussion and see if what’s under her Cranium is in order - especially the Cerebrum, the Cerebellum, Corpus Callosum Commissures and Cerebral Cortex. If all these - which constitute the Brain - are ok, then she’s lying about the “C”. My theory is she looked at the “C” on the documents and thought “Oh the documents are mine. The C stands for ..... CLINTON!”

How about Mr. Trump?  Well, his doctor has unequivocally said that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”  Ok, wait, can we have a brain doctor or a neurologist check Trump’s doctor please?  Trump may be physically fine (except his hair of course), but he needs to have a brain check-up too.  He says things that are out of this world. He says things that make you stop and ask: “Is this guy mentally stable?”  I’d like to ask the same of those who actually support him...LOL!  Hey, wait, remember Ben Carson, the brain surgeon? I think we need him back.  Didn’t he endorse Trump?  Well if he did then he’s found a new patient in Donald!

Trump’s favorite letter seems to be letter “M”. Maybe because of “Melania” his wife?  Well no, he has this thing or two against Muslims and Mexicans (sometimes Mormons too).  If that’s not enough then how about Misogyny, defined as  “a dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.”  And I think Bobby Jindal governor of Louisiana, on CNN, said it best - that Trump is a Mad Man...Mmmmmm!

And finally, the real President - Mr. Obama - in the news. He is sick too. He is officially a parasite! (Ok, ok, it’s an honor, not an insult. lol!) Scientists have just named a new parasite after Obama - Baracktrema obamai, a parasite that lives in turtles' blood. Congratulations Mr. President. So turtles, aye? With the obvious connection, don’t be surprised if we’ll have a fifth turtle soon named Barack, or better yet (him being a parasite) an antagonist and sidekick of Shredder.

Aaaanyhow,  here’s wishing Hillary and Donald the best of health, and let’s hope that they will not be infected with Baracktrema obamai.  Hahaaa!

9/8/16

Labor Day Weekend

"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." US Department of Labor.



Saturday, Dearie and I were watching a football game (grandson's) and I saw this big flag wafting in the wind about three blocks away, so I zoomed in and snapped this pic with my phone's camera.  A fitting tribute to the American workers.



Then we went next to this little guy's game ...

In the evening, we were at a wedding where everything was beautiful - the food, entertainment, decor, music, etc., ...and of course the couple too.



Monday, went to a fellow church member's home in the morning to help with an activity ...



then later, had a gig at a Labor Day picnic (outdoor) in a different town...





9/6/16

The Simple Life - A Poem

Samoa Observer has started a new feature/section devoted to highlighting the so-called "simple life" in the villages. So far, villagers have been interviewed and asked for their comments about their lives. As one who was raised and lived in a village most of his early life, I can relate to the comments of these villagers.  I wrote the following poem on the subject.  The "aaaa" rhyme scheme reflects the "simple" and main scheme used in native songs, poems, chants, oratory, etc.

The Simple Life

Don't we all love the simple life?
Photos: Samoa Observer
Because there's hardly any stress or strife
You just need a stick and a big knife
To plant and provide for the children and wife

Basic survival needs the use of the brain
Like a simple shelter from sun and rain
Grow some medicinal plants for pain
But also learn to endure - for no pain, no gain

You will feel comfortable most of the time
From mostly favorable weather and clime
Your hands may get hard from earth's grime
Still, life is one of ease and free from crime

At the end of the day you will be tired
At least you were not sacked or fired
It is meaningful work in which you're mired
Happiness is providing for those you've sired

Subsistence, self reliance and self sufficiency
Should be your motto to maintain efficiency
By and by you will acquire proficiency
Your defense against debility and deficiency

Manual work is gainful and sweating is good
Tiring at times, yet, you're still in happy mood
Confident that fruits of your labors and livelihood
Always provide your family with sufficient food

Learn to live the simple life with much gratitude
To God, with optimism and a positive attitude
Throughout your life resolve to sow that aptitude
And with hard work, you will reap much in plenitude


9/2/16

A Special Weekend


... my kinda town and place
This past weekend our Summer Thrill Series took us out of state, and heading north; this time to a small town.  A really small town.  If the typical so-called small-town USA has maybe between 1000-2000 residents, with a few paved streets, and maybe one or two fast food restaurants, then our destination should be categorized as a "smallest-town USA".  The town has one paved street (Main Street), no fast food restaurants and only about 400 residents. Yes, right here in America!  I'm not implying that it's a shoddy town. Far from it. Maybe it is to some people but to me it's an ideal place for a short respite and retreat, especially a break from the hustle and bustle of modern day towns and cities. As a "village boy" myself, I always relish the rural and the rustic.

... yes, and a water truck to spray the dusty streets.  I love it!
The size (in area) of the town is similar to that of an average village in Samoa. Again the roads are unpaved.  There are no sidewalks. The houses are simple, some even with corrugated iron roofs; yep just like Samoa. And like a typical Samoan village, there's a real sense of a close-knit community where everyone knows each other.  Amazingly when we drove around, we counted at least four different churches.  If that's any indication and measure of the spirituality and integrity of the townspeople, then I would venture a guess that there's no crime in that town.  They do have a sheriff and likely the only cop.

                                                                         
remember the Super Bowl '92 Pepsi commercial
with Cindy Crawford?? ...LOL!!
 On one side of town, stood an old soda vending machine and a public phone booth.  Both are considered relics by today's standards (American).  The soda machine actually works but we didn't try the phone.

Anyway we went to put on a lu'au for the city's centennial celebrations (Fairfield's 100th birthday), co-sponsored by the branch of the LDS Church there, where Dearie's uncle is serving a mission with his wife. They're the ones who extended the invitation to us. flyer(scroll through newsletter)

Early Friday morning around four o'clock, the fire for the umu (underground oven) to cook the pig was lit. At five we prepped the 200-300 lb pig and at six, the umu was covered. Six o'clock in the evening the umu was opened/uncovered witnessed and cheered by about half of the lu'au crowd. The eating and entertainment immediately followed. Throughout the day, we were cooking the different dishes/foods of a typical lu'au cuisine. There was island dancing and demonstrations of firemaking and coconut husking by yours truly (re:video below).  Overall, we had a wonderful time in this smallest-town USA.  It was truly an extraordinary experience!! Especially one of love of family and service for fellow brothers and sisters and community.



Cooking ...

... more cooking

....fire demonstration



"Fire!"

The Nutcracker ...lol!

Demonstrations Video

                                                video