I saw the news. Lou Reed died yesterday. It’s 8am Hawaii time, and way too early for that kinda knowledge.
There’s much that has, is and always will be said about his influence on music and art. He was an extraordinary poet, musician and composer. Very much a New Yorker, very much an American man, but from the edges of whatever it means to be in the love-hate relationship conscious Americans have with that identity.
I never met him, but I saw him perform once at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. He came out on stage and said something like, “I’m very sad for your city tonight,” then proceeded to perform a show that was more like a wake than a concert. My friend and I assumed he was talking about the verdict in what became known as the Rodney King trial, wherein LAPD officers were acquitted for the brutal beating of King. Unbeknown to us, at that moment, riots raged and parts of the city were burning.
Personally, his work inspired me with a sense of the incalculable value of being honest through one’s art, keeping things real, raw, and stripped down, being fiercely open and available to the most basic process of bearing life and bearing witness to life, however beautiful or ugly or in between these two destinies, which is where most of us live.
I pasted in the lyrics below from one of his many songs that once heard, left a mark on my spirit.
To me, Lou Reed was the last great American whale.
Last Great American Whale (from New York)
They say he didn’t have an enemy
his was a greatness to behold
He was the last surviving progeny
the last one on this side of the world
He measured a half mile from tip to tail
silver and black with powerful fins
They say he could split a mountain in two
that’s how we got the Grand Canyon
Last great American whale
last great American whale
Last great American whale
last great American whale
Some say they saw him at the Great Lakes
some say they saw him off of Florida
My mother said she saw him in Chinatown
but you can’t always trust your mother
Off the Carolinas the sun shines brightly in the day
the lighthouse glows ghostly there at night
The chief of a local tribe had killed a racist mayor’s son
and he’d been on death row since 1958
The mayor’s kid was a rowdy pig
spit on Indians and lots worse
The old chief buried a hatchet in his head
life compared to death for him seemed worse
The tribal brothers gathered in the lighthouse to sing
and tried to conjure up a storm or rain
The harbor parted, the great whale sprang full up
and caused a huge tidal wave
The wave crushed the jail and freed the chief
the tribe let out a roar
The whites were drowned, the browns and reds set free
but sadly one thing more
Some local yokel member of the NRA
kept a bazooka in his living room
And thinking he had the chief in his sight
blew the whale’s brains out with a lead harpoon
Last great American whale
last great American whale
Last great American whale
last great American whale
Well Americans don’t care for much of anything
land and water the least
And animal life is low on the totem pole
with human life not worth more than infected yeast
Americans don’t care too much for beauty
they’ll shit in a river, dump battery acid in a stream
They’ll watch dead rats wash up on the beach
and complain if they can’t swim
They say things are done for the majority
don’t believe half of what you see and none of what you hear
It’s like what my painter friend Donald said to me
“Stick a fork in their ass and turn them over, they’re done”
YouTube link: LastGreatAmericanWhale
Loving Jamaica – An Evening of Poetry, Prose and Film with Esther Figueroa
Date: November 7, 2013
Time: Refreshments 6:00pm; Presentation 6:30-8:00
Where: Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, HaLau ‘O Haumea, 2645 Dole Street
Sponsors: English Department, Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies
Here’s a link to a brilliant and informative interview Figgy did on KTUH’s “Iturnally Dread Meets Rudie’s Hi-Fi” show with DJs Tommy Fox and Irie-Sistable: soundcloud-file-esther-figueroa-interview
On November 7, Esther Figueroa, Ph.D., the Distinguished Visiting Writer in the English Department University of Hawai’i at Manoa will be giving the first ever reading from her forthcoming environmental novel Limbo (March, 2014, Arcade Publishing) and the first screening outside of Jamaica of her film “Cockpit Country is Our Home”. She will also be reading her poetry and that of others. The event is free and open to the Public.
A Jamaican independent filmmaker, writer, linguist, educator and curator/producer of art, literature and film events, Figueroa began her media-making career in Hawai’i. In 1985 she and Heather Haunani Giugni founded Juniroa Productions and produced numerous television series and specials, documentaries, educational videos, dvds, multimedia, and web content mainly focused on perpetuating indigenous knowledges, strengthening Native Hawaiian language, culture and sovereignty struggles, empowering communities, producing local content and countering the silences of mass media.
Since returning to Jamaica in 2006, Figueroa has dedicated herself to the natural environment, and has produced many films on environmental issues including fresh water and rivers, sea birds and wildlife, shoreline and marine conservation. Her award winning feature length documentary “Jamaica for Sale” about tourism and unsustainable development (www.jamaicaforsale.net) has been screened internationally. Her environmental shorts can be viewed on her you-tube channel.
Her publications include the canonical treatise Sociolinguistic Metatheory (Pergammon, 1994) and the literary anthology ” At Home the Green Remains – Caribbean Writing in Honor of John Figueroa (Caribbean Quarterly, 2003). Limbo (2014), an environmental novel about Jamaica, is her first novel to be published. She has an earlier (2001) unpublished novel about Hawai’i called Holes in the Heart.
On Friday, September 27th, FSRN, a daily, international news program that aired on stations throughout the U.S. and in other countries, went silent. I listened to the last broadcast and wept when it was pau.
For over a decade, FSRN has provided independent journalists, like myself, with a space to produce and air stories that would otherwise not be heard anywhere. Because of the collective talent and effort of professional producers, many stories about Hawaiian resistance to militarization, desecration and occupation had an audience of millions. To my knowledge, the only other news program willing to broadcast pro-Hawaiian stories was Independent Native News (INN), and that went off the air in 2006.
As a reporter, I often found myself feeling embarrassed for not being a better producer, or for sounding like a zombie because by the time I got to the end of the writing and producing and was supposed to do my voicing I was exhausted and still fighting a deadline. I usually did my voice over in a bathroom with a heavy wool coat over my head in a futile attempt to block out the urban sounds of Honolulu. And I always found it impossible to read my copy and sound perky while holding a microphone, hoping not to pick up too much mic noise!
But FSRN (like INN before them) never turned me down. They were always interested in Hawaiian stories of ku’e and mana. They even aired two, 30-minute documentaries I produced, one about Memorial Day for Hawaiians, and one about homeless Hawaiians.
The loss of FSRN is immeasurable. Even though I have not filed much for them over the past few years, just knowing they were there and that if I needed to get a story out they would be the ones to go to, meant something.
Like many, I hope the FSRN organization regroups into a news program that will still be open to Hawaiian stories and other stories from around the world. I look forward to being a part of whatever it becomes.
I’ve linked a few of the stories I filed with them here. Mahalo nui to everyone at FSRN who always made my stories better and always taught me something new about reporting and producing. It was great to file Hawaiian stories that were broadcast beside other international stories. Whether those stories were about the war in Iraq or a tsunami or any other world event, FSRN always took Hawaiian issues just as seriously, and treated them as the international stories they truly are. The producers were open to learning about the U.S. occupation of Hawaii and once understood, they never questioned Hawaiian claims to independence, they simply allowed me to report that perspective as it unfolded in front of the microphone. For this and everything else, I am forever grateful to them.
On Being Hawaiian and Homeless-2009
Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) report-2012
US Supreme Court Takes up Hawaiian Land Title – 2009
GMO-Kalo hearing-January-2008 (23:30 into the report)
Akaka Bill Resistance – 2005 (21:50 into the report)
We’re all being distracted and hypnotized by mass media, or by people and situations hypnotized and created by mass media, or by governments and industries that use media to massively hypnotize all of us into being too afraid to believe we can change anything. But I digress.
Gifted hypnotist, Amy Marsh, EdD, DHS, ACS, CI (how’z that for an alphabet soup!), will be teaching the tools of the trade in Puna on Hawaii Island from 3 to 8 PM, Jan. 19-21. These are hypnosis certification classes, so if you are interested in a potential business, these classes lead to certification from the National Guild of Hypnotists. But if you just want to learn this art for the inroads to healing it offers, all are welcome.
Although she lives in northern-Cal, Amy has a longtime connection to Hawaii Nei and is offering scholarships to Oiwi who are interested in learning how to heal through hypnosis, but may not be able to afford the program. There is much more being offered here, so please check out Amy’s You Tube video and decide for yourself.
On a personal note, Amy Marsh is a dear friend who has used her abilities to help me through several (emotionally) painful events that I might otherwise have collapsed beneath. So I’m grateful to her and can attest to her skill and generosity as an intelligent, creative thinker and healer.
She is also an ally to Kanaka Oiwi and the Hawaiian independence movement. And her aloha for one of our longtime warriors, Ku Ching, makes her a part of our community beyond the political. Then again, to love, to be loving is one of the most political things we can do, isn’t it? Now that’s a revolution waiting to take place.
Joan and Puhipau have again graced us with something special. Na Maka O Ka Aina guys have uploaded a music video of Bernard Punikaia singing his song, “Where Birds Never Fly.” (Punikaia performance)
30 years ago, Punikaia and Clarence Naia, two Hawaiians with Hansen’s Disease who refused to vacate Hale Mohalu, a place that had been home to victims of that disease, were forcibly evicted. Punikaia lived in his car and on the streets for years after this photo was taken of him being dragged out. He refused to be institutionalized.
This is a link to an old story from the archive of thehonoluluadvertiser.
Civil Rights activist and Black Power movement icon, Angela Davis, is interviewed about the Bombing in Birmingham on Hardknockradio.
Davis grew up there during that era, when it was a city referred to as “Bombingham” because of the frequency of KKK and police sanctioned bombings and murders. During the interview Davis, whose neighborhood was referred to as “Dynamite Hill,” remarks that one of her earliest memories is seeing the house across the street from her home burn after it was bombed. She also knew one of the little girls whose life was stolen on September 14, 1963. Their names were, and forever are Denise McNair, who was 11 along with Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley who were all 14.
Spike Lee made an excellent documentary about this incident called “Four Little Girls.” It’s among his best films, so if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it.
One of the important things about this interview is how Davis makes the connections between this event and the recent killings of young black men, Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin.
UPDATE: See bottom of this post for news about Sai’s upcoming trip to Zurich.
KITV NEWS: Keanu Sai was featured in a KITV News story that aired on September 10th. It was produced by Hawaiian journalist, Catherine Cruz, one of a very few who have consistently reported on Hawaiian sovereignty matters over the years with clarity and honesty.
The focus of the story is the statue of President William McKinley in front of McKinely High School in Kaimuki. It’s the kind of thing you drive past and see from afar, but never look closely at. However, Keanu and plenty pro-independence Hawaiians have been looking at that statue for years. Some have even posted hundreds of names of Hawaiians who signed the Ku’e petitions on placards in front of the statue to protest the lie it represents. Or, as Keanu has said many times, that statue represents the only treaty of annexation, because what is becoming common knowledge is that the United States never legally annexed Hawaii. It simply began an illegal, immoral militarily enforced occupation in 1898 and overwhelmed Hawaiians with more than a million settlers.
It’s a well done piece, so check it out! Statue-at-McKinley-High-School.
KEANU SAI WILL MAKE A PRESENTATION ABOUT HAWAII’S OCCUPATION TO SWISS DIPLOMATS IN ZURICH.
The Swiss Diplomats – Zurich Network has invited Dr. Keanu Sai to the city of Zurich to give a presentation on the prolonged and illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The title of Dr. Sai’s presentation is “Hawai‘i – An American State or a State Under American Occupation.” Professor Niklaus Schweizer, a former Swiss Consul for Hawai‘i and a professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, will be giving the introduction. After the presentation there will be a panel discussion comprised of Dr. Sai, Professor Schweizer, and former Swiss Ambassador to the United States and Germany, Dr. Christian Blickenstorfer. The presentation and panel is scheduled for Monday, November 11, 2013.
Jamaican filmmaker and scholar, Esther Figueroa, is the UH Hawaii, Manoa English Department’s Visiting Distinguished Writer in Residence this semester, teaching Caribbean literature and creative non-fiction.
There’s so much I could say about this woman’s courage, soulful to the point of heartbreaking clarity, and unflinching dedication to documenting the corporate and colonial (but those are kinda the same thing, aren’t they?) cannibalism of Jamaica’s shores, reefs, rivers and other natural resources. She has literally witnessed and made us witness to the disappearance of her country. Through her lens we experience the insanity of over building hotels to satisfy the insatiable desire for foreigners who don’t mind killing the place so they can perform ritual fantasies with Jamaica’s culture and beaches.
Go to her YouTube channel (see Figueroa Films) and view some of her work. Her feature length documentary, Jamaica for Sale, is enlightening, relentless and a genuine displacement of the tourism industry’s narrative of that place. I can’t imagine anyone with a mind or heart seeing this film and still thinking a vacation in Jamaica is a good idea.
If you have the opportunity to hear Ms. Figueroa, do so. She will be in Henke 325 from 12-1:15, as part of the Center for Biographical Research brown-bag series.
And PS- Fig-leaf’s first novel, “Limbo,” a story about Jamaica, is due out in the spring 2014. Seeing her in person here in Hawaii is, indeed, a genuine treat, a gift from the spirit of resistance to spirits in resistance.
Next Thursday, September 12th from 3 – 4:30 in Kuykendall room 410, Cynthia Franklin, UH English professor and author, will be discussing her trip to Palestine.
A piece she wrote several months back appeared in Portside, so this is a reminder about the event I announced there. Franklin wrote something brilliant and sensitive about her journey– I can only imagine that her talk will be even more powerful. Perhaps equally as interesting will be the Q&A. I look forward to the talk and the community dialogue, particularly with the plans being readied for another US military action in the Middle East.
A news report says that the Irish bard, Seamus Heaney, died today. It’s hard to believe poets ever die. I think there’s something immortal about this type of human. But we’ve all got feet made of clay, and die we all do eventually, although I still think of death as a bad idea all around. Or, maybe I’m just in agreement with Woody Allen, who once remarked that he isn’t afraid of dying, he just doesn’t want to be there for his own. So here’s one of many by Heaney, famous for much more than this humble piece. I love it because he comes from a history dug out of the earth with a spade, but he created a new history digging through time with a pen.
If you go the Poetry Foundation’s site at this link, you can hear the poet himself read “Digging”.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.