Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Trip to Paradise, Part 3

(Day 3--Tuesday)

A drive up the East coast of Oahu was on our agenda this day.

We started late, much later than I would have preferred. But we got going. Eventually. Please understand that I have now gotten to the point that whenever my dad and I have to be somewhere, I always tell him we have to be there half an hour earlier than we are supposed to be. That way, we sometimes get there on time. But I digress.

Our ultimate destination was the Polynesian cultural center. The problem was that we were often sidetracked by stops at several scenic pullouts and beach sites. As a result, we did not arrive there until almost 1:30 PM. This caused us to miss a lot of the shows put on by the various students of the center from the many Polynesian islands represented at the center.

Not to worry, though. We arrived in plenty of time to view the 2 PM canoe pageant. This is when all of the Polynesian islands represented at the center bring dancers out to perform on flatbed double-hulled canoes in the center of the main canoe lagoon. This is also apparently when they decide that any first-time canoe-poler should be impressively dunked in the lagoon, much to his annoyance.

We enjoyed a fine Luau with our dinner. Dinner was amazing. The philosophy behind a Polynesian Luau dinner is not that you should eat until you are full—you should eat until you are dizzy. It didn’t disappoint. I think I gained 5 pounds.

This was followed by an equally impressive show in the main theater. The highlight of the show was the fire spinners—and if you’ve never seen them, then let me just say that there are only a few things in life that live up to the hype that surrounds them—this was one of them.

(That's 9 different fire spinners performing there, some of them with 2 torches apiece. And they would often throw them back and forth.)

Spending a day at the Polynesian cultural center is expensive--the full ticket plus other expenses can easily cost over $150. However, while this place is a first-class tourist trap, it is for a good cause: Polynesian students from all ages from Kindergarten to old age attend school there. They get an education, learn to value their rich heritage, extract many dollars from tourist, and (hopefully) take their educations and skills back to their homeland to help others. And the fact that the tourists are entertained is merely a by-product.

Sadly, this was the last day we had a car as part of our package, so we were unable to really explore further by vehicle. We were left to depend on local transportation for the rest of our trip...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Trip to Paradise, Part 2

Day 2 (Monday)

A trip to Pearl Harbor was on our itinerary. This was my first trip to the Aloha State. I wanted to see where the great cataclysm began. We began our tour with a walk through the permanently moored submarine USS Bowfin.
(In the foreground of that picture you can see 2 of the memorial plaques to submarines lost during the war.)

The United States submarine fleet in World War 2 completely decimated the Japanese merchant marine fleet, one of the primary reasons America won the war in the Pacific. It managed to do this despite continuous problems ranging from supply shortages to malfunctioning torpedoes to total lack of any support from the surface fleet. 52 American submarines were lost in WW2, and 3,505 sailors are known lost--"On eternal patrol". The American submarine fleet suffered the highest per capita mortality rate of all branches of the U.S. military during World War 2. WW2 submariners earned 7 Medals of Honor, 3 of them posthumously. Despite all of this, this part of history is not well known. There is a reason it is called the "Silent Service".

Then, we entered the USS Arizona memorial theater. We viewed a short film on Pearl Harbor, and then boarded the Navy launch to the memorial.

Once there, we saw the hull of the sunken ship. I entered the memorial. My eye immediately moved to the Johnson surnames, and I saw the name “E.R. Johnson” (My initials.) I was quite surprised. I looked over to my dad, who had seen it before, and he simply smiled at me smugly.

According to a National Park Ranger, the sailor’s name was Edmund Russell Johnson. I can safely say after a small amount of research that the man was no relation to me. It was still a bit freaky though. Other than the man’s name, I can find no other information on him. Apparently just one of the many killed on the ship.

1177 American servicemen died on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. The hull of the ship lies on the bottom of the harbor, holding whatever remains of them. The U.S. Navy considers them all honorably buried at sea.

Currently only 21 known survivors of the disaster are still alive. Survivors, when they die, have the right to have their cremated remains interred in the sunken wreck with the rest of their former shipmates. The last one will die some day.

We then took a tour of the USS Missouri, the permanently moored Iowa-class Museum battleship that was one of the ones built to avenge Pearl Harbor. It was on this ship that Japan signed the documents of surrender that ended WW2, and the exact spot where it happened is clearly marked. The ship itself still contains the refits it was given when it was re-commissioned under the Reagan administration (Harpoon missile tubes, Phalanx AA gun mounts, etc.), refits that were performed even though the Battle of Pearl Harbor had graphically demonstrated the obsolescence of the Battleship 50 years before its re-commissioning. Still, it was quite a sight to stand on top of the ship’s flying bridge and gaze out over the giant 16-inch guns that now stand as silent guardians of the remains of the Arizona. The sunken ship, where 1177 men lost their lives in the worst disaster in U.S. Navy history, is where the war began for America. And the ship that served as the stage for the end of that war now stands permanent watch over them. I'm sure they are all resting a little easier knowing that.

Afterwards, we drove up the west side of Oahu. We managed a brief stop at the Dole plantation. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was too late in the day to really explore and it will have to wait until the next time I manage to make it out to the Aloha State to see what that is all about...

A Trip to Paradise, Part 1

Recently, I spent a week in the beautiful state of Hawai’i on vacation. I’d like to share with you the 3 readers of this blog my experiences there.

Day One: Sunday, February 14th: This was the day I flew to the state. My day began at 5 AM. I had a 9 AM flight out of Detroit, which meant I needed to arrive there no later than 7:30 to make it through security. If anyone has not yet experienced the new airport security checkpoint, let me try to describe it:

Take off your shoes. If you wonder why, I have two words for you: Richard Reid.

Remove all items from your pockets that have any trace of metal in them.

Make sure your carryon has no bottles in it larger than 3 ounces.

Remove your laptop from your carryon and place it in a tray.

DO NOT wear a sweater or a bulky sweatshirt. I learned the hard way that this is just an invitation to be pulled from the security line and wanded, at the very least.

Got a bottle of water on you? Drink it. The claim is that this is for security, but it’s really to make sure you have to buy one or more in the stores ($2.00+) past security. It won’t matter if the bottle is sealed or not.

Once we finally got on the flight, I flew from Detroit to Minneapolis/St. Paul for my connecting flight. I was on a DC-9. This plane is probably the smallest commercial airliner that can still be considered an airliner and not a commuter jet. We arrived in M/SP on time, but another plane was still at our gate, so we had to sit on the taxiway for nearly a half hour before we could pull up. And then, there was no one available to pilot the jetway to hook it up to our plane (the mind boggles at trying to figure out why). Combine all this with a severely claustrophobic female passenger who nearly had a full-scale panic attack while waiting to get off, and I had only 20 minutes to make my flight to Honolulu. Suffice to say that it was close.

The flight out took slightly over 8 hours, thanks to a strong (80+ MPH) headwind. At least it was on a big plane, with individual video monitors for each seat. Movies, music, TV shows, and other entertainment are available.

Upon arrival in Honolulu, the outside temp was over 80 degrees. I quickly shucked my long-sleeved shirt and gloried in the warm weather.

I arrived at the car rental agency, and was given a free upgrade to a convertible. Nice choice for Hawai’i, if you discount the fact that the stored car top requires so much space that the back end of the car is twice as large as a normal sedan, and trunk space is virtually nonexistent.

Traffic in Waikiki is horrendous. If you ever get out there, try to find somewhere else to stay...

Friday, February 12, 2010

What Does it Take?

To be an actor?

Let's list the few things we all know about, shall we?

1) Every day you work, you have to wake up, and then pretend you are someone other than yourself.

2) You must become a master of multiple languages and dialects, even if you don't have a clue what you are saying when you speak them.

3) You must completely transform your personality, to become someone totally opposite from who you are.

4) You must toil for days, weeks, months, or years before someone notices that you have the talent to do what you want to do.

5) You must develop a skin of iron, that is completely impervious to criticism.

6) You must be willing to awake at any hour of any day, and work for the entire day, with no guarantee that anything you do that day will even matter.

7) You must be prepared to wear a bathing suit, or even nothing, and work outside when the temperature is below twenty degrees Fahrenheit. You must be prepared to wear a full Arctic outfit in one hundred degree weather.

8) You must be prepared to be constantly photographed by every single person on the planet.

9) You must be prepared to accept the fact that your career may only last 5 years--if you're lucky.

10) You must be prepared to accept the fact that you may NEVER have a career in your chosen profession.

11) You must be prepared to accept the fact that you will have to constantly diet and exercise to maintain your fame.

12) You must accept the fact that if you manage to somehow achieve success, other people will constantly be jealous of you for that fact, and will never, ever say anything nice about you again.

13) You must accept that whatever success you do obtain will be fleeting. It will not last.

If, after reading this list, you have any complaints about actors who have managed to obtain twenty million$ + contracts, well, then, I would invite you to go back yo your high school years. I invite you to remember the times you auditioned for your high school plays. I invite you to remember the rejection.

Unless you're George Clooney.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Drop the Last Three Letters...

...and you get just exactly who uses TWITTER.

In a news story that should be a surprise to no one, it would seem that Twitter has lost the following of a considerable portion of its users.

I have to ask: Was this really a surprise to anyone?

This is a testament to the nature of the beast.

Twitter allowed no person to post a "tweet" that was more than 250 characters (character = letter)

In other words, this phenomenon encouraged people to have as short of an attention span as possible.

Is it any wonder they were a victim of their own success?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Hey there you the three readers of this blog. I have a few questions for you:

Do you have an old website that you used to visit a lot?

Has it been a while since that website was updated?

Has that website recently been taken over by malware?

Well, I recently discovered a website dedicated to collecting and saving old pages from the web. They call it the Wayback machine.

Of course, the websites it collects are often incomplete and may contain unworking links. But at least someone out there is trying to save the world wide web from malware.

It may be a lost cause, but sometimes lost causes are still worth fighting for.