From Princesses to Pro Wrestlers

October 6th, 2015

TRICK OR TREAT! Our Halloween episode premieres Weds., Oct. 7 at 9 PM on Oceanic Cable channel 12/high def 1012 (which still goes by the misnomer of OC16). For other daily viewing times, visit www.CareerChangers.TV where you'll also find a link to segments from past Halloween shows... including one for Lopaka Kapanui that apparently got him a lot of attention, according to Lopaka himself. (click here for his update).

First though, we have a segment about Storybook Hawaii, which provides costumed fairy tale characters and superheroes in customized party packages (options include personalized songs, story book readings and craft sessions). You may have seen the owner, Casey Thompson Fortuno, and her performers making guest appearances on TV and at special events. What you may not know is the local demand for Princesses is red hot. Her company is booking up to 50 parties per month during their busier times at a price of about $90 to $200 per appearance, depending on the package that is chosen.

So, there we were -- our host Theresa Tilley, cameraman Stanford Chang and myself -- at the Z3 Sports Academy in Kapolei (another interesting story we're going to be doing later this year!) to shoot our October show intros with Casey and her cast of Storybook entertainers. She had run a Facebook contest asking kids to tell why they would like to be a princess for a day or something to that effect. The winners, all young girls, got to attend a special princess party at Z3 that was going to be filmed for a music video Casey is doing.

When the costumed princesses arrived en masse, the girls erupted in squeals and shouts as they hopped up and down while the Disney look-alikes entered. It's important to note that for legal reasons and fear of the Mouse House corporate lawyers, each princess or fairy tale character differs slightly from the Disney versions or original creations. People assume Snow White and Cinderella are owned by Disney. Wrong. They were fairy tale characters long before Walt picked up a pencil and sketched his first cartoon. Which means they are in the public domain. However, other popular characters that Casey gets requests for have been slightly altered. For instance, Iron Man is Iron Superhero (she got the 3-D printed costume from a company in China, which her hubby, Johnny Fortuno wears... we featured the Elvis tribute artist in a piece we did about Legends in Concert).

Then two nights later, Stan and I were at the Waipahu FilCom center shooting a pro wrestling event for the segment we did on Daryl Bonilla. Don't recognize the name? You'd probably recognize his face and voice from the old Bank of Hawaii "That's my bank!" commercials. Turns out he's the one that came up with the line while doing some improvisation when they were shooting b-roll of him and another actor driving around in a car.

How he got into pro wrestling is an interesting story in itself and involves master storyteller Lopaka Kapanui, who suggested we interview Daryl. As it happens, before Lopaka became know as the ghost tour guy, he had a long career as a masked wrestler and trainer -- Daryl was one of his wrestling proteges. (Here's that link.)

To be honest, wrestling is not my bag, nor is MMA fighting. But the AZW matches that Daryl runs is more like comedy slapstick or surreal theater. Highbrow types can look down their noses at it or dismiss it as silly... and that's fine since everyone has different tastes when it comes to entertainment.

Yet it reminded me of that old Preston Sturges classic movie, Sullivan's Travels in which a famous fictional director of comedies embarks on a quest to learn about the "real" America during the Depression with the goal of making a serious dramatic film. Incognito, he joins the ranks of the homeless and when his shoes are stolen by a hobo who gets killed, his ID is found in the shoes and is mistakenly assumed to be dead. The director winds up wrongly imprisoned and it appears things are hopeless. But while he and his fellow inmates are watching a silly cartoon, he sees them laughing and realizes he was wrong -- the world doesn't need another somber, serious drama about what's wrong with life... we need release and escapism, even if it is silly. Eventually he gets out of prison and announces he's going to make another comedy because people need laughs as much as we need love or food. I saw lots of people laughing and smiling at the FilCom Center.

Anyhow, I forgot to mention that for this same show, I got to interview two Olympic gold medalists -- figure skaters Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano, who were in town last month to promote their November Golden Moment show. Proceeds from the all star skating event will go to her Always Dream foundation program for early childhood literacy. It's a wonderful cause, so please buy tickets! You can see Kristi's segment by clicking here. Brian's piece will be shown in November.

From princesses to pro wrestlers and a real life ice princess. Sometimes I look at the show I produce and have to smile. It's a weird, wonderful world we live in. Check out this month's show on high def TV if you can!

Former Hina Mauka Leader Passes Away

September 14th, 2015

Just saw a post on Facebook by the son of Andy Anderson that said the former CEO of Hina Mauka had passed away on Sept. 14. I was going to write it was sad news... but anyone who knew Andy would tell you that's not how he would like to be remembered because he always seemed to have a smile on his face, and was so relentlessly optimistic that even when he was posting about his cancer treatments in his final days, I thought he was going to pull through.

Unless you know somebody who has been in rehab at Hina Mauka for treatment of an addiction, or family members that have been helped by Andy and his staff, you might not realize just how many lives he has touched. From the time he got sober while doing military service back in the early 60s to the day he retired in 2006, he has directly or indirectly helped thousands of people get into recovery and reclaim their lives. I owe him a debt as well: when I was struggling to keep going as a writer, Andy hired me to do freelance PR work for the treatment center and encouraged me to go public with my own stories about alcoholism and recovery in columns I wrote for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. He also gave me my first paying gig for video work I did to record and edit some Hina Mauka events, which aired on Olelo.

Now, for most "normies" the business about publicizing the treatment center's good work or my personal addiction stories may not seem like a big deal. But for old-timers and more conservative members of Alcoholics Anonymous, it was a controversial thing to do. You were supposed to remain, well, anonymous in their view. Andy and I disagreed. We felt if more recovering alkys and addicts were willing to tell others openly that they were in the program, it would demystify the process and make it more acceptable for people to admit they need help. Andy was a pioneer in using things like public access TV (Olelo) and the media to build support for Hina Mauka. And believe me, because of cutbacks in grants and state funding for treatment programs, they have had to work exceedingly hard to keep their doors open all these years.

I remember attending one of his last fundraisers, which I believe was called "The House that Andy Built" and chuckling with other attendees about Andy's persistent -- yet always friendly -- way of asking for "favors." It was hard to say no to him when he asked you to contribute or volunteer your services. But he was non-judgmental for the most part (except for politics -- Andy was a progressive type) and always tried to give people the benefit of the doubt. Including me.

When I first contacted Andy for an interview, I was working on an a book and TV series proposal called "REHAB." My idea was to focus on real counselors, most of whom are in recovery themselves, and ask them why do some people get better while others relapse or never get with the program of sobriety. In the process, I got to learn his life story -- and eventually record it on video -- as well as the history of the recovery movement in Hawaii. It's fascinating stuff because back then alcoholism was called "the Haole Disease" and our different ethnic cultures made treatment a challenge. Some day, I hope to revisit those tapes and produce a video about the history of Hina Mauka.

During the interviews, I confessed to Andy that after being sober for so many years, I had stopped going to 12 Step meetings on a regular basis. Most AA veterans will tell you that's dangerous and setting yourself up for a relapse. But I'm more of an introvert and not big on sharing by standing up in front of groups (or posting personal things on Facebook, for that matter). However, not a day goes by that I don't think about my sobriety and how grateful I am for the AA program. Instead of admonishing me for not going to meetings, Andy said that maybe I was meant to share through my writing, or by  creating TV shows that could reach even more people than I would in a small group setting.  To this day, that remains one of my goals in life.

Ironically, I had meant to write a series of blog posts this month inspired by things I've learned in recovery that I feel could be applied to the homeless issue. To me, there are many similarities between the failed War on Drugs and the current War on Homelessness approach that swats at the visible eyesores, yet doesn't address the root of the problem... which begins with the people themselves: how did they get to this state, how do they get out of it, and why won't they accept the help or services that are available to them? I think a lot of their behavior and responses are similar to what you see in addicts or alcoholics like myself, who are in survival mode and fear change. More on that in a later post.

A couple of days ago, I received an email from Hina Mauka that said Gov. Ige had proclaimed September as National Recovery Month in Hawaii. It seems fitting that Andy chose to say aloha at this time, and although he was far away in Arkansas with his family when he passed away, he will always be in the hearts of many in the islands he called home for so many years.  We'll miss him dearly.

UH Football Flubs and Follies Continue

September 3rd, 2015

In a few hours, I'll be heading to the UH football home opener against the University of Colorado at Aloha Stadium... on a Thursday night. Um, what genius thought that would be a good idea? Oh, that's right -- the Athletic Director who is no longer here. According to what I read in the sports section, Ben Jay made the move to accommodate a request from Colorado to make their travel schedule less taxing on them. I guess he wanted to share the aloha spirit with a team that is intent on beating the crap out of us on the field. Mahalo, Ben!

The first game is crucial in setting the tone for the season -- and even more importantly, luring skeptical or jaded fans back to at least give the current team a chance to show us what they have to offer. Changing it to Thursday night is one of the Top 10 Dumbest UH Sports Marketing decisions ever made. As if that dead horse needs kicking, I offer another based on my latest interaction with the UH ticket office when I wanted to renew my season tickets for football.

Yes, in spite of my grumbling and disenchantment with Coach Chow's predictable hand-the-ball-to-Joey (or Lakalaka up-the-middle) play-calling the past two seasons, I have tried to support the team by going to the games. I had become a lapsed season ticket holder after my wife and I had bad experiences at Aloha Stadium during the June Jones era when foul-mouthed guys in Warrior black would get drunk and spout profanities when the team didn't cover the point spread, or initiate fights in the stands. Things had gotten ugly.

When we first became season ticket holders during Bob Wagner's tenure as head coach during the late '80s, loyal fans were rewarded by being able to upgrade their seats the following year. If other fans didn't renew their tickets, you could put in a request and move to better seats at no extra charge if it was in the same section. So, eventually we went from near the endzone on the sidelines in the lower Orange section to near mid-field, which was great... until they began jacking up premiums for the best seats. The additional fees would seem quite reasonable compared to what they charge at big name football schools that regularly sell out their home games. But that's not the case at UH, is it?

We were paying a pretty high premium already for last season's seats, again back where we originally started by the endzone along the sideline in the Orange section. I renewed early and requested to upgrade our seats, knowing full well that many of the prior season ticket holders wouldn't be coming back this year. And sure enough, after the first deadline passed, I got a call saying I could move closer to mid-field -- for an additional couple of hundred dollars more per seat! Why? Because it was two sections over.

Okay, I get that those seats are worth more because they offer a better view. People who want first crack at those tickets and are willing to shell out that much more for them should get those seats. But now that they're empty and likely to remain unsold as season tickets, why not reward the few remaining loyal fans by offering them better seats in the same lower or upper sections for the same price they're currently paying? In other words, how about giving fans an INCENTIVE to renew season tickets, instead of disincentives by telling them you can upgrade... for a few hundred bucks more. I almost cancelled my ticket purchase right then because I felt like they didn't really care about holding on to what little remains of their fan base. We're just numbers to the UH sales and marketing people. Faithful fans should be treated like gold. Instead they keep bleeding us, asking for more money each year while giving us the same or less for our loyalty.

And guess what's going to happen to those unsold premium seats? People who buy cheaper single game tickets in the other sections are going to go and sit in the lower level empty seats anyway, because the ushers rarely bother to check if they're sitting where they are supposed to. Sheesh.

Speaking of premiums and incentives, I wish the UH sports marketing people would give away stuff you can actually use. For instance, they keep handing out those roll-out UH signs that nobody knows what to do with (except for that one kid who desperately hopes to get on the big stadium video screen by holding up the sign and jumping around whenever the sideline camera pans over to his section). Last year they gave us stretchy pieces of dark green material with the H logo on it, which I surmise you're suppose to wear as headbands or armbands like on Survivor. I didn't see anyone making that accessory part of their game fashion statement though.

You know what would be useful for Aloha Stadium giveaways? Sunscreens for your car windshield with RAIN-BOWS on them since our cars bake in the sun if you get there early on a Saturday afternoon. Or green ponchos for the heavy rains we keep hearing are coming! Another idea: they could hand out freebies for old folks like me -- seat cushions for their aging fan base, which keeps shrinking each season while our butts get saggier and sorer. BTW, I wonder if the parking lot will show any signs of improvement. Last year, parts of it looked like it had been strafed by jets from Pearl Harbor or Hickam. We can't figure out what they do with the $5 per car parking fee they collect at each game.

In any event, I'm hoping the addition of a new offensive coordinator with a wide-open style of play, coupled with a new defensive coordinator with an aggressive, keep-it-simple approach will combine to produce something we haven't seen in awhile: a UH football team that will somehow win enough games to put them back in our own Hawaii Bowl at the end of the season. We can still dream, can't we?

Go 'Bows!


For daily viewing times of my Career Changers TV show, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch videos from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now has over 1 million views worldwide!

Wasting Waste is Wasteful

September 2nd, 2015

PROGRAM ALERT: I feel like I should have a BUZZ... BUZZ SOUND EFFECT followed by a robotic voice mispronouncing Hawaii town names like the red-banded TV flood warnings that crawl across the screen and cut-off the audio to whatever program you're watching -- including, ironically, the local TV news "SEVERE WEATHER" alerts. And yet there are still clueless idiots who will be out there hiking despite all the advance warnings, so maybe the only ones heeding the dire forecasts are people who are already safely ensconced on their comfy living room couches watching TV.

ANYWAY, back to my originally scheduled program alert. The new "Going Green" themed September episode of Career Changers TV premieres at a new time tonight, Weds. at 9 PM on Oceanic Cable channel 12/high def 1012, otherwise known as OC16 (not to be confused with OC16 Sports, which is on channel 16/high def 1016... so you will not find OC16 non-sports shows, including mine, on channel 16 as you might expect). Other daily viewing times, which have also been changed and are subject to preemption by high schools sports (which are NOT shown on OC16 Sports, as you might think they would be) can be found at the CareerChangers.TV website.

For anyone who is suffering from "severe weather fatigue" -- correction: people aren't fatigued by the non-events so much as they are tired of the TV news reports or suffering from anxiety induced by the ominous RED BLOTCHES headed almost, kind of directly at our tiny little islands, OMG, we have to head for higher ground!!! Oh, sorry, excuse me. As later pointed out by the TV forecasters, there is a margin of error of 150 miles when they are talking about "hurricanes" or tropical depressions that are five days away from reaching us...

ANYHOW, if you've grown weary of watching local TV non-news, we have some segments that are about people who are doing more than just talking about the weather -- they're developing new technology and approaches to reduce waste and create alternative energy sources right here in Hawaii.

When the local TV newscasters weren't hyperventilating about the latest "possible" weather threat or running another somber update on the homeless issue (the homeless are still there -- or somewhere else now; it's like the weather, the news reports don't really do anything other than tell you what you can see with your own eyes) they seemed happy to have some real rain run-off and flooding stories to provide relief from having to watch them stand in front of weather maps and radar screens, or worse, stand outside somewhere in Hilo while patiently waiting for a deluge... or at least intermittent showers.

Yet in all the reports about the millions of gallons of raw sewage and wastewater flowing into our oceans, was there a single story about alternative systems that could actually make use of that wasted wastewater? None that I'm aware of, and I record or watch all three TV news stations.

As it happens, thanks to Karl Fooks, President of the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation, I was introduced to the Energy Excelerator program and Lamplighter Energy. Never heard of them? You're not alone. Those kind of stories get short shrift in the local news media landscape, unless they are located at the site of a major crash, on fire or flooding at the moment. But they should be getting more coverage because they're doing important work that in the long term could make a difference for all of us.

How, you ask? Okay, start with all the wasted sewer wastewater that gets treated, then dumped in the ocean. Did you know there is actually a pilot program at the Hawaii Kai sewage treatment plant that can convert wastewater into hydrogen fuel? What's more, it traps the lovely methane odor you smell when the winds shift, and also turns that into non-smelly fuel (here's the video link). Lamplighter Energy is going to use the same technology to take the existing Kunia sewage treatment plant offline, and replace it with a hydrogen-producing system to provide fuel and power for the farm operations there. Here's a link to the lower res YouTube version.

And there are interesting projects being nurtured by the Energy Excelerator too. One of them we're featuring is about Prota Culture, which is growing insect larvae that feeds on discarded organic waste. The larvae are then processed into nutritious animal feed that could lead to increased production of homegrown chickens, pigs and fish because the biggest cost to local farmers is paying for feed that has to be shipped to Hawaii. Reason: with our high land costs, it doesn't make sense to grow soy or corn for animal feed. But if we can use our food waste to make animal feed that can be processed right on the farms (without using insecticides and chemical fertilizers associated with growing soy/corn) we won't be as dependent on importing food and feed from the Mainland... I mean, what if THERE'S A HURRICANE OR TROPICAL STORM THAT INTERFERES WITH OUR FOOD SHIPMENTS, OMGGG!!!!

Phew, just looked out the window and the sun is shining. So, if you'd like to watch our segments online instead of waiting to see it on TV, you can click here for the Energy Excelerator piece and Prota Culture story.



August 14th, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: IT'S RAINING IN HILO! EVERYBODY STOCK UP ON A MONTH'S WORTH OF EMERGENCY FOOD SUPPLIES... oh, wait, you already did that after last week's Severe Weather Alert and Updates every five minutes on the morning and evening local TV news shows. Or have you become immune to the incessant, prematurely hyped-up storm warnings that begin the moment there's a cloud on the radar screen somewhere off the coast of Mexico?

Look, we should be aware of potential hurricanes and tropical storms that could impact the islands. But we don't need pointless repetition of speculative "forecasts" five times in the span of a half-hour newscast. It's not news if there's nothing new to report! They are merely fanning anxiety and blowing a lot of hot air to fill time on the cheap instead of actually DIGGING DEEPER or going BEYOND THE HEADLINES and ALWAYS INVESTIGATING (unless the breaking news happens to be about one of their own reporters breaking the law).

Yes, I understand today's version of news reporting is that it has to be "entertaining" and friendly when they're not gravely stating we could be facing an impending weather disaster that we should prepare for by staying glued to the TV set (or download the Weather app!) to track the storm front's minute-by-minute progress. I mean, who knows -- it could get stronger! Or weaker! But it's extremely important to anticipate what you may have to be ready for a week from now, because... well, just because!

What's unfortunate is that all this non-news reporting is actually backfiring. I talk to people every day who say they no longer watch TV news or read the newspaper because there's so much fluff or "might happen/ could happen/ didn't happen" type coverage. I'm a news junkie and started my professional life as a newspaper reporter, so that bugs me. Yet I find I can keep up on things pretty well by skimming the Star-Advertiser headlines and DVR-ing the three local TV news stations, then fast forwarding through all the filler material to watch the 4-5 minutes each day that contain real news substance.

Here's my suggestion: by recording the local TV news and skipping the stuff you probably see via re-posted links and viral videos on Facebook, you will save enough time to watch something that is truly alarming -- like the Merchants of Doubt documentary, which is now available on Netflix. In fact, I suggest the local TV news people watch it and perhaps do follow up segments with one of the executive producers, who happens to live in Hawaii: Pierre Omidyar.

I greatly respect what the Omidyars have done here by creating Civil Beat and the Ulupono Initiative, so the only surprise to me about seeing his name on the opening credits is that locally I don't recall hearing anything in the news about this film project. For all the global warming skeptics and naysayers who contend climate change is just liberal whining and scare tactics, this is NOT something they will want to see. It shows the undeniable link between the same professional PR spin-masters in the cigarette industry and the campaign to discredit scientists who have been warning us for decades about global warming. And yeah, they're backed mostly by conservative Republicans who glibly smile while they peddle cancer-causing cigarettes or try to block regulations to protect our environment.

Instead of devoting so many minutes each day week after week to updating us on "possible" severe weather, couldn't our local news media put a fraction of that time and effort into enlightening the public about real matters related to climate change? Do they have the guts to expose the outright lies of Fox News and conservative Republicans who insist there is "doubt" in the scientific community about the dangers of man-made pollutants that are the cause of catastrophic tornadoes, fires, and flooding throughout the world?

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, you don't need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows... and you don't need to have local TV reporters go out to Hilo to stand in the rain and tell us it's raining. Sheesh.

Add Merchants of Doubt to your Netfllix queue, or watch it when it comes to cable. Get angry. And the next time someone tries to give you a Fox News or Republican talking point to deny climate change, tell them where they can insert that DVD since they are unlikely to watch anything that conflicts with their myopic world view.


One other side-note about the documentary: it begins with magician Jamy Ian Swiss performing slight of hand tricks to demonstrate the art of deception. I immediately recognized him as one of the bartenders that used to work at the Seventh Avenue South jazz club in NYC, back when I lived there in the early 1980s. Once, while seated at the bar, he asked me to pick a card and insert it back into the deck. After a quick shuffle, he tossed the cards up... and there in the corner of the ceiling, was the same card I had selected stuck into the ceiling somehow. I surmise he must have planted a second identical card there before I arrived. But how did he get me to choose that particular card?


For daily viewing times of my Career Changers TV show, which is NOT a news show and consists mostly of sponsored content, please visit our website. You can also watch segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now has over 1 million views worldwide.