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UH Sports = Bad @ Math?

March 3rd, 2014
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OC12 SCHEDULE CHANGES: The new March episode of Career Changers TV was preempted by high school wrestling this weekend, but now that we have new time slots on OC12  (er, OC16 which is shown on channel 12/high def 1012) you have additional viewing options each day. Click here for the new times under "When to Watch." On this month's show, we have segments on the Job Quest job fair and Farmlovers Farmers' Markets -- btw, despite the rain there was a great turnout for their Cacao Fest in Kailua on Sunday!

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Diehard sports fans love to play armchair quarterback (which really should be "armchair coach" or "backseat coach" since QBs rarely call their own plays anymore, unless it's an audible at the line). That includes me and my wife, who had an interesting suggestion when the UH men's basketball team was leading Long Beach State by one point with about 18 seconds remaining in the game last Thursday. LBSU had the ball and called a timeout. It was obvious The Beach could hold out for the last shot to win or lose the game.  She said, "They (UH) should foul!"  I agreed.

Here's why: UH had committed seven team fouls, putting them in a 1-and-1 penalty situation; odds favored LB getting off a decent shot and even if it missed, there's a good chance the player could be fouled while taking that shot. Give average players two foul throws, most will make at least one. If the game is tied at the end of regulation, the home team -- Long Beach State -- usually has the edge in overtime. If UH had fouled right away before LB got off a shot -- possibly a 3-point attempt -- the player would shoot a 1-and-1. Make the first, you get a second foul throw. Miss, and the edge goes to UH players who have inside position for a rebound. Worst case scenario, foul and LB makes both foul shots; UH down by 1 with around 12-15 seconds left. Best case scenario, LB player misses first foul throw, UH rebounds, gets fouled and the advantage shifts to UH...

But apparently UH head coach Gib Arnold decided to let LB take the final shot without fouling. Time ticked off, and the LB player was left wide open to hit a 3-pointer. UH goes down by two points and had to rush a shot to tie or win with around 8 seconds left. Gib still had a timeout in his pocket, but they had already decided not to use it since that could have given LB time to set up a defensive play. The UH guard made a desperate attempt at putting up a prayer of a shot... it missed. Worse, it looked ugly because the ball wasn't in the hands of their best shooters at the end. With that loss came a lot more second-guessing about coaching decisions, particularly in close games decided in the final minute or two. Some of it just comes down to luck. In at least two or three UH losses this season, had the ball bounced differently on the last shot of the game, they would have won.

What's frustrating for fans is we've seen bad clock management and examples of bad math not just in basketball, but in football and also questionable baseball odds strategy as well (eg., when to sacrifice and bunt runners over in low-scoring games). In b-ball, there have been opportunities for the Bows to play 2-for-1 shots in the final minute before halftime. You hear ESPN announcers say it all the time -- since there's a 35-second clock in college, if the team with the ball gets off a shot and leaves at least 40-secs, odds are they will wind up taking the last shot. Do the math. Put up two shots in less than a minute compared to the opponents one shot, and you're more likely to come out  ahead. But if you use up the 35-seconds to get off just one shot and leave your opponent time to score, you go from a chance of a 6-0 scoring run to being down 0-3 in that final minute.

UH football clock management was downright awful at times this past year. I think part of the problem is the head coach is expected to make the calls on timeouts, but with so much going on, you really need another brain calculating the numbers stuff. For instance, I have seen very good coaches and players fail to realize that the opponents were going to let them score so they could get the ball back and have a chance to tie or win the game. In those games, the running back or quarterback should have just taken a knee at the goal line so they maintained control of the ball and could run the clock out. But the players got so excited, they high-stepped into the end zone, not realizing they were giving their opponent a chance to snatch victory from defeat. However, it falls on the coaching staff to alert their players about those possibilities in the waning moments of a game.

Anyhow, maybe what the UH sports teams needs is an assistant coach to be the Designated Screamer -- someone like us fans who yell at the TV screen or shout from the stands advice on when to call timeout or purposely foul an opponent. In the end though, I keep reminding myself it's only a game... and no one feels worse about losing the close ones than the coaches and players themselves.

 

ChocKailua Fest Sunday

February 28th, 2014
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PROGRAM ALERT: The new March episode of Career Changers TV begins airing Saturday night around 8:45 PM following high school wrestling on OC16... BTW, have you seen the new commercial that reminds viewers OC16 is actually on Channel 12/high def 1012 now? Even the Star-Advertiser television grid recently mixed up listings for OCSports (which is shown on channel 16/1016) and OC12 -- er, OC16 programming. If you ask me, they should just change the name to OC12.

One of the features on our March show is about the two women who run the Farmlovers Farmers' Markets on Oahu. They now have five different locations: Waimea Valley, Hawaii Kai, Kakaako, Pearlridge and Kailua. Pamela Boyar and Annie Suite both have interesting backgrounds, and one way they distinguish their markets from others is by coming up with themes that highlight local products -- take cacao and chocolate, for example.

This Sunday, March 2, they will have a Cacao Guided Walking Tour that departs at 9:30 and 10 AM, plus demonstrations throughout the day at the Kailua market. I've copied their press release below, or you can click here to go to their website for more info. As it happens, we did a piece on Madre Chocolate -- one of the tour stops -- back in 2012. Since then, Nat Bletter and Dave Elliot have been on a roll, winning international awards for their artisan chocolate creations and have expanded to another location in Chinatown. We also did segments on the Hawaii Chocolate Festival and the Waialua Estates cacao farm. If you missed that show, you can click on the hot-linked names to see those videos.

But if you're on the Windward side this weekend, it's a lot more fun (and tasty) to check out this event in person. Oh -- and Camille's on Wheels, another friend of the show, will be there too!

From the Farmlovers press release:

KailuaTown Farmers’ Market is celebrating the transformative power of Cacao- from colorful pod to delectable taste sensation- with its 3rd Annual Hawaii Cacao Festival on Sunday, March 2nd! Sample delicacies from The Food Company's Chef Jason Kiyota, Mama T from Down to Earth, Chef Nicole LaTorre, Pastry Chef (& James Beard Nominee!) Michelle Karr-Ueoka, and Camille's on Wheels.. Sign up for a Cacao Guided Walking Tour where you will visit Kokolani Chocolate, Manoa Chocolate, Madre Chocolate & Whole Foods Market, and watch how this weird little fruit gets turns into delightful decadence. Discover how cacao is grown and why Hawaii is the only state in the nation that can grow it. Fun activities for kids include decorating Mr. Cacao Heads! Everyone can enjoy the live music of Paul Izak & Seeds of Love while relaxing in the 75- seat covered café.

Discover the many benefits of this amazing fruit. Buy from Hawaii’s finest chocolatiers like Madre Chocolate, Aloha Chocolate, Waialua Estate, Manoa Chocolate, Lolohana Chocolate, Hawaii Crown Chocolate and Kokolani Chocolate. Learn why Kailua is becoming known at Choc-Kailua. Learn about the Bean-to-Bar Movement in artisanal chocolate-making. Visit over 40 booths of KailuaTown’s premiere weekly farmers’ market. Sample and purchase fun chocolate creations made especially for this event!  Cacao Trees available for purchase. This free festival is fun for the whole family.

WHEN:  Sunday, March 2, 2014

Market: 8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Kids Activities: 8:30 a.m. - 1p.m.

Guided Walking Tour: Departing at 9:30AM, 10:00AM.

Sign up on arrival. 20 person limit per tour.

Demonstrations & education: throughout the event

 

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RoboCop Redux

February 19th, 2014
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Although I haven't seen the new RoboCop reboot/remake/re-imagining or whatever you want to call the latest incarnation -- or reincarnation, if you will -- I do have a personal connection to the original man-as-machine sci-fi action flick that came out in 1987. Since I frequently mention my failed screenwriting career as the impetus for becoming a local TV show producer, some of you may recall from past blog posts that a co-writer of the first RoboCop took a liking to an early script of mine and tried to get it produced through his contacts in the movie business. This was about 20 years ago, and after months of rewrites, nothing happened with the project.

Well, that's not entirely true -- stuff did happen. I learned a lot about how Hollywood works, and the reality of what it's like to be a screenwriter or producer from the phone calls and Fed Exed script notes I got over the next few months. Back then, writers weren't using email and Skype to communicate. There also wasn't a web-based cottage industry of script scouting services, screenwriting consultants, and dozens of contests that claim they can provide aspiring writers with access to top industry contacts if they win. Back when I banged out my first scripts on an electric typewriter, it was mostly about making personal connections in the business and finding a mentor who could help you get your foot in the door. To a certain degree, that's still true -- writing a great script is crucial, but you have to get it in the right hands. And that takes persistence, creativity or luck.

In my case, it was all three. I had written a dark comedy based on my 1988 stint in rehab for alcoholism, followed by a bizarre punk rock musical comedy about an aging loser who becomes the poster boy for the ultimate lifestyle makeover company... which is really a front for a global entertainment conglomerate that has designs on remaking entire cities and brainwashing residents into buying all their mass media products -- music, movies, TV, merchandise -- from the cradle to the grave. Yeah, like Disney or Comcast. This was around 1994 before merger mania and the internet giants started turning that fanciful notion into reality. Yet I didn't think the co-creator of RoboCop would be seriously interested in my script when I signed up for a University of Hawaii screenwriting workshop given by Michael Miner.

At best, I hoped he would give me professional feedback, which was part of the deal for participants. When each writer got up and pitched their script, he would listen, offer a comment or two on the scripts he had read, and work in some personal anecdotes about his experiences in Hollywood. I have a fear of public speaking and have blanked out in front of groups before, so unlike some of the others who got up and enthusiastically acted out parts of their script, I nervously tried to read a synopsis of the plot. After I finished, a young UH coed with short red hair held her hand up and asked in a bored tone, "Is it supposed to be funny?" Ugh.

But Miner quickly interjected, and told them it was very funny despite my terrible pitch, and tried to retell a scene from it. The other writers just sat there stone-faced. He shrugged and said you had to read it on the page to get it. Later, during a break, he walked over to the little classroom desk I was sitting at and said he liked my screenplay a lot, then added: "We should talk." That turned into a lunch meeting, and a subsequent offer to help me develop (i.e., rewrite) my script and shop it around. One reason he sparked to it was that before he wrote RoboCop, he was a cameraman and had worked on music videos -- my protagonist was a failed punk rocker, who winds up working a dead end job in a Hoboken record store before those became extinct too. He did take the finished rewrite to the president of MTV Films, who passed (they were making movies about singing cockroaches that were geared to their key demographic of 12 to 15-year-old boys) and another movie production company that had ties to the music biz. They passed too.

It was disappointing that the project never got off the ground. However, during that time period I continued writing new stuff that also got attention through big screenwriting contests and other personal referrals... and I've had at least half a dozen scripts get close to being sold or optioned for development, only to fall by the wayside as well. During the past 27 years since the original RoboCop came out, Miner has made a nice living writing a number of projects that weren't produced or got rewritten, but he's never had another movie that has gotten the same critical or popular acclaim of that iconic film. He still writes, has made smaller documentary films, and is an accomplished photographer with gallery showings of his work (some of his beautiful black and white landscapes were taken on the Big Island, in fact). We exchange Christmas cards, and I follow him on Facebook. For the record, he's posted favorable comments about the new take on RoboCop as a reflection of the times we live in now, not the world that existed in 1987.

In hindsight, it's easy to see why he took an interest in my script about recycling and repackaging old TV shows, music and movies for future generations of brain-dead consumers. At its heart, the original RoboCop was a smart satire about privatizing government services such as law enforcement, and mine was a satire about the lack of originality in the entertainment business. The irony is we never foresaw the entertainment powers-that-be taking a classic like his movie and giving it the makeover treatment. For better or worse, I suppose it's better than fading away and being forgotten.

If you've seen the new RoboCop, would love to know you're thoughts on it! Comments are open for now...

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Valentines Day is over, but you can still catch our segments about Watanabe Floral in the current Career Changers TV episode! Click here for daily viewing times and the link to our CCTV YouTube Channel. BTW, in the same show there's a segment about what's new at Waimea Valley... FYI, they have begun offering guided hikes by the Hawaiian Hiking Company and off-road expeditions through North Shore EcoTours. Both are great ways to experience the valley in exciting, new ways!

Lost in Venice

December 24th, 2013
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This is actually a rerun of a column I wrote for the defunct Star-Bulletin that appeared in their print edition on Christmas Day in 2008. An earlier version had been entered in the old Advertiser Christmas story contest, but wasn't among the finalists... so I reworked it and think it's one of my better pieces. Of all the things I've written over the years, this one best sums up the story of my life and why I feel so grateful to be here still. Mele Kalikimaka!

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A Wrong Turn Leads to the Right Place

By Rich Figel

Like many people, my wife and I collect Christmas ornaments as souvenirs from places we've traveled to. My favorite is a delicate piece from Venice made of green, white and red glass shaped into candles. It's missing one candle though. That's why it holds special meaning for me.

In recovery, we're taught to live in the present because we can't undo the past. I try not to dwell on the wrong turns I made. But I can't minimize the wreckage alcohol and drugs caused in my life either. My flame could have been snuffed out by two drunk driving accidents I had when I was a reporter in New Jersey, fresh out of college. I was lucky. No one was injured by my reckless disregard for others. Instead of giving up drinking, however, I gave up driving and moved to New York.

All of that was a distant memory when Isabel and I took our first trip to Italy in the summer of 1999. This was a reward of sorts for living sober. To make the most of it, we studied guidebooks, listened to Italian language tapes in the car and carefully planned our itinerary months in advance. Nothing was left to chance -- or so we thought.

After nearly 24 hours of flying economy class and long layovers in Newark and London, we arrived in Venice. Our luggage did not. Wearing smelly clothes, we checked into our hotel on the Lido, a small island across the lagoon. International movie stars flock here for the annual Venice film festival. But when we opened the door to our room, my wife's face dropped. It looked dingy and rundown, nothing like the charming photographs on the website. The trip of a lifetime was off to a disappointing start.

Things began to look better the next morning. The hotel's breakfast room had a a glorious view of San Marco, where the Doge's Palace and the Basilica are located. We hopped on the vaporetto, an unglamorous water bus, and as we cruised down the Grand Canal, I became oblivious to the stifling heat and the B.O. of tourists crowded around us. I only saw the fading grandeur of this dream of a city.

Venice on foot is a different matter. The guidebooks are useful as long as you stay close to the major tourist sites. Venture into the heart of the city, and you soon discover that streets often go by two names, smaller canals and bridges don't correspond with maps, and many passageways are dead ends. We got completely lost, which can be fun if you're in the right frame of mind. But we were like those couples on "The Amazing Race" TV show, who blame each other for every mishap. When we returned to the hotel and saw our luggage had been delivered, I thought we had turned the corner.

Wrong again. The next day was even hotter. Shorts and bare shoulders are forbidden in Italy's centuries-old churches, so we had to dress appropriately and sweat it out in line with hundreds of others who were waiting to get into St. Mark's Basilica. You've probably seen pictures of it: the Byzantine domes in the background while lovers embrace amid flocks of pigeons. Since we were quarreling, the grubby birds were merely a nuisance to us. We came to see the church treasures -- not for romance.

A group of German tourists were ahead of us. They seemed to know where they were going, so I followed them. Awed by the marble geometric designs under our feet and the ornate ceilings above, I missed the entrance sign for the museum where the church relics are displayed. Before we knew it, Isabel and I were back outside the Basilica. Despite my pleas of ignorance, a guard told us we had to stand in line again if we wanted to reenter.

Screw it, I said. We decided to move on to a less famous church. According to our map, Santi Giovanni was a short walk from there. But I made a wrong turn somewhere. What should have been a 10-minute stroll became another frustrating excursion that stretched into an hour of wandering around in a steamy maze.

Finally, we found Santi Giovanni. It is huge. Inside, the soaring vaulted arches resembled the bow of a gigantic wooden ship turned upside down. The stained glass windows and altars were works of art. Yet it felt strangely empty to me. We walked over to another section that was like a small chapel. As we were leaving, a priest walked past us with a beatific smile on his face.

Back in the main area we saw the German tourists again, standing in the center of the church. The men had cameras around their necks and their heads were bowed. They stood in a circle, holding hands, and began to sing a hymn in perfect harmony. Their voices filled the church. It was the most beautiful sound I have ever heard.

Tears streamed down my face. Perhaps it was their devotion, or the acoustics ... or maybe it was the collective effects of being weary and flustered, but the church that seemed cold and dead to me was brought to life by their singing. I looked at Isabel and she was crying too. Neither of us is religious, but I felt blessed to be there with her. Had we not gotten lost and taken so many wrong turns, we would not have been here to witness this moment. I held my wife's hand and listened in rapt wonder.

When the men finished, they simply smiled at each other -- the same smile I saw on the priest's face as he walked past us. Then the Germans quietly left and we never saw them again.

That was in 1999. Two years later, after the devastation of 9/11, we went through the ritual of decorating our Christmas tree. It was a somber time. Isabel's business, which depended on tourists visiting Hawaii, was struggling. I worried about the future, and stopped writing. What was the point? Nothing made sense.

A couple of days later, the tree toppled over. It was a mess. The strands of lights were tangled and twisted. Ornaments were strewn about. A glass candle from the Venice piece had broken off. Isabel was at work, so I asked a neighbor to help me stand the tree back up. I restrung the lights and was able to glue together some of the broken ornaments, but the glass candle wouldn't hold. I couldn't fix that one.

While I was washing my hands and thinking to myself that the tree didn't look quite as nice as it did before, I heard a commercial on TV. It said it was all right to grieve for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, but the best way to respond to terrorism is to live.

I broke down and cried. There I was, fretting and cursing earlier because our tree fell over and some ornaments broke. It was nothing compared to what happened three months before. I thought about the church in Venice, and how lost I felt at different times in my life. I can't say if it was chance or fate that I survived the car wrecks and alcoholism, to wind up here with Isabel in Hawaii. I can only wonder, and be grateful for what I have.

So each year when I unwrap that ornament, I remember how fragile life is. I think about the missing candle, and it puts everything in perspective.

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Merry Christmas from all of us at Career Changers TV on OC16!

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Christmas Day Specials

December 24th, 2013
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FREE BASKETBALL TICKETS

Optimistic fan that I am, I bought two tickets to the Diamond Head Classic Championship Game and 3rd Place Game afternoon session on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, UH lost to Boise State in the opening round, which put them in the 11 AM game on Dec. 25. So I had to buy tickets for the morning session, and won't be attending the later games. If you would like free tickets in the lower bowl for the 1:30 and 3:30 PM games, email me (richfigel@gmail.com) and I'll send the tickets pdf to print out at home. The Championship game features undefeated Iowa State, which is ranked 14th in the country. They will be taking on Boise State, a team that made the NCAA tournament last year and returned five starters this season -- yet the Bows gave them all they could handle, and could have won that game.

UH will be playing Oregon State, which is generating speculation that the Obamas might be in the house again since the President's wife is the sister of the Beavers' head coach. On one hand, I'd love to see the First Family at the game. On the other, I'm dreading the possibility we could be stuck in traffic waiting for the motorcade to pass, or could get stuck in a long line while fans go through extra security checks before entering the arena.

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OC16 CHRISTMAS DAY MARATHON

If you're staying home tomorrow, check out OC16 for their Christmas Day marathon. Starting at 10 PM on Christmas Eve, they will be airing special holiday-themed episodes of many OC16 programs on channel 12 or high def channel 1012. My Career Changers TV Xmas Day Special will include segments from past Christmas shows we've done the past three years. You can still catch the show from Christmas present on our regular schedule (click here).

But if you'd rather not wait, you can watch segments from the current episode on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Here's the link to the Legends in Concert Waikiki story and The Base Project feature. Merry Christmas!

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