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Part 2: April 2005

26 April 2005 00:34

Not much is new this week. I am busy grading the main paper for my collection management class. Some students did an amazing job. It is a pleasure to read those papers. These students will make excellent librarians. I am excited to read their journals on the assignment. I have a hard time grading though, especially for those who did not do as much work or who have not yet learned to become better proofreaders. It takes me up to two hours per paper for this major assignment. I should not complain though as my students spent many more hours (days, weeks...) on this assignment.

This week -- while grading -- I’ve been a frequent visitor to Coffee or Tea. I am happy that this independent café is open later than any other in town, and has free parking. It features a good iced milk tea, which is just like my favorite Japanese soft drink Go-Go no Cha. I just have to remember not to order pearls with it. It is a fun place to people-watch too, with many young Japanese and Chinese hipsters. Erin and Wayne (with their New York Times) were there too. I should also make the time needed to keep uo with the Times.

I went to John Searle’s lecture on campus last Thursday. To be honest it was OK, but not terribly inspiring. I preferred reading his The Construction of Social Reality, which was part of a doctoral seminar at Madison -- although I thought it too could have been much clearer. It was the first time I saw so many of my ICS colleagues at one seminar. The campus ballroom was packed (and terribly stuffy!). The lecture started 10 to 15 minutes late and the host read too much of his long CV, which left too little time for Searle's lecture. The Q&A was quite uninspiring. People who get to the microphone first here seem to love rambling, and UH hosts rarely master the art of moderating or helping programs to end in a timely way. Perhaps I just was too tired after a long day on campus. Searle had some witty remarks and good questions though. I always appreciate good questions.

On Saturday I attended my first Seder in years thanks to Peter and Saundra. It was a very nice with three historians talking about books, while young children ran around looking for the Afikoman. They used a new Haggadah published by Behrman House. It was gender-neutral and replaced the word "Lord" with "Adonai," which made me feel more comfortable. The illustrations and comments were fun too. I always remember my family's old Maxwell House haggadot. I was also happy to enjoy a tasty Vouvray rather than the usual Mogen David. Saundra’s mother made an awesome harosets too.

Although it was not a major story in the American press, the BBC World Service had an interesting story just now about how Charles Duelfer (the American inspector for WMDs in Iraq) just filed another supplemental report implying that Iraq did not send any WMDs abroad and that US forces should release any Iraqi detained as part of the WMD investigation. It was amazing to me that so many people believed Dr. Rice and other cabinet members’ claims that Iraq had WMDs. That certainly doesn’t make Saddam Hussein anything short of a brutal dictator, but it removed the last claim of Bush’s argument for invading Iraq. I was upset that the press did not do a better job of disproving these claims during the last presidential election. I am still amazed by how many people still believe this disinformation.

In other Middle East news, I almost could not believe that Syrian troops finally left Lebanon today. I very rarely give President Bush credit, but I think his tough stand and (rare) work with other nations helped make this withdrawal possible. It is a major victory for autonomy after almost 30 years of occupation.

I should close here and get back to grading.


22 April 2005 / Happy Earth Day!

For the Jewish reader, have a Good Pesach (Passover)! I was invited to a Seder this weekend. I haven’t been to one in a very long time. I went to Honolulu’s kosher market for the first time today. I was scolded for coming so late on a Friday. It was only around 12:30, and the webpage said they close at 3:00! Even in Chicago, I seem to recall the Orthodox shops closing by around 2:00 before shabbos or major yomtov.  I should have guessed what kind of place it was when I saw the painting of the Rebbe Schneerson looking out from behind the register. Chabad is amazing. Many followers are very sincere, but I always remember the mitzvah mobile or seeing Chabad members at the gates of Columbia University making sure that Jews did a mitzvah.  I am rather suspicious of missionary-like activities. Storeowner Ifat Sharabi seemed nice though. I've also heard that they have some good treats (at other days, of course).

Hawaii Public Radio’s Kayla Rosenfeld had a humorous short piece today about doing one’s own Seder. I was surprised that her grandparents made kosher wine in the bathtub. My grandparents (on my mother’s side) supposedly had future giffeltefish swimming around.  I can only imagine the stains from Concord grape wine. I could never stand kosher wine. A few years ago I finally found out why it is so sickeningly sweet. Someone explained that NY grapes need a lot of sugar to ferment, thus NY kosher wine tastes worse than juice (at least to me).  There are some good Israeli, French and California kosher wines, but I was pleased to see Mogen David at Long’s (for the Seder rather than home consumption).  I was even more impressed that the Long’s manager knew what I meant by kosher wine. Living at this end of the Diaspora, I never expect Jewish literacy here. Many people here wish me Merry Christmas even when they know I am not Christian. Hawaii actually has many non-Christians, but Christmas is much more a part ofthe public space (like workplaces) than it would be on the mainland.

Today I just finished reading Stannard’s book on the “Massie Affair.” I would have done a few small things differently (especially the footnotes), but cannot strongly enough recommend the book. I learned some interesting things, and look forward to using parts in my history of books, reading and libraries class next fall.  The Star-Bulletin and Advertiser really fanned the fire during the initial controversy. Stannard’s writing turns social history into a page-turner with the kind of details I love in fiction and non-fiction.

Changing topics slightly, I am now thinking about the central message of Pesach. When I was very young my main image was of Eastern European Jewish foods and my family’s Maxwell House Haggadah (Seder prayer books). I always felt strange when I would see the “Ten Commandments” film or Gospel songs about Moses. Those traditions seemed so alien to my image of Passover. I wonder when it started to make sense to me as more of a key story about human liberation against oppression. That theme certainly influenced my later life.

Living in the Manoa Valley, where the Massies lived, I am thinking back on this idea of liberation and identity. I don’t think I will ever be local, but I don’t feel haole either. I imagine that I look the part, but I think about this from time to time. I might write more about this later. I have to teach in the morning, so that’s all for this week.

Monday, 18 April 2005

Today I went to the campus bookstore to hear UHM American Studies Professor David E. Stannard give a book talk and signing of his new book Honor Killing: How the Infamous "Massie Affair" Transformed Hawaii. He gave a great talk, and I can't wait to read the rest of the book. I just watched the PBS "American Experience" documentary on the Massie Case, and was amazed to see so much footage of Hawaii. I had never seen moving pictures of the slums here before, for example. "American Experience" has always been one of my favorite features on PBS. I want to watch it once again after I finish reading Stannard's book.

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to work on the UH Beta Phi Mu Chapter. I wanted to compile the list of candidates, since we had not inducted any new members in the six years before I came, and we have a good group of new officers and even a home page. I thought we had been able to rescue all of the BPM files, which were in my office, but the files ended in 1995, so we will have to secure transcripts from students interested in joining. This is a bit awkward, but seems to be the best we can do. We will have the ceremony on the afternoon of 22 May.

By strange coincidence I received a letter this evening inviting me to join UW-Madison's Beta Beta Epsilon Chapter of BPM. I am honored to join them. I never would have imagined I would be advising or joining an honorary society. I still dislike grades, but like the service ethics of BPM, and realize that it is important to our graduates.

It was very nice timing to receive this now. I've been more and more frustrated with Beta Phi Mu on the Mainland. I've been trying to get information from the main office at FSU for almost a year now. As the Faculty Advisor I've been e-mailing or calling every week since January, but have not received the application forms or answers to some basic questions. It is almost as if they do not want us to restart our chapter, although I am sure that is not at all the case.

Hier soir j'etait a le <<Coffee Talk>> Cafe a Haleiwa pour une change du place. C'est tojours tres jolie la-bas. Je na'i pas fait assez beacoup de travail, mais j'ai raccontre une couple Francais et une visiteur de Paris. Ca m'a fait beacoup de plasir a bavarder ensemble en Francais. Le dernier fois que j'ai parler Francais ici, c'tait avec une Japonaise qui parle vraiment mieux que moi, mais qui ne pense pas comme un personne du France. C'etait une experience tres interessant. J'espere qu'elle va bien car elle a retourne au Japon. (SVP Pardon tous mes fautes si vous pouvez lire ca).

Hawaii State Library, 16 April 2005

Happy National Library Week!

I celebrated National Library Week again (some holidays are worth celebrating continuously!) by attending the Tinfish Poetry reading at the State Library. Tinfish is a fun small press that publishes funky experimental poetry chapbooks of Hawaii and Pacific writers. Check out the website, which includes free poems on TinfishNet.

I came late (I never leave enough time to get across town or look for parking – too wet for the bike). I missed Dr. Trask’s reading earlier in the week, which would have been my first time to hear perhaps UH’s most controversial colleague. I was teaching though, so I could not just skip class without being noticed. (The Beaux Arts Trio was that night too, which I also missed).

Going back to the reading – I came at the tail end the first poet, Anne Kennedy, who read in her crisp New Zealand diction of things like the smell of new library books. Her books are at available at Native Books.  Anne’s husband, Robert Sullivan came up next. He worked in a rare books collection at Auckland Public Library (long?) before teaching English at UHM.  His poems related a “World full of enchanted librarians” and memories of shelving books as a youngster, and reading on the Russian Revolution and Roman Empire. I was excited when he started talking about waka, but he meant the native canoe from New Zealand, rather than the form of Japanese poetry I enjoy. Alas.

The third poet was Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard author of Alchemies of Distance. She read from collaboration with a Mohawk poet. I liked her poem about the rat as a metaphor for development.  Part of her mother series was largely in Samoan, so it partly went over my head.

Naropa Institute graduate Sherman Souther was up next. He read a version of Li Bai (Li Po), which did not appeal to me so much (Li Po is one of my favorite poets, but not all translations do him justice). He did better on a translation of a Chilean Cubist poet whose name I did not catch, including the great poem title: “Poetry is A Celestial Attempt.”  He has a good voice, but did not use the microphone, so was in a losing competition with the poets’ adorable children who circled the room and one reference librarian loudly instructing a patron how to use the copier machine. [I later learned that this was Ezra Pound's translation. I never cared for Pound.]

The event was billed as taking one hour, but of course went on for much longer. We poets are hungry for time. The enemy of long readings though is parking meters that are 25 cents per 10 minutes, and only hold 1 hour’s worth. No fear, I shall tell the officer that I was enjoying poetry. S/he no doubt will be a poet too, who will leave a poem disguised as a parking ticket.

To the One Hour Parking Zone   (Near the State Library)

Spaces free.
Free for returning books (but not time enough for finding more)
Or for journalists to file a live
            report from the Capitol -- hours after the event
America seems to have no time
            for reading
            for poetry
            for thinking
I should take the bus.

The event was organized by Tinfish Press publisher/ UH-M English Professor Susan M. Schultz. I've been looking forward to meeting her since I saw some of her funky chapbooks for sale at Native Books. I really enjoyed the end of her poem about left-handed politicians.  She gave a very good reading, and has a good well-annunciated vocabulary.

I haven’t been to a poetry reading in years. It was refreshing, but I had a hard time not to multitask (like writing a draft of this blog entry). I agree that poetry should be enjoyed aloud. It was too bad that the weather didn’t allow the reading to be in the lovely courtyard of the Carnegie library building.

The poetry reading reminded me of undergraduate days.  I used to participate in readings on campus and in cafes. Usually I would share my short political poems, but a friend and I once took a hand puppet on stage and read one of Tristan Tzara’s dadaist sound poems. We did it just for fun, and to protest the arrogance of the many bad Hemingway-copycats who were in love with their trite verse. My favorite part of that memory was that one of these arrogant writers told one of my friends, “I could have done that.” I wonder what happened to writers like him.  Did they join the MFA assembly line?

Thanks to alumna Carole and 615 student Rieko for calling this event to my attention.

After the reading I finally walked to Honolulu Hale to finally see Noguchi’s sculpture in person. I was not impressed, although I like our Mediterranean-tiled city hall building. After that I checked out “Educator Discount” day at Border’s, and am now reading, writing, and grading at a Ward Center café.

Later I went to see the Almodóvar film “Bad Education.” I am not yet ready to comment on it. What can I say but WOW! I hadn’t read any reviews, but received a colleague’s recommendation, and had seen other films by him. He is always very fast paced for a European director, and is more personal than I would have done, but he certainly captures an intensity of the complex web of relationships, like a good novella. Ahora, deseo a hablar en Espanol. I shall go back to writing my book instead though.

Honolulu, 13 April 2005 23:45

Wednesday was a luxurious day. I did not have to go to the office, which meant I could wear jeans and did not have to shave. I spent the afternoon at the Manoa Starbuck’s, two blocks from my apartment. I was able to concentrate, perhaps because it is not wireless. In one sitting, I wrote much of the speech that I will present in May at Doshisha University. These days I have a hard time writing, so I felt very good.

I decided to reward myself this evening for the productive surge. I treasure the knowledge that I have options of events to choose from. After living in small Midwest cities, I appreciate what the luxury of having options. DeShannon Higa was playing jazz at the Honolulu Club, but I decided not to go there (too posh for my tastes tonight). I was excited about going to a movie. Actually it wasn’t just any movie. Woody Allen is one of my favorite American directors (along with the Coen Brothers, and John Sayles) and he has a new film. “Melinda and Melinda,” has a 2004 copyright date, but is new to Honolulu.  Now, I am writing on the terrace of (yes, another Starbucks) near the Ward Center theatre writing up my thoughts.

The weather is perfect to be out writing, warm, but with a nice cool breeze.  It is a Wednesday night, so there are no crowds, and this café is open until 11 (still too early, but I should finish my entry by then). (I didn’t.)

[WARNING: Do not read these comments unless you have already seen the film, or are never going to see it.] [I suggest you see it.]

People who don’t like Woody Allen films will not like this one either, but I am not in that category. The film shows how comedy and tragedy are two elements of the same coin, and reiterates the wonderful philosophy of life that Allen featured in “Hannah and Her Sisters” (perhaps my favorite film, along with Kurosawa’s “Ikiru”). Typical for Allen, the music was great, especially Bartok’s String Quartet No. 4.  The brownstones and New York loft interiors were fun too, particularly the loft with the shelves of leather-bound books and interesting paintings (like early Kandinsky’s dark colors; does anybody recognize it?) I wanted the camera to pan to the shelves so I could see the book titles, and appreciate the painting. Living in Hawaii, I miss nice architecture, interesting furnishings, and book collections. 

The characters (or actors?) though really got on my nerves. They seemed so superficial and frankly unattractive (physically and otherwise). One of my high school friends, Geoff, would have called them “the beautiful people” with a sneer. I still suggest the film, as the script is still rich in Allen’s Ibsen-like prose. I wish he was playing, rather than the cast he used.

I started wondering why I so disliked the cast. I thought about stupid things, such as how I don't care for hair when tied up, perm-frizzed, “up,” or under baseball caps. (Don’t search for any logic in my personal tastes). I also thought about how the guys dressed and acted so arrogant and vapid.  I certainly don’t need to be attracted to actresses or actors in order to appreciate the acting. Why then, was I so displeased? I was trapped by this stupid question tonight.

I think my answer is that I like how Allen can capture New York (Jewish) intellectual life, and that these characters had the some of same neurosis, but were as Jewish as a cheese and ham sandwich on Passover. I should take a moment to explain that I am not religious, and usually look for universal elements in art, but feel that he neutered his own film with this cast. Perhaps he was trying to reach a broader and younger audience, but everyone in the cast seemed to lack the passionate drive that I enjoy in his characters.  I don’t need the absurdity of “Bananas” (although that was hilarious) or to hear endless jokes about analysts, but the cast really felt flat to me. They seemed more like Hollywood people than New Yorkers.

[As an aside, on NPR's "Fresh Air," Terry Gross had an interesting interview with actor/ writer Gene Wilder a few weeks ago. I was especially interested in his comments on being a Jew who grew up in the Midwest (Milwaukee), and how that differed from Mel Brook's keen sense of Vaudeville. The program also dealt with Wilder's new autobiography, that includes his and his late wife's (Gilda Radner) struggles with cancer. I should read the book someday. You can hear the show at NPR's website. I once worked on a book of Jewish creative writing that was called something like from the end of the Diaspora. I never thought I could go even further.]

[I am now rereading Wakukawa's 1938 history of Japanese in Hawaii, and it has one mention of a (Polish) Jew, but not in a good light. The person was a luna who assaulted a Kanapali plantation worker named Iwamoto in 1905. The book goes on about how "The Japanese laborers had always thought the luna was a Russian." It then goes that the workers were upset, thinking this was in response to the Russo-Japanese War; so 1,400 Nikkei workers went on strike. One Nikkei was killed in a riot. I should investigate this more. I am not sure what to make of this episode. I never imagined a Jewish luna, but am not surprised that the plantation manager and workers were able to point at this one Jewish luna as the source of the problem.] [Perhaps this should eventually be added to the Jewish history of Hawaii. [ Check out this site too.]

Living in Hawaii, perhaps it is that intensity and passion that I miss on a deeply personal level, that is really making me think about this so intensely. Of course, it is hard to be passionate when you are in a distance-relationship (especially a trans-oceanic one), but this is making me think more about life here. Don’t get me wrong. I love it here most of the time. People are great, and I feel at home. I also enjoy the luxury of wearing sandals and biking to work everyday, but I am realizing that there is a cost to living in paradise. It is hard to foster a passionate drive to do anything. I am trying to rebuild that fire inside, to become a better writer and teacher, to promote social change, to learn more about music and history.

(Some people told me that this is due to Japanese influence here, but they are wrong about this. It is true that many Japanese are not very expressive in public, but they have a drive. I am not sure what it is that creates this culture. Perhaps it is living in the tropics, a place people come to relax on vacation. I don’t know).

My parents are from New York (OK, Buffalo, NY really), but I grew up mostly in Minneapolis, which is a city of comparable size to Honolulu. People in both places are very friendly. Politically I think there are many similarities too. Both vote Democratic, are against death penalty, and are progressive on social issues, but like to keep government at bay. Minnesota has its own version of Aloha Driving (including use of the turn signal). Both cities have good bus systems (although Honolulu really need light rail!!), but there are some major differences. I suppose it is weather that explains much of it. For example, Honolulu’s museums are pretty good, but Minneapolis/ St. Paul has truly outstanding museums, two world-class orchestras, and great independent publishers and bookstores, public libraries and broadcasting, as well as great public schools (especially in the suburbs).   Minneapolis is blessed with gorgeous lakes downtown, but many months it is too cold to venture out, so people are naturally good readers.  I think Neil Postman has it correctly that reading and writing helps us to become better thinkers. Honolulu needs more reading in my opinion. What else would you expect from me :)


I don’t want to be a snob, but part of my reason for so enjoying cafes is that I can often find myself drifting in and out of others’ conversations (I have pretty good hearing when not using headphones). I used to dream of becoming a writer, so I wanted to capture conversations. In cafes, I still enjoy seeing people reading, and then asking what he/ she thinks about the book. This introduces me to new books, ideas, and people. I don't often experience that in cafes here. I rarely see people read beyond homework. Perhaps on a related note, I rarely seem to hear very intellectual conversations. Maybe I have my headphones on too often.

Perhaps my entry is getting overly critical, as the only other people hanging outside this café now are carrying on an extremely banal conversation. They are laughing very loudly, and yelling at each other “You are a retard,” and then going on about being fired from fast food jobs. Sigh. I would expect this if they were drunk, but alcohol seems not to be the cause. Then they started talking about kicking bagels. Don’t ask me what this means. One of the guys (wearing a baseball cap), just muttered “Holy Shit,” and then they were suddenly off. Now it is quiet, and I am alone with my rambled thoughts.


Honolulu archivist / artist Rae Shiraki and I have been in e-mail contact about bookstores in Honolulu among other topics. She passed on the following from her memory of the fate of local used/ antiquarian bookstores:

Pacific Book House, owned by Denis Perron, was first on Sheridan Street, moved to Atkinson Drive, then during the building of the Convention Center in 1996, moved to Beretania Street and expanded to antiques and collectibles, paintings and estate jewelry. (I forgot it was the same one that was on Atkinson.) I don't know what happened after the Beretania shop closed a couple of years ago.

The Tusitala Bookstore was in Kailua (not Kaneohe). Around 1998, its inventory was purchased and reestablished as the Kohala Book Shop in [Hawi,] North Kohala.


The Book Cellar has been closed at least five years. I think the store had a different name before.

Friday, 8 April 2005

Today was "laundry day" (I teach on Saturday), so I enjoyed a break from grading and class planning to go to a cafe and read Masayo Umezawa Duus' biography of the Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi. I greatly enjoy art, but rarely read artist's biographies. To me, the life of an artist usually seems seems unrelated to the works he/ she created. Also, to be honest, I haven't always appreciated Noguchi's oeuvre, but think he tried to create an interesting synthesis of Japanese traditional and very modern "Brancusian" aesthetics. The book had a nice quote by him criticizing Japanese artists of the 1950s who seemed to copy everything American, perhaps confusing American culture with democracy: "Picasso may be modern art, but imitating Picasso is not modern art" (213). Duus continued that Noguchi feared there were "too many Picassos in Japan," and " too many young Japanese 'ignorant of Japan.'" [About the latter part, I think the same goes for the majority of Americans who disdain jazz and blues. In my opinion, both represent America's finest contribution to global culture.]

I especially wanted to read this book because Noguchi played an interesting (and not fully explored) role in the months between the attack on Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, which sent over 120,000 Japanese Americans from their West Coast homes to concentration camps. During that key interval Noguchi organized a group of progressive Nisei artists who might have set up an alternative to the JACL's plan to cooperate 100% with the government on the so-called "internment." I am only halfway done, but so far Duus gave minimal attention to his Nisei Writers for Artists and Democracy, or even his 184 days in Poston. This was a surprise to me, since she has been researching Nikkei life for many years, and wrote several important works, such as the Japanese Conspiracy: The Oahu Sugar Strike of 1920.

Her husband, Stanford History Professor Peter Duus, who translated The Life of Isamu Noguchi, is another amazing historian. I was fascinated by his The Abacus and the Sword: The Japanese Penetration of Korea, 1895-1910. I am told that they sometimes visit Hawaii, and would love to meet them, especially if Noriko was in town then. It would be fascinating to see how they do their own work, but are able to collaborate together. I am very lucky that Noriko and I can do the same, each pursuing our own interests, but coming together with interesting dinnertime questions for each other. We are both excited about doing some archival digging this summer.

On a sadder note, my friend Daisuke returns to Japan this weekend. I will miss his critical but considerate intelligent conversation, as well as his passionate cello interpretations of Bloch's Kol Nidrei, Bach's Unaccompanied Suites for Cello, and Schubert's Trio in E Flat (Op. 100, D. 929; especially the second movement). He taught me a great deal about music, among other things. I am happy that he landed a good job in Japan, and imagine that he will make a difference in this world.

Postscript, 19:30, Friday, 8 April 2005

I finally finished The Life of Isamu Noguchi. It was a well written, enjoyable read. Noguchi certainly led a full life in many ways. That excitement reminded me of my high school dreams, when many of my friends were poets or artists -- although none of us lived life that fully! I still wished to know more about Noguchi's political thoughts and actions, especially during the war years, but am left with a deeper appreciation of his vision and style.

If it wasn't raining, I'd probably bike out to reconsider his sculpture in front of Honolulu Hale, although I surely would have preferred his unrealized, very funky 1940 plan for a playground in Ala Moana Park. It reminds me of Moholy-Nagy.

Just for fun -- Check out Noguchi's 1952 studio at Kitaoji Rosanjin's home in Kita-Kamakura.

Monday, 4 April 2005

I was kind of a host (or driver and guest) on Sunday. I escorted the family of a friend. Daisuke is finishing his MA, and his parents came to celebrate, and help him return home. With the recent rain it was hard to show them much of Hawaii's natural charms, but I hope they had a good time. We enjoyed a really nice ryotei meal upstairs at Kyoya, including sashimi (really good toro!), tempura, miso, suimono, nimono, azuki ice cream, and several glasses of Sapporo (one of my favorite beers). It was very interesting to partake in the celebration. I am still learning about the art of serving beer/ sake, and being served.

I had hoped to work on my book on Monday morning and afternoon, but spent it reading and evaluating student papers.

In the evening I went to campus to hear Nicholas Basbanes talk. It was a fundraiser for the library after the flood. He was very gracious to waive his honorarium to help with the cause. It was good to see many friends, especially librarians and archivists from the state, and several of our fine LIS students. On the other hand, I was a bit disappointed that the attendance was only about 50 people. I had hoped that I would learn about other book collectors in Hawaii. Perhaps the turnout was because of the weather or the limited publicity.

Before the flood I was really an avid book collector (almost obsessed). I still treasure the excitement of perusing the shelves of a bookstore whenever I hit a new town. I collected modern poetry, the history of books and libraries, and Japanese American, Japanese, and Jewish American history. Except for the poetry it was mostly related to my work, so I sometimes don't mind ex-libris copies.

I lost some of my passion for the search when I lost several thousand books (gathered over a decade) in the October flood. I have a grant to order some replacements, but it was not the same thrill as when I saved from dishwashing or bookstore-work to buy something that was undervalued (and thus in my budget). This continued for years. ABE and BOOKFINDER make it much easier to locate treasures now, but it takes out some of the charm for me. Each book had extra meaning as I often brought books to conferences to collect the signatures of authors I respected.

Many people have been very kind in helping me to slowly rebuild my collections. Professor Louise Robbins sent several journals, and Libraries Unlimited sent several books. One of my mentors, Margaret Dalton, will be sending more too.

To be honest though, loosing my research files was much more devastating than the books. I had notes for several research projects. Historians don't do experiments, but slowly gather archival and secondary documents that help us understand a period of history. I thought I had enough material (including oral history tapes) to get me to full professor status. Lynn Davis and several students were a real help in rescuing some files (freezing them, and then hanging them on a clothesline later, or photocopying the worst items), but so much was lost. I sometimes am like a deer in the headlights when I get to my research. My situation is not unique though. All of my LIS colleagues and several librarians lost all of their research materials, some of whom had collected papers over many more years. Several of my students continue to struggle with the emotional outcome too. (I never thought one of my classes would scar anyone emotionally).

I get a little depressed, of course, when I think about this, or when I struggle to reconstruct my research. On the other hand, I am truly grateful that it was only property that was lost during the flood. I sometimes imagine what if one of my students had been in the restroom in the flood, which was in a part of the building that we could not access until almost one week later. Some of us continue having some problems coping day to day, but I am happy that we could celebrate the library's re-opening of Phase I and II last week, and Nicholas Basbanes' talk today. It was a fine talk, and I am happy that more people will be reading his writing. The weekend with the Basbanes was a real lift for me too.

Your's truly , Connie & Nicholas Basbanes, Rebecca Knuth, & Diane Perushek.


Saturday, 2 April 2005

I am debating to be a more infrequent blogger or not. My son, Shunpei, had a fun blog entry for April first. I actually had a good April first. I proctored three very fine oral exams and got some reading and research done in the day.

I was able to enjoy that evening with Nicholas Basbanes and his lovely wife, Connie. I had hoped to take them on the First Friday Gallery Walk, but it was raining too hard, so we saw the Hawaii State Art Museum and enjoyed a nice Thai dinner and talked with a jazz background later. I am wondering if more book collectors will come out of the woodwork to hear his talk on Monday -- or if Hawaii is just not a haven for book collecting. Our climate leads to foxing and other problems for books. My hometown of Minneapolis might have had better weather for book collecting (it gets pretty cold to do anything outside for a few good months). Compared with Honolulu, Minneapolis and Saint Paul had much better new and used bookstores too, which I miss.

Speaking of collecting, I was happy to just receive my copy of Ernest Wakukawa’s A History of the Japanese People in Hawaii. I rarely see this 1938 Toyo Shoin book on the market. I wonder if it was a limited printing or if copies were also destroyed in the war.

Saturday was off to a good start. I had a pleasant sleep, but still woke up early, so I cleaned, did laundry, and read. I even got my car inspection sticker. At 3:00 I raced to Dole Cannery Stadium to catch the Japanese film Out of This World (Kono yo no sotoe - Club Shinchugun), which is supposed to be about early postwar jazz. I made it in time for the screening, but somehow was directed to the wrong theater. I was getting impatient as I thought the film festival folks took 30 minutes to get started. You can imagine how annoying it is to wait after racing around. When the Film Festival spokesperson finally came at 4:00 to introduce the film I realized that I was in the wrong room. I decided to stay and watch this Portuguese film A Talking Picture (Um Filme Falado) instead since the other film would be  1/4 over. The film was just awful. I enjoyed the main character and the scenes in French, as well as seeing brief shots of European ports, but it was so SLOW, and then suddenly ended. I suppose one could rationalize the film as a portrait of clashing empires and civilizations, but this has to be one of the worst movies I’ve seen (perhaps I might have been less critical if I had been in a better mood, but I don't think so). I am not planning to see another Hawaii International Film Festival entry this year, which is a shame.

Now I am back to grading papers again. I try to go through papers seriously, but it is hard with two classes, especially since one is so big. I learn a good deal from student papers, and try to help them express themselves better. I just wish there was a way to do it faster. And don't get me started on grading....

Archives: March blog