IMR: Entries: 2001: March: 15 — Thursday, March 15, 2001

Not for 'Fantastic'

I just found out I got an 'A' in American Studies. Which makes the 'F' I just got for the midterm in my other class hurt less.

I was floored. Shocked. My first bad grade since that 'D' seven years ago in Art 101 (long story). Part of it was simple arrogance, of course, given that most of the coursework was exactly what I'd expect of a 200-level humanities class... in other words, I wasn't anticipating much of a challenge. Additionally, I've probably missed only two or three class meetings since the semester began, whereas it's not exaggerating to say that three-quarters of the class is missing on any given day, or that there were students who showed up on midterm day that I'd never seen before.

So I felt pretty well connected. I was a kid who spoke up in class, who actually paid attention — most of the time. In my protracted academic experience, if you at least tune in to the lectures, you'll get more than 80 percent of what you need to know.

I blithely breezed through the test last Thursday, skipping only a handful of questions, drawing a really meticulous map of the Pacific, and left confident I'd get a 'B' or better. And as it turns out, the highest grade in the class was a low 'B,' and more than half of us came in at 'D' or below. As much fun this instructor was in the classroom day-to-day, we learned the hard way that she was absolutely ruthless with her test.

We reviewed the test in class, and I pored over all the red marks. The culprit? (Besides overconfidence?) Trick questions. A multitude of sneaky, sneaky trick questions. The sort you expect a handful of in any test, but not at the saturation level we had here. Whether it was multiple choice, matching, or true or false — usually safe havens in Exam Land — four out of five were set up to include extensive, convoluted, correct combinations of facts, with one very reasonable (but technically wrong) red herring thrown in as a gotcha.

And the vocabulary and recall sections tended toward the overly obscure — rather than testing our understanding of significant concepts, we were asked to name (and correctly spell) a harbor in a small South Pacific nation that only came up in class once, during one of dozens of rushed, mumbled student presentations on dozens of other small South Pacific nations. It was like, "Well, you should have got that one, because Ka`eo mentioned it after her presentation on that island when I asked her about the production of copra."

I know, I know, I'm mostly just sore for not focusing, for not reading the test carefully. But I really am, in a general sense, disappointed at this particular testing tack. Making a test deliberately hard based on rote memorization just feels wrong, particularly when I — and I'm sure many of my fellow students — have actually learned a lot and processed a great deal of the material presented.

Hell, I like the class a lot. A general overview of Polynesian cultures, the sort of stuff I really wish kids here were taught in grade school. Origins, migration patterns, traditions, family and social structures... good stuff.

It's allowed me to delve into my strange obsession with New Zealand (Aotearoa) and its relation to the rest of Oceania and Hawai`i — the focus of an oral presentation due tomorrow. And a strong emphasis on geneology prompted me to once again pull out and pore over what notes I had on my own ancestry, both Japanese and Hawaiian, but mostly the latter.

Hell, one 'pedigree chart' homework assignment led me to learn heaps about my ancestors and extended family in Honomakau/Hawi on the Big Island. I found the Mormon genealogical record filed by one Paul K. Kaelemakule, listing relatives as far back as the 1720s all the way up to my maternal grandmother and her 10 siblings. I relished memorizing the other given and surnames listed — Paaku, Keahi, Aki, Naukana...

A neat find was some scribbled notes Kaelemakule made on a receipt from Aloha Bakery (P.O. Box 229, Hawi, Hawaii). "Ancestors: Kalanioumi, Keokealani, Kinilau..." Four other names are blurred into obscurity.

I really think I'm "getting" what our instructor wants us to get. It's just not getting reflected in my grades.

Or at least, this one grade. I've had perfect scores on everything else, and thus so far have a high 'C' average. I'll be ready for that final (strike notwithstanding), you just watch.

They're raising the rent in our building. Come May, it'll be $900 a month. And considering we're already paying more now than what my mom is paying on her mortgage, we really don't think we can stay.

Seems lots of people I know are prowling about the rental market, either moving in together, or moving out on their own (like Eathan just did). So at least we're all trading notes and tips. The only thing is, we're also looking for the same things, and I'm sure we're each hoping we find the one diamond in the rough for ourselves first.

The fact of the matter is, the bump in price from a one-bedroom to two-bedroom is a steep one, no matter the neighborhood. I'd say on average, we're looking at monthly rents of $1,000 or a bit higher for anything truly decent. Which, of course, makes our current place and its boosted rent seem downright reasonable.

It doesn't help that the handful of places that can offer two-bedroom units for $800 are pretty damn scary. Either rotting back-lot cottages that look like they're actually melting, or clustered walk-ups in the creepier areas of town, or are located in Ewa Beach, or are restricted to senior citizens or people on public assistance.

I'm hoping we get lucky. That we find the diamond in the rough (the place Eathan nabbed, albeit in Liliha, sounds rather quaint), or stumble across a friend of a friend whose grandmother has a second home on her lot and would rent it out for just $500 to go toward her own mortgage (as one coworker lucked out last year). Or I get a raise (ha!), or a better job.

("Or just move out of Hawaii," chirps my wife, and as usual, she makes a good point.)

I just don't think we can fit back into a one-bedroom apartment. And I love this neighborhood — convenient, safe, fairly quiet. And I hate moving — we've moved four times in five years, and my best friends will not be conned again into helping my wimpy ass.

And I was really starting to hope, like Jen hoped, that the next time we moved, it would be to go somewhere a little further than the next valley over.

Tomorrow morning, if one isn't delivered automatically to our office (no one ever told us what was going to happen), I'm going to head out first thing and buy a copy of the new Star-Bulletin.

It's been a long, crazy, stressful, amazing couple of years, ever since the battle to save the paper from Gannett exploded. With most of my friends working there, it was personal, but as a pseudo-journalist with unrealistic ideals, it was also professional. I signed petitions, offered help, put "Save Our Star-Bulletin" bumper stickers on everyone's cars, and of course Katie made the front page a while back at one of many rallies.

In no small way is history being made here, and I wish this grand experiment nothing but success (and perhaps a sound trouncing of Gannett's fabled market share). But.

But I'm a little worried, as I suppose everyone is, that it might not be everything we dreamed it would be.

Of course it can't be, and hiccups in such a major transition are to be expected. But in the chaos of the last weeks of the "old Bulletin" a lot of things got trampled in the name of cold progress, which is not surprising, but still saddening since it was the community and earnest voices behind the paper that was why so many fought for it in the first place.

The missteps are few, but glaring. There's new owner David Black, fully aware of the grass-roots element of what helped him get the paper in the first place, stating plainly in the latest Pacific Business News that the new Star-Bulletin will have to make money fast, or he'll just kill it and stick with the soulless but profitable MidWeek shopper he picked up during the same buying spree.

And more upsetting to many, the unexplained and abrupt abandonment of feisty Editorial Page Editor Diane Chang, and incredibly talented (and journalistically invaluable) investigative reporter Ian Lind, whose online diary of the darkest days in the newsroom captured the attention of both local and national journalists, and I'm certain helped rally many a person to want the Star-Bulletin to live.

(If he hasn't signed a deal to publish the web journal as a book, he should. That'll buy a lot of cat food.)

It can't be easy to split a long-standing JOA into two independent, operating papers essentially overnight (after the last edition came out this afternoon, the staff literally paraded down the street to their new offices), and I'm sure in many cases things could not have gone much smoother. So I'll buy the new Star-Bulletin, subscribe at home, and encourage everyone I know to do the same. They have my complete support in principle, even though the practical realities has stirred reservations.


E kala mai! Comments have been disabled due to overwhelming abuse by spammers. Please click through to any of the video hosting services linked above to leave a public response, or feel free to send an e-mail. Mahalo!

© 1997-2008 Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: [ PGP ] · Created: 13 November 1997 · Last Modified: 14 January 2008