IMR: 1999: February: 25 — Thursday, 10:05 a.m.
Watanabe Hall, University of Hawai`i–Manoa, Hawai`i

Eerie. And cool.

Three weeks after I let slip a diatribe about the constantly declining quality of our once-almost-respectable daily student newspaper -- noting in particular the appearance of nightclub and phone sex ads -- the headline of today's issue declares, "Hostess ads draw criticism."

Yes, the ever swift news team at Ka Leo has just published its coverage of a Board of Publications meeting that took place last Thursday, and in it I discover members of the campus community (and an officer on the HPD vice squad) were there to blast the paper for contributing to the degradation of the status of women on campus.

Given the esteemed news editor's writing skills, the points and counterpoints expressed are a little tough to unravel. But although I sympathize with the views of those who complained, I think I actually agree with the board's basic response.

I know, I know, blasphemy. But here's the thing. If you go to the BOP and ask them, in however many words, to stop Ka Leo from printing something, 99 percent of the time they'll mutter "First Amendment" and send you on your way.

That's not a brush off. Well, okay, it is, but it's also essentially correct. The student editors can print whatever they want. So the important point, in the quoted words of graduate student Mimi Khin, is this:

"Why don't they choose not to take ads for these establishments? I think that we should be held to a higher standard than the rest of the community because we are a university."

Ooh! Ding and double ding! Mimi takes home the jackpot.

In other words, although the kids holed up in 31-D are probably the ones that told these people to go and cry to the BOP in the first place, they are the very ones making the decisions that are making 'em mad.

And god bless Kristen Scholly, who probably doesn't remember me but clearly remembers the day when Ka Leo believed in (and could spell) "integrity." When the First Amendment was an important and powerful tool in educating students, not just an all-purpose shield for stupidity.

See, one thing is made clear from this flap that was previously a mystery to me. It is still the student editor that has the discretion over whether ads run. Surprisingly. So either the kids down there are afraid to exercise this power, or they want to run ads recruiting busty bar bunnies.

Either way, I've decided I'm officially disgusted... as both a former editor and a run-of-the-mill undergraduate student.

I was no saint, I know. Ka Leo was petitioned and even protested during my tenure too. But each misstep was followed with the appropriate corrections, from a honing of policy to an out-and-out personal apology.

And before I get it from the poli sci hecklers out there, no I'm not advocating succumbing to political correctness or facism or whatever you want to call it. I would have run -- and did run -- pieces that I knew would ruffle major feathers (same-sex marriage, anyone?). But as Scholly said, along with the power to print what we want comes the power to hold ourselves to a higher professional and ethical standard. Especially in college, because idealists have few allies in the 'real world.'

And hell. They can try and use lagging ad revenues to justify "Booty and the Beach" (also in today's issue, page 5). But how can anyone explain their come-hither sluttoon mascot?

The worst part is, this whole mess can get worse. Much worse.

I know the board is going to use this whole fiasco as the perfect excuse to wrest that power of final judgement from the student editorial staff and hand it over to the staff-managed advertising department. I know this because they tried to do it to me.

And when that is done? Tada! That sacred First Amendment right -- the one these students have mishandled for the last two years like a toddler would a bazooka -- is taken away. And people will be so sick of the newspaper's fumbles, not a soul will fight on its behalf.

But alack! As Sharon pointed out to me this morning, could someone actually be listening to my constant whining? The graphic teasers are now back above the flag where they belong. Both front-page stories have textbook subject-verb-object heds (both also use the same verb, 'draw,' but it's a start). And -- though it may be a fluke -- not a single 900 ad in the classifieds.

Too little, too late?

And I can't believe I spent an entire class period gnashing my teeth over this. I really should have been paying attention to the "figuring your midterm grade" part, at least.

Thursday, 11:16 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

It's Lent. I know very little about it except that it is not the past-tense form of the verb 'loan.' And I also know I really shouldn't joke, but I think making smart-ass remarks are just my instinctive response to anything that makes me nervous.

Well, smart-ass remarks are my instinctive response to everything, but anyway.

Jen has gone to all the major services, the names of which I've forgotten (but for which I won't make funny guesses), all leading up to Easter Sunday next month. She's reading everything she can to refresh her Catholic memory stores, from the church newsletter to The Holy See website.

And although she continues to feel self-conscious about it, Jen is definitely finding much comfort in returning to her faith. And I'm glad for that.

I'm certainly going with her to the big Easter service, and honestly, I plan to be reverent and will try and learn. (Learning 'The Lord's Prayer,' which used to make my skin crawl every time I heard it, is probably a good goal for the next week.) All these years I've dragged her to the "big" ceremonies at my family's Buddhist temples, and the least I can do is give my wife the benefit of the same open mind.

But I want to confess one thing here and now. And confession is good, right?

Jen and Katie went to the Ash Wednesday service last week, and I worked late. I got to the church before the ceremonies were over, though, so I parked and went inside.

I immediately found Jen and stood beside her. I even joined her in singing "Amazing Grace," which I actually knew. But then I turned to kiss her and immediately did a double take.

Smack dab in the center of her forehead was a big black smudge in the shape of a cross.

I looked up and realized everyone in our row had the same mark on their face. I practically spun on my heels and discovered that everyone -- all 400 people or so in the church -- had a sloppy black cross between their eyes. It was like a horror movie... I swear I could actually hear shrieking violins in my head.

And the heart-stopping climax? The moment that almost made me actually yelp out loud?

Katie, who had been facing away from me, turned her head as if on cue and smiled at me. And on her beautiful, perfect, pure little forehead was The Mark.

As I said to Jen later that night, moments before she slapped me upside the head, "I expected Katie's head to keep turning around and around and around..."

Seriously, I can see why religion is such a delicate issue. What's perfectly normal for one school of thought is nothing short of extraterrestrial for another. I really wonder, now, what went through Jen's head the first time she heard me join my church in a sanskrit chant.

Sunday was busy. Actually, there were only two events, but both were rather intense.

In the morning, Grandma Ozawa's 92nd birthday at dad's house. In the afternoon, a housewarming party for Susan, a friend from the Golden Age of USENET, in the cozy hills above Honolulu. Before doing anything, Jen and I raced down to Ala Moana and The Nature Company to buy last minute gifts for the day's two honorees.

Uncle Ted and Sets were in town for grandma's birthday, as was cousin Mariko from Japan. Even Todd was there on time, with his ever bubbly girlfriend Heidi in tow. It was just a relaxing lunch spent catching up and catching Katie, of course with the requisite banquet of fabulous food.

[ Hanako and Mariko ]As the afternoon wound down, everyone crowded around grandma, conferring hugs, leis and gifts.

And she was so overwhelmed with joy, despite the modest size of the gathering in her honor, that she frequently had to dry her eyes of tears. She'd pause and grip Todd and me and seemingly everyone else in turn, and share some priceless memory or piece of wisdom with all her heart. And even though I didn't understand a word, I committed the essence of her voice to memory.

I don't say it often enough, but the life my grandmother has had awes and humbles me. Moving from Japan, building churches and congregations, plantation life, internment camps... even trying to list the highlights does her a disservice. What often gets to me the most is that I know Todd and I leave much to be desired as grandkids, yet she loves and worries about us more than almost anyone else in this world.

In a moment of reeling 'grand scheme' thought, I remember thinking that I probably will never live up to my grandmother's honor in my lifetime. But at least now, with Katie, there's a good chance one of her descendents will do her proud after all.

Eventually it came time to leave, and Jen and I headed out into the rain to find Susan's new house. Her directions were perfect, thankfully, and we got there while the festivities were in full swing.

Festivities, in this case, is defined as the adults chatting loudly in the living room, and many many many kids chatting even louder everywhere else. There were also a couple of wee ones there that were just about Katie's age, and Jen and I spent a good part of the evening feeling jealous that they were stomping around like it was nothing.

I got to witness first-hand Susan's kid-handling skills, and they were nothing short of astounding. Whether they were chasing each other down the hall or waving toy swords or just doing the boys-against-girls thing, she just had this mysterious way of settling them and directing them.

One thing I immediately picked up was that she generally reasons with these kids as if they were something approaching adults. I guess I'm so accustomed to reducing everything to baby talk with Katie, I was actually surprised to see her speak to them in articulate, grown-up language. Lesson one definitely learned.

Though Jen and I immediately realized we were woefully out of practice when it came to small talk, people were friendly and we got to know a few of Susan's friends and coworkers. I quickly realized Jen and I were probably the only people there whose connections to Susan were initially and primarily over the internet.

Susan shot the breeze with us too, of course, and boy was there a lot to share. She and I analyzed the recent legislative proposal to give free tuitions to all Hawaiians, and Jen picked her brain about the Punana Leo Hawaiian language immersion pre- and elementary school program.

With all the kids running around, of course, Jen and I also babbled a bit on our plans for future additions to the family. Although I admit, when things got especially crazy, at one point I jokingly told Katie, "Don't make any friends in school, okay?"

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 25 February 1999 · Last Modified: 05 March 1999