IMR: 1999: October: 06 —  Wednesday, 11:34 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

Just spent a wonderful evening out and about, shooting the breeze with fellow escribitionist and urban nomad extraordinaire Albert "The Panther" Vanderburg.

With me being such a horrible friend, of course, it took a class assignment to bring about this long overdue rendezvous. I honestly couldn't remember the last time we'd seen eachother in person, even though we trade notes online now and again. It was great to see him again, and I only felt bad that I'd finally gotten out to see him only under an academic pretense.

With the homeless as my "underrepresented community" in Brislin's class, I turned immediately to Panther for advice on how to cover my often reluctant subjects without annoying them. He has already been an invaluable guide, nearing as he is the close of his second year on the streets. He was eager to help and amazingly patient with me and my silly, and no doubt paingfully ignorant, questions.

Too bad I could never interview Panther as a source.

He is a dazzling, curious, articulate singularity among the completely unencumbered, an active and aware member of the homeless community with the reasoned perspective of an outsider. He teaches me (and anyone with a web browser) a lot about the world most people don't know or aggressively ignore, but he's hardly a representative case.

We met at Ala Moana Beach Park, expecting to witness the arrival of the Hare Krishna food van and become immersed in the crowd of nomads (and the occasional confused tourist) that invariably collects nearby.

But as 5 p.m., then 5:30 p.m., came and went, it was clear the park's vegetarian benefactors had recently moved their operations elsewhere, and Panther hadn't gotten the memo. We waited a little longer, as the River of Life mission was also known to set up a food station, but it just wasn't my day.

I barely noticed, thankfully, that my week's project had completely fallen through. I was far too busy merely enjoying Panther's company, catching up, trading gossip, laughing, and observing the world and the odd characters that populate it. I remembered now and then to actually ask an interview-like question, but it didn't matter anyway. I didn't even take out my notepad once.

Frequently I was almost in awe. No schedule, no boss, no day-to-day necessities desperately lacking. And hell, with the many long-time friendships he maintains, Panther has more of a social life than a lot of people I know. (He definitely gets to see more movies than I do!)

Though, I did recognize, and we did discuss, the unrealistic romanticism that people might occasionally attach to a thoroughly unglamorous — and often unpleasant — lifestyle.

Before I knew it, it was dark, and we walked over to McDonald's at Ala Moana for dinner. The Big Mac special wasn't anything special, but I suspected it made a better meal than the Krishna's leftover vegetarian fare. We sat and talked for another hour, then finally it was time for me to head home.

I didn't get what I set out for, but I enjoyed myself and still managed to learn a lot. The next time we hook up, and it will be soon, I'll know to just forget the notepad entirely.

In a pleasant weekend surprise, mom actually independently suggested — I didn't beg — that Jen and I take a break during our regular visit on Saturday and see a movie.

Though the presence of Portia de Rossi drew Jen immediately to "Stigmata," I simply didn't think I could take a horror flick. Since we both appreciate Kevin Spacey (for wildly different reasons), and — as parents of a toddler — we are very susceptible to movie marketing filled with stars and superlatives, I successfully lobbied for "American Beauty" instead.

I loved it. So did Jen, though she disclaimed, "That was so weird." I think I'm the only one who loved it who also can't see any easy Oscars in its future, but nonetheless, Spacey was great — "Usual Suspects" great. Watching his sad, beautiful suburban ascent/descent was almost thrilling.

I'm not sure what to think about the fact that I, a 25-year-old wannabe yuppie (if anything), identified with a miserable man in the midst of a mid-life crisis... but I figure that was the point anyway.

Later, in an odd fit of cinemania, Jen and I went out of our way to rent "Happiness," a movie that nearly every critic measured "American Beauty" against. The basic gist was, "American Beauty" wasn't bad for a first-time filmmaker, but "Happiness" is the benchmark.

I didn't see the comparison. Both might have focused on American suburbia and moral decay, but as far as I could tell the method and even the message were miles apart. "American Beauty" was a tight, tense, offbeat drama. "Happiness" was beyond surreal, with pedophilia, senior-citizen erotica, twisted sibling rivalry, and a disturbing quantity of ejaculate.

As Jen said when the credits started rolling, "Now that was seriously, seriously weird."

Not that it wasn't good. Just probably not the ideal date flick.

Brislin completely floored me on Tuesday. I got an assignment back that I hated, that I was almost ashamed to turn in, and somehow scored 50 out of 50 points.


For the last couple of weeks I was reveling in fatalism, fantasizing about withdrawing from the course and taking a break from school, crafting ridiculous conspiracy theories, and bellyaching about stress, or not having enough hours in a day, or not expecting to pass the course anyway.

But now, the carrot is dangling within arm's reach again. I have no choice but to give it another shot. Just because of that tiny glimmer of light, that slim chance I might not blow it after all and pass with a comfortably middling "C."

Brislin. Sneaky guy. And I bet just about everyone got 50 points, too. Maybe he's just placating us until the withdrawl deadline passes, and then... then we're gonna get it!

Our little islands are making blips on the national radar again.

Driving home tonight, I heard a surprisingly detailed piece on NPR's All Things Considered detailing the Rice v. Cayetano case, which went before the U.S. Supreme Court today. Though it's over the right to vote in OHA's special elections, the ramifications are much greater, and may reach beyond Native Hawaiians to Native Americans and Alaska natives.

Rather than attempting to distill the argument into a neat 90-second segment, Nina Totenberg dug in for the long haul. She started with a good rundown of Hawaii's history, then wisely let the two sides (and the justices) speak for themselves, reading selections from the official transcript.

The only goof was a common one, using "Hawaiian" to describe any random resident of Hawaii, a la "Iowan" and "Texan." They called plaintiff Harold Rice a "fifth-generation Hawaiian," when he's just a fifth-generation Hawaii resident and is not Hawaiian, a distinction that is at the root of the entire case.

It was very interesting. And it didn't sound like it went very well for the state or for Hawaiians. Only Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg seemed to understand the state's case.

Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding the Oct. 30 shutdown of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is catching the attention of media experts and pundits everywhere. The Star-Bulletin isn't the first paper to face such an untimely end, but it is among the first where the closure is being challenged on anti-trust and other obscure legal grounds.

The state has filed a lawsuit. The newly formed grassroots group Save Our Star-Bulletin (their website is a hoot!) has filed a suit of its own. Our congressional delegation in Washington D.C. has formally asked the U.S. Department of Justice to look into the matter.

It's all very exciting.

However. As much as I would love to see the Star-Bulletin saved — the shutdown stopped and a rich saviour swooping in to buy it — I just don't see it.

I know nothing, really, about the Joint Operating Agreement, or the Newspaper Preservation Act, or federal anti-trust regulations. But I get the feeling that Gannett and Rupert Phillips are just being incredibly uncool. Otherwise, it's just business as usual in America.

Besides. Some of the staff have already lined up employment elsewhere, and the rest are jobhunting their asses off. Even if the courts force Phillips to keep the doors open, there might not be anyone left to pass through them. Would you stick with your job if the only thing between you and the unemployment line was a court order?

It's all very depressing.

Lastly, a bittersweet discovery: Ian Lind is keeping a web diary of the last days of the Star-Bulletin. It's amazing. It's enlightening. It breaks my heart.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 06 October 1999 · Last Modified: 15 October 1999