Saturday, November 26, 2005

Now this fits this blogsite to a tee.....

Bruce Hamada is a name from the past I remember. Although he has been a staple of jazz performers in Hawaii for at least a couple of decades, it wasn't long ago that Bruce was bandleader and bass player for the 70s cover band Livewire. Livewire was a blend of talented musicians including a horn section that included trumpet players Bob Woosley, Todd Hayashi and sax player Randall Hoo. Bob Woosley went on to play with Power Point and Randall Hoo joined Greenwood. Livewire was a pool of talent and you could hear them play selections from horn bands like Tower of Power. A great band, full of talent, it is no wonder that Bruce Hamada has established himself among Hawaii's jazz greats. Cool, tropical and jazz. Here's John Berger's review of Bruce Hamada's CD.

Island Mele
John Berger

Two For The Road"
Bruce Hamada Trio
(Don Don)
Time was when Bruce Hamada was best known as Loretta Ables' bass player at the Halekulani, but in recent years he's established himself as a vocalist as well, and a guy who is as comfortable in a recording studio as he is headlining Lewers Lounge with pianist Jim Howard. Hamada co-produced his latest project with island jazz maven Don Gordon and they've created one of the best jazz albums to come out of Hawaii in recent years. True, there isn't a lot of jazz recorded here. Even so, "Two For The Road" is better than some that have won Hoku Awards in the years past.

Hamada opens strong with a swinging acoustic arrangement of "Learnin' The Blues" that introduces the project perfectly. He sounds almost too cheerful as he sings about the wretchedness of heartbreak, but oddly enough that adds to the impact of the song. There's no question by the time its over that his partners, Tamir Hendelman (piano) and Jeff Hamilton (drums), are assets as well.

Hamada steps forward instrumentally with a solid acoustic solo on "Have You Met Miss Jones." He opens a lesser known tune, "The Bop Be Pops/FJR," with another beautifully realized extended solo on an original arrangement that gives the other guys plenty of space to solo as well.

Other highlights include Jim Howard taking over the piano on "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," Hamada's take on the album-closing title track, and the concise liner notes in which he shares the personal significance of each selection.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Kung Fu Fighting....Yaaaaah!!!!

Now this is one real cool story and now I know where to go to get my fix of the good old days. Carl Douglas had a hit song "Kung Fu Fighting" at the peak of the Kung Fu movie craze and a craze it was, it was cool before cool was cool. I remember taking my son to the old Empress Theatre at the corner of Beretania and Nuuanu, I think, or even to the old Harvest Theatre on was it Smith Street? It was absolutely great, watching kung fu sagas over the big wide screen, learning how to speed read English sub-titles. Can people fly around like that? The good guys were always being beaten up by them bad guys but you know, good prevails even though the hero often got killed in the process. Then came those Friday nights on the good old local ABC affiliate. Black Theatre, where our favorite kung fu movies had English dubbed over the real Chinese speaking. You know, where you know the mouths are saying one thing but the words that come out are in English in an Western accent. As time went on and the kung fu craze was hitting its crescendo, many of the films released began to become a bit hokey, but when you go back and watch the real kung fu classics starring Alexander Fu Sheng, David Chiang and Ti Lung you couldn't help but sit in awe of the spectacles only the Shaw Brothers could produce. Anyway, it was a cool time once upon a time. I think I'll head over to get a couple of kung fu movies right after I post this. Cool!!!!!

Emily Ng, owner of Dragon Gate Bookstore in the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, sells hard-to-find kung fu films as well as classic Chinese titles, Shaw Brothers movies and contemporary Asian DVDs and VCDs.

Kung Fu Master
At Dragon Gate Bookstore, owner Emily Ng caters to fans of Asian cinema, classic king fu and the work of the Shaw Brothers
By Nadine Kam

It seems English-language speakers aren't the only ones who aren't reading anymore. Emily Ng, manager of Dragon Gate Bookstore, started noticing a drop-off in Chinese-language book sales about eight years ago.

Dragon Gate Top 20
"Initial D the Movie"
"House of Fury"
"Tai Chi Master"
"House of Flying Daggers"
"Shaolin Soccer"
"Sword in the Moon"
"Shaolin vs. Evil Dead"
"Kung Fu Mahjong"
"Stairway to Heaven"
"Butterfly Sword"
"Dragon Inn"

Top Shaw Brothers DVDs
"Avenging Eagle"
"36th Chamber"
"Shaolin Temple"
"Five Shaolin Master"
"The Brave Archer (1, 2, 3, 4)"

Rather than wait for obsolescence, she started bringing in videos and DVDs, starting with kung fu films not carried by rental operations such as Blockbuster. Since then she's managed to create a niche for fans of Chinese and Asian cinema in her small, unassuming storefront at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza.

"These days, people find more enjoyment watching movies," Ng said. "At first I brought in kung fu movies that local people asked for most frequently. Then I started reading about films and studying international film festivals to see what was good."

Film aficionados can look forward to the latest dramas from China, Japan, Korea and Thailand. And if that's not enough, well, there's the old stuff, too.

Ng's been bringing in classic Shaw Brothers titles since 2002, when Celestial Pictures began releasing the films, dating to 1966, in VCD, DVD and VHS formats to feed a growing global demand for Chinese and Asian cinema. The plan was to release 760 Shaw Brothers titles, at a rate of 10 to 20 titles each month, through 2007. About five new titles arrive in Hawaii every two weeks.

"I always liked to watch movies, but now every night I have to watch," Ng said. "Otherwise, I can't tell people about them."

Her critiques and memory are valued by film buffs in search of particular old films or just a recommendation.

"She hasn't steered me wrong yet," said film fan Laura Chun. "She has a feel for what I like -- not only kung fu. I also like history, I like culture, I like art. Certain ones she'll recommend, and we give her our criticism so she can share with others.

"With a film like 'Kung Fu Mahjong,' she asked me if I play mah-jongg because you have to understand the game or you won't know what's going on. You can follow, but you won't get all the humor."

Retired Air Force instructor Mel Chang searched a long time for a film he remembered as "Hero from the East," starring Gordon Liu, only to learn through Ng that it had been re-released as "Ninja vs. Kung Fu," which more accurately reflected the plot. In the film a Japanese martial arts student is beaten by a kung fu master and complains to her teachers of judo, karate, aikido, sumo and ninja techniques, who challenge the "new" discipline.

Chang says he often walks out of the bookstore with $200 worth of videos in hand, and because he's retired, he'll sometimes settle back for an eight-hour movie marathon.

"I like foreign films because most are pretty spiritual. Life is a puzzle, and movies help us figure it out. In life, I believe you get better and better, and a lot of the old kung fu masters, they had these philosophies of life. If you always want to fight, if you're not humble, nobody's going to teach you. You always have to prove you're worthy."

Emily Ng offers customers help finding old favorites and advice about new films they might like to try.

Although the Shaw Brothers, Run Run and Run Me, produced comedies, historic dramas, operas and musicals, they are most frequently remembered and credited with boosting Hong Kong's kung fu movie industry.

Because they invested in Southeast Asia theaters, they also controlled what was shown, and profits were used to finance their output of more than 1,000 films over four decades.

In that time, they built a stable of superstars including Alexander Fu Sheng, Chen Kuan-Tai, Ti Lung, David Chiang and the Venom Boys Kuo Chue, Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng, Lo Mang, Sun Chien and Wei Pai. At the tail end came actors such as Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung.

Myrna Libed, 49, a state librarian, was 17 or 18 when she saw the films for the first time at Tojo, Hawaii and King theaters in the 1970s.

"I think they're still better than some of the ones they make today because before, they all had to know martial arts. Now they use stunt people and wires.

"I used to go to watch Alexander Fu Sheng and Ti Lung, and I still enjoy those films. It was always one guy against everybody else, and for many people I think it fulfilled an escapist fantasy, where you could be a kick-ass dude and survive. How often are you going to do that in real life?"

Real martial arts skill is also appreciated by Chun. One of the highlights of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," she said, was seeing a Shaw star, Chun Pei Pei, as the sorceress who plays Ziyi Zhang's character's mentor. "If you knew her work then and compared it to now, it's amazing. She's now a grandmother, and even though she's older and gained weight, she's still got it. She still has her moves."

Chun worked part time at Empress Theatre from 1973 until it closed in 1986. "That was when Betas and VHS came out, and there was lots of change in Hong Kong. Companies started reinvesting in TV and doing more video."

Ricky Valdez, 34, now a security guard for the University of Hawaii medical school, said he was 13 when he began watching kung fu films at Liberty Theatre, across the street from Empress. "I used to cut out of (Kawananakoa) school to see them."

He chose Liberty because films there tended to be dubbed into English. "At Harvest Theatre and some of the other theaters, it was mainly Chinese dubbed, so you had to read fast."

Luckily, technology now makes it possible to pause the films in his DVD player if he misses a word or two.

The VCD and DVD releases "bring back a lot of good memories that I kind of missed," he said. "As I see them today, they're not as graphic as films now."

Libed agreed, saying, "In those films, there was no blood. Violence was implied. Today it's just kill, kill, kill, but in the old films, any killing was done in terms of revenge, honor and justice. The plots were really simple -- good vs. evil -- but good always triumphed in the end.

"For me the stories were always about hope and gave a positive view of the world in that something good would happen if you remained true to the path," Libed said. "It's so different from today, where money triumphs over being good."

The films help fuel Valdez's interest in his culture -- he's of Chinese, Hawaiian and Filipino ancestry -- and martial arts. For seven years he's been practicing the art of fut gar, the Buddhist Fist, a simplified version of kung fu. "I've learned a lot of discipline, how to respect others. You know, it's a defense, not an offense."

He got a thrill when, as a former employee at Jackie's Kitchen, he had the opportunity to meet the "Young Master" himself. "He does so much good in the world through his work with charities. He's done so many interviews he doesn't even talk to the press, but he will if you want to talk about the charities."

Over time he's watching fewer Hollywood offerings. A major difference between Western and Asian cinema is in values. Many of today's Asian dramas still reflect the idea of obligation to community and family, while Western films are focused on individual pursuits and accomplishments.

"I get tired of watching things too Western," Valdez said. "I like watching Japanese, Korean, Filipino and Thai movies. I think it's good to watch something that's different because you learn so much more. It gives you a better understanding of people, like my grandparents, and why they hold their emotions in, whereas people my age, we let everything out."

Even so, the Shaw films are not for everyone. Nonfans will consider the films to be, like many 1970s TV shows, somewhat cheesy.

"The old types of films are like Old Hollywood, like 'Wizard of Oz.' They just don't make them like they used to," Chun said, while adding the beauty of the classics might be lost on a younger generation informed by stories told today with quick cuts and digital effects.

"I love 'Mary Poppins,' too, but kids today are exposed to so many visuals my nieces and nephews don't appreciate it. It's a different generation growing up with different ideals."


Dragon Gate Bookstore is at Chinatown Cultural Plaza, 100 N. Beretania St. Call 533-7147. Shaw Brothers VCDs sell for $13.95 each, or four for $45.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Just when you thought you knew what cool was.....

.....the University of Hawaii basketball team does the unexpected. Hooooo hooooo!!!! Now that is cool, cool, cool in our tropical islands!!!!

Posted at 3:13 p.m., Saturday, November 19, 2005

Rainbow Warriors upset No. 4 Michigan State in basketball

Advertiser Staff

Julian Sensley and Matt Lojeski each scored 20 points as the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team upset fourth-ranked Michigan State, 84-62, in the season opener for both teams today at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Rainbow Warriors led 39-32 at halftime. An 11-0 run in the second half gave UH a 67-50 lead with 6:59 remaining. UH took an 82-59 on a layup by Ahmet Gueye with 2:40 to go.

Hawai'i plays UNLV at Las Vegas on Tuesday. Michigan State begins play in the Maui Invitational on Monday against host Chaminade.

Last season, Michigan State reached the final four, losing in the semifinals. The Spartans had won 28 consecutive season openers before today.

Behind the Scenes.....The 70s Nightclub Reunion II

WELCOME TO THE PARTY: Designated "doorman" Irwin Santos, center, greeted Robin Kimura, left, and Ilikai Hotel exec Candy Au. Kimura's band, Greenwood, played next to last but turned out to be the most polished performers and the closest in sound to the local Top 40 bands of the era.

Concerts, football games, church services, tv shows. What do these all have in common you may ask. We often take so much for granted and think nothing of what it takes to put on a great concert or a great movie or even church service. Maybe just as important is the marketing/advertising that means a blockbuster hit or major flop. Behind any successful venture you can count on hours and hours of work that went on behind the scene. Just to give you a sample of what goes on I've pasted an email from Greenwood's bandleader Robin Kimura. Practically single handedly Robin promoted last year's event and is in the process of promoting the upcoming February 4, 2006 event. Great job Rob!!!! Your efforts are cool, real cool.

Hi Guys!

This was truly a busy week. As you know, we got our poster done and it was emailed to all the essential first round contacts immediately. Everyone that has seen the poster was very impressed and sounded genuinely excited about our event. In the coming weeks I will be having lunch meetings with John Berger, Frank B. Shaner and the Ilikai to review a game plan to help promote this event. So far, this is what it looks like.

John Berger is committed and driven to write an article about the event and as usual include us in his “On the Scene” section.

Tiny Tadani has left KUMU and is now with KHUI 99.5 FM (formerly the Breeze). He responded to my email and we spoke over the phone. We’re good to go for a morning segment on OC16 the week leading up to the event. We are not certain about another Tiny TV segment as of yet.

Frank B. Shaner is now at KUMU Lite Rock, in the slot vacated by Tiny. When I meet with Frank, we’re going to see if we can also leverage his participation as our emcee and go on his show during the final week leading up to the event.

Irwin Santos known as “Superman” in the web world has set up a section for his members to post new. I have added a link to the website so you can see our event poster under the “Announcement and Entertainment” sections. His email list is 200+ strong from what we understand. A free ticket and the designation as the official “doorman” for the event will hopefully add to additional plugs by Irwin.

Emails were sent out to Wayne Harada and June Yago (who was in charge of the TGIF section during our first event). I have yet to hear back from them, though it’s still early. Nevertheless, I will continue to pursue a response from them.

I will also try to connect with Ron Nagasawa who is the publisher of Mid-Week to see if a cover story or any kind of feature article is warranted by this event. I will keep you posted. This will take a little bit more effort and strategy to present.
I spoke to Denny Mendoza, Hemmingway Jasmine, Van de Guzman, Jason Nagashima and Edwin Ramones this week and they’re all so looking forward to this event. Aura will not have their horns so guys…we’re the only brass band for the evening (Phase VII will have two sax players).

That’s it for now. See you guys on Sunday! As always, I’m looking forward to getting together with all of you!



Friday, November 18, 2005

The 70s Nightclub Reunion II

Greenwood's bandleader got the poster for round two of the 70s Nightclub Reunion done and emailed it to us. Cool colors. Instead of last year's lavender/purplish color this year it's a baby blue. Or something like that. Here's the latest scoops I know.

Phase VII will be Van deGuzman and Jasmine Hemingway from the original band plus Gilbert Farias on bass, Mike deGuzman (Van's younger brother who now performs with the Society of Seven LV) on vocals and sax, Brad Choi (Greenwood's original drummer)on drums, and Owen Kajiwara (Greenwood's lead guitarist). Aaron Aranita may be a part of Phase VII for the evening.

Aura will be without original members Cliff (trumpet and lead vocals) and Mike Mendoza (trombone and lead vocals) due to schedule conflicts in their home base Las Vegas. So it looks like it'll be Aura without the horn section.

New Experience (aka the Krush) is now with a female vocalist, a new male vocalist and a new drummer (Alvin Paguio). I know Alvin from church and he is just an outstanding drummer.

Power Point has gotten the green light from Brian Aoyagi (original lead guitarist and lead vocalist). Brian's strong tenor voice was a very, very important part of Power Point in the group's heyday. Plus, Brian plays a cool, cool electric guitar. Brian is presently co-owner of Goodguys Music Store in Kapahulu.

Greenwood will resume practice this Sunday. There was talk that lead vocalist/percussionist Steven Lee would make the trek to Honolulu to join the band in Reunion Part II. Just received an email via our bandleader Robin that Steven will not be able to make it.

That's it for now but you know February 4, 2006 will be here in the blink of an eye. The 70s Nightclub Reunion II? Cool. It's going to be a blast to see old friends one more time. The 70s Nightclub Reunion III? Well.........

We all Need a Second Chance.....

Now this is one cool story. We all need a second or even a third chance. What a story.

Freshman receiver leaves troubles behind, thrives in Hawaii

AP Sports Writer

HONOLULU (AP) - Davone Bess is making the most of his second chance.

Hawaii's standout freshman, who served 15 months in a juvenile detention facility before joining the Warriors, has emerged as one of the top college receivers in the nation.

Bess is ranked third nationally in receptions per game (8.1) and sixth in receiving yards per game (104.8). He's the only freshman in the top 20 in either category.

"I came to Hawaii so determined. God gave me a second chance, man, so I'm going to take full advantage of it," he said. "I'm going to do what I need to do to get on the field and stay on the field."

He leads the Warriors in receptions (81), receiving yards (1,048) and touchdowns (12).

Pretty impressive, considering Bess hadn't played the receiver position since his junior year at Skyline High School in Oakland, Calif. He was a quarterback in his last season, but still received a scholarship from Oregon State to play receiver.

But about a month after graduation, Bess ran into trouble with the law after allowing friends to put stolen property in his car.

"I made the dumb decision to even let them put the stuff in my car. So I'm not going to sit here and blame everything on them," he said. "I take full responsibility."

The mistake cost him a scholarship at Oregon State and more than a year of his life. It also jeopardized his football future.

"It was really depressing. I just felt like my life was over," he said. "I prayed every night. It was hard to see my mom coming to visit me, crying."

After being released, Bess' high school coach contacted Keith Bhonapha, a Skyline alumnus and graduate assistant at Hawaii. Bess eventually visited Warriors coach June Jones, who has taken troubled athletes and made them thrive in his system.

St. Louis Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan both had criminal cases before coming to Hawaii.

"All those guys know what's at stake. If they fail, they're not going to be here and they have a lot on the line," Jones said. "When Davone came here on his visit, he was just a great kid. He has a real good spirit about him.

"My gut feeling is, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Bess said Hawaii was exactly what he needed to turn around his life.

"It's just real different from back home. I don't have to worry about being at the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "Back home, there's a lot of things to get into. You can walk right into trouble and not even know it.

"Out here, it's more relaxed and there's real good people out here."

Jones put lofty expectations on Bess, months before the freshman with dreadlocks even caught his first pass, saying Bess might be the best receiver he's ever had.

The former NFL coach has also worked with players such as Andre Rison, Drew Hill, Ashley Lelie and Chad Owens.

Bess said the comments gave him extra incentive to succeed.

"I wouldn't say it put pressure on me," he said. "If anything, it motivated me and made me want to live up to what he saw in me. He advertised me to the public and I just didn't want to make me or him look like a fool, so I tried to work hard."

Although it's early in his career, the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Bess could easily break Hawaii's career marks in catches and receiving yards by the time he's done here.

Bess has already surpassed the 100-yard mark in seven of 10 games, including his last five. He recorded a career-high 171 receiving yards at Nevada earlier this month.

"He's been given God-gifted ability that not every kid gets," Brennan said. "He's a kid that played football his whole life and just grew up with a ton of passion."

Brennan, convicted of trespassing and cut from Colorado after a woman accused of him of drunkenly barging into her dorm room and abusing her, said he understands Bess' desire to make the most of his new opportunity.

"There's a level of humility, having to sit there in those courtrooms with our moms next to us, in chains," he said. "We can relate real well because me and him both went through a tragic situation that really turned our lives around."

While Bess has aspirations of playing the NFL, his first goal is to graduate. He is the first in his family to attend college and the first on his father's side to even finish high school.

"I want to make my mom proud and get that degree," he said. "I do have a dream to play in the NFL one day and hopefully that will work out, but I want to get that paper first."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Very Cool Story.......

Perhaps one of the hardest things to do in life is to stay focused, focused on what are life's real priorities. Check this story out, real cool story about Ashley Watanabe, University of Hawaii Wahine Volleyball player, that put's many, including myself to shame. You go girl!!!!! Hoooo hoooo!!!!! Very, very cool!!!! Hey and about that group Ashley's dad played in, "The Laughing Kahunas", now that's a name I can remember. They were cool in their day!!!!!

Posted on: Thursday, November 17, 2005

Faith has paid off for Watanabe

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer


Height: 5-6

Position: libero

High school: 'Aiea

GRADUATION: December 2005, business management

NOTABLE: Averaging 4.22 digs per game, which ties the school record she set last year and third in the WAC ... needs 71 digs to tie school dig record (437) ... second on team in aces (19)


Had a career-high 31 digs and three aces against Loyola Marymount ... As a junior, her first year as starting libero, earned second-team all-WAC honors ... set school record with average of 4.22 digs per game ... finished seven digs short of single-season school record (437) when she broke her hand before NCAA Tournament ... collected 42 digs and 7 aces — 5 in the final against Nevada — to earn all-WAC Tournament honors ... redshirted in 2001 and played in 81 games her first two seasons (2002 and 2003)


Helped 'Aiea to OIA West titles in 1997 and 2000. Earned honorable mention all-state honors as a senior ... member of 2001 state high school championship basketball team.


"(Coach Dave) Shoji definitely started getting harder on me. When he started really getting on my case about every little thing I knew my role had picked up and more was expected of me from others other than me."

Ashley Watanabe will be the first to tell you she cannot count all her blessings, but she was hardly blessed with an abundance of volleyball gifts.

When she talks about how, if she can succeed on the highest collegiate level, anyone coming out of a Hawai'i high school can, people should listen.

Watanabe is 5 feet 6 in a volleyball world looking for 6 feet 5. She is quick but hardly warp-speed, has become strong but remains small, is confident but far from arrogant.

In short — which might be the most accurate way to describe UH's senior libero — Watanabe has willed her way to making an impact on her ninth-ranked team.

"I think it's just being driven and allowing yourself to change," Watanabe says. "Give yourself a chance. I was not a natural athlete.

"I was sitting out a lot even during practice and shagging balls and doing whatever I possibly could. Getting to touch a ball was an awesome feeling that rarely occurred. You have to humble yourself before you get in the program."

As Watanabe, Victoria Prince and Susie Boogaard gear up for their final home matches, tonight and tomorrow against New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech, respectively, the last few years are suddenly a blur.

Watanabe's life has been in perpetual fast-forward since she decided to pass on the Division II schools where she could have played immediately coming out of 'Aiea High School in 2001.

She stayed home because she couldn't find a church "connection" with the smaller Mainland colleges that left her as fulfilled as Grace Bible, where her family worships.

She found the "whole Rainbow Wahine volleyball thing admirable," but the only person who knew for sure she could play for Hawai'i was her grandfather. He promised he would watch her from the seats at Stan Sheriff Center, but succumbed to cancer before she got to college. He watches from far, far above now.

That left Watanabe and all the others who encouraged her to pursue sports in college, but tried to be realistic about her chances of playing at UH. 'Aiea counselor Rodney Cavaco was prominent, ultimately talking UH coach Dave Shoji into giving her a shot.

"I didn't even know she could play until her senior year in high school," says Ashley's father, Eric. "I was totally shocked she was going to UH. It was a Division I, ranked school and she was from 'Aiea High School. I didn't think she had a prayer in the world. But I never discouraged her."

Fran Villarmia-Kahawai came out of 'Aiea to play basketball for UH, thanks to Cavaco, then coached Watanabe in that sport at their alma mater. She is also somewhat shocked at Watanabe's success in Manoa, but does recall a trail of persistent clues.

"Ashley is not the most talented, but if you tell her to do something, she'll do it and do it and do it and do it until she gets it right," Villarmia says. "She works hard at what you tell her, never gives you any attitude. She had the mindset that she wanted to be good."

Even Watanabe had her doubts. She still comes home from practice in tears some days and says, "It's not all glitz and glamour, you've got to be real." Eric believes his daughter's faith has "pulled her through."

Shoji never promised her a position. He only gave her a scholarship last year, after Melissa Villaroman graduated to the national program. Watanabe overwhelmed all other libero applicants with ballhandling and jump-float serving skills only a player who has taken numerous repetitions can perform.

She had been so dogged for so long, had passed balls through so many water breaks and worked out so much harder than he had asked, Shoji could no longer ignore her. When she broke her hand in a fluke accident going into last year's NCAA Tournament, he found out the hard way how critical Watanabe had become to his team, on and off the court.

"What I didn't see before she got here was the inside part of her," Shoji says. "How tough she is and how hard she is willing to work and how much time she is willing to spend not knowing if there is ever going to be a reward.

"After three years you'd think you'd be on the court and contributing, but she wasn't, and she never complained. She was just happy to be out there taking reps."


Shoji thinks his little libero "took on a new love" for the game once she got to Manoa, but Watanabe makes it sound as if that devotion is part of every aspect of her life.

She tries to live it according to a list she made with her dad that begins with God and family. She has the foundation to stick with it and realized at an early age how critical it was to find a balance because "I know how time goes."

Watanabe wakes, works, plays, studies, sings and speaks the praises of faith and family daily. Her family is pervasive. They pray together, work together at Watanabe Realty and perform at parties together as the band NYK, which stands for Not Yet Known before the gig and Now You Know after.

Ashley Watanabe, center with Rainbow Wahine coach Dave Shoji, plays in a band with, from left, dad Eric, mom Janice, brother Taylor and sister Dawn.

Eric used to perform in Waikiki with the Laughing Kahunas and sang to his children "before they were born." His dream of a family band started then because "I believe in the unity of family. I did not want myself to say later, 'I wish I'd spent more time with the kids.' If you talk to them now, they'll probably say I wish he'd leave me alone more."

He started Ashley's sister on piano at age 6, "forced" Ashley to learn bass guitar at 10 and bought a drum set for her brother at the same age. He wanted a horn section so all the kids later learned another instrument. They also sing, but none as much as Eric, whose children will tell you is "in his element" onstage.

"When we first played together it was really clunky," Eric says. "They were real little and playing the song 'It's Too Late to Turn Back Now.' It was only two chords. After that I got us professional help."

They still play at parties and luau, but scheduling is tough this time of year. Ashley is stretched to the limit as she prepares for volleyball playoffs and graduation in the next month, along with working twice a week to help pay her tuition.


Real estate is now truly in her blood. A few years ago, the Watanabe children talked their parents out of selling Watanabe Realty and plan to take the business over. Ashley eagerly anticipates the opportunities for "creativity and innovation."

"They have an aptitude, especially Ashley," Eric says. "She can talk to people, she's not afraid. If you can stand in front of all those people at Stan Sheriff Center, you can talk to one person."

Ashley can talk to anyone. It is another "gift" Shoji couldn't see early on. Of the seniors, she is most comfortable taking a leadership position. Watanabe is the "mom-figure" who encourages everyone to attend chapel, inspires walk-ons trying to walk in her tiny but extremely motivated footsteps and provides relentless enthusiasm from one end of the bench to the other.

That athletic gift comes naturally, but still takes work. On her locker, Watanabe has taped a newspaper article from September where former UH All-American and Olympian Heather Bown is critical of the team's leadership and attitude.

"It struck a nerve in me thinking I really need to pick up my role, especially as a leader," Watanabe says. "I'm not an underclassman anymore, not following anybody anymore. It was really hard to get used to. In my last year, I finally realized that I do play a part on the team where I can influence other people. I never thought I could."

Those who watch the Rainbow Wahine now sense her influence immediately. Watanabe knew her place from the start and made it work.

"I had a blast from the beginning," she says. "That's why I always feel God graced me with so many things. I never questioned why can't I jump in there, why can't I perform, never questioned who was before me. I knew my place."

It was here, at home.

Reach Ann Miller at

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Julian Sensley....It makes sense....Cool Man!!!!


Hawaii is not known to produce great NCAA Division I college basketball players. In recent years names like Bobby Nash, Derek Lowe and Alika Smith come to mind, but, it's a rarity. Ikaika Alama-Francis is also a name we know of but he's making a name on the field turf at Aloha Stadium playing that sport with the ball that don't bounce right. There is one player though out of all the basketball players to come out of our cool, tropical islands that stands head over all, Julian Sensley. A phenom growing up in our tropical islands, a grown man among boys, Julian is perhaps the greatest college basketball player ever to come out of Hawaii. Although not born here, he came to the islands at a very young age and grew and grew into what he is today. Counted to be the leader and the go to guy this year on the Hawaii basketball team, this is Julian's final year with our only division one college program and it will be his statement and legacy that he leaves behind him. And what really makes this dude real cool??? The man is God blessed with talent yet humble and soft spoken. Cool, real cool!!!!!

Vol. 10, Issue 320 - Wednesday, November 16, 2005



The clock is ticking on Julian Sensley's chance at playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Will Sensley's final shot hit the mark?
The clock is ticking on the small forward's chance at playing in the NCAA Tournament
This is the third in a five-part series looking at some of the questions facing the UH basketball team as it heads toward Saturday's season opener against nationally ranked Michigan State.

By Jason Kaneshiro
JULIAN SENSLEY can sense the clock ticking down.

It wasn't that long ago that Sensley arrived on the University of Hawaii campus with a promising career as one of the basketball program's most celebrated recruits.

Suddenly, he's staring down his senior season as a Rainbow Warrior and a last shot at reaching his goals as a college athlete.

"Since I've been here I've been to one postseason, and that was the NIT," Sensley said. "But a dream of mine has always been to play in the NCAA Tournament. I know that's everybody's dream out here.

"There's personal goals that I want to attend to at the end of the season. But one step at a time, because my main goal is to win the WAC and get to the NCAA."

UH missed out on the postseason for the first time in four years last year, and Sensley's leadership and production figure to be pivotal to the Rainbows' hopes of contending in the Western Athletic Conference.

Sensley has traveled a long and sometimes bumpy road since his days as a prep standout at Kalaheo and has settled in as a fixture at small forward for the Rainbows over the last two seasons. His final year begins Saturday with a matchup against No. 4 Michigan State.

"This is probably one of the better decisions I've made in my life," Sensley said of joining the UH program in 2003. "Since high school this is something for me that's huge, this last year and playing against people like Michigan State. From when I was in high school, this is something I've looked forward to, being able to play against big names.

"I've kind of gone through an emotional roller coaster, trying to find out who I am, not just as a person but as a basketball player. I have to try to focus on scoring and rebounding more this year."

Coaches around the WAC are also looking for a big senior season from Sensley, voting him to the preseason All-WAC first team, and his teammates elected him a co-captain along with guard Deonte Tatum.

Sensley's been steady over the last two seasons, averaging 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds for the 'Bows while often providing spectacular moments.

But with time running down on his college career, he's looking to boost those numbers in hopes of helping UH contend in the WAC and catch the eye of professional scouts. Sensley said he'd like to see his averages jump to 16-18 points and about eight or nine rebounds per game this season.

"He knows and everyone has said they're just waiting for Julian to turn it up," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "Well, it seems like he's switched that button on because he's playing hard in practice and in the scrimmages.

"He's shooting the ball really well. He cannot lose his intensity, he's got to board and he's got to play defense, and if he does that then we can jump on his back and ride."

Although Sensley wants to increase his production and his presence demands the attention of opposing defenses, he thinks the Rainbows' balance could be their strength this season.

"We have so many weapons on this team it'll be hard for opponents to focus on one guy, because everybody can do so much," Sensley said. "I might be the high-point guy one night, another night it might be (Matt) Lojeski, another night it could be Deonte."

Sensley has rarely left the floor during his UH career, but the Rainbows' depth at small forward could give him a chance to stay fresh through the season. Lojeski spent much of the preseason at small forward before learning the shooting guard spot. Nash can also play either forward or guard.

"To be honest, every player wants to play the whole game," said Sensley, who will also slide to power forward at times. "If I had it my way, I'd play the whole game, so you have to be real with yourself and sometimes you need a breather."

Julian Sensley 6-9 235 Sr. Has 12 career double-doubles
Matt Lojeski 6-6 185 Jr. Also plays shooting guard

Bobby Nash 6-6 185 Jr. Has split time at 2 and 3 spots

Key stat: Sensley has started 59 of 62 games at UH and averages more than 35 minutes per game.

© Honolulu Star-Bulletin --

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hot Taro Pies......Cool!!!!

For some reason I could never get used to the taste of poi which is taro pounded to a sticky paste. Taro prepared in different ways though I like. You know that Chinese dim sum, the taro stuff deep fried on the outside and taro cooked together with that all time favorite Chinese dish kao yuk. Good stuff!!! If taro cooked like that tastes good, why oh why do I still not like poi? Anyway, the new craze in town looks like those hot taro pies found at McDonald's. Here's what Honolulu Star Bulletin writer has to say about this new craze. Cool!!!!!

Nadine sez...

One of Hawaii's favorite desserts has found its way back to McDonald's by popular demand.

The taro pie, like McDonald's apple pie, comes in the familiar crisp rectangular bar with a sweet -- but not overly sweet -- chunky purple filling that really hits the spot when you're in need of dessert.

The pies were first introduced in international markets, debuted in Maui last year and went statewide in May, selling out quickly.

Unfortunately, the pies remain a promotional item available only for a limited time, so you'd best be headin' out the door to get 'em while they're hot.

» Where: McDonald's of Hawaii
» Price: 99 cents

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Great Review of Aaron Aranita's....

most recent CD...

Don’t Stop the Feeling by Aaron Aranita – reviewed by Chris Mann

I have been privileged to review two CD’s by Hawaiian multi-instrumentalist Aaron Aranita on this site. This latest release contains tracks from the “Eastbound” CD, together with sessions recorded in 1989 and 2004/5, and is a musical resumé for this talented guy.

The pretty latin dancer Jazzamba is a fresh opener featuring some lovely clarinet work. In some parts the timing is not rock-solid but that just seems to reinforce the “live” feel which adds to its charm. I feel like I’m hearing two trumpets here – and they’re both fantastic. A flute plays and I’m captured. Dance, dance, dance! Kekaha is a funky instrumental which again has a nice, loose “live” feel. I especially like Anthony King’s drumming on here and also Bill Valaire’s jazz-rock guitar solo which in a way shouldn’t work but which fits perfectly.

The same very natural feel is there on You are a Dream. This beautiful ballad is from one of the later sessions and the dreamy sax is augmented by superb piano and very well chosen string samples. I found the drum sound on Never Say Never and the multi-tracked sax a little tiring. Yes, the carnival atmosphere is captured but there is so much going on I find it hard to get involved.

Aranita brings the clarinet, sax and flute alternately to the fore on the lilting and lovely Where the Wind Blows. This has a romantic and old-fashioned feeling and I can imagine this on a movie soundtrack (oh, here he goes again about movies…). I’m not convinced that the sound balance is completely right here - maybe if the percussion were lower in the mix and the rhythm guitar more forward the whole thing would hang together just a little better. The sax on Deception sounds a little too live if that’s possible. It’s not an easy sound to get to grips with, but the vibraphone sound is great. Once we get to the Caldera-style jazz-rock breakdown I’m hooked! It’s an intense song.

For my comments on the funky Is it You, see my review of “Eastbound”. Listening again, the bright synths and drum programming could only have come from the 1980’s. The song avoids sounding harsh though and I love the chord progressions. Ulterior Motives is a very energetic jazz-rock workout from 1989 and I could draw parallels with Caldera and other very technical bands such as Casiopea and Mezzoforte. Sax and piano are blazing on this crisp, busy instrumental. Victor Gonzalez on bass and Anthony King on drums forge a rhythm section that leaves you breathless!

For my comments on the songs Far Eastern Standard Time, Sugartown and Eastbound, please refer to my “Eastbound” review.

I love the bluesy and atmospheric Ellingtonian. It’s a very melodic tune featuring just alto sax, piano and bass, and the tempo is very slow. The acoustic is huge – this really is a beautiful recording. This is one of the newer tracks, recorded during 2004/5, and it is a great example of Aranita’s development as a composer, artist and producer. Party for Alto is an offbeat, funky latin tune which takes a couple of spins to get comfortable with. Despite the busy rhythm, that clean-as-a-whistle sax is the star. This will make you long for summer…

To close this varied set, the bright and upbeat Don’t Stop the Feeling is a nice choice. I wish a real guitar had been used in the intro but once the song gets rolling, the solid bass and a very snappy snare drum keep things moving while sax and keys swap solos. The horn works better than the keys for me – I’ve realised that I’ve become a fan of Mr Aranita’s superb, clean tone.

As a chronicle, a “where am I up to now?”, this set is very successful. It’s interesting in that it shows how the contemporary jazz idiom has changed in just less than 20 years but, more importantly, it shows how this multi-talented Hawaiian jazzman has progressed in every area.

Once again, I find myself apologising publicly to Aaron for the time I have taken to write this review. I’ve read that more new music is on its way and I’ll be very excited to hear it.

Sugartown Records – SR2002 Producer – Aaron Aranita, Executive Producer – Michael Chock

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Grammy Awards....Now this is real Cool!!!!

The Grammy Awards, presented annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), are considered the most coveted of the many contemporary music awards. Despite the honor the awards carry and the ratings success of the televised awards show, many industry insiders consider the Grammys to be merely a reflection of mainstream commercial success.

Wow!!! Reading the above words gives me "chicken skin". For every musician and every recording artist the Grammy Award means a lot. Well, we did it!!! Aaron Aranita and I made it to the first step of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Entry List for the 48th annual Grammy Awards for recordings released during the Eligibility Year October 1, 2004 through September 30, 2005. It is just so cool to see your name next to the likes of "Backstreet Boys", "Gregg Adams", "Michael Brecker", "Harry Connick, Jr.", "Tony Bennetts", "Bon Jovi", "Eric Clapton" and "Mariah Carey" to name a few.

Aaron Aranita's CD "Don't Stop the Feeling" was nominated for "Best Contemporary Jazz Album" and "Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group". Nominated for "Best Jazz Instrumental Solo" from Aaron's CD was the song "You Are A Dream". The song "Never Say Never" was nominated for "Best Instrumental Composition" and "You Are A Dream" was nominated for "Best Instrumental Arrangement".

My CD "Revelations" was nominated for "Album of the Year", "Best New Artist" and "Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album". "Amazing Grace" from the CD was nominated for "Best Gospel Performance". "Where Were You?" was nominated for "Best Gospel Song" and the song "You are the Light" was nominated for "Best Instrumental Arrangement with Vocalist".

Now this is real cool!!!!!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Now this is one cool family....

One of the coolest things in our beautiful island paradise is our collegiate football program. The University of Hawaii Warriors. Many years back I made a decision to start doing things I had a passion for. One of those things was to become more than a Monday morning quarterback. In that year I spent hours of time at the football field in beautiful Manoa watching June Jones and his warriors at practice. It was a time when I began spending much time on the internet on the message board of the Rainbow Sports Network. Using names such as BG (Bleed Green), Pupule Paul, Original Prophet, Warrior fanatics had a chance to discuss our passion......Warrior football. In the process we got to meet players and their families. One of those players and families we met was the Rolovich family (aka the Rolos). It's funny how the football bounces. They say in football the bounce is different because of the shape of the ball, you know, the ball ain't round, has two funny points, so when you try to bounce it you just never know how the ball is gonna bounce back up to you. Long story short, the most recent development in the Rolo family is that young Jack will be transferring to a division 1AA school. Someone on the Rainbow Sports Network message board wrote a best wishes letter to mama Rolo, and true to form, with graciousness and kindness that she always displayed, she wrote back. Cool family, one of the nicest I have had the pleasure to ever meet. From the moment we met in person at the tailgate the RSN ohana put together at Richardson Field, this family was and is first class all the way. Cool, cool, cool. Here's Lori Rolovich's note to the RSN ohana. I will always have a spot in my heart for the Rolo clan. Aloha & God bless this class act family.

**WARNING, WARNING** This one's long...
Hey Sportsbow, thanks for your good wishes. It is with such mixed emotions I feel as I write this. Sadness and disappointment, of course, that Jack didn't get to play for the UH Warriors. But also with a real sense of pride that he is being true to himself and to the game that he loves. After a few bumps and bruises for Nick once he came to UH, the people of Hawaii embraced and welcomed him. We were so hopeful that Nick had paved a golden road for Jack to have another positive impact for the fans as well.
Ah, the good old days of the Ohana...sending SPAM over to Paul Honda to share at the practices! Sharing story with so many wonderful people...Randy, Mike C, Cory, Karl, Hawaii Kai, lots and lots more. Remember my first meeting with Rebow and Coconut Girl in Fresno (Scotty Dog and Dori~the bloodbath in the stands with my family and the Fresno wackos~THEY got kicked out, not us!!! ) and now they are married with two precious daughters. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Murph and his wife Marion, and my buddies Ray & Adrienne Sweeney~opened their hearts and their homes to us (and their bar!). Bianca and Lori (Panda Travel) I think the WORLD of you both. So many Mahalos.

Nick flashing his "4-1-5" on the TV for us was great! And the OOPS slip "F#$% Fresno"~classic!
That 2001 BYU GAME~~~only word is AMAZING! Thank God we were there to share that with you guys! That's probably the happiest I've ever seen Nick!!! His smile from ear to ear~that was for all of YOU!

Didn't get a chance to get to know any of the positions coaches except Coach Morrison, but I can say without a doubt that he is an incredibly kind, honest and stand up human being, besides being a great coach. THe QB's and UH are lucky to have him, and Nick and Jack were lucky to have him in their lives as well.

Agreements and disagreements are all part of this board. If I offended anyone, it was never meant that way. Sometimes I did and do know some things that others might not know (do have SOME connections! ). But no sour grapes here; I'm just an old mother lion protecting her young, a practice gone on since the beginning of time.

I wish the Warriors and their fans all the very best in the future. There's a special place in my heart for you all (OK, I'm a wimp!) They say change is good, or else you stop growing, so onward and forward we go. I'll be sure to check in from time to time and keep you posted about my Jack. My kids love Hawaii (yes, there is a BEAUTIFUL wahine Rolovich in between those 2 QB's) so don't worry, you haven't seen the last of us! (Scotty, call if you need any backups!)

Lastly and sadly, I wish I could have shared Jack more with all of you, but, lucky for me, I get to have him forever. Sweet deal.

Here goes from the Irish girl...

"Mahalo nui loa no na mana'o".

Lori Rolo

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Immortal Yi Soon Shin

Wow!!! Guess it's so funny that every Thursday for the past of what seems forever I would be running off from worship practice to make it home by 9:25 pm. Well, yesterday was the last Thursday, for now at least, that I have to do this. You may ask, "What could this crazy old Chinese man be talking about?". It's called, "Hooked on historical Korean saga", a disease that I know has tons of people in Hawaii or maybe even the world infected.

Well as I was saying, last night was the final episode of "The Immortal Yi Soon Shin" and man, just like every week in the entire series it was just awesome!!! Cool, cool, cool!!!! Why you say? Let me count the reasons here. 1. The costumes 2. The authenticity 3. The camera work 4. The underlying story......I think I could go on and on. You catch the jist, but for me the thing that stuck in my craw was the integrity of the main character, the admiral himself. Ever have one of those discouraging days? You know, cut off on the freeway, people cutting in front of you and not even giving a thanks sign, people stepping all over you like a rug. I don't know about you but that's happened to me many times. Think you had a bad day? When I watched the "Passion" and something like "The Immortal Yi Soon Shin" it really puts things in perspective. Sometimes it all boils down to not who is right but what is right. In this historical series Admiral Yi Soon Shin does what is right even when faced with grave circumstances. A man of integrity, honor and national pride. Watching every week was just an inspiration to keep going and not give up hope and to try to do what is right no matter what the consequence.

You say, "Hey, don't get carried away here old Chinese man, noone's that goody two shoe". So I looked it up and began reading some actual accounts of the man and the accounts were close to what the Korean producers showed us. Cool I say.

I give this series two thumbs up and the cool award for what is cool. I'm gonna try to get the DVD of this series for sure. And the other additional benefits of watching this weekly series? Man can I read english sub-titles fast now!!! This Korean series was cool, real, real cool!!!! Let's hope they don't come out with another lulu of a series, it's just too addicting!!!

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