What the Heck?
PHOTO BY JOHN HECKATHORN
The unpacking crew at the Bishop Museum rolls a robotic whale head through the back door of Castle Building.
Whales on wheels ease into museum
The whales arrive by truck. Unbolted from inside their containers, they're lifted by two forklifts, and lowered gently to the ground. A crew of five has to push, jostle and roll them through double doors into Bishop Museum's Castle Building.
The whales are thick foam and elastomer coating over aluminum and steel robotic skeletons. They have on-board computers, sound systems, and shiny inputs for compressed air and electricity. They come with their own whale wrangler, Mike Short, from the Texas manufacturer WonderWorks.
A robotic humpback whale weighs a ton, literally. "Get the J-Bar," yells one of the crew. "Lift up, so we can swing it round." The humpback does not roll well. In fact, it rips several squares out of the gray carpet on its way to the center of the exhibit space. "When I get that whale home, it's gonna get some better wheels," says Short.
Finally, the humpback is in position -- maybe. Will the 6-foot-long fins, detached for shipment, have enough clearance space? "Let's not be moving this thing all around the gallery," says one of the crew.
The next exhibit, a cutaway, life-size model of a whale head, proves too tall to make it through an archway. The crew pauses to think. I wander out to find Bishop Museum's education department up on ladders painting life-size whale flukes on the wall.
I survey the floor plan. In addition to the robotic whales, there will be real whale exhibits -- bones, baleen, a preserved humpback brain and -- hey, what's this? Is this for real? I ask the museum's communications director, Charlie Aldinger.
"Oh, yes, we have a whale penis in our collection. It's quite large," she says, barely suppressing a guffaw. "We're putting it on display."
We can already hear the questions: "Mom, Dad, what's this?"
The exhibit's titled "Whales: Wonders of the Ocean." At the museum until Sept. 21.
From Honor to Honor
On Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Pat Saiki collects a lifetime achievement award from the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.
Then she jets back in time to be honored at the UH Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni dinner Thursday.
In Washington, she shares the honors with Sen. Dan Akaka. The Hawaii event, however, honors all 200 winners of the distinguished alumni award over the years -- presumably not with individual speeches. It's a grand gala to celebrate UH's 100th anniversary; tickets still available, 956-4563.
Saiki, who turns 78 this month, takes all these honors with a grain of humor. "I'm surprised people's reaction isn't: 'Pat Saiki? Who's he?'" she says.
For the record, Saiki was a trailblazer in women's politics, spearheading much of the state's equal-rights legislation. In 1986, she went to Congress, beating the pants off a young Mufi Hannemann.
"When I talk to girls these days, they can't believe how far we've come," she says. "We've got a woman governor now and a woman running for president. It didn't used to be that a woman in Hawaii could get a mortgage or even her own credit card."
Scooter Sings the Blues
The lavender room at Krazy Karaoke on Young Street holds 35 people. So many people showed up for the Scooter Ishikawa Karaoke Smackdown, the party had to move to a larger room next door.
There were anchors and reporters from three out of the four TV stations. "The KGMB people are all at Dancing with Celebrities," said Cathy Mahi-Foy, who slipped in late, having waltzed at the fundraiser for Hawaii Ballroom Dancing herself.
In addition, there was the governor's press secretary, the former head of the state Department of Transportation, plus print reporters from all pubs -- heavy on the Advertiser, where Scott Ishikawa worked before doing a five-year stint as spokesperson for the Department of Transportation.
All party long, people kept plopping a construction hard hat on Ishikawa's head. You've no doubt seen him, standing in front of an airport or highway overpass, talking about, as he puts it ruefully, "some disaster or another."
That's the serious Scott Ishikawa, who was passing out his new business cards as vice president of Bright Light Marketing. The less-serious Ishikawa loves to sing, and so it was beer, sushi and singing for hours to celebrate his transition.
Mahi-Foy, who sang on Broadway, and KITV's Keoki Kerr, who sings with the opera chorus, stood up and sang a duet from "Phantom of the Opera," pretty much shutting down the competition.
But the highlight of the evening may have been Ishikawa and KITV's Ben Gutierrez singing that quintessential karaoke number, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling."
"Listen to that, on key and in harmony," Kerr said. "That song's usually sung by drunks who couldn't stay on key even if they were sober."
Buy Me a Drink
During a misspent youth, I perused lots of academic books, but none as readable as the latest from Derek Bickerton, Waialua resident and retired UH prof.
It's called "Bastard Tongues," and get your mind out of the gutter. It's about languages like Hawaii's Pidgin, that grow up on plantations or among slave colonies, where there's no common tongue. "These are the languages everyone looks down, like bastards," says Bickerton.
The book's an intellectual journey, but it's also a physical one, as Bickerton travels to all the "flea pits of the world," as he puts it, dropping by the rough local bars with a tape recorder.
"Talking to drunks is the best way to learn a language," he insists. "Before they start slurring, drunks talk slowly and enunciate clearly. Plus, they're so glad to have an audience, they'll repeat themselves over and over, as long as you buy them a drink once in a while."