Getting way, way out on Mauna Kea


POSTED: Sunday, April 12, 2009

Last I was in Hilo, I was behind the scenes at the new 'Imiloa planetarium, when I met by chance Jean-Charles Cuillandre, an astronomer at the Canada-France-Hawaii Observatory.

Cuillandre helped build a 340-megapixel camera, allowing the observatory to capture some way-out images — way, way out, like galaxy clusters 500 million light-years away.

That wasn't enough cameras for the Frenchman. In his spare time he took time-lapse photos of the observatories and landscape of Mauna Kea. Often he would spend eight hours taking photos — to get only 15 seconds of digital video.

But what video. He showed me some on 'Imiloa's 52-foot perforated aluminum dome, combining pictures of the mountain with images from deep space. “;I decided,”; he said, “;no dull sequences, it should be enjoyable to watch.”;

Cuillandre's time-lapse images move. Clouds boil, stars arc through the sky. The observatories open, close and spin like so many R2D2s, blinking and shooting off lasers. All set to music from video game “;Halo.”; When Microsoft, which owns the award-winning game soundtrack, saw Cuillandre's spectacular footage, they said, sure, go ahead, use it.

After seven years of labor, Jean-Charles has released his video on a high-definition DVD, a 43-minute film called “;Hawaiian Starlight.”; It's enough to take your breath away.

“;We did this because we love it,”; says the astronomer, who gave a free copy to every Big Island school. You can buy one for $15, free shipping, proceeds to the Canada-France-Hawaii education fund. See a trailer at http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/dvd.



What happens when Hawaii's hottest young novelist, the chronicler of prison inmates and ice addicts, gets married, has a child and moves to the suburbs?

The answer is “;Mililani Mauka,”; just released last week, by Chris McKinney, two of whose previous novels, “;Tattoo”; and “;Queen of Tears,”; were picked up and reprinted by New York's Soho Press.

I was reading an advance copy in a hotel lobby when a gentleman walked up to me and said, “;Hey, I live in Mililani Mauka. What's that book about?”;

Adultery, suicide, homelessness, “;American Idol”; contestants, malevolent menehunes, bulldozers blasting through Wal-Mart — all the usual suburban stuff.



You really haven't lived until you've heard a medley of James Bond themes played, in counterpoint, by an Austrian saxophone quartet wearing lederhosen — in Chinatown.

Through the mysterious agency of somebody knowing somebody, the Austrian group Saxorosso, vacationing in Hawaii for eight days, was playing at Brasserie Du Vin, ripping through Austrian tunes like the “;Radetzky March”; and American swing tunes like “;Lullaby of Birdland.”;

Owner Dave Stewart was dancing around the bar. “;I never dance, gave it up five years ago,”; he said. “;But sometimes it just sneaks up on me.”;

On the spot, Stewart booked Saxorosso again for this Tuesday, their last night before returning to Austria.



An unusual week in that singer Raiatea Helm was in town, back from San Francisco after a long swing through Japan. Before taking off Tuesday for New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and then back to Tokyo.

If you want to see her actually perform in Honolulu, try remembering her birthday. Her next Honolulu date is “;Rai Live at 25,”; on her 25th birthday, Aug. 8, Hawaii Theatre.



On May 5 the A&E network brings its second most popular show, “;Intervention,”; to the place where, according to their calculations, the “;ice”; problem is the third worst in the country: here.

It's a town meeting format with KGMB's Keahi Tucker as moderator, popular “;Intervention”; specialist Jeff VanVonderen, and, of course, A&E's top reality stars, Dog and Beth Chapman.

It takes place at Word of Life Church, with room for 1,600, which means after the invitations go out next week, there will still be room for members of the public, should you be so inclined.



“;I'm getting married,”; said Visionary Radio GM John Aeto. I thought you already were, I said, to stylist Charmaine Miranda.

“;No, no,”; said Aeto. “;We got engaged four years ago, but we've been really busy.”; Aeto being given to large gestures, the two got engaged at a San Francisco Giants game, and are planning a June blowout wedding. “;We may be crazy, but in times like these, people need a good party,”; said the groom-to-be.



“;If you want us to sign your copy, you have to sign ours,”; said Janice Crowl, who'd flown in from Hilo to promote her new children's book, “;Pulelehua and Mamaki.”; She and illustrator Harinani Orme would happily sign any books anyone bought, Orme drawing a color picture on every flyleaf, but they insisted that buyers also sign their own copies of the book.

“;I had a dream that every page of my copy would be filled with signatures,”; said Orme. It was already starting to fill up.



Thanks for reading. This is my last column for the Star-Bulletin.

It's been a privilege not only to have readers, but to meet all the people who I've written about over the last four years. There were so many, a sprinkling of celebrities, but mainly just people worth knowing, who'd done remarkable things, had bits of hard-earned wisdom or were just plain hilarious.

If I walked up to you with my pen and little black Moleskine and you talked to me, thanks. If you took my frantic call on deadline, thanks double.

It's been a pleasure getting to know all of you. I'll miss you.

If anyone's looking for me, I'm still at my day job. The rest of the staff and I will be posting interesting stuff as usual on HawaiiMagazine.com. A hui hou.


John Heckathorn is editor of Hawaii Magazine and director of integratedmedia for the aio Group.