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is one journalist's opinion of the daily struggle to shine a light in dark corners, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, plus any other cliche that crosses my keyboard.
Archive of the fourth quarter of 2004: | Burl Burlingame

| That's debatable

I admit it. After getting all wound up over the Kerry-Bush debate, I actually fell asleep in the last third. ZZZZZ

The Star-Bulletin received some vaguely threatening calls after we ran a story about a lesbian getting punched out. According to the callers, the lesbian staff of the paper did it to one of "our own people" deliberately in order to create a news story. "Everyone will know about this!" a caller cried. "We don't need thew media to get the story out!" Interestingly twisted thinking.

The newest Kaneshiro in the Star-Bulletin family has been named Branden, a favorite name in Hawaii.

| Veep veep

Tonight it's the duelingVP noms, Dick Cheney and John Edwards, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. It will be interesting so see how the wily Washington insider and the deceptively fresh-faced trial lawyer measure up. But Cheney has a distinct advantage: If things are going rough, he can clutch his chest and fall down. (If he does, will half the audience whoop?)

The new phone books are out! Once again, the Star-Bulletin phone numbers are wrong! How tough is it to get the right numbers in the phone book?

All the hullaballoo about CBS getting snookered, and you haven't heard much about Faux News' big screw-up, have you? Seems their political correspondent Carl Cameron filed a false post-debate story, complete with manufactured quotes, trying to paint Kerry as a metrosexual girly-man. Shouldn't Rush Limbaugh be waxing flatulent about this outrage?

Why do left-wing protests against President Bush come out as lame or as precious as this?

| Final destination

It's always a mystery when someone decides to end their own life. Recently retired MidWeek production manager Russ Retynski, a great guy with problems we can only guess at, decided to check out a couple of weeks ago by his own hand. Those of us who knew him, even slightly, are immeasurably saddened. Sometimes the pain here on Earth is just too much to deal with, and a forever-sleep seems like a great comfort. We've all been there.

| The wild Blues yonder

Here's my daughter Kate feigning interest in the Blue Angels air show on Saturday. It was a good air show, well-attended, but far short of the 70,000 a day predicted. Kate and I pitched in at the Pacific War Memorial booth and managed to get sunburned. The ramp was so clean I suspect it had been pressure-washed before the show.

Somebody's making hay over the omission of Poland in John Kerry's rebuttal in Friday's debate. (Actually, Poland agreed to help occupy Iraq for security's sake, but was not involved in the initial invasion.)

Gosh, it turns out John Kerry's remark about President Bush's small lumber company was taken from the president's own tax returns.

Before I forget, there's another investor in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. More to the point, there's a big fat multi-year, many-million dollar advertising contract with a car dealer. Maybe we can let our breath out now.

| The Battle of the Bulge

Check6 EXCLUSIVE! MUST CREDIT Check6! What's that mystery object hidden beneath George Bush's jacket in the debates? Our team of scientists explains it here. NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH!

| Where's my Ibuprofen?

Still trapped at home doing repairs. What's scarier -- electrical or plumbing? Went toilet shopping today. Didn't want to, but the missus ran over the old toilet with her big car while it was being cleaned on the sidewalk. Smash! When I tossed the old bowl at the dump, it exploded like a porcelain grenade and the guy standing next to me went, "Cool!"

| But can Kerry or Bush pitch?

Tough call for John Kerry if he's asked about the World Series. Boston is his home team, but St. Louis is in a big swing state. As for the home front, the missus is from St. Louis but I kind of want Boston to win just so they'd shut the hell up.

Nice of Ian to plug our upcoming gig at O'Toole's, and here's an example of what a small island this is. Our long-time drummer Chris Emerson had to drop out this last summer due to some home and health issues -- and Chris is the contractor who's doing Ian's home expansion! Chris is notorious as a drummer whose heavy foot sets off car alarms.

Who's sleeping in the White House? Recent stats aren't available, but here's who slept in during the first 18 month's of Bush's tenure. Not that many, as it turns out.

Turns out a majority of both Democrats and Republicans believe the White House continues to confirm that Iraq has WMDs and was involved with al Qaeda. But most Republicans are alone in believing that the world deeply supports Bush. Check it out at the Program on International Policy Attitudes.

| Our next mayor -- the horror! The horror!

I actually began to feel sorry for Duke Bainum, up against the ol' smoothie Mufi Hannemann, in the mayoral debate last night. Did he have the flu or something? Here's my take on the event for the Star-Bulletin.

| We so special

News, of course, is something a reporter didn't know yesterday. Timing is everything. Which is why when the Honolulu Star-Bulletin endorsed John F. Kerry yesterday, it was breathlessly announced by Judy Woodruff on CNN and other international news outlets -- even as far away as South Africa.
When the Honolulu Advertiser, the state's big-circulation newspaper, endorsed Kerry a week ago, it caused barely a ripple. And not because the Advertiser appears more liberal next to the more conservative Star-Bulletin -- this paper didn't much like Bush four years ago either -- but because polls indicate that the race in the islands is closer than anyone thought.
Suddenly, Hawaii was no longer a sure thing, but a "battleground" state. So an endorsement is news this week and not last week.
Big-money advertisements for the candidates are coming this way, but they're on TV. The Democrats even whipped up a whole new TV ad just for Hawaii. We're special again!
If the newspapers had thought to poll voters a month ago, maybe we could have scored some of those advertising dollars, but that would have required a diabolically conspiratorial mindset on the order of a Karl Rove.
Newspaper people simply aren't that clever.

And here's the president being oh-so-pleased with himself after "winning" back in 2000:

Even after the newspapers have chided the candidates about using our logos on their ads, here's a Bainum flyer in our mailbox today with three -- count 'em -- three Star-Bulletin logos plastered on it.

| Bouncing Bulletin baby boy

Meet the latest addition -- edition? -- to the Star-Bulletin family. This is Branden Kaneshiro, the fruit of sportswriter Jason and layout editor Donica. He already has more hair than some of us!

Coming to town -- Dick Cheney and Alexandra Kerry. Not together.

Here's an interesting exchange between film critic Roger Ebert and Sun Times tycoon Conrad Black. Roger used to come to Honolulu often for the film festival, and I got to know him a little. I can report that he's the real deal, a genuine person who believes, first and foremost, that he is a newspaperman and that working at newspapers is an honorable profession. I like him a lot. But then, he's a closet computer nerd too.

| What election?

Who cares? We're getting the first close-up images of Titan. As usual, more questions than answers ...

| First daughter? First babe!

Over the weekend, visits from Dick and Lynne Cheney, Alexandra Kerry and Al Gore. They slipped in and out of town, quick as Israeli commandos. With the impression Hawaii is now a swing state, suddenly we rate. Scuttlebutt in the newsroom centers not just on the election, but how difficult it may be to report it if it is close. We might not know a winner until December.

Today, the Star-Bulletin unveils a new "look," which coincides with the paper being offered at all Hawaii McDonald's outlets. Fries with that?

Just checked. George W. Bush's campaign website never corrected the addresses to write letters to the Star-Bulletin, despite being informed several times. Too late now.

Does anybody else remember Tom Ridge mutterly darkly about cancelling the election if he thinks the threat to national security is too high? Sometime last spring. (I'm still trying to figure that billion dollars spent on "hyddergin cars" the president keeps referring to.)

| Senior moment

There was something I was supposed to do today. What was it?

| Aloha, oy vey

This cowboy is saddling up and riding out of town to spend a fortnight in Baghdad-by-the-Bay. I might be able to update this site if I can figure it out, but probably not. See ya.

| Coming out of the cold

San Francisco and environs are having what they call a "cold snap," which means cooler weather than we're having here in the islands, but not THAT much cooler. But the folks there are bundling up like it's "The Day After Tomorrow."
This was my first real vacation ever since the newspaper was threatened with oblivion more than four years ago. I saw friends I've missed, dome things that were overdue, took care of some business, and for a couple days, just goofed off in that most civilized and cosmopolitan of regions. More on that later.
But the real world catches up with you. Wednesday, watching local Bay Area TV, came the horrible word that friend and colleague Iris Chang had apparently committed suicide. It was news that was difficult to absorb, particularly since I had toyed with the idea of giving her a call while I was in the San Jose area, just to say hi. I had not heard from her in more than a year. You never know when an opportunity might be your last ...
I certainly didn't know her well. We were more email acquaintances, with a shared interest in the great Pacific War. We met several years ago when she spoke here and I discovered she was a fan of one of my books. We kept each other abreast of developments, but that petered off about a year and a half ago when she got wrapped up in her Chinese-American history work.
Details emerged over the next couple of days. Police were positive from the outset thtat suicide was the case. Iris had been recently hospitalized for depression. Her latest work, interviewing American survivors of Japanese death camps, tore at her.
I checked her website, discovered that she had a busy speaking schedule up until last week, and then and in the future, nothing booked. It was like she cleared her calendar. I stared at the blank screen and felt awful.
You never know. Sometimes the pain of daily life simply grows unbearable. Checking out on your own terms is a seductive idea, particularly when you lose hope in relationships. It eats at you. The ache of heartbreak can be too much to live through, and you just want release.
We need to remember Iris as she was -- a fearless scholar; an attractive, strong woman; a driven perfectionist; a person with a clear sense of moral outrage; a girl who carried the weight of history upon her shoulders and did so with style. We are poorer without her.

| Reviewing our position

This week, Star-Bulletin and MidWeek staffs began their fourth year of "temporary" wage cuts instituted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. There is no indication that salaries will ever be restored to professionally competitive levels. That's too bad, as all of our talented staff who have defected to the competition did so for financial reasons, and we continue to have staff flirting with going over to Gannett and competing against us. Who can blame them? Hard to stay on your high horse when you're trying to make ends meet.

It takes a minute to figure out how to navigate this site, but provides fascinating links and maps between the folks at the top.

More apparently good financial news, according to a staff msg; Prudential Locations, the second-largest real estate company in the state, has agreed to a long-term advertising contract with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and MidWeek during the next five years. The contract is valued in excess of $3 million. The contract is the second significant long-term deal in the last month announced by Oahu Publications Inc., publisher of the Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military papers. The deal was agreed upon and announced yesterday by Dennis Francis, president of the company and publisher of the papers. Bill Chee, chief executive officer of Prudential, said he was excited to be a part of a media company with local ownership ...

| It's a suburban wasteland

The home repair is getting tiresome -- it is almost a year since we were struck by lightning -- and we were just informed that a bathroom we thought was almost ready to use again must have a wall demolished. But I didn't cause this mess outside the house last night! Seems a water main shattered and Department of Water crews worked all night. In the morning, they had vanished, leaving an asphalt patch -- and lowered water pressure. Also, we're going to be essentially trapped in Kailua for several days while Castle Junction is shut down.

Not all conservatives are right-wing thugs. They have a consistant and coherant world-view that is based on alpha-dog competition -- the strongest gets to pee on the weakest. That said, this little essay at has more intriguing ideas and level thinking than I saw out of any candidate this year, even if I don't agree with much of it.

My beautiful pal Kathy gave me a gold pocket watch to commemorate my 25th year on the Star-Bulletin staff (since Rupert Phillips ran off with the paper's own watches), which was incredibly sweet of her. It's an intricate little thing with the gears exposed. It seemed vaguely familiar ...
"That's because you gave it to ME several years ago," Kathy laughed.
The first thing to go are the memory cells.
Daisy, Daisy ...

| Iris

It's a day of reflection and remembrance on the death of Iris Chang. I'm still having trouble believing it.

| Fluid mechanics

Well, no wonder I feel like hell. It's either a bad cold or flu. I'm so out of it I started wandering on the Internet looking up examples of high-speed condensations created by fluid mechanics and compressibility, although I suspect ambient humidity and temperature are critical factors. The weird thing is not just that they appear, but that they disappear just as quickly. Another school of thought is that it has nothing to do with going transonic and is instead related to the Prandtl-Glauert Singularity. Here's an example. And another example. And another.

| Hammered down

My special friend tells me it's actually President Bush's fault I've been laid low the last few days -- after all, I wasn't able to get a flu shot this year! The worst has passed -- Monday night through Wednesday morning I was largely unconscious -- and now I'm in the annoying congested/nervous/can't sleep/achy phase, which is being treated by watching way too many reruns of "Family Guy." Too much detail, right? Is there some way I can blame this on Gannett?

| Back to the Bay

Here are two of my favorite people in the world, the lovely Kathy Weber and historian John Martini, photographed in a low-light situation at Liverpool Lil's next to San Francisco's Presidio, a place that was introduced to me by the Star-Bulletin's Dave Donnelly and now a traditional hangout for the three of us. I'm just now "processing" images of my latest trip to the Bay Area and will have more later. It was partly a business trip -- John and I are finishing one book project and beginning others and we needed to meet with our publisher in Oakland -- and partly because it had been too long since I'd seen Kathy, whom I met in 10th grade at Radford High School. More later. In the meantime -- and I'm not big on cat pictures -- here's a snap of John's cat Spock, a Norwegian forest cat that's bigger than most dogs I know. Well, unless you want to see a picture of President Bush with his zipper down.

| bleahhhhh

The flu is no fun at all, no sir. But it's entertaining to discover that one of the most-requested out-of-print books in the country is a 1981 piece of "schlocky lesbian fiction" by none other than Lynne Cheney! Here's a search link courtesy AbeBooks. (BTW, if you're looking for out-of-print books, AbeBooks is gear fab)

| Son of bleahhhhh

The flu is almost bearable today. Too bad I wasn't sent to Canada to cover President Bush.

Congratulations to Ian Lind, whose blogsite topped half-a-million visitors yesterday with its mix of media criticism, political commentary and kitty porn. From the breathless anticipation, I halfway expected The Rapture to occur when the meter rolled over, but I also expected it when my Jeep registered more than 200,000 miles and that didn't happen either.

A couple of readers have pointed out a nice piece on Iris Chang in the current Salon.

| Opala, my heart

The circle jerk that occurred yesterday when the City Council flew into a public display of indecision and then made the obvious choice -- yeah, we're talking about the Ko Olina landfill -- actually provoked the devil on my shoulder into an illiberal notion: The Leeward Coast probably gets more taxpayer-funded government assistance than any other region of the state, and it would be nice if they stepped up to the plate once in a while to help the rest of us. Out, damn thought, out!
Seriously, the one notion that kept popping up in testimony was a bizarre belief that "technology" could somehow make trash go away. These people might as well insist that "magic" is the answer to landfill issues. While technology exists to reduce the amount of rubbish and to make it stable, it won't make it disappear, like a rabbit in a hat. It's an issue of physics, not belief. Get real.
You want technology? Why not build an O'Neill Drive on the slopes of Mauna Kea, pointed west? It would probably only need to be a few miles long. Gerard O'Neill was the fellow who discovered that cascading pulses of electomagnetic energy could accelerate a metal capsule quickly and cheaply -- accelerate it so fast it could acheive escape velocity. A track on the Big Island, pointed uphill toward the skies, closer to the equater so that the kinetic momentum energy is greater, aiming west for the same reason, is already within our capability.
What's the point? Well, you could compact the trash into a steel boxcar, flip on the O'Neill Drive and launch the package off the earth and into space, probably into the sun. Or into a low-earth orbit that will decay and burn up on reentry, making pretty falling stars. We could also get rid of nuclear waste this way, and charge the supplier a fortune to do so.
OK, the residents of Mountain View might complain about the sonic booms destroying their lives. But this is real technology, not magic. Could it be built? Answer -- could Castle Junction be completed on time and under budget?

| Ollie's back

The TV documentary I did with Oliver North last year is being reaired tomorrow -- 3 p.m. Sunday Hawaii time on Fox News -- and another one we filmed a few weeks ago will air in January. North also thanked me in his current book that recycles information about the Pacific War. I'm agog with ambivalence!

| Radford toon

Sally Forth is drawn by 1962 Radford High School grad Craig MacIntosh, and every once in a while the characters wear Radford stuff. I also went to Radford and I also started as a cartoonist there, but unlike Craig, I'm not a success.

And Gannett's Doug McCorkingdale is some sort of golf whore.

| A date that will live in history pop quizzes

And to commemorate the anniversay of the attack upon Pearl Harbor, here's a student project that will likely rub you the wrong way.

| The monster at the door

Gannett, fat with dollars, is snuffling around the Pulitzer chain, thinking about gobbling them up too. If so, they'd also own the Garden Island paper and related Kauai publications. And what would become of TNI Partners? That's the Tucson, Arizona, equivalent of the Hawaii Newspaper Agency. Pulitzer and Gannett already have a JOA in Tucson that handles the business operations of the Arizona Daily Star and Gannett's Tucson Citizen. Bye bye informed citizenry.

Gannett's circulation took a sizable tumble during 2004, according to Big G execs.

Interestingly, the Star-Bulletin's Michelle Ramos picked up on the Sally Forth item below, and I provided additional information when she called, but she credited it to another copy editor. I guess we all look alike!

| How many years?

Star-Bulletin reporter Mary Adamski hit her 43rd year at the newspaper this week, with no signs of slowing down. She started in1961! More than one staffer pointed out that Mary has been working at the paper for longer than thay've been alive. Yikes!

| Remembering their sacrifice

I usually go out to the Arizona Memorial Visitors Center each Dec. 7 to observe the memorial services, but this year I went to the much smaller commemoration held around the old flagpole at Hickam Air Force Base. The pole was flying a bullet-torn flag during the morning of the attack, famously captured in a photograph, and the PACAF offices nearby are still scarred with spall damage from strafing runs. Vehicle obstructions have been placed around the buildings in a nod to security measures post-9/11, but the base hasn't changed much in 65 years. Freedom isn't free.

| Tracking the news

It's always interesting tracing how a story enters the national conciousness, and thanks to the miracle of Google News, you can chart it. This is the case of a story the Star-Bulletin broke Tuesday. Last week I stumbled across a story in the making -- the University of Hawaii and NOAA had discovered a gigantic seaplane that sank in a spectacular disaster off Pearl Harbor in 1950 -- and knowing that NOAA would release the information in a government press release, I worked through the weekend developing a nice, complete, well-illustrated package on the subject.
The package was pretty much scuttled by an editorial decision to run a enormous picture of people weeping at a funeral -- that's the breaks in the news biz -- but parts of it appeared in the Star-Bulletin before anywhere else.
Immediately, the Associated Press filed a rewrite of the Star-Bulletin story, not attributing the Star-Bulletin and containing no new facts, but -- amusingly -- containing an AP copyright.
First to bite was radio station KPUA in Hilo, who posted the AP story on their website before noon. Before the 24-hour news cycle had passed, the Associated Press story had appeared in more than 50 newspapers and Web sites around the world, with more to come. Although the Star-Bulletin wasn't credited by AP with breaking the story, the newspaper remains the primary hit in Google searches.
A full day later, the Honolulu Advertiser attempted to spin the story into a generalist piece in an effort to appear different, but the info within it was recycled from elsewhere. The byline should have been shared with NOAA!

| Your tax dollars at work

Republican humor -- that Karl Rove is a riot! Red balls! ha ha! -- at the White House Barneycam.

| Flight patterns

The Dec. 7 commemoration gave me a chance to visit two of my favorite airplanes. This Aeronca 65TC was being flown on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, by Roy and Martin Vitousek and got caught up in the attack. There is still bullet damage in the rear fuselage longerons. I supervised restoration a couple of years ago (most of the grunt work carried out by Dr. John Rand and students at Kapiolani Community College, bless 'em!) and we finally hung it in the airport this month, using a plan I drew up almost a decade ago. The other is the aerospace museum's B-25 Mitchell parked at Hickam, which is looking pretty ragged. 12 years ago, we repainted the nose to the more accurate falcon-head marking of the 345th Bomb Group, but it was soon painted over by orders of the base commander. He feared complaints from animal-rights activists!
By the way, many local airline and airport workers aren't happy with the way the Department of Transportation handles the airports -- they perceive conflicts of interest and poor supervision and graft -- and they're dogging the DOT with a Website called The site apparently has nettled the Lingle administration.

| Chrissmus iz hea

It's always a treat to hear the Honolulu Symphony do Beethoven's 9th "Chorale" -- one of the most stunning pieces of music ever written -- every Christmas season. Also interesting to watch heir apparent conductor Joann Falletta leap into the shoes of Sam Wong.

| Merry Christmas, SecDef

An interesting, bittersweet evening at a friend's goodbye luau. Justin Lui is off with his Guard unit to Iraq, and like many soldiers, he asked for and got his requested Christmas presents early -- a pair of boots suitable for desert terrain, a workable scope for his rifle, welding gear so that he can repair equipment in the field. The military simply isn't supplying the necessary gear to proscecute the war. Here's an irony -- Justin's brother Joshua found a signed blank cashier's check for $30,000 Thursday morning and spent a good part of the day tracking down the owner. For his troubles, he was given a box of cookies. I blurted out, You should have spent it all on body armor!

| Going under

Really not much to report as I've been sitting around the house burning off accumulated vacation time. The high point will be going into hospital for a procedure today -- somehow, I've managed to live this long without ever having general anesthesia. Today I'm going under completely! Well, here goes ...

| New year, new career

Yep, it's the Last Days for Star-Bulletin Chief Photographer Dean Sensui, my compadre, who joined the paper about the same time I did, and whose obsessive perfectionism made the paper look better than it had any right to.
Dean and I have had many adventures together. Dean goes on to big-time TV production on "Hawaii Goes Fishing." Funny, I seem to remember him getting seasick aboad a small boat off Kahoolawe ...

As we batten down the hatches here in Kailua for the annual New Year's excessive thunderstorm -- the kids were sandbagging the house yesterday -- it's time to take care of unfinished Web biz. This site will be undergoing serious renovations in the next few weeks -- hasn't anyone noticed that Saddamarama has moved elsewhere? -- and links may be hinky for a while.
OK, let's look at unfinished business. Hmmm. Looks like I've been softballing Gannett lately. There are a few things to finally get around to:

* The legal case against the Advertiser's graphics department for stealing software is apparently going forward.

* The Advertiser staff enjoyed a lovely, expensive Christmas party at the Halekulani. What's that? Only management types invited? The rank and file weren't supposed to know about it?

* There was much speculation a few weeks ago about a letter sent to Star-Bulletin investors from a "former employee" that contained bizarre accusations about business practices and circulation, a letter so juicy that Gannett management passed out copies to their ad-sales staff and instructed them to go forth and poison the well. This anonymous letter, however, contained so many factual errors and misrepresentations that Gannett -- likely on the advice of legal counsel hipped to slander laws -- decided to retrieve all copies that were passed out. It didn't help that the sole source of the anonymous letter was -- Gannett Advertiser management. So much for peaceful co-existance. Even Star-Bulletin/MidWeek publisher Dennis Francis, a former Gannett tough guy himself, was rattled by the sheer ethical lapse of this vicious episode. They must think everyone in Honolulu is an idiot, Francis told me a few weeks ago. All they've done is expose how underhanded they are, and how stupid.

* I picked up a Gannett Advertiser a few days ago at Pearl Harbor and it has a wrapper touting the Battleship Missouri site. But parts of it looked familiar ... hey, these drawings are by Star-Bulletin artist David Swann! But they're not credited! What are they doing in a Gannett package? Swann confimed that they are his work, and that he complained bitterly to Gannett about it, and was told to take a hike. Seems they acquired his original files and used them without permission, and passed them off as their own work. (To be fair, Dave got no satisfaction from our own management either, who viewed the problem as less than a burning issue.) It's no surprise that Gannett has passed off the good work of others as their own, and defended it by saying the creators are powerless to prevent it, but let's look at the subtext of the message here -- what the heads of the Gannett Advertiser are really saying is The work by our own artists sucks, so we have to steal from others. It takes a certain amount of hubris to not only try to screw the enemy, but also go out of your way to screw your own employees.

* McCorkingdale is retiring as Gannett CEO next year and they have no designated successor. Think I should apply for the job? I just want it for a little while. A month or two on McCorkingdale's salary and bennies and I can retire for life.

See you on the flip side.

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