A SPECIAL ‘LES MIZ’ T-SHIRT NOTE CARD

Cleaning up some files today, I came across a small collection of notecards I created, to thank the cast of “Les Miserables,” which was a wowser and rouser at Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College in October, 2013.

This production likely to be Hawaii’s most astonishing accomplishment in local theater, directed, of course, by the late and legendary Ron Bright. It was Mr. B’s favorite show, part of a bucket-list of shows he wanted to do; “Phantom of the Opera” and “Miss Saigon,” which he also directed with his impeccable touch, completing his wish list.

The cast of “Les Miserables,” at Paliku Theatre, in October, 2013.

The notecards – in the shape of T-shirts – depict a Cosette-in-Hawaii motif.  The cards were meant to commemorate and thank the cast and crew of this stupendous show; and yes, did enough cards so each performer and techie received one on opening night

See, in many tour stops made by the official touring company of “Les Miz,” the iconic child that is the symbol of this enduring Broadway and London show, takes on the flavor of the city being visited. In Canada, Cosette had a flag with a maple leaf; in France, the French flag gets prime time; in Scotland, she might don a kilt. In Hawaii, it’s a hula skirt. And so on.

I took some liberties, borrowing the Cosette image and adding a local element. For one card, “Lei Miz” was the subtitle, because she was wearing a lei. In another, she is in hula pose, so I labeled it as “Lovely (Hula) Lady,” borrowing a tune from the show. The third card depicts Cosette with a surfboard and donning sunglasses, and an apt title: “Catch the waif.”  This was an official authorized trademarked image the first time the show played here.

Four specimens of the “Les Miz” noted cards gifted to the cast and crew.

I gave the images a splash of color, and each Cosette wears a hibiscus in her hair. Lei color varied, but red and yellow were prevalent, as I recall.

The show – loaded with music that speaks to a generation of theater players – featured a protagonist who delivers one of blockbuster ballads (“Bring Him Home”), neither he nor the song is promoted in the “Les Miz” annals.

So, I thought Jean Valjean’s prisoner number would be a code to his valor and vigor; did a limited number of cards that simply addressed his numbers: 24601

On the back of the T-shirt card, I expressed my appreciation for a job well done. And borrowed that show’s most quoted line: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

This expression of dedication and performance — the core of theatrical life — inspired Mr. B’s family and followers to create the I’m a Bright Kid Foundation to preserve and perpetuate his enduring spirit and inspiration. The journey continues.

IS THE STRING GAME STILL PLAYED?

Just asking…

Wondering if today’s kids play the string-based game called Cat’s Cradle anymore?

When I was growing up time – back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth – everyone engaged in this simple but complex game, where a long, knotted string – we used to use those slightly thicker cords, in lieu of weaker thread-like strings for crocheting – is placed on both bands, and different motifs are formed.

More girls than boys played this string game.

The task can involve four hands, and even six, at a higher level of complication.

The string can be placed from one hand to another, with fingers taking over, leading up to somewhat tricky configurations.

Online books and video – not a visual tool, back in the day – now demonstrate what and how the cradle can stimulate fun and competition, without actual toys or action figures or iPads.

The string’s the thing.

Remember?

COPING WITH HIGH GAS PRICES?

Just asking…

As gasoline prices continue reach for the clouds at the pump, what are you doing to curb the problem and adjust to the new normal of higher prices?

Limit driving?

Pumping gasoline

Catch the bus or subway?

Carpool?

Walk?

Cab or Uber/Lyft?

Work from home?

Sell car?

The options are there, but one solution leads to another problem of sorts.

HEARTBREAKING:  NEWSROOM SHUTDOWN

It’s old news but sad news about the state of your daily newspaper.

For all practical reasons, the newsroom of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser has virtually shut down. Most reporters – the heartbeat of local news gathering – have been working from home since last fall. The work-at-home decision clearly is one way to reduce overhead costs.

But there’s something to say about devoted reporters and editors, toiling side by side with common goals of putting out a daily paper. The water fountain chit-chats are long gone. The camaraderie is nil.

“They closed the newsroom for good – can you believe it?” one veteran newsroom reporter told me in an email.

“It’s very sad and hurtful,” another said.

“(We’re) told everyone work-from-home is the new rule of law; I’m sure it’s saving the company a ton of money but the real expense is the lost of a vibrant newsroom.”

You’ve heard of “breaking news,” the usual media term whenever something worth your attention is announced. Well, “heartbreaking news” is the unannounced (to the public) situation  at the Waterfront Row  HQ of the morning daily. If TV reported this newsroom policy, I missed it. Honolulu magazine once dubbed the vicinity Death Row, since the early vibe of Restaurant Row (the site’s original name) disappeared.

Star-Advertiser newspaper dispenser.

So it’s a time to mourn, really.

As the state continues to struggle to return to restore the new normal for its citizens, the paper is shrinking and sinking its own ship by this work-at-home decree. I mean, haven’t the schools reopened for most campuses and government workers back to the daily routine since the protocols have been relaxed?   

Sure, skeletal crews are still toiling at the paper; editors, page designers and select hired hands essential in getting the paper out still are bound to desk stations.

But the heartbeat of journalism is the corps of news-gatherers, working the phones and bellowing to colleagues and yakking about the latest restaurant to open or close, as part of the rhythm of newsroom life?

I know. I’ve been there. For 45 years full-time at the then-stand alone Honolulu Advertiser, located at the Kapiolani Blvd./South Street landmark, then another dozen years as a retired free-lance contributor writing a column for the combined Honolulu Star-Advertiser, till I was summarily dismissed because of the looming health threat in the spring of 2019. Cost-cutting was the convenient alibi, but I couldn’t live on what I was paid, anyway, since I worked from home and paid for my own entertainment fees when reviewing shows. Still do, for my online presence now.

You knew the paper was suffering, when the daily four-section product became a two-second minimalist, when the pandemic was invasive and shutting down everything. It cut out a Saturday edition (online only, still) but restored the sports section so the daily paper now has three sections. The fourth – formerly Today, Island life when there were two papers,  and then Detours  as part of the merger– is seemingly gone forever. The arts community misses the separate entertainment/features section most papers traditionally retain. The newish Crave tabloid, like the Sunday Dining Out pull-out, is mainly an avenue for potential advertisers, lured to buy a Wednesday and a Sunday combo ad. Many of the food reporters work from home, too.

Full-time beat reporters no longer have an office desk or phone. Go figure.

 As one source indicated, “they (the bean counters) set up offices on the fifth floor for when people need a space to work, but no dedicated desks. And the newspaper is really bad; it’s embarrassing. I don’t have to tell you that.”

It’s also clear that the union has no muscle to argue the necessity and validity of the newsroom vibe. Not sure if some, or most, reporters like working from home, paying for their own smart phones and utilizing their own computers to file a story. The side amenity: no bosses to bother you.

The cutbacks might have been an essential decision when COVID was a daunting enemy, but the villain now appears to be at the publisher level with a mission to keep costs down.

The office communal esprit is what’s missing, for veteran reporters who know that camaraderie is part of the vitality of the newsroom.

“I miss the buzz and energy of the newsroom – a truly unique workspace. And especially in our business; you need to be able to bounce off each other, walk around, shoot the bull, compare notes, etc.,” said one longtimer. The vacuum might also impact cub reporters, at the start of their print careers. “How are the rookies supposed to learn, the ropes without being able to see the pros in action, yelling at each other and over the phone,” said the vet, hanging in there but can’t wait to retire. …

And that’s Show Biz. …

GOT A FAVORITE RAINY DAY SONG?

Just asking…

On cloudy, rainy days like today and yesterday, don’t you feel like singing a weather-related song?

That ominous, threatening layer of clouds lingering yesterday over the islands produced a lot of liquid sunshine, prompting me to think about weather tunes.

Ominous clouds over Honolulu yesterday.

Here are 10 tunes — to search for in your disc collections or to request your favorite deejay to play — to keep you in the rainy-cloudy-stormy vein:

  • “Rhythm of the Rain,” by The Cascades.
  • “The Rain in Spain, Stays Mainly on the Plain,” by Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” (varies if film or stage).
  • “Set Fire to the Rain,” by Adele.
  • “Get Off of My Cloud,” by the Rolling Stones.
  • “Singing in the Rain,” by Gene Kelly.
  • “Both Sides Now,” by Judy Collins or Joni Mitchell.
  • “Cloud Nine,” by the Temptations.
  •  “Stormy Weather,” by Lena Horne.
  • “Come Rain or Come Shine,” by Margaret Whiting and various artists.
  • “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” by B. J. Thomas.
    Of course, the childhood-era “Rain, Rain Go Away” might be the simplest song on the rainy list, and if there’s rain, there just must be rainbows, so credit Judy Garland for her “Over the Rainbow” original, and home-grown Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole” for re-inventing his version fused with “What a Wonderful Day.”

Do you have a weather-related song you wanna hear  on a cloudy day?

And here’s to a sunny tomorrow…