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Go Oahu Card: Diamond Head Hike with Kaimana Tours

The most hiked trail in Honolulu -- Diamond Head State Park

Kaimana Tours provides transportation from your hotel to the Diamond Head trail head. As part of the deal, you get a bottle of water and a printed guide for the trail. On the way to the crater floor, the driver will tell you interesting facts about the area, including the way it got its name. (Explorers mistook calcite for diamonds.)

The hike itself is relatively easy. At .8 miles up, it’s not as daunting or difficult as the hike to the sixth floor in my condo complex. Or at least, it didn’t seem as difficult – maybe because I wasn’t carrying grocery bags, maybe it’s because the scenery is amazing. Bring sunscreen and take your time, the two hours allotted by Kaimana is enough to get up, take photos all along the way, get down and still buy souvenirs while waiting for the bus. Some older people found the hike more difficult, but some toddlers were happy on the way down.

At one point in the hike, you can choose the easy way to the left or the hard way, a bunch of stairs, to the right. Someone might think of that as a church metaphor with the difficulty of choosing the right to head towards heaven, but in this case, both choices lead to the same destination, which others might also see as an afterlife metaphor. If you’re literally minded, you don’t have to think of it either way. We went left and didn’t regret a thing. I see enough stairs at home.

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Oahu Photography Tours: Oh, the People You’ll Meet

New friends on Oahu Photography Tours photo bomb

With Oahu Photography Tours, you can book a private tour and get all of the attention of the professional photographer who leads the tour. It’s a great way to learn about the island, see the best scenery and get the best one-on-one instruction available.

However, if you’re travelling with just one or two other people, booking a regular tour may be your best bet. You still get a great amount of attention, but you also get to meet other people from all over the world who are interested in photography and taking better pictures.

Our group was an amazing part of our tour, and it all started with our guide, De-Jay. He pulled the group together and made everyone feel comfortable. Within minutes of sitting in the van, we were all old friends ready to talk about anything and everything while focusing on the subjects we were there for – Oahu and photography.

Of course, De-Jay is also the guy who knows the locals. When the 1935 Lincoln Royale Limo pulled into a parking lot we were leaving, De-Jay knew the driver, talked to him, and it wasn’t long until we were all photographing this stretch limo that once belong to Howard Hughes and chauffeured his lawyer around. (You can rent it if you want!( 808)699-0699) At Kalapawai Market, we saw the guy who made the salsa and has it bottled all over the island. We wouldn’t have known about the local celebrity because his baby photo is on the bottle!

Exotic - 1935 Lincoln Royale Limousine
NOT the tour vehicle!

Even normal interactions have a flare all their own in Hawaii. De-Jay knew many of the Hawaiians and was able to introduce the culture to us without giving us a lecture. We saw what happened, and he explained what it was afterwards. From Talk-Story to surfing, De-Jay covered it all throughout the course of the day.

When you spend 10 hours with seven or fewer other people,you get to learn more about then and their cultures. We had two Canadians, an Australian, our guide, my wife and me on our tour, and a great time was had by all!

Check out our other articles about Oahu Photography Tours and Oahu!

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King’s Pizza Cafe: You’re Budget and Taste Buds’ll say “Thank You, Thank You Very Much!”

Interior of King's Pizza Cafe in Oahu

If you head down Kapahulu away from the beach, past President Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, and just a little farther beyond, you’ll find a tiny restaurant called King’s Pizza Cafe. Voted as the community’s best pizza, it serves them up by the slice and always freshly made. By Oahu’s food standards, it’s a bargain. In a place where two burgers, a side of fries and one drink is regularly $30, getting two large slices of pizza and two drinks for around $10 is a bargain. The slices we had were cut in half, so it was more like getting two slices of pizza rather than one giant slice.

The Queen’s Pizza was by far the best of the two varieties we tried. Stacked full of correctly crisped pepperoni, olives and other great pizza ingredients, it played the best in our mouths. The Chicken Ginger Pizza was a little less successful. It provided a clean ginger flavor, which is what it’s supposed to do, but I wasn’t as fond of it as I was my wife’s choice. Both pizzas featured a sauce that was the right amount of sweet and tangy, and the crust was edible on its own without reservation.

The atmosphere is eclectic 1950s through the 1980s. Tables are topped with 45s or LPs from the 1980s. DJ cats playing pizza on the turntable are on the throw pillowcases, and a variety of other pizza related items are available for sale.

King’s Pizza Café is a nice-priced oasis with great food in a desert of high-priced mediocrity. Come for the break from the hub bub and high prices along the beach and enjoy a slice of goodness. When you’re done,you can head up the street a little more and get to Leonard’s Bakery for dessert (and even getting six Malasadas, you’ll still be ahead of most dinner options that aren’t fast food in the area).

Interior shot of King's Pizza Cafe counter in Oahu
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Oahu Photography Tours: Oh, the Things You’ll Know

Chinaman's Hat using my monochrome setting!

I’ve had my Canon IXUS for over two years. It’s the point and shoot that I use for all of my website and YouTube needs, which is basically photos and videos. The only thing I don’t always use it for is penguins because my wife is in charge of most of those photos. I have never messed with any of the settings. I didn’t know what they were for or what to do with them.

At our first stop, De-Jay, our guide, showed me the different options available, even though I was using a point and shoot! I had expected that maybe I would be treated differently because I was the only one without a DSLR, which would’ve been okay because the tour was for my wife. However, no one cared that I was using a point and shoot. It was an equally viable photo taking apparatus for all concerned.

I learned how to use the multi-shoot, how to manipulate the f-stop and what that means, how to find the monochrome and live features, and most importantly, how to be more comfortable with my camera. Because everyone was encouraged to experiment, even those things that De-Jay didn’t show me, I learned because of the safe space I was allowed to practice. If I messed up, I could get the shot again, and De-Jay would be there for guidance if I needed it. The safety nets of time and expertise are amazingly freeing, especially when that expertise is backed with kindness and a willingness to say that he doesn’t know.

Taking the Oahu Photography Tours’ Circle Sunrise Tour has given me the ability to choose how I use my camera. That alone would be worth the price. However, we also learned about Snapseed, an app to edit photos. De-Jay told us about local hot spots and here to get the best fish tacos on the island (Ono’s Steak and Shrimp Shack). We also learned about the history of the island, local surf competitions, and where the turtles would be on calmer days. If you want to have a good time exploring the island with friends, even some you haven’t made yet, Oahu Photography Tours is the way to go.

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Leonard’s Bakery serves up warm, doughy goodness

Penny Penguin and malasadas from Leonard's Bakery

Leonard’s Bakery is so famous for its malasadas that I’ve seen it on several travel shows, including one in Russian. Malasadas are a Portuguese fried dough coated in sugar, or sugar and cinnamon, or li hing. They are made fresh-to-order, so they are always soft and warm. At just over a dollar for the original malasadas and a little more than a $1.50 for the stuffed malasadas, it makes sense for two people to get one of every flavor in a six-pack at a slightly reduced price. Eat three now and have three for breakfast the next morning. Or get two each of the original flavors, either way, it’s cheap eats for the island.

Unfortunately, the stuffed malasadas were hard to distinguish one from the other. Custard was clear, as was chocolate. There was a vaguely coconut one and one that tasted like custard until we actually had the custard variety.

Still, they were warm, gooey goodness and tasted great the second day when we threw them in the microwave for 30 seconds. (Careful not to burn your mouth.) Oh, and don’t forget the coffee. After four days on Oahu, the iced mocha macadamia is still one of the top coffees I’ve had. It’s just the right amount of sweet to allow the bitter of the coffee to shine.

If you’re worried about the calories or healthiness of the malasadas, just call them “mas saladas.” They’ll sound healthier, and you can enjoy them without the guilt.

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Oahu Photography’s Circle Sunrise Tour

Koko Crater at Sunrise
Sunrise on Oahu

Oahu Photography’s Circle Sunrise Tour takes its guests on an all-day adventure where guide and participants become fast friends. A smaller group and De-Jay’s, the guide, openness make these friendships possible. Full of humor, knowledge and a genuine sense of love for the state and the people he is showing it to, De-Jay provides and easy entry into the sights of Hawaii and how to photograph them. Be prepared for lots of dad jokes and a modicum of movie-based humor.

Groups are purposefully kept small, which allows each person to receive as much or as little personal interaction and instruction from the guide, who is also a professional photographer. The tour itself can be adapted within set parameters to accommodate different impulses of the guests, and there’s never any rush to get in and get out of the van. If someone wants to spend a little more time taking photos of a certain area, they are welcome to do so. This flexibility also allows the group to adjust to local weather patterns and ensures that everyone has the opportunity to get his or her perfect shot.

When you come to Hawaii, give yourself a couple of days to adjust to the climate and relax. Then take this tour. That way, your photos will be better than ever for the rest of the trip, and you’ll have the inside scoop about where to eat from someone who lives on the island. Don’t forget to purchase the photo package ahead of time to get photos of you and your group (or loved one), both candid and posed, from a pro!

For more about Oahu Photography Tours, check out our Oahu page.

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Island Vintage Shave Ice Is Cold Comfort Food

Pink Island Shave Ice
Pink Island Shave Ice

Shave ice – that’s right, without the ‘d’ – is a flavor sensation, at least the way it is prepared at Island Vintage Shave Ice. The syrup used for flavoring tastes like real strawberries – none of that sickly-sweet syrup we get stateside on a sno-cone.

Pink Island Menu Board

“The Pink Island” had pieces of mochi in the corners; the syrup flowed down the sides and collected in the bowl. The lychee popping boba were liquid refreshment at mini-size. But it was the soft organic ice cream that stole the show. Underneath the layers of shave ice was a beautiful tasting vanilla ice cream that gained strength from the flavor and texture of the shave ice and its syrup.

Shave ice is like cold comfort food with flavors you never tasted at home. Our serving was big enough to share. If it isn’t big enough for you, I would suggest getting different flavors for each person in the group to try.

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‘The Lion King’ proves emotions and cash rule Disney’s box office decisions

On a visceral level, the new “Lion King” trailer strikes all the right notes. The sunrise, the building crescendo, James Earl Jones, the beginning of the stampede scene as James Earl Jones talks about his demise, and the African Call that is the original movie’s signature. It inspires goosebumps and causes the heart to speed up. Remember! Let’s face it. People are going to see this remake, and they are going to love it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with the idea of it.

Same Old Stories

Disney has gone into their film vault, dragging their beloved animated classics into the light and exposing them to live-action remake status. Some may point to 1996’s “101 Dalmatians” with Glenn Close as the first successful live action remake. It was successful enough, and possibly sold enough toys, to inspire a sequel.  However, 2014’s “Maleficent,” with Angelina Jolie who was born for the role, started the current era of live action adaptations. It was followed by “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and Christopher Robin.” With one movie released every year. “Dumbo,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King” and “Lady and the Tramp” are on the docket for 2019.

That’s four live action adaptations in a single year. Those aren’t new stories; they are recycled stories that required less creativity to make and provided more stability for the financial side of the ledger. People may say they want new stories; they don’t. They want properties they know they are going to enjoy, especially when they are spending $15 a ticket. If people wanted new stories, “Kubo and the Two Strings” would’ve been a box office hit. And from the looks of it, “The Lion King” is going to give the audience what it wants. The trailer shots are ripped straight from the animated film. This isn’t a remake or remodeling; it’s a straight up rerelease.

Sequels and Remakes

The Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars film factories are releasing, or distributing, 12 films next year, including “Glass,” a sequel to “Unbreakable,” and “Split.” Of those 12, only “Artemis Fowl,” the DisneyNature release “Penguins” and, possibly, the Marvel production “Captain Marvel” are not sequels or remakes. Giving “Captain Marvel” the benefit of the doubt, the same universe doesn’t necessarily make a sequel or prequel in this case, only 25 percent of Disney’s 2019 releases are new stories. That’s bad for writers and people who are creating new ideas. And let’s face it, “Penguins” is more like a public service, which I’m totally going to go see because, uh, PENGUINS! (Shameless plug: Come on, my website is “penguinate”and my wife makes stuffed penguins, which you should buy!)

Not Live Action

“The Lion King” is being lumped in with Disney’s live action remakes of animated films, but it isn’t live action. No matter how beautifully rendered, the characters are computer animated. At least in “The Jungle Book,” Mowgli was a real actor on screen. (Props to Neel Sethi who had to act against the green screen.) “The Lion King” is computer generated images that, at least as far as the trailer is concerned, will match the animated classic in every way. Fire up the computer and redo every Disney Classic that way; maybe, it will allow Disney to extend the copyright, again, of “Steamboat Willie” before it expires in 2024.

Disneyland and Mary Poppins

There’s a story that at the end of the premier of the original “Mary Poppins,” P.L. Travers had some suggestions for making the film better. Walt looked at her and said something to the effect of “Pamela, that ship has sailed.”

One of the many reasons that Disneyland exists is because Walt wanted something he could change. Once the movie was done, there wasn’t any going back and redoing it to make it better. That ship has sailed, except now, The Walt Disney Company is remaking the films. They just aren’t making them necessarily better.

Where’s the Creativity?

The original “Lion King” made just under $1 billion dollars worldwide in 1997. It was the highest grossing animated film of all time (not adjusted for inflation) and remained at the top of the list until “Toy Story 3.” The new “Lion King” might not live up to the original, even if Disney gets it right – whatever that may mean. Maybe only die-hard fans will see it a second time, but judging by the Twitterverse… God, Disney’s going to make some cash, and that’s bad for creativity. (See Pixar.) Why take a risk when you can take a known commodity, change its medium slightly, and make a boatload of money?

Want More Creativity?

If you want more creativity in the world, I urge you to find several independent authors and artists and support them. Give up one movie this year and use that money to pledge $1 a month to someone on Patreon. Go to a comic convention and find an artist in Artist Alley; buy something from them. I’d love for it to be me. Mostly, I’d love for us to get more original stories out there. We all have a story to tell, but they need to be supported financially in order to get heard.

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The War on Thanksgiving: Avoid Consumerism on Gray Thursday

Thanksgiving is traditionally a day of cooking, football and expressing love and gratitude for those who make life worth living. Capitalists and big box retailers are taking that away from Americans and turn Thanksgiving into another day to bolster the bottom line. It is time to take back Thanksgiving before these ne’er-do-wells get a foothold on the last bastion of family time.

Those who enjoy watching football on TV are in luck as long as they own a DVR or another way to get rid of the commercials. If a family happens to not have this convenience, it may be better off avoiding the TV and its commercials altogether.

That means filling those hours of family time with meaningful activities. Board and card games can be fun if everyone remembers that it is just a game. Try Charades or Win, Lose or Draw – it is hard to be mad when family members are doing ridiculous things to get their points across. To make it more fun avoid the points altogether, don’t even keep score.

Do something creative. You will need to plan ahead to get the supplies, but Thanksgiving is the perfect time to get together and make your Christmas presents for those who are far away. They don’t have to fancy or great, they just have to come from the heart.

Eat plenty of dessert. If you are lucky, you will be so full that going out to buy something during Thanksgiving will be more of a chore that can wait than a must-do event that retailers want it to be.

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Raven Vs. Gull

“AAAAAAAAA!”  The man went running by screaming as loudly as he could.  His bag was flapping against his hip.  The raven noticed that it wasn’t latched.

The bear went by a moment later.  Seeing opportunity, the raven flew into the air and followed the two creatures through the wilderness.

It was obvious that the bear was toying with the man – running leisurely, catching up to the man, taking a half-hearted swipe at the legs and falling back again.

The man, on the other hand, was terrified.  He didn’t noticed when his hat flew off.  He lost a shoe at the last turn, and it looked like his bag was about ready to dump its contents.  He, also, hadn’t stopped screaming since the raven first spotted him running down the trail.

The bear was gaining on the man again.  He took a swipe and snagged his claw on the bag.  Something silver tumbled out as the man ran faster than the raven thought men could run.  The bear was too busy to notice what he had knocked loose.  Bear and man continued down the trail; raven lit upon the top of a pine.

He looked down at the trail.  It was a…  No, it couldn’t be…  But it was – a FISH!  The raven called out his claim to the fish at the same time that another call came from the tree exactly opposite to him.  Raven recognized the call as that of a gull.  He called back to the gull in the gull’s language.  The gull responded with a threat.  The raven returned the threat.  They eyed each other.  Both left their trees at the same time and clashed in mid air.  Black, white and gray feathers fell from the sky and onto the trail.

The birds returned to opposite sides of the trail.  The raven knew he was smarter and more sophisticated than the gull, but the gull was cunning when it came to procuring food to satisfy its voracious appetite.  He called to the gull.  The gull ignored him – its mind was consumed with the thought of its next meal.

The gull darted out from its tree.  The raven intercepted him.  The gull shouted “MINE!  MINE!  MINE!” as the two birds fell to the ground, claws interlocked, beaks snapping.  They pecked, snapped, scrabbled and flapped.  They scratched and screamed.  They hopped on each other – neither gained a clear advantage.

Both tired, they stepped away from each other.  Black eyes stared into gold eyes.  Both squinted.  Their chests heaved as they tried to regain their breath.  Then, the raven heard something.  He cocked his head to keep one eye on the gull and to look at where the other sound was coming from.

There, where the fish had been, sat three bloated magpies – clattering away like some old hens.  The fish was no where to be seen.

Author’s Note: Living in Alaska gave me time to explore the wilderness and watch animal behavior in the wild. My time wandering the streets of Anchorage, where a gull attacked me, and through the woods near and far in the rest of the state gave me the experience I needed to write this story. What life experience have you used to further your creativity?