- What’s your favorite song from 1999?
It was a pretty good year for music. I was quite fond of “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things” by Blink-182, “Miserable” and “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit, “You’re a God” and “Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon, “Little Black Backpack” by Stroke 9, “With Arms Wide Open” and “Higher” by Creed (That’s right: I said it! and I like Nickelback too!), “The Bad Touch” by Bloodhound Gang, and “Learn to Fly” by Foo Fighters. Give me some truth serum and I’ll probably say “Learn to Fly” is my real favorite, but for this answer, I’m going with “Last Night of the World” by my favorite musician of all time, Bruce Cockburn. This is a live performance of it a few years later.Honorable mention: Jimmy Buffett released Beach House on the Moon in 1999, and it included a cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Pacing the Cage.” Buffett is clearly a fan: he’s covered at least four Cockburn songs.
- What are some of your favorite films from 1999?
Of the 30+ films I saw from 1999, the best is probably American Beauty, but my favorite is definitely Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Second place goes to The Matrix. I also enjoyed The Iron Giant, Tarzan, and 10 Things I Hate About You.
- What’s something interesting that happened on your birthday in 1999?
Apple released the PowerMac G3 (Blue & White), one of which is sitting on this desk right next to me. A friend gave it to me without its guts, but he also gave me a plastic bag with compatible guts, so I put it together and used it as file storage. The thing still works.
- How did you ring in the new year as 1999 became 2000?
I slept over at Traci’s house with George and V. We played mahjong all night and set off firecrackers. Ross joined us for the latter part of the night, and it was really nice. Because we’re the last state in the country to ring in the new year, we enjoyed watching the countdowns across the nation in the hours leading up to midnight, looking for any indication of what the Y2K bug might do to us when it got here.
- What’s something that’s gotten better since 1999?
So many things. It’s easy to go to technology on this one, so I’ll stay away from that. Although some of my favorite restaurants are gone now, Honolulu has become a pretty interesting food town these past several years. I can’t afford to explore it as much as I’d like, but the choices have been impressive. One thing I like is that finer dining has gotten a lot of attention, but so has that mid-priced stuff, especially with the food truck boom.
Also, have you noticed how much nicer book jackets in young adult literature have become? This trend started before 1999 I think, but it has continued in an encouraging way. I also like the way literature for older teens has earned its own section, separate from the children’s and YA stuff. Although I don’t love a lot of what’s there, I do love the recognition by the marketplace that this is a different demographic who will spend money on books if the material is directed at it.
- What’s your favorite kind of French fry?
Huge, potatoey steak fries. I’m a French-fry fanatic, but my enjoyment of fries increases with their size. Wedges are good. Steak fries are great. I don’t love shoestrings as much, especially if they’re cooked to crispiness. I don’t mind curly fries or waffle fries, but would much rather have something simple and starchy. Most crinkle-cuts are good too! In my area, some of my favorite places to get fries are at Bob’s Bar-B-Q, where you can get “monster fries,” which are basically huge wedges; Wing Stop, which has nice, thick fries and a variety of sauces; and (strangely) Regal Bakery in Chinatown, where you get a plate of previously frozen crinkle-cuts covered in so-so chili and cheese for pretty cheap.
- Where can you get really good French toast?
I haven’t yet had French toast that blows me away, which leads me to wonder if there’s a low ceiling on French toast. However, I love custardy things, and French toast is basically a custard when done right, so I remain hopeful. Kenny’s Restaurant in my hood, which no longer exists, had a pretty great sweet bread French toast for not much money. I think right now the French toast I enjoy the most is at Zippy’s.
- What are your feelings about French salad dressing?
I love Catalina French, although it seems to be watered down in a lot of places I go, which can be a disappointment. Standard French dressing is an okay substitute, but I’ll usually get ranch or something else that’s creamy if Catalina’s not available. You know what’s really good covered in Catalina? Taco salad. When I was in high school, Jack in the Box had a pretty good taco salad, and I would pour Catalina all over that and it was delicious. If I make a taco salad (or a Hawaii-specific dish called “taco rice” which is basically a taco salad over hot rice), I always make sure I have some Catalina in the fridge to go with it.
- What’s something you know how to say in French?
R spent a semester in France, and she lived in the French House her senior year at Stanford, and she once read me a whole chapter of The Little Prince (the chapter about taming the fox) in French, so I learned a lot of French from her. Oh, and there’s a gentlemen’s club near Waikiki called Femme Nu, which she taught me the meaning of, somewhat to her later chagrin as I would whip that phrase out whenever it seemed fitting. My college dorm manager was also a French lecturer at my university, and she taught me a few phrases, including “Pardon me, that’s my heart you’re crushing into bits and pieces,” which I asked to learn in celebration of R’s return from France that semester. One night while I was saying good night to her at her front door, I whispered it in her ear as we hugged goodbye. I still know how to say it. I never learned a thing about how to write in the language, though, so I shan’t give it a try here.
- What French films have you seen?
It’s quite possible that I’ve seen more French-language films than Chinese-language or Japanese-language films, and I’ve seen a lot of those. A few of them:
Delicatessen (one of my favorites)
Jesus of Montreal (French Canadian)
The Hairdresser’s Husband (another favorite)
Tous les Matins du Monde
Nikita (which the TV series La Femme Nikita was based on)
My Father’s Glory
The Return of Martin Guerre (remade in English as Sommersby with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster)
This makes me want to comb IMDb and complete this list. It also makes me miss R, but then everything makes me miss R.
- What was the subject of one of your memorable YouTube holes?
I don’t really get into video on the web for some reason. I never have. Yet I do get sucked in once every so often, most recently for a bunch of John Oliver videos, which led to some stand-up from comics I like, which led to some concert videos of Epica and Anthrax. I like looking at multiple concert performances of the same song, through the years and even within the same tour.
- What was your most recent Wikipedia hole like?
So. I’m one of those weirdos who reads a lot of back-end Wikipedia stuff, like nominations for adminstator status, and debates about the Wikipedia Style Manual. A few nights ago, I wasted hours (hours!) following the conversation and backstory of this request for adminship. It was an enormous, ridiculous waste of time. And it led to other conversations about similar rejected requests by other users. It’s a different world, the world of Wikipedia editing, and I’m fascinated by sub-surface cultures like this.
- What’s a recipe you got from the internet and actually prepared? How did it turn out?
I have a bread machine, and almost every recipe I try is from the recipe sites. The most recent was for cocoa-walnut bread, which I made without the walnuts. It came out pretty good. I left the milk out (my pantry’s getting a little sparse), so it wasn’t chocolatey; it was cocoaey, and surprisingly went really well with some balsamic vinegar.
- What apparently little-known website do you enjoy?
I’m a deep admirer of the Four Word Film Review, especially its Top Reviews section, which has occasionally had me laughing to the verge of tears. I’ve submitted eight reviews myself, all of which have been declined. I use this as a gauge of my cleverness.
- What apparently popular website can you just not get into?
I have difficulty getting into Reddit, which is weird because so many people use it as their homepage, their go-to first-look website every day. I have an account there and have a few groups subscribed, but it’s more of a once-in-a-while visit for me. More often, I’ll go there when I’m looking for specific information. Just not a fan.
What random letter was generated by the online random-letter generator (this doesn’t really count as one of your five questions)?
I rolled an E.
- What brand or model of car, whose name begins with the letter, would you like to get?
I’ll take a Hyundai Elantra for its being the most reasonable for my life right now. A Ford Escape or Ford Explorer would also be a good choice. And if it were just for a little while, I could live with a Cadillac Escalade.
- What summer activity, whose name begins with the letter, are you looking forward to?
Summers are when I do a lot of walking about; it’s been true since my early days as a teacher. You see more when you’re walking, and since I’ve been walking 40+ miles a week all year, I look forward to continuing my on-foot explorations of urban Oahu.
- What’s an item in your desk whose name begins with the letter?
My e-reader has been a best friend lately. It’s small enough to fit in the front pocket of my shorts, so when I take breaks during my walks, I can find somewhere comfy to sit and do some personal reading.
- What’s something, whose name begins with the letter, that you find frightening?
I’m half-kidding here, but I’m frightned by the thought of eviction. I’m behind on the rent, and my landlord is extremely patient, but I get the sense he’s getting mad. I finally (today!) sent a check for a couple months’ worth of rent, and that’ll cool things off for a while, but man. I really need to get better at making this writing thing pay.
- If you had to get a tattoo on your upper arm, what’s something whose name begins with the letter that you could live with?
I wouldn’t mind a cartoon drawing of Emily Dickinson; I had a great t-shirt from Barnes and Noble when I was in college, a pen-and-ink caricature of her, squeezed into a box. It was really cool, but thinking of that shirt makes me sad for reasons I won’t share. So, although something wordy seems too easy, it is the kind of thing a person like me would get, so I’m going with a tattoo of an e. e. cummings line of poetry:
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
They are the last two lines of my favorite cummings poem. By the way, if you do a Google image search for “i thank you god for most this amazing,” you’ll see an alarming and offensive number of graphics misquoting the poem. In an effort to make the language less cummings-like, of course these poetry murderers are turning the poetry into something else. I find it most irritating.
- What’s your favorite dancing scene in a movie?
John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing to Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” just edges out Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain.”
- What’s your favorite chase scene in a movie?
I’m not a fan of chase scenes, but maybe that one in Star Wars with the Millennium Falcon. Don’t ask me which one, ’cause I don’t know it well enough to say. You know the one where they turn sideways to pass through that narrow opening? Or does that describe them all?
- What’s your favorite courtroom scene in a movie?
Joe Pesci’s “grit-eating world” scene in My Cousin Vinny.” That movie is nothing but great courtroom scenes and beautiful Marisa Tomei (who won an Oscar).
- What’s your favorite kissing scene in a movie?
I’m also not much of a fan of kissing in movies. I mean, that should be me kissing that beautiful woman on the screen, not that loser of an actor, right? However, one I find most memorable is the smoking hot scene in To Have and Have Not.
Bogart: Whadja do that for?
Bacall: I was wondering whether I’d like it.
Bogart: What’s the decision?
Bacall: I don’t know yet.
- What’s your favorite scene in a non-musical movie where the characters spontaneously break into song?
It’s not singing, but the whistling scene in The Breakfast Club has to be near the top of the list. Second place: the “Tiny Dancer” scene in Almost Famous. Bonus: has a camera ever loved any actress as much as it loves Kate Hudson in Almost Famous?
- What’s an issue you wish more people knew about?
Most educated people have some understanding about the Japanese American relocation camps in World War II, but history is about people, and I wish more of my educated friends would take time to hear the stories of the people who were put there. At the very least, I’d appreciate a cursory reading of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s Farewell to Manzanar or Cynthia Kadohata’s Weedflower.
- When were you last outraged about something?
I’m old now, and one of the symptoms of my old age is that I’m a lot more even-keeled than I once was. Outrage is almost incomprehensible to me now. I think the closest I’ve gotten was the gridlock in Congress a few years ago.
- When you were a kid, what was the first news story to make an impression on you?
I was in fifth grade when the hostages were taken in the American embassy in Tehran. That was the first story I followed on a day-to-day basis. I learned a lot about the way the world works that year, most of it unpleasant.
- What’s getting far too much media attention lately?
Probably the presidential election. It’s too early.
- What’s a consumer product you’d recommend to others?
I picked up a cold last weekend and have been locked up in my cave all week. This tea, which I picked up at the Korean market in my neighborhood a few months ago, has been heavenly. It’s honey-ginger tea, which is made easily enough from its scratch ingredients, but I like this jarred variety quite a bit. A few teaspoons of the stuff in the jar and a large mug of very hot water, and I’m kind of comfy for at least twenty minutes.