Friday, January 9, 2015

Hawaii Owns the Most Inattentive & Complacent Pedestrians on the Planet

Waiting for the next pedestrian to cross.......

Hawaii is such a wonderful place to live; beautiful weather, friendly people with the majority expecting longevity while exhibiting a healthy life style, a relaxed non-intrusive culture of acceptance of its multicultural heritage, and a Democratic run infrastructure protective of the masses. Why does such a livable state have one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the nation and the highest one for seniors like me over the age of 65?  While the answer is multifactorial and not that simple or straight forward, I will nevertheless impart my theory on at least one major contributor to this tragic problem after I have had a chance to pontificate a bit on what pedestrians have to face in other communities. 

As a native New Yorker who has lived in Hawaii more than half his life, I have been fortunate to travel to many countries particularly over the last few years while enjoying my part time retirement.  Drawing from my early days, New Yorker pedestrians’ fear of New Yorker drivers is legendary.  It seems like many cars speed up to terrorize you should you dare cross the street violating their path of transit.  By definition, if you have survived such an encounter, your approach to crossing the street was done with extreme caution.

I can say this is generally my experience in most of the foreign countries I have travelled to of late, except Denmark…….that survival from one side of the street to the other is a great feat of accomplishment.  Countries like Egypt, India, Viet Nam, and China are extremely dangerous for pedestrians and nobody who casually navigates cross walks in Hawaii could possibly fathom how stressful this can be or how to easily survive such aggressive traffic.

My most recent experience in a foreign land is Lima, Peru.  Not unlike the tropical climate of Hawaii with sun drenched streets and warm weather, traffic and pedestrians movement contrasts sharply with that of Hawaii.  Everyone there drives fast and fearless, totally oblivious to the movement of pedestrians.  As in New York, it seems like cars speed up to terrorize you while you attempt to navigate the crosswalks or jay walk or even think of crossing the street. You risk your life every time you cross.  Once in the intersection, you rush to the other side, never believing that you are safe just because there are no cars in sight.  Nobody…..yes, No ONE in Lima would ever believe that a protective shield renders them immune from automobile’s competing for the same road space.  You don’t have to guess who would be the winner in that situation.

I did a little study over the last few months in downtown Honolulu. With a log that I carried in my car, at stoplights and pedestrian crossings that I arrived at while driving my normal weekly routine, I observed pedestrians making a full crossing.  I logged just under 100 pedestrian crossings looking for a number of factors, the most important for the study was whether there was any attempt on the part of the pedestrian to look toward the traffic in any way…..even a quick glance.   I was not surprised to find that two thirds of the pedestrians crossed the street without bothering to look in either or both directions.  Some did heed the pedestrian crossing signal and the timer, many crossed very slowly with their heads hanging down as if wishing to be invisible (or maybe somehow hallucinating that what they can’t see will not hurt them), some were texting or talking on their phones, crossing oblivious to the on coming traffic and cars stopped waiting to re-claim their command of the road.  And in some situations, it seemed like pedestrians slowed down their pace if they noticed or sensed that a car was waiting to make a legal turn and traverse their path.  It gave me the uncomfortable sense that certain pedestrians felt empowered at that moment in time to take as much time as they “wanted” without regard to the overall traffic situation, and they were a priori to be insured a safe crossing.

What makes Hawaii pedestrians so complacent?  I believe it is the Hawaii drivers…mostly polite, mostly understanding, and mostly patient, which together embodies our driving culture that has existed for decades.  Need to cut into traffic; it’s easy, and “shaka” your thanks is all you need to do to show appreciation.  Cross the street between legal intersections, drivers gladly yield to your movement. Needless to say, talking about the plight of the person behind the wheel will require more than a fleeting comment.  I do not have the stomach for reaching beyond my focus of the day, which is what the pedestrian in Hawaii can do to optimize his/her chances of surviving the crossing.

Pedestrians may feel that the crosswalk signal that allows them access to cross the street somehow magically controls the behavior of drivers.  But while these signals are indeed synchronized to their respective traffic lights, Hawaii drivers have increasingly witnessed more and more vehicles plowing through intersections ignoring yellow and red lights in a slippery slope of trying to avoid stopping at one more stop light. Indeed, crossing the street must be more dangerous now than ever as roads have become more congested with traffic and with Hawaii drivers becoming more and more frustrated and impatient with long transit times.  How long the Aloha spirit of driving will last in Hawaii remains to be seen?  In the meantime, it seems that Hawaii pedestrians continue to fantasize the possession of an invisible shield protecting them from the unpredictable and uncontrollable (at least by them) movement of a several thousand pound glob of moving metal that could dispassionately mow them down intentionally or unintentionally in an instant.

The point I want to make is that Hawaii pedestrians expect that Hawaii drivers are friendly and will yield to pedestrians…at red lights, at crosswalks and even when illegally jay walking.  And in fact they DO most of the time, which gives pedestrians a false sense of security that it is a given 100% of the time.  The only problem is that pedestrians do NOT routinely possess a protective coat of armor for the times when drivers are lapsing into a dream world, lacking the peripheral vision to see them approaching, distracted by a pretty girl or boy on the street, drunk like a skunk, responding to their smart phone’s omnipresent beckoning call, or experiencing a transient ischemic attach with the disappearance of brain function during that moment of collision. 

The only remedy for the pedestrian is to treat any intersection with the utmost caution when crossing, perhaps think of it as a war zone.  At any time, expect the unexpected. Look for snipers and land mines to your right and left, continue to rotate your glance to compensate for the limits of your peripheral vision.  Attempt to make eye-to-eye contact with the driver to confirm that he/she sees you as you see him/her.  Avoid changing directions, walk briskly when possible, and try to move at a predicable constant speed so that the driver will be able to process your trajectory of movement when navigating their cars. 

Aye Yai Yai, Eye to eye, or say bye bye!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Honolulu Pedestrian Deaths - A Tragic Loss of Life

I am almost finished a blog that I will post shortly on my theory of why so many pedestrians meet their maker while crossing the street in Honolulu.  In the meantime, I thought that I wanted to propose a smart catchy phrase that might say it all regarding the approach one should take when crossing the street legally or illegally.


or to make it more readable, consider.....

EYE 2 EYE, or BYE BYE.............  or......

2 EYE, or 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Every Moment is a Gift: Christmas Eve, 2014

Church service on Christmas Eve - Episcopal Church

Sinus congestion aggravating a European acquired yucky bronchitis filled my head and lungs with virulent sludge, coloring my mood on this Christmas eve, 2014.  Here in San Francisco with daughter and family, with some university work related burden looming in the background, I am relatively free to rest and enjoy the day with my three granddaughters who are now at the age that is truly fun.  Things are happy overall and I have nothing that I long for, at least for the moment, that is not mine for the asking.   

Yet, I am stricken with shards of melancholy, not for myself, but in spite of myself.  Perhaps it’s my 68 years of life or my relative isolation from the real world of the living and oppressed, overindulged by luxury, living in a big house, eating out any time and any place, going anywhere anytime, living minutes from town not having to fend off traffic like the rest of humanity, and feeling safe and protected.  Yet things are not well in the world, and for some reason, this makes me sad on this Christmas eve.

I feel sad for the Syrians, having displaced half of their country’s population into refugee camps in neighboring countries, cities leveled to rubble and thousands shot or poisoned as the toll of war.  And we don’t even know who is the real enemy.

I feel frightened with the reality of ISIS, its cruelty and disregard for human existence.  I feel sad for what has happened to Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of their own leaders and other foreign powers including the US.

I feel frightened by the impulsiveness of North Korea and the possibility that a satirical movie could be the catalyst for World War 3.

I feel frightened by the unpredictability and fickleness of the weather, cold when it should be warm, warm when it should be cold, from no rain to deluge, snowing relentlessly in parts unlikely to experience such excesses, and not snowing in ski resorts that should produce big dumps.  Happy I live in Hawaii!

I feel defeated by those who think guns don’t kill people, by teenagers (which I define as 13 to 33y/o) who fanaticize their life a revenge flick, plotting months in advance to kill their fellow students (or co-workers) at their schools (place of employment) and then doing so with guns readily available to them.

I am tired of lying and self-serving politicians, of irresponsible leaders of our country who continue to spend more than we make driving us on a collision path to bankruptcy.

I am tired of those who defend people based solely on their color rather than their deeds.

I am disgusted by how much stuff is made in China, and disappointed that not more is made in the US.

I’m shocked at how much everything cost and whether living a long life means taking a voyage to poverty.

I am saddened by those who have all that I have in life but choose to waste their existence ruminating over the minutia of their lives, and the lives of others around them.

I’m amazed that, no matter how intelligent or talented people are, they choose to risk it by some dangerous and aberrant behavior.

And yet I’m inspired by the concept of “changing set points”, where those humans most able to cope with a changing world as well as changes in their world is to adapt to those changes.

Happiness and contentment are not a given.  One has to work for them.  One has to be lucky in life to have a safe home.  One has to be magnanimous in life to be loved. One has to be introspective in life to ignore and avoid that which cannot be changed rather than to ingest it whole. One has to have the self-awareness of life’s fleeting moment to focus on beauty and dignity, to shun darkness and the devil, and to treat every moment as a gift.   

At 93, treating every moment as a gift!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Razzle Dazzle - DV Dance Showcase - 2014

All pictures thanks to Sandy who guessed well when to snap the next photo.

Was not going to add any more pictures but I just couldn't pass on these!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Divino Ritmo Dance 6th Annual Grand Ball - 2014 - Mo Pictures

All photo's from the artistic eye and camera of Jackson Cho. 

Divino Ritmo Dance 6th Annual Grand Ball - 2014 - Pictures

Professionals Artem and Inna dancing one of their numbers at the Divino Ritmo Grand Ball. 

Included below are a smattering of pictures sent to me by close friends, and do not do justice to the other performers that are heretofore not included.  PLEASE send me pictures that you would like me to consider posting.  I will try to "showcase" other students dancing at the Grand Ball as well as some pictures of guests and family members enjoying the evening's festivities.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Divino Ritmo Dance 6th Annual Grand Ball - 2014 - Personal Reflections

There were no less than 900 eyes at this Divino Ritmo event last Saturday, but no more than two of them were seeing the same thing.  Some were there to perform and showcase their efforts and progress in dance over the last year; some were there as guests and invited family members to cheer them on; some were curious supporters from other dance clubs there to enjoy the event, and even some who were were unexpected or thought to be unlikely to attend. 

If practice makes perfect, this event has benefited through practice to perfection for this, its sixth iteration.  A thousand moving parts, the elaborate set, slide shows, music with a fabulous sound system, coordinated spot lights and floor lights, the event program, the integrated and tightly timed single and group performances, Lucas and Yanna’s performance, Artem and Inna’s beautiful magical dancing, and the dozens of helpers staffing every conceivable function to make this years event nearly flawless. 

Clearly this event has become the premier dance event of the year, and by some people’s account including some hotel staff, usurping the Hawaii Star Ball in that distinction.  Anyone interested in a spectacularly entertaining evening with a three course meal, ample time for social dancing to some great DJ music, being entertained by students and internationally renowned professional dancers and overall a unique holiday treat that doesn’t happen often in Hawaii, would thoroughly enjoy the this Divino Ritmo event.  This year the guests topped 450!  It’s not too early to put in your request for 2015.  This event should not be missed!

Of course, as a student of Yanna, my opinion is biased and I admit that.  But I truly believe that this showcase event takes more than hard work, it takes a true gift and innate organizational capacity to jell this event together so well.  But instead of just providing broad platitudes, I will make the effort to provide a brief but critical account of the event citing some positive and negative aspects.

First, the ballroom and outer area was amazingly decorated beautifully for the event with the theme being “Gangsters and Dolls”.  The Sheraton ballroom is arguably one of the most beautiful in town and to add to this, there were Christmas trees and other ornaments adorning the ballroom for the holiday season.  However, the set was simply incredible!  It was truly a labor of love done singlehandedly by one of Honolulu’s well-known doctors and dance student, Paul Laderta.  The time and effort that it required must have been daunting.  Always the gentlemen and extremely gracious in his demeanor, Paul never wants to call attention to himself, but he deserves the greatest of compliments, praise and appreciation.  Indeed, while not finding time to take pictures of much else, I focused my attention on trying to capture some good images of the set. 

There were 21 student performances, accounting for most but not all of the serious Divino Ritmo student pool. It was fun watching students who you see in the studio working on their routines, trying to perform to the best of their ability on the big night.  It is always fun to watch performances from students representing the extremes of life, from Uncle Wes (I am of course in this category but I lacked the ability to observe my performance) to the wonderful keiki dancers. Little skits flavored the routines done by Maria Handl, the formation team was entertaining and student performances ended on a cute foursome performance by Yanna, Lucas, Marie and Paul.  My last comment is that from all the applause that Tomo Sasakawa drew after he performed, it was clear that he was the most improved performer and deserved such recognition with his confident flawless “Listen to my Rhythm” solo.

I can’t say enough good about Yanna and Lucas’s professional performance and I’m glad that they had the energy to perform their exciting, flawless but nevertheless risky routine (the lifts were not for the faint of heart) after so many student dances.  Indeed, even if I had not been required to dance one dance, the energy, speed, coordination, and stress of changing into so many costumes to accommodate all of the student dance routines would have exhausted me!

I won’t say anything more about the invited professionals, Artem and Inna.  They were everything we expected they would be.   They left us wanting to see more.  Please see:

Ok, a few criticisms.  Overall, I think the event was a little long for those early to bed folks in Hawaii.  There were 21 student performances; this raises the question of whether to limit this number for the sake of time, and or how to do it.  …Which further begs the question of whether the purpose of the event is to showcase the progress of the students or not…..I won’t pretend to try to answer this question or to offer any advice.

The awards ceremony could have been shorter, or limited or maybe even eliminated.  I could see guests heading to the door after Act 2 of the student performances, thereby missing the marvelous professional show that was about to begin, which was truly the highlight of the evening.   This is just my opinion.

Hope to see you all next year!