Dude and Dude: Distances

Gah!!

“This sumthin’ I wanna know ’bout, dude?”

“Prob’ly not. Check out this IM from Terry.”

“‘Tha news suggests the entire big island will be blown to smithereens.’ Like, wow.”

“Ya didn’t even read tha bit ’bout tha Pacific Ocean fillin’ up wit’ all tha lava from tha otha volcanoes that ours is gonna set off.”

“Sheesh. No wonda all a our peeps on tha mainland ‘r tryin’ ta get us ta come home, like now.”

“They don’ mean it, dude.”

“… whut?”

“They talk a lot, yeah. But ya seen any plane tickets from ’em yet?”

“Oh. ‘Thoughts an’ prayers’, like?”

“‘R not like.”

“Word. But, where does they get this stuff?”

“What stuff?”

“Tha fake news ’bout tha volcano!

“Straight outa tha KaCHING School a Journalism, dude. Where all tha rest a tha fake news’s been comin’ from alla this time. Nobody’s buyin’ nothin’ else!

“But what if’n ya got tha straight dope, yeah?”

“What’s this gotta do about weed?

“Tha volcano burnin’ down all tha ganga farms? Not that kinda dope, dope!

“Fine, have it yer way. Y’wanna try tellin’ peeps what’s really happenin’ an’ see if’n any a ’em will pay attention?

“I’d rather they paid me!

“Right. Speakin’ a burnin’ ganga.”

“Fun-nee. Not! So what’s tha deal? Peeps think this volcano thingy is really big, big ’nuff ta wipe out Hawai‘ Island an’ maybe lots more. But they really ain’t got no clue, so’s they buy whatever they’re told. Especially if’n it gives them a thrill.”

“Ew. But how doya fix it?”

“Ya give ’em somethin’ ta compare it to! Say ya live in Boston. OC’s got some peeps there, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“So ya tell ’em, if’n ya put tha volcano in Massachusetts along tha South Shore, we’re livin’, like, west a Worcester. Nobody in Boston cares ennythin’ ’bout what goes on in Massachusetts west a Worcester. An’ we’re that far away from tha volcano in Hawai‘i. So why should we care about it?”

“‘K …”

“Now, say ya put tha Hawai‘i volcano in Washington DC.”

“Ain’t they already got one?”

“In his dreams, dude. An’ ours. Tha bad ones. Stop distractin’ me. Anyway. If’n tha volcano’s on tha Mall, we ‘r livin’ in, like, tha Blue Ridge Mountains. Ya go ta tha Blue Ridge so’s ya c’n get away from DC an’ not haveta care ’bout it no more. Why should we care enny more than that?

“An’ speakin’ a Washin’ton. We useta live in tha state, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“So what if’n we put tha Hawai‘i volcano on topa Mt. St. Helens? What blew in 1980, yeah? We’d be livin’ practically on tha coast. Y’can hardly see tha mountain from there.”

“Yeah, but that’s west a Mt. St. Helens. They didn’t get much outa that big boom. East, ‘nother story. That ash cloud went ta Idaho, at least.”

“Right. Now we c’n talk ’bout how big is big. Lookit this: the map a what’s eruptin’ on Hawai‘i right now (tha black box, yeah?) versus just tha blast damage from Mt. St. Helens. Tha Kilauea thingy is tiny, dude!”

“Mebbe not so tiny fer tha folks what’s livin’ in lower Puna, dude.”

“Dig. An’ it’s sure as hell photogenic. But it ain’t no way big as tha hype it’s gettin’.”

“But we’re still livin’ on an island, dude. An’ wasn’t there an island in tha Caribbean what was wiped out by a volcano?”

“Only ’bout half a it, dude. Yer thinkin’ a tha island a Montserrat. Which’s got tha volcano what Jimmy Buffett sang about. An’ yeah, let’s compare Montserrat wit’ Hawai‘i.”

“Like wow, dude. Ya c’ld put half tha islands a tha Caribbean onta tha Big Island, lose ’em, an’ nevah find ’em again!

Island size matters, yeah, dude? D’ya think peeps’ll believe us now when we sez we’re doin’ OK here, volcano or no volcano?”

“Mebbe. Mebbe not. All’s I know is this.”

“What?”

“If’n tha volcano starts belchin’ out apartment-sized refrigerators, I’m a’gonna be gettin’ m’self one.”

“Only if’n ya c’n catch one afore it lands, dude. Otherwise, yer prob’ly gonna have ta be dealin’ wit’ a pretty good-sized Freon leak.”

“Damn, dude. There’s always a catch.”

“Yeah, like, what’d I say, dude?”

Posted in current events, Dude and Dude, Hawai'i, satire, We the People | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Amoeba’s Lorica: Public Service Announcement

On 30 April 2018, the bottom fell out of Pu‘u O‘o Crater, on the Eastern Rift Zone of Kilauea volcano.

It’s been smoke and fire and Jell-O ever since, here on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Especially for the unlucky gamblers who built houses in the Leilani Estates neighborhood, perched right along the center axis of that Eastern Rift Zone, where the lava that used to be in Pu‘u O‘o is now boiling up out of the ground. Gamblers whose dice rolls have just come up craps. But hey, the place is now important enough to rate a Wikipedia page.

And for Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba and his Quilly, following the news reports of this event, on those fragments of commercial and social media that we have not yet abandoned, has been, er, enlightening.

Yes, YFNA and Quilly are living on the same Hawai‘i Island that the eruption is happening on. But, as they have already reported, they are as far away from the action as it’s possible to get without walking on water or flying over it. Aaand, in that intervening space, there are two – not one, but two – large mountains, one 13,000 feet and the other 8,000 feet tall. The risk that YFNA and Quilly will be inundated with hot lava is nil, and folk may stop worrying about it, with thanks for their concern.

Whatever the mass media may say about it.

There is an evacuation going on. It’s in the immediate vicinity of the eruption. It affects about a thousand people, not the ten thousand cited in one early media report. No, the evacuation does not include the whole island of Hawai‘i. It certainly does not include dislocating the entire population of O‘ahu, with its major city (Honolulu) and more than a million people.

And no, the eruption of Kilauea volcano is not going to set off the volcanoes on the Pacific Coast of North America.

Whatever social media may say about it.

The AP news item set off some of the good people at the United States Geological Survey. Who, it seems, couldn’t figure out how come the sober science they presented to their Associated Press mass media interviewers got translated into a premeditated ploy to set off a nationwide panic attack.

Alas. Scientists can be some of the dumbest ‘smart’ people on the face of the planet. Crede expertum: YFNA used to pretend to be one. To be fair to the scientists – once upon a horrible time, YFNA also pretended to be a radio announcer. Even, to the lasting pain of the afflicted listeners, a sportscaster. It didn’t last long – just long enough to teach YFNA certain lessons that, perhaps, those who have not trod any paths in these moccasins have had no occasion to experience, and thus, to grasp.

First among those lessons? The media exist to make money. Period. The end. Print, web, broadcast, narrowcast, podcast, coconut-telegraph cast. It makes money or it dies. And whatever tricks they can get away with that make money, to get Us to spend Our money on them, will be done. Especially if it’s enough money to fund the takeover of an entire Hawaiian island, Mr. Zuckerberg. One as far away as possible from lava flooding, of course. Though water flooding remains a concern. Sorry ’bout that. Even Paradise has its inconvenient truths. Kinda like data spying does.

If ever there was a time when “responsible journalism” existed, Mr. Murrow, it was when responsible journalism was the only way to make money, and enough money to make the hard work necessary to accomplish it worth anybody’s while. Because that’s all that We the People would buy.

What are we buying now, Honey Boo Boo? Mr. President?!?

The media people have worked out what the politicians and the preachers worked out many moons ago, and the scientists who don’t work alongside these folk seem unable to grasp. Data, and reasoning based on those data, do not motivate people. Emotion does. Specifically, it motivates people to buy stuff. You get people mad, or scared, or crying, or horny, or generally freaking out. And just after you do that, you run the ad.

And We the People will remember the ad, far better than if there was no emotional outburst before it was run. And we’re far more likely to run out and buy that widget.

Or that crucifix.

Or that Hakenkreuz.

The more sensational the story, facts be damned, the greater the profits for media outlets. Especially if they can get clueless citizens to put themselves in harm’s way, not to mention the law’s, to get, for a few pennies, the stories and pictures that they once paid professionals a living wage and benefits to get. Ka-CHING!!

And those, like scientists, who present themselves to the media maw, be it Disney or Breitbart or Twitter, thinking that their own good and noble intentions will be mirrored by those media types, to say nothing of the audiences to which they pander, pretty much get what’s coming to them.

Data and reason only have a chance when society agrees to put most (we can’t, apparently, do without any) emotions aside, and do the hard work of turning those data and analyses into work. This is indeed how scientists are (or were) trained.

But this is hard, and it gets harder as data accumulate. Society, to ease the load, hands more and more of the work to fewer and fewer people, and then its people suddenly discover that they’re groaning under a dictatorship and wonder how they got there.

Or, the people learn, to their horror, that the data mean that they, not someone else, they themselves have to yield some of their comforts, in order to prosper the whole. And they will run in fright to anyone who proclaims, loudly enough, that the data are bogus, and all they have to do is follow and all will be well. And then, suddenly, they discover that they’re groaning under a dictatorship and wonder how they got there.

A long, long time ago now, when elephants had fur, ’50 shades of gray’ was a description of TV screens, and the World Wide Web was the principal scare in a B-grade horror movie featuring giant spiders (and lots of them), those TV viewers would know, quickly, when a broadcast news item was Important.

The broadcasters would stop showing commercials.

(Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was following a seemingly-less-rabid local commercial news page for information on the eruption. He looked away for a moment, came back and … the page was gone.

Replaced by a full-page popup add attempting to command him to buy purge software for his computer.

It happened twice.

Poof. Commercial news page gone!)

And, at lesser times, the broadcasters would have Public Service Announcements (PSAs), also (usually) ad-free, advising the public of noteworthy events.

In the spirit of those days, Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba offers, as a PSA, locations that offer factual information about the Hawai‘i Island volcanic eruptions:

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory webpage on Kilauea Volcano.

USGS Volcanoes Twitter feed.

County of Hawai‘i Civil Defense Active Alerts webpage.

These sites have no ads. They do not try to wrest emotional responses from you. They have, or should have, little need to do so. The citizens and residents of the United States of America have already paid for their services (at least for now), and the service that’s been paid for is to present what is. In the expectation that We the People will see that this is good.

Only for them to discover that what We the People want, and will pay for, is the thrill of exploding cars and flaming homes at the mercy of digitally-enhanced, super-speeded lava flows. The heart-wrenching cascades of tears from women – still better, from males (‘men’ being rare, if not already extinct) – who have ‘lost everything’. The pulse-pounding scare of a bubbling fissure a whole football gridiron field in length that will cause the end of the world as we know it! Give Us this, and We will buy whatever you’re selling!

Isn’t that so, Mr. President?

Posted in Amoeba's Lorica, current events, Hawai'i, media, science, We the People | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Amoeba’s Lorica: Reading the Ti Leaves

Among the many unique elements of Hawaiian lore is the concept of “canoe plants”, which accompanied the original Polynesian settlers on their voyages to Hawai‘i, and became part of the island flora once those settlers got here.

(We pause briefly to consider how it is that plants and animals, brought to Hawai‘i by Polynesians on their wa‘a, came to be known as “culturally significant introductions”, while those brought to Hawai‘i by Europeans on container ships and 747s came to be known as “invasive species”. Done? Cool. We now return you to your more-or-less regularly-scheduled blog post.)

High on the list of canoe plants is the shrub or small tree known to the Hawaiians as ki, to much of the rest of Polynesia as ti, and to scientists (and those who, like YFNA, pretend to be) as Cordyline fruticosa. It’s a relative of asparagus. Its broad leaves come in various shades of green, or green and white, or green and red, depending on which variety you’ve got growing in your garden. Periodically, it sends out sprays of white to pinkish-purplish flowers, which sooner or later give way to red berries.

Yes, yes, it says here that you can make tea out of ti leaves, at least from the young ones. Though, since the resulting drink is said to be useful as a nerve and muscle relaxant, and the steam from the boiling as a decongestant, YFNA reckons that the result would taste (ahem) medicinal. Far more (ahem) medicinally interesting is the potent alcoholic beverage, okolehao, that can be distilled from the mashed and fermented root of the plant.

Nay, you’d be far more likely to carry a ti bag than brew it. Hawaiians made rain capes, hula skirts, and other garments out of the leaves. Ti leaves are also used to wrap stuff. Like laulau. Steamed vegetables. Other foods, for cooking and storage.

Hair.

The story is told that, when Hualalai volcano erupted in 1801 (it has not erupted since), the lava flows destroyed breadfruit groves and fishponds that served the Hawaiian king, Kamehameha I, whose royal residence was at Kailua Kona, just south of the flows. Sacrifices of pigs and produce to Pele were of no avail. Finally, Kamehameha himself went to the “crater” (the flank vent that was the source of the offending flow, actually some distance from the mountain’s summit), and sacrificed “himself” by cutting off a lock of his hair, wrapping it in a ti leaf, and throwing this ho‘okupu into the vent. And, so the story goes, the lava flow stopped.

Ki (Ti), sacred to the god Lono and the goddess of hula Laka, is credited with great spiritual power. It’s planted around Hawaiian homes for good luck. It continues to be used in religious ceremonies. It’s worn, carried, or placed to mark boundaries against the intrusion of ghosts and evil spirits, and to invite occupation by good spirits.

Hell. If you’ve got a lava flow inexorably bearing down on you, you may as well try something.

Posted in Amoeba's Lorica, culture, current events, Hawai'i | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment