Brian Keaney

Tag: Honolulu

Musings on books and libraries

Photo of the Hawai'i State Library is by wertheim and used under a Creative Commons license

I wrote a post yesterday for myDedham on the problems at the local library.  What it really comes down to is a lack of grown ups, but this manifests itself in a variety of ways.

For all the local problems, I am a big fan and a fairly frequent user of libraries.  When I lived in Honolulu my office was next to the State Library, and I would often stop by after work.  It was actually a Carnegie library, and I always liked what he had to say about why he chose to build so many of them with his fortune:

I choose free libraries as the best agencies for improving the masses of the people, because they give nothing for nothing. They only help those who help themselves. They never pauperize. They reach the aspiring and open to these chief treasures of the world — those stored up in books. A taste for reading drives out lower tastes.

Now I still have plenty of baser instincts and tastes, but its true that libraries give nothing for nothing.  There is a vast wealth of information stored in them, but you have to go out and actively seek it out.  Yesterday I checked out Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki, who, as it turns out, is also from the Islands.  I liked what he had to say and his philosophy, but this is one of those books I’m glad I borrowed and didn’t buy.

It was actually a very easy read, and I finished it in bed last night.  It would have benefited from a little more elegant prose, and I would have liked a little deeper thought as well.  The general philosophy was good, but I was left wanting.   More basic that, I was taken aback by the editing.

Not everyone is a writer, and that’s fine, but at a minimum the publisher should have had someone copyedit the book.  There were typos, which is just plain astounding, but I also found instances where the wrong hononym was used.  It also was slightly repetitive, particularly towards the end.  I don’t know how this found its way to the printers.

I actually drove to a neighboring town to check the book out since my local library didn’t own a copy.  When I got to the check out counter, I was asked for my library card.  I told them I didn’t have it with me, but that’s only partly the truth.  In fact, I haven’t seen my library card in years, possibly a decade or more.  I have enough to carry in my wallet without that.

They charged me 50 cents for checking out a book without my card, or would have but the woman let it slide “because it’s Christmas.”  I was grateful for her generosity, but I had to laugh at the policy.  She was able to look me up in the computer with only a modicum of effort.  Perhaps at one time this policy made sense, but today I see it as a relic from an institution clinging to the past.

Is it really worth incentivizing  people to bring their library cards with them?  What do they accomplish from it?  The 50 cents isn’t a significant revenue stream, and it really isn’t large enough to deter me.  I’d much rather pay it so I can stop at the library as I pass it or as the fancy strikes me than to carry around yet another card.

There was no one behind me in line, so the extra ten seconds it took her to look me up using my license really didn’t affect anyone.  What’s more, those few seconds are probably less than it would have taken her to break a $20 bill and give me $19.50 back.

The end.

Addendum: I slogged my way through Quantum.  I still have no idea how a quantum leap works.

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Where I lived, there are rainbows

I must admit that I do love rainbows.  It sounds like something a 7-year old girl would say, but when I lived in Hawai’i I really began to appreciate them.  They were stunningly beautiful at times, and scarcely a week went by that I didn’t see at least one or two.  On my visuals page I  have this picture of a rainbow rising out of the lava field at Volcano National Park on the Big Island.

I also have a number of shots on my Facebook page, including this one.  I didn’t normally bring my camera with me to work, but I was glad I did this day.  As seen from my office, this rainbow arced directly above Punchbowl, a dormant volcano right in the heart of Honolulu.

As much I like them, it’s clear that this guy was really affected by the admittedly beautiful rainbow he saw from his front yard (via Human Nature).

It’s easy enough to call the guy a kook, especially after he tells a reporter that he was physically knocked down by the “powerful rainbow rays.”  Still, I think there is something to be said for the sense of wonder this man still possesses.  When was the last time any of us were knocked down, literally or even figuratively, by something of immense beauty?  Have we really all become so cynical and jaded to the world?  I fear that I have.

As I am wont to do, I’ve been taking my Jeep out onto the beach to light a bonfire most Saturday nights this summer.   To get there requires two miles of off-roading and then four-wheeling a couple hundred yards through the dunes.  Just a few miles away is civilization, but in my head I’m worlds away.   I love the beach anyway, but there is something special about it at night.  You can truly clear your head when there is nothing around you except stars and surf and sand.

I think I was in that frame of mind more when I lived in Honolulu.  When I first moved there I noticed that I would often weave in and out of people on the sidewalk.  I wanted to get to where I was going, but the locals were perfectly content to stroll along and get there whenever they got there.  If can can, if no can no can, as they say.  I slowed down a bit after a few months, but I don’t think the New Englander in me ever completely left.

After living there I can now say with some degree of certainty that Hawai’i  is a foreign country that happens to use American currency.  It’s a place unlike any other I’ve been to in the United States, or anywhere else, for that matter.  I miss it still, and I’ll often listen to Hapa, Iz, and other Hawaiian artists at my desk and in my Jeep.  There’s something about the whole culture, and the music in particular, that just soothes the soul.

One of my favorites hapa hula songs is “Where I live, there are rainbows.”  I can’t find the particular version I like so much online, but the lyrics capture much of the magic of the place.

Where I live there are rainbows
With flowers full of color
And birds filled with song
I can smile when it’s raining
Touch the warmth of the sun
I hear children laughing
In this place that I love

(hat tip for the lyrics to Senator Gary Hooser, with whom I once worked)

Hawai’i is still a place that I love.  Someday I’ll return “and never stray, from Honolulu, in Hawai`i nei.”

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