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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 28, 2009

Artists, authors nourish the spirit

By David Shapiro

I'd go nuts if I didn't take a break from the news to immerse myself in things more nourishing to the mind and spirit, and I'd like to give nods to some local artists and authors who helped me do that in 2009.

• Music CD: "Mailani," by Mailani Makainai (Mountain Apple, $15.89 at www.barnesandnoble.com). This mostly Hawaiian language collection features memorable originals and fresh takes on traditional tunes.

"Penei Iho, Penei Aʻe, Penei No" has been near the top of the most-played list on my iPod for months. Mailani is a compelling young voice from whom we'll be hearing more.

• Spoken word CD: "Meditations on Leaves of Grass," by Anne Marie and Richard MacPherson (Lulu, $15 at lulu.com). These orchestrated passages re-interpret Walt Whitman's classic poems as hymns and chants, which is exactly what he intended, the MacPhersons say.

The effect is, well, meditative, and you find something new to appreciate in Whitman's genius every time through. Listen to this one in a quiet place.

• Fiction: "Humble Honest Men," by Bob Dye (Watermark, 260 pages, $12.44 at Amazon). Dye's contagious sense of humor is always worth spending a few hours with, and it's on every page of this comic romp about a Hawaiian of half-Irish descent who goes to Ireland to help turn the Lusitania into a tourist attraction.

Dye's well-tuned ear for language brings his characters to life, and there's a lot of fun in trying to identify the real-life locals some of them are based on.

• Nonfiction: "Ben: A Memoir, from Street Kid to Governor," by Benjamin Cayetano (Watermark, 568 pages, $15.56 at Amazon). Our former governor's autobiography offers as much political candor as you'll ever get from somebody who rose this high.

Some of the detail can get tedious, but I find myself consulting the book often for insights on current issues that come up.

• Poetry: "Waves From a Time-Zoned Brain," by John E. Simonds (AuthorHouse, 121 pages, $11.99 from Amazon). Those who know Simonds as a hard-boiled Hawai'i newsman for 35 years will be surprised by his sensitive side, which he's expressed by writing verse most of his life.

These impressions from Hank Greenberg swatting one out to an execution at Ohio Penitentiary to lessons of the mango are what Simonds describes as "revisiting experience." He does it with the same eye for detail and ear for the right word that distinguished him as a newsman. It's an intriguing spin on the journalist's art of observing and reporting.