Archive for November, 2015

Alfred Hitchcock family ties to Hawaii

November 20th, 2015

The Master of Suspense, revered filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, actually hung out at a Hawaii hotel on a family vacation. While the man often regarded as the greatest British filmmaker is more associated with psychological thriller dramas, his granddaughter Tere Carrubba says he was quite opposite at home: a loving, jovial, sweet family man who loved to spend time with his wife, daughter, and granddaughters.

Tere Carrubba

Tere Carrubba

Tere - and I'm going to refer to her by her first name due to a familiarity that comes with being related by marriage - and her husband are in the Islands this week for the Hawaii International Film Festival, in which she attended the screening of his 1945 film Spellbound. After, she answered questions from the audience.

Tere (far right) and her sisters on family vacation in Switzerland. Courtesy: Tere Carrubba

Tere (far right) and her sisters on family vacation in Switzerland. Courtesy: Tere Carrubba

She does this all the time. She's invited to speak at festivals and events around the world about her famous grandfather, who directed more than fifty feature films in a career spanning six decades. Her mother, Pat, used to be the spokesperson, but can no longer do that, so it's up to Tere or her sister Mary. There is a third sister who prefers not to give public speeches.

Usually, she says, people want to know what Hitchcock was like outside of work, which is right in her wheelhouse. Anyway, she says she couldn't really talk movie jargon. "I was so young when the movies came out, I can't really answer many technical questions. I was in third grade when Psycho came out." She does, however, list Strangers on a Train and The Birds as her favorite films of her grandfather's.

Tere (right) and her sister on the set of North by Northwest. Courtesy: Tere Carrubba

Tere (right) and her sister on the set of North by Northwest. Courtesy: Tere Carrubba

On the other hand, she laughs, she's an expert on what he was like as a family man. At first, like all children of celebrities, it didn't dawn on her. "He was the only grandfarther I knew; I didn't know any different."

Tere describes him as "quite a character; he had a sense of humor. One year we spent Christmas with him and he dressed up as Santa Claus. That was pretty funny!"

When she was in first or second grade, she realized he was special, "but it wasn't important to me. There were more important things to a seven year old."

Then, as she got older, she realized his significance. "We'd be places and I saw all the attention he drew." Sometimes she or her sisters would pick him up at the studio and take him grocery shopping (which he loved!) and "it was odd at the produce aisle. Women would look, and be like, 'No that can't be him.'"

As masterful as he was in his craft, Tere says he left work at work. "Once he got home, he was home. That was his place of relaxing and being with family. We saw him and my grandmother a lot. They lived 30 minutes away, but we were there once a week," she says of his Los Angeles home.

Tere reflects on her close relationship with her grandfather. Was there one special memory that stands out? No, she says, there were too many. "Just all the times we spent together alone. Just family. Family was huge to him."

It's ironic, I point out, that despite her grandfather's iconic status in cinema, none of his descendants went into acting or making films. She nods, "I didn't have a passion. I don't think any of us had a passion for it, and you have to have a passion to be successful because it's a tough industry." The closest its gets to showbiz is her sister Katie, a lawyer for DreamWorks.

Me interviewing Tere.

Me interviewing Tere.

Tere's excited to be in the Islands for HIFF. It's her first time to get involved with that film festival, and she says she's pleased to be invited. "To this day, he's revered in the entertainment industry. I don't know that there's been anyone since him, that did what he did. It's a legacy, and I'm honored to represent him. I hope to do it well."

This isn't, however, her first time to Hawaii. She has been coming annually since she was a child. In fact, they vacationed here in 1971. "We came with my grandparents for Christmas to Mauna Kea. It was his idea, and it was a fun time. They enjoyed being here. It was beautiful," recalls Tere. But he certainly didn't come for the tropical sun as most tourists do. "He didn't wear a swimsuit. He didn't like the sun."

Paul & Tere Carrubba

Paul & Tere Carrubba

The Ako family first cousins and spouses.

November 2015: The Ako family first cousins and spouses.


Her ties to Hawaii got even stronger after she met and married my paternal first cousin, Paul Carrubba, in 1988. The yearly visits continue, and though their trips are always whirlwind, we all try to squeeze in a family gathering.

The Ako family (two-thirds of us.) We're related to the Carrubbas through Grandpa Ako.

Nov. 2015: The Ako family (two-thirds of us.) The rest live in the mainland.

Tere says so much about the Aloha State appeals to her: the natural beauty, the peacefulness of Hawaii, and - like her grandfather- the draw of family.

Asia Pacific Entertainment Finance Forum at HIFF

November 18th, 2015

Want a chance to learn from — and perhaps even collaborate with — some of the world’s most influential and successful players in the entertainment industry? Winston Baker, a leading global producer of entertainment finance conferences, is providing that rare opportunity in tandem with the Hawai`i International Film Festival this month. From November 18 - 20, content creators, financiers, and facilitators from Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Asia, and Hawaii will converge at The Modern Honolulu Hotel in Waikiki, where Winston Baker is launching its inaugural Asia Pacific Entertainment Finance
Forum (APEFF).

Bruce Tuchman, President of AMC Global and Sundance Channel Global, and Nina Yang Bongiovi, producer of the critically acclaimed films “Fruitvale Station” and “Dope,” are the forum’s keynote speakers. Tuchman will speak on “Redefining the Television Landscape,” while Yang Bongiovi will share the knowledge gained from her more than 16 years of experience in production, finance, and management in Hollywood and Asia.
Panelist Sunny Dhillon, co-founder and principal at Signia Ventures, will speak on “Capitalizing on Gaming IP Development.” Film producers Roy Lee (“How to Train Your Dragon”) and Nanshun Shi (“The Taking of Tiger Mountain”) will serve on the panel “Financing Growth Opportunities for Film, Television and Beyond.” Other panels include “Localization of Remakes and Innovative Film Co-Productions,” and “Challenges and Opportunities: Creating Content in Hawaii.” (For the full program, visit
Joining the impressive slate of mainland and international speakers will be Ricardo Galindez, whose Island Film Group produced the movie “Soul Surfer,” Blue Planet Software President and
CEO Maya Rogers, and Chris Lee, a former president of production at TriStar Pictures and Columbia Pictures and the founder/director of the University of Hawai’i’s Academy for Creative
A conference pass, providing access to two full days of presentations and panel discussions, as well as a closing reception, costs $395. An “all access” pass, which includes additional receptions, a VIP excursion day, and a private dinner with forum speakers, financiers, and high level executives costs $895. To register online, visit


November 18th, 2015

My husband was promoted at the (Japanese) jujitsu dojo to second degree black belt. He's been the senior ranking black belt for a few years. He teaches class one night a week.


Anyway, he came home and needed to sew red stripes on his belt. By "he" I mean "me."

First, the questions about if we have red material in my fabric stash. I sew a little (poorly, but it gets simple jobs done).


Then, he asked me for days about where I keep the needle and thread. I have a sewing kit and I have a full-on sewing machine and cabinet I inherited from Mom.

After hinting and asking and commenting for a week, he really wanted to get those red stripes on, so he took it upon himself to set up the machine one afternoon.

Now, it's relevant to say this was a weekend where 1) I had a head cold and just wanted to blob out; 2) we had finally upgraded our Internet cable modem which for a full quarter of a year had been getting slower and slower; 3) the trade winds were finally back and it was nearly pleasant to sit in my living room and veg out.

It was my number one goal for Saturday to get that darned cable modem upgrade. We have all been so sick of Netflix buffering and with my fatigue I was desperate to sit on the couch and look at my favorite shows. It would play for one minute and buffer for 20, literally.

I told him I didn't even care if went and got food at the grocery store that day. All I cared about was getting my Netflix on, therefore get me to Oceanic Cable before 5 p.m. because it's closed all day Sunday.

We got home from Oceanic and set up the modem, tested it, and found out there IS NO BUFFERING! HURRAY!

I settle down in my favorite spot on the sofa. Pillows fluffed up. Cold water and phone nearby. Legs propped up. Excited to finish watching my favorite soap opera.

Naturally, this makes it the perrrrrfect time to bother me. Not one minute had elapsed and he's asking me how to thread the machine.

I swear, I want to kill him. Now? Of all times?

He has no idea what a bobbin is, how to thread those complicated needles, how to lock a stitch, and all that other stuff. So I knew I would end up doing it for him.

He was trying to be all self-sufficient by saying, "Just show me how to do this needle thing," (this needle thing?) but yeah, right. Then, I exchange a green threaded bobbin for the correct color and he looks like I just unlocked the mysteries of the Universe.

Sure, he's going to figure it out. He's going to figure out how to break it for me.


Then, because belts (and gi) are thick material, you have to finish it by hand sewing it on. It's a real pain.

After nearly an hour, I finished, and it doesn't look amazing, but the good part is he knows how to kick your butt if you want to make fun of it.

"This was a real pain. I hope you aren't promoted for a long time," I complained, handing him the finished belt.

I'm about to settle down to watch my Netflix now. Unless anyone else has some important task that just cannot wait that they need to nag me about right now.

Posted in dad, family, mom | 5 Comments »

Christmas, I'm ready for you!

November 16th, 2015

Don't judge, but I put up the Christmas tree this weekend. It's just because I'm the self-appointed Minister of Emergency Situations at my house, and as such, I've averted an eleventh hour emergency by proactively erecting the holiday memorabilia now, while I have that rare drop of energy. Yay, me!


As soon as the Halloween stuff came down, I promised myself I'd replace it with Christmas, so here we are. We had a family moment on Sunday morning by assembling our new, fake tree and decorating it.

Now, I was never previously this punctual with Christmas, but having a child rearranged my priorities. One has to have their holiday stuff in order when small kids are involved. It's all for her.

This is a sign I'm getting old: it feels like just a few months ago we were doing this. Where did the time go??!!

I have to laugh because in years past, I really thought I'd be some environmental wonder and buy locally grown pine trees, or even use one I planted myself. Time and obligation wore me down.

Last year, the boxes of artificial trees sure looked appealing when compared to the energy of finding the time to drive out to Wahiawa, fighting with the tree holder to erect it at a straight angle, sweeping up fallen needles, watering it every other day, the making the time to take it down in January. Last year I think we even cut it up in pieces to fit into the green recycle bin, because we didn't want to drive it to wherever you can discard whole trees.

I just can't do that anymore. I enjoyed taking down the tree from the attic at my whim (it's so early, I don't even know that real trees are available yet) and setting it up my my schedule. I'm excited that it took ten minutes to piece together and will not require water and further fuss.

I hope this doesn't sound like bah humbug. Olivia doesn't seem to notice the difference. She has her big tree with lights and ornaments, and she'll be even more excited once the presents with her name start appearing underneath.

Here's wishing you some peace, calm, short lines, and easy parking stalls as we enter the Christmas season!

Ewa Beach man dedicates life to charity

November 13th, 2015

When 30 year old Michael Mendoza was growing up in Ewa Beach, he didn't see a future for himself. "My relatives were involved in an Oahu gang, with crimes so violent they were more than once the subject of news reports," he recalls.

"My brother eventually had to be sent to the Philippines because of his heavy involvement in gang activity. He even became very violent even to me. I was very sad and afraid for him," Mendoza details.

The pain of seeing relatives in and out of the legal system hurt deeply. "I remember being at a family party when I was about eight years old. Suddenly, a bunch of us kids were ushered into a car to keep us safe because a fight broke out. Someone brought out a knife and was threatening to stab people."

His parents' divorce compounded the suffering. "I witnessed so much fighting when I was in elementary school, I found myself alone crying mostly every night," he shares. Rather than bringing the remaining siblings together, the conflict drove them apart.

Music, he says, was his escape, and the only uniting element for his family. "Music was the only time when I barely saw any fighting. My mother and sisters sing. My brother dances. I spin records." He started seriously spinning when he was 16 years old, and hanging out with friends who were mobile DJs to learn more.

Michael Mendoza, aka DJ Kurious

Michael Mendoza, aka DJ Kurious

He eventually started his own DJ business, DJ Kurious Hawaii, to play at weddings, parties, and clubs. Music gives to him - but it also lets him give to others.

It was the force that kept him alive inside, he says, because the problems of his youth had grown into a major problem. "I felt very alone in life and had no purpose. When I graduated from high school in 2003, I went through a great depression and did nothing at all with my life. I stayed home a whole year."

Mendoza at the Y, 2006. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

Mendoza at the Y, 2006. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

In 2004, Mendoza got a job at the YMCA's Leeward branch. There, he befriended his coworkers, who were all active volunteers in the community. It changed him profoundly.

"The YMCA taught me important values that I was never shown in my youth. I credit Leeward YMCA's program director Eric Bautista for pushing and teaching me to grow professionally. He was a major reason I decided to take my schooling seriously," thanks Mendoza.


Bautista and Mendoza at YMCA, 2006. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

Bautista and Mendoza at YMCA, 2006. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

Bautista, who left the Y to start his own business, Party Pix Hawaii, remembers meeting Mendoza. "He was young and impressionable, lost and directionless. Yet I could tell he had a very good heart and needed someone to help mentor him."

Bautista gave Mendoza a position as his sports assistant to be nearer to him and help mentor him. It worked. "He excelled. His self-confidence grew, and expanded to other areas of his life."

The Y also gave him something else he didn't have: Family. This family inspired him to want to help others.

He enrolled at University of Phoenix pursuing a bachelor's degree in human services; he was graduated in 2012. At the same time, in order to support himself, Mendoza started working as a skills trainer for the Department of Education. Since 2007, he has been working with autistic children with violent and psychotic tendencies.

As helpful as working with autistic children was - "it brought out the best in me" - he still felt purposeless and drifting.

While on assignment at Makalapa Elementary School in 2010, he had another incredible experience that helped set his life's course. It came at a time when he characterizes his depression as being at an "all-time high."

The gift. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

The gift. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

"I had sprained my knees really bad and couldn't afford metal knee braces. A teacher I barely knew asked what happened to me, so I told her. The next day she handed me an envelope with over $350 in cash. She told me, 'This means much more to me than you think.'"

"I will never forget what she did for me. She gave more than just money, she gave me a purpose. I have never spent it. That envelope reminds me everyday that there are people out there like me, suffering and alone- but a simple act of kindness can change that person forever," he concludes softly.

All this time, Mendoza had been working on the side as a DJ - both for supplemental income, as well as a way to offer his services at fundraisers and non-profit events. However, he now wanted to step up his efforts in giving.


Mendoza rarely turns down a request to help. Two of his biggest charity causes are the Alzheimers Association, which is where I met him - we both volunteered at the Walk To End Alzheimers, and Honolulu Theater for Youth.


Me and Mike

He also works on the weekends at Slam Hype, a clothing store in Pearlridge Shopping Center which hires a live DJ to play in-store. "I get paid in clothes, and I started giving the clothes to homeless youth." He estimates he's given away $1,500 in new clothing.

In 2014 came the third and most powerful incident to shape his life. "I was put in touch with a very sad case of a homeless orphan," remembers Mendoza.

"The boy's family had abandoned him and he was living on the streets. I wanted to give him my clothing trade, so his social worker brought him to the store one weekend to meet me. The boy, in his late teens, looked down, like he wasn't sure what to expect. I said, 'I don't know what happened with your life, but I just want to help you out. Go pick out $250 in new clothes.'"

When the boy was finished, "he seemed scared or ashamed to make eye contact with me. He looked down, thanked me, and left. His social worker and my friend Deni Araki told me he cried the minute he left the store. Nobody had done anything nice for him in his life," finishes Mendoza.

That's when it all came together. "It was in that moment I knew my purpose in life. Everything lined up. The hardship of my youth, the people who showed me the value of service, and the woman who taught me the power of kindness. I finally understood exactly how that woman felt when she gave me the $350. I've now been on both sides."

From that moment on, Mendoza committed to a life of service. "This is my life's mission. To give."

That is not to say Mendoza has it easy. He accumulated $80,000 in student loans while pursuing his undergraduate degree.

Admirably, he still strives for higher education. He began graduate coursework for a master's degree in counseling at Wayland Baptist University, but stopped this year "because I was frightened looking at my debt." He knows he needs to return soon because when you start a graduate program, you have a certain amount of time to finish it or lose the credits.

He admits it's hard for him financially. Social work doesn't pay much.

Why, I ask, doesn't he stop giving away his time for a few years while he sorts out his college issues? Mendoza makes some money as a DJ on the weekends, which helps him chip away at his student loans, but he donates so much of his time to charity.

"I struggle, but other people's suffering is greater. I may not have the best possessions, but I'm still lucky to be comfortable. I want to share my blessings. I get way more from helping people," he explains.

His friends aren't surprised by his selfless nature. "He has always thought of everyone but himself," recalls Bautista. I remember when his father needed a vehicle, he just paid off his truck and gave it to his dad. He was struggling, but he still put his dad first. And he was only about 24 years old!"

I'm struck by Mendoza's humility. During our calls, he repeatedly said he wasn't interested in having attention on himself. In fact, he wanted to make sure to share his spotlight with the good people who inspire him, including the staff at Makalapa Elementary and Red Hill Elementary.

"I can't do much," he sighs, "but whatever I can do, it's something. I want to be part of the solution."

It is we who are blessed to have a person like this in our community.

Reach Michael Mendoza via or (808) 381-6494 cell.

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