Monday, March 31, 2008

Things Gotta Change

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." - Charles Darwin

The country of Italy has seen it all. In one of history's richest timelines (from ancient times to medieval times to the renaissance to the baroque period and up to modern times) wars, art, government, religion...they've seen it all - yet they're still here to tell the tales. How the heck did they do that?

To Remain the Same, You Must Change

After the lessons in history and art with historians and the occasional tour guide, I often asked myself how they did it. What made them endure for so long? And then the answer became obvious. The more the times shifted, the more their people adapted. And with change comes growth.

Today, the same efforts, beliefs, pride, discipline and craftsmanship of their forefathers are still evident only this time instead of massive duomos and numerous frescos, their skills are seen through world-leading fashion, high performance autos and culinary arts. Sure, it's not the works of Rennaissance artistry, but this isn't the Rennaissance.

Like Leonardo da Vinci to Feruccio Lamborghini, Chief Hurao to Angel Santos - the core beliefs, values, traditions, pride and discipline of a people should be taught and practiced through the ages for future generations to adapt in order to preserve the greatness for new ages to come.

Roman Colosseum photo by Kel Muna 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Guam's Future

A quick, but crucial observation that I've taken from my Italy trip:
DO great things...then when you're done...teach your people to DO great things.

photos by Kel Muna 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Don't Sellout, Sell In

If you Google the words 'coffee' or 'starbucks', I'm pretty sure that you'll see this:

And it's true. They are the leading retailer of specialty coffee in the world. In fact, just a few days ago, on my way to LAX Intl. Airport, I actually saw one Starbuck's coffee shop across the street from another Starbuck's coffee shop less than fifty yards away.

Now, I enjoy my 'vente chai tea latte with a double-shot of espresso' as much as the next guy. I'm not a crazed fanatic like some, but I can appreciate it. So when Naomi and I got to Italy, it was western instinct to look for the nearest Starbuck's as we passed through airports, train stations, and streets in search of our caffeine fix. But instead of Starbuck's, we discovered something more interesting.

Because It Matters

In all the places we visited in Italy we came across not one Starbuck's. At all. I'm not saying that they don't exist there, but even while making a conscious effort to keep my eyes peeled for one, I never found one. Coming from the US where you can find one on any street corner, it was actually refreshing. What we did find were these small, personable coffee bars with standing room only that served authentic blends of Italian caffe and fresh Italian bread and pastries. And these we did find everywhere.

In Italy, just like their wine and mostly everything else from the country, they take pride in their caffe (coffee). For obvious reasons, they hold that close to their hearts even through the public both locally and for tourists, but especially in tourist populated areas. This tells me that as globally proven and widespread as the yummy Starbuck's is, the people of Italy still hold true to their ways because to them, it matters.

Quantity or Quality?
My learned lesson and point is this: Once you start mass-selling something that isn't you, whether it's culturally or personally, you'll lose what little you'll have left. If you're looking to hit "the big-time", worldwide expansion, or to be the leading 'anything' in the world, chances are you're going to lose some of your authenticity along the way (over 35 blends). If you're smart, you'll keep it personable and stay true without diluting what makes you and your culture unique so when others experience what you have to offer in your own motherland, it will not just be more impactful, but more memorable.

(Food for Thought: Guam has over 7 McDonald's locations and only 1 Chode Store)

photo by Kel Muna 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Art Lasts Forever

While Naomi and I were visiting Italy, Don and Mom were in Memphis visiting Graceland, the home of Elvis. It didn't take long for me to realize that essentially it was the same thing, just on different scales. We were on different trips for the same reason: To gain insight into the history of preserved worlds and experience the legacy of legends that existed once upon a time.

From all of my observations throughout the country of Italy, I've learned many things - one of which is for certain: ART LASTS FOREVER. It outlives its creators and continues to live throughout history in the hearts, minds and stories for ages to come; moreso than any monetary value possessed by any country at any time has ever done. Reason being is that no matter what form of art it may be, it is open to interpretation forever and for everyone, which gives it new life and new strength and a reference point in time to the people that once surrounded it. Art opens up questions and answers of thought, romance, wonderment and mystique on many levels.

Take It Personal
It didn't matter where we were - whether the Capella Sistina in Roma (Sistine Chapel in Rome) or the Palazzo Ducale di Venizia (Doge's Palace in Venice), the art always had a story and presented us not only a peek but sometimes an explanation as to why things were the way they were at that specific point in time and place. It provided a history for its people who haven't been around for thousands of years. But not the kind of history you'd read about in a textbook and recite to impress friends. No. Art, when it is up close and in person, is history that is felt. It spills into your senses the emotion, thought, wonder and excitement of a place and time that you probably may never fully understand. But up close and in person, the art brings you right in.

It's a feeling that as a DIY filmmaker makes me feel like crap and like a king. Crap because nowadays contemporary artists, myself included, (and I mean that humbly) can't hold a candle to those of yore - not even close. But at the same time like a king because it tells me that as an artist in my own form of media and place in time, I have the amazing power to do the same, allowing me to empathize on a minute scale with artists of the past. Not for personal wealth or clout - it goes way beyond that - but through the contribution of my small part in potentially keeping the here and now alive forever for my culture.

A Mirror in History

No matter where it was we went, the art was constantly referenced by scholars and historians as bookmarks in history for a people that are long gone. What would've happened if The King never went to Sun Records? What would that have meant for the musicians of today? What if Michelangelo didn't even think twice about his rival Raphael? Would the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel be as passionate and shocking as it is?

Whether it's Michelangelo's David, Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel" or even J.D. Crutch's "Bente Unu", the power of art can live through time, inspire others and help to preserve not only a culture, but a place and time that may otherwise someday become lost - or even worse - forgotten.

photos by Kel Muna and Don Muna 2008

What's In a Name?

Taking a quick break from posting about my Italy adventures, I have a quick note about the safe choice. I just spent a couple of days in Japan en route to Guam and I was reminded about the effects of a name when dealing with the convenience of familiarity in the subconscious psyche. While checking for a place to lay my head, I automatically went to the nearest "Comfort Inn" (i know, such a western tourist move) searching for a double occupancy twin-size room. The room rates were equivalent to $160.00 USD per night.

After checking with the locally preferred, yet lesser-known "Toyoko Inn" just a few yards further down the street, their rates were equivalent to only $80.00 USD for the same room. The amenities were pretty much the same as the "Comfort Inn" (free airport shuttle, internet, meeting room, private bath, continental-style breakfast, tv and more) and I'm sure to the weary traveler, the beds are just as comfortable. My point? A familiar or "proven" choice may seem like the best choice just by automation, but if you're willing to look past your comfort zone from what you already know, you just might discover something great.

Monday, March 17, 2008

To Preserve a Culture

It's been a couple of weeks since my last posting, mainly because Italy has put Shiro's Head on a small two week hiatus. My wife and I have just returned from a trip to Italy - an amazing, passionate country that will leave a profound impression on my life forever. And although the course of this trip has given me a new perspective on art, history and the preservation of culture (which has given me new ideas and theories relative to the current Chamorro culture struggle), it's taught me a lot about people in general. To experience something that makes you feel like you've been asleep for a long time only to wake up with new eyes is something very, very powerful.

Up Ahead...

For the next week (and whenever the mood strikes, I guess) I'll be writing about the things that I've learned and observed from my journey. There will be many levels to talk about - from the renaissance to Starbuck's - and although I feel like a thoroughbred waiting behind the gate ready to explode across the track, its best that I try to calm myself down, take a breather and distribute them in installments instead of overwhelming you all with that over-eager "Hey, come check out my slideshow from my vacation!" feeling.

In addition, because the emotions, feelings and ideas from this trip affect me more than any words can explain, I hope I do justice in conveying my experiences from Italia. I hope you enjoy - and if you get to learn or become inspired through them even by a fraction of what I've experienced, then all the better. Esta gupa.

photo by Kel Muna 2008