Now in the What I’m Reading two-for series: health conscious ukulele virtuoso
Jake Shimabukuro and renaissance woman Keiko Bonk. Find out why Jake likes coconut oil, and Keiko monkey-wrenching.

Thirty-year-old Jake is said to play the uke in a way that defies categorization. His mission is to show people that the ukulele is capable of so much more and has proved this by innovating its use in jazz, blues, funk, classical, rock and more. “I believe if you have a passion, you got to do it because that’s the only thing that’s going to make you happy,” he has said. “Paychecks are nice, but in the long run it’s not going to fulfill you.”

Keiko is arguably known for becoming the highest ranking elected Green Party member in the United States–the first from the party elected to a county-wide leadership position. A graduate of Hilo High, University of Hawai`i-Manoa, and Hunter College (New York), she’s been an art teacher in Berkeley, an art gallery assistant, a singer in rock groups, an artist with more than sixty exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad, an art lecturer, politician, mayoral canditate, president of the JCCH, and now spreads the message of global peace through KAZAN (Japanese for volcano), whose first full CD was Save the World. They play every First Friday at Amy’s Place in Chinatown.

Both Jake and Keiko appeared in What I’m Reading in April. Their full interviews are below.

What I’m Reading | Jake Shimabukuro

Q&A with Christine Thomas
Published in the Honolulu Advertiser April 2007

–What are you reading?

The book I’m currently reading is called The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife. I have all these books to read but haven’t had the time to really dig in. I bring them all on the airplane thinking I’m going to read, but usually I’m so tired I’m just catching up on my sleep. It was given to me by my massage therapist. I’m really into organic and natural foods. Coconut oil is the healthiest of all oils, even for cooking, basically for everything. You can use it on your skin or hair, even for massage. It also informs you about the dangers of other oils like vegetable oils, and partially hydrogenated oils, and how they’re destructive to your body. It also goes into how it got such a bad reputation over the years because it’s a saturated fate. People always think that saturated fats are bad, but that’s not true … it improves your overall wellbeing. And there’s a bunch of great recipes.

–Have you been incorporating this message in your lifestyle?

Even before, I started implementing coconut oils into my diet, so everything I cook, I use coconut oil. I’ve felt the benefit of it. Even eating it and even drinking coconut water—all these I used when I was training for the Honolulu Marathon. I’ve been reading this book because I wanted to dig further into the benefits and history behind it.

–Do you usually read about health topics?

I like to read a lot of, of course, music books, a lot of books on music theory arrangement, just anything that will help me in what I do. I’m not really into reading books just for entertainment or enjoyment; I like to read things where I’ll learn something or get something out of it, or that teaches me something I can implement into my life.

–Music theory obviously relates, but does your exploration of wellbeing also influence your performances?

Yes, I look at that as all one thing. Anything you do to improve your health will help you in whatever you want to do. Those two go hand in hand. Learning about how to better take bare of myself will directly help me in my music and relationships—in everything I do it will improve my life overall. Anything—even music, which I look at as something I do to make my life better, to make me healthier. Because music is really good for you; it stimulates your mind, helps to relieve stress and tension, and also gives me a positive outlet to focus my creative energy—even redirect negative energy in a positive way by creating something other people can appreciate and I can appreciate myself. All those things are one.

What I’m Reading | Keiko Bonk

Musician, artist, activist, politician

Q&A with Christine Thomas
Published in the Honolulu Advertiser in April 2007

–What are you reading?

I just finished Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography. He had bouts of epilepsy. I usually read about 2-3 things at a time, because I have to read things pertaining to my work. I just got the Noam Chompsky book Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. It looks really good. I read a lot on the Middle East in particular because we’re engaged in war. I always read art books, too, because that’s my background; I’m reading Goya by Robert Hughes. … Goya is one of my favorite artists and Hughes is probably one of our leading critical art writers in America. I try to keep up with what’s going on in the art dialogue. It’s hard because I’m always immersed in local issues, now the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, working on its protection for three years now.

Also, I’ve been planning a motorcycle trip, so everyone’s required to read The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. He was a forester who retired and then started writing. His most beautiful book is called Desert Solitaire. It’s an American landscape; it’s elegant and has beautiful descriptions. He’s known for his landscapes of the Southwest and eventually these grand stories evolved into really funny epic stories of this foursome of odd, unrelated characters doing their own monkey wrenching in the Southwest. People involved in the conservation movement are in the 2008 in election year doing a tribute ride in one of his landscapes. Reading is the only way to qualify.

I’m also reading “Freedom from Fear” by Aung San Su Kyi. It’s a classic book about the struggle to free Burma. …She’s been my role model for years.

–What do you most like about Desert Solitaire?

I appreciate the beauty of landscape book that creates the atmosphere, which is really powerful. It’s powerful what art can produce. I started as an artist. … I look at music, art, painting, dance, performance art, which has a limited amount of subject matter–landscape is a powerful subject matter because we can be someplace small among a large earth. He does that in his book. He brings us back to the perception that we’re just small part of this large place. … We’re only a part of nature, it’s a worldwide scene.

–How is “Gang” different?

It would make a great movie. I can’t believe someone hasn’t used it. … It’s so American in its concepts, and a motley crew of Americans, some people that you would serve jury duty with just getting together.

–Why has Su Kyi been so influential?

Not too many people are willing to put their lives on the line to help others in this world and stay the course. Someone like Nelson Mandela—she’s a role model like that. She stays the course with principles of democracy for her people.

–You have such diverse pursuits, from art to politics and even what you read. Do you connect and further them as Su Kyi does—by staying the course?

I don’t see it as being that diverse. I’ve been an artist my whole life, and I find that art and politics are so close—it’s been art that’s raised our consciousness throughout time and draws us back to the sense that as human beings we only have limited life span and we have to deal with things constantly, like fear. Your choices are limited, especially when you talk about freedom and fear. There are only certain things you can do, like fly or stay the course. We’re human beings and have flight biology built into us. Artists think about these things and come down to very primal and simple sorts of paths to look at it clearly.

And so I’ve always looked at the world in that way. I’ve learned a lot through politics about how people always determine their paths these ways. To me it comes down to spiritual decisions based on these very humane ideas. For me politics is just part of that—politics is about power…but really when you come down to it, that’s how I make my decisions. … In terms of writing and books, I tend to look for people who speak from the heart and are spiritual, but have a a bigger vision of the world in terms of politics and larger spiritual drive.