Howard Dicus, the voice of Pacific Business News, and Lloyd Kandell (also known as Fluid Floyd), the voice of both advertising and Don Tiki, are the focus of this week’s expanded What I’m Reading interview coverage. Howard’s original interview excerpt appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser in June 2007, and Lloyd’s in May.
Below, discover why Howard is returning to the classics, and Lloyd is drawn to film and song.
Q&A with Christine Thomas
–What are you reading?
I read voraciously. I’m a huge fan of H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain, James Thurber and Kurt Vonnegut. My secret pleasure is the Harry Potter novels. And I’ve read all of the “Master and Commander (Aubrey Maturin Series)” novels, which John Heckathorn recommended. But lately I have been discovering the great literature I evaded reading in school—Dickens, especially. And a friend on Lana`i gave me his copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which I’m halfway through at the moment.
Well, I had avoided them as a student because I always liked going my own way on what I learned. But now that’s gone. And I just got curious about books that I’d avoided so I started sampling some of them. What I’m discovering is that some of them, if written today, could be bestsellers, but some I don’t know why they’re even taught today in schools. For instance, I find James Fennimore Cooper incredibly boring, and I feel similarly about Melville. But I’m loving Dickens. Everything I’m reading by Dickens is so good. I think it’s because his writing was serialized.
–What do you like about Lee’s book?
I like the fact that by making the narrator a child, which is of course a technique that Dickens also liked, it creates a perspective where the child observes all kinds of things in the characters so it’s up to the reader to read between the lines and figure out what’s really going on. Another example is Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” where the beginning is narrated by a character who is mentally retarded and you have to figure it out.
–Does reading between the lines about Atticus and Scout give you any ideas about how to keep fighting journalism’s battles?
I don’t usually try to wrest a personal moral out of every book I read; I just let it percolate. But what I do notice is that it’s kind of a reminder of things that happen in Hawaii—people, good people, often stray on the wrong path because they frequently jump to conclusions about what other people do and say. Atticus is a good example of living with aloha; he doesn’t jump to conclusions … and what he finds is that he often is able to find a way to understand another’s behavior and find a way to live with it. It seems that the intent of Harper Lee was to find a way to have the reader admire Atticus, and it worked.
–Is journalism an admired profession today?
I don’t think we’ve been admired much since Watergate. I broke in to journalism as a high school senior in 1970. For most of that time, even my own family, although making an exception for myself, were quick to tell me all journalists are the same. … The only generality I would say about journalism is that we have a tendency to over cover what we’re familiar with and under cover what we don’t know about.
Q&A with Christine Thomas
–What are you reading?
I’m reading right now David Mamet’s “Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business.” It’s just a fantastic book. I also just finished “Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro.” She’s a very soulful, unique songwriter and entertainer, huge in the day, who basically got larger through people covering her songs.
Mamet’s book is just a very insightful, insider perspective from somebody I respect as a screenwriter and movie director. He’s just a brilliant guy. It’s about the agony and ecstasy of screenwriting, based on his personal experience. There are a lot of great film references that make me want to go out and see some of the classic films I wasn’t aware of. It has all those elements—the love, the frustrations. I have twin sons that are aspiring screenwriters, so it helps me know what they’re going through. And I’ve always been a big fan of Nyro’s music and interested to see her struggles in the music business, which is where I am now. She led the way for Joni Mitchell and other singer-songwriters breaking out in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. So I’m reading about my sons’ plight in screenwriting and my own in the music business.
I read about the David Mamet book somewhere, and then the Nyro book was given to me by somebody who knew I loved her music.
–Do you relate to the struggles of Mamet and Nyro, who not unlike tiki culture, operate outside the mainstream?
The music side is just for joy and following your passion—thus the birth of Don Tiki. In advertising you’re using your creative talents to help make other people’s dreams come true. My partner is the one who writes the songs and has the struggles there, but it’s all artistic expression and joy for him, too. I’m visual and contribute concepts and song titles, but he’s the musical genius, and he’s the composer.
It relates in that typical artist struggle with artistic freedom and expression versus business. What she goes through we go through in our own little way—people telling you how your music should be performed and wanted instead to be true to your art. That’s the aspect that’s been inspirational.
We’re reinventing exotica. Our next album will feature rare Southeast Asian instruments meeting South American rhythms—that’s all exotica in our mind but that may not be how the tiki culture perceives it. We’re willing to take the chance. All artists—you’re either in it to express yourself or make money. Of course it’s nice when both happens … That’s what we’re hoping to do with our little genre; it’s a creative outlet to do the stuff we really love to do.