2008 Sour Poi Awards

Celebrating the best of the worst of 2008—the strange, the stupid and the scandalous.

Illustration: Matt Mignanelli

Complimentary blanket, sir?

Air traffic controllers spent a tense 18 minutes in February, when a Go! interisland flight carrying 40 passengers and bound for Hilo stopped responding. By the time controllers managed to get hold of the pilots, the plane had overshot Hilo Airport by 15 miles, and had to circle back to land. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation later concluded that the two pilots “unintentionally fell asleep.”


In a May City Council committee meeting, Councilman Rod Tam used the word “wetbacks” to describe undocumented laborers. He later apologized, claiming ignorance of the term’s derogatory nature. “I have always naively thought it was just a slang term used to describe illegal workers.”

Kalua pig, pupu size

Windward Oahu residents were jittery this past year over reports of coqui frogs turning up in Kailua. In Nuuanu, though, there was an invasive species outbreak of a much cuter kind: feral guinea pigs, running rampant in the residential neigborhood mauka of Puiwa Road. State agricultural officials captured more than 45 of the little creatures before declaring the problem solved.

Photo: iStock



Let he who is without sin cast the first one

Three Kaneohe men were fined after attempting to take 934 river rocks from Maui back to Oahu on the Superferry. The men were collecting the rocks on behalf of their church, whose bishop had suggested that the Superferry’s $5 fares were a great opportunity to replace the stones used in the church’s imu.

Quit your wining

In April, a woman hit her husband on the left side of his head with a wine bottle. Not wanting to report her to the police, the long-suffering husband went to the hospital and got treatment, saying that he had slipped and fallen on some broken glass. When he got home, though, the couple’s argument flared up again and the wife hit him again with the wine bottle, this time on the right side of his head. This time, the man called the police.

Photo: iStock


Wasn’t there something about a burning bush? Wait, that was Moses

Seen on the neck of former fireman Kenton Leong, who was convicted on three counts of arson for setting brush fires at Makapuu: a tattoo reading “What Would Jesus Do.”



Illustration: Matt Mignanelli

Bark adobo

A golfer at the Moanalua Golf Club got a rude surprise when he discovered that Caddy, the pet dog he had left tied up near the club house, was missing. Witnesses reported seeing two golf course maintenance workers loading the dog into their car and leaving with it, and the two workers later confessed to killing the dog and eating it.

Probably shouldn’t have asked for a “kabillion” dollars

When a dog-sitting service refused to give him a full refund, unhappy UH professor Eric Youn made up a fake lawyer, judge and legal firm to scare the company into paying. After sending repeated threatening letters from the nonexistent law firm Harper Test and Wu, Youn set up a nonexistent court date in front of the nonexistent Hon. Ronald Shigawa. The dog sitter responded by hiring the very real Kobayashi Sugita and Goda.
In the end, Youn agreed to pay out $22,930 to settle the case.

Smells fishy to us

Hawaii beaches suffered a rash of weird and dangerous littering incidents this past year. Among the dumped material: dozens of IV needles on Ewa Beach, a 500-foot stretch of broken glass along Kahala Beach, and 40 dead koi found on Kuliouou Beach.

Turns out it is a crime to look this good

2008 also saw some weird thefts in Hawaii: A burglar in Kailua-Kona boosted more than 1,000 pounds of green coffee beans. Two women in Pearl City were arrested in the act of trying to steal a light pole. And a man was arrested in Waikiki for stealing 35 boxes of Magic Kiss lipstick.

The end of the world as we know it? Eh, I feel fine

In September, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed in Hawaii by a pair of men who had charged that the Large Hadron Collider, a giant particle accelerator outside of Geneva, could potentially create a black hole that would doom the entire earth.


Watts up with that?

In October it was revealed that, more than two years after the earthquakes that rocked Hawaii and left Oahu without electricity for the better part of a day, HECO had yet to pay more than 1,400 customers still waiting for checks from claims they had made for damaged electronic equipment and spoiled food.




Illustration: Matt Mignanelli


A Honolulu city bus driver was suspended in September after a passenger videotaped him playing a portable video game while driving his route. It was the second case of scary bus driving in a month—bus driver Searle Pestana was suspended in August after it was discovered that he had been driving under the influence of alcohol.


Oh, crap

In August, U.S. District Judge David Ezra ruled that the City and County of Honolulu was liable for 297 violations of the federal Clean Water Act, which resulted in millions of gallons of spilled sewage throughout the city over the course of nine years.

Don’t anyone tell them about laulau!

Animal rights organization PETA hassled Maui-born Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino for his love of Spam musubi in October, after he said in an interview that it was one of his favorite foods. PETA asked Victorino to “abandon the Spam,” citing alleged animal abuse by the food company’s pork suppliers.

Photo by: David Croxford


Details, details

State chief election officer Kevin Cronin drew flack in July when it was revealed that he had not registered to vote in Hawaii, almost six months after taking the position, even though it was a requirement of the job. “This was one of several personal items which remained on my to-do list and that … kept getting moved to the next day,” Cronin said in a statement.

Photo: iStock


Mellow: harshed

The state Department of Public Safety mistakenly sent a database of 4,200 medical marijuana users to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in June, complete with names, addresses, plant locations and prescribing doctors. The paper opted not to publish any of the names, but as an official from the Public Safety Department said, “Nobody here was a very happy camper.”

Their new campaign: Stop Chinatown Now

In October, anti-rail group Stop Rail Now drove a truck through Chinatown with a loudspeaker simulating the predicted 79-decibal noise of a proposed steel-on-steel train system. The stunt reportedly drew little notice, because the loudspeaker was drowned out by the sounds of city buses, music and First Friday crowds.



Illustration: Matt Mignanelli

Slow learner

After 37 convictions, you’d think a guy would have refined his criminal techniques. But a would-be thief didn’t get far after he broke into a van and grabbed a duffel bag from the front seat—this particular van was full of Honolulu police officers working on a surveillance operation.

Photo: Courtesy City and County of Honolulu


Also true: anytime the mayor gets criticized, an angel loses its wings

When mayoral candidate Ann Kobayashi called Mufi Hannemann a bully during a televised debate in September, Hannemann bristled. “It really saddens me every time you talk about me being a bully,” he said. “I want you to know that you bring dishonor to my parents when you do that.”



Stay classy, Honolulu

Then-presidential nominee Barack Obama made a solemn visit to see his ailing grandmother in October, the last one he would be able to make before she died a month later. After Obama left, a bunch of items from his grandmother’s building went missing: a bird bath, a set of tables and chairs, and a potted plant.

Ah, nature!

A sperm whale carcass created a huge stink this past summer after washing ashore on a Kahuku beach. The 35-foot, 8- to 10-ton carcass proved difficult to maneuver on the rocky coast, delaying its removal. When officials finally trucked it off two and a half weeks later, parts of the badly decayed whale spilled onto the road in a busy Kaneohe intersection, blocking traffic and grossing out nearby residents with the stench.

Photo: Istock


Making international incidents of molehills

Genshiro Kawamoto’s feel-good plan to offer Hawaiian families free rent in Kahala mansions in 2007 didn’t buy him any brownie points this past year with Kahala homeowners, who complained that the Japanese billionaire was neglecting many of his other properties in the neighborhood. The word “eyesore” came up a lot. Kawamoto proved so hard to reach that the City Council even called on the Japanese consulate to step in and reason with him. The consulate declined, calling the request “strange.”


Good help is so hard to find

Maui Electric Co. had to apologize to a local family in October after one of its line maintenance contractors littered, defecated and parked vehicles on top of the family’s heiau in Ukumehame.

We’ll drink to that

The Bennu Pharmaceutical Co. recruited Japanese Hawaii residents this spring to participate in a clinical trial for a drug called Convivia. Why only Japanese? This experimental drug is designed to treat ethanol intolerance—the flushing effect many Asians suffer from when drinking. No word yet on the final results of the trial.


Barack Obama receiving his diploma from Punahou— “not a school for the improverished,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Photo: Courtesy of Obama for America

Way to go, plantation heritage

Sen. Daniel Inouye apologized to Barack Obama early in the election season after making a crack about Obama’s Island roots. “He went to school in Hawaii, but he went to Punahou,” Inouye had said, “and that was not a school for the impoverished.” Obama responded by pointing out that he had attended Punahou on a scholarship.

Is there someone we can throw the book at?

The University of Hawaii’s Hamilton Library continued to leak in 2008. Heavy rains in October damaged more than 800 books, and library staff were forced to use trash cans and buckets to catch the water leaking from the ceiling.

But the injections were free!

A Kalihi home that had been turned into a rickety slum for more than 50 renters collapsed in October after heavy rains. The place boasted only two bathrooms and one stove among the dozens of residents, and the landlord had reportedly pressured tenants to let him give them injections of his own home-brew medicine. Rents at the property ranged from $250 to $750 a month.


Music has charms …

A karaoke night turned violent in November after a woman inadvertently began singing a song ordered by another, younger woman. The younger woman grabbed the microphone out of her hands and when, later that evening, the older women went over with a plate of food to apologize, the younger woman grabbed the plate and whacked the unfortunate song stealer over the head with it.