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Immeasurable Heaven.

“Discounting cosmic expansion, their map shows flow lines down which galaxies creep under the effect of gravity in their local region…Based on this, the team defines the edge of a supercluster as the boundary at which these flow lines diverge. On one side of the line, galaxies flow towards one gravitational centre; beyond it, they flow towards another. ‘It’s like water dividing at a watershed, where it flows either to the left or right of a height of land,’ says Tully.”

Using an algorithm based on the velocity of redshifting galaxies, a team of University of Hawaii astronomers identify our galaxy’s place in the newly-identified Laniakea supercluster. (Laniakea being Hawaiian for “Immeasurable Heaven.”) Adds Slate‘s Phil Plait: “Laniakea is about 500 million light years across, a staggering size, and contains the mass of 100 quadrillion Suns — 100 million billion times the mass of our star.”

Goin’ Back to Maui.

If I got to choose a coast, I got to choose the East — I live out there, so don’t go there. That being said, as of this evening, I’m going (going) back (back) to Cali for an old friend’s wedding, followed by some vacationing (back) in Maui, for sun, sand, surf, and literally (as opposed to the usual metaphorically) swimming with sharks.

In any case, that’ll likely mean little-to-no updates around here for the duration. (Like that’ll be any different from recent months, amirite?) But, if for some unfathomable reason you find yourself in desperate need of GitM-style blathering, there’s always the dissertation. Until next time, here’s the inimitable Stephen Colbert, several cool friends, and one ginormous asshole grooving to the song of the summer. Feel free to sing along if the feeling strikes.

Darkness Over Oahu.

“For the first time, I felt that numb terror that all of London has known for months. It is the terror of not being able to do anything but fall on your stomach and hope the bomb won’t land on you. It’s the helplessness and terror of sudden visions of a ripping sensation in your back, shrapnel coursing through your chest, total blackness, maybe death.”

71 years after the day of infamy, the WP publishes a graphic first-hand account of the Pearl Harbor attack by journalist Betty McIntosh, now a hale and hearty 97.

Blue Hawaii.

Elvis never had it so rough in paradise as the poor protagonist of Alexander Payne’s smart, well-observed family dramedy, The Descendants — a welcome return from hiatus for the writer-director of Election, About Schmidt, and Sideways. Admittedly, The Descendants runs a bit long, and has more endings than Return of the King. Still, this elegiac 21-century Hawaiian tale of a distracted paterfamilias coming to grips with a decision to DNR his wife after a terrible accident has the attention to detail and human foibles we have come to expect from Payne, and the mournful-rainbow quality of an IZ cover. In short, this is quite a good film.

After a brief pre-credit moment of zen with the woman (Patricia Hastie) whose boating accident is the crux of the story, we meet Matt King (George Clooney, very good), a Honolulu attorney with a lot on his plate. His wife is still in a coma several weeks after the incident, and her condition isn’t improving. His younger daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) is more than he knows how to handle (he’s “the backup parent”), and his older daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley, a real find) is fast becoming a reprobate at a boarding school on the Big Island. The beautiful parcel of Kauai land his (haole) family has owned for generations is up for sale, and he alone has to choose a buyer — a decision all of his many cousins are watching with keen interest. And, it soon comes out, the woman he has spent his life with, and who he must now help his family and friends say farewell to, has been having an affair with a local real estate agent (Matthew Lillard), and was, in fact, planning to leave him. Life in a Hawaiian paradise? “Paradise,” King tells us in a voiceover early on, “can go f**k itself.”

Like Schmidt and Sideways, most of the rest of the film involves a road trip journey of self-discovery — this time to beautiful Kauai (where, if you’ve ever visited there, Princeville and downtown Hanalei both get their druthers.) Along for the ride is Alexandra’s amiable, dim-witted boyfriend (Nick Krause), and at various times we meet Matt’s take-no-guff father-in-law (Robert Forster), beachbum cousin (Beau Bridges), and the Other Man’s sweet, unknowing wife (Judy Greer). But, unlike say, About Schmidt, where Dermot Mulroney and his family of rednecks were mostly just joke fodder, The Descendants is less sneering and more open-hearted toward its cast of extended characters (even Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man, who shows up as the husband-half of the Kings’ couple-friends.)

Along with best adapted screenplay — this is based on a book by Kaui Hart Hemmings — I would also expect The Descendants to garner Oscar nods for the very naturalistic Woodley and another for Clooney, who maintains his record of quality here. (Does any leading man have a better one? Even his bad films — The Good German, say — are usually interesting failures.) We’ve already seen Clooney suffer existential crises the past two years in Up in the Air and The American, but this one also stands on its own. His King isn’t the hyper-competent individual of those other two films — He’s just a well-meaning guy, who’s been distracted from his life for too long, trying to make the best of a bad hand.

Mahalo, Hawaii.

“It is the place where I feel if things get too hectic, I can come back and get centered, and it will always be in my heart, and I hope if we are successful, I would come to Hawaii. Certainly it would be my preference over Crawford, Texas.” And No. 10: Sen. Obama crushes Hillary Clinton in the home state of his youth, 76%-24%.

Of Cheeseheads and Aloha.

If you’re a reader hailing from Wisconsin or Hawaii today, please consider voting for Barack Obama.

Surge along the Potomac.

And now, 8-for-8. Sen. Obama sweeps the Chesapeake primaries, taking Virginia by 29 (64%-35%), Maryland by 23 (currently 60%-37%), and the District by 51 (75%-24%). Best of all, he won across the board and made clear and undeniable in-roads into Clinton’s demographic base. Next stop, Wisconsin and Hawaii, which Sen. Clinton seems to be ceding for her Giulianiesque firewall of Ohio and Texas. (I’m not sure why — both could feasibly play to her strengths.) Update: Clinton’s going to Wisconsin after all.

Capping the night of victories was another splendid speech by Obama, one that clearly and organically weaved some Edwardsian bread-and-butter populism into the existing stump speech. Sen. Obama also spent some time going after John McCain, and, after ekeing out Virginia on his end, McCain returned fire. We still have a ways to go on the Democratic side, of course, and I’m definitely not counting the Clintons out yet. (If anything, they’re more dangerous than ever.) But, Obama’s definitely got the Big Mo. And, at least during the speeches tonight, it was starting to look and sound like a general election…

Update: The target for the Clinton campaign right now appears to be 56% — that’s the percentage of remaining delegates Senator Clinton need to win to defeat Senator Obama in the overall pledged delegate count. But, according to media poobah Howard Fineman, at least, even the Clinton campaign concedes that’s not going to happen, despite all the talk about the firewall strategy in Ohio and Texas. Instead, barring a monumental collapse by the Obama campaign, the Clintons are basically looking for they closest they can get to a photo finish, followed by the superdelegates breaking against the will of the pledged delegates. I seriously doubt that dog will hunt.

The Aloha of Obama.

Honolulu is no utopia; its socioeconomic climate is far from Edenic. However, Honolulu’s complexity and diversity are great gifts for a reflective future leader. To grow up in Hawaii is to see the United States from the inside and the outside. The inside view comes from pride in statehood and military tradition. Long before September 11, residents of Hawaii knew what foreign attack was like and valued American protection–Pearl Harbor remains a vital piece of Hawaiian history. The outside view of the United States comes from geographic distance. The Hawaiian islands stand as tiny meeting points for immigrants from Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines, and the far reaches of Polynesia. Hawaii is an outpost among many nations, not a state connected by highways to other states. As a meeting place, the islands are cosmopolitan. As an isolated island chain, the islands are also parochial. The haves in Hawaii travel and see the world. The have-nots, many of them native Hawaiians, lack the means to get away. To grow up in Hawaii is to envision the future of a multiracial society, and also to view up close the disappointment of those left behind.

In TNR, Allegra Goodman makes a case for the importance of Barack Obama’s Hawaiian youth. “To envision a world where racial identity is more fluid, where men and women are more mobile, and where segregation is a thing of the past is not to envision a post-racial world. Obama knows this, as anyone who has lived in Hawaii must.

The Silver Lining.

In honor of the new year, and since I spend so much time berating him and his historically terrible administration around here, two holiday tips of the hat to, of all people, Dubya. On his watch, the president has “established the world’s largest sweep of federally protected ocean” and tripled humanitarian and development aid to Africa. Hey, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

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