Thursday, June 28, 2007

Things I miss about Saipan

I've been gone less than a week, and there are things I already miss. First of all, when I go out, there is virtually no chance I'm going to run into someone I know. I love this about Saipan. I can almost always go somewhere and see someone I know and like without planning anything. That isn't going to happen here in New Jersey because it is so damn big, and I've been gone so long.

Everyone here has a fancy car like a Lexus or something, so I'm back to being a broke ass high school teacher comparatively. New Jersey is a very wealthy state, and the wealth here is especially apparent after being in Saipan. The houses are just staggering -- including my parents' house.

People just don't smile and don't seem all that friendly -- all seem to be on their phones or listening to their IPODS, so the casual conversations with strangers don't get started. I'm guilty on the IPOD thing as well, but seriously, it is rare to see someone without one or the other going.

I'm close, yet the beach is an 80 minute drive through traffic, and the water is ugly. U G L Y. I will never go to the beach on the East Coast again.

If I want to go diving, I need to get on a plane and go to the Caribbean.

I have too much time on my hands since I'm not killing ants.

Traffic is so bad, it destroys some of the will to go places and do things, which is the reason for being here.

I see a lot of people who do look and sound like characters on the Sopranos. This used to annoy me when people would say this stuff, but I notice it now.

My wife and kids aren't with me. You take that for granted, and you never should.

The Paris Hilton bullshit is nonstop. It's hard to respect your own country when so much of the culture is so incredibly vapid and the worst parts are so pervasive. This stuff is easier to avoid in Saipan. The same can be said of professional sports, which I like much more. There is just endless highlights and analysis of pro sports everywhere. Too much. The sheer number of channels is staggering. I'm a compulsive flipper and by the time I get back to the first channel, I need to shave again.

The positives:

The grocery store is like another world, with far cheaper prices, more selection and much better quality.

I was looking up a Cuban Restaurant in Manhattan, and there are about fifty choices.

Any movie out is actually out. I have more choices than Wallace Theaters and their silly whims.

I'm going to Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees suck so bad I'll probably get a decent seat.

I experienced a few days of 70s temperatures, but now it is back to the 90s. It was cool to be cool outside.

I'm going to a comedy club and a museum on Friday.

I'm going to see the Dave Matthews Band a week from Sunday. I don't think they are stopping in Saipan this tour.

The government is just as bad, but it doesn't feel as close to home.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

We are indeed divided

I suppose I'm not revealing anything new here, but the recent news on the Taotao Tano group is a clear display of how racially divided we are on this island. Ambrose Bennett quit this group for reasons he details today. His letter made total sense. He suggested Taotao Tano work with the people attending the public forums being run by Tina Sablan, which has common concerns. Apparently that wasn't a common view in Taotao Tano, as it appears that group is focused solely and exclusively on "indigenous people." Here is one example of that, "Taotao Tano Association president Gregorio Cruz Jr. claims to represent some 600 local people," note the exclusive focus on "local." That is of course their right to do so, but it would be nice if they took a larger view of the island. There are now similar, yet slightly different, petitions going around the island that will go nowhere with the diffusion of interests. I noted before that it was unfortunate to see not that many indigenous folks comparatively at the Public Forum I attended, which is clearly and openly welcoming of all people.

As best I can see, the Filipinos aren't supportive of each other. I've had Filipino friends say this to me on more than one occasion and I believe this to be true: Pinoys are more jealous of fellow Pinoys they see doing well. I see this routinely with things people have done and said to my Filipina wife. I believe Pinoys would turn on a fellow Pinoy before someone not their fellow countrymen. I find this sad.

There is also a palpable sense of racism in the air against Filipinos because they are seen as poor people doing menial labor. In fact, I've read that in Saudi Arabia, the word Filipina literally means maid. This view sickens me. I know it exists. It has to stop. It also isn't limited to this place at all. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia doesn't have a mere air of racism, it has stories that chill the blood. Type in Filipina maids in Saudi Arabia on Google and read the stories. I'm astonished at the general lack of human compassion that exists in the world. This is hardly a problem limited to this place.

The mainland folks are held as somewhat suspect because they tend to be more sympathetic to the Filipinos and more critical of the CNMI's labor practices. George Miller is a white, liberal mainlander after all, as were the majority of the Miss Magazine people, the 20/20 people, Allan Stayman, and other critics like Dengre or even me.

As best I can tell, the Chinese have no voice whatsoever, perhaps that is mostly a language issue, but they are the best at mobilizing and demonstrating. They do not appear much in the local media, other than some pointless story on what Chinese person is being kicked out for "overstaying their visa." I don't know how that is news.

The indigenous folks are afraid of speaking out because they are reliant on bloated, dying government jobs, as evidenced in this statement below. I think they are starting to realize that these government policies over the years haven't helped them all that much, and things could be better.
The Taotao Tano group is having a hard time mobilizing its “more than 1,400
members” because they are afraid of losing their government jobs, according
to its president, Greg Cruz.He said if these indigenous people were working
in the private businesses like him, there would be no reason for them to be
afraid of exercising their democratic rights.Majority of the Taotao Tano
members, he said, are working for the government. He said this is the reason
only a handful of them show up when they hold rallies.Cruz said they were
expecting at least a hundred of their members to attend the meeting at the
multi-purpose center in Susupe on Saturday, but only 20 showed up.


That we are as divided as this is depressing.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Front row at the freak show

George Carlin once observed, "When you're born in this world, you're given a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America you're given a front row seat." Well I’ve only be in America five minutes, and I’ve already seen Exhibit A: an IPOD vending machine. I am not kidding, Minneapolis Airport has a literal vending machine that sells IPODS and all IPOD accessories. I don’t even know what to say. I wish I could take a picture, but my digital is long busted, so I can’t. Let me repeat that again, IPODS are being sold in vending machines for $200 and up like it is a Nestle’s Crunch Bar. No wonder we owe $9 trillion. I’ve been gone six years, though I’ve visited, and six years in the states are Dog Years, so maybe for people living here the whole time, this isn’t such a mind boggling turn of events, but I’m still almost speechless. The contrast in the mad dog consumer culture is just so staggering.

Japan is the second biggest economy in the world, but judging by the two airports, I know why they are number two and destined to stay number two. In freaking Minneapolis, a big place, but hardly the size of Tokyo, there is a full blown mall with everything under sun and moon to buy. In Tokyo, the options were so few I actually ate god awful McDonalds for lunch. Here in Minneapolis, they have everything in the airport: A Fox News store for one. I didn’t even know bullshit was a salable commodity. The Body Shop, the Chocolate Factory, Nevada Bob’s Golf Shop, an eyeglass store, Wolfgang Puck’s gourmet fast food, what an oxymoron there, and numerous other sit down restaurants, and that is just what is in eyeshot. Tom Hanks’ character from The Terminal might live here for the convenience. Some company is selling kayaks, which I'm sure I can fit in my carry on bag. It only took me about eight minutes to find the Statue of Liberty, no I’m not in New York, I’m talking about the real Statue of Liberty: the lady in the Starbucks logo. This place, which I like and from which I pen this post, is like a walking cash machine selling massively caloric $5 Iced Caramel Macchiatos to the pimply, obese masses at an alarming rate. I settle for the regular $2 normal coffee.

Of course, there is still that other freakish part of modern travel: airport security. I’ve been x-rayed today more than Evil Knievel after trying to jump his motorcycle across a couple air craft carriers. To travel from Saipan to the states, at least the state of New Jersey, requires stops to airports in Saipan, Nagoya, Narita, Minneapolis and ultimately Newark. I’ve been x-rayed and bag checked four times. Only the states insisted on yet another shoe check. God, what a bunch of babies we are.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The true face of evil updated

Editor's Note: The quoted dialogue is a bit salty.

I've had some fun over Dengre's post referring to Bruce Bateman as evil. At the time, I emailed Dengre and told him Bruce wasn't evil, the real evil was Richard A. Pierce, the well educated man who tries to put a nice face on our labor system as the government's paid garment and wage mouthpiece. He once treated my wife, then a $3.05 contract worker and not yet my wife, like garbage because he was late for his tee time at King Fischer Golf Course. Like most people who make their living convincing the masses it is ok to keep poor people poor, he is apparently quite the misogynist. Don't believe me because I said that, read Richard's words to a female Marianas Variety reporter and tell me I'm wrong.

Strangely, I find myself in agreement with Richard on the drug treatment issue, but that doesn't excuse his behavior. In short, our government paid mouthpiece referred to Variety reporter Gemma Casas as a "whore, liar and cunt." The word trash was also thrown in, but that was probably more a reference to his view of her work, not her personally, but who knows with all the rest. This issue was later written about in the Saipan Tribune, as well as the Marianas Variety. Boni weighed in, as did Saipan Glen.

People I respect and like such as Harry Blalock and Brad Ruszala came to Richard's defense, not defending his words, but saying they think the Variety has done some unsavory things in the past using off the record information. See the comments section for their full thoughts. Brad questioned the lack of Gemma's email in the exchange. I've added that.

This is the story that set Richard off. She also wrote this one. Richard blasted the Variety after that first story came out. As I see it, Gemma was quoting something that was said in the House, which she would be in her right to quote. The ethics of Stanley Torres saying that can be questioned, but one can also note that Richard is a public figure doing an extremely dirty job in an extremely dirty business. This is what Stanley Torres said, and he probably shouldn't have said that, even to a guy like Pierce:

During a House session on May 29, Torres, in a privileged speech,
criticized Pierce
.“Mr. Pierce wants us to believe that drug test results are
meaningless and that the Legislature shouldn’t be given the results. Maybe Mr.
Pierce’s fuzzy thinking is a product of his own reported drug abuse in the past
and that his apparent two visits to Hazelton drug rehab haven’t really impressed
him about the need for honesty in revealing one’s drug abuse when necessary,”
said Torres.


My understanding is that Gemma asked Richard if what Stanley said was true. According to Gemma, "I didn't use our telephone conversation in the story. I purely based the story on what were on the documents. He's probably using the off-the record argument to discredit me, but his emails speak a volume about his character."

It appears to me that Gemma didn't use a lot of information she probably had, but used the information and documentation Stanley offered in the public session. Richard also initated the email exchange, according to Gemma, and her lone retort to his "what a whore you are" comment was "Thank you but maybe you are referring to yourself. Have a nice day!"

Here is Richard's email in full:


From: rapierce@xxxxx.com"
To:
Subject:Re: Fwd: Fwd: Re: Stan's letter

No, I'm the one that doesn't compromise myself everyday by
being a liar. I stand behind my convictions, and do not lie
through my teeth like you. You deceitfully took an off the
record comment I confided about my personal life for
verification before you lied again and printed some crap that I
could care less about.

You are complicit in acts that keep the people that need help
from getting it. All for a sleezy piece of work. What a piece
of trash. Do you not understand that it's exactly what the
fucked up people like Stan Torres say that stop people from
being strong enough to go get help. His stigmatization of drug
abuse as an immoral and indecent personal characteristic keeps
those that need help from coming and asking for it in the macho
piece of shit world people like you live in. All so you can say something
scandaless. What a whore you are.

Here is Gemma's retort:
Thank you but maybe you are referring to yourself. Have a nice day!

Here is Richard's follow up:

Subject: Re: Stan's letter

Obviously, dishonesty plays a vital role in the vile work you (do) at the Variety. I was wrong about you. You are a liar and a cunt.

This is the man the government sends to Washington to fight to keep our meager minimum wage meager. He is the apologist for the garment industry; A man who has made quite a nickel as the Nick Naylor of the local sweatshops. Quite the gentleman.

A great day of diving

To echo what Harry wrote, yesterday was a fantastic day. Boni, Angelo and I went on Harry's show early in the morning to discuss blogging. This was the earliest I've been up since school ended, but that is ok. The audio will surface soon since Angelo has the disc Harry burned. I went off to Bobby Cadillac's later on and had pizza with Harry, Bruce, Ej and Angelo. Then we headed out to Ice Cream and Shipwreck on Bruce Bateman's boat. Bruce proves that you can be friends with people you don't agree with on anything politically. He is a good guy who really enjoys Saipan life like a lot of us.

I never dove shipwreck before, and it is one mangled ship with a lot of fish. It is so shallow, that it was probably the longest dive I've ever done at nearly 80 minutes. It could have been longer, but that was enough. Harry lugged along the largest tank in the world, and could have been out there until my hair grows back. Yesterday was one of those great Saipan days that make you appreciate what you have here, and forget about what you don't. The day wasn't even completely ruined by the brief site of Angelo on the deck of Bruce's boat wearing a Speedo -- the memory of which I will be attempting to delete from my neural hard drive. I just want to know how that Japanese tourist missing his Speedo is going to swim today.

Exploring Ice Cream and looking Kind of Blue like Miles.
I was getting splashed like crazy, so I had to put my mask on in the boat while cruising out to Shipwreck.

I did something I rarely do, and touched something underwater, and Nemo over here bit my finger like a protective mother. I get it, I deserved it.

This shipwreck is one mangled bunch of metal with a lot of fish. Photos courtesy of Eagle Eye Harry, who spotted the Eagle Rays off in the distance. See his blog for more.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The belaguered principals

This morning the three amigoes went on Harry Blalock's show to discuss blogging. After the interview, Angelo and I had a nice breakfast at Wild Bill's, while Boni had to race off to her seminar. Boni still has the glaze in her eye from her non-summer vacation.

A few months ago Rep. Justo Quitugua made the outrageous comment about the principals making the "big bucks." I took exception on behalf of people like Boni, and even my own administrators, Pete Le'au and Craig Garrison, who put in an enormous amount of time to make the school run properly.

Principals here make between 50 and 60 thousand per annum for twelve months, only a small amount more than some teachers -- and with a lot more responsiblity. The principal's salary is about half of what that job pays in the states. Teachers by contrast make a minimum of about 32,000 up to $47,000. For teachers in the first ten years of their career, the salary is competitive. In places like New York City, a highly experienced teacher can make upwards of $100,000. This is not the norm by the way. I spent some time looking at salary guides and the CNMI for my particular situation is better than a lot of states, especially in the Southeast.

I take a risk here. There should be a risk premium. No school in the states is having a debate on whether they'll have funding to open. Schools in the states also offer stipends for all types of activities that don't exist here. But overall, teacher salaries aren't terrible these days. Principals are getting a raw deal, however. Don't move up the ladder here.
***
This week marks the eleventh year I've had my dog. With an investment in veterinary care, an animal can live long and prosper, not to mention they offer all types of life enriching experiences. People say all these things about dogs being loyal, but I don't actually buy that. I had this dog for eight years, just her and me, but she is now more attached to my wife and ten year old. I don't begrudge that, though. She teaches my son about responsibilty, care and love, and she's still one sweet, spoiled, old cutie.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bright and Early Tomorrow

For you early risers out there, three CNMI bloggers, Angelo Villagomez, Boni Reyes-Gomez and myself will be on Harry Blalock's show at 7 am tomorrow, that's Thursday morning, to discuss the Saipan blogging phenomenon. Tune in to hear us tease Boni about being voted Saipan's Sexiest Blogger. Can you see someone blush on radio? Kidding Boni. I don't want to hear any jokes about me having a face for radio.

A guide to CNMI bloggers updated

Editor's Note: You are encouraged to post this entry on your own blog as a guide to CNMI bloggers.

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

Whether to keep up with friends far away, enjoy a new forum for self expression, change the perception of the CNMI or simply to opine on matters local, national or personal, blogging has taken the CNMI by storm. The community of CNMI bloggers cuts a wide swath of society: lawyer, doctor, journalist, principal, environmental activist and dental hygienist to name the day jobs of a few CNMI bloggers. All have their own particular focus and passion, but each finds a creative outlet in this new form of self expression that readers are increasingly responding to.

For those unfamiliar with the rapid machinations of cyberspace, blogging is an online diary in which participants can offer written thoughts, as well as audio, video or digital images, on virtually anything. Blogging allows most anyone to be a journalist of sorts. Journalism even at the highest level doesn’t require a license. Blogging took on a new level of social cachet in the party conventions during the last presidential election, as a media area devoted specifically to bloggers was set up, and the opinions set forth by bloggers have increasing influence on the establishment media. Blogging is included and covered in everything from the New York Times to Slate.

There are now approximately 1.3 million English blogs on the web. One can conservatively estimate there are now at least 30 CNMI blogs. There were five or less a year ago.

The pole position blogger in the CNMI is probably Angelo Villagomez, a privately employed political/environmental organizer who recently returned to his birthplace here in the CNMI after being raised and educated in the U.S. mainland. Villagomez’s blog averages a solid 430 plus hits per day, and partially took off after having links related to a sex scandal involving Miss Nevada Katie Rees. But sex scandals aren’t the crux of Villagomez’s blog, though he has been known to display a bevy of athletic bikini babes on his site. His blog discusses all types of things with a particular focus on environmental issues. “My blog is about life in Saipan. I touch on politics, people, places, events, and when things get boring I just post girls in bikinis. I also talk about national topics. I also post videos and pictures,” he said.

Villagomez notes blogging can entail certain negative experiences, such as when he was fired for blogging. He was critical of management at a restaurant he was employed in, discussed his thoughts in one of his earlier blogs, and was then told his services weren’t needed anymore. That experience didn’t stop him, but he acknowledges a certain vulnerability from his online journal. “When you blog, you are opening up yourself to the world. When you allow people to see the world through your eyes, you become sort of a celebrity. People who don't know you will think they know you. People will leave you comments with the intent of pissing you off. I've had people leave some very personal nasty things about my family. Most things have been good. I make some money off of the yahoo ads on my blog, plus people are always telling me that what I publish online reminds them of what a great place Saipan can be.”

Changing that perception of Saipan has been one of the goals of many of the Saipan bloggers. Most anyone who makes the move to Saipan will come across the Saipan Sucks web site, which is extremely critical of the CNMI and can scare off a potential recruit. There was very little on the internet to give a more balanced view of the islands prior to this rise in blogging, so a recent entrant to the CNMI, Walt F.J. Goodridge, an author, career coach and “nomadpreneur,” started the We Love Saipan network, a launching point for many CNMI bloggers last year.

“Right now, because of what we're doing, there's a new dialogue developing. There are an increasing number of people around the world who, after now discovering us through these new blogger channels, are saying things like: ‘I'm thinking of moving to Saipan! Have you ever heard of a place called Saipan? Ever thought about retiring on Saipan?’Yes, the dialogue is changing,” Goodridge said.

The dialogue isn’t completely Wild West, a common criticism of blogging. Given the size of the island, some people can feel a little bit of self censorship – especially if their career seems to require more discretion. Melissa Simms, an assistant Attorney General with the Division of Immigration, says the focus of her blog is her own usual day to day life struggles, as well as observations and sometimes tirades, but there are limitations. “Due to my position in the community, I tend to steer away from anything too political or controversial, even though I have very strong opinions. I find it is a great outlet for me to express myself and communicate with my friends and family who are far away. I have met many wonderful people and made a lot of new friends through my blog that I wouldn't have met otherwise.”

Simms also said things she read on CNMI blogs helped influence her recent move to the island, and she has come to enjoy the friendships of other bloggers, who meet on the last Wednesday of each month at 7 pm at Java Joes cafĂ© to talk and offer advice. There is an open invite to potential bloggers to join in as well. “I think that the blogging community in Saipan is very strong - we are all very different in occupations, political opinion, hobbies, etc., but blogging ties us together, and helps paint a picture of what Saipan is really like from the perspective of many different people.”

Cinta Kaipat, an elected Saipan representative, is another prominent blogger who was encouraged by friends to begin her blogging efforts recently, and she uses her blog to maintain communications with constituents. “I recently posted my office's 2006 and 2007 expenditures online and received very positive feedback on it. Some people took me up on my offer to post the bills I'm working on online and use this blog as a way to communicate with my constituents. I've done some of this, but not as much as I hope to do in the future.”

Kaipat’s brother Gus Kaipat, a legislative aide and one of the island’s most well known ukulele virtuosos, uses his blog to promote his band. “Traffic to my band's site has increased since I started blogging. People are discovering my band's homepage without me having to pay a cent for advertising. It's incredible,” he said. Kaipat also hopes to use his blog as a cultural tool: “I would love to be able to utilize my blog to help me preserve my two cultures of Chamorro and Refaluwasch.”

Brad Ruszala, a sportswriter and general sports enthusiast, professes great love for his adopted hometown of Saipan, and posts mostly about sports and daily life. He enjoys the different perspective blogging allows. “Too many negative stories about our islands come out in the local and international press. For some, that's the only way of getting information. I am the only reporter in the CNMI who is an American citizen. I have a real stake in the future of this place and I know that there is plenty more to read about then the evaporating garment industry, the ridiculous utilities firm and the soap opera politicking on the hill.”

Ruszala also likes the democracy and different perspectives blogging allows. “The multimillion dollar foreign owned corporations and the overpaid politicians have lost touch with the regular people, so it's time that the regular folks like me speak up. I'm not here to change the world, but I am here to say that it's a lot different down here where I am.”

Yvonne Reyes-Gomez is the principal of Garapan Elementary School, the largest elementary school in the CNMI, and she is someone who simply enjoys writing. ”Reading and writing are the two hobbies that give me the most satisfaction because I am able to expand my own thinking and express myself. I'm a wanna-be published writer, but without the guts or time to actually sit down and produce something worthy of publication. Blogging is my fix. I can be a poet, a political activist, a short story writer, even a comedian in a blog.”

Reyes-Gomez also eases her day to day anxiety through blogging. “I have a very stressful job. I never get a chance to really sit down and reflect on the other areas in my life. Blogging helps to re-focus. It's sort of like a gratitude journal, a chance for me to see and say all the things that I do outside of work. Sometimes I feel like I don't contribute enough to my community and especially my family. Blogging is tangible proof that I have a life outside of the campus gates.”

Unlike Simms, Reyes-Gomez feels less need for self-censorship. “I write about my thoughts on government and its leaders or lack thereof. In my blog I do not have to worry about being "proper" and keeping my government agent hat on too tightly.”

But government officials aren’t the only ones who might be a bit cautious around Reyes-Gomez, her own family must keep an eye on what they say. “Sometimes even my family self-edits what they do and say because they know it will eventually be publicized. I am the mamarazzi!”

One of the challenges all bloggers face is updating their blogs with fresh thoughts on interesting topics. “Sometimes I get blogorhea. Sometimes I'm on every day. It all depends on what's going on in my life. When you're a blogger, there may not be an event to post everyday, but there is always a thought worthy of sharing. I'm not against posting a one sentence quip either, just to get it off my chest. I read blogs every day though,” Reyes-Gomez said.

Sometimes devotion to a hobby leads to blogging. This is the case for Melissa Highfill, a self described “stay at home mom” who said she started blogging after seeing other people's blog addresses in their signature on needlework message boards. “I use it as a tool to keep up with my friends and some of my family back home while we are stationed out here. If I had to pick one general theme, it would be needlework...that is what started it all and that is what I mainly look at when I am looking at other blogs. Many of my needlework friends are intrigued by our life here...hardly anyone has heard of Saipan,” Highfill said.

Mike Tripp is a scuba instructor, underwater photographer and pharmacist, and he also recently released the Underwater World of Saipan, a dvd featuring Saipan’s dive sites. The purpose of his blog is to discuss responsible ecotourism, conservation and diving life in Saipan. “I've had positive responses from my web site devoted to The Underwater World of Saipan and I imagine it will be a mater of time before the same is true for the blog. For the web site I have had people email me after they purchased the DVD and tell me they have decided to travel to Saipan. Perhaps the DVD was the tipping point in their decisions.”

D.C.Revilla, a government worker, tries to keep her blog fun and lighthearted. “I don't have a focus - I describe my blog as stories of life, about everything and nothing. I post light hearted pictures of my life - my family, the island. I stay away from politics; I generally steer clear of the serious stuff. I mainly write stories from my day, random thoughts, and very simple movie reviews. I also write about my experiences as a customer. I hope that somehow my blog is going to help improve customer service on island.”

Bree Reynolds, a science teacher at Hopwood Junior High School, has a spouse who wonders why she devotes so much energy to blogging. “My husband actually asked me what the appeal was. Don't get me wrong, he thinks it’s great that I'm documenting our lives, posting pictures, communicating with family, etc. That way he doesn't have to do it, but he doesn't get the appeal of sitting in front of a screen for hours reading other blogs, posting comments, etc. I told him, ‘I like to talk’ and blogging is sort of like talking to other people. Plus it’s a creative outlet.”

Reynolds also thinks blogging is an educational tool. “I created a blog for students to post about science and environmental related topics and another blog for posting about books and writing. These blogs are open to anyone in the CNMI that wants to contribute. They just need to email me to become an author. My students have also received a greater audience for their work and I really love that because it shows what students from an overcrowded, under-funded public middle school can do when they are motivated and inspired.”

Beverly Cabanatan, a registered dental hygienist, is one of the many CNMI bloggers with a spiritual focus. “I wanted to keep my family and friends in touch with what my life is like as a missionary dental hygienist with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Saipan. I wanted to record my adventures, my experiences with my patients, and my spiritual growth in Saipan. I blog about my spiritual journey, the outreach of the SDA Church, missionary life, scuba diving, and random other things about my life on Saipan.

Dr. David Khorram, an eye specialist and surgeon, uses blogging as an outlet for his many different interests. “My most positive experiences relate to influencing people’s lives and opinions in a positive way through my writing. I’m now getting about 100 visitors a day, so I know that people are enjoying what they read. Recently a friend sent me a link to a website in the Philippines where someone was quoting me after reading my blog. That was cool. The Saipan blogs provide personal perspectives on issues I’m not usually exposed to, uncover news, provide information on events and activities, and are made by a pretty savvy group of individuals that I have come to know and trust. As a result, the Saipan blogs have positively influenced my experience of Saipan.”

The net result of all this activity is a massive increase in the amount of online information about these islands, and a more balanced and diverse view of life here. It might take a little longer, but even global internet trends make their way to these tiny Mariana Islands.


Jeffrey C. Turbitt is author of Saipan and Other Random Hypercritical Thoughts, a blog focused on local politics. His blog can be viewed at http://turbittj.blogspot.com/

Life of late in pictures

I suck at bowling and I don't mean maybe. We did the bumper bowling and I barely beat Carl, yeah the older boy. When Alex threw the ball one time, it literally bounced off the pin and didn't fall, which was hilarious. He'd throw the ball and it would take so long to get to the pins, he'd lose interest. Needless to say, Mommy won.


I had lunch on the rock island where they filmed Survivor Palau. I saw a lizard that was bigger than a dog, but it moved too fast to get a picture. This isn't the lizard.

This was when I was waiting in the terminal in Guam. I knew I was heading for Palau when I saw this guy's Joy Dishwashing bottle full of lime. Betelnut is a full blown ritual over there. I saw about 10 Saipan folks I knew, the day after school ended, heading off somewhere from the dreaded Guam Airport.

Cynthia and I went out to the Hyatt just for general merriment and to celebrate things going well in general. It was quite the dinner.

Monday, June 18, 2007

More good news and short takes

I applied for, and received today at last, a teacher's license in the state of Virginia. I'm fully certified to teach language arts and social studies there, as I am here. There is a significant chance I'll be a social studies teacher at SSHS instead of language arts next school year. I'm up for a change, and my passions are more in social studies. My language arts class is kind of a language arts/social studies hybrid, and as a dedicated social studies teacher I expect to do the same.

I'm pretty happy with my current position here, even the salary, but I want to be prepared for nuclear economic meltdown. In theory in the states a person can get a teacher license alternate route, but that is very hard to do and leaves few real job options. Getting a teacher's license has been a long process that led me through three Praxis tests and an MA in Education, as well as four years teaching here, plus two in Korea. Cynthia's green card is moving along, which is the third and now final leg of my bureaucratic three headed monster of adoption, teacher's license and spousal immigration.
***
I wrote a piece for the new version of In Transit that will be performed in the Fall, and may be my acting debut if I can pull that off. It will be a series of monologues on life intertwining. Mine is about life not turning out as you planned. I've had one friend love the piece, my dad not as strong an endorsement, but I think it is pretty good. I'll have to see what Galvin and Barbara have to say.

I wrote another piece based on my Guam Airport blog that I want to get published in a large publication like Rolling Stone or the Village Voice. That piece was also in the Variety. I think it is about time I did that. My father thinks if I toned it down a bit it would actually be suitable for the Wall Street Journal. Perhaps the best part of blogging, and I thank other Saipan bloggers for jump starting this in me, is that it has got me writing a lot now, a skill I had actually left long dormant despite my semi-frequent rants in the local papers over the past few years. My $40,000 newspaper journalism school education is getting some exercise at last.
***
I loved the dichotomy in Friday's Variety. On one hand there is a request for $155 million from Congress, which "isn't a handout" and then a typical racist rant from Danny Aquino in both papers. Danny wants the CNMI to secede from the Union because workers are getting a little bit of a break at last via minimum wage and immigration. He is also upset the CNMI is not represented in Congress, which I actually agree with him about. Of course, the vast majority of people aren't represented here in reality, so I don't know how much it matters. I blasted Aquino on his white bashing a while ago, which led to the Eric Atalig dustup, which several people told me Danny actually wrote and submitted under Eric's name. Eric got blasted by many people. My kid was in Danny's Day Care center, Little Darlings. Frankly, if I knew in the beginning it was his place, he wouldn't be in there, but I didn't want to disturb my son over his ravings. My kid won't be returning since a racist whose public opinions are insulting to his Filipino workers has an influence on the morale of people with the extremely challenging job of guiding small children, which is completely unacceptable. There is a close battle between Danny and garment mouthpiece Richard Pierce on who is the most vile person on this island. Flip a coin on that one.
***
A bill was introduced to revise CNMI immigration. As they did on the minimum wage, the government want a "study" done. Did they do a study before they paid millions to Jailbird Jack Abramoff to rig the game?

“That is a significant development,” said press secretary Charles P. Reyes
Jr. “It's troublesome because we've repeatedly asked that a study be done for
any action is taken. We hoped Congress would consider our economic vulnerability
and give this piece of legislation some thoughtful analysis. Unfortunately, our
calls were not given much credence.”


***
The loser prosecutor who bent over justice in an attempt to get re-elected got disbarred. This is something that restores my faith in America, which seldom happens under the rule of George W. Bush. Actually the court did the right thing and said we still have to follow the Constitution and actually charge and try Americans and not just hold them indefinitely in our own Gulag as enemy combatants, so there are two encouraging things. If they executed this prosecutor I don't think it would be unreasonable. For a prosecutor to use state power to ruin people's lives on a fact ignoring witch hunt to get re-elected is so beyond appalling. I hope Mike Nifong has a locker one day in hell next to Ken Lay of Enron infamy.
**
I have two confirmed yesses on the Thursday afternoon dive on Bruce Bateman's boat. Let me know y'all.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Don't get sick here

I talked to a friend from the hospital last night and he painted a dark picture on the state of Commonwealth Health Center -- notably worse than recent times. There is one surgeon left (on call 24 hours a day), as two good ones, Drs. Sawer and George have left. There is minimal blood, so some patients can't get the care they need, including surgery, since doctors won't take that risk without extra blood. A few people told me that one. The place is wildly understaffed, doctors are hard to find in an emergency, and to make matters worse, patients make no effort to help themselves, eating things that exacerbate their diabetes situation, a disease that is very manageable with education and self control. The diabetes rate is catacylsmic, and the eating habits I see are wretched behind belief. I'm hardly a vegan or anything, but I don't go overboard on the salty snacks or donuts, and always try to maintain some moderation.

On this note, my wife is diabetic, and is one of these people not doing what she should. If they had a rehab center for sugar, I'd seriously consider having her admitted because she has a kid's/addict's affinity for sweets. If I see them in the house, I throw them out. I don't care if money was spent on it or what. Feel free to abuse her over this, but it probably won't matter since even the doctor's advice she minimizes, and it is majorly pissing me off. In fact, I half think she wouldn't be seeing forty if we didn't meet and I wasn't there to get her situation mildly under control. The number one thing we fight about is the sugar she lets the kids have. A situation that is improved, but not where it should be. End of rant on my wife. Tough luck baby. Cut the crap and I'll take this part down. Back to my regularly scheduled post.

The message this person gave me is "don't get sick here. If you do, get out, and if you're too unstable to be transported, you're in trouble." Dr. Khorram wrote a great post on this topic, and he obviously knows a lot more about this issue than I do. One great point he made was the private care physicians and the great work they are doing. I totally agree, and wrote about that issue myself when I had a mildly complicated medical problem last year.

It gets tiring beating the same dead horse, but the days of invented make work jobs have to end when the schools are opening, maybe, without the needed repairs and are "unsafe" according to the commisioner, since the money that was earmarked for these repairs via compact money will have to go to salaries to keep schools open. The hospital is a mess, and failing to anticipate a time when oil would go much higher, no one maintained or planned for the island's power needs. These are essential services, yet we have three mayors and councils, two houses of a legislature and a ridiculous stash of government vehicles. All of these unnecessary lawmakers have a $100,000 plus allowance for BS.

I heard one scam where people are siphoning gas from the government vehicles to place in their own car, or to sell. I knew of prominent families tapping in to the power lines to avoid that bill, plus there was this scam recently that got all those CUC people busted for not switching off the power of those who failed to pay in exchange for a kickback. A few years ago, I was sitting in the lunch room with about eight friends, all expats, and I was the only person paying for cable -- all of them hooked it up illegally. I'm not sure anyone even contemplates not running a scam here.

It's hard to imagine a place as mismanaged as this one, and it is so tiring to hear the horror stories. Even the admonition to vote wisely really matters little since there is no exchange of ideas, and it just seems to be the same old lame candidates who pollute the island with their hideous lawn signs, like Sen. Crisostimo has the early jump on. It's hard to live long term in a place with a lousy hospital, crumbling schools, wildly expensive and unreliable power and little hope that there are competent people to fix those problems. It just doesn't have to be like this, but it is such a tiring fight. What a buzzkill from Friday's dive.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Continental or Northwest better with miles

I'm flying home soon, and I will get enough miles almost 25K to go somewhere. Does anyone have any experience with Northwest for free flights. I've used Continental for free trips to the PI and Palau, and I'm pretty sure 25 K gets you to Australia and Bali on Continental. Where does 25K get you on Northwest -- especially Thailand. Any advice.

Inspired by Bev's post, I dove again

I don't know if it is because school is out and I'm leading a life of leisure right now, the Yankees have won nine in a row, the restorative power of travel, becoming a legal father or what, but I'm feeling good about Saipan right now -- as good as I ever have.

Inspired by this post by Bev, which has great pics and captures one gigantic, unique, positive aspect of Saipan life, I jumped on Aqua Jet yesterday and dove Ice Cream and Dimple. Not to belabor the point, but if I didn't live here already, nothing would draw me to Saipan quite like that post by Bev. I know not everyone dives, sadly, but what can be better than getting out of work early on a Friday and being able to frolic on crystal blue waters and see that explosion of underwater colors -- and do so for a very reasonable price as a resident.

One thing I noticed yesterday is that Saipan might not have the colorful coral it once had, but it has beautiful, colorful fish -- and a lot of them. Beyond that, this was the first dive I was the lead on. In all 200 plus dives I was essentially following someone -- completely lacking confidence in my navigation ability. Yesterday that changed, and I realize navigation wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it was. I'm glad I got over that fear. It was a very easy first navigation. I've been very comfortable in the water always, and I've been diving about seven years and have quite a few dives under my belt, but I finally feel completely at home under water now and it feels good. There are lots of people who know more and have done more than me, so I'm humble about it, but I feel distinctly more independent now underwater, and as is my nature as a teacher, I'd like to spread the joy.

I know a lot of divers and a lot of non-divers. If you aren't comfortable in the water, then you probably shouldn't dive, but if you enjoy swimming and feel confident doing so, diving is much, much easier than you probably think. It can be done very safely and very conservatively, and living in Saipan is a great place to enjoy diving. Your biggest danger is yourself -- specifically panicking and rocketing to the surface. If you stay relatively shallow, keep a watch on your air, and dive with a conscientious dive guide, there really is minimal risk. You are extremely unlikely to get attacked by a shark or something, and even if you run low on air, you have dive buddies that should have an octopus so you can breath off their extra regulator. You should simply pay attention so that doesn't happen. I'm heading to the states a week from today, but I'd love to do a blogger dive one day next week. Leave a comment if interested.
***
One thing I love about travel, especially to more authentic places and less processed places , is the opportunity to meet interesting people. Generally speaking, people who come to Palau to dive the rock islands are friendly folks who have lived a life full of rich experiences and have something to say. I met one guy who was on the research vessel that was on the news examining the reef health throughout the Marianas. I saw the report on this on KSPN and found it fascinating. They dove spots no one else has been to. He was more positive than I expected, noting that only the southern part of Saipan has especially unhealthy reefs. The less populated areas were doing well. He went to most all the Mariana Islands, and he went to school at Duke and Michigan, so he was a smart guy. I met another couple from California diving all the Micronesian Islands extensively, and some Palau expats also doing environmental work and leading a traveling, nomadic existence. They gave me some tips on places to go in Palau.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just in time for Father's Day, I'm legally a father

Today was a big day. I went to court, and I'm now in law what I have been in spirit: A Dad. You can take the step out of my stepchildren, as they are now legally Turbitts, as per Judge Govendo's decree, Alexander Clarence and Carl Robert Turbitt. Tonight, we're going out to eat and going bowling as a family finally under one name.

Need cable or internet

If you need cable or internet in Saipan, my wife is handling that for MCV. Leave a message here to get signed up. High speed internet makes all the difference.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Guam Airport blows and other musings

This won't change anything, of course, but it will make me feel better, so I'm going to give Guam International Airport the lambasting it deserves. I get off the plane in Guam after getting everything but a colonoscopy at Palau security, and what is the first thing I have to do in Guam right off the plane at 4 am: Take your shoes off sir, belt, all metals, and are your nuts still attached, if not, please place them in this basket for inspection. I've only been married a few years, so they are still connected, sorry, use the wand, and tickle a little bit since it's 4am, I'm on the redeye from hell, I'm stuck in your shithole airport and I need a cheap thrill.

I didn't go anywhere near an unchecked civilian. Why do I have to go through the shoe bullshit again, not to mention x-ray, take off your belt, shave your pubes routine in case you're hiding plutonium in your sac region? Why again!!!! Are you so much more thorough in Guam than the last airport? One idiot tried something with his shoes years ago and people the planet over have to go through the shoe theatrics. Please. I've had times when there have been like three shoe checks. I saw this guy examine my zorries with the wrapt attention of Howard Carter opening King Tut's tomb. Plus, the silliness over water has to stop. If you can drink it, and demonstrate that it isn't some Mission Impossible liquid bomb, let it go. It's water, like 80 percent of the human body. Chill out Nurse Ratched. We don't examine most any cargo coming into the states, but three shoe checks and no water, so we're safe. What a joke.

Then they set up that little rope to block you from your gate or give you the stare to march you along like lambs to the slaughter for the pointless Guam check in counter. Why do I even have to clear immigration in Guam when I'm not staying there? Someone please explain that crap. Also, the existence of shaving cream in my checked, not carry on, luggage caused a literal ten minute investigation. I might be the only one with a toothbrush in Palau, but I can't be the only one who shaves. I had deoderant in my carry on, which is legal, but that still entailed a Nuremberg type deliberation since somehow Old Spice equals Al Qaeda. Use some sense, you soulless automaton. They must electroshock all vestiges of independent thought and common sense out of you at TSA Academy.

Plus, Guam airport basically held me hostage on my layover. I couldn't exit without a Continental representative to walk me through like it was my first day of kindergarten. Plus I had this bozo rent a cop on a powertrip interrogating me on whether my green tea in a cup was beer. What am I twelve, what if it was? You can't take green tea out onto the streets of Guam sir. I'm sure the teeming masses of Guam appreciate that kind of protection. I saw one guy with an apple, stop him and you might be chief of police. Plus you factor in the whole racist way they won't let Filipinos transfer through there, and it is just an awful place.

Beyond that, it is still the middle of the night, I've got a long layover in Hades, there is hardly anyone in the place, so sleep seems in order. I'm not expecting the Ritz Carlton, just to sack out on their mangy carpet in peace. Naturally, sleep is hard to come by with a blaring announcement over the loudspeaker every fifteen minutes not to leave your bags unattended and to report any suspicious activity to the Guam Gestapo.

Guam Airport is the United States in microcosm: reactionary, bullying, lacking common sense and self important.The terrorists have already won since we are a bunch of drunk on fear ninnies acting like this.
***
The last time I used Wal Mart, a long while ago, it took like two months to get stuff here because they didn't put the customs form or something on it. Well, I just bought a Sony DVD player for $65, with shipping, and it was here in less than a week. The crappy Chinese no name player available here is of course more than $100 at Dolphin. Amazon is using UPS and DHL and getting things here much faster as well.
***
This is from the Saipan Tribune, and sorry Boni:

The Attorney General's Office became the subject of intense criticism due to an
alleged proposal to legalize marijuana in the Commonwealth. Senate Vice
President Pete P. Reyes lashed at Attorney General Matthew T. Gregory who
reportedly wants marijuana decriminalized in a bid to raise revenue for the
government.“Just the idea that the highest law enforcement of the land is even
thinking about it is very disheartening, frightening. It gives the impression
that we're so desperate to generate some money that we would sell our souls,”
Reyes said.


No, Mr. Reyes, when this government paid lobbyist Jack Abramoff millions of dollars to keep poor people poor, it sold its soul. Everyone knows marijuana is far less harmful than Marlboros, yet the global hypocrisy continues on that one. No need to grandstand on this one, Senator. We weren't about to become Amsterdam any more than we already are. If we could eliminate spam and soda or marijuana from these islands, we'd be foolish to choose the latter. That isn't to say that marijuana does anything positive, it doesn't, but it isn't as bad as cigarettes or a lot of the diabetes inducing junk food people routinely eat.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bruce Almighty and a proposal on Boni's Prize

Bruce Bateman amplified the rhetoric telling the CNMI masses about Dengre, the premiere CNMI critic. Bruce was openly campaigning for votes for Worst Person in the World. Tell us your entire platform, Bruce. The cyber equivalant of a lawn sign won't get my vote. Will you be kicking puppies, telling small children, or Brad, there is no Santa Clause, banning betelnut at Porky's, displaying the non health benefits of Spam or processed noodles? I'm going to follow you around and throw out the tough questions like Sam Donaldson would do to Reagan.

Bruce questioned why some of us link to Dengre. First, I linked to Bruce and his Right Wing sidekicks before that site died, so agreement isn't necessary. I linked to Sarah Miel, the Ann Coulter of Saipan, crusading to keep immigrant workers poor, and urging everyone to fight the evil efforts of liberals to pay immigrant workers, and locals, more than the U.S. minimum wage from 1980. What evil lurks in the mind of those trying to assist the poor. That site basically died as well. She might have the best crusade since the Middle Ages.

Dengre might be a little extreme in his statements, but his essential argument, that our system here stinks, is spot on. His blog isn't a full blown, across the board indictment of everyone and everything here, like Saipan sucks. Dengre thinks the CNMI government sucks, and its economic model, too. He's right.
***
Poor Boni feels a bit slighted by her lack of a prize for her triumphant victory. I propose all the male bloggers adept at swimming take Boni to World Resort for a swimming lesson and day of general waterpark revelry. Any day next week is good for me. I'll cover Boni's entrance, but I'll urge other sponsors to cover the rest of her crew, most definitely including Tony Senior since I don't want him getting the wrong impression and using his military training on any of us. I can get a Splash Card for a $10 admission. Sponsors anyone for crew, Angelo. Brad can deliver Yum burgers to Boni.
***
Normally a minimum wage increase is viewed as a popular thing to support the poorest workers, and is something that is applauded. That would especially seem to be the case when the CNMI wage is equal to the Federal minimum wage from 1980, almost 30 years ago. Sure enough, this administration feels no concern about everyone not in the bureaucracy since they are so unhappy these people are getting their first raise in more than 10 years. It is obvious and expected they don't give a bleep about Filipinos and Chinese et al, but there are a lot of their own people in the $3.05 hole as well. These tend to be the less educated and less likely to speak up or vote, so they are completely blown off. Harry Blalock talked about how our government officials lambasted David Cohen on the Interior Secretary's visit for not doing enough to keep the poor, poor. Good job on seeing reality and not giving in Mr. Cohen. You seem pretty human for a reasonably high ranking Republican.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Done diving

I finished my ninth and final Palau dive today, paid my considerable bill, and I've had a good time. Palau can never quite live up to the lofty expectations, but it is an amazing place. We saw a school of dolphins and what an impressive animal that is -- so graceful and amazing. I visited the Chandelier Cave yesterday, which was way cool. It is very close to Sam's Dive Shop, and you surface to breathable air in four different chambers. There are stalagmites all about as well as crystal. It is a unique dive. I dove the Ulong Channel twice, and this was one of the best dives I've been on here. The fish ball is something to see, lots of sharks, some cool currents and some amazing coral, including the largest selection of lettuce coral in the world.

This morning we hit Siaes Corner and this was a very pleasant wall dive as well. We dove the Blue Corner yesterday, and the tides just didn't work in our favor, and it pretty much sucked. This was a very disappointing turn of events. I have to spend a day tomorrow doing I'm not quite sure, maybe Kayaking, to get my 24 hours on the surface before I take the flight to hell back to Saipan at 2 am. I've eaten Mexican, Japanese, Indian and Thai since I've been here and all were damn good. Diving and the Palau sun takes so much out of you, that I don't think I've been up much past 9 any night. So tomorrow is my last day in the Coalition of the Willing.
***
On the bad news front, I guess because I've been away and haven't posted as much, school is over, or what, but readership is drying up from the growth it was having, and I see that is impacting other bloggers as well. That blows.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hanging in the Coalition of the Willing

I'm hanging in the Coalition of the Willing, and I'm having a pretty good time. My hotel is utterly incompetent, for reasons I'll detail later. The diving here in Palau has been quite good. Tomorrow I'm hoping to hit Chandelier Cave and Blue Corner. I dove a WWII wreck today, and the Blue Hole. I dove a channel that was pretty damn cool. Lots of sharks, lots of fish, lots of current and a huge fishball. My diving is significantly better. I attribute this to Marty Dalsaso, his buddy and my new friend Jerome Wong, and just having done it a lot for a six years now.

The restaurants here are fabulous, and since I'm traveling solo, I've talked to all kinds of people. I've heard a lot of the usual complaints from expats that you here about Saipan. I've heard some horror stories about the treatment of immigrant workers that is outright scary.

On that topic, these comments sicken me, as do the others bemoaning that immigrant workers might leave the CNMI if given entree to the United States: Memo to the government, businesses and others bemoaning the slight empowerment of Filipinos and Chinese: if you want to keep a worker, pay him or her a wage that makes them want to stay and they will. No one owns immigrant workers. God this stuff sickens me. Imagine if someone said this about some minority group in the states. I'm sure all of this below was said about women and African-Americans at different time periods. I'm sure there will be no backlash to this statement:

Former Covenant negotiator Vicente Santos is not too concerned about
qualified nonresidents getting permanent residency or “green cards” but he
is concerned about the U.S. government granting them voting rights.“The only
thing I'm opposed to is about voting rights granted to other people. Voting
rights must be reserved for local people. I hope Washington looks at it
closely,” said Santos in an interview yesterday.He said, though, that if the
local community decides to grant such right to aliens, then it should be
respected.“If the local people allow that, what can I do? But it should come
from the local people, not from the U.S. Congress. I personally don't want
to see nonresidents getting voting rights,” he said.


God forbid democracy be expanded, Vicente. It's not like these people have a huge stake in this island or anything. I just love this quote, let them go to the states, just don't let them have any say here. It's a vomitous statement appealing to the worst instincts of a small and powerful local sect. I can't wait until the new generation, with a far less racist mindset takes over. I talk to these kids so I know they don't think like this fossil above, thank god. And no, I'm not excusing him and being deferential because he's old.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The sulfur residue and Life is Beautiful

At graduation tonight one of our keynote speakers was Dirk Kempthorne, the Secretary of the Department of Interior, so I'm pretty close to a full cabinet secretary and could almost smell the sulfur residue on him from W, as Hugo Chavez would say. The guy seemed pretty nice. He gave a good speech, smiled, showed some humor, and I couldn't even bring myself to even gently boo a Bush cabinet secretary, so I must be going soft -- kidding. I told him he's a lot sunnier than Cheney. Graduation was a success. Another year in the books.

I'm off for almost two months. I'm diving on Friday in one of the wonders of the world in Palau. I have been lounging at the Mandi Spa, dove Lau Lau yesterday and The Grotto the day prior. Life is good right now. I ate at Kuri- ya on Middle Road, a Ruth Tighe inspired choice, but not her recommendation. The place is great -- very authentic. I was only in Japan once, but that place is exactly what I remember Osaka restaurants looking like. The only gripe there is that my food took a small eternity to arrive. Nearby Shelly's Pizza has gotten significantly better since they opened. I bought a pie there in week one, and frankly, I was disappointed, but they've worked the kinks out of the system, and the pie there now makes me feel like I'm back in Jersey.

I watched the next to last Sopranos episode last night and it was Coppola like in its brilliance. The New York media goes crazy over this show, and sometimes they are right. The famous Pine Barrens episode rises to the occasion. The last one did as well. I always liked it, and I've naturally seen them all, but overall, I not as ebullient in my praise as others. The last episode measured up, though, as did the Lost finale, which was fantastic.

There are a few downsides. The ant situation on the home front is nuts lately. I don't know what it is that drives them inside with such eagerness at certain times, but this is one of those times. Also, the power is getting whackier than ever. I have a clock that pushes ahead almost one hour per week with the weird power situation. It is getting worse. I have a tv I bought new that seems to be fading from the lousy power as well, but overall life is good right now.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A guide to Saipan Bloggers

I wrote a lengthy story on CNMI bloggers that is running in three parts in the Marianas Variety. Part one was published Tuesday. Part two was published yesterday. Part three is out today. I'll be posting an online version that includes even more bloggers next week, probably next Friday, as if this wasn't long enough. If you'd like to be included, leave a comment with your email address, and I'll send you a questionaire. You don't have to know me to be included. If you already responded, you're already on my list to be integrated. I just ran out of space in the paper version. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Stuck Debut


I am heading to Palau on Thursday, so I made sure to see the opening night of Stuck last night at the American Memorial Park theater, and it was a great time. It is an edgy, funny, profane, shocking play with some great acting by some young thespians -- two MHS high school seniors about to graduate featured prominently in Kelvin Rodeo and Keisha Paez. Nahal Navidar was great too, as she was in In Transit earlier, which I really enjoyed. Rick Jones of Java Joes fame played a middle aged man hitting on a much younger woman, not sure there was much acting there, so maybe Rick should play a Buddhist Monk next time so he can test his acting chops rather than just assume it is a regular Friday night, but only on stage. Rick's character Charlie is an artist who "turns junk into something beautiful," which is eerily similar to what Rick does with those Chicken Nuggets I keep buying at Java Joes. Life imitates art. Totally kidding Rick, you were great, buddy. Lynda Rowe, an NMC instructor, did a great job as the dipsomaniac mother holding her daughter back. My only complaint is that Managing Director Bree Reynolds, and others, were too modest to take a very appropriate bow with the actors after the memorable conclusion.

The next performances will be June 8 and 9 at 7 PM. It will be held at the American Memorial Park visitor center's theater. Tickets are $5 and can be gotten through the director Nahal Navidar by calling 285-9014, or leaving a comment at their blog. I got my ticket from Rick at Java Joes. This is not recommended for children under 13 years old.


Here's a description of the play from Dramatists.com:
Set in backwater Middletown, USA—STUCK tells the tale of two twenty-three-year olds, Lula and Margaritah, best friends since they were five years old. They work at a video store during the day and hang out in the car at night minding Margaritah's baby and wishing they could get out of Middletown. Stifled by their environment, the fulfillment the girls once found in each other is waning. Margaritah falls in love with a right-wing Argentine businessman whose political agenda is a mystery to her. Lula hits the bars and ends up in bed with the father of one of her old school chums. The girls' love affairs end in despair, and each girl is inspired to change no matter the consequences. The play's inevitable horrific climax comes because these young women cannot imagine how to attain a reality beyond the one in which they already live.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

See you at the Bee




Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself, the luckiest man, whoever ate... a Yum with Cheese. I may have had a tough break by missing out on a date with Boni, but I have an awful lot to live for, a trip to Jolibee with EJ, Marianas Life, Bev, CNMI Blogger, Deece, Melissa, Saipan Writer and Shazam. Beneath that Bee costume, I will indeed be going commando, but before that, I will be marinating my entire body...with twelve Swirlybitz Sundaes, only 22 pesos each. So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.

The Al Gore backlash

Al Gore has a new book out called The Assault on Reason, which is very critical of our current political system with an obvious angle on the disastrous presidency of the man he defeated in 2000, George W. Bush. The number of historians, and former presidents, arguing he is the Worst President Ever would be funny if it weren't so sad.
He seems to have hit a nerve with his assessment of what ails our democracy –
the unchecked power of special interests backed by big money, the pervasive
influence of mindless and addictive television, and the relentless triumph of
image and style over content, which makes us read more articles about John
Edwards’ haircuts than about our failing education system.

The book got strong reviews coming out of the gate last week, and Gore has been interviewed in all the usual sites. Naturally, this week there has been a backlash among the Right Wing because if people start using reason and logic instead of emotion from being pumped full of fear, we might not elect morons anymore and corporations might have to do real work instead of profiting off the war or some other government contact BS. Keeping people "doped with religion and sex and tv" as John Lennon sang, is going to be a priority. Speaking of which, I'm going to quote all of Working Class Hero sans choruses because I think it was the most profound thing he wrote in a prolific career. In many ways, I think it is one of the most profound things ever written.
As soon as your born they make you feel small, By giving you no time instead of
it all, Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all, A working class hero is
something to be,They hurt you at home and they hit you at school, They hate you
if you're clever and they despise a fool, Till you're so fucking crazy you can't
follow their rules, When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years,
Then they expect you to pick a career, When you can't really function you're so
full of fear, A working class hero is something to be, Keep you doped with
religion and sex and TV, And you think you're so clever and classless and free,
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see, A working class hero is
something to be, There's room at the top they are telling you still, But first you
must learn how to smile as you kill, If you want to be like the folks on the
hill, A working class hero is something to be, If you want to be a hero
well just follow me

I open the New York Times website and pull up a story on the backlash, and I just love criticism of this book. As usual, it hardly addresses the issues, because the Right Wing loses on the issues, but focuses on the man, who like all successful Democrats, they've managed to demonize. I love the email about Obama being basically a terrorist floating around the net. David Brooks, the token right wing stooge at the Times, wrote something about Gore being a "Vulcan" aka devoid of human emotion in his denunciation. His other criticism is he's "pompous" an "exceedingly strange individual" a "radical technological determinist" who reacts to machines. He says Gore is "imperviousness to reality," while being the errand boy for someone who says "the jury is still out" on evolution, pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol and has done nothing on Global Warming and invaded the wrong country. Thanks for your shrewd takes on reality, David. The whole thing was beneath the dignity of the paper of record. Here is Matt Taibbi's take on David Brooks, which does have ideas in between the ridicule:

Brooks is the perfect priest of American conservatism, and by conservatism
I don't mean the bloodthirsty, gun-toting, go-back-to-Africa, welfare-bashing
right-winger conservatism of the NRA and Sean Hannity and the Bible Belt. I mean
the dickless, power-worshipping, good-consumer pragmatic conservatism of Times
readers and those other Bobos in Paradise who have exquisitely developed taste
in furniture, coffee and television programming, but would rather leave the
uglier questions of politics to more decisive people, so long as they aren't
dangerous radicals like Michael Moore or Markos Zuniga. Brooks worships the
status quo because he has no penis and wants to spend the rest of his life
buying periwinkle bath towels without troubling interruptions of
conscience.

One reviewer claimed that Gore isn’t promoting better democracy, but aims for “the suppression of free political debate.” Others compared his writing style to “congressional testimony,” concluded that he’s “not American” and that “his every utterance and every persuasion is European socialist with considerable training in propaganda.”


I get it, he's not a real American, so he must be wrong since foreigners are never right, and Europe is so wrong, since you know, those people can all go to the doctor and they don't owe $9 trillion and the national meal isn't McShit. At least the comment on his writing style fits the topic of a book review, though it certainly does nothing to counter Gore's argument.

It would be nice not to have to write on the endless focus and obsession with bullshit, but it is impossible. The establishment media are a bigger disgrace than the politicians they cover.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Conversation with Four Year Old

Here's a conversation with my four year old last night.

"Daddy, Can I sleep in your room tonight?"

Me: "Ok."

Him: "You my best buddy!" Followed by hug.

Kids are hilarious. The little one is constantly singing ABC's and W is pronounced Bubble U. It is too damn cute to correct, and in fact, I'm saying it now. I warded off kids like the plague until I was 33, and then I made a Leap of Faith and inherited two via marriage, very soon to be legally, officially Turbitts, Alexander Clarence and Carl Robert, after my own father. I have to say, they are great. Glad I waited until my 30s, and glad I didn't wait much more than that. Doing this made me appreciate my own father in hindsight way, way more.