Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Now for the good news, MV 28

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

I once saw a comedian do a bit about how the news reports should really just be called the "bad news" because of the media's proclivity to focus on the negative. The point seems spot on, but I'll try to confuse that notion this week by pointing out some people who have impressed me of late by displaying excellence around the islands.

Will DeWitt and his music students at Saipan Southern High School topped the band competition at the 4th Annual Tumon Bay Music Festival in Guam last week. This same band then proceeded this week to get an invite to the opening ceremonies at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. "Eighteen months ago the kids weren’t even playing an instrument, so within a year and half they elevated their skills to a level that is internationally competitive and they proved last week that they’re the best in the region," DeWitt said, noting that this was his proudest achievement as a teacher.

Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, "Without music, life would be a mistake." DeWitt and his students are showing how correct life is, and everyone in this community from the sponsors, to the parents, to the community at large should boast in what is being done by this former teacher of the year runner up and his dedicated group of student musicians. The students begin rehearsing each day even earlier than the rest of the 8:00 am SSHS school day to make this all possible.

Similarly, Saipan Southern High School Basketball Coaches Jesse Tudela and Joel Punzalan and all the coaches and players from all the teams in the MISO Basketball League ran a successfull program this year that resulted in varsity and junior varsity championships for SSHS. Basketball is the only high school sport that looks to be as well supported, popular and organized here as high school athletics in the mainland, and I know this season was a proud moment for all involved. This was the first year for the junior varsity team to suit up as well. Athletics teaches teamwork, self discipline and instills the ability to set goals.This program is extremely helpful to the island's youth, and everyone who participated or donated their time and talents should be proud.

On the student academic front, Hopwood Junior High School Language Arts Teacher Beth Nepaial seems to be doing wonders in teaching a writing program to her students at HJHS. During professional development last week she had several students in her classroom on a student day off getting extra instruction from high school teachers on their writing skills. I was able to assist a few of these students and see the fruits of their writing labor, as well as their genuine desire to learn -- always the fuel the powers teachers -- and it made me feel good to see what a well organized classroom Nepaial is running, which will help PSS meet its goals, and more importantly, put these students on track to greater academic, career and intellectual success.

Physical success is important as well. When a person lives on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, medical options are limited, but to be honest, I've always gotten great care on this island for five years now. I've previously written about my good experiences with Drs. Daniel Lamar, Norma Ada, Nathan Tan, Ben Sawer and Robert George. The latter three have moved on, but I can now add Dr. Jennifer Linden, who is managing a very busy obstetrics division at Commonwealth Health Center, to that impressive list. She is able to handle the relentless queries of this first time, from scratch at least, father to be with great aplomb, and she handles an extremely busy division with great resolve, patience and a sunny temperament that inspires confidence.

Speaking of confidence, the idea that any single individual human being could complete a 1.5-kilometer swim, 30-km mountain bike, and 12-km trail run back to back staggers my mind. The following CNMI residents recently did so in the 7th Annual XTERRA Saipan Championships: Eli Torgeson, Mieko Carey, Nate Hawley, Lewie Tenorio, Butch Sublemente, Florian Braig, Joe Ngiraibuuch, Brad Ruszala, Manny Sitchon, Rudy Villegas and Heather Kennedy. Another 29 local residents completed the race in some other form such as relay and sport relay race, and they only did it through great determination and hard work -- which also happened to bring good publicity to the CNMI.

When it comes to publicity, many people have felt that descriptions of the good, the beauty and the excellence around us have been missing. Dr. David Khorram recently self published a book called "World Peace, a Blind Wife, and Gecko Tails," which offers his views on the joys of island living. He is now planning on putting together a book culling the best writing on the CNMI from the many CNMI blogs that have sprouted up over the last two years to help counter the negative publicity the CNMI has endured over the years.

Another way to boast about our islands involves capturing the bevy of photographic possibilities around us. Fortunately we have people eager to do that. At the new 360 Restaurant are some fabulous pictures by local photographer Mark Robertson highlighting both the underwater world and the above ground landscape. He displays a print of Forbidden Island that is especially impressive. KZMI Director Harry Blalock also has his pictures displayed at the monument leading to the Grotto and has numerous staggering underwater photographs here: http://www.saipandiver.smugmug.com/ Those pictures lend the world a new appreciation to the underwater world around us, and his nudibranch photographs have been published in several scientific books.

Finally, for two weekends this month I was able to witness several local actors from the Voices of the Marianas ply their craft in the "Play Buffet," a set of original theater pieces written and performed by CNMI residents and organized by director Barbara Sher. Especially impressive were the pieces written and performed by Richard Hamilton, Nahal Navidar, Donald Cohen and a group of mostly Marianas High School students who did a sketch on life's changes, or lack thereof, over time.

So much for the bad news. It's good to remember we have a small, vibrant community of people here who do unique things with great passion. The CNMI is a place where people can invent and reinvent themselves.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt is the language arts department chairman at Saipan Southern High School, as well as an avid scuba diver and traveler. He offers more thoughts in his blog Hypercritical Thoughts at: www.turbittj.blogspot.com/ He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at turbittj@yahoo.com. His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

One from the archives

I'm not a prolific picture taker like some people I know. I often think we go to special places and don't enjoy them enough because we're too picture happy, and that's not a knock on the good people who enjoy that art and go for that purpose. I was amazed by Mark Robertson's Photography on the wall at 360. They are blown up and framed -- and for sale. He really captures Forbidden and the Underwater World. He has quite the talent. Harry's blog as well. He has that eye and love for macro photography. Love the stuff they're doing. I was looking though some pictures I've taken and here is one that stuck tonight. Notice how that dog interjects herself into that moment. Shelby hated to be alone. She loved to be in the thick of the action -- even when she got old. Christmas, Birthdays, she tended to be in the spontaneous shots just by being around. Just one more thing I loved about having a pet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Good and Bad Americans

Glen D has a post on being a bad American. Some of the thoughts in there make a lot of sense, and some don't. I've never been in the military, like Glen D, and wouldn't have chosen to risk having my nuts blown off in any of the American wars except the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War and WWII. The rest were not so much in the national interest as I see it. To risk your nuts is to make you a bit defensive about what you're risking them for. I can understand and respect that even if I don't much agree with that viewpoint.

Both my parents give me the anti-American tag from time to time because our government, especially the disastrous current version, is so disappointing and I can't shrug that off as easily as some others. When things are so horrible, it is almost pointless to criticize. When something is essentially good and could be even better, that draws out more criticism. I'm hard on the CNMI government because this place could be so much better than it is, and it's still pretty good in spite of the piss poor leadership. The same could be said of the states.

As for the states, I don't like George W. Bush, that's for God damn sure. You'd really have to suspend critical thinking and just be one of those root for the home team types to still be with Captain Dipshit. I'm a big fan of the American ideals the founders drew up 200 plus years ago. I'm not so big on the debt ridden, fear pumping, fast food eating, anti-intellectual monstrosity it has become.

I'm a fan of traditional American culture like blues, jazz and rock, NFL and MLB, as well as stand up comedy, but I'm not such a fan of reality television, Britney Spears and that ilk, people who think the jury is out on evolution and busybodies who spend their time worrying what other people do in the privacy of their own home sexually.

I'm not such a fan of the health care system. Yes, it has the most upside if you're very rich, but it shuts you down pretty good if you're not. People look to throw out that scary word socialism. We have a socialist government, but instead of providing socialist services to the people, we pump the money to friendly corporations and put it all on the national credit card. How gutless. It's a good scam if you can pull it off.

To be critical of these things is hardly anti-American. America is big and powerful enough to handle criticism.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Energy and the credit market are the keys, MV 27

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

There are so many economic problems that go unmentioned with the endless and tiring immigration and minimum wage debate that perhaps we should focus on those that get scant attention in comparison.

High on the list of problems is our lack of a viable credit market. One of the factors that has sustained the U.S. economy post 9/11 is easily available credit. The fed is back lowering rates as the economy teeters again, and it lowered rates to the point of absurdity after that event. This cash infusion inflated home prices and weakened the dollar to a noticeable degree. The dollar is likely to get even weaker as rates lower and the supply of dollars continues to increase. People used that money through home equity lines of credit to go out and do what we Americans do best: Spend money like it’s on fire. It’s only now that the effects of a $9 trillion debt and all the easy credit are having a real economic impact, as many people have defaulted on mortgages they shouldn't have gotten in the first place. The situation in the mainland got out of control, but there is a use for a reasonable and judicious exercise of credit via home equity loans that would help things here.

The bizarre Article XII we have here pretty much destroys that credit option. One of the best sources of capital to start a business, buy a new car or take a vacation goes out the window with our ridiculous land ownership rules. Property values are severely depressed because we artificially destroy the demand pool for land and homes. If we only allowed people with blue eyes to purchase King Car Iced Tea, that market would be destroyed as well. Even credit cards are hard to get here, and the most common credit option is the loan sharks at Wells Fargo offering those obscene 29 percent loans. Without a working credit market, it is going to be very difficult to turn around this economy.

Our lack of priority is also an issue. We spent $6 million dollars on a corrupt, incarcerated lobbyist named Jack Abramoff to drag out a few years of our flawed economic model that has kept private sector wages depressed and necessitated our bloated, inefficient, unsustainable bureaucracy. Imagine if just five years ago, when the inflation adjusted oil price was $30, if we invested in alternative energy or at least maintained the power plant we have now. We’d be in far better condition. A few weeks ago oil was at $90 per barrel. Now it’s at $110. It has almost doubled since last year when it was in the $60 per barrel range. What is our energy plan other than the disastrous hope and pray model? There are a few debates about nuclear power in the newspaper, but is there one local official doing anything of substance to get us off a dilapidated, gas fueled power plant as we try to deal with runaway gas prices we can't control.

Every dollar spent on the fixed costs of power and gas takes away discretionary income normally spent in bars, restaurants, hair salons and everything else. These power costs kill businesses with the costs and with the consuming public having less money to spend. We fritter away our time on meaningless resolutions and legislative pet projects as this happens. It's almost hard to fathom that we have delegations going to the states fighting to keep its poorest citizens poor, and one useless bill after another introduced in the legislature, but nothing is being done to fix the biggest problem in our economy: the expensive and unreliable power plant. Fixing this problem should be the laser like focus, but nothing is being done other than talk of privatizing the plant to get that albatross off the necks of the politicians. Just last week another power outage destroyed my computer at school. We have digital projectors that will break quicker because of sudden outages. Every business has a similar issue with its capital, and this leads to capital flight. People don’t want to invest in unstable places. By unstable, I am referring to many facets: power, constantly changing laws, the constant worries about the government meeting payroll and increasing crime. Would you want to invest in a tourism business with the increasing crime against tourists? How about opening a restaurant where diners eat in the dark. I’ve had that happen twice in the last month.

We're fighting "the last war" as they say in military parlance with the minimum wage fight. If any of our leaders are serious about fixing this economy, they should work on something that helps everyone: Fix the power plant and put the policies in place to create a real credit market.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt is the language arts department chairman at Saipan Southern High School, as well as an avid scuba diver and traveler. He offers more thoughts in his blog Hypercritical Thoughts at: www.turbittj.blogspot.com/ He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at turbittj@yahoo.com. His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Play Buffet Monologue

To say life never turns out like you planned is so cliché, but damn, life really doesn’t turn out like you planned. It’s a weird journey full of strange and funny detours – especially for an American who got tired of America.

I was never on the fast track to be the New York Yankees shortstop or a GQ cover model or anything, since apparently those bastards are allowed to discriminate against us short stocky, bald men who can’t hit a curve ball or say no to pizza... but how did I end up on this tiny rock in the middle of the ocean. I’m from New Jersey damn it and now I live in Saipan -- a place I never even knew existed until a few years ago – the America No One knows about except for a few scuba divers, war buffs and Ms. Magazine.

When did I know I needed a change and didn’t quite fit in back home? Well there was that Fall day six years ago, the day that changed everything for me – the day that changed the world, really. Everyone still remembers it, we all still talk about it – it was kind of like a movie where everything is all weird and nothing makes sense. Yeah, September 12, 2001, the day ninety percent of America thought George W. Bush was a good idea. That did it for me.

Back before that I was working in New York City trading stock options on two of the largest companies in the world. I was on the floor of the American Stock Exchange. It wasn’t exactly a dignified environment or anything. It was a bunch of testosterone fueled animals with all the decorum and humanity of Caesar’s legions plundering a vanquished enemy.

But the stock market was going up everyday, and I was hoping to get rich like everyone else. It didn't work out exactly like that for me. I had to take stock of my life and decided to follow another idea I'd long had to head overseas and become a teacher. Now I spend my days doing things like making sure teenagers get their subjects and verbs to agree. That’s quite an atmospheric change and it makes it sound like my life has fallen apart, but somehow it has been a good thing.

These days I never land in a cardiologist’s office with a resting heart rate of 140. Lau Lau Bay is in my backyard and it’s a lot prettier than the Hudson River. They even have fish in Lau Lau Bay. I scuba dive there, I’ve never seen one Mafia turncoat submerged wearing cement shoes. Al Qaeda never once tried to blow up my route to Saipan Southern High School, but they got my old station stop in New York City.

This route to island calm wasn’t direct. I had a two year stopover in Seoul, Korea, and what a bizarre place that was for my first overseas experience. I felt like I landed on Mars that first night, all dizzy and confused, and I hadn’t even tried Soju yet. There was this smell in the air like an electrical fire. The pollution was extreme, and the place was damn crowded. Movies would be sold out at 3 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon. At 4 am throngs of people would still be out on the streets. If it rained, I'd have to carry two umbrellas, one to keep the rain off me, the other to parry away like Zorro the oblivious masses eager to poke my eyes out with their umbrellas. I learned to adapt though. To get on the subway I’d lower the shoulder and burst through the pile like Emmitt Smith on 4th and goal from the 2. Seoul had other unique traits, like all the goofy white guys with incredibly hot Korean girlfriends -- I hadn't seen anything that perplexing since Julia Roberts married Lyle Lovett. And the bars didn’t close until the last guy threw up, so you’d see businessmen lying drunk on the street in pools of their own vomit, which was socially acceptable.

It kind of reminded me of college in that it looked like a frat boy’s dream. I think I knew in college I would never be that conventional. I couldn’t be one of those people who never think about serious things and if they do, have all those middle of the road opinions that allow you to fit in easily, not offend anyone and score the hottest girls by virtue of how likely you are to get a high paying corporate job and golf a lot.

It hasn’t all been convenient or easy though, leaving America, but it has often been funny and it has always been weird. I took a trip to Japan back in the early days and just roamed the streets of Osaka. I was amazed and astonished that I was so very far, so suddenly, from home. I couldn't stop laughing for about 15 minutes. I don't mean a chuckle, either. I laughed with the gut busting delight of a five year old who hears a noisy fart in an adjacent room. It just felt strange to be there I guess. It took me about two hours to find my hotel coming back from roaming around town. There I was so near, yet so directionally confused in the neon horizon of Japanese letters I couldn’t understand. I broke down and prepared to pay the astronomical fee for a short taxi ride, but the driver wouldn't take me because he felt uncomfortable with a "foreigner." All I was doing was pointing to an address on the hotel card. We both dug in. I didn't want to leave that taxi, we stared at each other a few seconds, exasperated by this Mexican standoff in Osaka and feeling zany, I just completely non-sequitered and starting naming every Japanese baseball player in the Major Leagues I could think of and added Sadarahu Oh, the long retired Japanese Babe Ruth. He laughed and then took me. I learned a couple of things that day: Improvisation is an overseas survival skill, following sports isn’t always the absurd waste of time I sometimes was told it is – dad, and, in Japan, the mere name of Yankee left fielder Hideki Matsui can open more doors than all the key wielding custodians in Tokyo.

Yes, I went from the most competitive, lucrative, stressful job in a city that never sleeps to that stopover in strangeville to where I am now: the least competitive, least stressful, most economically and generally sleepy place on Earth AND somehow ... I'm happier now. Things change, like John Lennon sang, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tonight is the Play Buffet finale

Tonight at 7 pm is the finale for the Play Buffet. I've had a good time doing it, and I think it is a pretty good show and well worth the $5 admission. Zaldy Dandan gave us a nice review in his column in the Variety today. I think he captures the spirit of the show pretty well.
"What amazed me about last week’s performance was the abundance of dramatic talents on that tiny stage in that tiny theater on this tiny island. Acting is a difficult art form. It demands too much of the actor who has to be out there, among strangers, as he gets into the character of another persona who doesn’t exist but should be more real than anything else on that stage. Honesty is a good actor’s trait. His art requires that he becomes another living thing. His specialty is to make life, with all its horrid facts and truths, stick out” of himself."

There is nothing, well, artsy fartsy about “Play Buffet.” It doesn’t pretend to be anything that it is not. It is what it’s supposed to be — a celebration of the islands’ multi-talented people. Their passion for one of the oldest and most enduring art forms is commendable, and rewarding to those lucky enough to have seen their production.
Z had this to say about yours truly: "It was a treat to see my buddy Jeff Turbitt rant and rave on stage. His monologue was as passionate and perplexed as our conversations. I don’t think he was acting."

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Good Night Sweet Girl, MV 26

Note: In twenty years of writing for newspapers, this piece got more feedback than anything I've ever written. I received many kind emails from friends and strangers relating their story of losing a pet or just expressing their condolences. Writing it and sharing that pain helped me deal with the hurt, and I think and hope it helped others as well. I thank all of you who shared your story.

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

I lost a member of my family this week. There won't be a funeral. There will be no well wishers. No one will wear black. Some will even casually dismiss as absurd the melancholy that permeates my soul right now. You see, Shelby Turbitt wasn't my wife, child, parent, aunt or uncle; she was "just" my beloved dog for twelve years.

Shelby greeted me every time I walked in the door. She walked on the Oleai Beach Path with me. She watched television with me. When the Yankees won the World Series in 1996, the first time they did so in my mature lifetime, she got as excited as I did -- she just didn't know why. Friends move, stop calling or start ignoring our emails, but our pets are always there, especially if we take care of them -- at least for the relatively short time on Earth they grace us with their presence. She went to the vet each year. She was spayed. She got her preventative medicine. That gave her a relatively long and healthy life. I would urge all pet owners to find a way to do the same. In return for that investment, our pets add a bit of a soft touch to us -- even to a cynical SOB like me. They make us smile. They do things like give sight to the blind and teach children about love, loyalty, friendship and responsibility. They also act as companion to a lot of lonely senior citizens that tend to be forgotten.

It is indeed true that animals aren't people, and lots of good arguments can be made that we dote on them excessively. I "get that" on a pure reason basis, but we people aren't just Apollonian and guided only by reason. We have a Dionysian side that makes us human, not robot, and that makes the pain I feel very real and not the least bit diminished by any rational arguments from those purely practical people capable of minimizing this event -- an event that traumatizes many people who probably feel they need to hide their very real grief.

As couples tend to marry and have children later in life these days, pets tend to become surrogate children. Pet spending has doubled in the U.S. from $17 billion in 1994 to more than $34 billion today. When real children enter our lives, pets do tend to take that backseat. I noticed that trend myself. Shelby understandably went from being the only other living thing in my erstwhile bachelor pad, at least if I cleaned away the mold in the bathroom that week, to the dog that was part of a human family of four. She wasn't as prominent in my life. My older boy took on more of that role as her prime companion, but she and I still had all that history.

I still remember shamelessly walking with her when she was a puppy in the parks near Rutgers University in my mid-twenties for the express purpose of meeting college women. It worked, too. She was a great ice breaker. Every woman I dated had to pass the Shelby test. I knew I was going to be a hell of a lot more difficult to deal with than her, so she was a pretty good filter for potential romantic partners. When I took her into my life, I never imagined becoming an overseas teacher, but that was what I decided to do. I thought briefly about giving her up given the complex journey I was about to make, but she had woven herself into the fabric of my life way too deeply, so I brought her to travel the world with me. I like to joke that this little dog spread fertilizer further and wider than the John Deere Corporation.

In humans our hearts are our weakest organs -- perhaps our pets play a role in softening them. In our pets, kidneys are their weakest organs. Kidneys filter away toxins, kind of like Shelby did for me. Hers began to fail. The veterinarian noticed she was having trouble concentrating her urine a few months back, but there were no other symptoms, and I was never going to do any radical steps to extend her life anyway. I don't believe in that even for people, really. She continued on without any sign of anything unusual for a few months. All of a sudden, I noticed she had lost weight -- weight she perhaps could afford to lose given how well my wife fed her, but there really was not much else pointing to a problem. In a blink of an eye it seemed, she went into kidney failure, vomited blood several times and died quickly and naturally in the middle of the night as I petted her and begged God for a miracle -- or at least to ease her pain. It was a harrowing experience. Nature and the circle of life can be a cruel and relentless mistress. It hurts really bad. There is a scene in Pulp Fiction where Butch asks Marcellus Wallace, after their encounter with the hillbillies, if he is "OK." Wallace responds, "I'm pretty f****ng far from OK." I feel a lot like Wallace right now.

Good night sweet girl. You touched me more than you could ever know.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt is the language arts department chairman at Saipan Southern High School, as well as an avid scuba diver and traveler. He offers more thoughts in his blog Hypercritical Thoughts at: www.turbittj.blogspot.com/ He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at turbittj@yahoo.com. His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.

Good night sweet girl

Shelby Turbitt 1995-2008




Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Conversation with Barbara Sher, MV 25

By Jeffrey C. Turbitt

Last year I was struck by the quality and originality of the performances in the play "In Transit," which told the individual stories of various folks stuck in an airport and revolved around the central theme of the interconnectedness of all of us. That play inspired me personally to write my own short theater piece and learn a bit about the acting craft from long time theater director Barbara Sher, who is also an author, actress and PSS occupational therapist. The latest incarnation of Sher's theatrical passion is called "The Play Buffet: A Little Something for Everyone's Taste," and it debuts on Friday March 7 at 7:00 pm in the American Memorial Park Theater. Follow up performances will take place on March 8, 13 and 14. In this conversation, Sher discussed this upcoming play and the thirst actors and patrons here in the CNMI have for live theater.

JCT: You have a play opening on Friday. What is it all about? Where did the idea come from and what are your hopes, goals and expectations for this production?

BAS: We have a theater ensemble group called the Voices of The Marianas. The idea is to have original theater in which people from different cultures, walks of life and ages can have an opportunity to tell their stories. The hope is that by hearing other's stories, we can understand them better. It's our way, if you will, of helping to promote peace by accepting diversity. It's easier to accept others differences when we hear their stories and see the ways we are alike. This year's show is called "The Play Buffet: A Little Something For Everyone's Taste." In the show we have ten pieces that run the gamut from a Hollywood 40's type piece to very personal epiphanies and the cast ranges in age from teenagers to elders. As I said, a little something for everyone. We hope to entertain, enlighten and delight our audience and perhaps inspire them to want to express their voice for the next show.

JCT: How has the public reacted to the previous theater offerings you've been involved with?

BAS: Our first production was last year and we had a cast from a mix of cultures. The play took place at an airport where everyone was stuck because of a typhoon. To pass the time, people began to tell their stories and the action got pretty exciting and unpredictable. We weren't sure if we'd get much of an audience for this show, but figured if each us got our friends to come, it would be enough to pay for the rental of the theater. We were shocked and very delighted when each show was sold out and we got standing ovations. We were pleased to find out that there were so many people here interested in original theater.

JCT: How has live theater evolved here in the time you've been on island?

BAS: There has been a wonderful group called the Friends of the Arts that have been putting on productions prolifically for years. They are amazing. They mostly put on professional pieces, not original ones written by local people. That's where our group is different. There is now another original theater group called The Fabulous Invalid Theater Company, which is also very good. We are fortunate to have exciting live theater on this small island.

JCT: How would you describe the talent pool of actors on the islands?

BAS: It's a very mixed group. We have some people who are professionals and even have had their own shows Off-Broadway. Some have done high school shows recently or way back when. Others have never acted in their lives. There are many people who just naturally act in their lives and it's just a matter of getting them to do it on stage.

JCT: Do you expect to be involved in future productions, and if so, any specific ideas, and are you open to novices who would like to get involved? What advice would you offer to a novice interested, but scared and nervous, about actually performing?

BAS: We plan to do this every year. Maybe, someday, twice a year. I would want people who are inspired to start writing something right away. Generally people act what they write, but we have had people who just want to write and others who just want to act. If someone is scared and nervous about it, they should know that everyone starts off scared and nervous. It just takes a bunch of rehearsing and getting comfortable with the part to get past it. They'll surprise themselves with how good they can get with a little dedication.

JCT: How did you get interested in theater yourself, where are some of the places you've performed and what do you enjoy most about working in live theater?

BAS: I was part of a theater group in Northern California for 30 years and a dedicated audience to other groups. Everything done was original and many of our shows included elaborately choreographed dancing. I still often write pieces for an annual monologue show they do. What I like best about doing theater is getting a chance to say real things. I think the canned television shows and the reality shows teach people poor social relationships and superficiality. In live original theater we have a chance to be more profound.

Jeffrey C. Turbitt is the language arts department chairman at Saipan Southern High School, as well as an avid scuba diver and traveler. He offers more thoughts in his blog Hypercritical Thoughts at: www.turbittj.blogspot.com/ He welcomes feedback, tips and story ideas at turbittj@yahoo.com. His column appears regularly on Wednesdays.

Monday, March 03, 2008

In the home stretch

After 310 posts and a solid year of regular blogging, I'm starting to feel like I've said most everything I want to say about Saipan -- especially its peculiar political aspects. My guess is that other than my Variety column, which will be posted Tuesday nights and will increasingly be the "Conversation With" series, as meeting and talking with some interesting people and bringing out their voices are the things I'm enjoying doing now, there won't be much else on this blog, which much like my time on this island, is mostly likely heading toward its complete finale. I'm six weeks from a newborn, about to engage in a book project and I've been making a daily study of comedy and comedians with the goal of putting together an act, as that seems to be the only avenue people can really say what they want to say. These things will be taking up my time. I don't expect this blog to be completely dead, but I won't be devoting nearly as much time to it.