Wednesday, February 28, 2007

37. What They're Hearing About Us in D.C.

Or a redux of my post #35.

Go listen to the radio broadcast of the Kojo Nnamdi show. You'll hear an interesting analysis about the similarities and differences of the territories.

Of course, I listened most closely for discussion of the CNMI. David Cohen sounds like a big fan of us. He says there's been tremendous progress since Congressman Miller's visit in the 90's.

I hadn't noticed such progress. I wonder if I'm blinded by my daily life here, or if Mr. Cohen is overstating the case.

I am very disheartened by the trafficking cases involving the Red Heart and Starlight/Stardust clubs. The harm to the women brought to those businesses sounds very much like the old cases involving the Kim Chee Cabana and Mr. Oh's nightclub from the early 1980's!

But D.C. is getting a reminder that there are territories besides them, that we have rights and needs, that we contribute but aren't perfect, and that some of the interesting issues in Congress at present involve us.

This is worth the listen.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

36. On the Road in Saipan

Thought you might enjoy this photo from Aya--what you might see on the road here.


And if you are living in Saipan and haven't experienced this, you're not getting out enough. If you're not here, well, have a laugh on us.

35. The Kojo Nnamdi Show

I just received this information and thought it worth passing along:

The Kojo Nnamdi ShowTuesday, Feb. 27, 2007 12:06 PM EST
Join the show: 1-800-433-8850 (

U.S. Territories & Politics: Some were acquired through war, others were purchased nearly a century ago. But each of the U.S. territories has a unique relationship with our government and economic system. From Guam to Puerto Rico, we'll look at the hot-button political, labor and military issues facing the territories today. GuestsJeffrey Farrow, Former co-chair of the President's Interagency Group on Puerto Rico, 1994 to 2001; Staff director of the House subcommittee on territories, 1982 to 1994.David Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the InteriorRep. Madeleine Bordallo, Delegate, U.S. House of Representatives (D-Guam)Rep. Donna Christian-Christensen, Delegate, U.S. House of Representatives (D-U.S. Virgin Islands)[Show archives will be available approximately one hour after the program ends.]

Thanks to Dan MacMeekin.

Monday, February 26, 2007

34. Can't Breathe

The haze from the eruption at Anatahan lingers over Saipan today (Monday). Yesterday, when I didn't yet know about the air quality problem, I thought I was getting the flu. Today, I just keep coughing, can't breathe, have a headache. There's an advisory for people with "respiratory illnesses" to stay indoors, and I thought it didn't apply to me. But either I have such an illness or the warning is too limited in scope.

It doesn't help to drive around because the emissions from jalopies and tour buses and trucks go unchecked. Today, it seems that every other vehicle is spewing smoke and oil. This unregulated pollution isn't good for our environment. It isn't good for our "tourist industry." And it certainly isn't good for my health.

So it's not a good day in paradise, and I'm finished kvetching for now.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

33. More Thoughts on Censorship

In a perverse way, the backlash against the librarians who posted on the LM net objecting to "scrotum" will itself have a chiling effect on free speech.

The LM network is designed for librarians and educators to ask questions, air concerns, and get helpful suggestions in their jobs as school, public and private librarians. The controvery started when a librarian wrote a simple question about reading THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY aloud to grade school kids who might focus on the word scrotum for its titilating value. She expressed the opinion that the whole 'rattlesnake bites dog scrotum' scenario added little to the book and just made it harder for her to read aloud.

This prompted others to express opinions on THPOL and brought the debate into sharper relief.

I do think Americans tend to get side-tracked by all things that can be construed in any way as sexual. But I also think that sites where people can ask questions or express opinions are important. They can help librarians and educators share insights about books, about coping with rowdy kids who will disrupt a read-aloud, about dealing with parents' concerns, and most importantly about having the spine to stand up for words.

We need to make sure that, in our rush to defend free expression and guard against censorship, we don't inadvertantly make the same mistake.

32. Redux-#31 Pathway and #27 Librarians

This is showing on the HHS website.


So HHS is encouraging children to get out and play. Hooray!

And they're doing it with a popular kid icon and street language that includes the word "booty" as in shake your... Which brings me back to the recent uproar in the kid-lit world about words.

The responses about a dog's scrotum appearing on page one of the 2007 Newbery winner, THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, are fairly well documented here. LuckyScrotumDebate

Here's a link to the criticism that started the whole controversy: HowDoIReadScrotumAloud?
And one of the follow-up criticisms. OneLibrarians'sObjection SORRY-these links do not seem to work anymore.

Author Neil Gaiman's blog post adds a little Brit humor and perspective IN HIS FEBRUARY 20, 2007 POST. He has an update on February 28, 2007 from a Medina Ohio Librarian that is very touching. NeilGaiman

But if a word in a book can arouse such a backlash of prudish fear, I wonder when the censors will get to this HHS / government offering.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

31. Heard on the Pathway

Friday evening I was walking along the Beach Road pathway, getting some much needed exercise. When I'm shuffling along at my loser's pace, I feel a kinship with all of the healthy, active folks who jog past me. I'm part of the community enjoying Saipan sunsets and the sound of the ocean. I'm a contemplative person, mulling over the day's events and enjoying other thoughts, both the mundane and the complex. In other words, I'm alive.

At one point, a child raced past me. Then I heard the mother call out, scolding the child for running. "Stop running," she said. "You'll get tired." And I thought, what are you doing to your child? Why shouldn't a child run on the beach path? What's wrong with getting tired, especially after sunset when bedtime can't be all that far away? Is this a child with a heart disease who must guard against over-exertion? There was no indication of this.

And this isn't the first time I've heard parents scold their children for doing normal, healthy activities in an appropriate place. I've witnessed parents I know telling children to stop jumping and leaping from spot to spot when they were playing out of doors. I've listened silently as other parents I know caution their children not to "get dirty" when they are at home on a Saturday afternoon and nothing is about to happen.

What's wrong with some exuberant exertion? (Nothing) What harm does a little dirt cause? (None)

I've also heard praise for the sluggish, the lazy, the apathetic. Puh-leeze. The child who sits still, the child who doesn't wander far, the child who lacks the curiosity to find out what's making that noise, causing that light, creating that smell may be an "easy" child to care for now, but in the long run these are the children who face obesity and boredom.

I don't say anything when these things happen. I feel it would be rude to insert myself unwanted and unbidden into someone else's parenting decision.

But to my own daughter, I say run, run and run faster. Wear old clothes so you can get dirty. Move, go outside, and have fun.

30. Some Stupid Americans

Some of America's "leaders" are idiots. This statement is, of course, my humble opinion. In support of it, I offer you this.


Elected representatives in Georgia and Texas are spending time and using goverment materials to spread the word that evolution is a Jewish conspiracy. According to them, so is the notion that the earth revolves around the sun.

We don't need to fret, though. This is just the last gasp of a dying breed ( I hope). The future is scary, but perhaps computers will be able to sort out truth from fiction better without the prejudices and bigotry of idiots.

(With thanks to Angelo for the Shift Happens video.)

Monday, February 19, 2007

29. Book Covers

I dream of having my novels published. I'm revising my first one again this weekend, so I have visions of it in published form dancing in my imagination. I can see just what its cover would like.

Often, though, authors dislike the covers that publishers commission. And authors have little to no input into the final product. In one recent case, an author, James Bernard Frost, dislikes the cover of his first published book so much that he has had his own cover designed and makes it available as a stick-on label! He invites new book owners to have fun coloring it.


His version is a lot more fun that the cover on the book:

You can read about his coverwars to get a sense of what's been going on. I don't think I'd mind, but perhaps after putting in so much effort on the inside of the book, it would be frustrating to have the outside come out "wrong."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

28. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

This Saturday, February 24, 2007, the Thespians are staging AFunnyThingHappenedOnTheWayToTheForum. Tickets are just $5. Shows are at 2 PM and 7 PM at the MHS gym.

A 20th century farce based on the Roman tradition, the musical includes songs that have contemporary application, like "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid." Listen to the melody here: Everybody

This is the third Sondheim musical brought to Saipan in recent years. West Side Story and Into the Woods also showcased the multi-talented students of Saipan. Students from the public schools, private schools and home schools cooperate to bring this production to life.

Some of the characters and their actors:
Hero--Tommy Baik
Domina--Jocelyn Lonsdale
Senex--Antonio Tiples
Philia--Tikla Brown
Pseudolus--Ryan Gutierrez
Hysterium--Christian Cruz
Marcus Lycus--Matt Wheat
Miles--Moon Lee

Of course there are Courtesans and Proteans and a few other characters (like Erroneus!)

You can get tickets from any cast member, from me (just comment here or e-mail me), or at the door.

Theatre arts offer our kids a creative outlet, help improve their vocabulary and understanding of literature and life, and have no downside. I hope the community will show up to support these students and to enjoy the show.

Friday, February 16, 2007

27. Librarians Censoring Children's Books?

It seems impossible, but there is a small backlash against this year's winner of the Newbery (The Higher Power of Lucky). Some librarians are saying they won't purchase the book for their libraries, despite its prestigious award, because it contains the word -- scrotum.

I almost laughed out loud when I read this, but then found out this is a true storm of protest.


I can't imagine this happening here in Saipan. I hope it never does.

Words do have power. We need to let our children learn as many words as they can and how and when to use them.

And they need to know that the word scrotum is just a word for a body part. Men keep their scrotums under cover, but that's no reason to hide the word.

26. It's Saturday Night Live--No, it's the U.S. Senate

Al Franken has announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate (Minnesota).

See him on You Tube here:


The guy is not just a smart-aleck. He's smart.

The comments are fun to read, too. The opposition is mostly ludicrous--everything from he's a commie to why do actors and comedians think they can be politicians. The commie objection is very retro and based on a distortion of Franken's positions. The actor/comedian objection is espoused by those who undoubtedly supported Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzeneggar.

Still, I'm having a tough time imagining his routines on the Senate floor. My favorite--the I'm okay, I'm not junk routine. However, a little humor might be just what we all need.

It will be a lively election in Minnesota.

25. A Child's First Love and Books

My most recent column reviewing juvenile and young adult books is in Friday's Marianas Variety. You can read it on line here:


Let me know what you think.

And feel free to tell me what books you loved as a child and any recommendations you have for books to review in the column.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

24. Call me Ansgarr--For all the Luddites out there

I'm a Luddite, I admit. I have trouble with new technology. That's why I haven't yet been able to figure out how to embed the You Tube videos directly onto my blog. So I can relate to this one! BEVERAGE ALERT.


You can also check around on You Tube for the original Danish version--better quality imaging. Once you've figured out what's being said, it won't matter so much that it's not in English.


OKAY--Thanks to P.I.C. here it is (this is a slightly different English version--the other subtitled one has been removed):

23. Testimony before Congressional Committee

I second this opinion.


I wouldn't put my words in all caps to make my points--it isn't necessary. And I'd note that Lauri Ogumoro is not the director of Karidat, she's the head of their shelter and Angie Guerrero is the director. Other than these small quibbles, I completely agree with Jim Ross's assessment and share his sentiments.

I'd also emphasize that the women testifying for Karidat declined the offer from the Department of Interior to pay their expenses connected with the trip to D.C. to testify. I wish everyone would be so ethical.

You can read Lauri's testimony here. OgumoroTestimony

You can find a listing of who has testified before the U.S. Senate Committee, with links to their comments, here. U.S.SenateCommitteeOnEnergy

Bishop Camacho and the contingent who represented him at the hearings testified well and presented the community's input--we're ready for change. Our Lieutenant Governor and representative from the Chamber of Commerce spoke for their private interests, regardless of what the people want.

I hope the U.S. Senate gets the people's message.

Monday, February 12, 2007

22. An Artist's Life

Doug Rankin died Saturday, February 10, 2007.

His contribution to Saipan lingers--in the remaining art pieces in the hands of private collectors, family, and friends, in the talent and memories of the students he taught, and in the hearts of all who knew him.

We can pray for him at the nightly Masses. (Tonight's is at San Vicente Church at 6 PM). We can honor him by visiting the display of his work at the CNMI Gallery for Arts and Culture on Capital Hill.

I plan on doing both.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

21. Another CNMI Son Dies in Iraq

I heard this morning that there is another CNMI man coming home from the war in Iraq for burial. Leroy Camacho.

I want to cry. Such a sad and mournful event.

I want to scream. Such a needless loss.

There are other opportunities for our young men and women. They might require hard work. They might not be draped in red, white and blue. But they are honorable and moral.

1. Education--college, vocational education. Studying and writing and reading and researching--these activities are easier than marching, slogging through heat and grime, killing and living with fear.

2. Jobs in the states--if you're willing to move for a military career, you can be willing to move for better-paying jobs with better benefits in the mainland.

3. The religious life--dedicate yourself to peace and love. We need more priests, brothers, nuns.

We are not in the midst of World War II, where our military men and women were fighting against evil, where the moral equation justified the war. Signing up for a military career at present is agreeing to follow leaders like our President who make immoral choices. Joining the war effort now is agreeing to become a murderer.

I don't believe anyone from the CNMI who has died in Iraq knew that before deployment. I think we have failed to discuss the ramifications of a military career now. We continue to laud praise and glory on the slain soldiers. And those soldiers are innocents led to slaughter.

But we can't claim innocence forever. We have a duty to educate ourselves. We have a duty to educate our CNMI youth--and stop promoting jingoism.

Patriotism does not require blind allegiance to an immoral war.

Friday, February 9, 2007

20. Dive, Snorkel, Protect

I love this video.


Of course, my darling daughter is in it and that just adds to my desire to see it aired everywhere. But the message is important. If you're in the CNMI, you've seen it on the Visitor's Channel. Now you can watch it anytime you want.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

19. Why I won't be there.

Saipan blogger has a post inviting, encouraging everyone to turn out alongside the road to the airport on Saturday afternoon as the body of Marine Lance Corporal Emul is brought home for burial. I won't be there.

I'll pray for Marine Lance Corporal Emul, but I won't be there to salute his military life.

I think the war in Iraq is wrong. His death is a waste of God-given life--it's not honorable, it's not heroic. It's sinful.

Until we start getting the message to our sons and daughters in the CNMI that they have other options, better options, besides participating in the war machine, we will continue to mourn the useless death of young, beautiful people. Until we take a moral stand against war and the political processes that produce it, we will be responsible for the deaths of our young men and women.

I won't be there, because I don't want anyone to think I support the war, support the military mentality that honors death more than life.

I won't be there in protest against the war. I won't be there in protest against the military that knows only how to fight and not how to create peace. I won't be there in protest against the politicians and military men and women that support hurting people in distant lands because of some amorphous "American" interest that only puts money in the pockets of warmongers.

I won't be there, but I'll pray for Marine Lance Corporal Emul, and for all the nameless people he might have killed in this senseless war.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

18. My Other Body-a Review of Sorts

POD-dy Mouth recommended MY OTHER BODY by Ann Pai. I generally steer clear of print-on-demand and other self-published books because there are so many bad ones, but with a recommendation and a story blurb that interested me, I decided to try this book.

On September 11, 2001, when the world focused on the terror attacks on the twin towers and elsewhere in America, Ann Pai focused on her older sister's sudden hospitalization for morbid obesity.

The story weaves in bits of childhood memories with her sister, struggles with weight throughout their lives, and some family dynamics. It also takes us into the hospital, where Ann lives the details of her sister's life, into Ann's workplace, where she finds support from co-workers, and into Ann's internet research, where we get technical information about the medical problems caused by obesity in a user-friendly format.

And we get poetry in the language and imagery of a sister's love.

I felt connected to Ann Pai--I'm the younger sister of a morbidly obese woman whom I love. And I, too, am overweight.

But I wanted more from this memoir than I got.

I was irritaed by Ann Pai's repeated commenting on her parents unpreparedness for her sister Joyce's anticipated death. Her insistent voice that they weren't able to cope, hadn't grasped the fullness of the reality, were in denial, made her an unreliable narrator. There was no other indication that her parents lacked the maturity and capacity to handle the situation. When they proved their mettle by having a ready response for the question about life support, Ann Pai still was unwilling to see her parents as adults. I found this odd, distancing. I wanted Ann Pai to be more respectful by acknowledging the talents and capacities of her parents, and not offering that pseudo-respect that "protects" adults from information and real life.

In this memoir, there is no answer why Joyce became obese, why Ann had weight issues herself. The overall story seems to suggest that it was genetics or just something in the air from her mother's side of the family. The hospital staff are perplexed because Joyce had a job she enjoyed and a family who loved her. The mystery of why Joyce became obese is not answered. My sister is obese and I know why. I gained a lot of weight in a short period of time, and I know why. These reasons may not be common knowledge, but they exist. They aren't a mystery to us. It seemed unbelievable that Ann Pai, with her bravery in writing this memoir, would not at least acknowledge that reasons existed. I wanted that acknowledgement.

And then she could have exploded another myth: the reasons that caused the obesity are totally irrelevant to the solution. I wanted that, too.

Ann Pai did show her own struggle with the solution and her own resolution. Her husband proved to be a remarkable man. And I loved when Ann Pai portrayed her own answer to her weight struggle as a different wanting, as needing, as acknowledging what she really wanted and taking the risk to choose in the moment what she really wanted. But she muddles the message with the information about her own weight loss, her success riding the bike over the crest of the hill, her blending in with "ordinary" people. I think the resolution is the lifestyle you like, one that's healthy and fulfilling, not the outcome. Ann Pai says that, but it gets blurred in transmission.

I also found the repeated internal monologues focusing on food, size, and weight to be disproportionate to reality as I know it. This obsessive repetition disgusted me. When Ann Pai talked about being a size 18 and described herself as practically immobilized by obesity, never forgetting for a moment that she was huge, I couldn't believe it. Life doesn't stop. There are so many wondrous and happy moments, fulfilling and exciting times, and women size 18 can share those--we're not locked in a depressed state of mind constantly consumed by our eating habits. I don't want readers to think that anyone who isn't the perfect size is therefore incapable of thought beyond their own imperfections, incapable of living and enjoying life. One could come away with that impression from reading this book. I wanted a more balanced picture.

And what I wanted most was a better understanding of my own relationship with my sister. I was hoping for some spark, some insight, some nuance I'd overlooked. I can't fault Ann Pai for not providing me with my personal need. But I wanted it, and didn't get it, so for me the book is a good read, but a bit of a let down. I'd recommend it. But like life, it's not perfect.

17. It's a Penguin World-- News of the Weird

Time to get in on the fun at "House of Penguin." They obviously do not have enough Samurai Agents (see post #10 ) and have created a contest for writers. Write a collective novel. No prize, just fun.


So if you want to join, you have options--apparently 3 novels in progress so far!

Check it out here. AMillionPenguins

Write, in the interests of "science!"

Monday, February 5, 2007

16. Protecting our Reefs

A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth a fine. Check this out from Saipan Blogger (a/k/a Angelo Villagomez).


I'm waiting to see what action CRM takes.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

15. Blogs-- You Were Looking for WHAT??

I blogged about the criminal activities by the Red Heart Massage owner & manager. I blogged about federalizing minimum wage in the CNMI. I blogged about writing awards in mysteries and children's literature.

In other words, I blog about things I find interesting.

Out of curiousity, I recently clicked on the "next blog" link at the top of my blog. It took me to porn. I did this for days on end and every time it took me to porn. I figured that was because I had two blog entries on the --you know--RHM.

Sheesh. How ridiculous.

I'm not the only one noticing that blogs and websites get linked up--not by actual content but by coincidental word choices.

Check out this!

At Last! Writer Beware Blogs! A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss Reveal All!: Victoria Strauss -- You Were Looking for WHAT??

Some hilarious and unlikely connections.

Gives new meaning to 6 degrees of separation.