Friday, April 27, 2007

73. A Parade of Picture Books-My April Children's Book Review Column

You can read my April book review column at the Marianas Variety. Right now it's here. Here's the parade:

Every month, I write a column. Some months I struggle, especially when I loved the column from the month before and think I can't possibly come up with something as good for the next month. Last month, I wrote here about a spanking new release: "The Invention of Hugo Cabret." With it's gorgeous art and unusual format (slipping between graphic novel and traditional novel), I loved the book and I enjoyed writing my column about it.

And this month's column started out as one of my traditional types, with a couple of picture books, some mid-grade, a YA, but I couldn't find a theme to tie them together. And the picture books have been piling up as I've reviewed more mid-grade and YA titles. So many of the picture books I hadn't yet mentioned are stellar. As I was heading out of the house on Sunday to spend a few luxurious hours sipping coffee and playing on my laptop, I decided to grab those picture books. And on my way to Coffee Care, I thought of the picture book parade. Voila! My column wrote itself. And I love it, because I love these books, too!

The Variety did a good job with adding the covers of the titles reviewed (in the print edition-not online), but they put the first parade entry at the end. And they cut off the title of "Flotsam." But life is not perfect. It's still a column that makes me smile.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

72. More Breaking News-At Home and Close to Home

Wednesday, 10 AM.

At Home:

Burglars stealing from the impoverished. Upsets me terribly.

Micronesian Legal Services Corp, Marianas Office, was broken into last night and two desktop computers were stolen. MLSC is a non-profit agency operating on a shoe-string budget. The Marianas Office is located in Civic Center, a space provided gratis by the CNMI government. MLSC has requested government help in renovating the space, which is deteriorating badly from termites and age, and security is a problem. This is the third break-in in about a year, and all three times computer equipment has been taken. One time the thieves stole a computer that had been loaned to the financially strapped organization by then-legislator Janet Maratita.

Now poor people will have lawyers without computers. How are we supposed to provide quality legal representation to the people who need it most under these circumstances?

I hope the thieves get caught.

Close to home:

Read this article: WashingtonPostArticle and this: MarianasVarietyScoop

It tells the lovely story of the recent conviction of Mark Zachares, former CNMI attorney general, former CNMI chief of labor (if I recall correctly). The conviction is part of the on-going Abramoff scandal. Mark first met Jack Abramoff while he was working here, and that's probably when he fell into his pocket.

I remember Mark's tenure in the CNMI. He blatantly abused the power he had. Why didn't we ever investigate him? The CNMI needs to be more attentive to corruption, which is insidious and grows into worse problems.

At least the Abramoff noose is tightening. Wonder who else with CNMI connections will be rounded up.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

71. Breaking News

Sirens roared past the office.

The report is that a Chinese--actually Nepalese-- man went to the front of CNMI Department of Labor and set himself on fire. Still waiting to hear why. Now I know why, but can't say anything more than that he was frustrated with Labor's failure to help him collect back wages.

There's a discussion about U.S. immigration /takeover-pros and cons- over at Ken Phillips blog, SOSaipan . We've obviously got to do something. First, we can pray for this man's well-being and recovery. Things here are getting totally out of hand.

ed. 11/55 AM.

Monday, April 23, 2007

70. TWPI

TWPI-That's Thespians of the Western Pacific! Our dramatic middle and high school students had their regional competition Saturday, April 21, 2007 at WSR. Despite the intermittent rain that turned to steam in the sun, the students managed to keep their cool and perform their pieces with flair and panache.

Winning in the high school Thespian competition:
Regional 1st places: Monologue: Ryan Gutierez.
Duet: Richelle Denora and Ryan Gutierez
Solo Musical: Tikla Brown
Mime: Moon Lee and Tommy Baik

The cumulative points for the entire Thespian season resulted in the same top place awards, except in Solo Musical, where Joan T. Liwanag outscored Tikla by 2 points for the overall seasonal win, despite the regional competition result.

Winning in the junior Thespian competition:
Regional 1st places: Monologue: Anna Rose DLGuerrero*
Duet: Dayanara Flores and R. Banados
Solo Musical: Anna Rose DLGuerrero*
Mime: J. Camacho and N. Salem

Duet and Mime regional first place winners were also the top finishers in the overall points in their categories. But cumulative points resulted in overall wins in Monologue by Dayanara Flores, and in Solo Musical by Akiko Dela Cruz.

Those with the highest cumulative points may participate in national competition at the International Thespian Society (ITS) Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska, scheduled in late June this year. There may be some slight variations, as students who won in more than one category opt for the one they'll compete in, and possibly second place winners will then compete instead; or if any student winner doesn't go to the nationals, the second or even third place finisher may take the place. It's a juggling act right now!

Congratulations to all students who participated.

Each year, we're seeing more and more students in tighter competitions. Performing arts are an important part of the school curriculum, with arts mandated to be part of the No Child Left Behind program. The talent among our kids is pretty impressive, but more important are the benefits in language development, teamwork, and cultural understanding that drama promotes.

If you want to see the complete scorecard and speculate about the national competition line-up, you can view the matrix here .

Good luck to the Thespians and Junior Thespians who will be representing TWPI in the nationals at the ITS Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska. Have fun and break a leg.

*P.S. Yes, the one and only daughter of mine! The flair for the dramatic is growing stronger. I didn't think that possible.

69. Saipan and the CNMI's Economic Woes

Here's what they're hearing about us in D.C.

TestimonyFromGAO The written report is from Jeannette Franzel, Director of Financial Management at the GAO. The testimony is given to the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs (Natural Resources Committee) in the House of Representatives.

Pete A. says our declining economy is a shame. Variety4/23/07 And the committee members and others asked questions, commented, and looked for solutions, as reported here. But what I find most notable and what I completely believe is the assessment that the CNMI has repeatedly failed to achieve responsible financial accountability.

And it is this lack of competence that adds to my strong opposition to casinos and gambling in the CNMI. We couldn't handle the watchdog responsibilities. Same for nuclear power plants here. We can't manage clean audit reports about our taxes, our capital assets, our utilities.

Before we take on bigger challenges, we need to learn the basics.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

68. An Elegy from Edna St. Vincent Millay

In memory of the students who died recently at Blacksburg, Virginia, and all those young men and women who've died in the war in Iraq and elsewhere, and because it National Poetry Month (and I haven't posted any poems yet), I offer this poem of Edna St. Vincent Millay:

From "Memorial to D.C. (Vassar College, 1918)"

O, loveliest throat of all sweet throats,
Where now no more the music is,
With hands that wrote you little notes
I write you little elegies!

V --Elegy

Let them bury your big eyes
In the secret earth securely,
Your thin fingers, and your fair,
Soft, indefinite-colored hair--
All of these in some way, surely,
From the secret earth shall rise;
Not for these I sit and stare,
Broken and bereft completely:
Your young flesh that sat so neatly
On your little bones will sweetly
Blossom in the air.

But your voice...never the rushing
Of a river underground,
Not the rising of the wind
In the trees before the rain,
Not the woodcock's watery call,
Not the note the white-throat utters,
Not the feet of children pushing
Yellow leaves along the gutters
In the blue and bitter fall,
Shall content my musing mind
For the beauty of that sound
That in no new way at all
Ever will be heard again.

Sweetly through the sappy stalk
Of the vigorous weed,
Holding all it held before,
Cherished by the faithful sun,
On and on eternally
Shall your altered fluid run,
Bud and bloom and go to seed:
But your singing days are done;
And the music of your talk
Never shall the chemistry
Of the secret earth restore.

All your lovely words are spoken.
Once the ivory box is broken,
Beats the golden bird no more.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

67. Read the Story the BBC Banned

BBC banned the reading of Pakistani-British playwright Hanif Kureishi's story,
WeddingsAndBeheadings , even though it planned on reading all of the stories nominated for Britain's National Short Story prize. Apparently the reason for deciding against reading this story on the air was its current-ness.

The story is darkly humorous, but also poignant and scary as all get-out. And it's a lesson for writers in effective use of point of view. A short and worthy read.

Friday, April 20, 2007

66. Vets and Their Families Speak Out Against the War In Iraq.

Remember Dalton Trumbo's JOHNNY GET YOUR GUN? What about Gabriel Maria Remarque's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT? These used to be required reading when I was in high school. Perhaps they still are. Their anti-war message is very clear.

Now, though, a different message has been given to our students. High schools allow and even encourage military recruiters to solicit the next generation of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen (and women).

But some of them, and their families, have learned the hard way that the President, our government, or just the entire existing system has little consideration for the soldiers on the ground, the people involved in the conflict, or the harm being done in the name of "fighting terrorism."

And you can hear their voices. Here's a sample:

You can see more here .

I like these videos because they show that opposing war in Iraq isn't unpatriotic, that it isn't bad for the troops who are there. We've had a failure of leadershp in the U.S. that has cost lives--American, Iraqi, and other lives, valuable lives. We shouldn't keep paying the high price, and imposing the high price, when we can make a different choice.

And we're going to owe reparations to Iraq for all the harm we've done. We should be figuring out how we're going to make up for our shameful destruction.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

65. Half Mast

The flags are at half mast, even here in the CNMI. It's a small gesture, but appropriate, to honor all those who were gunned down in the middle of life on a beautiful college campus.

Details about the lives of some of those who died are here . All life is valuable. These tributes give a glimpse at how important individuals can be.

The personal accounts of survivors and colleagues help with processing the events at Blacksburg, Virginia. For example, see OnTheGroundDiary , NYT (login required) and photo .

It's really sad. Whether violence is perpetrated by a single individual or as part of a concerted action by groups or governments, the end result is immoral. I'm praying for peace here.

64. No to Casinos

The Saipan Tribune has a headline today that reads: "Saipan the most viable for casinos."


(I'll update this post later, when I have time to give it my full attention. But I had to get this opinion expressed now, before I explode.)

63. Random Bits from Favorite Blogs

If you haven't been reading the poems at BrooklynArden you should stroll on over there. I personally love THE WRITER, but each poem has resonance and beauty. And it's still April-National Poetry Month.

The Pullitzer Prize list is posted here . Of all the awards, this is one of the most prestigious (and yet it least influences my taste in books and my purchases). If this is your thing, enjoy.

But really, if you're more of a kid at heart, go to and scroll down to the you-tube collection of library videos (April 15, 2007-Video Sunday). Very amusing. I don't know why librarians have an image of being strict, narrow, boring. Some stereotypes die hard, but this one must go.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

62. The Taxman Cometh and Other Idle Ponderings

It is a lovely day in paradise. Unfortunately, I am inside downloading tax forms. The forms are available online (that's how I'm downloading them, duh) at DepartmentOfFinance .

The CNMI has a wonky tax form, especially if you're doing the full CM (as I do). There are a lot of places where you have to move forward, do some computation, and then come back and insert it into the form. At times, it appears nonsensical. But I'm almost adept at this.

I trace my ability to follow these arcane types of instructions, back and forth, to the missal I got in fifth grade. I felt so grown up, with a big thick missal for church, with pretty colored ribbons. And then I found out why there were ribbons--to mark your place so you could flip back and forth as you went through the Mass. One ribbon for the basic service, one for the first reading, one for the second reading, one for the gospel, and extras for inserted prayers--all of which vary from Sunday to Sunday. I became good at this kind of spatial "logic."

And then I took tax in law school. I was busy with a social life and didn't like to attend class very much. Fortunately, a very nice classmate loaned me his notebook. He had illustrated many of the legal principals with funny drawings that I found very helpful. And of course, I knew how to mark my tax code (with ribbons!) so that I could flip around and find just what I needed.

And now, I am facing the CNMI tax form, which I've done enough times to find it familiar and almost easy. But still I procrastinate.

Thank goodness for the most requested tax form-#4868--not found on the CNMI Department of Finance's site, but found here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

61. A Poetry Quiz-or what form of poetry are you?

There's this funny little quiz to determine what form of poetry you might be. Find it here. poeticform (Thanks to Brooklyn Arden and Fuse 8).

So I took this quiz. I am this poetic form:

If they told you I'm mad, then they lied.
I'm odd, but it isn't compulsive.
I'm the triolet, bursting with pride;
If they told you I'm mad, then they lied.
No, it isn't obsessive. Now hide
All the spoons or I might get convulsive.
If they told you I'm mad then they lied.
I'm odd, but it isn't compulsive.
What Poetry Form Are You?

But if I weren't that, I'd be this:

I, as a clerihew,
Tend to be merry; too
Merry, it might, perhaps, by some, be claimed;
But I'm sure that these people are wrong, and need to be grievously maimed.
What Poetry Form Are You?

Hmm. Sounds as if my sanity is in question. But then, I took the quiz immediately after a frustrating encounter with a computer system that has been driving my batty.

Apparently it's much more common (according to Fuse 8) to be a terza rima, at least in library-writing-reading circles. Let me know what poetic form you are.

Monday, April 9, 2007

60. Worried and Amused

I received this notice from the NMI Humanities Council.

I am worried that I will look ridiculous in this program. It's hard to look knowledgeable when you're on a panel with esteemed colleagues like Jesse Borja. If only I'd thought to keep my mouth shut.

But I am also amused that I will be on television at all. Moi! My very tiny moment of fame.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

59. National Poetry Month

April is NationalPoetryMonth . If you haven't been reading enough poetry lately, this is the time to forge into new territory or at least amble through the familiar and favorite.

You can check out some original (and amusing) poems at GottaBook .

And since poetry isn't limited to adult tastes, but encompasses silly rhymes and jingles, and youthful as well as eternal subjects, kids can get into the poetry act, too. The Children's Book Council has declared the third week of April as the young people's poetry week (read about it here: youngpeople'spoetryweek ). Teachers can find ideas for bringing poetry alive in the classroom here . Or look for one of my favorite reference volumes: A KICK IN THE HEAD, an everyday guide to poetic forms, by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka.

If you want to see what fun they're having over Manhattan way, you can read some raucous entries at Gawker .

But if you're feeling surly, take comfort. There are those poets who chafe at the idea of a month devoted to their art. Here's an interesting essay telling us why a national poetry month is a bad idea.

I'm not a poet, just a humble blogger. But I think poetry month is a good thing, to remind those of us who sometimes get too caught up in daily routines and our personal lives that we can expand our limits with a little poetry.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

58. How Big Is Your Personal Library? or What I did during the Typhoon.

I had this fear as Typhoon Kong-Rey (a/k/a King Kong) approached that the roof would blow off and all of my books would be ruined. I could have fretted about my personal safety, or more importantly my daughter's. I could have worried about flooding (as in the past), or downed tree limbs or breaking glass or any number of things, but for some odd reason, I was concerned about my books.

So I took the opportunity to log my books on my listing at Library Thing, only to discover that Library Thing has a 200 book limit on its free user account. I was about half-way through the books in my house when I got the "achtung" message.

So how many books do you have in your personal library? What do you include in the count?

I have a ton of little books I read to my daughter and a few dozen of those flimsy paperback/picture books of the non-fiction variety--mostly from Scholastic and mostly on subjects like snakes and dinosaurs and Ancient Egypt, all of which darling daughter found fascinating at some age. Do these count as books in your estimation?

As I was typing in the data, and before I knew there was a 200 book limit, I decided everything counted--if it has an ISBN, it belongs in the system, so I thought.

So now I have to decide whether to pay for the upgrade for more than 200 books or revise my listing of what counts. (Or divide the books into what belongs to me and what belongs to darling daughter, so she can have her own listing on Library Thing, and hope that we have less than 400 books total.)

I've given away hundreds of books. I usually have an April raffle through my book review column in the Marianas Variety. And I still have about 400 books or more at home.

Once upon a time, I remember embracing the philosophy for dealing with clutter of keeping anything I found useful or beautiful. When I apply that to books, it results in keeping most, because I love books.

I need a few more typhoon days to sort this out!

Monday, April 2, 2007

57. Typhoon Warning

It's hard to concentrate on work with a typhoon tracking you down and threatening to smash your house in. Presently anticipated at 9 AM tomorrow morning. So back to work.

It looks pretty from the sky, but I'm worried about the tail (which can be worse than the eye of the storm).

56. Poetry, Editing, and the Law: or How I Learn Something New Every Day!

Thanks to GalleyCat for passing along information about the legal skirmish between editor Stu Silverstein and publisher Penguin. We all love those little penguins, thanks to Happy Feet and March of the Penguins movies. The publisher Penguin has a logo as cute as it can be. But, based on the reports of this litigation, the publishing business is very chilly.

Stu Silverstein located, compiled, edited, and titled the untitled, "uncollected" poems of DorothyParker . He shopped them around and got an offer of $2,000 from Penguin publishing, which he turned down. Instead, he published the poems through Scribner under the title of NOT MUCH FUN.

And then along came Penguin and published Dorothy Parker's complete poems, including those previously published as "collected" and the "uncollected", which they cut and pasted from Silverstein's book, editorial errors, new titles and all, without attribution or payment.

Silverstein sued. He won some early rounds in the lawsuit, including a summary judgment motion (where the court finds that there are no material issues of fact and that the law supports the claim). But on appeal, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment in favor of Silverstein. It relied on a U.S. Supreme Court case: Feist Publications, Inc. vs. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991).
This was a case about a telephone directory--where one regional publisher used a local telephone company's directory to provide the information it needed for a section of its regional directory, without license. The Supreme Court said that was fair, and not prohibited by copyright laws. The basic analysis relies on the difference between fact and original creation. Facts are not subject to copyright, which protects only original creations.
The Court said that a compilation of facts has some protection if the compilation shows selection, original organization, and other editorial input. But the protection is limited, as explained by the Supreme Court.

"This inevitably means that the copyright in a factual compilation is thin.
Notwithstanding a valid copyright, a subsequent compiler remains free to use the
facts contained in another's publication to aid in preparing a competing work,
so long as the competing work does not feature the same selection and
arrangement. As one commentator explains it: "[N]o matter how much original
authorship the work displays, the facts and ideas it exposes are free for the
taking. . . . [T]he very same facts and ideas may be divorced from the context
imposed by the author, and restated or reshuffled by second comers, even if the
author was the first to discover the facts or to propose the ideas." Ginsburg

"It may seem unfair that much of the fruit of the compiler's labor
may be used by others without compensation. As Justice Brennan has correctly
observed, however, this is not "some unforeseen byproduct of a statutory
scheme." Harper & Row, 471 U.S.,at 589 (dissenting opinion). It is, rather,
"the essence of copyright," ibid. and a constitutional requirement. The primary
objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but "[t]o promote
the Progress of Science and useful Arts." Art. I, 8, cl. 8. Accord, Twentieth
Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 156 (1975). To this end, copyright
assures authors the right to their original [begin page 350] expression, but
encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a
work. Harper & Row, supra, at 556-557. This principle, known as the
idea/expression or fact/expression dichotomy, applies to all works of
authorship. As applied to a factual compilation, assuming the absence of
original written expression, only the compiler's selection and arrangement may
be protected; the raw facts may be copied at will. This result is neither unfair
nor unfortunate. It is the means by which copyright advances the progress of
science and art."
So it may be that Penguin has advanced the arts by cutting and pasting from Silverstein's work. The case isn't yet over. With the summary judgment vacated on appeal, the lawsuit is re-instated in the trial court. And Silverstein will get to argue his claims (although the copyright claim seems dead in the water.) It appears that trial is set for July 17, 2007 in the Southern District of New York. I'd like to watch!
I understand the limits of the copyright law, as explained in the telephone directory case. And I understand the purpose of advancing the arts. And of course, Silverstein can't claim Ms. Parker's copyright himself.
But it still seems wrong on a fundamental level that Silverstein should do all the work, scouring old newspapers to find the poems that had not been published in anthology form before, editing them, giving them titles, and then have a publisher not pay for his work. And admit they cut and pasted from his book.
Imagine that.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

55. And Then There Were None

This weekend, Friends of the Arts staged an adaptation of Agatha Christie--the play And Then There Were None. A traditional murder mystery, set on an island, the play featured local talent, a cozy stage set, and special effects of the scary, noisy variety.

Very enjoyable--with a surprise twist at the end.

Here are a few photos:

The entire theatre experience was delightful. The MultiPurpose Center has sufficient, convenient parking and a raised (proscenium) stage with a formal curtain. The air-conditioning this weekend was turned to a comfortable, not too cold, level. At intermission, FOA provided light refreshments and requested donations for "Crimestoppers," an amusing choice given that the play was about murder. All in all, the entire theatre experience was wonderful.
But I'm never sure why these FOA productions don't attract the audiences they deserve. Saturday night's performance was well-attended, and there was an enthusiastic, if small group on Friday night, but today's curtain opened to a very small audience. True, it was a beautiful day and being inside may not be everyone's first choice, but for a few short hours in exchange for live entertainment, well--really, everyone should take in these shows!
We have a fairly constant stream of theatre productions, between FOA and the Thespians and school productions. And the quality is also consistent. You know that the actors will bring forth talents you didn't know they had, with lines well-rehearsed and gestures and movement perfectly fitting their characters. Behind the scenes, our teens who join the tech crew get training in lighting, sound, stage management and the myriad jobs relating to props, scenery and costuming. The productions come from the range of shows on stage in the U.S. and give laughs, insight into past or contemporary life, or food for thought.
I prefer the musicals, which always have a variety of songs that showcase the natural abilities of the actors and actresses who come from our community. Like Scrooge at Christmas and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum this Spring, we can count on being entertained. Both were wonderful. I missed La Cage, but am still hearing raves about it from a variety of people who saw it.
So kudos once again to Hal Easton and Melody Actouka, who directed and produced this charming play (and many of the others we've seen here in Saipan--as volunteers, no less!).
And here's a small voice recommending that you take in the local theatrical efforts at the next opportunity. The price for tickets is small, compared to theatre tickets any where else in the western world. You might be surprised at what is available in Saipan.
And don't ask why this appears as one block of text! I've added paragraph breaks in the original and in edit mode, and they just disappear when I publish. A question for the next blogger meeting!