Friday, February 29, 2008

Bruce Berline: International Superstar

Bruce Berline SaipanYou can't learn big: EJ Lee and Bruce Berline playing volleyball

My good buddy Bruce Berline has become an overnight sensation in Japan. Bruce, along with attorney Mark Hanson, is the defense lawyer for Kazuyoshi Miura, the old Japanese dude accused of killing his wife 27 years ago.

I've been getting a lot of hits from people in Japan looking for information on Bruce today. I thought nothing of it until I found out that he was defending Miura.

Now I know.

Bruce is going to be Saipan's Johnny Cochrane.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I met Janet King...twice!

Janet King SaipanShe likes Hillary. I like Obama. We both like the Red Sox. We can be friends.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jake Shimabukuro is coming to Saipan

I had never heard of Jake Shimabukuro until a few weeks ago. He came to Saipan in 2005 for a performance. I was still living in Florida. David Khorram wrote about the performance in his weekly Saipan Tribune column. Here is Dave's column reprinted without his or the Saipan Tribune's permission:
Last Saturday night, I, along with some 200 other people at the HAMNI 20th anniversary dinner, witnessed a rare moment.

It has been said that the whole secret to success in life is to find out what it is you're destined to do, and then do it. Each of us has a unique set of gifts and talents. Our whole purpose in life is to hone these unique attributes, no matter how great or small they may be, and use them in service to others. Many of us do indeed develop skills that we use for the benefit of humanity. Whether we are spending the majority of our waking hours as a doctor, teacher, mother, clerk or carpenter, we are contributing to the advancement of civilization. Many of us absolutely love what we are doing. But I think that many of us wonder if we are doing what we were created to do-if we are fulfilling our destiny. And this, I believe, was what was so enthralling about last Saturday night. We witnessed a young man fulfilling his destiny.

Those of us attending had received the invitation that said, “With music by Jake Shimabukuro, Master of the Ukulele.” Now, most of the time, when the word “master” is used, you envision someone a bit weathered by time-maybe someone in their 50s or older-I think of Master Yoda.

So it was a bit of a shock when “Master” Jake walked out with spiked hair, in a faded T-shirt and jeans, looking barely old enough to shave. I thought he was the guy who comes out first to check the microphone. You could hear people saying “He's just a kid!”

Jake began to speak, and with that the magic began. He thanked HANMI and its chairwoman, Lynn Knight, for the invitation to come to Saipan; he spoke of his experience with the children's ukulele band earlier that day; he spoke with genuine warmth and intensity and you could feel that even if the music were to end up being crummy, here was someone who loved what he was doing. He remembered everyone's name.

Jake pulled up a chair and began to perform. His fingers created such rich sounds that you imagined they were coming from a full orchestra, not a little four-string instrument that until that night the uninitiated considered a sort of small toy guitar. And for the next 90 minutes, we were mesmerized. But I believe that it was not just because of his amazing technique. I think that the most moving part of the experience was being witness to a person doing what he was created to do. We watched a young man fulfilling his destiny. He was not just a great performer. Watching him play was like watching creation. The music flowed through his every expression. And he connected with heart and soul to those around him. He expressed such pure enjoyment at each new change in the music, as if he were being taken by surprise by the sounds emerging from the instrument. You got the feeling that he was the instrument, and that some force was playing him. It was hard to imagine someone doing anything in the world any better, or enjoying it any more. It was moving to watch.

I contemplated how fortunate one must be to have found one's destiny. I thought about my own four children and my hope that they might discover their gifts in the same way, and uncover their talents so that their lives contribute to the maximum extent to humanity. I also began to wonder how our educational system might change if it were focused on one task above all others-helping each child discover their unique destiny. The experience gave me cause to pause and wonder if I were fulfilling my own destiny. I thought of the words of Sweet Honey in the Rock:

“My God calls to me in the morning dew.
The power of the universe knows my name.
He gave me a song to sing and set me on my way.
I raise my voice for justice. I believe.”

May we all find our song, and sing it boldly. Thank you, Jake, for letting us watch.

(David Khorram, MD is a board certified ophthalmologist, and director of Marianas Eye Institute. Questions and comments are welcome. Call 235-9090 or email Copyright © 2005 David Khorram.)
If that doesn't get you excited, check out this Youtube video of Jake performing one of his latest songs:

I don't have ticket or venue information yet, but the concert will be on Thursday, March 27. Mark your calendars!

The concert is going to be a Beautify CNMI and HANMI fundraiser. We will also celebrate the two year anniversary of Beautify CNMI that night. We'll thank our many sponsors and participants and hand out this year's Beautify CNMI Champion and Steward awards.

The handful of people we've told so far are stoked for the chance to see Jake perform. It is going to be a great night. Like I said, mark your calendars!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Master List Update

The Master List of Saipan blogs has been updated.

I have deleted all of the blogs that no longer exist and I've marked all the blogs that are no longer being updated.

Even though Jeff likes to call the Master List the CNMI blog graveyard, there are still over 90 blogs being updated on a regular basis, all from the islands of Saipan and Tinian.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Al-Qaeda Set to Attack Guam

I just read this on the blog of an English teacher living in Japan:
I've also learned this week that Japanese people only think Hawaii, Las Vegas, Guam, Saipan (and of course Japan) are safe to travel in as everywhere else in the world is at danger from 'the terror' (terrorism).
So all we have to do to get Japanese tourists to start returning to Saipan is to convince them Osama bin Laden lives in Guam and has a vacation home in Hawaii.

Anybody want to start that campaign?

Of course this could backfire if they find out about domestic terrorist mastermind, Ron Hodges.

...just kidding, Ron. I'm being sarcastic.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Practicing my culture

Sometime in the last 20 years, locals in the CNMI came to understand conservation as a bunch of haoles telling indigenous people not to fish, not to feed their families, and not to practice their culture. They are mistaken. Conservation has always been an integral part of Micronesian culture.

I learned it from my father and I know these guys learned it from theirs.

Even so, times have changed. The definition of conservation has changed along with it.

Old habits and old technologies result in expected outcomes.

1000 years ago when a Chamorro went out to catch fish using the technology available to him at the time, he could safely assume that he wasn't destroying his resource. No new technology was going to be introduced to help him catch more fish and no huge influx of off-islanders would be coming to his home anytime soon (at least for another 500 years).

The only thing he needed to navigate his world were the stars, the waves, and the wind. He lived the way his grandparents lived and he could expect his grandchildren to live the same way.

Like I said, times have changed. We now have more people and new technologies.

When people use old habits combined with new technologies, unexpected outcomes occur.

Fish & Wildlife admits that SCUBA spearfishing nearly decimated our Napolean Wrasse population. I've also heard that gill nets in the 1990's wiped out the turtle population in the lagoon [unconfirmed, just hearsay, so don't jump down my throat, I was in Florida].

When these new technologies were introduced, they weren't introduced with the intent of destroying our resources. People just wanted to catch more fish, feed their families, and practice their culture.

In a previous post I told the story of my father eating one of the last mariana mallards.

I don't think he was purposely eating the last mallard. He was just practicing his culture, right? If you had asked him about the bird on the day he shot it, he would probably have told you that he knew where to find more.

I don't recount that story to try to paint my father in a bad light, I'm just using it to highlight my point. He had spent his whole life shooting and eating that bird and probably expected to spend the remainder of his whole life shooting and eating that bird.

Old habits (hunting every bird you see) combined with new technologies (better rifles than centuries past) led to extinction (the shelling of Saipan during World War II didn't help either).

Am I less Chamorro because I will never see a mariana mallard? Am I less Chamorro because I will never taste one? And is Saipan less Saipan because we no longer have bats and barely any coconut crabs? Do you see where I'm going with this?

If eating certain foods is part of our culture, then what does it say about our culture when we allow that food to go extinct?

Speaking of forming new habits, I came across this news item as I was surfing the Internet:
The tiny Pacific islands nation of Kiribati declared the world's largest marine protected area Thursday - a California-sized ocean wilderness that includes pristine reefs and eight coral atolls teeming with fish and birds.
Kiribati isn't even one of the Micronesian nations to sign the Micronesia Challenge, yet look what they just did. I highly recommend reading the whole article, but this is part of the article that I found to be of the most importance:
The plan does not come without costs. Some commercial fishing in the area will be restricted, meaning the Kiribati government will forego some revenue from foreign commercial fishing licenses.

Kiribati earned $33 million in 2001 from fishing licenses - the latest available figure.

The government stands to lose about $3 million of this revenue with the creation of the reserve, but is hoping to recoup some of the losses by boosting tourism, which now accounts for 20 percent of the gross domestic product. It has already applied to have the marine reserve listed as a World Heritage Site. [emphasis added]
The CNMI should start thinking like our brothers in Kiribati.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Reading Rocks!

Radioactive Quill tagged me.

1. Grab the nearest book (that is at least 123 pages long).
2. Open to p. 123.
3. Go down to the 5th sentence.
4. Type in the following 3 sentences.
5. Tag five people.
He cleared his throat. "I am here, as I'm sure you know, because of Albus Dumbledore's will."

Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked at one another.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the only book in recent memory that I've read cover to cover, back to back.

I tag Mom, Alex, and my cousins Jill and Sean, mostly because they haven't updated their blogs in a while (that's more true for Alex and Mom than Sean and Jill).

I'll also tag Emily, since she's getting her Masters degree in how to write good and do other things good, too

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I clean up well

EJ Lee and Angelo VillagomezSurprised to see a picture of EJ on my blog?

Well, EJ showed up on Saipan just in time for Valentine's Day. She's here for a few days to help her parents settle the sale of their business. She's their official translator.

As coincidence would have it, she also happened to be here for the Rotary Club of Saipan's 40th Anniversary dinner. Turns out I didn't need a date after all.

Pete and Matilde IgitolEJ and I sat at a table with Pete and Mathilde Igitol (and David Igitol and Karl Reyes). Mathilde is my first cousin. She almost came out to live with us in Massachusetts 25 years ago and when Alex and I visited Saipan as kids, she always made sure to take us out to dinner. If I remember correctly it was usually for teppanyaki at the Hafa Adai Hotel, but that was a long time ago so I may be mistaken.

On Sunday morning I had a soccer game. My team, Wild Bill's Independents, played Onwell, a team composed of mostly Thais (read: lean, fast, and talented).

It was one hell of a game. We managed to keep them scoreless in the first half. We also kept them scoreless in the second half, but we scored on ourselves twice. Yeah, twice. Ouch.

They ended up winning 2-0. Our record is now 2-2-1.

The season is halfway through. We'll play each of the other five teams one more time before heading into the playoffs.

Wild Bills Soccer TeamYou can see from this team picture that I've put on a few pounds over the last year. That should change in the next few weeks as training for the National Team is set to begin on Tuesday.

That means no more soda or beer for awhile.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stop Underage Drinking

Brian kathy and oreo at godfathersThe night started off innocently enough. All I did was take my two month old puppy, Oreo, out for, um, something to eat at Godfather's.

He was a real hit, as evidenced by the happy look on Brian and Kathy's faces.

oreo at godfathersI was really surprised to see so many people drinking at Godfather's. Aren't they supposed to be a family restaurant?

oreo drinking a coronaNext thing I knew Oreo was slamming Corona after Corona. He was even ordering rounds of shots for everyone sitting at the bar.

This is unacceptable!

I've been saying this for years, stop underage puppy drinking NOW!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Napoleonic Wars

Mariana Mallard Anas oustaletiOne day when my parents were still married, my father shot a Mariana Mallard on our property. He ate it.

A few days later my mother was visiting with an American wildlife biologist working on Saipan. Inside his office was a picture of a similar mallard and my mother told the biologist that her husband had just shot and eaten a bird just like the one in the picture.

The biologist replied, "That was probably the last one."

Coconut Crab Birgus latroThe first time I went to Anatahan I went coconut crab hunting with my father.

Coconut crabs are the largest land-living arthropod in the world. The biggest one I've ever seen was about the size of a big lobster, but according to some sources they can get as big as a small dog.

We eat them...and they taste really good.

On this particular night we found several crabs, all of which were inside our bellies a few short hours later. While hunting we took every crab we found, except for the female crab we found carrying eggs.

She was let go so she could go replenish her species.

A few weeks ago when I was in Pohnpei I had the opportunity to talk to a local fisherman. I have to admit that I didn't really do much talking. Mostly I just listened. This is what he told me:
"I am tired of these haoles always talking about their right to fish. They do not have a right to fish. Nobody has a right to fish. In Micronesia the fish have always belonged to the chief. Fishing is a privilege."
In the battles over how we can effectively use our natural resources things can quickly get ugly.

In today's Saipan Tribune, John Gourley, a man who goes around this island calling himself a bio-stitute (a combination of biologist and prostitute), accuses a local fisherman who works at one of the natural resource agencies of having "very little respect for local cultural fishing practices." Ironically enough, Mr. Gourley was defending another local fisherman who works at one of the other natural resource agencies.

In his latest blog post, Mike Tripp, a man from a nation known for politeness and calm demeanors, casts doubt on the truthiness of Mr. Gourley's accusations.

There is much more to be said on the topic of conservation.

Expect future posts.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I need a date

The Rotary Club of Saipan celebrates its 40th anniversary this Saturday, February 16. There will be a formal gala at the Fiesta Resort & Spa starting at 6 PM.

Saipan's #1 Korean Party Girl
is in Seoul, so I need a date.

I wanted to ask Bev, but she's got something better to do (I think she's washing her hair). Anybody want to be my date?

The Saipan SCUBA Diving Blog et al

I take my role as the leading voice for the people of the CNMI that live in my apartment very seriously. If there is something going on around this island, I feel it is my duty to give my readers (both of them) my opinion.

Let's discuss blogging.

There have been well over 150 Saipan blogs created in the last year or so. About half of them get periodic updates and about a quarter get updated regularly. It seems that after the initial euphoria of creating one's very own space on the web, many bloggers just run out of steam.

It happens to the best of us. Harry Blalock, the man who strikes fear into the hearts of politicians throughout the CNMI, hasn't updated his Saipan Diver blog since....


Harry updated his blog!

Not only that, Mike Tripp is starting to update his Saipan SCUBA Diving Blog and Ken Phillips is updating his SoSaipan Blog.

Those three bring a lot of back to our blogosphere, Mike and Harry with their photos and stories of diving and Ken with his Turbitt-like wit.

I predict a Saipan blogging renaissance!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Twelfth in a Series - Black & White Self Portraits

Rose has a super fancy Canon camera. It is so expensive that her camera bag costs more than my camera. No kidding.

Even so, I took her ultra fancy photo taking doohickey and made a bunch of self portraits. She emailed me the results and now I'm sharing them with you, my two readers.

Angelo Villagomez SaipanAngelo Villagomez SaipanAngelo Villagomez SaipanAngelo Villagomez SaipanAngelo Villagomez SaipanAngelo Villagomez SaipanAngelo Villagomez Saipan

Oreo's in the Network

Oreo and the PTI cellphonePTI, your connection to the world, is donating a cellphone with minutes to PAWS. PAWS is a local non-profit dedicated to the health, care, welfare, and population control of cats and dogs in the CNMI and to the education of the public for animal care and rights. They also head up the Animal Welfare Committee of Beautify CNMI.

People on Saipan will be able to call the PTI sponsored PAWS Hotline at 285-PAWS (the cellphone) to report abandoned and abused animals. PAWS has a program where they rescue these animals, nurse them back to health, and find suitable people to adopt them.

Yesterday afternoon, PTI marketing associate Brad Ruszala turned over the cellphone. Then we shot a segment for an upcoming PTI commercial.

The stars of the commercial are Oreo Kenobi and Wyatt (Rose's dog).

Here are Oreo and Wyatt being introduced:

Oreo and wyattOreo the Jedi DogOreo and WyattOreo and WyattI think they are going to be friends. What do you think?

I also recorded a short segment. PTI helps Beautify CNMI with Internet and cellphone service. They donate DSL to MINA and offer me a huge discount on my cellphone, which serves as the Beautify CNMI volunteer line.

Call me to volunteer today at 285-6462!

And we're back...

and her dog, Cookie, star in the next PTI commercial. Keep an eye out for it. She's the one wearing the white bikini.

The Critics Have Spoken

A handful of people have taken up my What the Critics are Saying meme. This is what other bloggers say about this blog:

David's Marianas Eye:
The Saipan Blog is one of the two blogs that I read every day. You can generally count on new content on a daily basis. The posts are diverse, interesting, and have excellent subject-verb agreement. He covers topics that reflect the eclectic nature of the man -- topics such as the environment, local controversies, and scantily clad chicks. More than anything else, you get a sense of how much one person, possessing dedication and drive, can do to change his hair ... I mean the world... to change the world. A dedicated blogger, community member, and a role-model for aspiring environmentalists, Angelo's blog is informative, entertaining and inspiring.
Jeff's Saipan and other random hypercritical thoughts:
Angelo takes a lot of guff, probably because he's so ubiquitous I suppose, but I don't think he is very controversial. He's not all that political, and a lot of people don't get his humor. It's really a northeastern style, so I get it. He has great pictures, videos and I like his humor. He can write well. Not all his topics are up my alley, but some are. I find the celebrity porn aspect annoying, and I wish he'd censor himself less, but he has his reasons.
Beverly's Bubbles in Paradise:
I tune into Angelo's blog everyday because I know he ALWAYS has something to say about anything. He's quite entertaining as well as informative. Though some people leave mean comments on his page, I give him props for him not changing who he is for anybody.
Ken's SOSaipan:
I first ran across Angelo's antics when I was searching for Ed Steven's then-new blog. That has degenerated into a soul-less rehash of his columns with no comments allowed, but I stayed with this one. At first it was because of his Linklust®. If somebody new popped up in the Saipan corner of the blogosphere (assuming spheres have corners in this dimension) they were likely to get a mention.

Picture Ralph Nader in Blue Suede shoes. Geraldo doing Al Gore. A Greenpeace document hidden inside a supermarket tabloid. Ah, that's not it. If you don't care for the cheesecake, come back tomorrow. I usually do.
Tami's Seaweed Sand & Sunsets:
He tagged me. I may not agree with everything he says (especially when it pertains to my bro and his girl or correcting people's grammer :) but I enjoy reading his blog and I truley admire the dedication he has toward keeping our island beautiful and all the hours of voluntary time he puts into to Beautify projects. There are a lot of people who talk about keeping this island beautiful, but very few who will put their money where their mouth is.
Steve's The Angry Sicilian:
The local focused blog of Saipan that chronicles the work of someone acting locally and thinking globally. It's been several years since I've seen Angelo, and with the highly local focus of the blog, it's sort of hard to figure out how he is doing, but we catch up every once in a while.
That's it for now. Hopefully I'll still get a few more.

As per the rules of this meme, I owe Ken a review of his blog.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

So much for the fireworks bill

Screw Chinese New Year.

Right now Garapan feels like George W Bush and the entire US Military are raining Freedom and Liberty down upon the good people of Saipan.

Jesus Christ.

I thought they outlawed fireworks?

There are enough people setting off fireworks in Garapan right now to fill the Hyatt Regency.

I hope they have enough Napoleon Wrasse in the buffet line to feed everybody.

I'm still sick and I'm trying to sleep. If you asked me right now, I'd say screw diversity, screw Federalization, screw the kumbaya, let's send 'em home.

Anyone who doesn't use fireworks can stay.

I'm going to be grumpy in the morning.

...and my six week old puppy is freaking out.

What the Critics are Saying

Tami took us all down Chalan Memorias last month with her I Remember When meme. Well, it was so much fun I propose a meme for the month of February.

The Rules:
1. Once you are tagged, you must write up short review for 5 blogs that you read regularly, including the blog of the person that tagged you.
2. Leave a comment tagging the blogs you've reviewed, telling them to continue the meme.
3. If someone writes a review of your blog, you must respond by writing a review of their blog (unless you've already written one for them).
4. After a few days, you must write a post compiling what all the other bloggers say about you, good or bad, true or untrue.
I think this should be fun.

If I think some of the reviews of my blog are particularly good or funny, I'll post them in my sidebar with a permanent link to the writer's blog.

So in the spirit of the We Love Saipan Network, here it goes:
Saipan and other random hypercritical thoughts: Saipan's best bald blogger in white sneakers.

Seaweed, Sand & Sunsets: The most promising blog to pop up since the great Saipan blogger schism of 2007.

Marianas Eye: If reading the Saipan blogs makes you want to scratch your eyes out, this is the guy who can put them back in for you.

The Angry Sicilian: Proving every day that angry pissed off liberals can change the world.

Bubbles in Paradise: The only blog that makes me look forward to the dentist.
Tag Backs:
David's Marianas Eye, take 2: David didn't like my first review, so like any good doctor he asked for a second opinion. So why do I read David's blog? There are only a handful of people on this island that everyone likes. The three that instantly come to mind are Gus Kaipat, EJ Lee (no longer on this island), and David Khorram. He is the consummate nice guy. He's a great dad. He's not afraid to try out for the National Soccer team, fully knowing that he would probably go down in a blaze of torn muscles. When I visit David's blog I know that there is going to be something positive there. That means something.

Ken's SOSaipan: Ken's got potential. There are three people on this island who have the ability to rip people to pieces using a keyboard. Ken could be the fourth, he's just got to stick with it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Name that Village

mount tapachou 1945This picture was posted by Alverdo Sando on his Remembering Saipan & Korea blog.

Any guesses on where this is?

I can see Mount Tapachou, so it is definitely the south side of the island. Is this the Shell gas station intersection in Dandan? Is that Kannat Tabla?


Mount TapachouThe photo above confirms that the old picture from 1945 was indeed taken from the corner of Middle Road and that other road named after a dead guy.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Beautify CNMI's Youngest Member

Oreo KenobiOnly 40 days old, my little puppy Oreo Kenobi is the youngest member of Beautify CNMI.

Here he is helping us remove one of the rotten trees at the Paseo de Marianas in Garapan. The people who planted this tree several years ago forgot to remove the big plastic pot holding the tree before it was planted.

I wonder why it rotted?

...and yes, Oreo used his light saber to remove that tree.

Friday, February 01, 2008