Monthly Archives: September 2004

Soylent Green

Soylent Green is PEOPLE!!Been thinking about those glaciers melting down in Antarctica, the changes it portents for the world, and it made me remember seeing Soylent Green on television a couple weeks ago. Flipping through the channels one evening I came across Charlton Heston’s mug and I knew it was Soylent Green. About 20 minutes into the movie. I sat down and watched it at the time, primarily because the last time I saw the movie was over twenty years ago and it seemed like a good time to brush up on a tasty little nugget of pop culture. Plus I knew it was Edward G. Robinson’s last role, and he goes out with a bang in Soylent Green. He is the heart and soul of the picture, the last vestige of humanity remembering what was lost. And his death is powerful, moving and chilling at the same time.

What surprised in watching the movie is how prescient it seems to me now. Overpopulation, widespread famine, global warming, the death of the oceans, powerful multi-national corporations, state sponsored euthanasia, and the widening gulf between the wealthy and the rest of the world. None of these things seems so far fetched anymore. We’ve made real strides toward creating the hellish dystopia depicted in that movie.

Local News Roundup

It’s been awhile since I did one of these, so let’s skim the headlines:

  • Local Business Leader Edward Calvo Passes Away – Former senator and local business leader Edward M. Calvo passed after a battle with cancer at the age of 68. His funeral was on Saturday, September 26th. Calvo was on the board of Calvo’s Insurance, vice president of Calvo’s Enterprises (Mid Pac, KUAM, Payless Supermarkets, Market Wholesale, Calvo’s Realty, Pepsi, and Island Wines and Spirits), and president of EC Development (EC Communications, my ISP).
  • GovGuam Faces Possible Shutdown – The governor vetoed the legislature’s budget proposal for 2005, and if a new budget isn’t completed by Friday, the government of Guam is facing a shutdown. The main bone of contention is the legislature’s pie in the sky revenue projections. The Republican governor says the Democratically controlled legislature double counted back taxes owed to the government, predicts little economic or job growth for 2005, yet somehow expects income taxes to increase by $20 million. It’s an election year – that means the legislature will not make any cuts in spending to the critical GovGuam voting bloc.
  • Micronesian Casualities in Iraq – a Marine corporal originally from Palau and an Army sergeant from Pohnpei were killed in action in Iraq during the last two weeks. On September 13th, Cpl. JayGee Meluat was killed in action in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq. That’s where Fallujah is located. Sgt. Skipper Soram was killed in an explosion in Baghdad on September 22nd. The newspaper was sketchy, describing the source of the blast as ‘an improvised device.’
  • Pedophile Found Guilty – Robert Campbell, the man indicted last year with attorney Haim Habib for having sex with 13 year old runaways, was found guilty on eight counts of criminal sexual misconduct yesterday. Sentencing is scheduled for October 18th. Habib’s trial was delayed after he was committed to Mental Health for several months this year after being deemed incompetent to stand trial. He was released from Mental Health in June 2004 and immediately transferred back to police custody. He is currently awaiting trial.
  • Pacificare Wins Judgement, AG Continues To Fight – Pacificare won its appeal with the Supreme Court two weeks ago, clearing the way for the insurer to exit the GovGuam health insurance market. The attorney general vows to continue the fight, up to an including the US 9th District Court. Interestingly, the AG concedes that GovGuam is an unprofitable business for insurers, but maintains that if Pacificare is allowed to exit the market all other carriers will follow suit.
  • Man Drowns From snorkeling on Boat Dive – The executive chef at the Sandcastle dinner show drowned while snorkeling off Agat yesterday. At the second dive stop of the boat dive he elected to snorkel instead of scuba dive. Divers found him on the bottom of the reef when they went to pull anchor. Apparently he passed out while snorkeling and sank to the bottom.

Energy Linkage

Just a taste of what I’ve been reading about today. Spent a good deal of time reading through a bevy of energy/technology related links. Energy production is a common theme in these articles. From a harrowing vision of the near future where petroleum reserves dwindle, sparking mass starvation and global energy wars, to more optimistic visions of energy trends for the next decade from leading analysts, the focus is definitely on oil reserves and alternative energy sources.

Some of those alternative sources include renewable sources like wind and solar, and a couple articles focus on small scale successes in bringing wind power to African communities.

A few of the more speculative stories feature the role nanotechnology can play in storage and supply of alternative energy. The Nobel winning chemist that discovered ‘Buckballs’ called the need to develop alternative energy nanotechnology’s most pressing mission. One critical need is to detoxify Buckyballs, which are quite poisonous when inhaled.

Philip Roth Rewrites History

I just read the first chapter of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, available in a feature at NPR, and it is now at the top of my wishlist. I’ve read several other Roth novels, all of them revolving around his alter ego Nathan Zuckerman. This time Roth portrays his entire family against a horrible history gone awry: Franklin Delano Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to an isolationist, anti-Semitic Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh signs non-aggression pacts with Germany and Japan, and enacts new anti-Semitic laws that eventually lead to pogroms in the Midwest. Sounds like a doozy. If only the library on Guam actually bought new books…

Glaciers Racing To The Sea

Having just read Ocean’s End yesterday’s bit of news about Antarctic glaciations came as a bit of a shock to me. The book’s penultimate chapter deals with the threat of global warming and the breakup of ice shelves in Antarctica. Woodard wrote the book in 1999-2000, shortly after the breakup of the Larsen-A Ice Shelf and the Wordie Ice Shelf. The gist of chapter seven was about how Antarctica is warming up, and how scientists in the 1970’s predicted the first indicators of global warming would be the thawing of Polar Regions, especially the Antarctic Peninsula. His one bit of good news was that mainland Antarctic glaciers did not seem to be accelerating into the ocean with the loss of their ice shelf ‘corks.’ Glaciologists fear that once the ice shelves at the terminal end of glaciers are removed, the massive ice rivers coming off a section of the polar ice cap would accelerate into the ocean, greatly raising sea levels around the world and inundating major urban centers and low-lying croplands.

Larsen-B Ice Shelf collapse captured by NASA's MODIS sensor on the Terra satelliteSeems like his one ray of hope was a bit premature. Since the publication of Ocean’s End, the far larger Larsen-B Ice Shelf collapsed in 2002. Now a flurry of papers are indicating that the glaciers that fed the ice shelf are accelerating into the ocean. The glaciers are losing 60% more of their mass to the ocean than is replenished by inland snowfall.

Whoops, we broke Antarctica. Like it ain’t enough the entire continent is baking in UV radiation after we punched a hole in the sky with rampant CFC use. Now the whole damn place is melting away.

On the whole, temperatures in the Antarctic Peninsula have increased 5°F. It might not seem like much, but 20,000 years ago a drop of 7°F triggered an ice age and blanketed much of North American and Eurasia under a mile of ice. Extreme scenarios postulate that the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet could deteriorate and slide into the ocean, raising sea levels around the world 16 to 20 feet. New York, Venice, London, Jakarta, Manila, Amsterdam, New Orleans, Miami, Alexandria, Osaka – all lost beneath the waves. Well let’s be frank. Wealthy industrial nations would probably construct massive dikes and levees around their cities, shifting the brunt of the devastation onto those least able to cope with a catastrophe. Say goodbye to Bangladesh. Adios to the Maldives. Sayonara Marshall Islands.

And here’s the bad news. This isn’t the kind of thing that can be fixed. Even if we abandon automobiles, jet planes and coal fired electrical plants, the damage cannot be undone. Or at least not on a timescale that is relevant of human civilization. Global warming, climate change – the damage has been done. The changes were small and imperceptible at first, but 200 years of industrialization pushed the planet inexorably into a new climate. Things are changing, and while not as fast as The Day After Tomorrow, climate change and the havoc that will ensue are inevitable.

30 Things Hurricanes Teach Us

I pulled this from an email newsletter I subscribe to; while it was written by someone in Florida this month, the points are just as valid here on Guam after a typhoon.

30 Things Hurricanes Teach Us

  1. An oak tree on the ground looks four times bigger than it did standing up.
  2. Even after all these years it is still nice to spend time with Col. Mustard in the ballroom with the lead pipe.
  3. When house hunting look for closets with lots of leg room.
  4. Water from the shower is much colder than water from the kitchen sink–and tastes just as bad.
  5. AA, C and D are the only alphabet we need ( batteries )
  6. The four-way stop is still an ingenious reflection of civility.
  7. Radio can be the best way to watch television.
  8. Chain-saw wielding men are nothing to be afraid of.
  9. SUV’s are the best makeshift tents on the market.
  10. You can use your washing machine as a cooler.
  11. It’s your God given right to sit on your back porch and eat Chinese takeout by candlelight in your underwear.
  12. We shouldn’t complain about “useless” tools in the garage–we actually DO need a generator.
  13. You can’ t spell “priceless” without I-C-E.
  14. Downed power lines make excellent security systems.
  15. Lakes can generate waves.
  16. Gasoline is a value at any price.
  17. Cell phones: Breaking up isn’t hard to do.
  18. The life blood of any disaster recovery is COFFEE.
  19. The need for your dog to go out and take care of business is inversely proportional to the severity of the storm.
  20. Candlelight is better than Botox— it takes years off your appearance.
  21. Air Conditioning: BEST. INVENTION. EVER.
  22. Water is a comfort food. But 3-day-old Cheetos are too.
  23. Shadow animals on the wall—still fun.
  24. No matter how hard the wind blows, roadside campaign signs will survive.
  25. You should never admit to having power at your house in the presence of co-workers or neighbors who do not.
  26. There’s a plus to having NOTHING in the refrigerator.
  27. Getting through the day should be an Olympic event.
  28. The movie theater can be a most pleasant place, even if the feature is Alien vs. Predator.
  29. Somebody’s got it worse.
  30. Somebody’s got it better. Obviously, they’re getting preferential treatment.

I’m Being Followed By A Goon’s Shadow, Goon’s Shadow, Goon’s Shadow

In a stunning victory in the War on Terror, US Transportation Security Administration forces successfully defended the Homeland against the forces of evil. Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, was repelled from the United States today. His international flight was diverted to an airstrip in Maine, were he was escorted off the plane and into TSA custody. Apparently the singer is persona non grata in the Homeland, despite his stated condemnation of terrorism and efforts to promote religious understanding.

Who’s next in the War on Terror? Maybe Ashcroft’s goons can hound Bobby Fischer mercilessly for his crass and inept comments about 9/11. Oh wait, that’s already happened.

Listening Matter

Been listening to some good music lately. Thought I’d share.

  • Jay Farrar – Stone, Steel & Bright Lights: Great live album from founder member of Uncle Tupelo. I’ve enjoyed Son Volt through the years, but this album is just great. Farrar’s voice just hypnotizes me. He might be beaming out subliminal messages for all I know, I just zone out on his voice.
  • Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: The ying to Farrar’s yang, Jeff Tweedy will forever be paired with his former bandmate and bête noire Jay Farrar. I enjoyed some of Wilco’s stuff, especially the Mermaid Avenue albums, but Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a real breakthrough. Wilco channels Radiohead into an alcoholic fever dream of loss and ruin.
  • Jack Johnson – Live At Orpheum Theater 11/14/2002: The Internet Archive’s Live Music Archive is a wonderful thing. This concert is loads of fun and a jam and a half, I’m afraid I’m burning a whole through the CDR it’s burned on.
  • Philip Glass – Koyaanisqatsi: Music for my inner nihilist. I bought this CD during my last trip to Orange County. It seemed somehow appropriate to crank this on my rental car’s stereo driving through the vast, rotten, hollow core of the post modern world.
  • Joss Stone – Soul Sessions: If I were the type to go around ‘bumping the tunes’ in my car, the Blue Torpedo would definitely be bumping Joss Stone. This album is sweet like chocolate, but with none of the calories. A new album full of old school rhythm & blues, the Soul Sessions is a
  • And a bevy of discs from Putumayo, they make excellent compilation discs.
    • French Cafe: Nothing like a few chansons to chill out in the evening.
    • Music From the Tea Lands: Some great tracks from around the Pacific Rim. I especially like the gamelan on the last track.
    • Music From the Coffee Lands: Another sampler, this time picking artists from coffee producing areas such as South America, Africa, Jamaica, Mexico and Hawaii as the source.
    • World Lounge: I really ain’t into electronica/trance music, but this disc satisfies that urge went I need to vegetate.
  • Yo Yo Ma – Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet: Yo Yo Ma put together the Silk Road Ensemble a couple years ago to explore the musical traditions along the Silk Road route from Europe to the Far East. This album was the result, an ecstatic combination of instruments and styles from across the vast Eurasian continent.
  • Orchestra Baobab – Pirates Choice: This album is so much fun, a delight to the ears. Rolling, sensual music from Senegal, with a healthy infusion of Cuban jazz and salsa. I swear, Werente Serigne is burnt into my brain. I wake up humming that tune and it haunts the quiet moments of my day. And that is totally fine with me.

Not exactly a mainstream medley collection, but I am quite happy listening to these CD’s at home (Music From the Coffee Lands is playing right now in fact), at work, or in my car. All I need now is a set of those Bangalore Torpedo subwoofers and I could be ‘bumping the tunes’ all the way down Marine Drive.

Other Icons

9 year old Kim Phuc flees her village of Trang Bang after a napalm attack in 1972. Photo by Nick UtI got an email this morning asking what other images from the Vietnam war are iconic.

I think this photo by Nick Ut certainly qualifies. Nick Ut took this picture in 1972 of children fleeing their village of Trang Bang after a napalm attack, fear written large on their faces.

Palau Micronesia Air Takes To The Skies

Yesterday marked the first arrival of Palau Micronesia Air on Guam. The fledgling airline is taking on Continental Micronesia in the island hopper market, offering twice weekly island hopper service between Manila, Koror, Yap, Guam, Chuuk and Pohnpei. In addition Palau Micronesia Air has twice weekly flights to Darwin, Australia. I sense a possible trip in the near future; a week in Palau, then on to Darwin for some outback adventure.

The airline is definitely cheaper than Continental. Palau for $399, over a hundred dollars less than Continental. Darwin for $499, again cheaper than Continental’s flight to Cairns. On the downside, Palau Micronesia Air only operates 1 airplane right now. They hope to acquire a second plane early next year and begin Palau/Japan routes. I wish them luck. Micronesia can use another more competition in the airline business.

Air Mike is incredibly profitable for Continental, primarily due to their unchallenged monopoly status. In fact, Continental Micronesia is the most profitable division of Continental’s business. So Air Mike has no reason to lower rates, especially since there was no competition in the region. I even remember a previous Air Mike executive threatening Guam with the possibility of a pullout during the whole cabotage issue with Asiana a few years ago and local efforts to annul the airline cabotage restrictions. His basic attitude was, if politicians keep pressuring the US congress for relief from the cabotage laws, Continental will be forced to pull out of Guam and lay off the entire workforce.

Pagan Pozzolan Mine Website

Before I forget to mention it, yesterday I was reading through the Marianas Variety and a letter to the editor mentioned a great website at Chamorro.com on the controversy surrounding a proposed pozzolan mine on Pagan, Paganwatch. Pozzolan is a volcanic ash used as a strengthener to concrete and it is a primary ingredient in hydraulic cement, which hardens underwater. The deposits on Pagan are of high quality, far superior to commonly used fly ash, a waste product of coal burning.

Almost every story about Pagan in the local newspapers is referenced there, along with impact studies, proposals, letters, emails, and photos of the island. A treasure trove of material on the environmental damage the strip mine would cause and the meager financial returns for the CNMI. Paganwatch is against the strip mine for a number of reasons, and I must agree. The whole thing seems fishy. There is a long history of scams and shady deals perpetrated on Guam and the CNMI, crazy schemes that promise pennies from heaven and end up despoiling the land and squandering resources. This mining proposal looks like another one.