Monthly Archives: February 2006

Liquid Death

Look in the mirror peopleMother Jones magazine features an excellent series of reports on the death of the world’s oceans this month. Global warming, overfishing, pollution; we are fouling the waters that sustain all life on the planet. The oceans are under threat from a myriad of stresses, all caused by human activities. It is a depressing situation. It mostly reiterates the Pew Oceans Commission report from 2003, which is a profoundly depressing document to read. Makes me want to never eat sushi again.

What I don’t think people realize is the true nature of this threat to the natural world. Environmentalists and green politicians make it sound like we are destroying life on this planet. That is just hubris; what we are doing is making it impossible for us to live on this planet. It might take millions of years for evolution to repopulate the planet with multilayered ecosystems, but life will continue after we manage to destroy ourselves and most other species. One of those Mother Jones articles made an interesting point. NASA is currently searching space looking for ‘killer asteroids’ that might cause mass extinctions if they collide with earth. The asteroid has already struck the planet and thousands of species are dying. We are that asteroid. We need to face ourselves in the mirror and realize we are the cause of this problem, and ultimately we are only destroying ourselves. Nature doesn’t care if we live or die, it simply shuffles the genetic deck and tries again in another 10 million years.

Yurts Away

My chakra needs realigning; I think this place does the full 14 point chakra alignment and balancing.

Naw, this resort actually sounds pretty damn cool. I wouldn’t mind checking it out – check out the view they have from those yurts!

Carnival

Hard to believe it’s Mardi Gras already. Spoke to my parents yesterday and they were talking about how St. Louis is hoping for a big Mardi Gras crowd this year because of the inundation of New Orleans. Whatever. I’m sure the drunks will be out in force tomorrow night.

In related Carnival news, thieves took off with a collection of artworks by Monet, Picasso, Dali and Matisse from a museum in Rio last Friday. They were able to escape amongst the throngs of revelers partying in the streets of the city. Been a week of daring heists actually. Must be something in the February air.

More On The Philippines

Sounds like Arroyo is clamping down in the Philippines. She’s been busy shutting down opposition newspapers and rounding up the insubordinate generals. It’s a sticky situation, crushing this coup attempt, declaring a state of emergency, suspending civil rights, making widespread arrests and suppressing dissent to remain in power. It makes me very uneasy about the future of democracy in the Philippines.

Bouncing around looking for Philippines stories, I came across another type of story about the Philippines. It’s a story that is all too familiar, and one that has a special resonance to me. It’s about the young people caught up in the sex trade in Angeles City. Let’s just say this right up some people’s alley for a certain demographic here on Guam. Give it a read.

Ukiyo-e Sunday

Almost forgot my weekly scan and post. Here’s a small little piece I like.

Illustration from Ehon Mushi Erami (Book of Insects)
Kitagawa Utamaro, Illustration from Ehon Mushi Erami (Book of Insects), 1788.

What To Read

The Guardian ran a story late last month about what English writers suggested every child should read. The British poet laureate set a high standard, including Joyce’s Ulysses, Paradise Lost, and Don Quixote. Others were more pragmatic, with JK Rowling pushing Roald Dahl’s books along with the typical school fare of To Kill a Mockingbird, Wuthering Heights and Hamlet.

Here’s the full list of writers and their recommendations.

I’m Game

Been meaning to mention this for awhile now: Check out this great web based game, the Tulse Luper Journey. I found the site through the excellent weblog Jay Is Games, which carries links and reviews of all sorts of online games and stuff. It’s all good.

Anyway, the Tulse Luper Journey is an offbeat and engaging game. Players follow Luper’s journey through 20th century history, collecting suitcases he left behind. Luper was kind of like Zelig, he appears in various places and moments in history. The game is some sort of tie in to a new series of Peter Greenaway films. In a way, it reminds me of the ‘footage’ elements in Pattern Recognition, William Gibson’s latest novel.

Friday Night Links

It’s Friday night, and it looks like I won’t be doing any of those things I mentioned earlier. C’est la vie. Here’s some interesting links I read this past week though; let me mention them here and I will clear off some tabs in my browser.

  • Out of Egypt – Since I’ve been fixated on mummies and ancient Egypt lately, here’s an interesting story about ancient Egypt, museums and my hometown. Seems the St. Louis Art Museum purchased a Nineteenth Dynasty funerary mask in the mid-nineties from some shady art dealers. The provenance of the the mask is sketchy, to say the least. If it is stolen antiquities, then UNESCO and Egypt would be rather eager to repatriate the mask. Is it? Isn’t it? Read the article and decide.
  • Unintelligent Design – Discover Magazine’s March issue has a great story about advances in virology. It looks like viruses, long considered degenerate bits of molecules that were not alive (the discoverer of viruses won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, not biology) are actually far older and more important than traditionally thought. The story centers on the amazingly large Mimivirus isolated in a Marseilles laboratory. Mimivirus is as large as simple bacteria and is much more complex than any previously known virus. It points the way towards a radical idea; that viruses are the primary movers and instigators of life on the planet, containing most of the planet’s genetic diversity. Life could have started with viruses in the primordial stew, and it seems possible that all higher forms of life beyond bacteria owe their existence to viral DNA.
  • The Future of Science – Speaking about science, Live Science interviewed physicist and author Alan Lightman recently. The topics discussed included the future direction of science, teaching science to non-scientists and literature to scientists (a great list of books by the way), and the periodic cycles of popular opinion towards science. We might be at a low point in the cycle right now, with all this intelligent design business, doubts about global warming and stem cell research, but historically low points are followed by a resurgence in scientific principles and credibility. It can’t come soon enough if you ask me.
  • Philippines Revolution Fails to Live Up to Promise – In an amazingly prescient piece, NPR’s All Things Considered ran a story yesterday about the impending 20th anniversary of the Philippines People Power revolution that ousted Ferdinand Marcos. The gist of the radio story focused on how two decades along the country is still mired in poverty and corruption, and popular sentiment is at an all time low against current president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Rumors are rampant that another coup is in the works and sure enough, around 5:00 pm this afternoon I read that Arroyo declared a state of emergency in the country after a coup attempt was foiled by the army.

Test Via Email

It’s been a long while since I tried posting via email, but let’s give it a shot.

I read an interesting piece on Alternet by Jay Walljasper, formerly of Utne Magazine, about designing cities that are more amenable to pedestrian traffic. For millennia cities were designed for foot traffic, but the last few decades of automobiles have transformed the urban landscape. But there is a movement afoot to change all that with urban pedestrian corridors, increased parklands and to shift the focus of downtown areas from shopping space to living space.

**Update – No, it doesn’t really work all that well from email. It works, but it looks like crap and needs editing to be presentable. I guess I’ll keep using Ecto or the Blog This! bookmarklet. This email option sucks.

On Tap

  • Museum Fundraiser at Marriott – Three possible designs for the new Guam Museum will be unveiled at the Guam Marriott this evening in a fundraiser for the museum. Tickets are $50, and doors open at 6:00 pm tonight. The PDN has pictures of all three designs in today’s paper for those short $50 (like me).
  • Poetry Slam in Agaña – $100 to the best poem read tonight at Buzz Cafe in Hagåtña. Competition starts at 9:00 pm. Sounds cool, I might check this out.

Now That’s A Cave

Wow! This humongous cave in South America makes Pagat Cave look downright silly. It was just discovered in the remote interior of Venezuela and is called Cueva del Fantasma, or the cave of the ghost.

View from inside Cueva del Fantasma, Aprada tepui, Venezuela
Take a good look at that picture. Look at the cave floor. Those two little things beside the pool are helicopters. They flew two helicopters into this cave.

Blob Rises Beneath Downtown Los Angeles

Could this be real? Where’s Steve McQueen when you need him? The Los Angeles Daily News reported that a gigantic blob of tarry, black ooze welled up from underground on Monday, bubbling out of manholes, buckling pavement and actually shifting the foundation of an apartment building. Hot, bubbling tar caused the evacuation of the street as is poured through cracks in the pavement, turning the street into a black lagoon.

Apparently the location used to be an oil field, and the St. James Oil Co. was working a couple blocks away to extract leftover crude oil in the ground. The oil company injected high pressure steam into the ground to loosen the oil deposits. When the fire department ordered them to stop, the bulging pavement subsided, though residents of the apartment building were not allowed to return home until building inspectors could inspect it and declare it safe.

Pacific Visions

So I was a little dismayed to find this story about cargo cults on the Smithsonian Magazine’s website. I think it is a little depressing in the 21st century for a major magazine devoted to science, education and the arts to fall back on the hoary chestnuts of simple, backward islanders waiting for the Americans to return in makeshift uniforms. The tone of the article is shockingly paternalistic, and though it does get better in the final third of the story, it still tosses out plenty of nuggets that were stale on Gilligan’s Island forty years ago.

On a brighter note, I revisited the excellent Pacific Worlds website on Monday, looking for some information on Inarajan and Talofofo Falls. It’s a wonderful site, check it out.

Oh yeah, the radio thing went off without a hitch. Josie’s got the whole thing covered over at Latitude 13. Thanks Dave, Javon and Josie; I enjoyed it last night.

One Bright Idea

A bright ideaKenny Luna, an eighth grade teacher on Long Island, has come up with a very bright idea. He wants to get compact fluorescent light bulbs into the hands of every child in America to help reduce energy consumption. According to his predictions if all 50 million kids across the country install their light bulbs over $2.3 billion could be saved in energy costs. He’s trying to get Oprah to popularize his idea, and he wants everybody to help.

I switched pretty much all my light bulbs over to compact fluorescents several years ago and I’ve had no problems with them. Not a single bulb has burned out in five years, though one did break spectacularly in a drunken brawl a few years ago. But its replacement is still going strong. As the last few incandescent bulbs burn out I will replace them with more fluorescents. Sure they cost a little more than regular bulbs, but they never seem to wear out. And Kenny Luna figures each compact fluorescent bulb saves $46 in energy costs over a regular incandescent. Seems like a bright idea to me too.

New World Order

Monday evening I went into town and caught Terrence Malick’s latest movie, The New World. My anticipation level was high, I’ve been waiting for this film for several months now, and I doubted it would ever make it to our little corner of the planet. But it arrived last Friday, and I duly marched off to the theater on Monday’s holiday for a viewing.

So how did I like it? Well, it’s all Malick; long shots, voice overs, little plot. Don’t go expecting action or much dialogue. The New World is a tone poem on America’s past, a moment lost in time, a moment when the future hung in the balance for good or ill. There is a sense of wonder in the English settlers, a sense of being set loose upon an Eden. And yet they promptly set about recreating their Old World in the new one. In a word; the film is elegiac.

This movie is a visual experience, and it’s best to just let the images wash over you. I’ll probably go watch it a second time later this week, mainly because I was so darn cold in the theater I was actually shivering. I’ll be sure to wear a sweater and long pants next time so I won’t have to escape outside to warm myself.

Bad Fish Off Cocos

And I’m not talking about that trigger fish that took a chunk out of your skull, Wes. Both KUAM and PDN report that dangerously high levels of PCB’s were found in fish and sediment collected in Cocos Lagoon. The suspected source of the chemicals is a long dismantled Coast Guard installation on Cocos Island. The levels of PCB’s in the fish were 265 times higher than acceptable EPA guidelines, and the soil samples were a whopping 4900 times higher than recommended levels.

What that means is a cancer risk that normally is about one in a million has increased to about one in a thousand, based on the preliminary levels of PCBs found in Cocos Lagoon fish, said Alex Soto, administrator of environmental monitoring and analytical services at Guam EPA.

One in a thousand? Wow, that’s a pretty darn high rate of incidence. Makes me rather leery of eating local fish.

This is only the latest in a series of environmental mishaps caused by Guam’s military installations. There is a similar problem with PCB’s in Mongmong. PCB’s are associated with electrical equipment and the Navy had a power plant in Mongmong until 1995 that used PCB’s as a cooling agent. Fish caught off Agat and Orote Point are contaminated with PCB’s too, the result of chemicals leaching from the Navy’s Orote Point Landfill. And of course the latest brouhaha over the Tiyan housing now includes environmental warnings about lead paint and asbestos in the houses turned over to ancestral landowners. Of course the problem is not isolated to military activities; Guam’s history of military occupation simply makes the armed forces the most likely culprit in environmental cleanups.

AAAHHH!!!

AAAHHH!!!AAAHHH!!! Watch out Guam!

Well it looks like I’m going to be on the radio tonight, talking about the Guam, the environment and my website. Josie asked me if I was interested a couple weeks ago and I agreed. Josie and I will be on the Where We Live radio show with Dave Lotz (of Boonie Stomp fame) from seven until eight tonight.

I’m looking forward to it, and the opportunity to take my propaganda to a new medium. Everybody knows you take over the radio stations first in any coup attempt. It’s one more step in my path to global conquest.

Be sure to listen in, either on the radio or via streaming webcast from K57.