Monthly Archives: February 2005

Guam Museum In Trouble-Again

Remember the Guam Museum? Every couple years the deplorable state of the museum makes the rounds with the local media. Every couple years people are shocked at the conditions and the lack of funding. Well, it’s time again for a round of stories. KUAM’s got a story, so does the PDN. The angle this time is how the ancestral landowners are evicting the museum from a decommissioned barracks at Tiyan unless they come up with $54,000. Of course this is happening at the same time the Attorney General is getting his butt tossed out of the courthouse, so it makes for a good story. It certainly highlights the failings of GovGuam, despite the governor’s assertion that everything is just rosy.

Guam Museum faces eviction, too
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Variety News Staff
IT looks like the Attorney General’s office has a company in misery – the Guam Museum – which would be homeless soon unless it gets money either for rent payment or for relocation cost.

Anthropologists and archaeologists are appealing to the government to help the Guam Museum rescue the artifacts and other historical items that are stored in a Tiyan building, which currently houses the museum’s administration office and storage facility.

The Guam Museum has been holding office rent-free at an old barracks in Tiyan since 1996, when the US government turned over to the Guam government the property previously used by the US Navy. In December 2003, the Department of Ancestral Lands returned the properties to the original landowners.

The deed of the property being occupied by the Guam Museum is under the name of Francisco Santos Camacho, whose heirs have notified Museum director Tony Palomo about their intention to re-possess the property.

“For a long time, we never received any notice from anyone or any agency regarding this building. No one told us to move out until we got a letter three weeks ago from a representative of the estate of Francisco Santos Camacho telling us about re-assumption of the property,” Palomo said.

Palomo said the property claimants had informed him that his office owed them rent dues for 13 months, covering the period from the date that they were re-awarded the land deed.

“They were charging us $4,000 a month, which would have a total of $54,000 for the 13-month rent dues that they were trying to collect,” Palomo said.

He said the letter “doesn’t mention anything about eviction, but I’m sure that if we don’t pay the rent, that’s where it will lead.”

The Museum gets a share of less than $3,000 from the Department of Chamorro Lands’ $800,000 annual budget. It doesn’t have appropriated funds for rent since the Museum has not been made to pay the rent. It doesn’t even have enough budget to hire a curator, Palomo said. He said the museum has employees and assistants who do not have technical expertise in maintaining a museum.

Dr. Rosalinda Hunter-Anderson, an archaeologist and senior partner at Micronesian Archaeological Research Services, laments the current condition of the historical artifacts at the storage facility, which is not even properly air-conditioned.

“We deposit artifacts at the museum but they are not taking care of them,” Hunter-Anderson said. “They are perishable materials.”

She also laments the lack of professional staff who have expertise in museum work. “So it’s a double negative,” Hunter-Anderson said. “This is an embarrassment for Guam. CNMI has a lovely museum. They have a system for sectioning. They have a curator. Guam doesn’t have any of that.”

She added that “it’s about time our politicians, who just give lip service to respecting the culture, step up and do something.”

Dr. Gary Heathcote of the University of Guam’s Anthropology Resource and Research Center said he has asked the private sector to assist the Museum in resolving what “seems like a crisis situation.” Heathcote had asked UOG to accommodate the Museum be he said university could not find a space there either.

He suggested the vacant Hakubotan Building near the ITC Building in Tamuning could be a good relocation site. “That’s a big building that’s been empty. I don’t know what their plans are for that building and it would be a fine thing if we can step in temporarily,” Heathcote said.

Palomo said he has requested the Attorney General’s Office to review the estate heir’s claim. Attorney General Douglas Moylan said Assistant Attorney General has received the request for legal opinion, but is not likely to attend to it anytime soon due to the office space crisis that his own office is dealing with.

Palomo said he is banking on the help of the Department of Public Works, which he said has began scouting for a relocation site for the Museum. Museum employees have begun boxing up some of the items in preparation for the possible eviction.
–Marianas Variety, Friday February 25, 2005

Basically the museum is treated like the red-headed step child of GovGuam. The Hakubotan Building mentioned in the article was occupied by some GovGuam agency for a couple years when plenty of government own property was available – one of those sweetheart deals that everybody forgets so quickly. Kind of like how the governor relocated his staff into the PDN building and got FEMA to foot the bill for a year. Hell, the Attorney General got $250,000 this weekend to move into government offices at Adelup. With the government of Guam it is a question of whoever screams the loudest gets the quick fix of cash. It seems like there is a systemic inability to forecast, budget and plan within GovGuam. Everything is allowed to decay into a state of crisis, some emergency funds are thrown at the problem to make it go away and then things start collapsing again.

Samuel L. Jackson, Jedi Master

Saw a clip today about how the last of the Star Wars movies is coming out in May, and how Samuel L. Jackson has a glorious death in the movie. That got me thinking about a great email that was making the rounds back when that first episode came out in 1999: Samuel L. Jackson, Jedi Master

Samuel L. Jackson is playing a Jedi Master in the new Star Wars prequels. The TOP 10 Things We Want To Hear Samuel L. Jackson’s Character “Jedi Master Mace Wendu” Say in the Star Wars Prequels are:

10. You don’t need to see my goddamn identification, ’cause these ain’t the motherfuckin’ droids you’re looking for.

9. Womp rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’ll never know, ’cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy motherfuckers.

8. This is your father’s lightsaber. When you absolutely, positively have to kill every motherfuckin’ stormtrooper in the room… accept no substitutes.

7. If Obi-wan ain’t home then I don’t know what the fuck we’re gonna do. I ain’t got no other connections on Tattooine.

6. Feel the Force, motherfucker.

5. “What” ain’t no planet I ever heard of! Do they speak Bocce on What?

4. You sendin’ the Fett? Shit, Hutt, that’s all you had to say!

3. Yeah, Chewie Rocky Horror’s got a hair problem. What the brother gonna do? He’s a wookie.

2. Does Jabba the Hutt look like a bitch?

1. Hand me my lightsaber… it’s the one that says, “Bad Mother Fucker.”

That one still kills me.

The Long Fall

The power failed last night for several hours, a far to typical event for Guam. Usually these blackouts are the result of major transmission lines blowing or one of the base load generators shutting down, causing large swaths of the island to embrace darkness. Last night’s electricus interruptus was extremely sporadic. My street went dark, the next block north did not. About a quarter mile up the street the video store was dark, but the main village of Yoña was brightly lit. Pago Bay, the site of Tuesday’s fatal car crash, was as dark as Dick Cheney’s soul. Yet it was business as usual in Chalan Pago and Hagåtña.

The darkness and quiet turned my mind onto a nihilistic path. I found myself thinking about the end of the world, the decline and fall of civilization. I think most people would confess to a morbid fascination with this subject. A giant asteroid striking the planet, an atomic war, some virulent plague, maybe an alien invasion, catastrophic climate change, or even zombies walking the earth, you name it. We all have a secret affinity for annihilation. Fifty years under the very real threat of nuclear holocaust has primed our collective psyche to expect annihilation.

Fire and Ice

SOME say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
–Robert Frost, Harpers’ Magazine, December 1920

Too bad the world will end in neither fire nor ice. The end will not come in some fiery apocalypse. Even if civilizations collapse, life goes on, a smaller, leaner shadow of its former glory. The terrible events of 9/11 did not cause our civilization to collapse, however much al Qaeda would like to imagine that the destruction of two skyscrapers portends the downfall of Western Civilization.

A Roman in 476 A.D. didn’t realize that the world of classical antiquity had just fallen into the Dark Ages; things just got worse and worse and ordinary people struggled and survived. Historians drew that line in the sand, marking the close of one era and the dawn of another. So Romulus Agustulus was deposed by a Gothic king, Odovacar still took the title of emperor and things continued along much as they had before. To the people alive at that time summer faded into autumn, the days got shorter and snow fell, and in the spring of 477 A.D. people continued sowing their fields, firing their pots, weaving their clothes and knowing they were still Roman citizens.

I expressed these ideas before. David will perhaps remember sitting out on my balcony after Typhoon Pongsona in December 2002. I was in a dark mood that day, and under the dark skies we sat while I tried to tell him how the world will end not with a bang, but with a whimper. What we experienced on Guam in December 2002 was just a taste of what the world will experience. After the typhoon the power and water were out, usual conditions for a major typhoon. The real crippler after Pongsona was the fuel shortage brought on by a massive fire at the port. The island was without gasoline for almost two weeks and life ground to a standstill.

In my glowering, frustrated state, I told David how I am certain the collapse of our civilization will resemble the deterioration of conditions on Guam. The power will go out more often, usually for days at a time. It will become impossible for most people to drive their cars, with only emergency vehicles and the very wealthy in cars. The rest of us will ride around on the bus, walk, or ride bicycles. Local foods will become important again, as people realize the idiocy of shipping strawberries from Chile to New York. And we will accept these things, and some will label them improvements. And we will slowly withdraw from what we once were. When the power goes out people won’t riot in the streets, they will just go to bed earlier.

This is all leading me back to an essay I read recently. Slow Crash discusses these very ideas, and suggests that Western Civilization has already peaked. It is an intriguing thesis, which touches on many of the same ideas I mention above. Taking it a step further, the essay concludes with some possible scenarios that will develop during this long, slow collapse, from mass starvation to virulent disease. It is an interesting read, and will provide something to think about next time the lights go out.

A Solar Tower Of Power

In the Australian outback, a solar tower of power is getting ready to rise. EnviroMission Limited plans to build a gigantic solar power station, with a 1,000 meter chimney called a solar tower as the linchpin in their design. They hope to create a 200 megawatt power station with zero emissions.

The solar tower is exceedingly simple and based on an age old fact; hot air rises. An enormous cylindrical tower is built in a sunny location with an immense solar collector at its base. This skirt is a 25,000 acre translucent skirt which heats the air underneath it. The air is funneled into the solar tower, heat rises after all, and a series of wind turbines convert the constantly moving air into electricity. The hotter it gets, the faster the updraft and the more electricity produced. EnviroMission hopes to abate almost 900,000 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere annually.

The concept was tested over twenty years ago and found to be feasible but abandoned during the era of cheap oil. Now with oil solidly over $50 a barrel, the idea is suddenly attracting renewed interest. EnviroMission has purchased 25,000 acres of outback station, and construction of the solar tower is expected to commence in 2006.

Gonzo Fusillade

Looks like the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson will be shot from a cannon if relatives get their wish.

If the Thompson job were his, (fireworks impresario) Williams said, he would probably blast the ashes from a 12-inch-diameter mortar 800 feet into the sky. Then a second, window-rattling blast would scatter them amid a blossom of color 600 feet across.

Cool. That’ll be a hell of way to exit this earth.

Unintelligent Design

There’s a good essay in the newest New York Times Magazine about intelligent design. Unintelligent Design looks at life’s many imperfections and poor design choices. Instead of looking for a supreme being, an intelligent designer, these flaws in the way life is organized point to evolution, and the conservation of resources in biological organisms. An excellently reason response to the Bible thumpers who are challenging science education across the nation.

Local New Roundup

Time for another tour through the local headlines. Since the PDN has gone tightass on their content, I will be using KUAM’s story archive from now on. At least somebody in the local media gets it.

  • I watched somebody die today. An accident happened moments before I passed through Pago Bay this morning. It was gruesome.
  • George Bush Sr. pops in again, Governor Camacho gets ignored. George Bush Sr. was on Guam briefly today, returning from his trip through tsunami stricken South Asia. It was priceless watching George Bush Sr. ignore Felix Camacho in the video shown on KUAM. They shook hands, said hello, then Bush turned and walked away with the ComNavMar Rear Admiral Johnson. Felix was caught on tape running after them, looking like “Hey! Guys! Wait for me!” It was pretty funny.
  • Haim Habib pleads no contest in teenage sex case. He will pay a fine, do some community service, and get placed on the sex offender registry. And that’s the end of that.
  • Santa Rita man caught passing funny money at gas station. There’s been a rash of counterfeit money in Agat and Santa Rita lately. This guy says he won the money in a cockfight.
  • Ancient gravesite dug up in Tumon by plumbers. Guess they found the source of that clogged drain pipe.
  • Governor goes insane, or at least he has no grasp of reality. I don’t know what Felix Camacho is smoking, but I want some of that shit. Things a long way from rosy on island, but if things are looking up, you can be sure the Democrats are trying to say it was because of them.

Ship Ahoy

Stopped in at the Oka Payless this evening to pick up some milk and I was amazed at the sheer number of sailors milling around in the store and parking lot, buying beer and bottles of booze. Driving down Camp Watkins and Marine Drive I passed more sailors.

“Must be a ship in port,” I thought.

Call me psychic. The USS Carl Vinson is in Guam for a port of call.

Liberty Bus…

A Lost Roman Legion In Ancient China?

A couple Sunday’s ago I was flipping through the channels on my TV, looking for something interesting. Once again the Discovery Channel came through in spades.

I caught about 45 minutes of a documentary about evidence of an ancient Roman battalion setting up a city in ancient China. It boggled my mind to think about such a possibility.

The story in a nutshell involves a Roman legion captured by the Parthians in 53 BC, at the battle of Carrhae. The Parthians routed the Romans and captured 10,000 hoplites in the battle. In 20 BC, the emperor Augustus signed a peace treaty with the Parthians and the emblems and insignia of the captured legions were returned to Rome, but the Parthians maintained that there were no prisoners to repatriate. The fate of those Romans remained a mystery.

Parthians routinely transferred enemies from one end of their empire to the other, using them as mercenaries against implacable foes. Far from home, the soldiers were redeployed against the Huns in Turkmenistan. The Roman historian Plinius suggests this was the fate of the lost legion.

A tantalizing correlation to Plinius was hypothesized in 1955 by the historian Homer Dubs. He discovered in the annals of the Han dynasty an account of the capture of a city near Tashkent the Chinese called Zhizhi in 36 BC. The Chinese found it remarkable that a city in the desert was protected by a double wooden palisade of stout tree trunks, and the stiff defense provided by the garrison of this frontier city. Especially notable was a formation the defenders created at the city gates, which the Chinese described as a fishscale. Dubs inferred that the fishscale formation referred to the testudo, the interlocking shields of a Roman phalanx, covering the bodies of the front row of soldiers and over the heads of the succeeding rows of men. In addition, wooden palisades were a standard practice for Roman castra, but unknown to either the Parthians or the residents of Bactria where the siege took place.

The fighting prowess of these warriors impressed the Chinese mightily; after taking the city of Zhizhi they enlisted these men in the Chinese army and brought them further east. By imperial decree these men founded a city name Li-Jien (the Chinese name for imperial Rome). Dubs identified Li-Jien as the village of Zhelaizhai, on the Silk Road not far from Lanzhou. Excavations at the site uncovered Roman pottery and coins, hoists of a Roman design, and the skeletons unusually tall and long limbed for ancient Chinese. The modern population of Zhelaizhai supposedly exhibits Caucasian traits – though the fellows featured in the Discovery program looked like Han Chinese to me, despite their protestations of Roman heritage. However, the city lies along the Silk Road, a continental byway for migrations for two millennia, so it is certainly probable that there was a fair degree of mixing of populations.

So was the ancient garrison of Li-Jien the remnants of a Roman legion captured in Turkey? The evidence is far from conclusive, but the idea certainly captures the imagination. A Roman legion encamped along the Silk Road, literally on the other side of the world from the Mediterranean Sea. It certainly captivated the local residents, who built a Roman pavilion and hope to capture some tourist dollars on this classical link.

The Silk Road

The New Battlestar Galactica

Okay, I’ll admit it, I must be a SF geek. I have found the new Battlestar Galactica series on the SciFi Channel and it is good. The new Galactica is a far cry from the hokey television series starring Lorne Green and Dirk Benedict. I watched the original series when I was a kid, and I thought it was hokey nonsense back then. I particularly hated the ‘crash landing of the week’ mentality, with Apollo and Starbuck alternately crashing down on some remote planet that looked like a backlot in Hollywood, complete with Old West town and a population of Gunsmoke refugees. And I still chuckle when I think about the time they crash landed in Central Park, met Wolfman Jack, and a Cylon ended up at a costume party where he was damaged by a microwave oven. Man, that was just insanely bad. And what was the deal with the little boy and his robot dog? That just sucked.

The new series is grittier, and the characters are fleshed out in more detail. Instead of the standard television model of stand along episodes, Battlestar Galactica follows a long story arc through the course of the season. This is not surprising since the series creator and writers all worked on Deep Space Nine, a Star Trek series that forged a compelling story arc through its final two seasons. In this reimagined series the characters all have their personal demons, crucial flaws and private secrets. Battlestar Galactica features romance, deception, betrayal and a nascent insurrection amongst the refugees, not to mention the implacable Cylons bent on destruction. The plotting is tight, the characters compelling, the special effects shots are brief but quite good, and the camera work full of tight shots and quick cuts creates tension. It makes for a taut hour of television.

Television shows reflect their times, and this Galactica is strongly influenced by the post 9/11 world. The Cylons look like humans now, and sleeper agents are liberally placed amidst the citizens in the rag-tag fleet. They represent an obvious analog with the terrorist sleeper cells thought to infiltrate American society. The president of the Colonies was a former secretary of education, 43rd in line of succession. Is it a coincidence that George W. Bush is the 43rd president of the United States? Battlestar Galactica is retelling our story on the canvas of science fiction.