Friday, December 23, 2005
ACCORDING to a recent article in Marianas Variety, PSS and the Board of Education are giving two MHS staff an all-expenses paid excursion to the nation’s capital, spending over $8,500 in only two days (not including flight time, layovers, stopovers, etc.).
I’m puzzled how two lower-level employees of the CNMI government are authorized to blow through that much cash on a, here comes a bad word, JUNKET (because that’s what it is, right?) when even our very own governor is cutting back on these types of excursions (even though he did send the AG in his place).
I’m assuming the aforementioned employees are flying first-class, staying at a first class hotel (let’s say, the Watergate) and traveling to and from the convention via chauffeured limo. For $8,500 they better bring back a heck of a lot of souvenirs, seeing as their spending money runs to $1,350 — EACH — per day! Sweet grandmother’s spatula! That’s a lot of “I (heart) DC” T-shirts! And a whole lot of mini-Lincoln Memorials and White House postcards, too!
Here’s a revolutionary idea — BUDGET the trip! Whoa! You mean actually fly coach, stay at a youth hostel, and experience DC’s fine Metro subway system? And while they’re at it forgo the champagne and caviar and actually EAT AT SUBWAY! Or Mickey D’s; you get the point. Basically, they’d only rack up around $4,000. Can’t be done? Or can it? If they really have to, they can sell plate lunches on Beach Road or do car washes, that sort of thing. Like other school groups do to raise funds for off-island trips. And give the money back to PSS to buy books, school supplies, that sort of thing. Maybe remit some payments to their vendors.
Better yet, give me the $8,500. I’ll spend it RIGHT HERE ON SAIPAN. You see, I have not had a full-time job in 6 months (what’s referred to in today’s job market as “long-term unemployment”) and could use that $8,500 (or the balance of $4,500 saved by the counselors flying coach) to pay for rent, my car loan, groceries, gas, utilities etc. I’ll personally account for every penny of it, too. I might eat at Subway myself.
March 18, 2005
I AM writing to respond to the letter by Rick Vaughn last week, which criticized a trip taken by two PSS employees to Washington, D.C. He imagined that they flew first class, stayed at the Watergate Hotel, and rode in a chauffeured limousine to the conference.
In reality, they flew coach on the approximately 12 hour flight from Narita to Detroit and then on to D.C. They stayed at the Days Inn, and they rode the Metro bus and the subway.
I know this because I know the people who took the trip and talked to one of them. I also called PSS central office and had it confirmed by the acting commissioner.
The trip was federally funded, and the CNMI was required to send staff as part of the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind initiative.
I hope Mr. Vaughn, who seems to have a vivid imagination and a lot of time on his hands, will do his own fact checking before writing any more fanciful letters to the editor.
VICKI KING TAITANO
Capitol Hill, Saipan
March 22, 2005
YOU stated in your letter that I seem to have a fanciful imagination and a lot of time on my hands.
I think my imagination is no more fanciful than those who believe that because something is “federally funded” (and what isn’t, here in the CNMI?) means that it’s free money to do with whatever they want. Many people here on these islands disparage the federal government and hate the idea of paying taxes but that is exactly where all these “federal funds” come from. After my letter appeared in the Variety (and Tribune) last week many people approached me, telling me that they agreed 100 percent.
“Locals,” too, and plenty of ‘em. Now, I may not be “local,” as my friend Jim Davies put it the other day in his letter, but still have mouths to feed and bills to pay. Something in me tells me that these “federal funds” could be better spent instead of being pocketed or fed into poker machines. I know for a fact that the people who write these federal grants (where the funds are requested from the Bush administration in D.C.) do not actually see the fruit of their efforts. And I’m not sure the students at MHS will, either.
If you actually believe what someone told you over the phone from PSS Central Office, then I can believe what they told me through the Variety from the very same office. Maybe I’m not the only one with a fanciful imagination. Or maybe I’m just being a realist. If you believe I have too much time on my hands, help me get a job.
March 24, 2005
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
...if you're going to see only one bio-pic this season, make sure it's Good Night, and Good Luck. It probably won't win any Oscar nominations, at least not for its actors, but it's a finely wrought piece of work. David Strathairn stars as the famous radio/tv journalist Edward R. Murrow. But rather than cover his entire life or even the more famous London years, the film focuses exclusively on his confrontation with Senator Joe McCarthy in 1953-4. Shot in gorgeous black-and-white, Good Night evokes the feel of what it was like to be involved in the early days of television: the live shows, the 1950s subtext, the feeling that you were in uncharted waters and almost making it up as you went along. You could create prime-time, hard-hitting journalism and turn right around and do soft interviews with celebrities of questionable importance. The latter is represented by a hilarious interview Murrow did with Liberace ("So, have you given any thought to getting married?"), but the focus is on Murrow and Fred Friendly's ground-breaking show "See It Now."
George Clooney, who not only directs and stars as Friendly, also co-wrote the script with actor Grant Heslov, and they make the brilliant decision to let Murrow's words stand on their own. So many scenes are just Strathairn, who's always had a quiet intensity about him, reciting segments of "See It Now." But Clooney and Heslov have chosen monologues that resonate far beyond 1953. We hear Murrow decry the fear-mongering of McCarthy and the consequent curtailing of civil liberties. We see Murrow question the falseness of men who are hiding behind patriotism and piety in order to ruin the lives of people who disagree with them. And we hear Murrow denounce those who would use the pretext of Communism to grab and exercise power in un-Constitutional ways. It's clear that Clooney wants to rebuke both the current Bush administration as well as the largely docile press. But he doesn't let the audience off the hook, either. The movie opens and closes with segments of a speech Murrow made in 1958 in which he foretold the power of television to lead its viewers to escapism and to insulate them from the realities of life. He warns his audience to be on their guard. What would he think of us today?Good Night, and Good Luck is a film that resonates so strongly that it's difficult to judge in its own time. I have little doubt that North Country and Capote will receive their Oscar praise and then quickly slip into the video store aisle with other unimportant works that leave nary a mark. But we might not know the full impact or quality of Clooney's film for several years. I do know, though, that it is staggeringly relevant and one of the most important films of the year.
-The Phantom Tollbooth
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The contamination after an accident at a chemical plant is expected to pass through Harbin on the Songhua river for the next two days, officials said. Some schools and businesses have closed and flights out of Harbin are sold out. "Everyone wants to leave Harbin and it is very difficult to buy tickets," a factory manager told Reuters.
Benzene is a highly poisonous toxin that is also carcinogenic.
Chinese press critical
Fifteen hospitals have been placed on stand-by to cope with possible poisoning victims.
Officials are also on alert in Russian towns further down the river. More than 16,000 tons of drinking water is being brought into Harbin by road, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua said - though this is less than Harbin's residents normally use in a day.
The government initially said the stoppage would last four days, but a water company official has told the BBC there is no set timetable for the resumption of supplies. BBC Beijing correspondent Louisa Lim says residents of Harbin distrust government statements, having originally been told the stoppage was for routine maintenance.
The initial announcement of water stoppages led to panic buying of water and food, exhausting supermarket supplies and sending prices soaring. "The city was full of ridiculously large queues. People were buying water in massive quantities," English teacher Craig Hutchinson told the BBC News website. Other residents told the BBC they felt more inconvenienced than worried.
"I can say that we feel safe and fine. Even though people... may not be able to shower, at least they can drink and cook with good [bottled] water," hostel manager Yang Yan said.
Dangers of benzene:
*Colourless, highly flammable liquid distilled from petroleum
*Used as a cleaning agent, solvent, in dyes and paints
*Lethal to humans exposed to it in high levels
*Chronic exposure leads to progressive degeneration of bone marrow and leukaemia
The order to cut off the water comes after a 13 November explosion at a petrochemical plant in Jilin city, about 380km (230 miles) up the Songhua river from Harbin. Five people were reported to have been killed in the blast, and more than 60 injured. The explosion forced the temporary evacuation of some 10,000 residents, but people have since been allowed to return home.
The Beijing News showed pictures of dead fish washed up on the banks of the Songhua river near Jilin city, but the authorities said there was no sign that chemicals in the river had contaminated the water supply. The high levels of benzene were found upstream of Harbin, but the contaminated river water was expected to reach the city on Thursday morning and take two days to pass through. Officials insisted enough water would be brought in to meet the needs of residents.
Environmental officials in Russia said they were also monitoring the Amur river, which is fed by the Songhua and is the main water source for the city of Khabarovsk. Harbin is in China's north-east Heilongjiang province, and is one of the country's coldest cities, with overnight temperatures this week falling to -12C.
Are you in the area? Have you or anyone you know been affected by the decision to cut off the water supplies?
My son is an exchange student in Harbin. They have been told not to use the water for 10 days including showers, etc. Water from local wells are OK. All water is sold out, but fortunately, the locals haven't discovered Gatorade. Any confirmed details would be appreciated.
Charlie Goodrich, Lexington, MA, USA
At first glance, the Harbin city authorities look not candid enough towards the residents. However, compared with all the other cities along the Songhua river between Jilin and Harbin, all of which should have already been affected by the polluted river water and yet have been quiet on this, the Harbin city authorities are still doing a better job.
theo (Chinese national currently living in Singapore)
I am just waiting for any news on this. My sister is in Harbin teaching and sent me a flurry of disturbing emails- the most perturbing is that there is brown oily water that smells of urine coming out of her pipes. Also some officials have left the city where she is. She has yet to respond to my seven emails and I am eagerly awaiting any news. She also said that she believes that they have known about this water situation days before announcing it.
Kem Kramer , Toronto
I have my oldest brother who is currently working in Harbin, China. We contact him every couple of days and he has let us know of the devastation that is occurring due to there been no water. He has been told the shower he had the day before yesterday is the last one until the end of the week at the earliest. He lives with four other English boys, as they are all teachers working to teach Chinese children English. They had been told that there was no water but not given enough time to save clean water for them to live from. There seems to be a lot of anguish across the country but at least we know he is well so far. we just hope that the showers they all had when the chemicals went into the system will not harm them in any way.
Victoria Hutchinson, Redcar, England
Sunday, November 6, 2005
1) I've been working on CDs by Arsov and Split Attitude for release in the online store;
2) I just updated my page on myspace (finally, after much persuading!);
3) I just got a new job at a sales office for a messenger company in the Loop;
4) I have also been considering taking a part-time job in the evenings either at the book store or the record store I used to work at;
5) I have been invited to attend a wedding in Vietnam in February, and want to use the opportunity to research some ESL schools in Hong Kong while I'm in the neighborhood;
6) and just had a couple of really excellent homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Comments? Want a Gmail account? Lemme know.
7) Oh yeah, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe opens December 9th! Groovy!
Friday, October 14, 2005
"The space program is fine, but they should take care of us farmers first,'' said Li, 42, gazing into the sky above the Beijing vegetable market where she cycles every day with her husband and two children to sell leeks and other produce. "Life is really tough for us.''
China's Shenzhou-6 launch highlights the contradictions in a nation that is gaining economic, diplomatic and scientific clout while 200 million people of its people still live on less than $1 a day, according to World Bank 2004 estimates. It comes as the communist government also struggles to deal with a growing number of violent protests by its poorest citizens.
"China's space program represents its aspirations to become a superpower,'' said Laurence Brahm, a Beijing-based author and adviser to the Chinese government. "It's a symbol of nationalism, in a country that's facing a huge challenge to make the transition to a capitalist state.''
China in October 2003 became the third country after the U.S. and Russia to send a man into space, when astronaut Yang Liwei completed a 21-hour orbit. Shenzhou-6, which blasted off from the remote northwestern province of Gansu with two men aboard, is scheduled to spend five days aloft and will lay the ground for missions including a space laboratory and a moon landing.
China's government-controlled media yesterday gave saturation coverage to the launch. The English-language China Daily covered most of its front page with a photograph of astronauts Fei Junlong, 41, and Nie Haisheng, 40, walking to the launch pad, under the heading "A big step forward.''
Inside sections featured international reaction, biographies of the astronauts with pictures of their families, and primers on how they will eat, wash and work in space. The official Xinhua news agency even sent a report titled: "Deadly flatulence: how to excrete without risk in space?''
The space mission showcased China's technological prowess as finance ministers and from the U.S., Japan, Europe and elsewhere arrived for the Group of 20 nations meeting in Beijing this weekend. U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow and other leaders are expected to press China to let its currency gain and boost domestic consumption to help reduce trade imbalances, a measure of China's increasing importance to the global economy.
Two decades of economic growth averaging 9.5 percent a year have made the Asian nation the world's biggest consumer of commodities such as steel, cement and grain and the second- largest user of oil. China, the world's seventh-largest economy, has become its biggest producer of computers, mobile phones, televisions and other manufactured goods.
Those achievements have come at the cost of environmental degradation, corruption and a widening gap between cities and the countryside, where about 800 million of the nation's 1.3 billion population live. Average urban disposable incomes were 3.2 times those in rural areas last year, a gap that's widened from 1.9 times in 1978, according to Xinhua.
The number of mass protests in China increased to more than 74,000 last year from 10,000 in 1994, Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang said last month. Many disputes have been sparked by the seizure of peasants' land for urban development by corrupt local officials.
China is "confronted with increasingly acute potential social unrest caused by disparity in development and distribution, inequality, injustice, and corruption despite rapid economic progress,'' Xinhua said on Oct. 6, in an unusually frank assessment of the problems facing the country.
Eliminating social inequality will be a key priority for the Communist Party in the next five years, China's President Hu Jintao said at the annual meeting of Party leaders which ended on Tuesday, a day before the space launch.
"The government is under pressure to increase the quality of its growth,'' said Huang Yiping, China economist at Citigroup Inc. in Hong Kong. The government wants "growth that will be more environmentally friendly, and more fair in how wealth is distributed.''
Typical of this year's protests was a clash at Dingzhou village outside Beijing in July that left six farmers dead and 48 injured. The central government intervened, arresting more than 100 people, including local Communist Party Secretary He Fang and the Party Secretary of nearby Kaiyuan township Yang Jinkai.
"In China today, farmland can be seized any time by corrupt local Party officials for redevelopment,'' said Li Ping, Beijing chief representative for the Seattle-based Rural Development Institute, a non-government organization that advocates legal rights for the rural poor. "The key to resolving this crisis is to give land ownership rights back to farmers.''
Income disparities were further highlighted this week with the release of an annual list of China's richest people that showed the top 100 increased their wealth by more than 50 percent last year.
"Let's face it, a lot of rich people in China aren't there because of ability,'' said Howard Snyder, president of Beijing- based Great Leap Capital, a firm that advises foreign companies on buying distressed assets in China. "They got there because of connections. For instance, in real estate, many people got rich because they knew someone in the land bureau and got land cheap.''
Many of China's poor farmers may see their escape in moving to the nation's booming cities. The Li family rises at 5 a.m. every morning to cycle five miles into Beijing, not returning until 9 p.m. They make about 1,000 yuan ($123) a month.
"I want to go to Shenzhen or somewhere down south to work as a waitress or in a factory,'' said Li Na, 16, as she helped her mother sort lettuces. ``I don't want to do what my mom does. Life's too tough as a Chinese farmer.''-Bloomberg
Bob Dylan- No Direction Home (A Martin Scorsese film) DVD
The Bob Dylan Scrapbook, 1956-1966
The Bob Dylan Chronicles, Vol. 1
Bob Dylan - Limited Edition Catalog Box Set
(includes the following full titles: Another Side of Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde, Love & Theft, Blood on the Tracks, Nashville Skyline, Bringing it All Back Home, Oh Mercy, Desire, Planet Waves, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Slow Train Coming, Highway 61 Revisited, Street Legal, Infidels)
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
China has launched its second manned space mission in what analysts see as a bid by the Communist government to boost its prestige.
Following a countdown, the Shenzhou 6 spacecraft lifted off from a desert in northwestern China's Gansu province on a mission that officials say may go for five days.
With President Hu Jintao watching from Beijing, astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng started a journey that will have them orbiting 80 times around the world in their spacecraft, which is based largely on the design of the older Russian Soyuz models.
The launch reaffirms the Asian giant's place in space exploration. Only three nations have launched their own manned spacecraft. Chinese scientists conducted their first manned mission on October 23, 2003, when Colonel Yang Liwei circled the earth a few times - more than four decades after astronauts from the United States and the former Soviet Union had done so for the first time.
Observers see this as yet another effort by China's communist leaders to build their government's prestige. Independent space consultant James Oberg, a retired U.S. space engineer, says this and other launches will have a profound commercial and political value for the Chinese leadership.
"It enhances the value of every item of high technology that the Chinese intend to sell overseas," he explained. " It enhances the psychological value of every weapons system that China possesses or intends to sell overseas. And, it enhances every statement or promise and - I'm afraid to say - every threat that Chinese diplomats make overseas."
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, speaking at the launch site Wednesday, said his country intends to use its space program for peaceful purposes - a bid to ease international concerns that have arisen over China's rapid military buildup.
"China's space flight scientific experiments stem completely from the objective of peace, and are also a contribution to mankind's scientific study and the cause of peace," he said.
Analysts say the Chinese leadership hopes the space program will enhance the government's image at home, where the Communist party is struggling to remain relevant at a time when China is becoming more of a free market economy and less of a socialist society.
The launch of the Shenzhou 6 and its two astronauts came the morning after Communist Party leaders wrapped up a meeting in which they laid out a five-year plan for the development of China's economy.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Reporters Without Borders expressed concern at this latest turn of the screw in an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression.
"The Chinese authorities never seem to let up on their desire to regulate the Web and their determination to control information available on it ever more tightly,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“These new rules, announced with a fanfare by the official media, are certainly more intended to frighten Internet-users than to codify the use of the Net,” it said. “In fact there is nothing really new in these 11 commandments, which simply repeat that the party has the monopoly of the dissemination of information and that the media’s task is not to be objective but to relay state propaganda.
“These moves to filter the Internet are nevertheless a sign that the Internet frightens those in power, in particular during a period of ever greater social unrest. It’s noticeable that the only new elements in the text relate to banning the calling of strikes or gatherings though the Net,” it said.
The new rules, ordered by the state council information bureau and ministry of industry and information, are aimed at bringing into line all previous such edicts. According to the Chinese daily Beijing news (thebeijingnews.com), it contains 11 subjects forbidden to online editors.
They are banned from putting out news that :
violates the basic principles of the Chinese constitution :
endangers national security, leaks national secrets, seeks to overthrow the government, endangers the unification of the country ;
destroys the country’s reputation and benefits ;
arouses national feelings of hatred, racism, and endangers racial unification ;
violates national policies on religion, promotes the propaganda of sects and superstition ; [Reporters Without Borders note : More than 30 members of the spiritual Falungong movement are currently behind bars for posting news on the Internet]
diffuses rumours, endangers public order and creates social uncertainty ;
diffuses information that is pornographic, violent, terrorist or linked to gambling ;
libels or harms people’s reputation, violates people’s legal rights ;
includes illegal information bounded by law and administrative rules.
Two completely new bans have been added to the nine rules above :
It is forbidden to encourage illegal gatherings, strikes, etc to create public disorder ;
It is forbidden to organise activities under illegal social associations or organisations.
Websites that break these new rules will be shut down and those running them will have to pay a fine that could reach 30,000 yuans (3,000 euros).
Reporters Without Borders points out that 62 people are currently imprisoned in China for having posted articles on the Internet that the authorities deemed to be “subversive”.
The attack on Malaysian journalist Leu Siew Ying of the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and French journalist Abel Segretin of Radio France Internationale (RFI) took place on 7 October in the village of Tai shi in Pan yu district, in the southern province of Guang dong.
They went to Tai shi to investigate reports of corruption involving village leaders but were attacked outside the village by some 20 individuals who appeared to be thugs hired by the local authorities. Repeatedly punched and beaten on the back of their heads, they refused to comply with demands to surrender their identity papers until the police came.
“These mercenaries were furious when they discovered we were journalists,” Segretin told Reporters Without Borders. “Even the police feared these apparent gangsters and quickly drove us away, locking the doors of the car.” They were taken to a police station and were released soon afterwards. Both were very shaken by the experience.
The day before the incident, the Guang dong authorities had officially arrested Yang Maodong, a lawyer better known as Guo Fleixiong, who had been in custody for three weeks for “disturbing the peace” at a 13 September demonstration in Tai shi at which he called for the resignation of village leader Chen Jinshen for alleged embezzlement.
Among other things, Guo accused Chen of selling village land to construction companies without the permission of residents. Hundreds of armed police raided Tai shi the day after the demonstration and arrested dozens of villagers.
Reporters Without Borders called for the immediate release of Guo, who had posted many messages on websites such as the Chinese human rights site Peacehall and the online forum Yannan defending the rights of villagers who have been stripped of their land.
Among the Tai shi affair’s many repercussions on press freedom has been the closure of the Yannan online forum on 30 September.
Tai shi is now under a virtual state of siege, with residents being closely watched and banned from talking to journalists. Chinese journalists who tried to investigate found that their newspapers were told to reprint an article from a local newspaper that supposedly provides all “necessary information” and dismisses the allegations against Chen.
Monday, September 26, 2005
2. If there is a two-tier pricing system in your country, i.e. things cost differently for locals and foreigners
3. If men in your country wear Capri pants
4. If you have a Michael Schumacher poster in your house
5. If on your vehicle, you voluntarily display stickers advertising Coca Cola/Adidas/Nike, etc. without being compensated
6. If your watch is the most expensive thing you own
7. If you love going abroad because of the Duty Free shops
8. If Nescafe means “coffee” in your country
9. If the majority of women in your country use henna or are unnaturally blonde after the age of 35
10. If almost everyone in your country smokes
11. If taxis in your country do not have set fares and your fare depends on your negotiation skills
12. If you know of such bands and performers as Ottawan, Boney M, Chenghis Khan, Susie Quattro, Chris Norman, Army of Lovers and Bacarra
13. When you watch DVDs bought in your country, sometimes you notice people getting up to get popcorn on your TV screen
14. If the number of knockoffs in your country is almost equal to the number of legitimate brands
15. If shops in your town feature portraits of young Tom Cruise
16. If Gillette shaving cream costs as much as a full meal in your country
17. If you are an adult person but still get excited about downloading melodic ring-tones of popular tunes into your phone
18. If you spend your whole month’s salary on a cell phone
19. If you don’t use deodorant but know the latest fashionable smell
20. If people in your country hate the USA but immensely enjoy McDonalds, Starbucks, Hard Rock Café, and Levi’s
21. If Latin American soap operas are popular in your country
22. If you walk to the gas station
23. If you call the gas station the “petrol” station
24. If all the canned goods in your pantry are from Bulgaria
25. If you still have a public place for executions
26. If you have to specify “Café Americano” to order a coffee that’s NOT freeze-dried in a jar
27. If you’ve had more than three sick days this month due to malaria
28. If ice in your drink is an unthinkable luxury
29. If the filtered cigarette was only recently introduced to your smoking populace
30. If you’ve run out of burial plots in your land-strapped country
31. If all your national heroes never existed
32. If you get your daily vitamin allowance from mineral water
33. If you have more endangered species than schools
34. If your claims to being “European” are based on only the most liberal interpretations of geographic reality
35. If no doctors in your country speak the national tongue
36. If you can still pay cash for a Lada straight from the dealer’s showroom
37. If you have a relative that died of diphtheria
38. If your village has an AOL account
39. If the most exotic animal in your nation’s circus is a dog and two trained cats
40. If Egypt and Cyprus are premiere vacation spots for your country’s residents
41. If the national beverages are buttermilk and/or Efes
42. If you were formerly a colony owned by the losing side in WWII
43. If your favorite pizza toppings include canned peas and corn niblets
44. If your country is a major vacation destination for Russians
45. If your hometown has a Luna-park
46. If the words “executive” and “super” are overused by your countrymen
47. If restaurant menus in your country have more than two spelling mistakes
48. If the people in your country are described in guide-books as “easy-going” which really means they are irresponsible, lazy, and slow
49. If you wear “seasonal” colognes and buy things from a “fall collection” of no-brand name companies
50. If you think that Budweiser is cool
-Vadim and Boris
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
I was invited by a couple of Chinese friends for dinner at a place on Nanjing Road calling itself "Korean Barbecue". Yes, that's the name of the restaurant, in 10-foot high neon letters (oddly enough there's a restaurant on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago with the same name, only written on a peice of paper taped inside the front window).
Greeting us at the front door of the Najing Road establishment were two young Chinese men in fairly authentic North Korean military dress uniforms. Kinda freaked me out at first. Ya know? The only thing missing was a portrait of Kim Il Sung on the wall (a picture of Kim Jr. would have put me off my meal).
Even the guy who came to take away the coals was dressed in fatigues and had dyed blond hair and looked a little like Rick Yune in Die Another Day, where 007 sneaks into North Korea by high-tech surf boards.
The staff were quite good at explaining the menu in English and Chinese and even Korean, but one thing they failed to mention was that the soup I ordered, normally made with pork, this time contained dog. Yes, that's right, dog. Uh huh. Lassie. Bowser. Man's best friend. Etc. Mind you, this was only casually mentioned by one of my dining companions, "oh, by the way, that's dog you just took a bite of."
Needless to say, I stuck with the beef (bulgogi) BBQ.Afterwards (and sometimes during the meal) the staff brought us dessert, which consisted of sliced watermelon, melon ice cream, and some little fried bits of dough liberally coated in sugar. Midway through the meal they brought us damp towels, which I think you actually use before the eating starts (or after, I think).On the way out the door the immaculately attired North Korean soldier turned waiter gave us some fake Wrigley's "peppermint" chewing gum.
I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone who loves Korean food (including the occasional canine - the sign outside should be a poster for that John Cusack movie, which by the way is already on DVD at Walmart here), or has a good command of Chinese, and dosen't mind attentive staff to the point of being slightly overbearing. I had a good experience, if nothing else for the atmosphere and some good bibimbap.
Thursday, September 8, 2005
I'm in Kowloon,Hong Kong. Seems you can get a fake anything here, ifyou believe the swarms ofIndian men who approach you on the street outside Chunking Mansions. Youknow, theres's a REASON companies like Rolex, Burberry, etc. have the NAME that they do - it's not just a name, it's a standard of quality. Hence, to sell a fake version seems a bit of an oxymoron, like military intelligence, friendly fire, Hong Kong weather, or American food.
Been seeing ads in Chinese for "The Brothers Grimm" on the subway.
I don't know whostarted the idea of putting condensed milk in tea and coffee here, but they should be shot.
Enough ranting for now, I leave for China first thing tomorrow.
Monday, September 5, 2005
c/o Green Island School
No.42, Jinqiansong Road,
Sujiatun District, Shenyang
Liaoning Province 11000
rickvaughn @ gmail.com
Friday, September 2, 2005
Good afternoon. Today, January 28th, 2006 at around 7:00 a.m. Mountain Time, United Nations military forces captured George W. Bush alive. He was found near a farmhouse outside the city of Crawford, Texas in a swift raid conducted without casualties. And now the former dictator of America will face the justice he denied to millions.
The capture of this man was crucial to the rise of a free America. It marks the end of the road for him, and for all who bullied and killed in his name. For the Republican holdouts largely responsible for the current violence, there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege they once held. For the vast majority of American citizens who wish to live as free men and women, this event brings further assurance that the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever.
And this afternoon, I have a message for the American people: You will not have to fear the rule of George Bush ever again. All Americans who take the side of freedom have taken the winning side. The goals of our coalition are the same as your goals -- sovereignty for your country, dignity for your great culture, and for every American citizen, the opportunity for a better life.
In the history of the United States, a dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived. All Americans can now come together and reject violence and build a new America.
The success of yesterday's mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in America. The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator's footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime, and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the American people. Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the world, I thank the members of our International Armed Forces and I congratulate them.
I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of George W. Bush does not mean the end of violence in America. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the Western Hemisphere. Such men are a direct threat to the peace-loving people of the world, and they will be defeated.
We've come to this moment through patience and resolve and focused action. And that is our strategy moving forward. The war on terror is a different kind of war, waged capture by capture, cell by cell, and victory by victory. Our security is assured by our perseverance
and by our sure belief in the success of liberty. And the United Nations will not relent until this war is won.
May God bless the people of America, and may God bless the International UN Coalition. Thank you.
China slams US human rights report
BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhuanet) -- China issued the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2004 Thursday in response to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004 issued by the U.S. on Feb. 28.
Released by the Information Office of China's State Council, the Chinese report listed a multitude of cases to show that serious violations of human rights exist on the homeland of the United States.
"In 2004 the atrocity of US troops abusing Iraqi POWs exposed the dark side of human rights performance of the United States. The scandal shocked the humanity and was condemned by the international community. It is quite ironic that on Feb. 28 of this year, the State Department of the United States once again posed as the 'the world human rights police' and released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. As in previous years, the reports pointed fingers at human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions (including China) but kept silent on the US misdeeds in this field. Therefore, the world people have to probe the human rights record behind the Statue of Liberty in the United States," said the report.
The report reviewed the human rights record of the United States in 2004 from six perspectives: Life, liberty and Security of Person; Political Rights and Freedom; Economic, social and Cultural Rights; Racial Discrimination; Rights of Women and Children; and Infringement of Human Rights of Foreign Nationals.
This is the sixth consecutive year that the Information Office of the State Council has issued human rights record of the United States to answer the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices issued annually by the State Department of the United States.
American citizens are threatened by rampant violent crimes and severe infringement of civil rights by law enforcement departments. "Violent crimes pose a serious threat to people's lives," said therecord.
The record quoted the Department of Justice of the United States on Nov. 29, 2004 as saying that in 2003 residents aged 12 and above in the United States came across about 24 million cases of crimes, including 1.38 million violent crimes like murders and robberies, averaging 475 cases per 100,000 people.
"Police violence and infringement of human rights by law enforcement agencies also constitute a serious problem," the record said.
Chinese citizen Zhao Yan was handcuffed and severely beaten onJul. 21, 2004 while she was in the United States on a normal business trip. She suffered injuries in many parts of her body and serious mental harm, according to the record.
Boasted as "a paragon of democracy," the United States' democracy is actually manipulated by the rich and malpractice, said the record.
Referring the elections in the United States are in fact a contest of money, the record said, the presidential and Congressional elections last year cost nearly four billion US dollars, some one billion US dollars or one third more than that spent in the 2000 elections.
According to the U.S.' official website www.opensecrets.org, the 2004 presidential election has been listed as the most expensive campaign in the country's history, with the cost jumpingto 1.7 billion US dollars from 1 billion US dollars in 2000.
Poverty, hunger and homelessness have been haunting the United States, the world richest country, according to the record.
The report stressed the United States refuses to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights and took negative attitude to the economic, social and cultural rights of the laborers.
According to the statistics released by the US Census Bureau in2004, the number of Americans in poverty has been climbing for three years. It rose by 1.3 million year-on-year in 2003 to 35.9 million, the report said.
Racial discrimination has been deeply rooted in the United States, permeating into every aspects of society, said the record
The record said that the colored people are generally poor, with living condition much worse than the white. According to a report of The Guardian of Britain on Oct. 9, 2004, the average netassets of a white family is 88,000 US dollars in 2002, 11 times of a family of Latin American ancestry, or nearly 15 times of a family of African ancestry.
Racial prejudice is ubiquitous in judicial fields, the record said. The proportion for persons of colored races being sentenced or being imprisoned is notably higher than whites.
In accordance with a report published in Nov. 2004 by the US Department of Justice, colored races accounted for over 70 percent of inmates in the United States.
The situation of American women and children was disturbing. The rates of women and children physically or sexually victimized were high, said the report.
According to FBI Crime Statistics, in 2003 the United States witnessed 93,233 cases of raping. Virtually 63.2 in every 100,000 women fell victims. Statistics released by the US Labor Departmentin Jan. 2004 showed a woman who worked full time had the median earning of 81.1 percent of that for a man, according to the report.
In addition, according to the report, child poverty was a serious problem. A story released from AP Washington on Oct. 12, 2004 said that about 20 million children lived in "low-income working families" -- with barely enough money to cover basic needs.
Children were also victims of sex crimes. Every year about 400,000 children in the US were forced to engage in prostitution or other sexual dealings on the streets.
The atrocity of US troops abusing Iraqi POWs exposed the infringement of human rights of foreign nationals by the United States, said the record.
According to US media like the Newsweek and the Washington Post,as early as several years ago, in US forces' prisons in Afghanistan, interrogators used various kinds of torture tools foracquiring confession, causing many deaths.
The International Committee of the Red Cross believed that abuse of detained Iraqis in the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison was not a single case and it was a systematic behavior, the report said.
The report pointed out that the United States frequently commits wanton slaughters during external invasions and military attacks. A survey on Iraqi civilian deaths, based on the natural death rate before the war, estimates that the US-led invasion might have led to 100,000 more deaths in the country, with most victims being women and children.
Jointly designed and conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, the survey also finds that the majority of the additional, unnatural deaths since the invasion were caused by violence, while air strikes from the coalition forces were the main factor to blame for the violence-caused deaths.
Despite tons of problems in its own human rights, the United States continues to stick to its belligerent stance, wantonly trample on the sovereignty of other countries, and constantly stage tragedies of human rights infringement in the world, said the report.
At last, the report said that the United States should reflect on its erroneous behavior on human rights and take its own human rights problems seriously instead of indulging itself in publishing the "human rights country report" to censure other countries unreasonably.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
I was supposed to travel via Newark, but was on standby and got bumped from that flight. Since I was on a "buddy pass", the airline was not required to provide accomodation so my friend and I got on the phone to nearly every cheap hotel and hostel in Honolulu, only to find out there was nothing available. We rented a car and drove around Honolulu for a few hours, and I had the experience of sleeping on a bench in a park on the east side of Oahu. The only things I had to eat were a few tacos from Taco Bell and a burger from Jack In The Box that highly disagreed with me. I had been hoping we would drop by Chinatown and find something decent there, but as I was not the one driving that didn't happen.
The in-flight movie from Guam to Honolulu was some crap called XXX:State of the Union, so I mostly tuned it out and tried to sleep. The Honolulu-Houston flight actually had the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but I was too tired to stay up for much of it.
Even though I was sent through Houston, my bags went to Newark so I had to wait an extra day for them to be sent over to Chicago. I've been jet-lagged the last couple of days, especially after the park bench in Hawaii. Bench lagged? Hmm.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Just spent a few hours yesterday re-tooling my CD, "Don't Look Now" - I was never happy with the way it turned out. It was mostly demos recorded (literally) in my closet in Chinatown, Chicago between 1999-2000. The good thing is, I loaded Audacity on my computer and was able to edit and trim various tracks, as well as cut a couple I wasn't happy with at all. Like the title track, for instance. That's gone. The disc is now titled "Salvation Army Blues", which is also the title of the second track. Now it's a nice, tight 12 songs instead of 16. It includes a jam session with guitar wizard Harry Gore & ska band Pop's Body Shop, recorded at C'stone sometime in the late '90s.
I may post some mp3s shortly.
I'm finishing up the reissue of "Jiving Around", which should include the original 4 songs, a couple alternate versions, and some other early-to-mid '80s stuff. If I ever sign with, you know, Interscope or something, my back catalog will be ready to roll out, right? Sure. Have to buy some more blank CDs, I'm going through these like crazy! I just bought a spindle of 50, and have to buy more already!
The other night, r., l., myself and a couple others had a small going-away get-together for Dan aka Billy the Kid, as he's off to LA & NY for a couple months. He's hoping to get in on a Broadway show. Should be interesting.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Crowe should have to do some serious thinking behind bars. I think the judge should make an example of him, and not be lenient or reduce his sentence simply because he's a "star". Considering he's a foriegn national, I'd consider him a flight risk and demand he turn over his passport.
Only when Crowe makes a truly heartfelt apology to the clerk- HOW ABOUT IN PERSON (and possibly do some community service) then he can get back to 30 Odd Foot Of Grunt or whatever.
Remember, I'm still boycotting Dave Matthews after the Chicago River incident. Did he ever apologize?
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Sunday, May 22, 2005
As seen in the Saipan Tribune, a "Do Not Enter" sign on a street in Garapan. How many months ago did DPW (Dept. of Public Works) let us know about the installment of these signs? Like, never. And do they legally have the right to reroute traffic and disrupt the normal flow of business? According to the accompanying article, it seems DPW believes they have the right to ticket motorists who fail to comply.
Big news here: Japan Airlines is threatening to pull out! Whoa nelly! Say it ain't so! What'll happen to all the hordes of Japanese tourists coming down here to get sunburned, buy stuff they can get cheaper in Tokyo, get food poisoning, and have their rental cars and hotel rooms broken into and their valuables stolen? These are the same tourists who are supposed to go to back to Japan and tell their friends and family what a paradise these islands are. Well, if they're clubbed over the head while at the ATM and their body tossed in a field and their bank account cleaned out, they can't exactly give a glowing report, can they?
CUC (Commonwealth Utilities Corp.) is pulling an Enron by hitting all their customers with a couple hundred dollar "fuel surcharge". Yeah right. We're the ones having to pay our bills every month on time for fear of getting shut off (which will happen if the surcharge, which was NOT VOTED ON, is not paid) meanwhile the government still owes CUC hundreds of millions of dollars! The governor, while declaring things to be in a "state of emergency" still says the economy looks pretty darn good (his exact words). Why not look into William Stewart's suggestion of alternate power generating options? Or Chamber of Commerce president Alex Sablan's comment about cheaper sources of fuel?
Saturday, May 14, 2005
A centaur has a man-stomach and a horse-stomach. And of course both want breakfast. So first of all he has porridge and pavenders and kidneys and bacon and omelette and cold ham and toast and marmalade and coffee and beer. And after that he tends to the horse part of himself by grazing for an hour or so and finishing up with a hot mash, some oats, and a bag of sugar. That's why it's such a serious thing to ask a Centaur to stay for the weekend.
-from "The Silver Chair", by C.S. Lewis
I'll be meeting with a few friends as well to hash out some ideas - a tin and wood shack, some cold drinks, buzzing amplifiers, a few mikes and a 4-track machine. Pete will play drums, Virgil on bass, me on guitar, Kaleko on ukulele, Manny on additional guitar, then back to my apartment to load the tapes to my hard drive & overdub (minimal). Hopefully Virgil's parakeets will add to the music. Other participants may include (nothing's definite at this point): John Torres, Felix Sasamoto, Glen Sablan, Rex Borja, Sebastian Camacho, Jerry Alcantara, A.J., Floyd Lim, Mark Lim, Lovely, Suzette, etc. We'll see what happens.
Saturday, May 7, 2005
Another story mentioned a BBQ cookoff. I'd attend, if only they didn't turn the beef into shoe leather and chicken wasn't still pink on the inside.
Some senators recently went on a fact-finding mission to Manila. Any facts they couldn't otherwise establish at the Nagoya Star nightclub in Garapan?
Sunday, May 1, 2005
I did however worry about the other people in the theater who probably never heard of it and were probably wondering why this was supposed to be amusing. I wonder if Chamorros get British humor? The Vogon ships made everyone ooh and aah, at least, as did the "Heart Of Gold" (the main characters' ship).
I liked actually that there were parts of the movie that Douglas (Adams) wrote specifically for it, and that it was not strictly a by-the-book exercise. John Malkovich was guite interesting. And the guy that played Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox had some good lines, especially the "freedom and democracy and all that stuff" and "there are parts of my brain that just aren't presidential material". Good W. impression.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Got my computers back yesterday and have been trying to get thenm back up and running. So far my collection includes the Pegasus PC with the 80gb hd, 128 mb ram, and windows 2000; as well as the Samsung notebook w/ windows 98, open office, and some other neat little programs. I'm relly taken with the tiny notebooks made back in the '90s, before people decided they needed 20' monitors for dvds, gaming etc. A friend told me today HP is going back to making small laptops. Me, I always thought HP was a steak sauce.
A funny moment at the computer shop the other day: I kinda freaked cuz the Samsung didn't have Solitaire installed. No fancy hardware, software or applications for me, eh? Just a deck of cards. Got it. Sweet!
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Sunday, April 24, 2005
I have to go back to the computer place tomorrow and get some work done. I believe my sound card is toast. Windows2K was not properly installed, so there's little files (clipboard, sound mapping - wait, those are important!!!) that keep giving up the ghost on me, usually in the middle of something important. I installed SoundForge and Audacity but cannot use either one as I keep getting told by Microsoft's digital gnomes in my cpu that the sound mapping file is in use by another aplication. According to task manager, there IS NO OTHER APPLICATION RUNNING!!!
I keep jumping back and forth btw Mozilla Firefox and IE 6.0. I like some features on one and some on the other. I only use Thunderbird for e-mail. I've been using MS Word, Excel and Access for various things but they were not properly installed and even Windows Installer was not properly installed. I found a free open source program called Open Office - all the same functions (word processing, spreadsheets, html coding, database access) and the ability to save as .doc or.xls files. One day I'll be completely free of the Redmond gnomes, just you wait and see (insert Dr. Evil laugh here.....)
Apart from that, I need to get more RAM installed (only have 128 mb). Have an 81 gb hd, and a brand spanking new LG 52X32X52 CD-rw drive (thanks to Mr. Lee at Tic Toc Internet). Just got a really nice pair of comp speakers, too - small, but nice (some Korean brand, made in China... ?!).
Look for some new CD projects, coming your way soon at www.aaughrecords.com (as soon as I get things sorted out - soon, hopefully!)
Monday, April 18, 2005
Anyhoo, China did not happen. I was all set to go, plane ticket, hotel reservations and then she talked me into staying. For us. now that I'm actually staying, she's talking crazy, splitting up and all that garbage.
I'm like whatever. As Napoleon would say, "Gosh! IDIOTS!" and stalk out of the room.
Last night hung out at Hamilton's (again) and watched some bizarre (of course) documentary on ESPN about Bobby Fischer. Then r. dropped by and we discussed Fischer, Beatles, Allen, strip clubs and etc. just like usual.
Then an odd thing happened. The gov walked in, sat at the bar, and ordered mexican food, as if he's a regular. He acted really surprised to see an old business card on the bulletin board, from when he was dc rep. That's when i noticed the ag's old business card was missing.
Signed up for the postal exam. Have to see how that goes. A lot of hiring here on island is by racial preference or just plain idiocy or favoritism (or maybe just plain autism). Hopefully since it's a federal job and the p.o. mgr is from guam, it may be more even (he was, after all, the one who told me about the opening).
Sunday, April 3, 2005
Suzhou is only a short distance away from Shanghai, 45 minutes by train. I kind of had the impression that Suzhou was a sleepy, quaint little backwater. Turns out there's a major industrial park there, thanks to the people of Jordan and Singapore. They make computer hardware, Air Jordans and the like. Suzhou also has, not one or two, but THREE Starbucks locations. And McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, etc. Not sure if that's good or bad. Shanghai has an IKEA....
Saturday, March 12, 2005
- Tae Guk Gi - very emotional, dramatic rendering of the Korean War, filmed in Korea by Koreans! Quite powerful but violent too, kinda like Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List.
- Zhou Yu's Train - comeback role of sorts for Gong Li (Raise the Red Lantern); a story about a woman raised by a train-conductor father whose sole purpose in life, besides painting intricate designs on porcelain bowls and vases, is riding trains, mostly to visit a lover in a far-off province in China, but mostly, just for the sheer heck of it.
- Napoleon Dynamite - Hilarious. Brilliant, really. "What are you gonna do today, Napoleon?" "Whatever I want to. GOSH!!!!"
- IHuckabees - BORING. Really wanted to like it but this was one of those like the Royal Tennenbaums I had an extremely hard time sitting through and had to turn it off midways.
- Beijing Bicycle - Really good story about bike messenger in China & his bike. Liked the side story about the "rich woman" in the window. Also the bath house.
- Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (May)
- Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (also May?)
- Chronicles Of Narnia - Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (December)
- new Doctor Who series from BBC Wales - if we ever get it stateside or islandside.... the assistant's a TOTAL babe.