Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Will The Real Decider Please Stand Up?

An anonymous person wrote in on my last blog and brought up FDR’s imprisonment of Japanese Americans at Manzanar during WWII. I’m not certain if the person was trying to draw comparisons between the treatment of those who were held at Manzanar and the treatment of suspected terrorists under the Bush Administration or if they were saying that in times of war, extraordinary circumstances make it necessary to suspend due process and civil liberties. I’ll do my best to explain my position.

First of all, thanks for writing and bringing up the comparison with Manzanar. I do hold FDR in high regard for many reasons, but Manzanar is not one of them. In fact, I believe that Manzanar is still widely regarded as a dark stain upon the history of our country, a time when we let our irrational fears get the better of us, much like the Salem witch trials, and perhaps as we’re doing now. I have never heard or read any convincing arguments that imprisoning Japanese Americans in relocation camps during WWII aided in winning that war or yielded any intelligence that helped us win the war. When we speak of Manzanar, we usually speak of it shamefully. So, yes, I would say that FDR lost the thread there, if not the plot.

We should be able to learn from history and not repeat the same mistakes. Do we really want to be apologizing for our actions a few years down the line as we’ve had to do in the case of Manzanar?

There is no one party nor single leader who has all the right answers. Hopefully, we are able to distinguish their good ideas from their bad ones. We can’t afford the luxury of voting someone into public service and then letting them take the wheel while we go bake a batch of cookies. We’ve got to keep one eye on the cookies and the other on the White House. Like any boss who expects her employees to do a good job, we need to let them know that we’re watching them. In a true democracy, the people are the deciders and they decide what is best.

Tonight, I saw a video on YouTube that made me feel hopeful, hopeful that we are not the complacent, apathetic nation many feared we had become. Maybe it’s just the eternal optimist in me, but I sense that change is in the air. I’m starting to hear more dissenting voices in the mainstream media, more questioning of authority - even from those who were formerly supporters of the administration. Perhaps my optimism is unfounded, but I feel compelled to clutch at these threads of hope because there has been so little of it for the past six years.

Here’s the video. I think there is a little ember that needs to be fanned here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Kids In A Candy Store

One of the things I miss most about Los Angeles is the many small ethnic communities that give that city a true cosmopolitan feel. Whether it’s finding a Bollywood DVD in Artesia, tracking down the latest issues of Kera and Gothic Lolita Bible at Kinokuniya in Little Tokyo, enjoying fresh pan dulce and champurrado at a panaderia in East L.A. or just sampling the many exciting cuisines that are available throughout the city, Los Angeles always makes you feel like you’re in touch with the whole world.

Here in Phoenix, things are a little more homogenous and it takes some extra effort to track down those kinds of things, so you can imagine my delight at finding a well-stocked Asian market. I always feel like a little kid in a candy store when I find some Japanese treats and I was about to write a blog entry about it, but my 11 year old daughter beat me to it. Since she actually IS a little kid in a candy store, I thought she captured the mood better than I possibly could. Here is her own blog entry from her Myspace page. Her nom de plume is Sir Isaac Mutant and she writes to us from 18th century Versailles:

Asiana Seizure ahead!!!!!!!!!(madison read please)

"Yesterday, we went to the Asiana marketplace in Glendale, Arizona. It’s a little shop of wonders, my opinion. The place is chock-a-block full of the cutest and strangest food!!! The aisles are stocked with stuff you can’t even imagine. When I was there, I got a vegetarian sushi roll, just with rice and seaweed. I ate it, and I didn’t know WHAT to do with the super sharp spear thing it was speared on, which my dad had stabbed me with a moment earlier. “Ouch!” I said, and I mean it, it was really sharp! I had gotten a little puncture wound on my hand, and dad chuckled and said, “Ahh, you need a little pain in your life. It gives you character.” GRR! Then I saw this cute gas mask (yes gas mask) with Hello Kitty on it! Of course, I added it to the cart at once. We also got some portable tissue for mom. Then we headed to the snack aisles! That was just about every aisle. Mom had a little bag of “Cheese rings” in her cart. It had a picture of a superhero girl, like, beaming out three cheese rings. They look like Cheetos meets Funyions. Mum, mm! Then we got some things that look like Koala Yummies. (For those of you not familiar with this, it’s about to be explained.) They look like, um, cookie bread on the outside, but with melted chocolate in the inside! We also were going to get this thing called a “Sakura Strawberry Cake” because it was like a pink cake, but then dad pointed out that it was photo-shopped pink from the “Sakura Chocolate Cake” and wasn’t really at all pink. We got an assortment of delightful goodies, which you should be able to soon see on my mom’s blog at , so hang tight.

(Here's the booty she's talking about.)

And if you’re reading this, Madison, you’ll be getting the “BIG SURPRIZE” in a matter of days. Shush, don’t tell anyone what it is!

(SRK <33333!!!)

Heehaw! Then we got this cute thing called White Rabbit Candies, which looks like the chewiest candy besides licorice. I didn’t get Ramune, sadly, but I did get this cute strawberry-flavored drink that’s in the shape of a Panda! The bottle is decorated for Halloween, unlike last time I got it! I bet its Halloween flavored. We got another thing called Milky, which will also be showing up on, but wow! We got a lot of stuff! After that, we headed out to Bookman’s. However, we got a flat tire and had to stop at a gas station where we ate Del Taco till the cows came home, the cows just came HOME! As you guessed, the Discount Tire Co. Just closed, so yeah, we were stuck there for a while. At least I got some food! Right when we got home, I went stir crazy (or should I say loco here? Yea.) And it was quite a night! Well, that’s all I can remember! See you next time!"

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Price of Security

I watched a show last night on the Discovery Channel called “The Price of Security,” a documentary hosted by Ted Koppel which was followed by a live “town hall” discussion of some of the thought-provoking issues it raised. First of all, I have to say that I think Ted Koppel did a pretty amazing job. The program informed, angered and gave hope to people like me who sometimes feel that our politics and ideology are too far left of center to be part of the national consciousness. It was strange to find myself in agreement with some of the opinions voiced at the town hall meeting by people who I would consider conservatives. It just goes to show that I shouldn’t be so quick to judge others because they are coming from a different perspective. In the end, we may actually agree that there is a problem even if we don’t agree about the solution, or more specifically in this case, that there is a solution which has become a problem.

But let me back up for those of you who didn’t watch the special last night. In the documentary, Koppel traces the events following the attacks on 9/11 which resulted in a declaration of war against terrorism rather than war against a specific state (an ambiguous proposition) and the subsequent curtailment of civil liberties in an effort to aid in the gathering of intelligence in fighting that war.

Koppel then takes us on a tour of the detention center at Guantanamo where suspected terrorists or enemy combatants are held. When the interrogation techniques at Guantanamo came under fire for human rights abuses a few years ago, the C.I.A. simply stepped in and set up secret overseas detention centers, so-called Black Sites, to interrogate suspects outside of the U.S. using more “effective techniques” than U.S. law would allow.

I don’t know why, but I was shocked. After visiting Salem, MA just a few weeks ago I found it too easy to draw parallels between the way the accused witches and anyone suspected of being a terrorist were treated. The coffin cells, isolation, suspension, even the ducking (we call the process “waterboarding”) were straight out of the witch trials.

C.I.A. proposes new, improved interrogation method.

The argument has been made that the right to due process does not apply to suspected terrorists, especially since most detainees are not U.S. citizens. Furthermore, not even the guidelines described in the Third Geneva Convention which relates to the humanitarian treatment of prisoners can protect these suspected, yet untried detainees from witch-hunt style torture meant to extract confessions which will likely have all the validity that the testimony of the Salem witch trials produced.

I am not trying to say that these detainees are innocent. I’m more concerned with the question of who the fuck are we as a country? Who are we that we can pull people off the street and not even tell them what they’re accused of, without the right to face their accuser? Who are we that we can detain people indefinitely, subject them to sleep deprivation, waterboarding, hooding, psychological humiliation, and physical pain? Who are we that we allow our leaders to set themselves above the laws that we as a democracy chose to best serve our goals and ideals? It is up to us to demand that our leaders respect the principles of democracy, even when we are engaged in the defense of those same principles.

Isn’t it incredible that the President is just now attempting to get Congress to vote on a proposed law which would allow what he euphemistically calls “rough tactics,” but which in fact amounts to torture of suspected enemies? And just who are these enemies? What makes them suspect? Is it their religion, their color, the things they say, who their friends are? Someone I know has kids who planned to participate in a peaceful anti-war demonstration in California last week. It was shut down by local police who claimed that it was on a government list of terrorist organizations.

The hypocrisy of declaring a war against "fascism" and then using fascist tactics to fight it seems to be lost on our administration. All they seem to be able to talk about is how fucking scared they are and how scared we all should be. Maybe they should consider the words of an earlier President who once calmed a frightened nation with the phrase “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” Oh, I know FDR wasn’t perfect and I understand that presidents need to exert some extra control during wartime, but shouldn’t there be guidelines in place even for that? We can’t just say 'anything goes' in our effort to facilitate secrecy and dispatch. Not to go quote crazy, but remember the one about “absolute power corrupts absolutely”?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Down South of The Border

Last weekend my family and I made a little border run, heading South to Mexico. The border is only about 3 hours south of Phoenix, so we drove down to Tucson (one of my favorite towns) and stayed overnight, then set off early the next morning. We crossed over at Nogales, which is quite easily done by parking your car on the U.S. side and simply walking across, or in our case, running. Oh yeah, and I made the dress I'm wearing for the border run.

Once in Nogales, Mexico, I hit the jackpot and found exactly what I was hoping for: a fabric store carrying a big selection of brightly colored Mexican oilcloth for a fraction of the cost I would have to pay in the U.S. I'm probably the only person who will drive 3 hours to save $50, but I guess I get that from my mother, who would regularly drive to three different markets and spend $20 in gas to save $10 dollars in groceries - at least that's what it seemed like to me when I was young. Now that I'm older I find myself doing the same things, only I drive to two regular markets, two health food stores, I hit Trader Joe's and then I round it all off with periodic visits to Costco. I save absolutely nothing on groceries. Speaking of my Mom, my husband just retrieved one of my favorite portraits of her from our storage unit in L.A. Here it is:

We're almost to the end of the monsoons out here in the desert. I never knew there was a monsoon period in the Arizona desert but there is, and the rain, thunder and lightning get pretty furious. You start thinking of lightning in a whole different way when you and a few saguaro are the tallest things around. If you like dramatic weather, Arizona is the place you oughta be. On the way back to Phoenix, we passed by Picacho Peak as the sun was setting and a big summer thunderstorm was developing. Greg was driving and snapped these shots from our moving car:

Once we got home, I got to work right away and sewed a little pink handbag, using some of the floral designs from the oilcloth. Here's the finished bag:

After whetting my appetite with the pink purse, I decided to see if I could keep my lucky streak going. I hit the thrift stores this morning and it was half-off day! I scored on a bunch of bags full of ribbons, zippers, buttons, elastic and other gaudy items that I plan to work into my projects. My mom would be proud.

I think I'm getting better at cooking and sewing, but it seems that just as I start getting better at one thing there is something else I want to try, and of course, I have my own 3 step method for learning anything new:

Step 1: Suck at it.
Step 2: Freak out, wondering if I can do it the right way.
Step 3: Get all punk rock about it and just dive in.

My daughter is becoming a little PETA militant and has been asking me to help her stencil PETA slogans on her backpack and tee shirts.
I've never done any stenciling, but I love mommy and me craft projects (just ask my oldest daughter).

Maddie shows off the dress and bag combo that I "forced" her to make. She complained the whole time that the skirt was WAY too long.

So we're going to try it. I guess we can just xerox the stencil onto acetate and then cut the letters out with an exacto knife. I wonder how hard it will be to cut out the chickie. I wonder if we should spray or roll on the paint. I wish those damn La Mano guys were around to give me some tips! I'll see if I can find some advice on Craftster, and if anyone out there has any stenciling tips please send them my way.
Obviously, I am on step two.


P.S. Sunday, 7pm. After reading Matt "Max"'s suggestions, we got out the acetate and fabric paint and we did it! Yipee!! Thank you, Max!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another Night Without Sleep

I’ve always had trouble sleeping. Although I get tired and am quick to doze off, staying asleep is another matter. Last year I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which means that I stop breathing several times during the night for no discernable reason and I (hopefully) wake up, gasping for air. I’m literally suffocating while I sleep and it makes it tough to get a good night’s rest.

My husband finally got me to go see a doctor since he was getting tired of having to wake me every time he would hear me stop breathing. After going to the Kaiser sleep lab and undergoing various tests, I was prescribed a Cpap machine.

It’s quite a little contraption. You attach a nose and mouthpiece over your face with straps around your head and a chin strap keeps you from breathing through your mouth. When you turn it on, the machine regulates the flow of air to keep your nasal passages open through the night, forcing you to breathe. It’s restrictive enough to be bondage gear but it’s just not sexy, unless you have a fetish for scuba gear or elephants.

It’s not so much that I mind the little elephant trunk or having to plug in the machine every night but the darn thing kept leaving welts on my face. I either had to tighten the elastic strap so much that I got a headache and a big red imprint of the mask all around my nose and mouth or, if I loosened it, the air blew up into my eyes and all over my face. So the Cpap machine got phased out.

Back when I was touring with Stay At Home Bomb, my bandmates became aware of my sleeping issues. They didn't seem to be as worried about my gasping for breath as they were about my snoring. I blame it on my mom, who passed this endearing little genetic trait onto me. My mom used to snore like a lioness and now her little cub is all grown up and does the same. My bandmates used to demand that I wear nasal strips called Breathe Right.

They must have been designed by an architect because it would take a sophisticated builder's mind to invent something that turns a little strip of tape over the bridge of my nose into a powerful device that can make my nostrils flare out like an angry bull's. Cosmetic considerations aside, the Breathe Right strips seemed to help keep me from snoring so I wore them. Anyway, because the strips help with the snoring and because the snoring seems to precede the sleep apnea, I’m left with an unfortunate choice: either look like a bull with my nostrils flared out by the strips or look like an elephant with my trunk attached. Maybe I should take a poll. Which looks cuter in pajamas, a bull or an elephant?

Sometimes it's not the breathing problems that keep me awake, sometimes I stay up because I’m thinking about my next craft project or a new song, or bills I have to pay, or I’m busy figuring out how to adjust a sewing pattern and I can’t seem to stop myself from thinking about all these things at 3:00 in the morning. And sometimes I just stay up writing senseless blog entries.