Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Ito Sisters

Walt was out visiting his friend Malcolm last night during Jeopardy so while the show was on, I browsed and found a fascinating documentary called The Ito Sisters, which apparently was released a couple of years ago.  Watching it, I had to admit that Trump is not unique in his policies toward Muslims.  It's an ugly story, most surprising for the calm, unemotional way in which it was told by two sisters, in their 80s, about their family's life in California.

The director, Antonia Grace Glenn began interviewing the women and their story, produced after their deaths, became a feature-length documentary film that captures the stories of three Japanese American sisters, as they recount how their immigrant parents struggled to make a life in America at the beginning of the 20th century. The family's chronicle is set against the backdrop of the anti-Japanese movement in California, a 60-year campaign by politicians, journalists, landowners, labor leaders and others that culminated in the evacuation and incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast during World War II.

The hatred of all things Japanese went on primarily in California, I am dismayed to read.

The film begins with the sisters remembering their father Yetsusaburo, who came to San Francisco as a houseboy in 1897, worked his way up to owning a jewelry store and proceeded to lose almost everything, except what he could carry in his pockets, in the 1906 earthquake and fire. He moved to the country, became a migrant farmer, saved money and returned to Japan to get married, returning with his young wife Toku in 1914.

The sisters describe about growing up on the farm in Courtland, where their father worked his way up to being foreman on a white-owned farm. They attended a segregated school: There were two elementary schools in Courtland but only one school bus. “Everyone got on same school bus, Asian kids on one side, whites on the other. The bus driver stopped at the white school and everyone got off, then the Asian kids walked rest of way to their school, even in pouring rain or boiling hot sun.”

In the meantime, Japanese hatred was fueling in California and Asians were forbidden to own property.  One politician promised that this would be a "white country, not a brown country" and worked to see that all Asians were returned to their own country.

In the 1920s, all Japanese were banned from entering the U.S.

This ban was not lifted until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which repealed eligibility qualifications discriminating against racial and ethnic groups.

Things obviously got more heated after Pearl Harbor, when politicians said that just because there was a nice Japanese family living next to you who never did anything wrong, didn't mean that they weren't plotting something down the road.  All Japanese were terrorists.

Things reached a peak when FDR signed Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, which ultimately forced 110,000-120,000 Japanese into internment camps. The internment is considered to have resulted more from racism than from any security risk posed by Japanese Americans. Those who were as little as 1/16 Japanese and orphaned infants with "one drop of Japanese blood" were placed in internment camps. 

The worst story the Ito Sisters told was when their family was transferred from one camp to another while the mother was nearing the end of her pregnancy.  She began having contractions and a doctor said she would not deliver until the next day and left her with volunteers.  When the baby began to arrive, the volunteers pushed it back into her body.  The baby's head had been born and it had taken its first breath and when pushed back into the body, it suffocated.

Some of this story I knew peripherally, but hearing it from the people who lived it, discussed so dispassionately, was a real revelation (and made me wish I had spoken with my school friend, Marie, about it, since she was born in an internment camp at Tanforan race track).

But watching  the story made me very sad realizing that Trump is doing what was done earlier in this country (by a president who has become revered as one of our best), just excluding different classes of people.  Politicians are still trying to rid the country of brown people (they can't say black people came here unbidden, since they were brought here unwillingly!)

Will we ever become the "Christian nation" we profess to be....and are so far from being.

What, indeed, would Jesus do?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Apathetic Author

My life has been calmer this week since I gave up (most) news programs.  I have been watching an awful lot of news and getting more and more upset, almost to the point of making myself sick by the time Kavanaugh was voted into the Supreme Court.

I decided I had to go warm turkey.  I still watch Rachel Maddow most nights, Chris Hayes sometimes and once in awhile Katy Tur, just because I like Katy Tur but the news isn't on most of the time any more.  I still record Morning Joe every morning but rarely watch more than the first 10 minutes.  And since I've been sleeping so well now I often sleep all the way through The Today Show.  So I know some of the headlines, but none of the in-depth endless dissecting of every little second of everything.

Trump has won.  He has made me apathetic because I feel there is nothing I can do to make the country better, so I'll just give up.

That means, of course, filling those angry hours with something more constructive.
So this week I wrote letters.  Lots and lots of letters.

I was way behind on writing to the Compassion Kids and had not written to the grandkids this week yet.

There are 30 Compassion kids and answering their letters and writing letters to those who had not written took two days (I haven't gotten to Lacie and Brianna yet).

The kids are writing more frequently now and their letters, for the most part, are more full of bits of information, which makes personalized letters so much easier, responding to what they have told me about.

One real disappointment was from one of my best writers, who lives in Rwanda.  I took her on as a sponsor after watching Hotel Rwanda and learning about the war in Rwanda and how horrible it was for everyone.  My one small way of giving back, even after all these years.

Anyway, she is one of the most interesting writers and her letter today looks like this:

This is the translation I received:

Obviously this was a canned letter  that did not translate what she wrote.  Encouraged by other Compassion sponsors, I sent the letter to Compassion and asked if they could translate the whole thing.  This is the response I received:
Was there anything specific surrounding this translation that you don't believe to be accurate? After looking at your attached photos the only major disparity I could spot would be based on the length of the message before and after translation. This a common occurrence as other languages can have more syllables than English, as well as not having developed words for niche phrases. 
HUH?  Does anyone think that her message was as short as the translation included?  I decided it's hopeless, so I'll just answer the generic translation and let it go.  (I have, after all been practicing apathy.)  But I did write all the other letters.  I was shocked to discover that I had not written to some of the kids since April!  I used to write twice a month and I'd just been putting it off, I guess.  Also, some of the kids I've had forever have left the program and I have half a dozen kids whose names I don't recognize because they are so new.

But I got them all finished late yesterday afternoon, in time for Rachel Maddow.  When I heard the "horseface" slur from his nibs, I decided this was not a good day to watch the news, so I turned it off.
Fortunately, Ned and Marta have started watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon and recommended it so now instead of POTUS, I can watch a new streaming show and avoid politics again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


I grew up proud to live in a democratic country, and watched us attempt to bring democracy to other countries, whether by force or by example.

As I've looked around me the past many years, I realize that we don't live in a democracy at all.  In a democracy, our leaders are elected by the popular vote yet we have this abomination called the "electoral college," which was created initially because people lived so far from each other and there was no easy way to communicate.  It is now outdated, but we must go by the vote of these few people, not the vote of the majority of the country.  Thus, we never had a President Gore or a President Hillary Clinton and yet we have a buffoon who crows at every possible moment about how he won the election.  He didn't.  We aren't a democracy.

And then there are the extreme lengths people are going through to prevent certain classes of people from voting.  In Georgia, for example, they are using an "exact match" for identification.  If my ID says Beverly A. Sykes and they have me as "Beverly A Sykes" (no period), I am not qualified to vote.  The exact match can be as simple as an extra space... Beverly  A  Sykes, not Beverly A Sykes.  An analysis by The Associated Press found that 70 percent of 53,000 new registrations currently suspended were for black Georgians. Georgia's Secretary of State has purged more than 1.4 million names from the voter rolls since 2012.

And then there is what is happening in North Dakota.  The IDs of many Native Americans won't be accepted at North Dakota polling places.

This week, the Supreme Court declined to overturn North Dakota's controversial voter ID law, which requires residents to show identification with a current street address. A P.O. box does not qualify, as it has always qualified in the past.

Many Native American reservations do not use physical street addresses. Native Americans are also overrepresented in the homeless population, according to the Urban Institute. As a result, Native residents often use P.O. boxes for their mailing addresses and may rely on tribal identification that doesn't list an address.

Tens of thousands of North Dakotans, including Native and non-Native residents, do not have residential addresses on their IDs and will now find it harder to vote.

How can we call ourselves a democracy when we are working so hard at keeping certain demographics from voting?

My non-soporific movie that I turned on to put me to sleep (because it has in the past) last night was Lust for Life, the 1956 movie about Vincent Van Gogh, starring Kirk Douglas.  It won a supporting actor Oscar for Anthony Quinn as Paul Gaugin and a nomination for Douglas.
It has received rave reviews but I found it very frustrating.  Douglas seems angry most of the time and while the credits list about a dozen museums which allowed photographing their paintings, most of the ones they showed were lesser known works -- and the marvelous Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam was not listed.  They have the biggies.

This, and the sunflowers, was about the most "famous" of the works they showed.

The movie on TMC stopped abruptly before reaching the end, so perhaps they did finally get to wheatfield with crows and it just got cut off, which is unusual for TMC (or maybe I fell asleep and didn't notice!).

I never did see Starry Night.  Perhaps because it's so big--it takes up an entire wall at the museum in Amsterdam.

 They also celebrated the sale of his first painting, though I have read a lot about Van Gogh and I think (though am not sure) that he never sold a painting in his lifetime.

But another annoying thing was the cutting off of his ear.  Van Gogh's paintings show that it was his right ear, though it is his left which is bandaged in the movie and many scenes after the amputation show him with two perfectly normal ears.

Nonetheless, it kept me awake until 5 a.m., so it must not have been that bad a movie!

Monday, October 15, 2018


Cici of Cici's Corner recently wrote an entry asking about many imponderables of life, like
Why do many restaurants serve such HUGE portions? I mean, there's just no need in anyone eating that much and no need in anyone serving that much. No wonder there is such an obesity issue here in the US.
Good question.  I look at ads for restaurants these days (like Outback Steak House) and though the food looks good, there is so MUCH of it that I'm full without even entering the restaurant!  Black Bear Diner here in town is a good restaurant where I have eaten a couple of times and like the food--but the thought of how much I will be served is enough to make me choose another restaurant.  We ordered Cobb salad at Denny's recently and the individual portion was enough for 2 meals.
However, I digress.

I thought I'd ask my own "why" questions.

Why, for example, do we have to suffer those damn crawls across the bottom of the TV screen, advertising an upcoming program.  Sometimes the ads cover the already irritating news crawls on a news program so you're mad at whatever show is being advertised AND the news program for running crawls that have nothing to do with the particular story being reported.  I remember one time everyone oohing and ahhing about a newborn baby, whose face was totally covered by the crawls.

Why do drivers zig zag through lanes during heavy traffic?  Is getting there a minute before everyone else important enough to risk the lives of yourself and all the cars around you?

Why do people continue to donate to Red Cross when there are so many other organizations that help in an emergency and Red Cross is rated lower than all of them?

Why is the volume on Netflix so low I have to crank it up to highest volume and then suffer ear shattering sound when returning to the television broadcast?
For that matter Why are commercials broadcast at a higher level than regular programming?

Why are there still >1,000 children held behind barbed wire and kept from their parents and where has the outrage gone?

Why, why, why are people so enamored with Donald Trump?  I can't think of a single redeeming quality.

Why does Mitch McConnell have so much power?

Why in God's name can't Stanton Optical produce a single commercial that makes sense...and why do they have to run them nearly back to back every morning.  Though maybe it's me that's out of touch.  I read this article and it finally explained the current commercial that is driving me crazy.

Why can't broccoli and kale be high calorie and bad for you and pastries be low calorie and good for you?

Why does coffee taste so good in the morning?

Why doesn't someone stop this terrible voter suppression?

Why are so many price stickers not easy peel off?  Fort that matter, why is it necessary for every banana to have a separate sticker?

Why is bipartisanship a dead concept?  When I was growing up there didn't seem to be such hatred between the two parties and occasionally they actually worked together.  Now if one person votes against his or her party, it's political suicide.

Why this:  “The governor of Maine has said that people of colour were enemies of his state, and appeared to suggest they should be shot
Speaking about Maine's effort to combat drug crime, Paul LePage said that "the enemy right now... are people of colour or people of Hispanic origin". “When you go to war... and the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, then you shoot at red," he said.

Why are bags of potato chips and cereal so difficult to open?

Why on all cop shows do various law enforcement entities (FBI, CIA, local police, etc) seem to hate each other and refuse to work together.

Friday, October 12, 2018

And Then I Saw

I did a challenge on Facebook recently.  People were asked to post pictures of their 10 most influential films, in no particular order. Films that really made an impact personally, and are still on my rotation list, even if only now and then.  I thought I would share some of them.  I won't talk about A Star Is Born because I've done that enough.

The Seventh Veil.  I saw this in grammar school.  I know this because Ann Todd is a pianist and I was taking piano lessons at the time and one piece I played, by Haydn, always reminded me of this movie.

After attempting suicide Francesca, once a world-famed pianist undergoes psychotherapy, trying to figure out what drove her to that decision.  It is revealed that she was sent to live with her cousin, a stern taskmaster who controlled her life, and thwarted her attempt to marry a man she thought she loved.

Mason is the cousin, cold, distant, and cruel, hiding his feelings for her.  I developed a big crush on James Mason after seeing this movie I guess I always had a thing for this kind of character.

A Private Function.  I really don't remember a lot about this movie, except that it was one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.  It takes place in England during WWII when there is strict rationing and a couple become involved with the bacon black market. 

Somehow they come into possession of a pig, which is definitely against the law but they decide to slaughter him and eat him themselves.

The vision of Maggie Smith chasing this pig around the house with an exacto-knife, the only sharp implement she had available, still makes me laugh.

The Blue Veil. This is a real tear jerker about a woman whose husband dies in the war while she is expecting their first child.  Things go wrong during the delivery and the baby dies, and she herself is unable to have more children.

She finds a job as a nanny and throughout her life takes care of a succession of young children, leaving when they no longer need a nanny. When she is too old to be a nanny any more, one of her former charges meets her and arranges for many of those now adult kids to come back to honor her--and one of them has children for her to care for.

I always thought how neat it would be for there to be a gathering of a lot of foreign students who lived here back in the 1980s.

Interrupted Melody.  I drove my mother nuts after seeing this movie.  It's the story of Australian opera singer Marjorie Lawrence and her battle with polio, how she eventually overcomes it and returns to the stage.

The finale scene is from Gotterdammerung and she gets so emotionally involved playing the scene that she stands for the first time  Very climactic.

After that movie I decided I was going to become an opera singer, tho I had no talent whatsoever, and spent evenings while doing the dishes singing scales, trying to hit high notes until my mother begged me to stop.

The Nun's Story.  I don't remember if I wanted to be a nun before or only after seeing this movie, but I saw it during the period of time when I knew I wanted to go into the convent.  Ultimately I wanted to be a Daughter of Charity, who were my teachers (think "Flying Nun") but after seeing this movie, I wanted to be a missionary in Africa.
Of course I hate the way she is treated, as some sort of leper, after she decides to leave the convent (and a book I read recently about someone who left the Daughters of Charity) made me glad ultimately that I made a different decision.

The Quiet Man.  Is there any female who saw this movie in the 1950s who didn't love it? I felt my Irish roots tugging at me, I tried to dye my hair auburn to look like Maureen O'Hara (but it turned out more bronze-purple) and I just loved every minute of it.

Seeing it with eyes today, I see how little women are valued, how corporal punishment is encouraged and how, really, it's an awful story, but I still watch it if it comes on.  It did make me love Ireland, many years before I visited it, however.

Dave.  I love this movie and wish, frequently these days, that it were possible today.  The president has a stroke and his handlers don't want to let the country know, so they hire a look-alike to stand in for him until he recovers.  Only a very few people know what is going on (his wife eventually figures it out).

As Dave gets into the role of president, he begins to make changes in the government, cutting back expensive programs to give poor kids meals at school, calling his buddy to come in and help him balance the budget, etc.

He can't continue indefinitely, of course, but the conclusion is a good one and the president (who eventually dies without regaining consciousness) goes down in history as a good president, not the jerk he actually was.  Ahhh...if only....  But where could one find a Trump look-alike!

There were a few more on the list, but that's enough for this entry.  It was fun thinking about movies that affected me throughout my life--and why

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Dylan Dreyer

I have watched The Today Show pretty much since it began in the 1950s, with Dave Garroway hosting.  There were times when I just watched it off and on, but for the last many years, I watch it every morning.  I've been through all the anchors and co-anchors, all the scandals, all the format changes.  I remember when Al Roker went through stomach stapling and dropped tons of weight.
I don't know exactly how long Al Roker has been doing the weather on The Today Show,but since the 1990s, replacing Willard Scott.  He has made the weather his own with his unique reporting.  When Roker is not there, Dylan Dreyer fills in for him.

I'm not sure how long she has been doing the weather on The Today Show, but for at least five years now.  I remember when she and Savannah Guthrie were pregnant together, their babies born just a couple of weeks apart.

Now I mention Dylan Dreyer because I had an interesting thought about her and about my mother this week.

I have noticed that my mother seems to have difficulty separating real food from photos of food.  When we have been to a restaurant lately, when she gets a menu she doesn't know what it is and tries to eat the food on the menu and has to be reminded that the menu is to give her the options of what she wants to order.

Even at that, when we were at Denny's lately, even after she had finished a bowl of ice cream, she still tried to eat the ice cream photo on the menu.

I thought about what could possibly be going on in her mind and then thought about it the last time I saw Dylan Dreyer doing the weather.

As I said, I have been a Today Show watcher for decades.  I can recognize pretty much everyone who has been on that show, from Jane Pauley to Bryant Gumble, and even Ann Curry, fired after such a short time as co-anchor.

But as I watched Dreyer's weather report, I realized that try as I might, if she showed up at our front door, I wouldn't have a clue who she was.

Is this the sort of thing that goes on in my mother's mind?  The inability to look at a thing (or in Dreyer's case, a person) and not recognize it for what it is, but to have no idea what it is?  I've been looking at Dylan Dreyer more closely in the last couple of days and I still can't actually picture her in my mind as I write this and I know I would never be able to identify her anywhere else.  Put the above picture in a line-up and I would not have a clue which one she was.

The brain is a strange and mysterious thing and the more I examine quirks of mine, the more I realize that the quirks become part of who I am and not a normal characteristic of the brain and that one day I am going to be one big quirk with no normal brain left at all.

Last night I watched Great American Read.  It will be interesting to see which book is chosen as the favorite out of the 1,000 that are on the list.  I have assumed it would be "To Kill a Mockingbird," but as I have watched the accolades given to a whole slew of books over the past few months, I'm not so sure any more.

Last night they were reviewing romance books, not my usual genre, but there was a lot of praise for Nicholas Sparks' "The Notebook," and people seemed to think it was the most beautiful love story ever.  I thought I would check it out because I knew that the woman in the book ends up with Alzheimer's and I'm always interested in stories about how people deal with Alzheimer's.  And it was a good book.  I read it just about in one sitting (now that I am TV news free during the day!)
It's a beautiful story of first love, heartbreaking loss, and what happens when the lovers meet again years later.  I guess it's not really a spoiler to say that Allie ends up with Noah, her first love, because that's what the book is all about--how he tries to help her remember their early life together by reading to her from his notebook after she begins to sink into the effects of Alzheimer's.

But my problem was that I just had difficulty relating to her Alzheimer's.  She only briefly knows who he is, though he is with her every day in the facility where they live.  He reads their story to her every day, and each day it's new story for her and she asks who he is and says she can't remember her name.

The problem is that with all of the other quirks of Alzheimer's, she never seems to lose her ability to speak eloquently and that is so far from where my mother is that I just can't believe it.  She was losing her ability to make coherent thoughts even before she started not knowing who I am.
For the story to work, Allie has to be able to speak eloquently, but I am curious to hear if anybody else has read this book who has a loved one with Alzheimer's and if they, too, are bothered by the depiction of the post-Alzheimer's Allie, though however implausible the ending of the book may seem, it's still a lovely way to end it.

I'll bet Allie couldn't recognize Dylan Dreyer either.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Ned and I got a full day in yesterday.  He came by at 10:30 and we headed up to Atria.  My mother had an 11 a.m. appointment to finally get her hair cut, for which she is WAY overdue.

We got her upstairs to Lucy and Ned said he'd stay with her so I could get downstairs and take a shower.  I always resist doing that, but I have to admit it's SO much more satisfying than a sponge bath, and safer than trying to climb the stairs to the shower.

Ned brings a "spa kit" with him each time and gets me all set up in my mother's bathroom.  It also has towels, shampoo, a wash cloth, soap, and a back scrubber--he's thought of everything.

This week he went out and bought a holder for the shower head, which normally just hangs loose.  It makes all the difference in the world.

I got all showered and Ned brought my mother downstairs, looking SO much better for the shorter hair!

I don't know whose top she's wearing  I had never seen it before and realized, as she stood up, that she was wearing black paints.  I've never seen her wear black pants and they were very attractive!
(Ned told me that they had passed Tony in the hall coming back and she stopped and kissed him on the lips)

Jeri has been trying to call her since her birthday, a month ago, but is never able to get her, so I texted her and she called right away and they had a chat.

Oh, I just love this picture.  She was genuinely happy to talk with Jeri and though didn't make much sense, talked with her for about 5 minutes, which was good for Jeri too.

Then we packed everything up and went to the car.  I had to get my regular blood test and we decided to take her out to lunch at IHOP.

The blood test went well, except I walked out of there looking like I'd been in a war because they had to try 3 different locations before finding a cooperative vein.  I had bandages all over me!

Then we went to IHOP for lunch, with Ned's friend Brian, whom we met on the way in.  I didn't give my mother a chance to order any more; she is overwhelmed by menus, but I noticed that she again tried to eat the pictures of the food.

I ordered her 2 fried eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast.  She couldn't seem to understand the difference between "bacon" and "toast" and wasn't sure what to do with the slices of bacon so she used the bacon to spread jam on her toast, after she had tried to shake the jam over her eggs instead of salt.  But once again she ate every crumb (but not the napkin) and I think it was good to get her out.
Ned walked her back to her apartment and I went to the office of Jennifer, the director.  She wanted to go over changes in her care, all of which I approved.  They are going to be watching her more carefully, helping her with bathing, rather than just watching her, and trying to make sure she is eating, since she is losing weight. 

The "attack" of the other day was on a new roommate they had moved into the empty unit that my mother shares.  Since Marge moved out months ago, that unit has remained empty and we speculated  that maybe she thought the new person didn't belong there.  Anyway, they moved the new person to a different room and all seems to be going all right.

But then we'd done it all and came home.  Ned headed back to Sacramento and I went to sleep for about 2-1/2 hours, waking up just in time for Jeopardy.

Today is Walt's day.  Ned will be here at 8 to take him to Kaiser and we'll see what the report is now.