Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fox's Fallacies and the Breastfeeding Babydoll

I feel certain that my blood pressure is elevated right now.  This happens to me when I read articles about important topics that are pure sophistry.  This is why I should just stay away from the Internet.  But I can't!!

I'm an innocent in this; all I did was send an e-mail.  But then the "your e-mail has been sent" message came up, accompanied by a video about a breastfeeding doll that has the media putting the spotlight on parents in the US who are expressing surprise and derision.  Not that there aren't many other opinions, many positive, but of course American media must sensationalize and emphasize the negative.  As an educated mother well-read on the subject of breastfeeding and definitely an advocate, I naturally wanted to check out this new doll.

It turns out that the doll, called Bebe Gluton (there are supposed to be Spanish accent marks but I don't know how to type them), is not new, just recently introduced to the United States from Spain.  Parents are saying many dramatic things about this doll, including that it is sexualising their children and that it could cause psychological damage.  A child psychiatrist in the video I saw said there is nothing to worry about.  I wanted to know more, so I googled "breastfeeding doll" and clicked on the first thing that looked like news.  What I read was ridiculous, and the arguments made by the supposed experts at the end of the article seemed so sardonic and incongruous with the topic that I thought, Where is this article from?

The page had automatically positioned itself to the top of the article, not to the top of the web page, and I am programed to ignore links within articles, so I really didn't know where it was from, but when I got to the top of the page, my face, that had been screwed up with a question resembling What the?, relaxed and then I was like, Oh, of course.  Fox "news."

Here is a quote about the breastfeeding doll from the supposed expert Dr. M. Alvarez:

"It could inadvertently lead little girls to become traumatized. You never know the effects this could have until she’s older."

So, Fox is quoting a gynecologist on the subject of child psychology.  Dr. A may know more about va-JJs than the average person, and if I was at a cocktail party standing around talking with him and an accountant, he might win the conversation.  That doesn't mean his opinion should be advertised by an organization with a major influence on and therefore a big responsibility to the people.   Good job, Fox.  You've done it again.

The article also says that Dr. A "wonders if [the doll] might speed up maternal urges in the little girls who play it."

Well, you can influence the thoughts and feelings attached to an urge, which is exactly what the company is expressly doing.  Can one "speed up" an urge?  I think that may be a philosophical question best saved for another day.  My opinion is that the instinct to have children is human.  The question of when and how it is appropriate for a baby to have a baby (cause we're all our momma's babies) changes with time and by region.  That thoughts and feelings around the biological clock are cultural.  This argument from Dr. A seems the same to me as saying a kid who plays Grand Theft Auto is going to steal cars based on that experience alone.

This Fox article on the breastfeeding doll goes on to quote another dubious source named Eric Ruhalter.  He says, “What’s next?  Bebe Sot — the doll who has a problem with a different kind of bottle, and loses his family, job and feelings of self-worth? Bebe Limp — the male doll who experiences erectile dysfunction? Bebe Cell Mate — a weak, unimposing doll that experiences all the indignation and humiliation of life in prison?"

Oh, please.  Breastfeeding and alcoholism.  Breastfeeding and erectile dysfunction.  Breastfeeding and incarceration.  These comparisons are ridiculous.  Breastfeeding is a positive, healthy practice.  These comparison subjects are all representative of serious problems that have from bad to horrible effects on the family and friends surrounding them...  It's just really absurd to compare breastfeeding - a loving, natural, healthy act - with these aberrations.   

This source, Eric Ruhalter, writes about parenting, which is his credential, but if you look, all he's got is a BA in economics, and writing experience.  He probably followed some instincts of his own and had some kids and then started writing about parenting.  That's fine for his parenting blog, but again, his opinion is just not good enough (and could be damaging) when we are talking about the future health of our children on a national scale.  (Although, I am going to check out his books.  They look cute!)

This was in an article from ABC...
Cesar Bernabeu, director of sales and marketing for Berjuan, wrote in an e-mail to that psychologists and teachers were consulted in the development of the toy, and that it has garnered the approval of the Asociacion Pro-Lacttancia Meterna de Espana, a pro-breast-feeding organization in Spain...

The company responded ... "Breast-feeding is completely natural; it is not something that we have invented ourselves, it is something that is done all around the world," Bernabeu wrote.

If nothing else, the doll is innocent.  People will have multitudes of opinions.  Mine is that this doll provides an opportunity for people to witness a refreshing perspective regarding breastfeeding, and that they can use that opportunity to muse on their beliefs regarding what is healthy and appropriate.  It's not that I would discount any opposing view, it's just that every opposing view I've read so far is unfounded.  These 3 comments from parents on Parent Dish offer opinions from some reasonable sounding people.

I think this is hilarious! My boys didn't need a breastfeeding doll, they just hold normal dollies under their tops and to their chest to pretend to feed them! As for outrage, please, does anyone worry about dollies that can "poo" and "wee" and cry real tears, bottle feed, have "proper" boy and girl parts... Reckon $99 is a bit steep for a doll tho!

When ya think about it, it's the most natural thing in the world! The problem is, that breasts have been sexualised and are no longer thought of, they're for feeding a baby! Which is sad :0(  And so in that respect in fact the doll in my mind sends a positive message!

The thing that teaches children future nurturing skills is being brought up in an environment where 'nurturing' is considered normal and natural. And like the other comment stated, children who are brought up with an awareness of breastfeeding will just mimic this by sticking their dolls up their jumper anyway - why buy a $99 doll for that?!  What would really help is breastfeeding being depicted in children's books. If you think about it you realise that only bottle feeding is regularly used as a feeding method in images. Showing breastfeeding in day-to-day life would go a long way toward reinforcing the normality of breastfeeding and giving children a more balanced view.

So, to conclude, breastfeeding is awesome and Fox sucks.  If you want to indulge in Fox's hilarious suckiness some more, see this episode of The Daily Show where Bret Baier, a Fox journalist, tries and fails to convince Jon and the people that his network is objective.  Enjoy! 

From Japan,

Monday, March 28, 2011


I had an endoscopy today.  I will spare you any stress you might feel right now in fearing for my health.  They did find some things in there, but nothing at all serious.

I went to get the test because I have had mild stomach pain on and off since October or November, and another pain down my right leg.  I've mentioned these pains several times in my posts.  The pain in my leg has been pretty severe at times and figuring out what is causing it is my main concern, but my acupuncturist, Yamaguchi sensei, says that the leg pain is due to the stomach area, and I believe him.

Like I've said before, Yamaguchi sensei is amazing.  He really knows what he is doing, and every time I go he tells me things about me that he has no discernible way of knowing.  He feels my pulse and knows everything.  This week I didn't have a translator, but last time he said that I tend to over think things and hang back, while Peter jumps right into things.  Completely true.  Now that Peter is going to acupuncture as well, I feel like Yamaguchi sensei knows everything about me, which is fine with me.  All the more knowledge to heal me with.

Yamaguchi sensei has been telling me for months that my duodenum is sluggish.  He felt my pulse one day and then pointed exactly to the spot that has been hurting.  He seems to think that whatever is wrong there is what causes my leg pain.  So, based on my trust in him, I went to the doctor today for my stomach.  Guess what?  He was exactly right.  My duodenum looks funny and has been biopsied. 

Let me back up, because you have to hear about this day.

It's 3pm and all I've had up to now is a 7am cup of tea.  I managed to sign in at the hospital (you go to the hospital in Japan like you would go to a walk in clinic in the states) on my own.  I even understood enough to say that no, I didn't have an appointment, and I told them in Japanese that my hospital registration card was lost.  I told them it was lost because I don't know how to say that it's being used as a bookmark and is in my dining room.  I went to the gastrointestinal department, with which I am already familiar because I had a sonogram in January, and told them why I was there and that I was waiting for a translator.  I was really proud to be able to make it that far on my own!

I found my translator.  She was so cute that I was self conscious of my 1000¥ shoes from HI Hirose and she made me want to buy a new bag.  She also smelled like Abercrombie, which I didn't realize I liked so much.  She was so great, and we talked about lots of things while we waited on various cushioned benches over a period of 4-plus hours.  She even inspired a lesson plan concerning motivating students to learn English.  I really liked her and I'm going to see if she wants to come over sometime.  Anyway, I talked to the doctor and they seemed to think my only option was getting the endoscopy.  I was upset because I could tell that they weren't confident that I needed it.  I'm not someone who undergoes unnecessary medical exams.  She told me that they thought I was too young to have any serious problem and that the sonogram was totally clean, but she also said that since I was having pain, they supported my decision to go through with it, so I did it.  I have had pain for so long and I want to finally do what I can do to heal it. 

For the test, I swallowed something gross to highlight my stomach for the camera.  Then I held an anesthetic in my mouth for two minutes before I was instructed to swallow it, after which I almost ralphed.  Then they sprayed a liquid anesthetic into my throat that felt like liquid fire and again, I almost ralphed.  They put a round plastic thing into my mouth and taped it to my face to hold my teeth open.  Then came the tube.  The end had a really bright light and I assume that's where the camera was, and they proceeded to feed a tube down my throat, esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.  It was really terrible.  I felt like an animal.  I remember several times seeing my pets rendered helpless on a table with tubes coming out of them.  I remember the feeling in the room and the look in their eyes, the poor miserable things.  That's how I felt.  Saliva was pouring out of my mouth into a bowl and tears were running out of my tortured eyes.  Thank god it only lasted 10 minutes.

My translator, who used to be a nurse, rubbed my arm and comforted me.  She helped so much.  When it was over, I just needed a minute to collect myself, they had me wash my mouth out, and I was fine.  They found a little redness in my esophagus from when I was sick two weeks ago with a stomach bug, and they found a strange looking business in my duodenum.  It is supposed to look smooth, but it looked bumpy.  They took a biopsy during the endoscopy and I will get the story on that next Thursday.  They had no guesses at to what it is, but they seemed very sure that it isn't serious. 

I felt really good after, and I feel like I did the right thing in having the test.  I feel like I'm not just sitting around doing nothing about my health.  I really hope that they have an answer or two for me, and if not, I will be off to get some x-rays for my leg.  I am not a fan of x-rays, but I'm coming to the point where I think they beat chronic pain.

I know my family reads this, and others who care about me.  Don't feel bad for me, if you do, and don't think that I'm having a rough time.  These issues suck, but they are primarily peripheral.  There was a time in September and October when the leg pain was truly incapacitating and having big effects on my life, but now the acupuncture keeps it in check.  Sometimes I think that if I can just make it through to when I go back to the US, whatever environmental aspect that is causing it will be eliminated, the pain will go away, and I won't have to take any tests.  I don't think that is the way to go, though.  After my test, when I was talking with my translator, a nurse came to see how I was doing.  I think she was close to shocked at how at ease I was and told my translator how happy I looked.  So, really, don't be too concerned for me, if you are.        

That's about it for today.  And I think that's enough.

From Japan,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Knox's Day at Almost 2

Hello friends.  This is how Knox's day usually goes.

Knox wakes up almost every day around 6am.  He does not heed the 6:55 alarm time.  He cries "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy!" until one of us goes to get him.  As soon as his first aim is achieved, pretty much the second one of us has our hands on him, he starts saying, "Beeboos, beeboos, beeboos!"  Just switch the syllables around and you can figure out what that means.  He gets his beeboos, then if it's really early we put him back in bed and he screams about it, or he gets up with Peter following shorty after.  Then he yells, "Mommy, get up, please!" for the next twenty minutes until I get out of bed.  Yes, it's heartbreaking, but usually I'm asleep for most of it.  ;-)

Then we eat breakfast, which Peter makes 19 times out of 20.  This morning we had egg nests.  If you haven't had it, you should, it's great.  You just cut a circle out of the middle of a piece of bread and break an egg into the middle.  Flip until cooked.  I like mine a little runny so I can dip the dry corners of the bread into it.  I also had mango juice this morning.  They have this thick mango juice at select grocery stores, I usually get it at the Food Stadium Tokiwa, and it tastes really fresh.  I love it.  Knox loves it, too.

Then we run around getting ready, trying to put Knox on the potty, changing diapers, brushing teeth, and packing our bags for the day.  We put on our shoes - Knox now calls his white sneakers his "baseball shoes," probably because he watches the school baseball team sometimes in the afternoons and they wear white shoes.  We put on our coats, grab Knox's backpack, my backpack, and Peter's diaper bag, and head out the door.  If we have time, Knox gets to walk down the stairs holding my hand, but we usually don't have time, so Knox screams and squirms while I try to get us down the stairs in a timelier manner.  He tries to squirm out of my arms and says, "Knox do it Knox do it down down down!" and he expresses his disapproval by throwing his head back and yelling, "Bonk!"

Let me explain "bonk."  When Knox hits his head we say that "he bonked it."  When Knox doesn't like something he hits his head on things on purpose and says, "Bonk!"  Some of you reading, especially if you don't have kids, and maybe if you don't have a boy, might think that's enough reason to head to the pediatric shrink.  You can relax though, because it is perfectly normal as long as the kid doesn't do it all day, which he certainly doesn't.  He also sometimes gets mad and throws himself down and says, "Knox fall down."  We very rarely allow him to do something just because he's upset that he can't, but I guess it makes him feel like he has some control over the situation.

Knox gets strapped into his car seat (which would've still been rear facing, but since we have been in Japan he has been forward facing because that's the kind of car seat we have) and we drive to my school.  Knox learned early on where we were gong and sometimes he starts saying, "Bye, bye, Mommy" when we still have a ways to go.  This morning he said the whole alphabet except for L and M.  I'm hoping to get the whole thing out of him before his second birthday.  ;-)  I kiss Knox and/or get a snoozle from him, and go into school. 

Knox is going to school with Peter now, so they go on to Woodstock Preschool.  I have never been, but I hear all about how they go to the potty every hour, brush their teeth after lunch, sing songs and read stories, go to the park, and have a pretty good time.  They have park outfits:  a white t-shirt with a rainbow across the front and matching turquoise hat and shorts.  Knox and Peter finish at 2pm.  Knox had been skipping his naps for a month or more, but now that he is so active everyday, he has been sleeping from 2:30 to 4:30 most days. 

Which means that I get to stay at work a little longer.  I usually leave anyway and start walking.  I don't have a routine yet for the afternoons.  One day I went to the bank, one day I went to read and have a smoothie, one day I hung out at the Lawson (a こんびに or convenience store) until they came to get me. 

Then we get home and run around and play or watch DVDs (maybe Elmo and the Bookaneers or Totoro), eat dinner around 6:30pm, followed by a bath.  Then Knox gets to have "nakie time."  He runs around like a maniac, jumps up and down in front of the mirror, slaps his belly, and yells, "Knox nakie time!"  He sits on the potty for a while and reads books before we use all the energy we have left to hold him down and make him put clothes on.  He squirms and kicks and sometimes injures one of us.  Then he gets beeboos.  I limit beeboos to about 20 minutes, and no matter what stage of sleep he's at, he gets put into his bed.  Last night he was kicking and singing his own bedtime songs after 20 minutes.  I try to have all of this done so that he gets into bed at 8pm.  He has been doing a really good job of going to bed even if he isn't drowsy when I lay him down.

That's Knox's day!

From Japan,


Thursday, March 17, 2011

So Far, We Are Staying In Japan

I've gotten quite a few messages in the past 24 hours asking if we are going to the USA. 

If I smoked I would be smoking and looking very nonchalant right now.  I'd be sitting back in a big dark leather chair with my ankle crossed on my knee.  I'd have my left hand in my pocket with my thumb hanging out - I like to leave one finger free for gesturing - and a smoke hanging lazily between my fore and middle fingers.  The Tiffany lamps would lowly light my deep green velvet drapes.

I would do this because I feel as relaxed as I commonly would feel on a Friday at 10am, and because I have a tendency to counter the mood if I feel it's heading in a direction that I don't want to go.  Right now the vibration is high, and not in a good way, not in the way that Andre Benjamin 3000 would advise us.

I understand the insatiable desire for information in the midst of so much uncertainty.  If I smoked, I would take a deep drag right now, tell you to put down your remote control, and you, to take your hand off the mouse, and then I would put my head back and release my own plume of toxins into the air.  We'd all have a fine whiskey, and we'd talk about the crazy dried octopus legs I have in a candy dish on the deep cherry wood coffee table. 

But, I don't smoke, and no one is much interested my octopus legs today.  The world wants to know if US citizens in Japan are getting on the free government mandated flights home from our cities.  Rest assured my loved ones that there are no such flights.  Not yet!  There are flights offered up to US citizens.  They are not free.  They are only to other areas in east Asia.  They are voluntary and not urged.  And most of all, I would have to travel much, much closer to the nuclear power plant to get on one of those flights.  They are being offered to nervous citizens who live in the affected area, hundreds of miles north of where I live.  We even called the embassy yesterday to clarify who they were talking about, and it seems like no one is very concerned about Kyushu, my island.  People are coming to Kyushu to wait and decide what to do.  I'm already here. 

I admit from my comfy chair of casual repartee that an explosion could happen at any moment, as far as I know, and that I could, within the hour, be making frantic phone calls and speeding to the airport as fast as I can on a sonic train.  But right now, everything's ok.  I also know that wikileaks or some such news organization could reveal a disturbing masking of true radiation levels across Japan and that I could soon be making a new and very different decision.  But right now, everything's ok.

So, I remain vigilant in my search for the truth and reality of the current situation in Japan, but I live with what I know right now, not least of which is that absolutely nothing has changed in Oita since last Friday, March 11th when the earthquake and tsunami happened, including the quality of the air.  I have to weigh many factors and be realistic about how costly it would be to bail right now.  If I thought my child were in even a slight amount of danger, I would bear that burden, but I don't think he is in danger.  There are a thousand "what ifs" and there always are.  I am not in a position to make flippant decisions based on "what if" scenarios, and anyway, I don't think that's the strongest of decision making styles.

I have no expertise, no Geiger counter, no helicopter, no radiation suit.  I have to listen to someone.  I think when it comes down to it I have to trust the website of the The American Embassy in Tokyo.  For now, we are staying.  I have faith in the Japanese people and their way, and if I know anything about how Japanese people work, I think they are working very hard and very smart, and that they will do their job admirably.  I expect that they will return power to the plant and the situation will dissolve within a matter of days in the news.  I don't know what will happen to the plant.  It will take a long time to resolve the situation completely.   

Now, are you thirsty?  Let's go back into the den...

From Japan,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Letter To Takayama- Re: Disasters

I gave this letter to my supervisor right after the earthquake and tsunami.  I made it simple for him, although he's excellent at English.  I have learned to do that to prevent misunderstandings.  I can't believe I ever had to write a letter like this:

Takayama Sensei,

I am sorry that Japan has experienced so much hardship in the past week.  I consider Japan my country and I care about Japan, even though I have only been here a short time.

The earthquake and resulting tsunami are scary.  Some JET participants are missing and the number of dead and missing Japanese people is overwhelming.  I feel sad.  The JET participants in Oita have begun to raise money and collect clothing and food for the people who are without those things.  About $1500 was raised last weekend. 

The nuclear emergency continues.  It makes me nervous.  Most important, I know that children are most affected by radioactive particles in the air and in food.  I have a child in Japan and I am reading all the news I can find on the situation.  I am trying to be patient, and smart, and brave.  I am trying, but it gets worse everyday.

I have to let you know that it is a possibility that I will take my family to the United States. 

I do not want to leave, and if we decide that we have to leave, I hope that we only leave temporarily.  If we do leave, I want it to be very clear that I want to come back as soon as the nuclear situation is stable.  I hope that the Board of Education and Oita West high school will have me back, if this happens.

I like it here.  I like Japan.  I want to be here.  But, I have to do what is best for my family, and especially my baby.

We have not made any decisions.  I do not want to surprise you, so I wanted to write to you now.  Please, please talk to me and tell me what you think.  I welcome any guidance in this uncertain time.

Thank you,

Tiffany Breuer 

From Japan,


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I like to write.  Beyond liking it, it's therapy.  I wanted to write something today, something about the earthquakes and the tsunami and the radiation, not to mention the volcano, but I just didn't think I had anything insightful to say.  What, I thought, could I possibly say that isn't already being said?  I feel like adding my words to the melee would only diminish the magnitude of the situation.

That pun was not intended, unless subconsciously.

I like words, too.  I like using the right words in the right ways.  What if I used the word 'devastation'?  If I have to pick a word, that one suffices in the dictionary sense of things.  But I think some words have been wrung out and hung up too many times.  This word has been applied to every disaster to come along since newspapers, which is why I think the word 'devastation' creates an instant detachment among listeners and readers.  Some words bounce off leaving only a trace of effect due to maybe overuse, or maybe a worthy human defense that makes us incapable of comprehending the meaning of the word outside of physical experience.

You say 'devastation' and the listener's brows furrow, the head shakes, and something goes through the mind resembling oh, my, it's terrible.  And then they go blow dry their hair.

Life has to go on, of course, and it should.  I just have to find new words.

Perhaps I'll begin with someone else's?  

Among the residents rescued was a woman carried into a shelter by a civil defense solider, NHK reported. After he gingerly set her down, the woman rose to her feet with some difficulty and bowed to the soldier, told him she was all right, bowed again and then collected herself to briefly tell her story, paraphrased by an NHK interpreter:

"She had been waiting for help all night outside. She had been washed away by the wave. ... The moment she opened the door of the house, the water flooded in. ... She grabbed hold of a tree and hung on, hung on for dear life with the water all around her. A ... floor mat floated by, and she grabbed it and held on to that."

As the woman spoke in Japanese, the interpreter's voice trembled in English: "Her daughter was washed away. She was washed away, and she has not found her."

Try to understand the mind that is washed free of everything except survive.  She must have used muscles that weren't really there, fueled by an animal rush of adrenaline.  Her eyes saw her flesh and blood, a precious child, float away in an impossible, insane scene of meaningless mayhem.  Maybe she didn't even feel the cold.  She is rescued.  She is wracked with fatigue.  But there's more.  Imagine her pain.  Feel the tightening of her stomach and the welling up of sickening acids at the thought of her beloved labeled: Presumed Dead.  Feel that pain expand to overflowing and gush out as tear after tear after tear.  Hear her cathartic moans and her cries, letting out the vastness of her fears and sorrows.  

That's devastation.

Now imagine it again.  And again.  And 20,000 more times.  Then maybe we can begin to describe what Japan is bearing.

I think it's ok to use the word 'devastation'.  If you can barely see your screen through your tears, then you can use it.  If your writing is practically illegible, done by trembling hands, you have earned it.  To casually throw that word into the world to encompass some great deal of pain and suffering discredits the sufferers and robs the writer of an opportunity to feel, understand, and love.

I hope these words, my words, serve more purpose than my own therapy.  I hope the perspective that only I can share will help in some way to provide people a medium through which to feel their connection to other human beings who are experiencing a desperation that some of us have already known and others hope never to know.     

Pray for Japan. 

Please consider giving to the  Japanese Red Cross Society .  All you have to do is click that link and it will take you to the right place.  The money equivalence is described right above the donation box.

From Japan,


PS:  Here is the letter I wrote to my supervisor within days of the tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sunshine and Lollipops

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows everywhere...

Remember this song from The Simpsons?  Chief Wiggums is chasing Marge Simpson down in his cruiser.  I think he fumbles with a tape and another song starts, and he's like oh, oh, no that's not it, and then this song comes on and he goes on with his high speed chase while singing about lollipops and rainbows.

I love how this song and the memory of that brilliant context make me feel.  They make me feel like everything good is really good, and that the day to day monotony is just silly.

I had a good night last night.  I hung out with Knox and Peter and we had dinner.  Just as I was walking out the door a package came for me that I was excited about.  Then on my way to Wasada town I took two wrong straights and one wrong turn, but it was no big deal and I still got there in plenty of time.  Uniclo had the pants I needed, and I also picked up a few other things:  a long sleeved T-shirt (390¥), a cute baby doll shirt (390¥), and tights (190¥).  I'm wearing new clothes today, which is always nice.

After Uniclo, I headed down to Starbucks where I met some friends for tea and coffee, respectively.  I had a full leaf (no sugar) version of the chai tea soy latte.  As a working mom and wife, I don't spend much time on my own or with people other than my husband and son.  Being with them is very nice, and I almost didn't want to leave them last night, but time with other people, time with friends, and time alone are really important. 

I sat with my two friends and one very friendly new acquaintance.  It was nice to sit down with some girls.  We talked about upcoming holidays and I thought about whether I should vacation in Japan or outside it.  We talked about the earthquake in NZ, work, wellness, and lots of other things.  We had a nice talk and I felt refreshed.

I went home and read for about an hour, then went to bed.  Knox slept all night.

I'm making today a sunshine and lollipops kind of day.  ;-)

From Japan,

PS:  I just heard a lot of screaming outside and the 5 or 6 teachers still in the teacher's room went to the window.  I went to see what was going on.  I figured it was a sporting event or something out on the grounds, something special for the final weeks of school.  It wasn't.  The screaming came from lots of happy and excited middle school students who just found out they are accepted to this school.  The scores from the high school entrance exam were posted today.  The middle schoolers came on Tuesday to take an exam, the exams were scored on Wednesday and Thrusday, and the results posted today.  There is a TV camera out there along with many students jumping up and down with their friends and making calls on their cell phones.  About 230 students took the test, and about 70 of them did not pass.  I'll have to remember how sweet and excited they were to get into high school. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

America, Land of the Owned: Media

After my sister in law mentioned going to a rally in southern California as a show of support to the people protesting in Wisconsin, I looked up the WI protests and started following.

The first aspect to grab my attention was the lack of news available on the subject.  Not all coverage, but the main coverage seems to be on The Huffington Post - which is a blog - and Twitter.  People have been commenting all over the Internet that they can't get the info they want from their regular news outlets, so they are turning to Twitter.  The NY Times, who I usually like to read and would endorse, did do a fine long piece that the governor of Wisconsin loved, which turned out to be total poppycock, and the Times had to run at least two corrections.  So not only is main stream media not covering the story adequately, but they are spreading highly influential information that hasn't even been fact checked.

You might assert that the media coverage in other places must be adequate, because The Huff is getting it from somewhere.  Just because The Huff posts content from other outlets doesn't mean those other outlets are covering the issue adequately or well.  The mere presence of The Huffington Post demonstrates the need for a consolidation of the WI news so people can piece things together and understand the events of a story that they can't see covered coherently on just one of their favorite stations.

The perspective seems to be that people are pretty pissed about major media not covering this giant political, economic, and social event, but are content to rest on the idea that this is a world now dominated by the Internet and social networking where events are as easy to consume as the doughnuts on a free breakfast buffet.  They think people are getting the news despite big media abandonment.  I think people are missing the buffet. 

I don't think it's true that people are getting this news anyway.  There are people out there casting votes for candidates like John Boehner.  If they are stupid enough to do that, then I feel confident that they are missing the skills necessary to learn and/or understand rational information.  They either don't have a computer, don't know how to read, or are so socially inept that they want to watch Fox all day.  There are many people not getting news of the Wisconsin protests because major media isn't allowed to cover it.

As for Fox news, they discredited themselves in week one when they showed violent footage from another rally in conjunction with an interview done out of Wisconsin.  They clearly and purposely linked volatile footage with the WI story to mislead people into having a perception of the Wisconsin protests that is false.  Why did they want that?  What was their end?  Why would the people at Fox commit this act of giving the people of Wisconsin a bad name?  What could they gain from it? 

I feel like everyone must know this stuff, but I'm going to say it anyway, just in case.

Why aren't they allowed to cover WI?  Because the situation in Wisconsin acts against the interests of the wealthy people who collectively own the media.  Journalism is supposed to be fair and unbiased.  It certainly is not.  The number of hands that control the media diminishes from decade to decade.  That means the aims of the people who control the information that is allowed into your home and your head get more and more narrow all the time, but gradually enough that you don't feel compelled to act; actually, you probably don't notice it at all.  From the selection of topics to the political leanings on every story including hurricane coverage and gas prices, the media is the dancing snake seduced by the money pipe played by the top 1%.

Here is an eye opening website:  Facts on Media in America

FACT: The nation’s largest broadcast companies that will benefit from looser ownership standards have given more than $13.3 million in political contributions to federal candidates and national parties since 1995. These same media giants have spent more than $68 million lobbying Washington since 1999.

These people have tons of money.  They don't need money, so what do they want?  They want power.  They want power over your decisions.  You let them into your home via the TV and you let them suggest what you should buy and what you should think.  We have become pets.  There is no aspect of American life that is not largely decided by corporations.  From the food available to you in the grocery stores to the programs you are allowed to watch on TV, Americans have been slowly and actively assimilated into believing that they are bankrupt and helpless creatures.  The more sedentary Americans are, the more disparate the wealth distribution becomes.  This makes the wealthy (and therefore powerful) people happy.  You are doing what they want, which is nothing, and they are allowed to bend every rule ever made to protect you so that they can get richer and richer.  But there is only so much wealth in circulation, which means they are taking YOUR money.  A few cents every day over decades, and a few hundred at tax time.  The pennies of millions add up to some pretty great real estate.

All of this and much more is why the events in WI are monumental.  Those Americans were abused to the point that they woke up and realised that they are not their owners dogs!  They looked down and saw that they indeed have opposable thumbs!  They tore their feeble wire crate doors open and took to the streets.  There are thousands of people out there getting in the faces of the powerful and telling them to shove it, and telling them that the people will not be further divided, disorganized, and conquered.  And things are happening.  Some of their legislators responded and used what power they have, the power of their absence, and they skipped town in the name of the people they represent.

Tens of thousands of fellow Americans are standing up for their rights.  The Court just ruled that the state of WI violated free speech and assembly rights of Americans.  A number of ethics complaints have been filed against Governor Walker of Wisconsin for questionable statements and strategies.  Legislators who stand with Gov. Walker have plans to fine the lawmakers who left the state in support of the protesters.  These are big announcements that the public should know about.

Why aren't these stories making it to the people?  Even if someone were to suggest that the purpose of the media is not inform us, but to entertain us (how silly would that be?), is it true that people are not interested?  I can't imagine a topic that brought tens of thousands of free citizens to stand in the cold for weeks does not grab people's attention.  Despite the lack of coverage and the bad coverage, this topic is still getting out there, is mentioned on the late shows and has gotten into headlines around the world.  It's either naive or blind to think that people are simply not interested.

And besides, do you expect a company that is sabotaging the content of national news to, in turn, make that news exciting and interesting to watch?

The main stream media loves to show us stuff where people are hating on each other.  Look at all the big political hosts - they are the most verbose, bombastic people imaginable.  There is some good fightin' and therefore good entertainment out there in WI.  There is another reason it's not being covered;  It scares away the advertisers.  WI is just not good business.

I expect the Wisconsin protests to end in some kind of compromise, not in a great victory.  But that's how they've stolen the people's pennies - quiet compromise after quiet compromise - and that's the same way the middle and lower class can get it back.  If the people are willing to fight.

Most dogs could tear their owners apart if they wanted to, but they don't because they are generally intelligent and amiable animals, and because they have been trained not to.  This Wisconsin thing is a big deal because it proves again and proves right now that we the people do have the power.  We the people have just given it up to the illusion of alienation projected for us.  Will the people continue to "roll over" because they are told to, or will we fight for the financial equality we deserve?  Well, I don't know, but the top 1% will make sure that you aren't inspired by your television set.  Not on their dollar.

I think this speech from Michael Moore is awesome.  It's grassroots.  It gives us a peek at the power we have and opens our eyes to our potential.  Michael Moore's Speech: America Is Not Broke, given to the people of Wisconsin standing out in the cold.

I am full of not just hope, but knowing.  I know that the American people as well as people in every country have the power to create the world they want to live in, over time... at least a place where they can own a home and afford to send their kids to college. 

From Japan,

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Murder and Stealing

In Japan, I often pause to think about crime.  Why is Japan's crime rate so low?  Why, looking on from Japan, does the USA seem so dangerous to me? 

Japan has one of the lowest murder rates in the world, hovering in the best 10 countries.  I say hovering because these numbers are subject to so many variables that an exact figure could never be reached. 

The United States, disturbingly, sits amidst a bunch of Eastern European countries and far below any developed country that you would usually hear associated with the USA.     

The concept of murder seems a little like star gazing to me.  I can look and see and talk about it, but it's a little incomprehensible.  Though one be dark and one beautiful, they both cause people to intensely feel.  For this reason, I'd rather ponder theft.  Stealing is easier to wrap the mind around.

People have stolen many things from me, the most notable thefts including the radar detector out of my car, the purse out of my hands, the camera off of my lounge chair, and the money out of my wallet.    People have used my credit cards.  I've had to walk home in spaghetti straps in 40F weather when my jacket was stolen.  I have lost thousands of dollars in damages, goods, and cash.  Come to think of it, I've had a lot of things stolen.

Truly, I haven't lived here very long, but in Japan I have never had anything stolen, despite forgetting my camera on a bus and making some other silly mistakes I don't care to mention.  I know people who have had their bikes stolen here.  I have heard that in Japan people will steal bikes and umbrellas, but your money is safe.  I never see police officers.  Seriously, I could count the number of police officers on my two hands  that I've seen in this seven month period.

I do think it's different here.  Yesterday, I saw a woman leave her purse gaping open on a Starbucks table, reserving her spot as she ordered.  It's common for people to leave their shoes and other items outside of their hotel rooms overnight.   The students don't have locks on their lockers and they don't lock their bikes up at school.

It seems like Japan and the US are just continuing as they always have.  In Japan, people just never stole from each other, as a general rule, so that behavior remains.  In the United States, the people have been thieves from the moment they stepped on the soil.  Americans have always taken what they wanted despite just about anything they had to do to get it.  Stealing has been a way of life for Americans and their descendants for hundreds of years.  It's like thieving is in our blood.   

I was alone in the teacher's room.  I was going to take a cookie from the coffee club table while everyone was out at their meeting.  I was on my way to do the deed, but I stopped, and I decided that none of these people would take anything from me, and that if I asked they would give me the whole bag of cookies, and I sat back down.  If I were in the US I would've done it. 

There's no denying that you are affected by the people you are around, which is why parents are careful about who their children's friends are.  It seems the same concept is at work here in Japan on a nationwide scale.  I would never consider stealing money out of a forgotten purse, as happened to me.  I would never give my rival a blanket infested with smallpox.  If I worked with a bunch of felons, would I steal a cookie from their break table?  And does the degree of the crime make it different?  It makes me think.  There is a Simpson's episode where they steal cable, and they have second thoughts about it until they read the pamphlet offered to them about how stealing cable is ok because the cable company is a faceless corporation and cable theft is a victimless crime.  Stealing was ok because of the identity of the victim.  I didn't leave the coffee club cookies alone because it's wrong to steal.  I left them alone because of who they belonged to.  Does that make me a bad person?  What would you do, and why? 

At Mos Burger a few weeks back, a Japanese acquaintance of ours was working.  We went in for dinner and wanted a BBQ sauce.  Our friend of a friend charged Peter the 10 yen for the sauce.  I can't imagine being charged for extra sauce in the US whether it was company policy or not, and certainly not by a friend.  People here are just very honest.

Whatever makes Japan have a low crime rate has worked it's magic on me, too.  The cookies are safe. 

From Japan,

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gaijin Smash: Hospital Style


Knox has been in the hospital getting treatment for the flu type A and pneumonia since Friday, February 25th.  He was slated to go home this morning, Wednesday, March 2nd, but he had a freak 103F fever again last night, so they did another blood test this morning to make sure he doesn't have another infection, delaying his release.  I don't know why he had the fever, but his blood test was good so they are letting him go home... right now!  Peter said 1pm, and it is 1:05pm, so hopefully they are getting to go outside!  Knox has been in a 6' x 2' crib almost continuously for 4 plus days, and he sometimes would chant, "Outside!  Outside!  Outside!"

Knox's very Japanese meals included rice,
miso soup, a side, and fish.

Knox and Mommy in the crib

Now I will explain the title of this post.  What is a gaijin?  Pronounced "guy" like a man and "jean" like the fabric your pants are made of, gaijin means "foreigner."  Sometimes foreigners do things they aren't supposed to do because they are unaware of a cultural difference or the law in that country, because they don't understand what is going on due to the language barrier, or because they are illiterate.  Other times, foreigners do things wrong because they know they can get away with it based on claims of the aforementioned items, or because they know everyone that may or may not catch them will assume the aforementioned items.  Now, I haven't hashed out the many philosophical facets of what can be considered a gaijin smash, but I think the "smash" part also counts even if the foreigner doesn't realize they are doing something wrong.  If you are a foreigner doing something wrong, you are "gaijin smashing it."  If you are a foreigner wanting to do something wrong, your friends may suggest to you that you just "gaijin smash it."

Knox with his DVD player in bed

So, while we were in the hospital, we totally gaijin smashed it.  Probably the biggest smash was the first night when we moved into the hospital and Peter slept in the other bed in the room.  The next day we were informed that that side of the room is for another patient and that only one parent is allowed to stay in the hospital to sleep.  Smash 1 by cultural difference and language barrier.

Smash 2.  Peter didn't realize it, but he had been using the staff shortcut into the lounge.  They told him not to use that door and to go around to the other side.  There is a sign, but obviously he couldn't read it.  Smash by illiteracy.

Smash 3.  We had been throwing diapers into the regular trash when we should have been throwing them away in the bio hazard trash.  Random smash.

Smash 4.  I was notified that the nurses had to give Knox his hot towel bath.  We got this info because I had taken the towels and done it the day before.  What was I supposed to do when the nurse handed me a towel and said, "Mommy, help"?  Smash by language barrier.

I'd like to ask them if other parents sleep in the bed with their child.  I did.  I climbed into that giant crib and went to bed with Knox every night at eight.  Who knows what else we did.  I'm sure they will be talking about us for days.  Or maybe not.  I probably think this blog is about me.

Sweet, perfect baby

Poor Knox has at least six puncture wounds and bruises and has had 4 or 5 chest x-rays since last Friday.  I was sad not to be able to stay with him during the day, and not to get to take him home.  He was sad too.  I loved the smiles he gave me when I walked into the room each day after school.  I always have to go to work, but leaving him seemed different in the hospital.  I bet he'll think twice about getting that sick again.  Just kidding.  I brought him little presents.  On Saturday he got a tiny backpack and an Anpanman toy where you pour the shapes out, close the lid, and then fit them into their different holes to get them back into the middle.  I had been wanting him to have a toy just like that.  On Sunday he got new DVDs to watch in bed, and on Monday he got a new sippy cup.  He also got dinosaur stickers and his favorite juice and I brought him strawberries, which he threw up, but that's ok.  He enjoyed them.

Knox with his Anpanman Present

He called the oxygen chamber they plugged into the wall a dinosaur, and the mask he had to wear the first day was his dinosaur mask.  He even wore it voluntarily one day when he didn't have to:  "Dinosaur mask, on!"  The breathing machine was called fever-gone-asaurus and the thermometer was called the beep beep.  We had as much fun as you can have during quarantine.

In addition to Knox's hospital adventures, the staff suggested that Peter and I get tested as well so that we can all be healthy and stop passing cooties around.  We both got blood tests and we both have bacterial infections.  Peter has been really sick, but I haven't been feeling too bad.  Either way, we are both on antibiotics now.  Again.  What is it with me and Japan and bacterial infections?!

Five nights in the hospital and around the clock care cost us about $50.  You gotta love National Health Insurance. 

Knox home from the Oita Prefectural Hospital in his Cookie Monster Slippers

In all, we are happy and out of danger, and getting to sleep in our own beds tonight.  I have a nasty splinter in my pinky, but I don't think anyone should worry.  ;-) 

From Japan,