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Wednesday
Apr222015

I love football. But also, football sucks

When it comes to football, our fandom sometimes gets in the way of our reason. That's why Baltimore Ravens fans proudly wore Ray Rice jerseys even after that video of him knocking his fiancée unconscious in an elevator went viral. 

And fandom is why my old high school, South Kitsap, once a perennial football powerhouse near Seattle, hired the all-state quarterback from my senior year to come back and coach the team, even though his professional coaching record was 3-24.

Adoration and a desire for the communion of victory supersedes all.

Which brings us to the curious case of football, fandom, and justice (or the lack thereof) in MISSOULA: RAPE AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN A COLLEGE TOWN.

I bought the book yesterday and mainlined it in two sittings. It's a teeth-gritting, trigger-inducing, meticulously sourced read, and I can't recommend it enough.

Truth-be-told, I'm a Krakauer fan and the book is the June selection in the Books & Brews Book Club that I'm a part of. But mainly, I wanted to read MISSOULA* because I live in Montana and my daughter is a junior at the university there.

In fact, this fall, three of my four daughters will be away at college, so I have more than a casual interest in safety, justice, and the passivity of institutions that allows rape culture to thrive on campus like a virus in a Petri dish. 

 

*

WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD. (Much of this has been in the news forever. But, if you haven't been keeping up, or want to read about it in the book, I suggest you skip this).

*

 

In the case of MISSOULA, that institution first and foremost (and most disturbingly) was the prosecutor's office, where in one example, 114 instances of sexual assault were recommended for trial, but only 14 were filed.

And Kirsten Pabst, the deputy attorney in charge of prosecuting sexual assault at the time, once testified on behalf of an accused rapist and his family. The County Attorney's Office was so scrutinized for its mishandling of sexual crimes that it warranted (and refused to cooperate with) a Department of Justice investigation. Pabst later resigned to defend and exonerate a star QB accused of rape.

That action, popular with local sports fans, no doubt contributed to her later being elected County Attorney. Because of football and fandom, the historically weakest link in Missoula's justice chain is now back in charge of rendering justice.

(I'll pause to let your head stop spinning).

Missoula is an awesome town. The University of Montana is a fantastic school. Let's hope the the County Attorney's office can be more than a cheerleader.

*As a Montana resident, a sentiment that I hear is, "Why Missoula? This happens everywhere, why pick on us?" This CBS interview does a yeoman's job of answering that question.

Monday
Apr132015

Selling vs. Preserving History

Two important things happened last week. The first, was that Seattle's Panama Hotel (depicted in Hotel on the Corner of You Know What) was officially named a National Treasure, thus ensuring that a very valuable piece of real estate and the belongings of the 37 Japanese families therein, will never be flattened and turned into condos.

Yay, preservation! 

This was such welcome news. Because on the flip side of the historical spectrum, I found out that something less praiseworthy was happening.

Poet Janice Mikikitani found a propaganda photo of her cousin, Jimmy, for sale in the auction. Jimmy Mirikitani's life and struggles are detailed in the documentary, Cats of Mirikitani.Rago Auctions, an esteemed auction house, is selling a collection of artwork, photos, and documents that once belonged to Japanese families who were incarcerated in the US during WWII because of their race.

The artwork, created by people who had been wrongfully imprisoned, and the photos, many of which were used for propaganda, are part of a collection amassed by Allen Eaton. That collection, which was never meant to be sold, is now being sent to the auction block by someone who obtained the items from one of Eaton's descendants.

If this sounds wrong, well, that's because it is.

The auction house has issued a statement that basically says that the seller can't afford to donate these things.

Really? I find it hard to sympathize with the financial plight of the seller when compared to the Japanese Americans who created these items in the first place. They couldn't afford to lose their homes, farms, and businesses. But they did. Many lost everything and still fought in Germany, losing arms and legs and lives. Their suffering, their sacrifice, shouldn't be someone else's payday.  

These items should be donated to a museum, or given back to the artists and their familes. Anything else is just adding insult to injury. And an exhaustive list of organizations and individuals agree.

To sell these items to the highest bidder is shameless, to make museums and family members bid against each other is greedy, and for an auction house to profit via sellers' fees and buyers' premiums on items created beneath a cloud of injustice is culturally illiterate at best and morally reprehensible at worst.

To learn more about this auction and how to stop it, please visit this Facebook group.

**UPDATE**

I finally spoke with Tom Martin at Rago Auctions. He expressed his shock and awe that people feel so strongly about this auction (but that he is powerless to change anything).

He also said that he had no idea 120,000 people had been incarcerated, that people were born in camps, died in camps. (And again, he's totally helpless).

Face it, this is an extremely reputable institution (heck, David Rago is on Antiques Roadshow) but on this subject they're culturally tone-deaf in both ears. Tom was proud of their press in the New York Times. But there was no outreach on the West Coast, the area affected by the Internment. And they contacted the Smithsonian and the California Historical Society, but not any Japanese newspapers, museums, or foundations. (Also, the water-colors and oil paintings in the auction are from a prison camp in Wyoming, so the California Historical Society might be off by a few states).

Oh, and did I mention that he's also incredibly powerless to do anything?

Sorry for the snark, kids, but I took his repeated apologies of powerlessness to mean "I don't care enough to do anything, or even try."

Well, now that THOUSANDS of people are calling on Rago Auctions to halt the sale of these items, including a petition at Change.org, and Eric L. Muller, the historian who wrote the auction's catalog copy (and whom I admire) has cancelled his lecture at the auction house this week, maybe--just maybe, someone with authority will care enough to do the right thing. C'mon Rago Auctions, you can do it.

In the meantime, here's an article in tonight's Sacramento Bee: Japanese Americans protest auction of internment camp art. And a follow up piece in the NYT: Auction of Art Made by Japanese-Americans in Internment Camps Sparks Protest. Also, Rafu Shipo weighs in: Community leaders protest auction of JA camp artifacts.

Tuesday
Apr072015

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

There's a big Hugo Awards kerfuffle which I'll delve into later in the week, but at the moment, I'm reeeelaxing. Okay, I'm trying to relax, as I wait to hear back from my editor on the new manuscript. 

I can't quite bring myself to dive into a new project, though I'm quietly gathering research materials. And I can't quite go back into the current book. So, I'm catching up on interviews and I even signed a contract for a new story called The Uncertainty Machine which will appear soon in the third volume of the Apocalypse Triptych. 

In the meantime, I wait, daydreaming. 

Wednesday
Apr012015

Hotel on the Corner of Hollywood and Vine: Vin Diesel cast as Henry Lee

After months of secret negotiations I'm happy to announce that HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET has finally been optioned by Hollywood mega-director, Justin Lin (The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift) with Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand) as executive producer.

Production begins this fall with Vin Diesel signing on to star in the iconic role of Henry Lee, both as old Henry (with a lot of make-up and special effects) and as a baldish, swaggering, tattooed young 12-year-old Henry. And in this big-screen adaptation, Henry trades in his little red wagon for a '67 Mustang Fastback that tears up the streets of Seattle's Chinatown.

At first I was a little nervous about the casting of Vin as Henry, but it turns out that he's a huge fan of the book, literally and figuratively.

The Hollywood Reporter even quoted him as saying: "This book has everything. Racial tensions. Familial conflict. A message of social justice. A timeless love story. Even a father and son element. All it's lacking is muscle cars and booty quake."

Plus, when I found out that the filmmakers had also cast Chiaki Kuriyama, who played Gogo Yubari in the Kill Bill films, as Keiko, I was sold. Literally, because a giant Brinks truck backed up to my house and dumped a pile of cash in my garage.

At that point I thought, "What the heck, I always wanted a gold-plated swimming pool in my back yard, BOO-YA, let's do this crazy thing!"