Saturday, March 29, 2014

March Madness

Well, it's been quite a month.

To say it's been "busy" doesn't quite cover it.  We were all set to introduce Juno to my other two kitties, when suddenly she came down with a fever and diarrhea.  So we had to do a quick trip to the vet, and put her on antibiotics.

Turns out, she also has ringworm.  

My initial reaction was not unlike the reaction I had when I discovered those meal-moth larva in my pantry back in '11.  We'd been doing room-swaps and scent swaps for a week, basically rubbing Juno's scent (and whatever else is on her) onto my cats, to get them used to her, and putting Juno in rooms to interact with their stuff, so everyone would get used to everyone.

So the news of ringworm and an "intestinal parasite" was... disheartening.

But then, I spent the day cleaning and vacuuming and decided that really, what's done is done, ships have sailed, and che sera, sera.  There's nothing we can do about it now, except monitor the situation, and at least it looks (knock wood) like my other two kitties might not have been exposed to the cause of the fever and diarrhea, since they weren't ever sharing Juno's food, water or litter.

In the end, Juno's health issues are minor and treatable, so they're small setbacks on the post-adoption trail.  

Meanwhile, my two resident kitties seem relatively unfazed at the thought of having a new roomie (what they've seen of her, that is), and there have been no bouts of anger or aggression so... all is well, relatively speaking.

I realized today, though, that next week is the deadline for the Classics Club Spin I decided to do at the end of last month.  I started reading Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith and was definitely enjoying it, when The March of the Microbes began and my time was consumed by activities like dosing myself and all the creatures around me with antibiotics and coping with vomit and diarrhea.

Not much reading got done this month, is what I'm saying.  I had all I could do to keep up with my classes.

But today is supposed to be a very rainy Saturday, all the kitties are doing well (or better), and I have a new sock on the needles.  So methinks we'll get this month under control once and for all.  

Really, I probably shouldn't say that now, should I?  Well, I said it.  And I mean it.  Here goes nothin'.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happiness

Today is the United Nations' International Day of Happiness.

Quite frankly, every day should be Happiness Day, but we have to start somewhere, now, don't we?

This week has been crazy.  I wound up in the hospital on Monday night.  Let's just say, the latest strain of stomach bug running around out there is a nasty, nasty one.

I've never, ever gotten so very sick, so very suddenly.  I had to pull over in my car on the drive home from work and call for help before I collapsed.  I went from feeling queasy to full-blown, scary- SICK within the space of 45 minutes.

So I spent a good portion of St. Patty's Day literally green.  And not in a good way.  And I had to miss work on Tuesday and Wednesday--again.  Doctor's orders.

This is turning into the semester that couldn't quite get off the ground.

But I'm several trillion times better today, and that in and of itself would be cause to celebrate happiness, but in fact I have another, better reason.

My new rescued kitty.  Meet Juno.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Drawing to a Close

Margaret Thatcher once said, "If you want something said, ask a man.  If you want something done, ask a woman.”

When all is said and done, this has turned out to be a pretty good (working) Spring Break.  I still have a bunch left to do, but I did a bunch.  And I think the remaining bunch that I need to do will be done by the middle of next week.

And then I'll be welcoming a new member of my little cat-family.  I can't wait.

Meanwhile, the house is spotless.  I did a spring cleaning, in spite of the prediction of more SNOW.  (It's really getting a bit ridiculous, Mother N.)  I did the kind of cleaning where you actually look under the couch when you vacuum, to make sure you get all the cat-hair and bits of popcorn.

On a side-note, I think that they should maybe market vacuum cleaners the way they market cat litter, because making one for "multiple cat households" sure would come in handy.  (Just sayin'.)

I even swept up a bit in the basement.  Basically, I did the stairs and the area around the litter box.  I really wish I could motivate myself to do the entire basement, but whenever I start to contemplate it, one of two things happens.

Either I suddenly decide to paint (or in this case, repaint) one of the upstairs rooms of the house, or I assure myself that I will in fact clean the entire basement "on a nice, warm day."  I think I have this very unrealistic image of myself opening the walkout and sweeping and singing my way to a cleaner basement.  So far, it hasn't happened.

I also caught up on some Jon Stewart today, and chuckled at his riff on Dianne Feinstein and the CIA-Senate surveillance  issue.  In case you haven't seen it, here 'tis.

Actually, I think Feinstein's reaction isn't all that surprising.  In my experience, the people who are more than willing to violate other people's privacy tend to be extremely irate when their own privacy is at stake.

Case in point: I know one person who actually hacked her ex-boyfriend's email for a good six months after they broke up.  She checked it every week.  Read his emails to and from... whoever.  For months on end.  Apparently, she saw no problem with doing this. 

I found out because, at one point, she (foolishly) mentioned an email of mine (to him).  Talk about dumb.  At first, I thought he must have shown my email to her.  But I thought it was kind of odd, because at the time when I sent it, he and I had talked about that actual email and he had snickered about it.

But then, she made it out like it was so outrageous and upsetting and oh, how COULD you?  He was so hurt by it.  She indicated how shocking it was that I had actually used "profanity" in it.  

Apparently English teachers are never supposed to use profanity.  Shit.  I guess I never got that particular memo.

When he and I stopped shrieking at each other, we suddenly realized, hey, waitaminnit... and that's how we figured it out.  She was in his email, spying on him.

And of course, she's one of the staunch privacy-advocates of the world, looking out for all of our best interests, à la Dianne Feinstein. 

All this to say, in my experience, people typically fear that others will do exactly what they themselves either have been doing or will do, given the opportunity.  

So, instead of thinking, "Gosh, maybe it's kind of pathetic to snoop around in other people's private stuff, and maybe that makes me look like kind of a major loser with no sense of morals or understanding of the value of trust," they think, "YOU'RE spying on MY stuff!!  Don't try to deny it!!!"

Okay.  Sure.  Whatever.  Meanwhile, don't flatter yourself.  Your stuff isn't that interesting.  Neither was mine.  I'm no Dianne Feinstein.

I once told a friend who cautioned me about hackers, "Let 'em look.  I'll scare 'em straight.  My life really is THAT dull, and I really do write long emails like that about books and cats and knitting and total nonsense.  Welcome to my world."

And speaking of that, here's one of my Spring Break projects!  I finished part of a sock, and another entire sock, and now I have two more pairs to show off wear:


I refer to the ones on the left as "scrap socks," because they're made with leftover scraps of yarn.  But you'll note, I budgeted the yarn accordingly, to ensure that the socks were the same.  And if you think it isn't a major pain in the ass to do something like that, you've clearly never tried it.

The socks on the right don't look all that dazzling because they're actually being wet-blocked.  Yes, that's right: I forced them to participate in this little photo-shoot, even though they were soaking wet.

In my defense, I forgot I wanted to photograph them until they were soaking in a sink full of water, and which point I said something like... "Sheeeyooout...".

I'm also about halfway through Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith, which is my Classics Club Spin for this month--I'm determined to get it finished on time.  And yes, I'm enjoying rereading it, and remembering why it was my favorite Sinclair Lewis novel.

But more on that later.  For now, I'm focused on wrapping up another Spring Break.

Friday, March 14, 2014

When?

My best friend and I had a conversation this week in which she made a remark to the effect that it's a shame you can't watch an awards show on TV nowadays for fear of what your children will ended up seeing or hearing.

In response, I lamented the loss of performers like Linda Ronstadt.  Once dubbed the "Queen of Rock," she announced her retirement last fall.  Rondstadt was huge in the 1970's and paved the way for many other female performers.

The Eagles started out as her backup band.  That's how big she was.

Sadly, Ronstadt has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.  She can, in her own words, "no longer sing a note."

I pointed out to my friend that Rondstadt "didn't need to gyrate around.  She just stood there and sang.  She barely moved.  She did what people paid to hear her do."

To which my friend replied, "Well, but that was in the day when performers had a sense of stage presence."

In case you have no idea who I'm talking about, here's Linda, singing one of her more famous songs, a cover of the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved."


I'd like to point out several things:
  1. She is wearing what have since come to be described as "mom jeans."
  2. She is not emaciated.  And yet, she is not fat.
  3. She isn't suspended over the stage, she isn't lying prone on a piano, and her outfit would not have been considered "ridiculous" by 1977 standards.  She isn't preternaturally tan.  She also isn't blond.
  4. She isn't drunk.  She isn't high.  (Or at least, not noticeably so.)
  5. She isn't showing any cleavage and she doesn't appear to have breast implants.  We are never once treated to a sudden glimpse of any nipple-piercings.  In fact, one might say that she appears to be somewhat small-breasted, and yet she really doesn't appear to care or to regard it as an integral part of her singing performance.  (Fancy that.)  
  6. She is probably wearing underwear, but we'll never know, because she doesn't seem to feel a need to force that information upon us.
  7. She never behaves as if the microphone is a dildo.
  8. She never behaves as if her fellow-musicians are dildos.
  9. She appears to be genuinely enjoying herself.
  10. She sounds the same live as she does on her recordings.
  11. She is enormously wealthy, and she lives in California.
And maybe I'm wrong, but I strongly suspect that you smiled a little and maybe tapped a toe while you listened to her sing.

Can you imagine what a contemporary performer like Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga--or even Madonna-- would do with the likes of a song entitled, "When Will I Be Loved?"

At the risk of sounding "old," I can only say that I don't even want to think about it.  And I certainly don't want to watch it.

All this to say, I think we've lost a sense of the value--and the sexiness--of subtlety.

And more importantly, I worry that we've lost sight of the value of talentWhether or not you liked listening to Ronstadt back in the day, no one would dispute the fact that, at the end of the day, she could, in fact, sing.  And you respected her for that.

What's happened to us?  I hope we get it back.  Soon.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Favorite

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Invisible Woman"

I promised myself that if I got a bunch of work done, I'd take myself to Newport for the afternoon and catch a matinee at the little theater that shows the cool indie films.

These are the kind of deals I have to make with myself so that I can stand living with myself.  Because having too much work during a week when I'm supposed to be on "break" has definitely been making me grouchy.

But this afternoon did the trick.  The sky cleared, the sun came out, the temperature went up to 60.  (I didn't think that was possible anymore.)

And the movie was timed such that, given that I parked in one of my favorite spots at the beach and walked in to town, by the time I walked back out to my car, I got to enjoy a sunset drive.

I saw Ralph Fiennes film, "The Invisible Woman."  It's about Charles Dickens' relationship with Ellen Ternan.

Although I had read a Dickens biography and knew about the relationship, it was different seeing it played out right there in front of me.  Dickens was 45 when he met "Nelly" Ternan; she had just turned 18.

And don't tell me, "Oh, but things were different then..." and "Love knows no age...".  Bullshit.  He was over twice her age, and he was married.  If anything, they were far less "open" about such things back then.  It was a huge scandal, and as the film itself suggests, Dickens went out of his way to ensure that he protected himself from as much it as possible by turning Ternan into an "invisible woman" that no one saw or knew about.

Quite frankly, if any of my married friends (I'm 45 myself) began casting their wandering little eyeballs on my friends' teenaged children, I'd be rather upset.

But then, he was Charles Dickens.

And because he was Charles Dickens, Ellen Ternan ended up having to put up with quite a bit. 

Really, most people probably don't want to be in a relationship with a famous writer, even if they think they do.  With rare exceptions, they're often not the world's nicest people, despite the amazing literature they write for all of us.

Stick to the literature, I say.  Don't get to close to your idols.  It never goes well.

So, for example, as I watched the film, I cheerfully pointed out to myself (I do this sometimes--point things out to myself in case I'm not paying attention) that at least I have never been in a relationship with a guy who pretended that he didn't know me and that we hadn't been living together for months when the train we were traveling in crashed.

In my opinion, that's when you know you're in a bad relationship. 

Various scholars speculate that Ellen Ternan was the model for many of the heroines of Dickens' later novels, including Bella Wilfer (Our Mutual Friend) and Estella Havisham (Great Expectations). 

If you've read either of these novels, you will quickly realize that, if this is in fact true, there is yet another reason for her to break up with him.

I can only imagine my own reaction:  as I'm angrily flipping pancakes in stony silence one morning, Charles cheerfully asks if there's any syrup--and not just any syrup, but that special maple syrup he likes, you know, the kind his devoted fans who've read every single one of his books have regularly shipped to him by the gallon, ever since they heard about how much he likes it...

At this point, I shriek, "Is Estella supposed to be me, you pen-dipping, word-scribbling JERK?!  Well, IS it?  Answer me.  Oh, and Bella Wilfer's all hung up on money, is she?  Gee, I can't imagine why--like a girl's not supposed to be concerned for her future, she's just supposed to fall in love and everything will be just wonderful...yeah, OKAY.  Sure, Charlie, sure.  Oh, and while we're on the subject, I got news for you: you aren't PIP, and you certainly aren't Eugene Wrayburn or John Harmon either.  So do me a favor and get over yourself, okay?!  You big JERK."

And so on.  Basically, Charles would have realized early on that I'm simply not his type. But I do like his novels (aside from his depiction of women, that is), so we have that in common.

And the good news is, I can do my own writing, make my own pancakes, and enjoy wonderful afternoons at the beach and the movies.  I even knitted several inches of a sock during the film.  I KNOW.  Crazy, given that it's dark and all, but I wanted to try it, and it went with only 2 mishaps, one that somehow (miraculously) fixed itself (something that basically never happens) and one that I caught in time, which means it doesn't officially count as a "mishap," really--a "near mishap," perhaps.

And at the end of the day, there was this:


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Doing The Job

Over the years, I've found that people have a lot of misconceptions about college professors--or teachers in general--and what they do for a living.

In the case of college profs, the general public knows that we "teach college," but I think people kind of remember "college" as something that involves a lot of beer and hooking up and sleeping late and occasionally cramming for an exam that covers information that you've never needed to know since that particular 3-hour interval on that long-ago day.

If you want to annoy a teacher, make the comment about "summers off."

In the first place, quite a few college professors teach summer courses.  I don't--because I'm single, I can get by without the extra $$--but most faculty members who have families usually need to teach during the summer at some point in order to pay the mortgage and the other bills. 

Because I don't know how it goes elsewhere, but in my experience, college faculty don't get paid in July and August unless they pro-rate their salaries.  So technically, "summers off" are two months of the year without pay.  Something to think about, maybe.

And remember how excited and happy you felt when you came home from school as a kid and announced to your mom that you had "NO homework?"   Well, if you teach college, you  have homework every day.  Even in the summer and even during breaks.  There's always something that needs to be read or written or rewritten or researched or submitted or attended.  You embrace a life in which you will never ever again have the feeling of having "no homework."

Personally, that's why I enjoy doing the job.  But I have several friends who opted out of teaching precisely for that reason.  One of my friends told me, "You get home at 6:00, unwind, get dinner, and then, you just want to crash in front of the TV for a while and not think.  But you can't.  Because you've got homework.  Again.  And if you skip it one day, it just piles up and then your weekend is swamped.  No thanks."

Another friend said, "Quite frankly, I think people who have a clear work day--in the office by 8:00, home by 6:00--have an easier time of it.  Their time away from work is their own--no questions asked.  They're not at work, so no one expects them to... work.  Professors don't have that set up.  It was like always being on call: if you weren't available at any given point in time, people got kind of annoyed or stressed out or offended with you, because they felt like you were supposed to be."

I once dated a guy who used to regularly email me to complain when he "got home late" at 9:00 p.m., after a long day at work.  I wanted to write back (but I didn't), "If I'm reading and responding to this, it means I'm still at work." 

Another friend once commented, "I don't know how you get any sleep.  When I have to give a presentation in front of 10 people the next day at work, I'm up half the night because of nerves and stress. You do this daily, to at least twice as many people, for months on end."

And really, that's the one that hits home for me.  Because if you ask anyone if they like "public speaking," they'll tell you how much they hate it, how they can't do it, it stresses them out, don't ask them to give a speech or stand up in front of a crowd, etc. etc.

So when someone tells me teachers "have it easy," I say, "Okay.  Let me put it this way.  Tomorrow morning, 9:00.  I'm going to need you to stand in front of a group of about 20 teenagers, and do about an hour or so of public speaking.  Don't stammer or stutter or look foolish or sound silly.  Don't lose your train of thought or get nervous.  Be ready for any questions, because you're going to need to be able to answer all of them.  (Is that what you're going to wear?  You might want to rethink that.)  Oh, and the computer sometimes doesn't work... in case you have visual aids prepared or whatever... just so you know.  It kinda crashes sometimes.  But not all the time.  You'll know when class starts, because nothing will load.  But be sure to keep everyone motivated and interested and learning, because if students fall asleep or don't learn, people will argue that it's a clear indication that you're not doing your job.  When you finish with that, I'm going to need you to head across the hall and do it again.  And again.  All day long.  You can have an hour for lunch."

When I phrase it that way, people often pause and say, "You know, I never thought of it that way."

I think people often think that being a teacher must be "fun" (and it is, in my opinion), because you get to stand in front of the room and think inspired thoughts and say inspired things and you have admiring young minds hanging on your every word.

Oh, my.   If only.  That would be quite lovely, wouldn't it?

I say, props to those who think "the liberals" (typically defined as people who say radical things like "Slavery is wrong" or "The Holocaust happened") have "taken over" "the colleges" and that they're corrupting the minds of America's Youth.

In my opinion, that's a serious compliment to college professors.  Thank you for your overwhelming faith in our power and prestige and penache.

Personally, I'm happy if no one drools or snores--or snores and then drools-- in my class.  I for one have never considered--much less aspired to--the wholesale brainwashing of America's Youth.  (The song, "Dream the Impossible Dream" begins playing on the soundtrack of my mind when I think about it.)

And to the people who say that teachers should be equipped with firearms in order to repel intruders.  OH MY GOD.  You SO have NO CLUE about teachers.  It would be funny, if it weren't so damn frightening. 

I mean, once again, I'm flattered that you picture me as some kind of Angelina-Jolie-with-a-Ph.D, pausing in the middle of a discussion of Shelley's use of metaphor in "The Triumph of Life" in order to drop to the floor, whip out my Glock, and go for the kill shot on some body-armored intruder with a machine gun. 

You need to consider the possibility that returning fire isn't always the solution to every problem.  And you also need to think for a second about what it would mean to have TWO people exchanging bullets over the heads and in the midst of a room full of surprised young students.

It's bad enough when one person does something like that.  How is 2 going to make it any better?

Oh, wait, that's right.  I'll be "trained to respond." (Here's what's playing on the soundtrack of my mind right now.)

Personally, I have days when, sitting quietly in my office with a cup of warm tea nearby, I struggle to load the stapler.  Or when I arrive in class and nearly start to cry because there isn't any chalk (again) or because the chalk that's available is all in tiny little pieces the size of my fingernail.   

If you think I'm going to be able to lock and load and save the day... Again, I thank you for the compliment, but you are so seriously mistaken that I can't even pretend that you might ever be right, no matter how flattering that thought might be to you or to me or to whoever.

Because there's another side of teaching.  Teaching involves a day full of public speaking gigs and then, when that's done, you return to your office to embrace all the trappings of a desk job combined with a customer service hotline.  You have paperwork to be filled out and filed--some of it online, so you have to master new software as it emerges, usually with all of about 2 weeks' notice--phone calls and emails that have to be answered (all of them are always "urgent," of course), and no, you can't close the door to your office because you have to be available for a couple of hours at a stretch in case anyone drops by with a question or a problem.

God help you if your computer crashes or the server is down or the xerox machine runs out of toner.  And yes, there is still that ever-present homework to do when you get home (after dinner, in place of TV and before bedtime). 

Over the years, I've found that my time spent working in my dad's business has served me well in academia--and this is something that I think most people would never expect.  There is a lot about teaching that is kind of like running your own business, but at the same time, it's all oddly combined with aspects of having a job that involves working for someone else.

And so, stuff piles up.  This is something I've been very aware of for the past 3 days, because this is what I've been using the first several days of my break (my "time off") to do: catch up on forms that need to be filed and paperwork that needs to be completed and emails that need to be sent or answered.

And now, it's time to get started on my homework.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

T-Minus

I'm a morning of getting ready, an afternoon of meetings, and an evening of classes away from spring break.

Almost there.  I can't wait.  It can't come soon enough, at this point.

Even though most of it is going to be spent working.  I have papers from all of my classes to grade.  I have an article that needs substantial revisions, and an article that needs to be finished and submitted.  I have reading to do.  I'm sure something somewhere needs to be cleaned.  Or fixed.

I don't care.

I just want to spend a week acknowledging the concept of SPRING.

And when I get back from spring break, I'm planning to adopt another rescued cat.  Yes, another one.

Which means that, on any given day, there will now be 3x as many cats as people in my home.

To anyone who says, "That sounds like too many," I say, "No, it's not."

I've had my eye on this kitty for a while now: she was abandoned in front of an animal hospital when she was extremely pregnant.  She gave birth to 6 kittens less than 24 hours later.

Poor little girl.  She was only about a year old herself at that time.

So she's a lucky little thing, because she found a good rescue organization who took her in.  And now, I have my fingers crossed that she'll be able to join the ranks of my shy little rescues--because she's kind of shy herself, and not real keen on new humans.

But really, can you blame her?  I tend to be somewhat skeptical of humans myself, and no one left me hugely pregnant in a parking lot in the wee hours of the morning.

I really don't know how someone could do such a thing, quite frankly, but I think maybe they thought they were doing the right thing, if they couldn't afford to deal with a cat and all of her kittens.  Perhaps they thought that this way, she'd be taken care of.

And luckily, she was.  But the thing is, if the person didn't get the cat spayed to begin with, s/he wasn't being a very responsible pet owner from the get-go.  So that bums me out.

And what further bums me out is, there are a lot of animal hospitals out there that won't deal with this kind of situation, because they simply can't--they just call Animal Control, and then there's a chance the cat will be labelled "unwanted" and s/he may be euthanized.

So abandoning a cat like that and telling yourself it's "for the best"... well, it may not be.  And maybe some people don't care, but I'd kind of like to think that they do and they just don't know that this is how the system works.

Surrendering a pet to a No-Kill shelter is the better option, but the best option is, don't feel like you have to get a pet to assuage your own ego or emotional needs.  A pet needs YOU to care for him/her, not the other way around.  So if you don't want the hassle or the worry or the expense, you shouldn't get a pet.

The love and devotion need to be lifelong and mutual.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

"No-No Boy"

"It was not a time for clear thinking because the sense of loyalty had become dispersed and the shaken faith of an American interned in an American concentration camp was indeed a flimsy thing." 

I spent the past two days reading John Okada's novel, No-No Boy.  Written in 1957, No-No Boy is a fictional account of a lesser-known element of US history: the "no-no boys."

As I've mentioned in several previous posts on Asian American literature, beginning in April 1942, the War Relocation Authority (WRA) oversaw the removal and internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans from the West Coast of the United States.

These individuals, the majority of whom were American citizens (most Japanese residents in the US who were not American citizens were forced to return to Japan) were interned in various locations in Arizona, Utah, and elsewhere.

Beginning in December, 1943, the WRA implemented the "Application for Leave Clearance" form, also known as the "loyalty questionnaire."  The goal was to separate the "loyal" internees from the (potentially) "disloyal" ones, who were subsequently sent to Tule Lake, the largest of the 10 internment camps.

The term "no-no boys" refers to those who responded "no" to questions #27 & #28: "Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?" and "Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power, or organization?"


Okada's novel tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a "no-no boy" who was interned for two years and then imprisoned for two years, for answering "no" on the loyalty questionnaire and resisting the draft.  The novel begins with Ichiro's return to Seattle at the end of the war, and describes his attempt to start a new life for himself while simultaneously figuring out who he is and why he did what he did.

Throughout Okada's novel, there is an underlying emphasis on the fact that what Ichiro did was "very wrong."  At first, I found that a bit annoying, and couldn't help wondering whether, if Okada had written his novel a decade later, in the context of the conflict in Vietnam, he would have felt the need to insist on this point.

Because really, if the military police were to show up at your door one day, confiscate your property, and haul you off to a special "camp" because they suspect, on the basis of how you look and where your family comes from, that you might not be a "loyal" American--even though you were born in the US and never lived anywhere else--you'd probably be somewhat annoyed and reluctant to agree to much of anything that they want you to sign.

Nevertheless, only a very small minority of interned Japanese refused to sign, gave "qualified" answers or simply answered "no" on the loyalty questionnaire.  Most answered in the affirmative.

Seen in this light, Okada's decision to incorporate a strong, nationalist undercurrent throughout his novel makes sense.  And as the novel unfolded, it became apparent that Okada was using this backdrop to explore a wide range of complex issues and questions.

Why go to war for a country that refused to trust your loyalty?  Why refuse to go to war?  What does it mean to be American?  What does it mean to be Japanese American?  What is "treason"?  How are questions of "right" and "wrong" shaped by time, place and context?

Through the lens of Ichiro's anger, despair and bitterness, Okada explores the multifaceted responses to these--and other--questions, by incorporating a range of characters who represent the "American" reaction to the war and the internment in general and to Ichiro in particular.

Okada's novel is an interesting read.  Although at first glance it might seem a bit dated in its approach to war, identity and nationality, as the novel unfolds, it becomes clear that Okada was intrigued by the implications of what, on the surface, seems like a simple choice: "yes" or "no."