Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Just Want To Throw This Out

**For those of you who care, I do not have the grand total on the benefit concert just yet but I shall report that when I get it.**

Greetings from Tokyo. I am now at my parents house with my daughter and husband. It's been about a year and a half since our last trip--it's good to be home. I always enjoy coming home with my husband because I get a foreign perspective on my home country. I also feel like a tourist in my own country because there are always some systems that have changed since the last time I was here. I speak the language but I appear clueless--this confuses people when I ask them a seemingly dumb-ass question. But then they see that I have a white dude and a half white kid and they get it.

Anyway, today's entry is about the garbage system in Japan. It's super complicated. I always stand in my parents' kitchen with a piece of garbage in my hand, staring at multiple receptacles. The garbage must divided in to the following categories in Japan: burnable, non-burnable, recyclable, and food waste. What bends your brain is the difference between non-burnable and recyclable. It seems like they should be one and the same, but they are not. And even if you figure out the difference there, there are three different categories of recycling and you have to divide them. Another thing that gets me is "non-burnalbe." It seems to me like anything can be burned down if you do it long enough. So I just stand there, paralyzed because if you divide it wrong and put it out, they just leave it there. That's right. You have to bring back your garbage inside and try it again next time. I don't wish for my senior citizen parents to have to pick through garbage for my mistakes so I just ask them "which kind is this garbage?" every time I throw anything out. Like I'm a 5 year old.

On the flip side, when my parents visit, they ask me how to throw things out. They are constantly amazed that our recycling is pretty broad, therefore, easy. They always say, "these two things both go in there? Are you sure?" because they've been conditioned. It doesn't help that they are both in their 80s and their memory is spotty so they often repeat their questions.

I always feel that I figure this out just as we are leaving and the time in between my visit washes away any knowledge I acquired because my brain has apparently now reached maximum memory. It's hard to be me.

But on we go with our visit. I'm certain there will be few entries while I am here. I hope you stay tuned.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cherry Blossoms, Mount Fuji, and The Rising Sun

Since the quake, I have felt that this disaster needed more attention than my own personal donation. With 27,000 dead or missing and 150,000 still displaced, Japan is going to need help for years to come. So my friend (the one who wears chopsticks in her hair) and I decided to organize a benefit concert using our connections and resources in the theatre world. We felt not rushing to organize one would give us some time to put together a decent size event that would have an impact, so we gave ourselves a couple of months. We entitled the concert, The Sun Always Rises which was a saying we found in one of the photos of the aftermath of the tsunami. There was a car that was upside down on a road and someone has spray painted on the side, "the sun always rises." It seemed appropriate.

One of the first things we did was to get a graphic designer to do a poster. I got a friend of mine, a really talented artist who does all of the poster design for his wife's theatre company to donate his service. He got to work and the first draft that he sent was resembling the naval flag of Japan. And this trigger some interesting responses. The overall design was really cool and slick, but the "rising sun" was reminiscent of propaganda posters from WWII. I first thought, I was being too sensitive but then my co producer friend had a much bigger reaction to it, so we asked him to go in a different direction. He was working with the title (understandably) and had no associations with that kind of feeling so had no idea this my perhaps offend the Japanese community. My friend said, "No cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji or rising sun." (This is clearly her "chop stick in hair." I just wanted to take her chopsticks our of her hair while she was saying this but that seemed petty.) He then did a beautiful design that we were all happy with that went with the title, but didn't have anything stereotyping.

In the meantime, several benefit concerts started to pop up around town, which is so great, but EVERY ONE OF THEM had a design with, you guessed it, cherry blossoms. I started forwarding every one of them to my friend as a joke. These are clearly concerts organized by Japanese, or Japanese Americans and it's as if they think that Americans won't understand the association unless we put those things in the design. But at the same time, it's a good short hand for Americans in a sense that they can know from the distance what culture this is coming from or serving. It's a cycle. I'm not certain if it's vicious cycle, but it is one. One of the concerts that we attended (because our daughter's preschool was singing in it), not only had cherry blossoms on the program, but the font was that "Chop Suey" font--the one that is often seen in Asian restaurants, where someone thought it might resemble Asian writing. UGH.

But of course, these observations are far less important than the fact that people are raising money for this cause. It is so great to see communities uniting, across the ocean, to help Japan. The artists we asked all said yes without hesitation even though they don't have any connection to Japan. The theatre venue that offered us the space is so great, they are taking care of all technical needs and ticket sales, as well as giving us the 20% of the bar proceeds to the cause. If we fill the house, we will raise $10,000. I want to fill it. It maybe a long shot, but I want to try. This is probably the most important and personal event I have produced in my career and while it's a lot of work on top of everything else going on, it feels good to put the energy into it.

If you are in Seattle, please come. If you can't come, buy tickets and send someone who can but may not be able to afford it. If you can't do either, consider sending me a check. Make it out to American Red Cross and on the memo line, write "Japan disaster fund." That is where all of our proceeds are going. Tickets are $25. The event is on May 21st at 7pm at ACT Theatre. For more information CLICK HERE. I would be most grateful for your support.

On a similar, yet separate note, we just received our cell phone that we rented to use in Tokyo (to which we are going on May 23rd). I opened the instruction book and the first image on there was the phone and on its screen was cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji. Sigh.