Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Process part 2

Part 2
The pinkie ball.
Rubber, pink, resilient, $1.95.

So, the story goes like this, as told by Grandpa Jack: I was riding in a truck driving on an irrigation canal (at Gila River Canal Camp). It turned over and I broke my hands. Since then, I squeeze the ball to help heal my hands. If this didn’t happen, I would have had to join the Army like my brother Tsuk (Tsukasa Tanaka was a member of 100th Inf. BN, served in Italy and returned with an Italian wife, Maria).

This story stuck with me. And there it stayed until I recalled it after his death in 2007. So, if my grandparents can be seen as ‘typical’ of their generation, I was able to hear one story about the war years from only one of four grandfolks. Which begs a question, I know three people who didn’t pass on their experiences, of the other roughly 116,000 people how many didn’t say anything to their children and grand children?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Share the process

Hi Folks!

Hope you are all well.
This past Summer was a time for reflection.
I taught my first summer course- compressing 10 weeks of photo-chemical darkroom, documentary field-craft, and editing into five weeks.

I visited all the taquerias in the metro Santa Cruz area. My favorite so far is La Playa on Mission Street where the chicharon taco is the way to go!

I became more informed about 9-11 and the 9-11 Truth movement. Thus causing me to reflect on the Internment.
In early August, Crystal and I helped Shin Takeda and AjA Project volunteers install this year’s project: iN-Grain across the street from Market Creek Plaza in San Diego’s Diamond Re-development district.
iN+GraiN Gallery

It was Shin who recommended that I share the process, something that is amiss where documentary work is concerned. Audiences usually only see the finished product; a film, an installation, a radio piece. I hope this explanation is inspiration for future ideas and a source for further discourse and learning.
This is story is how I came to make the images: thought and execution.

Part 1:
Questioning Government’s motives for the Internment from a temporal distance is unfair at best. I have access to documents that would have been inside knowledge thus giving a different view of the events than someone living through them.
I am brought into the contemporary as I watch college freshmen move into UCSC’s multi college environment. What will be remembered of the Internment when the freshmen were born in 2007? How will 9-11 be remembered? These questions are tackled by those investing in cultural and social science research as intellectual property and commodity. I have come to understand this over the course of the last 18 years.

This destination for me started where those future freshmen will begin so many years from now.
I was a junior college freshman at El Camino in Torrance. Don Haydu was the professor- Cultural Pluralism was the class. It was my first academic foray into the Internment memory where I wrote a research paper on the Constitutionality of Internment, from an 18 year-old’s perspective with little research savvy. My findings went against all that I had come to understand about the U.S. Constitution and for what it stood. It was my first exposure to governmental and contradictory treatment of people who were ‘equal under the law’.

Internment was a shock to me. I asked why the government would do such. I was fascinated by the disregard for the Constitution and the upholding of legality of the forced movement by Supreme court decisions in Korematsu v. United States and the treatment of Frank Emi’s Fair Play Committee.

I spent the semester wading through newspaper articles at UCLA, the few books written, while smirking at Lillian Baker’s denial of the event as it happened. I made a few attempts at interviewing my grandparents who had been there. I got the most from my father’s father— champion bowler Jack Tanaka. A story about the ubiquitous pinkie ball that rested next to the sofa.

Friday, July 6, 2007


“Make Manzanar even better physically, intellectually, and spiritually” by volunteering, asserts the NPS website. It is one of the only two internment sites that the National Park Service maintains. Manzanar’s interpretive center is a flood of experiences that will linger with the participant. You can stamp your passport and even become a junior ranger. Money from the Californian Japanese American community and its placement along a busy highway on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada makes Manzanar the “model camp town” and the representative of the internment. A visit to Manzanar is not, however, a visit to the other nine. No other sites are being reconstructed. The Park Service erected a watchtower on the exact location of one of the original eight. The internee’s elaborate ponds are being unearthed and rejuvenated. A mess hall has been moved into an original placement and is being refurbished for use in the “Typical Block” exhibit. The auto tour offers an overview of key sites: Toyo Miyatake’s residence in Block 20, the Children’s Village (the only internment camp orphanage), the Cemetery with its monument that has become the icon of Manzanar, and the camouflage net factory. In the lead-up to the Manzanar Revolt, Recycling and Garbage trucks flying Black Dragon flags endeavored to stop work at the camouflage net factory by threatening workers. Following the Revolt, workers at various jobs throughout the camp refused to show up for several weeks and the net factory never reopened. Manzanar National Historic Site, California, May 2007.

Manzanar Water

The City of Los Angeles purchased this land for its water rights in the 1920’s. From that point on, the water flowing out of the Sierras here was diverted to the LA aqueduct to quench the expanding population to the south. Despite summer temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, internees were forbidden from even wading in the water that ran through Manzanar. The LADWP has a reservoir just Northeast of the camp where internee crews built up the wall in February 1943. It is rife with cement inscriptions like the English, “I love myself, Tommy Miyaoka” and the Japanese “peace” and “Banzai, the Great Japanese Empire and Manzanar Black Dragon Group Headquarters”. Manzanar National Historic Site, California, May 2007.

Manzanar Cranes

Kenneth Foote argues that Sanctification of a site is creating a sacred space made special by the recurrence of ceremony and ritual commemoration. Of the many internment camp sites that have a pilgrimage, it is easy to attest to their being sanctified by the Japanese American community and only Designated memorials by the federal government. Manzanar ventures to be sanctified by the national community and perhaps will be as memory changes. Manzanar National Historic Site, California, May 2007.

Manzanar Revolt

On December 6, 1942 almost half the camp organized and marched to the administration area where a committee of five representatives negotiated the release of Harry Ueno. Harry was the organizer of the kitchen worker’s union at Manzanar. He had confronted the administration because while the mess hall was given insufficient sugar rations, the sugar bowls in the administrative buildings were full. Harry was arrested, without positive identification, following the beating of a JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) leader. The JACL, a minority group of young Nisei, cooperated with the internment and the camp administration and therefore procured positions of more importance and better pay than that of the Issei and Kibei. The administration’s release of Harry was met with uproarious celebration that evolved into general protest of the internment. The internees taunted soldiers, sang patriotic Japanese songs and threw rocks at the MPs. The MP’s used tear gas and fired into the crowd. Two internees died and nine were wounded. Harry Ueno was arrested along with the five negotiators. Fifteen “troublemakers” in all were held in local jails without hearings. In support of the prisoners, most work shut down in the camp for several weeks because the internees refused to show up. In January, the “troublemakers” were imprisoned at Dalton Wells, Utah. Harry was separated from his family and imprisoned for a year without ever being charged with a crime. And it all started with sugar. Manzanar National Historic Site, California, May 2007.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Heart Mountain Smoke Stack Pinhole

Medical administration buildings at Heart Mountain internment camp site near Cody, Wyoming stand in ambiguous testament, as so many abandoned buildings in the west. Heart Mountain administered 10,767 internees at its peak. Frank Emi was a organizer of the Fair Play Committee which commenced the only organized constitutional challenge to the draft in the internment camps. August 2005