Friday, December 31, 2010

this year

I remember:
This year
I saw cranes.




Feeding, calling
On wing,

Taking flight,
in pairs
flying overhead.

in the reeds
along a county highway.

This year
I want to remember:
many times
I saw cranes.

1. Springtime in Russian Jack Springs Park.
2. June, on the 400 Trail in Wisconsin.
3. August, at Baxter Bog, less than a mile from our house.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

not necessarily a grinch

This holiday video is going viral. I first found out about it on the Alaska Magazine site. Then it was in the Anchorage Daily News. I've shared it with other people.

It's quite charming: a fifth grade class and other residents in a small coastal Alaska village flash cards with words or syllables printed on them to the tune of Hallelujah. Even those of us who aren't religious can see that it was probably lots of fun for the kids, elders and other residents of the village, especially when it came time to view it at the Christmas program at the school.

Yet, here I am twitching. Because I'm a stickler. As I pointed out to another stickler at a solstice party last night: "Sticklers are so annoying, unless they're me." And that's the thing, isn't it? I'm not perfect. I make mistakes, some in writing; some verbal (like today at lunch when I commented that Jon had given me a little spoon so I could eat my salad; only it wasn't a spoon, it was a salad fork). I do these kinds of word errors frequently enough that in public I sometimes have to stop to think about what to call something.

So, what's my beef with the video? An apostrophe, that's all. Okay, it's not just that apostrophes are mistakenly used on pluralized, non-possessive words. It's that the video, and I assume the flash cards, were made by a teacher. It is a very simple rule: we don't use an apostrophe before the letter "S" when a word is pluralized.

That's it. I've said it. And if that makes me a grinch, at least I'll be a grinch whose apostrophes are in the right place's. I mean "places."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

why, look at the moon!

December 20, 2010 - start of the lunar eclipse.

Last night and early this morning, thousands - maybe millions - of people on our spinning orb stopped what they were doing, turned their faces to the sky and looked at the Moon as the Earth's shadow cast itself across its surface. The Moon slowly grew dim, making one of the longest nights of the year in the northern hemisphere a little darker. Yet spirits seemed lifted as the eclipse played out.

I watched the beginning of it as I shoveled a skiff of fluffy snow from the driveway, glancing up every minute or so to watch as it progressed. Jon arrived home and agreed to join me for a walk. Our tenant, Dave, decided to go along. We strolled down the hill to the bog where the trail had already been packed through the fresh snow. We watched the eclipse's progress from a boardwalk before moving on to a large field. At least three other groups of people stood alongside the snowy field watching the eastern sky, some taking photos, as the Moon changed to light orange.

Lunar eclipse

After we walked home in the 4 degree night a haze of clouds moved in and obscured the sky.

I logged onto facebook and was surprised by how many of my Alaska friends had posted their eclipse-watching experiences in their status updates: "watching from my hot tub," one said; "in my living room," said another; on a mountain; from the edge of a canyon. The fact that the eclipse corresponded with the solstice and that the skies were clear may have contributed to all the people out there experiencing the celestial phenomenon. Because often people just ignore the Moon.

Why look at the Moon? I sometimes wonder. This fall when I was staying at a cabin with a group of friends, I was excited that we were there during the full moon. When I urged one friend to stay up late to see it, she quipped, "I've seen the moon!" It was funny how she said it and we laughed. But really, why would we want to leave our cozy cabin in the middle of the night to sit on the cold deck waiting for the Moon to appear between two mountains? Do I really have to try to answer that?

Maybe I like to watch the moon because it reminds me of the cycles of nature; of the months, the seasons; the ebb and flow of the tides and of our lives. It is the constant companion to Earth as we travel through the solar system; dependable when so many other things are not. It doesn't matter what your beliefs are; the Moon will be there. Or, it could be something more simple. Maybe I like to watch the Moon because it is a beautiful bright light in the otherwise cold, dark sky. Isn't that enough?

Thanks to my niece, Diane Mead, for allowing me to use her photos which were taken at Point Woronzof in Anchorage.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

round about on the tubes

Huge thanks to Duke Russell for posting our little film on YouTube. This was the 24-hour film challenge entry I mentioned the other day. Thanks for watching. You'll need to turn up your volume to catch everything.

Oh, what did I do? I did some of the camera work and helped come up with ideas. One of my ideas was one you might least expect from me but it ended up being kind of funny. And I'm also in one tiny scene; Kip is the other person in the scene.

For a little background, Duke (the star & instigator) and Kip (our lead cameraman) both worked on the Everybody Loves Whales film crew this fall. Duke commented that what would sometimes go through his mind while preparing yet another wall for paint were: spackle, sand & women. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

short film: round about

I promised I'd post a link to the film we made, but I'm a little challenged. Please bear with me. My friend posted it on a facebook group, so, if you're on facebook, you'll be able to view it by using this link.

If you aren't on facebook, we'll work on it so you won't be deprived. It should happen after the fest is done.

The rules were: the film had to be from two to 10 minutes long and had to in some way incorporate three elements: lavender, excelsior and squeal. I know. At least 90 percent of the footage had to be filmed during the 24-hour period and the film had to be delivered by 8:15 on Saturday evening to be in the competition. We worked right down to the last moment, including Duke burning the DVD as I drove to Out North. And after all that, our film missed the deadline by... get this... two minutes.

While we weren't in the running, the film was shown and even garnered some laughs and words of appreciation from the audience. Duke was also pleased that it was the penultimate film to show... if only we'd been in the running.

As for the five-day challenge. I just couldn't get into it. I felt a little bad because I started on it, but my heart wasn't in it. I just wasn't feeling the creativity & drive that's needed to do a project like that. And honestly, I'd rather watch films during the fest than spend all my time fretting over whether I'm doing a good job on a short deadline. So, while at first I felt I'd let the team down, in the end it was better to let them work on a great idea they came up with. I'm looking forward to seeing the final product. Excelsior!

Monday, December 6, 2010

the big watch 2010

I think I've recovered from a weekend of watching films. Shorts, animation, documentaries and features. And that's just the first two days of the Anchorage International Film Festival. I'm starting to get into it this year although at first I debated even getting the pass. Jon and I buy passes almost every year and gorge ourselves on 10 days of films. This year I began reading the descriptions and was only drawn into a few titles. It seems my enthusiasm has been lacking lately. But now that the films have started playing, I'm glad I have the pass so I can see as many as I please. If that means staying at the Bear Tooth for seven hours or more, then so be it. After all, there's really no reason to leave the Tooth once you step inside: films, local brew, wine, food. No reason to leave at all.

Now that I've begun the Big Watch, I've put my editor's brain into action. Some of the films, while good, could have used more editing. I remember a writing instructor saying that sometimes as writers we can fall in love with a line or a sentence. We love it so much that even when it doesn't fit into the story we want to keep it, just as we hang onto old clothes thinking one day we can fit into them again. There comes a time you must just look at it, then discard it. It can be hard; that's why we have editors.

At a filmmaking clinic last year, one of the filmmakers stressed the importance of a good editor who is not the director or writer. When an editor is not as closely attached to every one of the clips, it's much easier for them to cut things. Just as with writing, we need an unbiased person to look at our project and be honest about what works. We need to someone to evaluate each passage: does it move the story along or does it cause it to bog down?

Some of the films I saw lacked this kind of editing. I sensed it when the film about jazz musician Vince Guaraldi veered off the main thread of the story into a strand that I hoped would hook back in. There were great quotes and reminiscences from some jazz legends; shots of historical moments to frame the film in a certain time in America. Some of it would be great material for another film, but was not relevant to this story. It made the film drag under the weight of the extraneous clips. It needed an editor to be brutal with the material, yet sensitive to the story.

So, why such a critic?

This year I helped a friend make a film for the 24-hour film contest. It was a pretty loose group; we had little structure. Mostly, we had his idea which we brainstormed to flesh into a story. It took on a life of its own. We filmed that first night, met again in the morning, at which time he almost threw in the towel. Two of us convinced him we were still in it; we would see it through. We filmed some more. Then he sat down to edit. It took a long time (as we'd been warned) but together we were able to cull a story from what seemed like a dozen strands of ideas.

It's dark, it's light. It's funny, it's serious. It's a first attempt. A start. It screens tonight (I'll post a link after the showing). Now I'm asking myself: should I participate in a 5-day contest that begins tonight? I have no clue.

art is

Taking flight along Highway 89, north of Flagstaff, AZ

A couple weeks ago I ran into a woman I've known for a few years. Angela and I had been in a writing class together a few years ago. She's an artist and at the time was looking for feedback on a graphic novel she was working on. We chatted over coffee and she asked if I'd seen any graffiti done by a guy who goes by the name "Meno." I hadn't. (I probably don't get out enough, I suppose.) Then she told me that she wanted to meet him because she had heard he was just a young guy but has incredible talent, especially when it comes to cutting his stencils.

The next Sunday, I turned to the arts section of the paper and there he was. Elusive Meno. Like the UK artist Banksy, Meno didn't want to be photographed. Which is understandable because he's a graffiti artist, painting his art around the city. Now, he's gone inside with an exhibit at the MTS Gallery in Mountain View. His work looks intriguing.

It reminded me of the art Jon and I saw as we drove through northern Arizona last month. Photos & drawings, enlarged to life-size or larger, were glued onto abandoned buildings and old water tanks. All the works were along two-lane highways through reservation land. I don't know who the artists are, but Jon made a u-turn to take photos of the first site. After that, whenever we saw something, he pulled over and grabbed the camera. I wonder who made them and what statements they were trying to make.

Storage tanks along Highway 89, north of Flagstaff, AZ

along Highway 89, north of Flagstaff, AZ

3D detail

abandoned construction: looking ahead

guardians of abandoned construction

I don't know... but I like it.

At the abandoned Standard Oil station on Highway 160.

Do you know the artist(s). I'd love to give them credit.