Monday, November 30, 2009

City sNOw Plowing Blues

The picture is our street last night.  It snowed the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.  It snowed again Thanksgiving night.  Today is Monday afternoon.  It's four days since the first snowfall and three days since the follow up snowfall.  That's about 96 hours since the Wednesday night snowfall.  The snow had stopped falling in our neighborhood when I got up Friday morning.  It's now after 3pm Monday, so it's at least 78 hours since the Thursday night snow fall.  Here's a truck having trouble outside our house Saturday night. 


From the Muni website, here's the Municipal "Plow-Out" . . . policy?  Target?  Rule of thumb?  I'm not sure what to call it. Typicality?

Snow Plowing and Removal

After a snowfall, Street Maintenance crews typically have snow plowed within 72 hours. This is referred to as a “Plow-Out”. As the snow is plowed, Street Maintenance crews begin removing and hauling the snow to designated storage sites.  This cycle will continue after every major snow fall.
Click on the following links to find your area on the Plow-Out Map, or to check the status of current Plow-Outs.
Snow Plow-Out Plans
Snow Plow Out Status Map (available during winter season only)

The snowfall wasn't particularly heavy and our street still has yet to be plowed.   Now it was Thanksgiving.  But that was Thursday, not Friday.  And the website does say:
During the winter season (October through May) Street Maintenance crews work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week providing snow plowing, snow removal, ice prevention and de-icing on Municipal maintained streets and sidewalks.
And I checked the Muni Snow Plow Status Map that shows (you can double click to enlarge it)

Well, I'm not sure this the snow plow status map.  It does say street-sweeping map. (I didn't catch that part in my screen shot.)  But it also says as of Monday, 30 November 2009, so I have to assume it isn't a street sweeping map.

As of 6am this morning, it looks like about half of Anchorage hadn't been cleared yet.  Their snow plow out plan has 1/3 done Day 1, 1/3 done Day 2, and 1/3 done Day 3.  Going on Day 4, they had done maybe 1/2.

The snow plow out plan says that my neighborhood is either due to get plowed the first day (Plan A) or the third day (Plan B) after it snows.  But I'm not really sure how to tell when it's Plan A or Plan B.

Anyway, I don't know why, I just know the city is behind their own schedule for plowing the streets.  I'm expected to have my car off the street until they plow.  With a one car garage and wife-gets-the-garage rule at our house, that isn't always easy.  If I could tell when they were going to plow it would be easier.  But the snow is so bad right now, I had trouble getting it across the street and onto a vacant space on my neighbor's property.  And you can see the truck in the video above.

AIFF 2009 - Animated Films in Competition

There are TEN animated films in competition.  They represent a wide range of styles and topics.  There are two programs (groups of shorts in one showing.)  My advice is to go see both.  Some of the most creative work is done in animation.

Five of the Animated films in competition are in the Program:  It’s A Wild, Wild Life  (there are 19 films in this program)  and seven of the films in competition in this category are in the Program:  Should I Stay or Should I Go? Animation 1  (This program has 18 films altogether)  Three films - Calypso, The Mouse that Soared, and Topi - managed to get into both programs. 

All the showings are at Out North  (3800 Debarr at Primrose - one block west of Bragaw) Though the winner will probably be shown again sometime between Dec. 13-17.  And if last year is a guide,  there will be a slot for a short before many of the feature length films.

These are listed in alphabetically order.  With so many, you might get tired and not get to the bottom.  That would be a big mistake.  Be sure to look at the last ones too.  

There are a similar posts on documentaries in competiton, features in competition, and shorts in competition.  

Burn the Whole Place Down  U.K.    11 minutes

Director: Adam Comiskey
Program:  Should I Stay or Should I Go? Animation 1
Saturday, December 5 – 5:45pm – Out North
Tuesday, December 8 – 7:45pm – Out North

When trapped onboard a container ship with nowhere to run, all the band can do is keep playing.

Picture and interview excerpt below from the BBC:
"There is a misconception computers have made the job easier - they have made it cheaper and quicker. But we still need highly skilled artists to sit and press the buttons and do the long hours," explained Adam
Adam says he has not had a day off since May 2008 - only a power cut late the previous evening stopped the team from working into the early hours of the morning. The determination to get to the final result is what keeps them going.
"It is boring, there are long hours and there has to be something wrong with you to want to do it, quite honestly! But we do do it and we do enjoy it, we always keep our mind on the bigger picture. It's not just about that picture you are drawing - again - it's about working in the team and thinking about the final result at the end.

Calypso  Australia   9 minutes
Director: Jack Parry

(Calypso managed to get into both Animation Programs)

Program:  Should I Stay or Should I Go? Animation 1
Saturday, December 5 – 5:45pm – Out North
Tuesday, December 8 – 7:45pm – Out North
Program:  It’s A Wild, Wild Life
Thursday, December 10 – 5:30pm – Out North 
Sunday, December 13 – 12:45pm – Out North

Photo above, screenshot to the left, and Director's Statement below from Calypso website:
Music talks to me. Whenever I hear an intriguing melody I start to see stories in my head. First they appear as jumbled insights then slowly it all starts to gel and make sense. The first piece of the story of CALYPSO came to me several years ago listening to music in the car. I had been particularly charmed by one piece of music. I had been listening to it over and over again on the way to work when one day without warning the music took a hold of me and shouted its story out loud. I could see it there as clearly as I see it now as a finished film. I felt an absolute release of emotions and by the end I had tears in my eyes. This is not a recommended activity whilst driving in peak hour traffic. The hardest part for me in this film has been trying to imbue in others the rich and magical feelings I have had contained within me for this whole journey. I hope that now the film is finally finished you can all share its story too.
Jack Parry, June 2009

Dried Up  U.S.  6 minutes
Directors: Stuart Bury, Jeremy Casper and Isaiah Powers

Program:  It’s A Wild, Wild Life
Thursday, December 10 – 5:30pm – Out North 
Sunday, December 13 – 12:45pm – Out North

The Dried Up website: has a lengthy discussion of how they made this short.  Six minutes of film after eight months.  Animation is laborious and the section titled Making of Dried Up might help others in the future, or if you're just curious how they did it.
Making Of Dried Up
We learned a lot while making this film and we would like to share those lessons. Hopefully when we catch up on a little more sleep we will be able to piece through the hazy memories and get some stuff updated here.

Like how to build a smooth camera dolly for 30USD. Or why not to use mould making latex for hand construction… or how cardboard and glue can make anything. And how cardboard is free and glue is expensive…

It began:

Dried Up was born out of a stopmotion/building class fall semester of 08. Jeremy and I planed to do a small collaboration project with each other in addition to our final thesis work. For being in an animation program we still grasped hold of that many times elusive naivety of what we could actually accomplish in an 8 month time frame. We now look back and laugh at our selves and our silly ideas.
The video also comes from their website.   Warning - this is the whole short, not just a clip.
Dried Up from Cecil on Vimeo.

Duck [Heart] Teslacoil U.S.  6 minutes
Director: Tyler Kupferer

Program:  It’s A Wild, Wild Life
Thursday, December 10 – 5:30pm – Out North 
Sunday, December 13 – 12:45pm – Out North

A young duck learns how to deal with a bus stop menace through the use of high voltage weaponry.

Photo (SCAD = Savannah College of Art and Design) and text from an interview in Connect Savannah:
What was the genesis of Duck Heart Teslacoil?

Tyler J. Kupferer: It was originally inspired by a piece of vector artwork featuring a monster and a bunny. The instant I saw the flat style, I wondered: “What would that look like animated?” Several months later, while at an ideas pitch session, I thought up the concept of DHT in about five minutes, based on the idea I thought Tesla coils were under–represented in modern cinema. After that, the idea seemed more and more plausible.

In addition to writing, directing and producing the film you also did the animation and provided one of the voices. Between all of those jobs do you have a preference?

Tyler J. Kupferer: Of all the hats I wear when producing my short films, directing is by far my favorite. I think one of the reasons I enjoy directing so much is because I take an interest in all other aspects of production, and directing challenges me to address the unique tasks of each role in a way that must lead to a single cohesive piece. The directing role is what keeps me concentrated on every aspect of storytelling and how it relates to my audience.
Video from digitalheartsawards.  Warning:  This is the whole film, not just a clip.

Duck Heart Teslacoil from Base14 on Vimeo.

Hugo in the Land of Lemonsharks  U.S.   3:20 minutes
 Director: Paxson Woelber
Program:  Should I Stay or Should I Go? Animation 1
Saturday, December 5 – 5:45pm – Out North
Tuesday, December 8 – 7:45pm – Out North
 ALSO in:
Snowdance 3
Saturday, December 5 – 12:30pmBear Tooth
Tuesday, December 8 – 5:30pmOut North

From Presurfer: 
An animation by Paxson Woelber (born in Alaska, currently living in New York). Hugo in the Land of the Lemonsharks is a tale of chivalry, heartache, valor, and, of course, screaming shred guitar.
I would add that the visuals are pretty stunning in this short animation.  You can see some of Paxson's other art work and animation at his website:
where I got this full copy of Hugo. Face shot is from Paxson's Facebook page.
Warning this is the whole thing, not just the trailer.

Hugo in the Land of the Lemonsharks from Paxson Woelber on Vimeo.

Paxson's from Anchorage, so I expect he'll be up here for the festival and he'll probably be available to answer questions after the showing.

See video interview of Paxson in Anchorage.  [coming Dec. 4]

I Slept With Cookie Monster  U.S.  3 minutes

Director: Kara Nasdor-Jones
Program:  Should I Stay or Should I Go? Animation 1
Saturday, December 5 – 5:45pm – Out North
Tuesday, December 8 – 7:45pm – Out North

Kara Nasdor-Jones writes on her beautifully designed blog that she's interested in exploring serious issues using animation because it's unexpected.
"My last project, "I Slept With Cookie Monster," was very much a healing process for me since I began the film while fighting to end the abusive relationship I was in.  Forcing myself to dive into these extremely sensitive issues and visually work through them helped me to understand many critical issues in the healing process."
The video won the Grand Prize For Best Student Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival last year.  The video can be seen on her website.  Since it is not embedable,  I'm not posting it here.  It's beautifully done well worth seeing as the Ottawa prize suggests. 

Manifestations   U.S.   4 minutes
Director: Giles Timms
Program:  Should I Stay or Should I Go? Animation 1
Saturday, December 5 – 5:45pm – Out North
Tuesday, December 8 – 7:45pm – Out North

Giles Timms is from Wales, and got his MFA this year at the UCLA  Animation Workshop in the School of Theater, Film and Television. In an interview with channelfrederator,

CF: . . .“Manifestations” is pretty trippy - how did you develop the concept for the film?

GT: “Manifestations” actually started out as a single scene exercise/experiment I set for myself to learn After Effects. Once I had that initial scene and then Ceri’s wonderful music I started to develop the story outward from those two pieces. It really helped me to have Ceri’s music at the very beginning of the project as I was able to listen to the music and create the scenes and story in my head. The whole process though was rather experimental for me and certainly an aspect of the film is very much me trying to push myself as an animator and filmmaker. My process was also a bit unconventional in that I ended up with about 8 minutes of animation that I edited down to 4 minutes  But I learned a lot.
Whole video WARNING.  From his website.

Manifestations from Giles Timms on Vimeo.

The Mouse That Soared U.S.   6 minutes
Director: Kyle Bell
Program:  Should I Stay or Should I Go? Animation 1
Saturday, December 5 – 5:45pm – Out North
Tuesday, December 8 – 7:45pm – Out North

A famous flying circus mouse reflects on his humble beginnings in this high-altitude adventure in aerodynamics.

The Mouse's blog says he won Best Animation screened at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the West Hollywood International Film Festival, where "the ghosts of Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe were rumored to be in attendance."   TMTS won 'Best Animation' again at the HollyShorts film Festival and the 'Audience Favorite Animation' award too.  And again at the Malibu Film Festival it won  'Best Animation' and 'Audience Choice Animation'.  We have to assume that in the center of the beast down there in LA, the audience is pretty picky.   So this is one to watch. 

You can get a hint from the trailer from Kyle Bell's YouTube page.  Bell is described as "a veteran filmmaker" and while the student done films are dazzling in one aspect or another, you can see a more completely filled out film here, just in the trailer.  Also check out The Mouse that Soared website.

 Skylight   Canada   5 minutes
Director: David Baas

Program:  It’s A Wild, Wild Life
Thursday, December 10 – 5:30pm – Out North 
Sunday, December 13 – 12:45pm – Out North

 There's a lot of posts online about this film, but what I could find were either basic descriptions of what happens and/or spoilers.  It's called by some a mock documentary on climate change.  Just go see it and enjoy it. 

Topi   U.S.    6 minutes
Director: Arjun Rihan

Program:  It’s A Wild, Wild Life
Thursday, December 10 – 5:30pm – Out North 
Sunday, December 13 – 12:45pm – Out North
Program:  Should I Stay or Should I Go? Animation 1
Saturday, December 5 – 5:45pm – Out North
Tuesday, December 8 – 7:45pm – Out North

From the AIFF description:
Amidst the turbulent partition of India circa 1947, a young Hindu boy has a chance encounter with a stranger.

The film maker's website  is exquisite.  The visuals there from the film are . . . I don't want to say exquisite again, how about 'amazing'?  Go look at the website and come to see this film.  And Arjun will be in the audience with you according to his blog:
Finally, I will be watching the film with an audience for the first time at the Anchorage International Film Festival (Dec 4 - Dec 17) in Alaska (also my first trip to Alaska).
 To whet your appetite, here's something he just put up on his blog:

"A video (created for an award application) that shows the step-by-step progress of two shots. Took forever to resurrect those old files, but it's a nice video to have."

I have a very good feeling about this film. 

To see all the posts on this year's festival you can go to the label (lower right column) Anchorage International Film Festival (AIFF 2009)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cat Lovers Should Check Out This House

I ran into this post on while working on my animations in competition post for the Anchorage International Film Festival.  Yes, that post is still coming.  But I know that this link will get the cat fan's imaginations running wild.

The photo here plus many are more in the post, "Another Amazing Cat-friendly House Design from Japan"

AIFF 2009 - Film Festivals in the You Tube Era

I've posted elsewhere about the ethics of getting clips of video for use when blogging about a movie.  After all, book reviewers can take excerpts from books to make their points about the writing.  They don't rely on a few excerpts that the publisher sends them.  The law is murky - well, it's clear that video taping in a movie theater is  illegal, but once you have the video, the First Amendment would seem to favor the blogger.  All this assumes minimal amounts of video, with no intent to make money, simply to review.

The most persuasive argument to take video down came from a filmmaker a couple of years ago who said that the clauses in many film festivals forbid any movie that is available on the web, no matter how short a clip.  I took it down as I would if people ask, and the request is about their material or image, I do immediately.  But this year I've noticed several movies in the festival that are available online.  I asked Rand (the festival program director) about this and he said he's been to workshops discussing this and that rule is crumbling because of what all is available online these days.

So my dilemma is, what should I do if I find a whole movie online?  More precisely, should I post it when I'm putting something up about that movie?  Just put a link?  Or not mention it at all?

What are the factors that should be considered?   The film is already up somewhere  online and available, so I'm not responsible for that.  If people want to see they can. (I'm assuming that film maker allowed the posting directly or indirectly, if not, I shouldn't post it.)   I concluded there is one key issue:

Will it affect attendance at the festival?  If so, how?

Arguments that it will lower attendance:
  1. If people can see the films online, they don't need to pay to see them at the festival.
  2. If people see festival films online and don't like them, they won't come to other films.
  3. Fewer audience members might come and there would be less interesting Q&A.  

Arguments that it won't lower attendance and may increase attendance:
  1. If people can see some films online, they can go to other events playing at the same time.
  2. All of the films I've found were short and are part of a Program with other films, so people will have to go to see the other films anyway.
  3. If people like a film, they may go on the chance of seeing the filmmaker and asking questions.
  4. People who had no intention of going to the festival will see some and realize that these films aren't your run-of-the-mill Hollywood film and come to see some of the festival showings.
  5. Lots of people like to see a film more than once.  If it's online, they can see it again on the big screen (itself another reason to go) and see aspects they missed the first time. 
  6. They can tell friends who can't go, how to see a few of the films that they liked that are also online.
  7. People don't have to take my word for anything, they can judge for themselves.  They can also judge whether they like and dislike the same things I like and dislike.

I have no empirical evidence to indicate what people will actually do.  I have to use my own acumen to tentatively conclude, until it's proven otherwise, that the few films I post are not going to hurt attendance and may well help it.  (But, being me, means as soon as I wrote that I started to google to see if there is any evidence.  I didn't find anything addressing my question, but I found a lot saying that online is one of the futures of festivals, and that future is already here.  See below **)

Also, I'm just one head, and I'm sure I've left out important points, so please jump in and add points I missed in the comments. 

Another factor I'd add here.  One purpose of this coverage of the Anchorage International Film Festival is to give people in Anchorage (and elsewhere) more information about what's playing and when so that they can save a bit of time going through that long list of movies coming next week.  I assume that my readers are adults and can decide for themselves if they want to click the play button or not.  I should make things easier for them, but not decide for them.

So far, I've only found a handful of films where the whole film is online (not just a trailer) - but I've only been looking at the films in competition.  I won't be able to highlight more than a small percentage of the films.  Once the festival starts, I'll see stuff and comment as my interest in any particular film, the serendiptiy of who I bump into, and my time allow. 

**I found almost nothing in my short search about festival films being available online.  I couldn't figure out the right search terms I guess.  I did find this:  Anna Feder, Festival Director/Programmer at the Boston Underground Film Festival, interviewed on the blog Film Festival Secrets:
recent trend I have noticed in submissions of which I approve: I love that filmmakers are starting to put all their materials on line. I try to discourage filmmakers from sending me these expensive wasteful glossy paper press kits when my needs are digital files of stills and trailers. We don’t want the filmmaker to bankrupt him or herself submitting to our festival. Submit early, keep the packaging simple (we care about your film – not the well designed art on the cover!), and let your work speak for itself (no lengthy introduction letter needed)!

But that's materials, not the film itself.

It's clear, though, that more and more people are putting films online.  The question that remains is what will the relationship between festivals and the online films be in the future?  Live festivals offer the excitement of seeing many films in a short period, repeatedly bumping into the same people, getting to talk to the film makers.  However, traveling takes time, is expensive, and is environmentally questionable.  Most likely online social networkers will create a virtual film festival platform that captures much of the interaction at a real festival.  The films would reach a far wider audience.   So seeing things online may be the most viewed outlet for all films eventually.  

There already seem to be Online Film Festivals.  I'm noting a few I found, but I want to make it clear, I haven't researched to see if these are legitimate.  I have no reason to suspect they aren't, but given the existence of the questionable Alaska International Film Festival website, I do want people to be cautious.  

iFilm Connections: Asia & Pacific features:

an online film festival featuring independent feature-films whose content sheds light on issues of representation and the impact of globalization upon the cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands;

The Tampa Bay Online Film Festival:
The Tampa Bay Film Online Film Festival was originally built into the initial Tampa Bay Film web site, and launched with Tampa Bay Film on January 11, 2007. It became extremely popular, and was very successful. The original Tampa Bay Film Online Film Festival became the most effective means for filmmakers to market and promote their films in Florida.
We’ve learned from what worked, and what didn’t. The stakes are now higher. We’re going to be the best online film festival in the United States.

The Great Lakes Film Festival has gone online, but with security measures:

Much like most other festivals, ours was limited by time in how many films we could screen at the fest. Simply put, if a film is good, it will be accepted and screened without time constraints. Films will not be available for download, but shall be presented in a video on demand system that will allow users to watch the films.  The VOD system will be secured and can be viewed from any computer.
Unlike other festivals streaming films online, films in this festival cannot be downloaded, the films  HAVE NO EMBEDDING CODE and our HTML code if copied and pasted, the films will not play, therefore they CANNOT be placed on other websites. 
The only time and place they can be viewed is in our festival.  In short, we have gone to great lengths to set this system up to protect the safety and security of each filmmaker's film always keeping the filmmaker in mind. Basically, it is just as secure as a brick and mortar theater screening, only much better.
We made the decision to screen films exclusively online because of two reasons, first we understand that filmmakers around the world pour not only all of their time and heart into their work but also most of their money.  Because of financial and time constraints independent filmmakers most times find it difficult to attend the screenings of their film.  Now not only can the filmmaker attend, but all of their friends and family members can as well.  In addition, the number of attendees to the festival is literally limitless giving the filmmaker much more exposure for their work.

The New England Online Film Festival

2009 Festival Films

The following films have been chosen to be part of the First Online New England Film Festival. You can also view the text list of films
. . .

And Cologne Online Film Festival:
CologneOFF is a new mobil type of film & video festival acting without a static festival location. It is organised simultaneously online and offline via partner festivals & cooperations. In this way, the festival takes place when a physical partner is hosting CologneOFF and this can take place anywhere anytime –> more

So, I'm going to assume the world is changing and I'll go along with that change and put up whole films if I run across them and there's a reason to be posting about the film.  I'm NOT going to try to find all the online films from this festival and post them.  So far, I've been trying to post the films in competition in each category and I've found a few that are online and I've posted them with the entry about the particular film. 

But if you have compelling reasons why I shouldn't do this, let me know. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Steve's Hearty Low Calorie Oatmeal Recipe

I decided after Thanksgiving night's dinner, I needed to fast. By about 2pm I thought maybe I should eat a little bit. I thought, "How about I try and stay under 500 calories?"  So I looked up 500 calories diet. [They don't recommend such diets.] Oatmeal was on one of the lists.

Well, I realized last summer that recipes are big on blogs, but I've never put up a recipe.  There aren't too many things that I would call 'my' recipes, but my oatmeal is different and so I started taking pictures for an oatmeal recipe post.  But I forgot about it.  Until now.

I checked to see how many calories this is for one bowl.   It comes out to about 206 calories - give or take if you add lots of raisins, honey, or other fruit like blueberries.  So here it is.

(If the pictures are too small, double click to enlarge them.)

Cooked kiwi is really good.  And it's full of vitamin C.

The dry oat bran is a lot more calories per cup than the oatmeal - 231 to 150. But I only use a little bit of oat bran and added a few more calories to the count.  The oat bran is that little edge outlined with yellow in the picture.

About the egg white.  If you drop it into the water, especially if it didn't get beaten enough, it forms little globs.   So eventually I figured out that if I put some of the oatmeal in first, then the egg white, and then the rest of the oatmeal, then I can mix it into the oatmeal nicely, then with the water.  If the water is still boiling strongly, the egg will get into the water before mixing with the oatmeal. 

When I checked today, I found out the raisins were 5 calories each.  So you can lower the number of calories by putting in fewer raisins.

Fresh blueberries are less than a calorie per berry, so you can be more liberal with them. 

The honey adds lots of calories, relative to the other ingredients.  It does sweeten it up a bit, but if you cook the banana well, it sweetens things up too. 
This recipe makes two bowls. About 206 calories/bowl
with the raisins, 236 with the honey.

Of course you can add whatever fruit you want.  A large strawberry is only 6 calories.    The violet is for decoration only.  Now, I have a good friend who thinks this recipe confirms my weirdness.  Other friends have been more polite and actually said it was good.  It probably takes some getting used to.  If you are used to lots of sweet, you have to slowly adjust to less sweet.

Anyway, it's a good filling winter breakfast with very few calories.  But watch out for the orange juice.  Two cups is more calories than the oatmeal.  (One cup is 112 calories!)

I decided I didn't need to be fanatical today so at dinner I had some soup (vegie broth was 20 calories per cup) plus some brocoli and mushrooms and a little Thai spice, and a small piece of bread.  Stayed well under 500 calories.  I'm a bit hungry, but I'll wait til tomorrow.

This isn't a diet for every day, but looking up all the calories is a good reminder.  I'm not a big person, but that also causes me to think I can eat more than I should.  And my pants get a little tighter.  And with my exercise level down in winter, I need to remember that a whole apple is only 44 calories,  about the same as 15 peanuts.  

I got most of the calorie counts from The Calorie Counter.  I did find a fair amount of difference in calories on different sites.

After Dinner Stroll

We really needed to move after dinner, so when all the guests were gone, we took advantage of the balmy 30˚F and the fresh snow and walked over to the university. The trail is well lit, perhaps too well lit.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hour and a Half to Go

Getting ready for the folks to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. I think we'll make it despite my dawdling.

Whoops, the embroidery is inside out.  Better go change that.

Don't trust the internet with your giblets

I've just pulled the giblets from the turkey.  Well, there's a neck, liver, heart, and what I've always understood to be the gizzard.  What's a gizzard?

Well, I looked up giblets.  Here's why we have to be careful of what we find online.  Fortunately, these were all in the same place so obviously most of them had to be wrong.

From Topix:

Fermelda Hyde
United States

Turkey Giblets are those hangey downey things from a turkey's face.
they are best prepared if you suck them off instead of cutting them off. now if u cut them off be sure to boil them in water to have the same moisture affect as sucking them off. you may then eat them any way you please. i like mine on a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich. now you can also try them on a torilla wrap with tomatoes and lettus. you can hardley tell the giblets from the tomatoes!


No Ma'am. The Giblets are the edible offal of a fowl, typically including the heart, gizzard, liver, and other visceral organs. The term is culinary usage only; zoologists do not refer to the "giblets" of a bird. Giblets is pronounced with a "soft g" sound (jib-lit) as opposed to a "hard g", as in gizzard.

So enjoy those fine giblets this Thanksgiving

Harold Glackin
Look your all wrong, i worked in a meat abador for years and the giblets are the liver and the feathers of the turkey mushed up. Best served with vodka just before your dinner mmmmmm vodka how i would love some right now.Call me 079XX100198 
Lee Elliott
Are you all nuts?

The giblets include all the remains of the butchering process. These often include anything swept from the floor. Since the reign of King James, these must be included, in a paper bag, inside the gutted turkey. Traditionally, fingers of workers and slaves would find their way into the mix and mean good luck for the new year for those who pluck them from their teeth.

The traditional dish of giblets is served the next day as breakfast, the famous poem, "Ode To A Giblet Bag, Oh, Nonny-Noh!" is read out. Prepare with equal measure of porridge oats and drizzle with honey.
 here are a couple of definitions from the free dictionary:

gib·lets  (jblts)
The edible heart, liver, or gizzard of a fowl.

[From Middle English gibelet, from Old French, game stew, perhaps alteration of *giberet, from gibier, game.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

giblets [ˈdʒɪblɪts]
pl n
(Cookery) (sometimes singular) the gizzard, liver, heart, and neck of a fowl
[from Old French gibelet stew of game birds, probably from gibier game, of Germanic origin]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 6th Edition 2003. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

And the gizzard?  From Merriam-Webster online:

Main Entry: giz·zard
Pronunciation: \ˈgi-zərd\
Function: noun
Etymology: alteration of Middle English giser gizzard, liver, from Anglo-French gesir, giser, from Latin gigeria (plural) giblets
Date: 1565
1 a : the muscular enlargement of the alimentary canal of birds that has usually thick muscular walls and a tough horny lining for grinding the food and when the crop is present follows it and the proventriculus b : a thickened part of the alimentary canal in some animals (as an insect or an earthworm) that is similar in function to the crop of a bird
2 : innards

Giving Thanks for What and to Whom?

 I've been ambivalent about Thanksgiving for a long time.  Thanksgiving - in my experience - is a time when family and friends come together, consider and give thanks for their blessings, and enjoy each other's company.

But then there's all that stuff about Pilgrims in Plymouth.  If any of the basic story is true, the European immigrants essentially came to North America, were helped to survive their first difficult winter, and then went on to decimate their hosts and take over the land.  Not a good basis for a holiday of thanksgiving.

And then there's all that poultry that's cooped up, butchered, frozen, and shipped to supermarkets, raising questions about how healthy the meat is and how humanitarian the turkeys are treated.  I focused on that two years ago.

About two weeks ago, a friend sent me an article called  "How I Stopped Hating Thanksgiving And Learned To Be Afraid"  by Robert Jensen.  Here are some excerpts. 

In recent years I have refused to participate in Thanksgiving Day meals, even with friends and family who share this critical analysis and reject the national mythology around manifest destiny. In bowing out of those gatherings, I would often tell folks that I hated Thanksgiving. I realize now that "hate" is the wrong word to describe my emotional reaction to the holiday. I am afraid of Thanksgiving. More accurately, I am afraid of what Thanksgiving tells us about both the dominant culture and much of the alleged counterculture. . .

Although it's well known to anyone who wants to know, let me summarize the argument against Thanksgiving: European invaders exterminated nearly the entire indigenous population to create the United States. Without that holocaust, the United States as we know it would not exist. The United States celebrates a Thanksgiving Day holiday dominated not by atonement for that horrendous crime against humanity but by a falsified account of the "encounter" between Europeans and American Indians. When confronted with this, most people in the United States (outside of indigenous communities) ignore the history or attack those who make the argument. This is intellectually dishonest, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt. . .
He's enjoying his righteous indignation a bit too much I think.  After all, can't we make this day of thanksgiving mean whatever we want it to mean?  From his perspective, and this is the part I have to think about seriously..
Most leftists who celebrate Thanksgiving claim that they can individually redefine the holiday in a politically progressive fashion in private, which is an illusory dodge: We don't define holidays individually or privately -- the idea of a holiday is rooted in its collective, shared meaning. When the dominant culture defines a holiday in a certain fashion, one can't pretend to redefine it in private. To pretend we can do that also is intellectually dishonest, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt.
He certainly likes that refrain. . . intellectually dishonest, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt.  Phil, can you put that to music?

As I said above, I have qualms about Thanksgiving, but his claims to own the truth here and call people who disagree names seems disingenuous too.  And he never even mentions the killing of all the turkeys every year.

The way he puts it, it seems we have only a couple of options:  Keep on being hypocrites or abandon Thanksgiving.  Possibly there's a third option - some official decoupling Thanksgiving from the story of the pilgrims.  I'd argue that that can happen gradually as more and more people do that in their personal celebrations - consciously talk about the new meaning of Thanksgiving at their dinners.

I'm planning to partake in Thanksgiving, remembering the good things of this year and of my life and offering thanks.  But I'm also going to remember  that a sentient creature was sacrificed so that we might eat.  We may even find some alternative to a turkey one day. And if this day of giving thanks is based on pilgrims whose descendants took everything from the descendants of their hosts, then we must contemplate that too while we eat.  We can't change what happened, but we can live our lives in ways that prevent things like that from happening on our watch.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Letter to Editor Makes Me Think About Facts, Emotions, People

It seems to me that 'facts' are being tossed about very loosely these days.  By one definition, facts are those things that theoretically can be proven true or false, but they aren't necessarily true, no matter how often you repeat them.

Emotion seems to allow (cause?) people, myself included, to create fictions to support our belief systems.    And those belief systems tend to immobilize our ability to differentiate between truths and untruths.  (OK, some things are hard to know, but some things - say the existence of Idaho or death panels - are easier to prove.)  Some people can be more objective about these things than others.  I say emotion - which isn't a bad thing - but I probably mean two particular emotion that seems to be wide spread these days:  anger and fear.  

I'd like to see us move to less reliance on emotions and more on rational thought.  I'm not saying emotion shouldn't play a role in our decision making, but the pendulum has swung far to the side of emotion.  We need some balance.  Here's a letter to the editor that demonstrates what I mean.  It's from the November 15 Anchorage Daily News.
Assembly, hands off my cash
Every mature person understands there is a difference between "wants" and "needs" and knows that "needs" must come before "wants," especially when there is a shortage of money. Grown-ups also understand that life is not fair and that we are guaranteed equal opportunities to succeed but never promised equality.
People who work hard and live responsibly will always have more than those who do not. It is the right and responsibility of those who have to help those who have not, but government does not have the authority to take anything from one person to give to another. Redistribution of wealth is robbery, and robbery is wrong whether it be at the barrel of a gun or by taxes.
Anchorage Assembly, stop trying to right all the wrongs in the city and just do your job!
-- DD
Let's look line by line:

Assembly, hands off my cash

Well, that's the work of the person who puts headlines on the letters, not the letter writer, so let's skip that.
Every mature person understands there is a difference between "wants" and "needs" and knows that "needs" must come before "wants," especially when there is a shortage of money.
This sounds like something a kid hears over and over again from a parent to the point where it's an unquestioned truth.  While I'm leery of blanket statements like  'every,'  in a general sense, I can understand and agree with the sentiment.  Though sometimes we can't get big 'needs' but we can get small 'wants.'   Is it wrong, when you've been scrimping for years to pay the mortgage and the other bills, to once in a while buy a fancy soap, a chocolate bar, or some flowers? 

People who work hard and live responsibly will always have more than those who do not.
This sounds like another parental mantra.  But this seems like is a giant leap. "Always" always causes my crap detector to quiver.   So the poor legal immigrant woman who works three minimum wage jobs so she can feed and clothe her children and help them do well in school has more than the playboy son of a wealthy family who parties on his allowance and thinks putting his dishes in the dishwasher is work?  (In terms of emotional satisfaction probably, but I don't think that's what the letter writer had in mind.)

I'm guessing this 'law of human behavior" is based on this letter writer's belief that in America if you work hard you can get ahead.  And it may even be true in her own case.  Apparently this belief is what keeps poor people supporting rich politicians and celebrities - the hope that they too can be rich one day  (see number 3.)    I'm not saying that there isn't a general correspondence to working hard and living responsibly and having more.  But it's not a universal truth, even in the US.  Really, are raunchy pop stars harder working or more responsible than dedicated high school teachers?
It is the right and responsibility of those who have to help those who have not,  but government does not have the authority to take anything from one person to give to another.
Where does this right come from?  She does acknowledge responsibility of individual people to help the poor, but tells us that government does not have the right to help some using the wealth of others.  I wonder if this writer has read the US Constitution lately?  From Article I, Section 8:  The Powers of Congress:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
It seems pretty clear that on a national level, Congress has the authority to tax (which would be taking from one person) and to use that money to pay others for various purposes including providing defense and general welfare. General welfare is pretty broad.  It probably includes helping the destitute. 
Redistribution of wealth is robbery, and robbery is wrong whether it be at the barrel of a gun or by taxes.
What exactly does 'redistribution of wealth' mean?  When you and I buy gasoline, wealth is being redistributed from auto owners to oil companies.  Is she saying that's robbery?  When we pay our phone bills, it's being redistributed from us to ACS or GCI or AT&T.

The government has the explicit Constitutional authority to levy and collect taxes.  Explain to me how you can NOT redistribute wealth when you use tax money.  If taxes are used to pay people to build roads, the laborers are getting the money that once belonged to the tax payers.  If you decide to contract out such work, the money is then going to the companies who win the contracts.

Perhaps the writer means it shouldn't be taken from people who work hard and given to people who don't work.  Let private charity take care of those people.  People do make that case.  But there is an assumption here that the people who are not working are 1) physically and/or mentally capable of working;  and
2) can find work; which
3) pays them enough to meet their, dare I say it, needs.

But the letter writer has already assumed that if you work hard, you can take care of yourself.  I guess this includes young children of alcoholics, people with physical or mental ailments that make it difficult to get a job (either because they can't perform the work or because employers assume they can't).

Ready now for the last sentence. 

Anchorage Assembly, stop trying to right all the wrongs in the city and just do your job!

Here she seems to acknowledge that things can go wrong.  Good.

But what exactly is the assembly's job?  The Municipal Charter is pretty vague compared to the US Constitution.  Or at least it isn't as well organized.  Section 3.01 for example:
Section 3.01.  Powers of the municipality.
The municipality may exercise all legislative powers not prohibited by law or by this Charter.

I'm not trying to be cute here.  The 'duties' of the assembly aren't all neatly in one place - they are scattered around the Charter.  But Section 5.06   (note:  the link to the Charter and Code just gets to the main page, you can use the index in the sidebar to find specifics) does say:
Section 5.06.  Administrative code.
The assembly by ordinance shall adopt an administrative code providing for:
(a)   The identity, function, and responsibility of each executive department and agency;

The charter was written to unite the former City of Anchorage and Borough of Anchorage, so much of the attention was focused on how to unite the two, both of which already had ordinances.  But we can look at some of the sections of the ordinances to see what sort of functions the assembly is expected to carry out.  Each of those bullets opens and lists more detailed functions.

So,  the assembly is responsible for quite a bit.  Perhaps the letter writer should be more specific about which things the assembly shouldn't be doing and which things they should be doing.

I can understand that people have a lot of frustration.  Most people who had worked hard and saved up lost a lot of value when stocks crashed.

This letter mainly tells me the letter writer was angry.  Instead of being specific about what set her off, she offers us a rant in which inaccurate statements are pronounced as truths.  How much of this does she really believe literally?  How much is just venting?   But I do hear loud and clear something like, "I work hard for my money and I don't want you Assembly members giving it away to deadbeats."  Or am I reading in something that isn't there? 

On the other hand, there's enough in there to suggest that she and I could find a lot of common ground.  I work hard and I'm responsible, so she'd probably approve of how I've lived my life.  Maybe if we found some things we had in common - maybe she likes to garden, or to bike, or birds, or Thai food - and we got together over a good meal, we could talk about our children or our parents and we could soften some of the edges.  Maybe we could share our prouder moments and some of our disappointments.  We won't change each other's minds on the issues, but we will change our assessments of each other as "fill in with an appropriate derogatory term".

We all need to start seeing each other as human beings, not as liberals or conservatives.  We need to respect each other, to talk to each other, to ask questions about their beliefs and about our own. 

I generally dislike statements that start with "We need to..."  But each of you reading this can be more mindful in your interactions with others.  Are you being respectful of the other person as a person, or is she 'just' a cashier?  Are you assuming what he's like, what he believes, whether he's a good or bad person, because of the bumper sticker on his car, or the kind of clothes he's wearing?  Check yourself.  Imagine that inside every human body is a complete human being - just like you - who needs some positive attention.  Just try that with one or two people you meet each day.  We need to get the emotions to neutral before we can start engaging reason too.  So help those around you calm down by treating them like human beings. 

AIFF 2009 - Documentaries in Competition

"Films in Competition," according to the AIFF website, are "the official selections that are chosen by our prescreening committee to be entered into competition."  Documentaries are the film version of "non-fiction."

There are eight Documentary films - 8 hours and 21 minutes of viewing - in competition.  Note:  The shorter ones (under 30 minutes) are grouped into "Programs."  As I write this it isn't easy to find which programs they are in on the AIFF website, but they are clearly identified on page 6 of the free newsprint AIFF guide.  I've also identified the programs of the three shorter documentary films in competition.  All the documentaries are showing either at   Alaska Experience Theater or the  Anchorage Museum and most have one showing at each.   Additionally, Circus Rosaire director Karen Bliley will do a documentary workshop at Out North Theatre.  In addition the award winning films in all categories will get extra showings between Dec. 14 and 17.  Those showings will be announced on the AIFF website.

Get to similar posts on films in competition for features and shorts by clicking the links.

A Sea Change  Norway/U.S.  85 minutes
Director: Barbara Ettinger
Sun.  12/6      5:30 A Sea Change  Alaska Experience Theater
Sat.   12/12    6:00 A Sea Change  Anchorage Museum
(Photo from A Sea Change website.)
Imagine a world without fish
It’s a frightening premise, and it’s happening right now. A Sea Change follows the journey of retired history teacher Sven Huseby on his quest to discover what is happening to the world’s oceans. After reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Darkening Sea,” Sven becomes obsessed with the rising acidity of the oceans and what this “sea change” bodes for mankind. His quest takes him to Alaska, California, Washington, and Norway as he uncovers a worldwide crisis that most people are unaware of. Speaking with oceanographers, marine biologists, climatologists, and artists, Sven discovers that global warming is only half the story of the environmental catastrophe that awaits us. Excess carbon dioxide is dissolving in our oceans, changing sea water chemistry. [From the film's full service website. So's the video below]

If you want to know more, there's a Washington Post reviewer who details what she liked and didn't like about the film:
A Deep Dive Into Troubled Waters
By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 12, 2009
The handsome, rigorously researched documentary "A Sea Change," playing Saturday at the Environmental Film Festival, calls for some tough love on the part of even the most sympathetic viewer. [more]

A Time Comes: The Story of the Kingsnorth Six UK 20 minutes (This is part of the Documentary Program Relentless Behavior which includes the films My Toxic Baby  and  Frequent Flyer.  Frequent Flyer is also in competition.)
Director:  Nick Broomfield
Sunday, December 6 – 4:00pm –  Anchorage Museum
Thursday, December 10 – Alaska Experience Theater
Director Nick Broomfield has made a 20 minute film celebrating the spirit of direct action. This Bright Green Pictures film tells the story of the Kingsnorth Six, a group of Greenpeace volunteers who scaled the 220m chimney at a coal fired power station in Kent in 2007 to protest against government plans to build new coal plants across Britain. 

The film features the music of Nick Laird-Clowes performed by David Gilmore of Pink Floyd among others.
Greenpeace wants you to see this, so they have the whole film up at their site and I've embedded it below freeing you up to see something else that night.  Or you can wait to see it on the big screen.  

A Time Comes - the story of the Kingsnorth Six from Greenpeace UK on Vimeo.

Circus Rosaire  U.S.   90 min
Director: Robyn Bliley
Saturday, December 5, 2009 - 3:15pm   Alaska Experience Theater
Friday, December 11, 2009 - 8:15pm     Anchorage Museum
For nine generations, the Rosaire family has entertained audiences all over the world with their legendary animal acts. The circus industry is changing, however, and the Rosaires have fallen on hard times. Their poignant way of dealing with hilarious relationships and tragedy reflects the circus they call life.

The video, from the Dallas AFI 2008, includes clips from the trailer and an interview of 

There's  more at the Circus Rosaire website including these comments from co-producer and director Robyn Bliley (Sheila Segerson's daughter.)

I’ve known the Rosaire family since I was six years old and have been intrigued by their way of life in the circus and their devoted and loving relationships they have with their animal partners. Having a long and trusting relationship with the Rosaire family has allowed me incredible access to an otherwise very private family. . .

The domestication of wild animals and the use of animals in circuses is a hot button topic for many of us. And although I don’t support or condone all circus animal trainers, I believe the Rosaire family provides us with an incredible and unique example of how people can use animals in entertainment while treating them with respect, dignity and love.
By the way, Robyn is going to lead a workshop on documentary film making at the festival.
Get Real: A Short Course in Documentary Filmmaking
Sunday, Dec. 13, 3 PM / Out North Theatre
Robyn Bliley, director of the feature-length documentary, Circus Rosaire.
How does a documentary filmmaker choose subject matter, sketch out the story and stay true to real life? Find out the basics of directing, producing and acting in documentary films and fire away with questions of your own. (Robyn Bliley Photo from Circus Rosaire site.)

Frequent Flyer  U.S.    20 minutes (This is part of the Documentary Program Relentless Behavior which includes the films My Toxic Baby  and  A Time comes.  A Time Comes is also in competition.)
Director: Gabriel Leigh

Sunday, December 6 – 4:00pm –  Anchorage Museum
Thursday, December 10 – Alaska Experience Theater

"Frequent Flyer" is a 20-minute documentary about frequent flyer miles, the people who collect them, and the world of airports and airplanes that they inhabit. Fittingly, I traveled around 35,000 miles in the making of it, from Osaka, Japan to Punta del Este, Uruguay.

The result is a look at the world of miles and some of its most enthusiastic participants, examining how miles and points have become an important world currency and, in turn, an obsession for those who have figured out ways to earn them in the millions. [Photo and text from Gabriel Leigh's Vimeo Page]

Frequent Flyer from Gabriel Leigh on Vimeo.

Playground  U.S.   87 minutes
Director: Libby Spears
Sat.  12/5  3:15 Anchorage Museum
Sexual exploitation of children is a problem that we tend to relegate to back-alley brothels in developing countries, the province of a particularly inhuman, and invariably foreign, criminal element. Such is the initial premise of Libby Spears’ sensitive investigation into the topic. But she quickly concludes that very little thrives on this planet without American capital, and the commercial child sex industry is certainly thriving. Spears intelligently traces the epidemic to its disparate, and decidedly domestic, roots—among them the way children are educated about sex, and the problem of raising awareness about a crime that inherently cannot be shown. Her cultural observations are couched in an ongoing mystery story: the search for Michelle, an American girl lost to the underbelly of childhood sexual exploitation who has yet to resurface a decade later.
Executive produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Steven Soderbergh, and punctuated with poignant animation by Japanese pop artist Yoshitomo Nara, Playground illuminates a sinister industry of unrecognized pervasiveness. Spears has crafted a comprehensive revelation of an unknown epidemic, essential viewing for any parent or engaged citizen. [This continues at the Nest Foundation website, where I also got the Yoshitomo Nara drawing.]

See Shadow Billionaire below and Luksus (in shorts in competiton) for other films touching on this topic from different perspectives. 

Shadow Billionaire - U.S.  86 minutes
Director: Alexis Spraic
 Sunday Dec. 6  7:45pm  Alaska Experience Theater
Saturday Dec. 12  3:15pm Alaska Experience Theater
“Shadow Billionaire” – Documentary Review
By Yuan-Kwan Chan

Alexis Manya Spraic’s debut film looks back at the surreal life of Larry Hillblom, the founder and ‘H’ in shipping company DHL who disappeared in a 1995 plane crash. At the time, the eccentric American was living in tax-free haven Saipan. It was here that the law school graduate’s name became entangled in a legal battle involving paternity tests, his sordid lifestyle and his shoddily written will – with his staggeringly lucrative estate at stake. Buoyed by first-person accounts and historical footage, “Shadow Billionaire” admirably tackles Hillblom’s story but doesn’t quite succeed in its execution. (You can read the rest of this review at meniscuszine.)
There's another interesting review at A Regretable  Moment of Sincerity, which also alerts us that this film, along two other films in competition - Luksus (features) and Playground - deals with sexual exploitation of children.

[Update Nov. 26:  Alexis emailed to suggest a couple of other reviews readers might want to look at:]

The Shadow Billionaire website is visually interesting, but is thin in content in some tabs.

Tapped U.S.   76 minutes
Director: Sarah Olson Stephanie Soechtig  (Sarah's the Producer)

Sunday Dec. 6  1:00pm  Alaska Experience Theater
Friday  Dec. 11  8:00pm  Alaska Experience Theater 
(Image from Greenzer.)

From Mary Vincent at the

'Tapped' is a new documentary featuring the virtually unregulated business of bottled water and its lifecycle, including health, environmental, and human rights issues. Documentary interviews include community members, politicians, scientists, and government agency representatives. I'm grateful to have seen the Tapped documentary and interviewed Director, Stephanie Soechtig. I will share the Trailer and our discussion below including actions we as citizens, community members, consumers, business owners, and governments can take today. [You can read the interview here.]

Tapped's website: is very slick and very user unfriendly.  It has its own scrollbar you have to use and content is not copyable. 

Trip to Hell and Back U.S. 29 minutes [In Documentary Short Film Program "Road to Redemption" with Girls on the Wall]
Director: Stu Maddux
Tuesday Dec. 8  8pm Alaska Experience Theater
Saturday Dec. 12  3:15pm   Anchorage Museum

From Trip to Hell and Back website:
World-renowned horse rider Trip Harting juggles his very public life of horse riding with his secret, crazed life of using and selling huge amounts of methamphetamine. He becomes one of the largest dealers in the Washington DC area.

DEA agents finally bust Harting in an upscale hotel lobby and charge him with crimes that will likely send him to jail for the rest of his life.

Now struggling to keep even more secrets to save his career he begins learning to tell the truth to save his life. The spiritual journey transforms him into a new person.

Two years later a judge asks a changed Harting for any final words before he is sentenced.  Those final words will reveal if he has changed enough to deserve a second chance.


Harting himself was willing to recreate the scenes necessary to put his story on film.  “If it can help just one other person, then any backlash is worth it.”

But as “Trip to Hell and Back” had its first screening in August, 2008, Trip suddenly found that everything he had gone through was preparation for an even greater challenge: a terminal illness. He died just three weeks after the film premiered.

Harting remained a profoundly changed person to his last day hoping this documentary would spread his message that ‘”truth is an incredibly powerful thing.”

Trip to Hell and Back - trailer from Stu Maddux on Vimeo.