Saturday, December 31, 2022

Elephant Seals Beach Near Cambria, California

Happy New Year to you all.  May it be a better year for all.  And may you all have find peace within if not without.  

What with adventures and projects with our SF grandkids and other other friends here, I've not gotten these pictures up.  But this was such an amazing time, watching the Elephant Seals lying on the beach, in the water, and occasionally moving around.  So enjoy the pictures and short videos.

I don't usually put up so many pictures in one post.  I really did edit out most of the pictures I took.  The videos are very short and at the end.  And here's a link to the Friends of Elephant Seals website that will tell you more about the seals and good times to visit.


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Still Alive - Grandkids Keeping Me Busy

 I've got several posts to put up, but no time.  We drove up from LA along the coast to SF.  The big highlight was Elephant Seals at a beach just north of Cambria.  Lots of pictures coming eventually.  San Francisco is a great place to spend time with the kids.  Doing lots of walking.  There are Alcatraz pics to post - interesting but Elephant Seals so much better for the soul.  There was time with the kids at the Botanical Garden.  Went to Knife Shop Sharpening today, a garden shop, playground.  Tomorrow we're taking food offerings to monks at a Thai Buddhist temple nearby and then to the Cal Academy Science Center.  Here's one pic from driving around today.  Well two, to give it some context.

18th and Mission, San Francisco.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

COVID Is Still Killing Alaskans

I don't post that much here about COVID anymore, but I do update my (now) weekly COVID page (see tabs above).  It's weekly now because the State updates the Dashboards on Tuesdays now.  There's a table with basic stats that go back to March 2020, though changes in the Dashboards over time means some of those numbers are no longer available.  

I'm putting his post up to remind people that about 388 people died in the last week in the US and about five of those were Alaskans.   I know everyone, including me, wants life to be 'normal', but we aren't there yet.  

Here's yesterdays's weekly update over on theAlaska Daily COVID-19 Count 3 - May 2021 - ??? page you can find just below the orange header.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2022 numbers moving in the wrong direction. Today was the catchup day for reporting deaths.  There were 19 COVID deaths reported for the last four weeks.  About five per week.  And those are the ones directly related to COVID, not necessarily all the COVID related deaths.

There are 40 hospitalized COVID patients reported  - up seven from last week.  People on vents remains the same at one.  Available ICU beds statewide remains at 24, but Anchorage is down one bed at three.

380/375 new cases were reported.  That's up 26 from last week, but lower than previous weeks.  We'll see next week which direction those numbers take.  Other places are experiencing surges.  

While 57% of Alaskans got their initial vaccine shots, only 10.4% are up to date on boosters.  (Note the numbers oo the link changes over time)  Boosters and masks folks.  Even if you only get a mild case, you keep the virus alive and spreading to people whose bodies are not as resistant as yours.  

Here's a link to make a vaccine appointment.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Trying To Make Sense Of Eastman Trial

I'm just not as deep in the Eastman trial as I've been with other trials I've covered, say, most recently the Redistricting trials.  I heard part of Day 3 and most of Day 4.  Monday, Steward Rhodes may or may not be a witness.  As I understand it, he's in Federal custody and not in control of his time.  

So take my comments as preliminary musings.

For those unaware of this trial, one of Rep. Eastman's constituents has challenged the state for allowing Eastman to run for office because the Alaska  constitution prohibits members of organizations that advocate overthrowing the government running for public office.  

"Article XII – General Provisions

§ 4. Disqualification for Disloyalty

No person who advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party or organization or association which advocates, the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the United States or of the State shall be qualified to hold any public office of trust or profit under this constitution."

Eastman is a founding and life member of the Oath Keepers.  The Division of Elections said they can't make that kind of call and now it's in the courts for a determination.  The trial is being fast-tracked so a decision can be made before the legislature in convened in January.  

Matt Acuña Buxton has been live Tweeting the trial and you can get a blow by blow here.

Here are two critical Tweets he posted that outline the basic two questions and the judge's thoughts on those questions after the plaintiff's case was made:

The plaintiffs had experts who basically had studied domestic terrorism and cited numbers and talked in detail about the Oath Keepers, their by-laws, their leader Stewart Rhodes and evidence that came up in his trial and other Oath Keeper trials.  

There were two Eastman expert witnesses.  One, Guandolo, is ex military, ex-FBI, and kept diverting the discussion from Oath Keepers to "the real terrorist threats" like BLM, Antifa, etc. who he said are funded and directed by the Chinese Communists.  Right win terrorists were not an issue in his mind.  He also thinks Islamist terrorists are the biggest threat to the US, but I'm not sure if he said they were funded by the Chinese too.  

He was at the Capital on Jan 6 and it was peaceful.  The people who went into the Capitol were invited in by the police. 

The plaintiff's attorney got him to acknowledge that he's been a friend of Eastman's since they attended some far-right training sessions together.

The other witness, Michael Nichols, sounded sincere, though what he said was hard to believe.  The January 6 rally at the Capitol was peaceful, friendly, more like a tailgate party.  He also said that Oath Keepers are people who defend the Constitution and uphold the law.  

I didn't feel the plaintiff's attorney did enough to challenge these witnesses. While the second witness sounded sincere and may have been, how would he square with what he saw (he admitted he arrived late) with the footage we saw in the January 6 hearings?  There were a lot of people there in a lot of places.  And I can believe a bunch of like minded folks heeding the former presidents call to come to Washington, felt good being among so many people who felt like they did.  But it also means that people could easily have seen peaceful demonstrators in one place and time, while there was violence in other parts at other times.  

I was also taken by how sure both the witnesses were of their beliefs, even if they were not mainstream beliefs.  There are lots of people who have strong, out-of-the-mainstream beliefs.  Some of them are actually right.  It's why everyone needs to study epistemology - the field of philosophy that examines how people verify what is true.  

One person suggested the plaintiff's attorney let the two witnesses talk on and on because he wanted the Judge to see how crazy they were.  We'll see if that was a good strategy.  At one point - and I can't find it now - Judge McKenna said there were two points to prove:

Meanwhile I would also mention that Joe Miller, the defendant's attorney, while staunchly advocating for his client, is also respectful of the judge, the process, and the plaintiff's side.  

Matt Acuña Buxton has been live Tweeting the trial and you can get a blow by blow here.

Here are two critical Tweets he posted that outline the critical two questions and the judge's thoughts on those questions after the plaintiff's case was made:

Thursday, December 15, 2022

"... for Human Reason by itself cannot cope with the essence of Evil."

In Dante's 14th Century The Inferno, the poet recounts his tour through hell led by Virgil.  At that time there was a political divide between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire.  From Cliff Notes:

"The cause of this struggle was the papal claim that it also had authority over temporal matters, that is, the ruling of the government and other secular matters. In contrast, the HRE maintained that the papacy had claim only to religious matters, not to temporal matters.

In Dante's time, there were two major political factions, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. Originally, the Ghibellines represented the medieval aristocracy, which wished to retain the power of the Holy Roman Emperor in Italy, as well as in other parts of Europe. The Ghibellines fought hard in this struggle for the nobility to retain its feudal powers over the land and the peopleIn contrast, the Guelphs, of which Dante was a member, were mainly supported by the rising middle class, represented by rich merchants, bankers, and new landowners.0 They supported the cause of the papacy in opposition to the Holy Roman Emperor."

It's much more complicated. You can go to the link to read more.  

But these are human beings struggling over power.  As the then 'people of today' [Is there a better way to say this?  The people on the border of the future perhaps?] and in one of the world's then power centers, it's clear they probably saw themselves as smarter than people in the past and in other parts of the world.  Part of the illusion 'people of today" have is that they 'knew' about things people before them didn't know about. And as humans, their thoughts are relevant to us still today.  

We in the US are in a similar situation.  We are at the cutting edge of technology and tend to believe we're smarter than people in the past.  And many, if not most, US folks feel superior to the rest of the world.  

This is, of course, a gross simplification, and I confess my ignorance of Dante's times.  But I do know that the human capacity for thought and emotion hasn't changed much in the last thousand years.  There were brilliant people a thousand years ago as well as people obsessed by power and other human needs.  Evolution hasn't made humans smarter in the last few millennia.  And we deceive ourselves when we think we are smarter.  We may know more, simply because we know of things that happened after our ancestors died, but that doesn't make us smarter or wiser than they were.  

Back to The Inferno

I haven't read this book for almost 60 years when I read it in such detail for class, that I got past the modern belief that old poetry is hard and found the beauty and brilliance of it.  The short part that I wanted to quote that is in the title of this post, as I read carefully, is from what now appears to me to be a summary of the poetry to come.  It appears, though I'm not certain, that the translator has written a brief description of the content before he presents the poetry itself.  I'd note that the translator is John Ciardi, who readers may remember used to do short commentaries on NPR.  

As I looked online, I also found a copy of The Inferno, but it has been completely rendered in prose. But that may help the reader.  

So instead of just citing the one line I'd originally intended, I'm going to give you all of Canto VIII.  First I'll give you the online version, which is more like a Cliff Notes rendition.  I'll do this in sections.  

Then I'll give you John Ciardi's description (I think that's what it is).  And finally I'll give you the poetry itself, which by then, should make sense.   I think you'll find the verse itself much easier to follow this way, though in fact, it isn't all that difficult. We're doing all of Canto VIII.


"The Poets stand at the edge of the swamp, and a mysterious signal flames from the great tower.   It is answered from the darkness of the other side, and almost immediately the Poets see PHYLEGYAS, the Boatman of Styx, racing toward them across the water, fast as a flying arrow.  He comes avidly, thinking to find new souls for torment, and he howls with rage when he discovers the Poets.  Once again however, Virgil conquers wrath with a ward and Phlegyas reluctantly gives them passage." 

From the online version:  [I'd note this is available for public use]

Inferno Canto VIII:1-30 The Fifth Circle: Phlegyas: The Wrathful

I say, pursuing my theme, that, long before we reached the base of the high tower, our eyes looked upwards to its summit, because we saw two beacon-flames set there, and another, from so far away that the eye could scarcely see it, gave a signal in return. And I turned to the fount of all knowledge, and asked: ‘What does it say? And what does the other light reply? And who has made the signal?’ And he to me: ‘Already you can see, what is expected, coming over the foul waters, if the marsh vapours do not hide it from you.’

No bowstring ever shot an arrow that flew through the air so quickly, as the little boat, that I saw coming towards us, through the waves, under the control of a single steersman, who cried: ‘Are you here, now, fierce spirit?’ My Master said: ‘Phlegyas, Phlegyas, this time you cry in vain: you shall not keep us longer than it takes us to pass the marsh.’

Phlegyas in his growing anger, was like someone who listens to some great wrong done him, and then fills with resentment. My guide climbed down into the boat, and then made me board after him, and it only sank in the water when I was in. As soon as my guide and I were in the craft, its prow went forward, ploughing deeper through the water than it does carrying others.

Gustave Doré Illustration - Inferno Canto 8, 87

And now for our first taste of Ciardi's rendition of the poetry into English:

[Other than taking a picture of the pages in the book, this use of bullets was the easiest way I could render the structure of the verses, but rest assured, the original doesn't have the bullets, just the form of one main line and two sub-lines.]

  • Returning to my theme, I saw we came
    • to the foot of a Seat Tower;  but long before
    • we reached it through the marsh, two horns of flame
  • flared from the summit, one from either side, 
    • and then, far off, so far we scarce could see it
    • across the mist, another flame replied
  • I turned to that see of all intelligence
    • saying: "What is this signal and counter-signal?
    • Who is it speaks with fire across this distance?
  • And he then:  "Look across the filthy slew:
    • you may already see the one they summon,
    • if the swamp vapors do not hide him from you."
  • Now twanging boxspring ever shot an arrow
    • that bored the air it rode dead to the mark
    • more swiftly than the fling skiff whose prow
  • shot toward us over the polluted channel
    • with a signle steersman at the helm who called:
    • "So, do i have you at last, you whelp of hell?"
  • "Phlegyas, Phlegyas," said my Lord and Guide,
    • "this time you waste your breath:  you have us only
    • for the time it takes to cross to the other side."
  • Phlegyas, the madman, blue his rage among
    • those muddy marshes like a cheat deceived,
    • or like a fool at some imagined wrong.
  • My Guide, whom all the fiend's noise could not nettle,
    • boarded the skiff, motioning me to follow;
    • and not till I stepped aboard did it seem to settle
  • Into the water.  At once we left the shore,
    • that ancient hull riding more heavily
    • than it had ridden in all of time before.
Did you notice the rhyme scheme.  In the book's intro Ciardi explains that he decided NOT to use the original's triple rhyming in the English.

Now back to John Ciardi's description as we move along
"As they are crossing, a muddy soul rises before them, it is FILIPPO ARGENTI, one of the Wrathful.  Dante recognizes him despite the filth with which he is covered, and he berates him soundly, even wishing to see him tormented further.  Virgil approves Dante's disdain and, as if in answer to Dante's wrath, Argenti is suddenly set upon by all the other sinners present, who fall upon him  and rip him to pieces."

Before going on, I'd note this context Dante's anger toward Filippo Argenti from Fandom:

"In history, Argenti gained the animosity of Dante Alighieri; the two were on opposite sides of the civil war between the Black Guelphs and White Guelphs. The most popular reason given for this mutual hatred is that Argenti opposed Dante's return to Florence, and while the poet was in exile, he took all of Dante's possessions for himself. As such, Dante writes of his enemy being placed the fifth circle of Hell among the Wrathful after death." 

And then back to the online version:

Inferno Canto VIII:31-63 They meet Filippo Argenti

While we were running through the dead channel, one rose up in front of me, covered with mud, and said: ‘Who are you, that come before your time?’ And I to him: ‘If I come, I do not stay here: but who are you, who are so mired?’ He answered: ‘You see that I am one who weeps.’ And I to him: ‘Cursed spirit, remain weeping and in sorrow! For I know you, muddy as you are.’

Then he stretched both hands out to the boat, at which the cautious Master pushed him off, saying: ‘Away, there, with the other dogs!’ Then he put his arms around my neck, kissed my face, and said: ‘Blessed be she who bore you, soul, who are rightly indignant. He was an arrogant spirit in your world: there is nothing good with which to adorn his memory: so, his furious shade is here. How many up there think themselves mighty kings, that will lie here like pigs in mire, leaving behind them dire condemnation!’

Gustave Doré Illustration - Inferno Canto 8, 89

And I: ‘Master, I would be glad to see him doused in this swill before we quit the lake’. And he to me: ‘You will be satisfied, before the shore is visible to you: it is right that your wish should be gratified.’ Not long after this I saw the muddy people make such a rending of him, that I still give God thanks and praise for it. All shouted: ‘At Filippo Argenti!’ That fierce Florentine spirit turned his teeth in vengeance on himself. 

And now the verses themselves from Ciardi:

  • And as we ran on that dead swamp, the slime
    • rose before me, and from it a voice cried:
    • "Who are you that come here before your time?"
  • And I replied:  "If I come, I do not remain.  
    • But you, who are you so fallen and so foul?"
    • And he:  "I am one who weeps."  And I then:
  • "May you weep and wail to all eternity,
    • for I know you, hell-dog filthy as you are."
    • Then he stretched both hands to the boat, but warily
  • the Master shoved him back, crying, "Down! Down! 
    • with the other dogs!" Then he embraced me saying:
    • "Indignat spirit, I kiss you as you frown.
  • Blessed be she who bore you.  In world and time
    • this one was haughtier yet.  Not one unbending
    • graces his memory.  Here he is shadow in slime.

  • How many living now, chancellors of wrath,
    • shall come to lie here yet in this pigmire,
    • leaving a curse to be their aftermath!"
  • And I:  "Master, it would suit my whim 
    • to see the wretch scrubbed down into swilll
    • before we leave this stinking sink and him."
  • And he to me:  "Before the other side
    • shows through the mist, you shall have all you ask.  
    • This is a wish that should be gratified."
  • And shortly after, I saw the loathsome spirit
    • so mangled by a swarm of muddy wraiths
    • that to this day I praise and thank God for it.
  • "After Filippo Argenti!" all cried together
    • The maddog Florentine wheeled at their cry 
    • and bit himself for rage.  I saw them gather.
  • And there we left him.  And I say no more.
    • But such a wailing beat upon my ears,
    • I strained my eyes ahead to the far shore.
Now one final time back to Ciardi's description:

"The boat meanwhile has sped on, and before Argenti's screams have died away, Dante sees the flying red towers of Dis, the Capital of Hell.  The great walls of the iron city block the way to the Lower Hell.  Properly speaking, all the rest of Hell lies within the city walls, which separate the Upper and the Lower Hell.
Phlegyas deposits them at a great Iron Gate which they find to be guarded by the REBELLIOUS ANGELS.  These creatures of Ultimate Evil, rebels against God Himself, refuse to let the Lowest pass.  Even Virgil is powerless against them, for Human Reason by itself cannot cope with the essence of Evil.  Only Divine Aid can bring hope.  Virgil Accordingly sends up a prayer for assistance and waits anxiously for a Heavely Messenger to appear."

And as I get to this point, and look at the verse coming below, this language about human reasoning  being unable to persuade Evil, is missing, though the idea that God can open the gates is there.  

                                                                                                                                                       And now back to the online version

Inferno Canto VIII:64-81 They approach the city of Dis

We left him there, so that I can say no more of him, but a sound of wailing assailed my ears, so that I turned my gaze in front, intently. The kind Master said: ‘Now, my son, we approach the city they call Dis, with its grave citizens, a vast crowd.’ And I: ‘Master, I can already see its towers, clearly there in the valley, glowing red, as if they issued from the fire.’ And he to me: ‘The eternal fire, that burns them from within, makes them appear reddened, as you see, in this deep Hell.’

We now arrived in the steep ditch, that forms the moat to the joyless city: the walls seemed to me as if they were made of iron. Not until we had made a wide circuit, did we reach a place where the ferryman said to us: ‘Disembark: here is the entrance.'

                                                                                                                                                          Inferno Canto VIII:82-130 The fallen Angels obstruct them

I saw more than a thousand of those angels, that fell from Heaven like rain, above the gates, who cried angrily: ‘Who is this, that, without death goes through the kingdom of the dead?’ And my wise Master made a sign to them, of wishing to speak in private. Then they furled their great disdain, and said: ‘Come on, alone, and let him go, who enters this kingdom with such audacity. Let him return, alone, on his foolish road: see if he can: and you, remain, who have escorted him, through so dark a land.’

Think, Reader, whether I was not disheartened at the sound of those accursed words, not believing I could ever return here. I said: ‘O my dear guide, who has ensured my safety more than the seven times, and snatched me from certain danger that faced me, do not leave me, so helpless: and if we are prevented from going on, let us quickly retrace our steps.’ And that lord, who had led me there, said to me: ‘Have no fear: since no one can deny us passage: it was given us by so great an authority. But you, wait for me, and comfort and nourish your spirit with fresh hope, for I will not abandon you in the lower world.’

Gustave Doré Illustration - Inferno Canto 8, 93 


So the gentle father goes, and leaves me there, and I am left in doubt: since ‘yes’ and ‘no’ war inside my head. I could not hear what terms he offered them, but he had not been standing there long with them, when, each vying with the other, they rushed back. Our adversaries closed the gate in my lord’s face, leaving him outside, and he turned to me again with slow steps. His eyes were on the ground, and his expression devoid of all daring, and he said, sighing: ‘Who are these who deny me entrance to the house of pain?’ And to me he said: ‘Though I am angered, do not you be dismayed: I will win the trial, whatever obstacle those inside contrive. This insolence of theirs is nothing new, for they displayed it once before, at that less secret gate we passed, that has remained unbarred. Over it you saw the fatal writing, and already on this side of its entrance, one is coming, down the steep, passing the circles unescorted, one for whom the city shall open to us.’ 

Back now to Ciarda's verse.  This is the last portion I'm going to do.

  • "My son, the Master said, "the City called Dis
    • lies just ahead, the heavy citizens,
    • the swarming crowds of Hell's metropolis."
  • And I then: "Master, I already see
    • the glow of its red mosques, as if they came 
    • hot from the forge to smolder in this valley."
  • And my all-knowing Guide:  "They are eternal 
    • flues to eternal fire that rages in them
    • and makes them glow across this lower Hell."
  • And as he spoke we entered the vast moat
    • of the sepulchre.  Its wall seemed made of iron
    • and towered above us in our little boat.
  • We circled through what seemed an endless distance
    • before the boatman ran his prow ashore
    • crying:  "Out! Out! Get out! This is the entrance."
  • Above the gates more than a thousand shades
    • of spirits purged from Heaven for its glory 
    • cried angrily:  "Who is it that invades
  • Death's Kingdom in his life?"  My Lord and Guide
    • advanced a step before me with a sign
    • that he wished to speak to some of them aside.
  • They quieted somewhat, and one called, "Come,
    • but come alone.  And tell that other one,
    • who thought to walk so blithely through death's kingdom,
  • he may go back along the same fool's way
    • he came by.  Let him try his living luck.
    • You who are dead can come only to stay."
  • "O my beloved Master, my Guide in peril, 
    • who time and time again have seen me safely
    • along this way, and turned the power of evil,
  • stand by me now," I cried, "in my heart's fright.  
    • And if the dead forbid our journey to them, 
    • let us go back together toward the light."
  • My Guide then, in the greatness of his spirit:
    • "Take heart.  Nothing can take our passage from us
    • when such a power has given warrant for it.
  • Wait here and feed your soul while I am gone
    • on comfort and good hope;  I will not leave you
    • to wander in this underworld alone."
  • So the sweet Guide and Father leaves me here,
    • and I stay on in doubt with yes and no
    • dividing all my heart to hope and fear.
  • I could not hear my Lord's words, but the pack 
    • that gathered round him suddenly broke away
    • howling and jostling and went pouring back,
  • slamming the towering gate hard in his face.
    • That great Soul stood alone outside the wall.
    • Then he came back;  his pain showed in his pace.
  • His eyes were fixed upon the ground, his brow
    • had sagged from its assurance.  He sighed aloud:
    • "Who has forbidden me the halls of sorrow?"
  • And to me he said: "You need not be cast down
    • by my vexation, for whatever plot
    • these fiends may lay against us, we will go on.
  • This insolence of theirs is nothing new:
    • they showed it once at a less secret gate
    • that still stands open for all that they could do-
  • the same gate where you read the dead inscription;
    • and through it at this moment a Great One comes.
    • Already he has passed it and moves down
  • ledge by dark ledge.  He is one who needs no guide,
  • and at his touch all gates must spring aside."

This paperback is so old and so cheaply made that the pages were falling out.  

Monday, December 12, 2022

Tonıght 7pm: ADN And Seattle Times Pair Up For Report on Sockeye Salmon And Crab Issues

Seems this would be interesting for many of you readers.   

Join a livestream of this event Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. Pacific time. Register here.

As the world warms, the Bering Sea tells a story of boom and bust. The sockeye salmon runs of Bristol Bay are to be marveled at. More than 78.3 million sockeye surged home last summer, filling nets and spawning grounds. The spectacular display came as Alaska salmon runs of chum and chinook once again imploded.

Meanwhile, Bering Sea crab populations have crashed. The snow crab harvest—for the first time ever — has been canceled, and the king crab season was shut down for the second year in a row.

Join Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton, Anchorage Daily News photojournalist Loren Holmes and a panel of experts in a discussion of some of the effects of a warming climate on one of the planet’s most productive marine ecosystems.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

AIFF2022: Audience And Critiques Award Winners

 Here's the official lift of winners.  My previous post had my favorites.  

There are two sets of awards:

Audience Awards - after each film audience members rate the film they saw.  So these tend to be crowd pleasers and in Alaska that often includes Alaska themes and adventure films.  

Jury Awards - given my the official jurors of the Festival, these tend to rate the overall quality of the film

I'd note that today I saw a few more of the shorts I hadn't seen and I agree strongly with The Record getting the best animated short.

The rest is from the AIFF Facebook Page.

Congratulations, everyone 🎉 We have been so impressed by the work you have all done, it has been such a pleasure to watch all the films and see the amazing talent and the mind blowing stories. You all rock!
Thank you to our wonderful jury who have done an awesome job picking the winners, and thank you to our amazing audiences who have picked their favorites and to all the volunteers who have counted thousands of ballots ❤ You're all super stars!
WINNER: The Wind & The Reckoning by David L Cunningham • USA
RUNNER-UP: Dealing With Dad by Tom Huang • USA
WINNER: Pleistocene Park by Luke Griswold-Tergis • USA
RUNNER-UP: King of Kings : Chasing Edward Jones by Harriet Marin Jones • France
WINNER: Safe Enough by Taliesin Black-Brown • USA
RUNNER-UP: Bad Bones by Scott Eggleston • USA
WINNER: Nakam by Andreas Kessler • Germany
RUNNER-UP: Burros by Jefferson Stein • USA
2nd RUNNER-UP: Anirudh by Raghav Puri • USA
WINNER: The Silent World of Barry Priori by Anne Tsoulis • Australia
RUNNER-UP: Queen Moorea by Christine Fugate • USA
WINNER: Object of Life by Jack Parry • Australia
RUNNER-UP: The Social Chameleon by Alex Ross • USA
WINNER: Where Life Begins by Stephane Freiss • Italy, France
WINNER: You Resemble Me by Dina Amer • USA
WINNER: Anonymous Sister by Jamie Boyle • USA
RUNNER-UP: Big Crow by Kris Kaczor • USA
WINNER: Bering, Family Reunion by Lourdes Grobet • Mexico
RUNNER-UP: Safe Enough by Taliesin Black-Brown • USA
RUNNER-UP: Sheri by Page Buono, Tom Attwatter, James 'Q' Martin • USA
WINNER: Burros by Jefferson Stein • USA
RUNNER-UP: Too Rough by Sean Lìonadh • UK
2nd RUNNER-UP: No Ghost in the Morgue by Marilyn Cooke • Canada
2nd RUNNER-UP: An Encounter by Kelly Campbell • Ireland
WINNER: Never Again Para Nadie by Justin Reifert, Dan Frank, Anna Feder • USA
RUNNER-UP: Yours to Keep by Una S. Golmen • Norway
WINNER: The Record by Jonathan Laskar • Switzerland
RUNNER-UP: Peanut Factory by Seongmin Kim South • Korea
- WINNER: "Eskimonaes" by Stephen C Settle
- RUNNER-UP: "Too Many Wades" by Stirling J McLaughlin, Wilder Konschak
- 2nd RUNNER UP: "Polar" by Christopher Kearney
- WINNER: "In the Serge and the Broad Arrow" by Bobby Moloney
- RUNNER-UP: "Kim-Ly and the Bottled Up Emotions" by Anh Le
- 2nd RUNNER-UP: "Mousse" by Dean Friske
This year we had three special awards where the local community came together with the festival to pick three films and filmmakers they wish to honor:
Mother of Invention Feature, honoring a filmmaker who creates new genres:
- Quantum Cowboys, by Geoff Marslett
Mother of Invention Short, honoring a filmmaker who is telling important local stories as they happen:
- Purpose of Song, by Brad Hillwig
Mother of Cultural Exchange, honoring afilmmaker for creating communication between cultures around the world who try to preserve traditional ways:
- Last Birds of Passage, by Eren Danışman Boz

Saturday, December 10, 2022

AIFF2022: While Awards Party On At Bear Paw, I'll Make My Own Awards Suggestions [UPDATED]

[December 10, 2022, 10:45pm: The Updates are bracketed and in red so you can see them easier]

[UPDATE Dec 11, 2022 4pm - Turns out the two features being shown today are the audience awards, not the AIFF awards.  Not sure what that means about the shorts.  I did see the two shorts programs and caught up on films I hadn't seen.  

Sheri is the story of the woman who made the first pacrrafts, and it makes sense this would have been an audience choice - lots of outdoor adventure with an amazing woman.  

The Record had incredible animation and told the story of a record that played the music you didn't remember.  

The Silent World of Barry Priori - The story of a deaf man in Australia who as a child at first was being forced to speak, but then found deaf friends and eventually became a teacher of Australian sign language.]

I was planning to go to the awards party, but I just don't have the energy tonight.  I've been thinking about making my 'best film' nominations here instead and the actual winners should be posted tonight because tomorrow they will show the award winners at the museum, starting with 

12pm Made In Alaska [Shorts Program 1 - Mixes Documentary, Animated, and Made in Alaska

Peanut Factory • Burros • Never Again Para Nadie • Sheri • Safe Enough]

2pm Short Films [2 - mixes Narrative shorts and Animation

Peanut Factory • Burros • Never Again Para Nadie • Sheri • Safe Enough

4pm Narrative Features [The Wind And The Reckoning]

6pm Documentary Features [Pleistocene Park]

Best, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.  Blogging the festival over the years has forced me to think about and articulate different standards for best.  I wrote something on that the other day, but I'll reiterate here:

1.  Quality of the film making - Cinematography, sound, acting, editing are some of the factors here.  Ideally there won't be any flaws.  At best there will be some pushing of the envelope, using film to tell the story or make the point using new techniques or old techniques in new ways.  

2.  Quality of the story/message - Was it engaging?  Was it an important message?  Original?  Able to convey ideas or insights in new ways that might capture people who didn't know or resisted these ideas?

3.  Overall, what was the impact of the film on you?  Some films overcome flaws, or even their flaws add to the impact, to blow you away.  This is the most personal of the criteria.  It depends on you life experiences and whether the film comes to you at a time when you are receptive to it.  

That said, here are my picks:

Made in Alaska - I'm afraid I didn't see enough of these to pick a 'winner.'  Of the films I saw:

  • Kakiñiit
  • Sabor Ártico 
  • Safe Enough
Of these three, I would go with Kakiñiit.  This was a short film in several 'chapters' about Inupiaq tattoos.  I liked how he connected the segments with a pause, showing a finely designed title like page.  It was unique and the first time it caught the audience off guard as we thought it was the end of the film.  
I also like Safe Enough, a story about an arts camp in Sitka where different students are featured explaining what the camp meant to them.  Mostly they said it allowed them to be themselves for the first time, and that the felt really good.  

Shorts -  I saw a fair number of shorts, both narrative and documentary, but there are still a lot more I missed.  
[The shorts winners are not clear.  There are two programs offered tomorrow with five shorts in each program.  I assume they are doing it this way to have a full program.  However it's not clear which films were the winners.  The films in the Narrative program tomorrow are:  Object of Life* • The Record* • Anirudh • The Silent World of Barry Priori • Nakam • Too Rough - *Animated]

Naratrive Shorts I saw: 
  • Anirudh
  • Brasier
  • Burros
  • Customs
  • Dotting The 'i'
  • Duet
  • Honeymoon at Cold Hollow
  • If You Were Me
  • Jelly Bean
  • Late Bloomer
  • Lead/Follow
  • Nakam
  • No Ghost in the Morgue
  • Sunday With Monica
  • Synthbabe
  • The Things That Keep Us Apart
  • To Be Honest
  • Too Rough

I guess I saw more than I realized.  Ones that stand out:
  • Anirudh
  • Dotting the 'i'
  • Late Bloomer
  • Nakam
  • No Ghost in the Morgue
  • Sunday With Monica
  • Too Rough

My Choice is Nakam.  Second:  No Ghost in the Morgue;  Third:  Late Bloomer  
I really liked was Anirudh.  It's hard to choose.  

Nakam is a short story that took place in a small, German occupied  town in Ukraine during WWII.  Key German officers are going to have a dinner in a small in and request the piano player and the boy who accompanies him on the violin be there to make cheerful music for them.  The color and look of the film were beautiful.  

Documentary Shorts  The ones I saw were:
Abortion:  Add to the Cart
Never Again Para Nadie
Queen Moorea
The Body is A House of Familiar Rooms

[The shorts in the second program winners program are:
Peanut Factory* • Burros • Never Again Para Nadie • Sheri** • Safe Enough**   - *indicates animated and **Made In Alaska]]

Winner:  Queen Moorea - And I'm guessing this one has a good chance of winning with the judges. It's the story of a girl with a disability I didn't quite understand who becomes the homecoming queen at her high school.  That happens pretty much at the beginning.  Then the rest tells us the back story.  
Second:  Never Again Para Nadie - This is probably due to the story that was told - how the Jewish community got together to protest with the Latino community of their town in Rhode Island that had a prison that was used to hold undocumented immigrants.  
I also really liked the visuals in The Body is A House of Familiar Rooms

Animated Shorts - I saw:
  • Birthday Wish
  • Footprints in the Forest
  • Object of Life
  • Peanut Factory
  • Rain
  • Santa Doesn't Need Your Help
  • Snowflakes
  • Star-Crossed
  • The Social Chameleon
I wasn't that excited.  I can only pick one:

Winner:  Rain - This story about a girl out with her family in the rain and who runs away to play in the rain had exquisite visual images of rain, splashes, and the general scene.  

Narrative Features  - This is hard.  All the films I saw:

Dealing With Dad
The Last Birds of Passage
The Wind And The Reckoning
You Resemble Me

were very good films.  This turns out to be all the Narrative Features listed. 
 [The Wind and the Reckoning]

Winner:  The Last Birds of Passage   Told the story of a family of Turkish nomads who every year drive their sheep 500 kilometers across parts of Turkey to the upper pastures.  But age and increasing regulations put this year's trip in doubt.  Lots of little touches as we learn about each of the key characters.  
But I would be fine with any of the others winning.  I'm guessing it will go to The Wind and The Reckoning.  

Documentary Features   [Festival Winner:  Pleistocene Park  the one I hadn't seen, so I can see it tomorrow evening]

  • Big Crow
  • Crows Are White
  • Exposure
  • King of Kings:  Chasing Edward Jones
My winner is Crows Are White.  I wrote at greater length about this film here. Also wrote about Big Crow there.  Crows Are White - got into my head.  The film itself embodied all the contradictions and conflicts that the film depicted.  Lots of angst and lots of humor.  This was the most honest and subtle film.  Probably the best film of the festival.  

King of Kings would be my second choice.  A fascinating family story that also tells us a piece of Chicago history as the film maker investigates her grandfather who turns out to be an incredible person.  

The others are good as well, telling compelling stories, but the film making doesn't reach the same levels.  

Now I'll check the AIFF website and FB page to see who actually won.  I'll add that on here or possibly make a new page

Friday, December 09, 2022

AIFF2022: Saw Two Excellent Films - The Wind And The Reckoning and The King Of Kings

 There were film festivals in the past when I was up until 3am writing about that night's films.  But the Festival is reduced this year after two years of mostly virtual festival and my coverage is also reduced.  So tonight I'm just going to give brief comments on the two films we saw.  They deserve more, but this will have to do.   

The Wind and Reckoning featured gun battles with Hawaiian backdrop.  It's Native Hawaiian actors spoke to each other in Hawaiian on screen in this adaptation of a book written in Hawaiian by one of the characters in the story, that was only recently translated into English and then more time to be able to make the film.  Essentially we see what I took as civil war veterans rounding up Native Hawaiians suspected to having leprosy to be sent to the leper colony on Molokai.  The film focuses on one family whose home is invaded in the middle of the night and how they fought back.  It was a narrative based on the written account.  

The picture above was before the film when some of the cast members did an opening chant.  Aaron Leggett, President and Chair of the Eklutna Tribal Council (with the beaded sash) was there as was Mayor Dave Bronson, who said a few words about the importance of the values shown in the film.  I'm not sure who wrote that for him, but he left shortly after the film began.  That's a pity because he might have learned a lot from both the film and the discussion afterward.  The man in the middle is Leo and he's working on making Hawaii an independent nation as it was before the US took over by force in 1893. He handed out these flyers for people who want more information.

Ko'olau, if you haven't guessed, is the hero in the film along with his wife.  

The second film The King of Kings was a documentary by Harriet Marin Jones who first learned about her grandfather, Edward Jones when she was 17 on the way to university in the United States.  And what an amazing story it is.  Edward Jones' father was a well-to-do Black Baptist preacher in Mississippi who moved his family to Chicago in 1919 after the KKK showed up at his house.  There he had some odd jobs while going to Northwestern University, but transferred to Howard University to avoid the discrimination he felt at Northwestern.  When he returned to Chicago and got into the numbers business - what was called "Policy."  For a nickel people in the poor Black community could buy the hope of money for a decent dinner and for a few even getting rich.  Jones got rich and stayed pretty much off the radar of the white mob because his money business was in the Black community.  Again, to avoid discrimination, he moved his family to Paris, but then back to Chicago as WW II begins.  He moved the family again, this time to Mexico.  

Marin's family history becomes a wild tale about the richest Black man in the US, and one of the richest men in the US.  Essentially, his illegal business - running a numbers game = became legal much later when the State took it over and called it a lottery.  

Marin came to the festival from France and answered questions after the film.  Aside from the incredible story, I was also taken by how she put the film together - particularly the use of animation of photos.  Not animating the people, but how the pictures were animated in relation to each other - almost like a moving collage.  It was unique and added greatly to the telling of the story.  Here's more on Jones and the film maker from the Block Club Chicago.

There was one more film staring at 9pm - well later because the discussions after the first two films went way over time (and it was worth it) - but as much as I'd have liked to stay, I needed to get to bed at a reasonable time tonight.  

Both films tonight continue a theme of bringing stories of outsiders as told by the outsiders themselves.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

AIFF2022: The Film Makers Went To Chena While It Snows Big In Anchorage - Thursday Schedule

There are fewer films being shown overall this year.  I asked whether this was in part due to the pandemic - there aren't as many films getting made.  John Gamache, the festival co-director wasn't sure how much the pandemic affecting things, but the quality wasn't as high.  But they'd also mentioned the other night that a number of big name festivals hadn't survived the pandemic.  But Anchorage keeps chugging along.  They also decided in this first year getting everyone back together in person it would be better to keep the audience together so the films got more eyeballs and the audience could reconnect for some and just meet new folks for others.  And that's been happening.  Though there are some overlapping films coming up starting Thursday.  Some at the Anchorage Museum and some at the E Street theater.  

So they also scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday film free and instead are taking the film makers to Chena Hot Springs. (The schedule for Thursday is below.)  They hadn't counted on the heavy snow we've gotten.  Aside from hot tubbing in Chena, they're going to have plenty of time to get to know each other on the looooong bus ride, which has gotten longer with all the snow.  It will be one of those adventures that will become more and more fun the longer it is in the past.  It was also mentioned that the Anchorage International Film Festival was name among the best for new film makers.  I've heard that from film makers over the years - how welcoming Anchorage folks are and how they get a chance to meet lots of other film makers.  And how it is a much lower pressure festival - more cooperative than competitive.  So this adventure fits in.  

Meanwhile I got my workout shoveling the driveway.  There's a bit over a foot of snow.  Not that much for some places, but a good amount for Anchorage.  Enough to cancel school today.  Here was my first pathway down to the mailbox.  

Then I decided to make a maze since I was only able to get one shovel full at a time because it was so deep.  (Usually I can push the snow down the hill or across the driveway before tossing it.)  Not particularly efficient, but more fun.  Then the second round it was much easier to get the driveway clear.  

This is a big file so you can click it to enlarge it and read it easier.