Saturday, January 31, 2009

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Rest in Peace, Charlie Wolf.

Harry Charles Wolf (Charlie) was a former Rocky Flats project manager and nuclear facility manager and a really nice guy.

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Isn't this the trip of a lifetime? Jesus, I can't believe what my life is like. No one can know how their life will move and I certainly had no idea as what my life would be like, but what fortune and luxury to be able to go places I'd never envisioned seeing and then being able to come home. Honestly, even being in constant amazement every waking moment up here, it's been very, very difficult without Lynn Bloom. I pray for telepathy.

While Alaska is otherworldly in many ways, something makes sense to me here. I have the conviction and some of the fortitude of the Alaskan “pioneer” in the way I like to move about in the world, going where I want... but up here I know that people lived here for thousands and thousands of years before “pioneers” cut teeth and there's nothing that someone else hasn't seen and claimed before. And there's a sort of yearlong schizophrenic cycle where cabin fever and white line fever flow right into each other and the balance seems compelling. Although I know as a visitor, not a resident, it's a dangerous thing to balance and I can't really speak to it.

For this trip I made a conscious decision to not work as I usually do, which is full throttle working all day, every day. Well, actually, I'm working all day, every day but in a different manner, using the camera in a different way, with almost all of my shots experimenting with shooting in a different style, and looking to really take in what I'm seeing.

Everything is interesting here and it's impossible to not think about geology and geography, evolution and migration, and ideas about land ownership. Everything leads to something else and it can be distracting... the spice route, manufacturing and consumption, mortality, morality, and love.

I flew over the Alaskan Interior yesterday knowing a massive mountain range is right underneath me, but because it was obscured by clouds it was a leap of faith believing it was there. For all I know, underneath the tip of Denali that jut through the clouds could be the strip malls of Wasilla. But I believe that it was the Alaska Range underneath me because I'm a believer.
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Me in Fairbanks
Photo by some lady across in the foyer of the closed restaurant.

Greetings From Fairbanks
-22 as of this minute

Friday, January 30, 2009

#1 most frightening song ever-

"Girl Land"
written by Mary Rodgers and Bruce Hart
sung by Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones

runner-up: "Live and Let Die" by Paul McCartney
This last month LB told me something so amazing, I don't even know where to go with it. For my entire life I have always thought the refrain in Young Americans was "She/He was the Young American." But it's not. It's, "She/He wants the Young American." Are you kidding me? What beauty that a great pop song can surprise me after having thought I've known it my whole life. It's true Americans! We can be what we desire!


Young Americans
David Bowie

They pulled in just behind the fridge
He lays her down, he frowns
Gee my life's a funny thing, am I still too young?
He kissed her then and there
She took his ring, took his babies
It took him minutes, took her nowhere
Heaven knows, she'd have taken anything, but

All night
She wants the young american
Young american, young american, she wants the young american
All right
She wants the young american

Scanning life through the picture windows
She finds the slinky vagabond
He coughs as he passes her ford mustang, but
Heaven forbid, shell take anything
But the freak, and his type, all for nothing
He misses a step and cuts his hand, but
Showing nothing, he swoops like a song
She cries where have all papa's heroes gone?


All the way from washington
Her bread-winner begs off the bathroom floor
We live for just these twenty years
Do we have to die for the fifty more?

All night
He wants the young american
Young american, young american, he wants the young american
All right
He wants the young american

Do you remember, your president nixon?
Do you remember, the bills you have to pay
Or even yesterday

Have you been an un-american?
Just you and your idol singing falsetto bout
Leather, leather everywhere, and
Not a myth left from the ghetto
Well, well, well, would you carry a razor
In case, just in case of depression
Sit on your hands on a bus of survivors
Blushing at all the afro-sheilas
Aint that close to love?
Well, aint that poster love?
Well, it aint that barbie doll
Her hearts been broken just like you have

All night
You want the young american
Young american, young american, you want the young american
All right
You want the young american

You aint a pimp and you aint a hustler
A pimps got a cadi and a lady got a chrysler
Blacks got respect, and whites got his soul train
Mamas got cramps, and look at your hands ache
I heard the news today, oh boy
I got a suite and you got defeat
Ain't there a man you can say no more?
And, ain't there a woman I can sock on the jaw?
And, ain't there a child I can hold without judging?
Ain't there a pen that will write before they die?
Ain't you proud that you've still got faces?
Ain't there one damn song that can make me
Break down and cry?

All night
I want the young american
Young american, young american, I want the young american
All right
I want the young american
Young american
Young american, young american, I want the young american
(I want with you, I want with you want)
All right
(you want it, I want you you, you want i, I want you want)
Young american, young american, I want the young american (I want to want, to want, to want , to want i, I want you)
All right
(lord I wanted the young american)
(young american)
Young american, young american
I want the young american
Mmmmmm mmm

Volcano Alert: Redoubt in Repose as of This Minute, but Don't Sleep on Redoubt

Redoubt Code Level: Orange.

IRS level: Doughnut Hole. Ha, ha. I hope for the residents sake that Redoubt doesn't blow like having 2 audits in two years blows. Because that really blows.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Yes! Audit Is Done and I Don't Owe the IRS Nothing!

With many, many thanks to my awesome Hawaiian shirt wearing accountant, Bob Downey, of Miller Downey Spevak Kaffenberger. And thanks to Paul Dickman for hooking me up with him!

Who the hell gets audited TWICE in their life? Within 2 years? Wall Street bankers gave themselves nearly $20 billion in bonuses as the economy was beginning to tank. 20 billion dollars. I think the IRS might want to look at people other than me.

Thanks! But no.
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.... check it out! This car's been in the same spot since before October!

Photo by Eamon MacMahon
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Volcanic Action

Anchorage is now preparing for the possibility of a volcanic eruption busting out from Mount Redoubt. Geologists and volcanic seismologists say Mt. Redoubt could erupt "within days" so I'm getting the dust mask respirator and the goggles tomorrow in case of a strong Northeasterly wind happening concurrently to a gigantic eruption. Worse comes to worst, I can drive back up to the cabin with the wolves.

Geologists say this volcano could blow ash 8, EIGHT!, miles straight up. I was planning on heading down to Kenai for a day trip, but I think I'm going to hold off on it until the volcano settles down. This doesn't mean I don't want to go to Kenai right now. On the contrary, it's taking a lot of restraint to not go down there and wait for it but what kind of selfish ass is like, "Hey, I don't live here but could I use some of your space and your supplies during a natural disaster?"

East Flank of Redoubt Volcano. Photo by Game McGimsey
Alaska Volcano Observatory / Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys.

- what a name, "Game McGimsey"

New Alaska State Motto

Alaska's state motto is "North To The Future," which isn't bad but doesn't fully encompass the vast experience that Alaska is. And most certainly doesn't address the fascinating impossibility of accurately describing Alaska's landscape, climate and residents.

I propose that Alaska change the state motto to "Alaska: This Is Not a Pipe."

Also, Alaska is not a vessel for sucking things out of the land until it's dead and gone... oil, seafood, zinc, lumber. "Drill, baby, drill", my ass.
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Palmer, AK
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Palmer, AK

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Something amazing happened today... as I was leaving the cabin a bird flew right up to me and then onto a tree by my side. I impulsively held out my finger like a perch to the bird and THE BIRD FLEW ONTO MY FINGER. It held on for a few seconds, looking at me, and then flew away. Truly awesome.

This drawing of Snow White accurately describes the scene, for real, except replace Snow White with a fat dyke in a green t-shirt.

Here's the bird that landed on my finger. Or it could be that bird's doppelganger.

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I have come to love the Anchorage Daily News, the print version. It's a publication that really tells you what Alaska is like. Today in the A section there were articles about the mayoral race and federal energy policy alongside an article about installing wind farms in rural Alaska... some rural village residents have promised to sign over future tax refunds to cover their current electric bills.

And an article about how Alaska reversed itself and is allowing Exxon Mobil Corp. to drill wells this winter at the Point Thomson oil fields.

And an article about an activist group looking to build a non-profit laundry and shower house because many people in Salcha and Fairbanks haul their own water and have no running water, meaning no laundry or showers.

And a warning about a possible volcanic eruption at Mt. Redoubt near Kenai..."The continued eruption warning prompted city officials to send out information about dealing with volcanic ash. They urged residents to prepare ahead by outfitting homes with a supply of respirators, extra food, water and other supplies. They also encouraged stocking up on large plastic bags to cover appliances, extra air filters for cars, and windshield washer fluid.

During an ash fall, people and pets should remain indoors, they said."

And, of course, an article about some breach of ethics by Sarah Palin.

Whoa, right?

The article pictured below is incredible to me for two reasons... first the use of "Lower 48" as a proper noun. But then... hold onto your hats... "Outside" is capitalized to mean "Outside of Alaska." Marc told me they capitalized "Outside" but I didn't realize quite how crazy it was until I saw it in print. Man, I can't imagine an idiom more telling about Alaska than the use of "Outside."

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Here's where I am right now. I was hoping to catch the aurora but it clouded up a little after midnight and it's 1:45 right now so I'm headed to bed in a little bit. I am in rural Alaska, outside Talkeetna. I drove up from Anchorage and have never even remotely seen anything like I saw today. The day was clear and the "mountain was out" people say, meaning that you could see Mount McKinley/Denali and the Alaska Range. This range is one of the many things I've found fascinating in relation to the complete inability to articulate what a thing is truly like through images, still or moving.

Tonight when it got dark and the stars came out, I couldn't believe it. It's was indescribable. As I was outside testing out the camera settings in case the aurora appeared there was an insane "what the hell is that" noise. Oh, it was just wolves. You know PACKS OF HOWLING WOLVES. WHAT THE FUCK. Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue.

I simmered down, but are you kidding me? I'm in rural Alaska in a cabin with wolves outside? But here's the thing that's REALLY crazy... I'm typing this on my computer out here and posting it right now and I talked to Lynn Bloom through her night to tell her about the aurora watch. A million miles away and not disconnected. Now that's more nuts than being in a cabin with howling wolves.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bush's Presidency in Photos- Errol Morris Weblog

Errol Morris asked the head photo editors of these news services — Vincent Amalvy (AFP), Santiago Lyon (AP) and Jim Bourg (Reuters) — to pick the photographs of the George Bush that they believe captured the character of the man and of his administration.

Without a doubt, the Orwellian "Mission Accomplished" photos are the ones that define the Bush administration for me... duplicitous and manipulative, vapid but dangerous.

Sad News From Rocky Flats: Charlie Wolf

"Charlie is not doing well, we know he can still hear us but he barely responds.
He won't eat or drink, he probably only has a few days left."

Sending out love to you Charlie!

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charlie web

Friday, January 23, 2009

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Noon Day Sun
Anchorage, AK

"The Last Road North" by Ben Huff

"Completed in 1974, Alaska's Dalton Highway (known locally as the haul road) is the northernmost road in America. At 414 miles, the predominantly dirt road follows the upper half of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and is maintained exclusively as a transportation route to the coastal oil fields at Prudhoe Bay. Since it's opening to pleasure traffic in 1994, it's become an isolated corridor for travel into the Arctic."

-From Ben Huff's Website

The Last Road North is a work in progress... I'm really excited to see the completed project. Ben Huff: one of Alaska's Finest!


These are great things.

Obama Reverses Bush Abortion-Funds Policy

President Obama Orders Transparency

Obama Issues Directive to Shut Down Guantánamo

It's like we've been living under a pall these last 8 years.
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I'm thinking a lot, and recording a lot, but not producing a ton of work. I am fascinated with the lack of sunlight and it's effects on my daily schedule. Everything here is very considered in winter. And personal energy seems to be conserved in a lot of folks, myself included. One thing is certain; the way the world works here is not compatible with my kind of shooting, which involves a certain amount of spontaneity. It's impossible to not think about what it means to have the environment dictate the structure of the day in a way I've never really had before. There's no way to have my kind of usual meandering around with such a limited amount of daylight. I've been shooting with a tripod and a shutter release, which has been great even if no photos come of it. Often frustrating, but very valuable.


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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another Very Enjoyable Alaskan: Mike Dunham

Mike Dunham writes for the Anchorage Daily News and interviewed me for an upcoming article, which is pretty ridiculous because I am not even remotely as interesting as Mike Dunham and I'd rather read an article about Mike than about me. Proof of Mike's "interestingness" becomes obvious when checking out the photo below... which is not of Mike. It's a photo of Henry Matthews of Quinhagak, who was the mail carrier that brought Mike Dunham his mail. Mike grew up in a place where mail was received once a week via dog sled.

Henry Matthews: The last of the mushing mailmen.
Quinhagak, Alaska
circa 1955

photographer unknown

Thanks to Marc Lester for a Quality Tour

I've met many enjoyable people here and Marc Lester is one of them. I was privileged to get a little tour from him today, including his sighting of some Bald Eagles, which I didn't even know really existed in real life. To me, was as if our great national bird was the equivalent of a unicorn until today. OK, and they were just hanging out right off of Muldoon Rd, kind of across from an Arby's. Whoa. Thanks for pointing them out, Marc!

Click above to check out Marc's work.

I headed to Wasilla on inauguration day, looking for signs of congratulations or outrage or any recognition of Sarah Palin's vice presidential nomination. I'm sure I must have missed something because I was only there about 2 hours, but I saw nothing. No indication at all of Palin's election bid, which I had guessed might be a point of pride. Wrong!

Wasilla is quite a mystery. First, it's way smaller than I had anticipated. Way, way smaller. The "town" is built right off of the highway and is comprised of strip malls and big box stores. It's a slightly elevated highway with the strip malls on either side of the main highway. I'm not decrying these stores, I don't know enough about the structure of the economy in Wasilla, but it was a little depressing. Maybe this is the new "America" and the local has eroded to the point where these massive, somewhat generic, businesses are our "local hardware" stores. I find Wasilla to be really fascinating in that sense because almost all of the Alaskans I've met are fiercely invested in Alaska as a world apart from the "lower 48" and Wasilla seems to be the antithesis of the desire for autonomy that so many Alaskans espouse as something of great importance to them.

However I did meet this awesome woman who is a mechanic and built her own massive, MASSIVE, truck herself. She told me she had "nothing stock" under the hood.

And I met these great taxidermists.

And the ride out to Wasilla is beautiful, but I can't help but wonder about who does city planning there.
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Let me tell you, Anchorage is more foreign than France. And I am taking into account that I can't speak French.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How You Living Alaska?

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Get Ready for Your Mind to Be Blown!

Here's Dall Sheep (thanks, Addie) on the side of a mountain where the side falls sheer. Right! Holy shit! There were like 10 of them!

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January 21, 2008
Anchorage, AK

The sun never fully rises here. It moves in a low arc on the south horizon. The image below is of the winter solstice in Alaska... although it's longer days in January, the path of the sun is the same, just a little higher.

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