Pro context — Libraries band together against banning books

Redoubt Reporter file photos. Above, a patron cozies up with a book at the Soldotna Public Library. Below, a visitor searches the shelves for something to read at the Kenai Community Library.

Redoubt Reporter file photos. Above, a patron cozies up with a book at the Soldotna Public Library. Below, a visitor searches the shelves for something to read at the Kenai Community Library.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The list reads like the syllabus of a class on great works of 20th-centruy literature: “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger, “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee, and “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker.

But it’s not. Along with being universally acclaimed masterworks of English writing, these books also are the top-five most banned and challenged classic books, as tracked by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom.

library tease copyThey’re in good company. At least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course top 100 novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts, at either public or school libraries.

And it’s not just classics that have ruffled puritanical feathers. Every year the OIF compiles reports from libraries across the country on further attempts at censorship, and releases an annual list of the top 10 ban-requested books. The 2013 list comes from 307 challenges reported to the OIF, though it’s estimated that many ban requests don’t get reported. The list includes the “Captain Underpants” series of young-adult books, by Dav Pilkey, and “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins. In 2012, out of 464 reported challenges, the list included “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini, and in 2011, out of 326 reported challenges, “My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy,” by Dori Hillestad Butler, made the top-10 list.

That’s not to say the books were banned, only that they were requested to be removed from circulation. It takes more than a complaint about a book being “sexually explicit” or “unsuited to age group,” or containing “offensive language,” “violence” or “homosexuality” — as are the most-frequently cited complaints in ban requests — to change a public library’s stance on intellectual freedom.

As the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights stipulates, “Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. … Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. … (And) libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”

“Public libraries do not censor. We try to provide something for everybody, from all walks of life,” said Rachel Nash, director of the Soldotna Public Library. “We live in a society where we have voters. It’s really important that they’re able to go somewhere and learn about information for free, somewhere where the collection won’t be biased and the people won’t be biased. So that’s really what we try to do, and that’s good for all levels, from kids all the way up to adults.”

Not only do they not censor, they celebrate the lack of censorship, as the Kenai Community Library is doing this week in participating in National Banned Books Week, observed Sept. 21 through 27. Monday through Friday this week the library will hold a free movie screening, complete with popcorn and drinks, of a movie made from a banned book.

“To celebrate our freedom to read whatever we want we’re showing movies that are based on books that have been banned in the past,” said Ryanna Thurman, library assistant for information technology.

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Foul play a foot? Likely bear paw sighting an unnerving finding

Photo courtesy of Kelly Keating-Griebel. Realtor Kelly Keating-Griebel saw this appendage on the side of the road in Sterling on Sept. 17.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Keating-Griebel. Realtor Kelly Keating-Griebel saw this appendage on the side of the road in Sterling on Sept. 17.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Being a Realtor inevitably means seeing some interesting things. It’s not being nosy, just that the job entails being in and out of people’s homes, up and down all manner of back roads and touring through all sorts of neighborhoods.

Kelly Keating-Griebel, with Century 21 in Soldotna, has certainly had moments calling for raised eyebrows in her 10-plus years as a Realtor — though, of course, professionalism requires restraint from doing so. But Sept. 17 was a first — a sight more hair-raising than just her brows.

Driving back Wednesday evening from viewing a new listing on June Drive in Sterling, near Mile 81 of the Sterling Highway, something caught her eye on the side of the gravel road. Even from inside her car she could tell it was organic, though it was no longer attached to whatever body it had once belonged. It was long and narrow, fleshy, though decomposing, with a bony joint sticking up out of dark, rotting meat. It was about a foot long, which made sense, since, with five toes, it was clearly a foot. But from what?

“I honestly, honestly, though it was a foot — a human foot. That’s what it looked like,” Keating-Griebel said.

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View From Out West: Home in stead? Head bump, rough road molded author

Photo courtesy of Clark Fair. Old-school equipment was the only way to roll in homestead days, such as this rig used to dig a well on the Fair homestead in the 1960s.

Photo courtesy of Clark Fair. Old-school equipment was the only way to roll in homestead days, such as this rig used to dig a well on the Fair homestead in the 1960s.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter
Perhaps it should never have happened, but who’s to say?
It did happen, thus laying firmly into place a solid brick in the foundation of my character. Without this event, I am not the man I am today.
Even now, as I live in Dillingham on a high bluff above Nushagak Bay and remote from the Alaska road system, many of my actions and sensibilities are still governed by a half century of homestead life and the topography of the Kenai Peninsula.
If one man, whom I never knew, had not been bonked on the head all those many years ago, I might be writing, and living, a different story altogether.
I first learned of the event from the people next door.
Out on the homestead, Dan and Mary France were our neighbors — a mile away by gravel road, perhaps half that distance straight through the woods — for half a century. They’re still neighbors to our property, but no Fairs are currently living there. Renters occupy my old house, and my mother has sold her place and another small patch of woods on the other side of my parcel.
Dan and Mary actually were there before we even arrived in Soldotna in October 1960. They had moved onto their own 80-acre homestead in 1959 while Dad was still a dentist for the Army in Whittier, and it wasn’t until early spring 1962 that we moved from a Soldotna trailer court to our new home (which was separated from the Frances’ by the old Dave Thomas homestead).
For years, when I was a kid, I used to roam through the mix of black spruce, quaking aspen, cottonwood and paper birch on the remnants of a narrow, muddy, twisting old road that Dad had always called Dave’s Road — he had told me it was the route into the homesteads before Chas Foster built Forest Lane, which is the point of access used today.
Dave’s Road now is just broken pieces of mostly overgrown trail intersecting fields, driveways, nearby subdivisions and powerlines. In the fall in the old days, we tromped along its passageway in search of snowshoe hares and spruce grouse. In the winter, we employed it as a cross-country ski route. And on some summer days, we would drive our old Ford tractor down the road in search of spruce or birch trees to drag home and cut up for firewood.
Generally speaking, I don’t think about that old road much these days. But when I was visiting Dan and Mary a few years back, they offhandedly mentioned a guy named Stan Nelson and how he’d made this road. I asked for more information because I’d never heard of him.
Turns out that Stan Nelson was the original owner of the homestead on which I’ve lived nearly my entire life. It further turns out that because one day he gave up on his dream of homesteading, my family reaped the benefits. And the direction of my life settled on a 166-acre patch of ground stretching from a mixed-growth forest on a 200-foot riverine bluff to the banks of the Kenai River itself.

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Well-groomed competitor — Beard contest winner has the whiskers to compete again

Photo courtesy of Jerry Terp. Jerry Terp is ready to go the distance in beard-growing competitions.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Terp. Jerry Terp is ready to go the distance in beard-growing competitions.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Beards. From those that are wiry, ungroomed and look like a bird’s nest, to the well-trimmed ones that seem to fit a face like a tailored suit, these chin accoutrements can say a lot about an individual and his personality.

But for some, the length of their beard is about more than a fashion or social statement, it’s a source of achievement, as it is for those one-upping other whiskered warriors during state, national and even international competitions, such as the Mr. Fur Face event held as part of Fur Rondy, or the World Beard and Moustache Championships last held in the U.S. in 2009.

Jerry Terp, of Kenai, is one of those competitors, sporting honey-colored facial fur that hangs to nearly his belt buckle. This winter he intends to return to competition after a hiatus of several years due to a series of unfortunate life and beard-related events.

“The last time I competed was back at the state fair in 2009,” he said. “I took first place in the ‘Colonist’ category.”

After coming home feeling — and looking — like ZZ Top after the win, it was within just a few months that Terp found himself on the ZZ Bottom, in terms of his beard and his luck.

“I woke up at 2:30 a.m., the middle of the night, and found the whole wall of my bedroom in flames,” he said.

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Hunting, Fishing and Other Grounds for Divorce: Call of the wild

Redoubt Reporter file photo. As moose calls go, there are more effective vocalizations than, “Heeeeere boy moose!”

Redoubt Reporter file photo. As moose calls go, there are more effective vocalizations than, “Heeeeere boy moose!”

By Jacki Michaels, for the Redoubt Reporter
It’s a family tradition to listen to audiobooks during family road trips. Still, after many hours of intellectual enrichment and family bonding on a recent trip we found ourselves in desperate need of a little more distraction before we arrived at our destination.
“I have an idea!” I declared.
I could see my hubby cringe. He has learned from experience not to say, “Oh, no!” when I announce that I have an idea. Still, the cringe says it loud and clear.
Nevertheless, I proceeded, “Since we’re going hunting, let’s practice our moose calls!”
His mouth said nothing. His eyes said, “Oh, yay!” in a mocking tone. Sarcasm speaks louder than words.
Catching his father’s attitude, I could feel our teenager’s eyes roll into the back of his head, even though he was in the back seat. An audible groan filled the cab.
“Is that a boy bull call, Patrick?” I asked.
From there a serious discussion on the finer points of speech and moose calling ensued.
“Boy moose,” it was explained, is definitely a grammatical no-no.
In a most masculine move my man posed his hands in prayer position, pinched his nose with his pointer fingers, flared his hands into a shout position, took a deep breath and made a sound that could only be roughly compared to a constipated water buffalo.
“Whoa,” I said. “Good thing you used a duck call when you were courting me!”
“Seriously, Mom, he did that?” my son was incredulous.
“I married him, didn’t I?” I said. Then I rolled my eyes. Being guys, they did not catch my sarcasm.
More groaning from the back.

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Plugged In: Click computing up a notch for better prints

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

A reader recently asked about updating her computer because the 3-year-old system she uses to process photos runs too slowly with modern software.
If you only occasionally touch up and post a JPEG image file or two, then virtually any modern computer system will be adequate, even inevitably slower notebook systems. However, if you make a lot of images using an RAW file format and post-process them on your computer, as you should for best quality and flexibility, then you’ll soon feel the need for speed. That’s particularly true when you’re running video-processing software or especially demanding still-photo programs that require fast performance.
A few months ago I experienced much the same problem as our reader when I began using DXO Optics Pro as my initial processing step before final correction with Adobe Lightroom. DXO uses brute-force computing to achieve its excellent sharpening and noise reduction, but at the price of very long processing times. When it takes three to 10 minutes to process a single image file, it’s painfully obvious that the time has come for a faster computer.
So, this week and next, I’ll discuss the top-end components I chose when recently rebuilding a faster computer system for photo processing and printing. Such a system would certainly be adequate, as well, for demanding business applications. I’ll confine my suggestions to Windows-based PC systems because I’m not adequately familiar with Apple’s closed-system, proprietary products. Let’s start with voice recognition software, as well as video displays and color calibration, two of the most critical but overlooked aspects of any computer system used for photo processing.
But first, I’d like to invite readers to the opening reception for my new photo show, “Fleeting Images,” from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. The show hangs at KPC through Oct. 10. Continue reading

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Harvesting growing demand — Growers find favorable conditions to scale up commercial agriculture

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. High tunnels extend the growing season, retain heat and help mitigate against the challenges of Alaska’s climate, meaning things like sunflowers can be grown successfully. And “easier” plants to grow, like cucumbers, can be done in greater volume.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. High tunnels extend the growing season, retain heat and help mitigate against the challenges of Alaska’s climate, meaning things like sunflowers can be grown successfully. And “easier” plants to grow, like cucumbers, can be done in greater volume.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Alaskans: If you like organic, locally grown, so-fresh-there’s-still-dirt-on-it produce, then put your money where you’d like your mouth to be — taking a bite of flavorful broccoli, stuffed with a mouthful of peppery salad greens, crunching on a crispy carrot or dribbling from a juicy tomato.

That’s the message local growers and agricultural supporters hope consumers are getting from events like the second annual Harvest Moon Local Foods Week, continuing through Saturday on the central Kenai Peninsula, and the summerlong farmers markets that are now winding down as growing season is coming to a close and the increasingly productive local garden beds are being tucked in for winter.

“If we’re serious about having a vibrant agricultural sector of our local economy, we have to be serious as consumers about putting our dollars in local agriculture high tunnel cucumbers copy 2products and local food. That’s what allows our local farmers to scale up,” said Heidi Chay, district manager for the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District.

So far, so good on that front, as there’s been growth in consumers looking for locally produced agriculture — with more customers visiting farmers markets, buying directly from neighborhood farms or shopping the Alaska Grown sections of supermarkets, said Danny Consenstein, executive director for the Alaska Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The number of farms in Alaska has grown. The numbers of farmers markets — we’ve got more than we’ve ever had. There’s more sales. Alaska is growing, it’s one of (the fastest-growing agricultural sectors) in the nation. And maybe we had further to go, but we’ve moved up,” he said.

But there’s also growth in types of consumers. There’s increasing value-added products being made using Alaska-grown ingredients, governmental agencies are procuring more from instate sources — such as school districts for lunch programs and the Department of Corrections for feeding inmates — and restaurants are sourcing directly from local producers, as well.

On the central peninsula, restaurant participation has been one of the areas of growth in the local foods week program from the first event last year to this year, the trend that Chay said makes her the most excited. Three restaurants participated in 2013, offering specials highlighting local foods. This year there were nine. Local restaurants in general are working more with local growers. Those relationships are crucial to local growers being able to scale up from gardening just for family and friends to having sustainable commercial operations.

“In talking to last year’s participants I’m discovering that relationships are growing between local farmers and restaurants that participated last year, so that’s really cool. Restaurants and farmers both are learning about each other and working together more, so that’s exciting,” Chay said. “If you can figure it out for one week then maybe next year you can plan in advance and actually talk with a farmer over the winter and actually plant what it is you’d like to be purchasing throughout the season next year.”

In Alaska, farming is small scale. It’s individual. It’s a couple with a couple of high tunnels, and couple-acre plots worked by the owners and maybe an employee or two brought on around harvest time. But there’s more and more of those setups every year, with production also increasing as new growers navigate the learning curves of agriculture in Alaska.

Happily for these small-scale producers, demand for locally grown products also has proven strong and still growing.

“I think the consumer side is actually what’s driving this. I’m not worried about the demand side drying up,” Consenstein said. “I think people are starting to choose local and I think that trend is going to keep growing. Particularly in Alaska, I think people understand the benefits of buying local, they understand the taste and health benefits of buying something that’s fresh. I think they understand the economic tradeoff of keeping dollars in your community.”

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