Daily Archives: December 9, 2015

Art of satire — send us your submissions!

Example Image

Example Image

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

In the depths of World War I France, then-Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, the “Tiger of France,” famously argued that, “War is too important to be left to the generals.” That’s true of art, as well, so the Redoubt Reporter and ARTSpace are sponsoring a satiric art writing contest open to everyone, with suitably satiric prizes. Parody pomposity! Release your inner philistine!

Good visual art either works or it doesn’t. Attaching pretentious, pompous writing that “explains” the image adds little value.

Too often, though, boring, ordinary images are subject to art “criticism” that seems to bear more resemblance to the writer’s inner projections than to the image itself or the artist’s intent. That’s not a new development. In his book, “The Painted Word,” writer Tom Wolfe (of “The Right Stuff” fame) parodied the New York art establishment’s written puffery of lousy art more than 40 years ago. Here’s your opportunity to strike back.

We’ve published several unmanipulated photos of real objects and scenes that appear abstract. Write some satiric

commentary about one or more images, identifying which photo(s) you are satiring. Your parody should be plausible, pretentious-sounding and humorous. I’m unwilling to hold anyone else’s images up to ridicule, so these are my own photos. Fire away! When the Redoubt Reporter publishes our favorite submitted satires, we’ll tell you what these photos really are.

Here’s an example: Our Example Illustration is of a famous 1975 Louise Nevelson sculpture, “Transparent Horizons,” a series of tall, black, steel figures of something allegedly biological, but severely toilet-papered in the photo. It’s located next to an MIT dorm, East Campus, famous for its practical jokes. Here’s what some anonymous MIT undergraduate wrote and pasted on the sculpture’s descriptive plaque:

“Transparent Papyrus: In his Magnum Opus, Fred D. Dorm creates a piece of transcendent found art. The white lines streak across the black frame of the pile of junk illuminating discovered meaning in an inherently nihilistic landscape of dark emotion. The lines refuse to stay straight in a stark upheaval of a traditional Euclidian universe.”

By the way, if you want to read some really excellent, straightforward art criticism and history, written in clear, simple English by a real expert, get Kenneth Clark’s “Civilization,” available on DVD as a BBC series and also in print.

Email entries to redoubtreporter@alaska.net. Be sure to mention which photo(s) you are referencing. Entries on each photo should be no more than 150 words. Tell us your name and a little about yourself — profession (or school you attend if you’re a student), where you live and any art background you might have. Entries due Dec. 16.

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Make it rein — Reindeer raise money for charity

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Comet and Crash the reindeer munch on hay while Santa gets a wish list from Kaydynce Bowman, 6. The reindeer belong to Jenna Hansen, of Nikiski, who raises money through photo opportunities to pay for their feed and to donate to charity.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Comet and Crash the reindeer munch on hay while Santa gets a wish list from Kaydynce Bowman, 6. The reindeer belong to Jenna Hansen, of Nikiski, who raises money through photo opportunities to pay for their feed and to donate to charity.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

For kids visiting Santa, there’s some imagination required. There’s the big guy in the red suit, of course, usually some candy canes and maybe a decorated tree, faux fireplace or prop sleigh to add to the effect. But the bulk of Santa’s magical world — the North Pole, the elves, the mountains of toys — is up to the kids to conjure.

But on Saturday, kids coming to see Santa in Soldotna got a look at a real, live part of Santa’s entourage — his reindeer.

As Santa visited with kids on the seat of a sleigh, Comet and Crash the reindeer munched away at a bale of hay, obligingly providing an antlered backdrop to the photos parents were snapping.

“Will you leave me some cookies?” Santa asked 6-year-old Kaydynce Bowman. “You know what the reindeer like? They like carrots and apples. Can you leave some carrots and apples out for Santa, too, and the reindeer will be really happy, OK?”

After a “Merry Christmas, ho, ho, ho,” and a candy cane, Bowman crab-walked over to her dad, not wanting to take her eyes off Santa’s furry transportation system.

Though it wasn’t the Comet, of course. Nor is Crash a nickname for any of the other eight famous reindeer. Those guys are saving their strength for their big night come Christmas Eve, but they’ve got a couple of cousins in Nikiski willing to stand in their stead, even if they won’t actually be pulling Santa’s sled.

Comet and Crash belong to Jenna Hansen. She got her first, Crash, four years ago as a Junior Market Livestock project for 4-H. She raised a steer and a reindeer that year, but could only sell one animal at the fair auction.

“So she decided to sell the steer and keep the reindeer because he was so well trained and so good with people,” said Jenna’s mom, Hara Hansen.

Comet arrived the next year.

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Help with health care — ‘Navigators’ steer applicants through enrollment process

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The clock is ticking on the open enrollment period to sign up for heath insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but navigating the acronym-laden options, deciphering plan benefits and the pressure of making the best decision for your health and your wallet can be a real headache. Peninsula Community Health Services is there to help.

Tina Minster is a health insurance “navigator” with PCHS, specializing in outreach and enrollment. Friday, she set up shop for three hours in the Soldotna Public Library, and had 20 people come visit with her, and takes her services much farther afield, as well.

“I host events, I do follow-up appointments, I go to people’s homes that may not be able to get out. I’ll go to coffee shops, I’ve been down to the beach while people are dip-netting,” she said. “I’ve been on the boat with people, fishing captains that are going to need help. I’ll take my pocket full of business cards, and wherever I go I’ll be standing in a grocery line, ‘Hey, do you need help understanding what your responsibilities are? Do you have insurance? Do you know anyone that needs insurance?’ I’m kind of outgoing, so that really helps a lot.”

She fields a lot of questions about Medicaid and Medicare and can walk people through the enrollment process online on healthcare.gov to see if they qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. If Minster can’t answer a question, she can refer to someone who can, such as a private insurance broker, Native health services or veterans health services.

Her last client of the day, Betty, and her husband are trying to figure out heath care coverage now that they’re retired. She’s covered under Indian Health Services, but isn’t sure how to integrate that with the Affordable Care Act — or “Obamacare” — while her husband is trying to decide how much coverage he needs under Medicare.

“Which way do you go? When can you get signed up? So we’re trying to get that in order, and he wants to be completely covered, like Medicare A, B and C and supplemental,” Betty said.

They want to take care of their health, but don’t want to spend any more than they have to.

“And then with me, I have Indian Heath Services, so have the exemption with that with Obamacare,” she said. “And I’m on Social Security. So you’re retired, this is what you get — you get Part A, and there’s certain things it covers, then Part B covers something else, but I want to know the advantages of why should I get Part B,” Betty said.

It gets pretty complicated.

“I don’t know which way to go,” she said. “And then, am I taking a chance if I travel? How do I get to them (IHS) if I need to go to a hospital? How do I check ahead? What if something happens to me? If I’m knocked out, does my husband call and say, ‘OK, you need to cover this?’”

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Opportunity in budgetary adversity — Sen. Micciche touts silver lining in state’s red deficit

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sen. Peter Micciche addresses constituents at a town hall meeting Dec. 2 at Kenai Peninsula College, held before the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 16. The topic of the state’s budget took up most of the two-hour meeting, with time for questions following.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sen. Peter Micciche addresses constituents at a town hall meeting Dec. 2 at Kenai Peninsula College, held before the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 16. The topic of the state’s budget took up most of the two-hour meeting, with time for questions following.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Yes, oil prices have fallen from over $100 to under $50 a barrel, the state is now facing about a $3.2 billion hole in its operating budget, will have no capital project funding to speak of next year and is in danger of its bond rating being degraded if it doesn’t get its financial act together.

But to Kenai Sen. Peter Micciche, the situation isn’t all bad, if it leads to good decisions.

“A good part of the industry in the state of Alaska is state government. It’s going to be hard to reel in and separate the wheat from the chafe on necessary or essential services versus things that aren’t quite so necessary,” he said. “And when things were tight I’m not sure that they pinched back. We always got saved by the price of oil. I frankly don’t think it’s an entirely negative thing that we’re challenged on our number one commodity price right now, if we use the opportunity wisely.”

Micciche held a town hall meeting at Kenai Peninsula College on Dec. 2 to update constituents before the second half of the legislative session convenes Jan. 19. Much of the two hours of presentation and discussion with the 70-plus-people who attended focused on the budget.

The good news is, the state’s unrestricted general fund has already been cut from around $8.5 billion to $4.9 billion since 2013.

“Pretty significant cuts. So when you hear people talk about the ‘runaway cost of government,’ that’s simply not the case,” he said.

The not-so-great news is some of the cuts were made in haste, and perhaps, in error, he said.

“Some departments we have cut too far. If you call the state troopers now because of a burglary at your home, they have to choose as to whether or not they’re going to respond. They’ve been cut pretty deeply — too deep, in my opinion. So we actually have to return some funding to some departments, and there’s room to cut in others,” he said.

The full-on bad news is the budget hole won’t realistically be filled by a rebound in oil prices, nor the continued tapping of the Constitutional Budget Reserve, nor will it be bridged by continued budget cutting.

“We can make spending more efficient. We can combine departments and administrations, but we can’t cut to the point where we’re at $2.2 billion operating budget. That just doesn’t work,” he said.

That means raising revenue, to fund an acceptable level of state services.

“I don’t want to raise my kids in a place that has a terrible educational system, really poor roads, and that isn’t safe,” he said.

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Birds on the brain, nature at heart — Exploration leads to stewardship

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A visit from a male grosbeak can lead kids down the path of curiosity and care for their environment.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A visit from a male grosbeak can lead kids down the path of curiosity and care for their environment.

By Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter

Human beings, possibly above all else, excel at being absorbed in themselves and the minutiae of their lives. It’s a habit I’ve worked hard to ensure doesn’t become instilled in my daughter, and not just because I’ve always preferred national parks over theme parks, but so that she understands there is another world beyond the din of our society’s increasingly urban lifestyles.

As part of creating an awareness and appreciation of this world, starting with the wild places near home, we started taking daily nature walks before she could walk. Now, nearly 3 years old, she wouldn’t let me miss one of our field forays even if I wanted to. We go regardless of weather, because there is always something to be seen and learned, even in inclement conditions.

We follow trails left by moose, collect treasures like tiny spruce cones or unusually shaped stones or pick berries and mushrooms when they’re in season (only after I’ve identified them as safe.) All these capture my daughter’s attention, but of all her favorite outdoor activities, few compete with the curiosity she holds for the birds that visit our feeders.

All of it seems to enchant her — from the careful selection of on which branch a chickadee will wait while awaiting its turn to claim a sunflower seed, to the nuances of where a nuthatch chooses to cache its cherished meal and, especially, any new avian arrivals.

A small flock of grosbeaks flew in. Hardly a life-list species for most birders, but its year-round commonness in the boreal forests of Alaska didn’t make the sighting any less spectacular to my daughter.

They’re a beautiful and charismatic bird, quite large and plump for a member of the finch family, and with a stubby bill. The males have a chokecherry-red back, breast and head, even in winter, which is what caught our eyes in a seasonal world of white and various hues of blue. The females are more grayish with a bit of olive coloring to their heads and rumps.

Grosbeaks are tame by wild bird standards, not easily perturbed by human movement, but I still steadied my daughter by placing my hands on her shoulders, since the birds landed mere yards from where we were standing.

We froze, still as statues and silent enough to hear the natural wind chime of the last few dried leaves still clinging to branches above blowing in the gentle breeze. The grosbeaks flitted on the ground around us, sorting still-good seeds from empty hulls under the feeders. Through my palms I felt my daughter’s pulse increase as her wonder-filled heart picked up pace from the exciting spectacle.

Time pooled in the present as we stared, completely in the spell of these birds, until — as toddlers are wont to do — my daughter finally broke the silence to ask a question. At the sound, the birds flushed before the first word completely left her tiny lips. It was an ephemeral experience to witness that she clearly thought about for weeks afterward, as evident by the litany of questions that followed, which I used as teachable moments.

When she wondered aloud where the grosbeaks were in the following days, I asked her questions, not just about the birds themselves, but the world they live in. Why had they been there at that time of day? Where did she think they were before we saw them, and where did they fly next? What were they eating when not at our feeder? Did they have friends and families? Did they have enemies, such as predators?

To be sure, even I didn’t know the answers to some of the questions I posed, but that wasn’t the point. The goal was to stimulate her brain, to get her to think about what she will one day learn to call an ecosystem.

We could have stayed indoors by the warmth of the woodstove, reading books to learn about the world rather than from it. Likely the same folks who don’t get any more specific than lumping everything with wings into “birds,” and everything with bark and trunks into “woods.” But for me, as someone who enjoys identifying a grosbeak as well as noticing it in an isolated stand of cottonwoods mixed into a sea of spruce, it’s my belief that knowing these details adds to the texture and delight of the encounter. And I hope to pass this acknowledgement and appreciation of the nuances of nature on to my daughter.

In the future, she and the rest of her generation will face many complex issues, from climate change to protecting endangered species, shifting food-production methods to feed the ever-growing global population, and myriad more. But the first step to raising adults who believe in stewardship enough to attempt to solve these nature-related problems must first come from encouraging children to be in nature. To think globally, they must first learn to care locally.

Like Henry David Thoreau once said, “The more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core.” I hope my daughter will remember, as an adult, down to her core, the sights of the birds and other creatures she sees daily, remember the sounds of their whistles and warbles, and remember to care about them and protect their wild habitats. Perhaps, one day, she’ll then share her interests and concerns for the natural world with her own children.

Joseph Robertia is a freelance writer living in Kasilof with his wife, Colleen, and daughter, Lynx. He and Colleen operate Rouges Gallery Kennel.

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Melodrama in the making — Kenai Performers’ drama club entertains dramatic education

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Holly Berry, played by Brittany Gilman, bursts with hope that her love interest, Randolf the bowlegged cowboy, can save their town of Mistletoe from the villainous Rolland N. Dough.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Holly Berry, played by Brittany Gilman, bursts with hope that her love interest, Randolf the bowlegged cowboy, can save their town of Mistletoe from the villainous Rolland N. Dough.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

“The most wicked, the most dastardly, the most evil, the most despicable villain of all time.”

The dastardly villain of reference would be Rolland N. Dough. A name and title like that, and audience participation to boot, can only mean one thing — melodrama.

Specifically, the Kenai Performers’ youth drama club performed “Rollin’ in Dough in Mistletoe” Saturday at Soldotna Creek Park. The play joined music, hot cocoa and cookies, singing, a visit from Santa and the lighting of the Christmas tree in the city’s second annual Christmas in the Park celebration.

This was the first public performance of the newly formed Kenai Performers’ youth program. The drama club is for grades six to 12 and meets Monday evenings during the school year. Sally Cassano, Kenai Performers board president, said the club involves everything from onstage performing to backstage set building.

“I’ve wanted for a long time, and so has Terri, to come up with a program for kids, like an after school-type of program, much in the spirit of Boys and Girls Club, that sort of thing, where they have something to do and they’re learning from a young age. Things like theater vocab, theater etiquette, theater everything,” Cassano said.

Board member Terri Burdick also runs the drama club, and directed “Rollin’ in Dough in Mistletoe.” Because nothing says Christmas like dastardly villains and damsels in distress, set in the Wild West, no less.

“I love melodrama and it kind of shows,” she said. “And as I was looking through Christmas scripts this melodrama just said, ‘Terri, this is it.’ And I liked that it has the Christmas song lyrics in it because it makes it funny and just fun.”

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Plugged In: Upgrade lenses for photographers on gift lists

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Although the cameras we suggested last week typically ship with a basic “kit” zoom lens, kit lenses often have some practical and optical limitations, especially when the light is dim. This week, we’ll suggest some affordable interchangeable lenses that supplement or could replace a basic kit lens.

Keep these considerations in mind:

  • Are there any types of photos that you could accomplish more easily or more effectively with a different lens? If so, then first consider lenses designed for such photos.
  • Lenses with very wide, f/1.4 apertures are more expensive yet often optically inferior to comparable lenses with a smaller, f/1.7 or f/1.8 maximum aperture.
  • A normal magnification, wide-aperture prime lens is generally the least expensive, most versatile first purchase for beginning and intermediate users.
  • Bear in mind equivalent magnifications. APS-C digital SLR and mirrorless cameras have a 1.5 equivalent magnification factor, which means that a 35-mm lens used with an APS-C sensor camera acts like a normal-view, 50-mm lens on a traditional 35-mm film camera. Micro Four-Thirds cameras have a 2x equivalent magnification. So, a 25-mm lens on an M 4/3 camera is the equivalent of a 50-mm lens.
  • Image stabilization is exceptionally useful, but only cameras made by Olympus and Pentax always include image-stabilization hardware built into the camera body. When using Pentax or Olympus cameras, any mounted lens will be stabilized. If you’re using any other brand of camera, it’s advisable to buy a lens that includes optical stabilization.
  • Single magnification “prime” lenses tend to be sharper, brighter and less expensive than comparable zoom lenses. Supertelephoto lenses with a very wide magnification range tend to be less sharp than standard zoom lenses. Personally, I prefer to use prime lenses whenever convenient.
  • The lens mount of both camera and lens must match. For example, you can’t use Nikon lenses on a Canon camera body. We’ve used prices posted at Bhphotovideo.com and Amazon.com, including only models with autofocus and auto-exposure. We sought the best balance between cost and high image quality. That eliminated many of the least-expensive lenses. Although some brands remain on sale, you may get a better deal after Christmas. We’ll start with lenses designed for Canon, Nikon and Pentax cameras.
  • Fast prime lenses: These are compact, very sharp and work well in low light. They’re the best deals of all for sheer image quality and low-light versatility at a low price. We suggest Canon’s 24-mm f/1.8 ($129), 40-mm f/2.8 ($149), and 50-mm f/1.8 ($99 to $110) lenses, Pentax’s 35-mm f/2.4 ($117) and 50-mm f/1.8m ($91) models, and Nikon’s 35-mm f/1.8 G ($197) and 50-mm f/1.8 G ($216) prime lenses. They’re unstabilized, except Pentax. Pentax’s excellent Limited Series APS-C prime lenses remain on sale at BHphotovideo.
  • Upgrading standard zoom lenses: Sigma’s 17- to 70-mm f/4 zoom ($400) is a good upgrade from basic Canon, Pentax and Nikon kit lenses. Nikon retails their excellent 18-to 105-mm upgrade zoom for about $400. Sigma’s lens is a better buy for Canon cameras. All are image-stabilized. Tamron’s unstabilized 17- to 50-mm f/2.8 zoom (about $400 to $450 on sale) is a very sharp, brighter upgrade for Pentax users.
  • Telephoto zoom lenses: Avoid unstabilized telephoto zooms except with internally stabilized Pentax cameras. We suggest Canon 55- to 250-mm ($300), Nikon 55- to 200-mm VR zoom ($350), and the newest HD Pentax 55- to 300-mm ($255) telephoto zooms. Tamron’s stabilized 70- to 300-mm VC-model stabilized telephoto zoom (about $450) is a sharp, higher-grade choice for Canon and Nikon users who want higher magnifications.
  • Superzoom lenses: The many similar superzoom lenses are good all-in-one and travel lenses. Sigma’s newest 18- to 200-mm and 18- to 300-mm “Contemporary Series” superzooms are among the best in this price range. Tamron’s lower-cost superzooms and Sigma’s other superzooms are older models that, while often a good buy, are less perfected optically.
  • Macro lenses: These are close-focusing prime lenses that work well as very sharp short-telephoto lenses. All currently sell for less than our $500 cap. Tamron’s 90-mm and Sigma’s 70-mm models for Canon, Nikon, Sony Alpha and Pentax mounts are bulky but excellent. Pentax’s 100-mm macro is very sharp and well built with a weather-resistant metal body. Nikon’s 40-mm G and Canon’s 60-mm macro lenses are less expensive than the higher-end Pentax, Sigma and Tamron models, but also good.
  • Sony A5100 and A6000: The best affordable lenses for Sony’s E-mount APS-C mirrorless cameras are made by Sigma — the 19-mm, wide-angle, 30-mm normal, and 60-mm short telephoto/portrait models. Each costs about $200 to $210, with f/2.8 maximum apertures. Zeiss’s 32-mm Touit ($499) is a higher-end alternative. None are stabilized on E-mount cameras, a drawback.
  • Micro Four-Thirds: Olympus and Panasonic M4/3 mirrorless camera users have a wide choice among high-quality, affordable lenses. Olympus’ 12- to 50-mm zoom ($350) is the least-expensive upgrade to the kit lens. Luckily, most Olympus and Panasonic kit lenses are sharper than average. All M4/3 lenses are inherently stabilized when mounted on Olympus cameras, but not with most Panasonic cameras.
  • Among fast prime lenses, we suggest Panasonic’s 14-mm f/2.5 and 20-mm f/1.7 models, both about $270. We also recommend Panasonic’s 30-mm f/2.8 macro and 42.5-mm f/1.7 prime lenses, and their compact 35- to 100-mm f/4-5.6 compact telephoto zoom. All three are very sharp, stabilized and retailing in the $350 to $400 range when not on sale.
  • Sigma sells M 4/3 versions of its 19-mm, 30-mm and 60-mm f/2.8 prime lenses for about $200 to $210. The 19-mm Sigma is OK, the 30-mm Sigma is very good, while the 60-mm model is exceptionally good. Olympus’ 25-mm f/1.8, 45-mm f/1.8 lenses (each about $299) and 60-mm f/2.8 macro lens (about $400) are excellent and recommended.
  • Olympus’ 40- to 150-mm f/4-5.6 telephoto ($99 on sale) can be good if you get a properly assembled copy. Olympus’ 75- to 300-mm II supertelephoto (about $450) is sharp and versatile when used carefully. Olympus’ new 14- to 150-mm Mark II zoom is sharper and less expensive than Panasonic’s older 14- to 140-mm model, but stabilized only when used with Olympus cameras.

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