Friday, June 22, 2007

Movie Musings: Balto

(Modeled by Brigit, who is spending the week with us while Dad is in Tennessee for work.)

by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment
ISBN: 0783218575
Length: 1 hour and 18 minutes
Published: 1996

A Mixed Race Hero
"A dog cannot do it alone, but a wolf can."
The theme of this movie is not Alaska. It is not about enduring harsh landscapes using strength and sense. Balto is all about being of mixed race. Yes, there are close encounters with sharp icicles, avalanches, and frozen water. But really, this could be set anywhere. The characters might as well be walking through grass. The feeling of Nome as a far away and inaccessible place is done well, but the landscape is otherwise unimportant.

Balto's mother was a dog and his father was a wolf. Balto gets a lot of crap for this from the townspeople. Mostly, he is set-up by Steele, a nasty but competent sled dog. Steele takes some sausages from the butcher, then when he hears people coming he throws them over to where Balto is standing. Steele is a good dog for catching Balto at stealing, and the butcher basically says, "Well what can you expect? He's part wolf." Variations of this happen over and over throughout the movie. Balto is a great guy - nice, compassionate, and energetic. He is alternately defiant and depressed when his mixed race is constantly flung in his face as a bad thing.

If Mike and I decide someday to make our small effort to keep the world from turning into an Ideocracy by passing on our okay genes, then I will show this movie to our progeny. And I will talk about how being different is wonderful and beautiful.

Overtly Sexual Comments, that will probably only register with adults
"Hey Balto, I've got a message for your mother: Awooooooooooooooo!"
Steele is calling Balto's mom a slut. And not only is she a slut, but she does it with wolves!

Annoying sidekicks
"I'm getting people bumps."
Boris the Russian snow goose is almost as bad as Aladdin's Iago. The two polar bears, Muk and Luk, are boring and easy to ignore. But Boris is there to make us laugh. And as you might expect in a movie about children severely ill with diphtheria, all of his jokes fall flat.

Real World Bookends
"Come on, Grandma Carrie!"
When the animated portion ends and we return to the memorial in New York, we are hit with the harsh realization that Balto, Jenna, and most of the people that lived in Nome are now dead. Why? Because the little girl is now an old woman. Yes. They killed off everyone (except for Carrie) that we had been rooting for or scowling at during this movie in a moment. Gone. Most adult movies aren't that harsh.

Fashion Realizations

  • A tasteful red shawl makes a lady dog look very elegant. Jenna is the Audrey Hepburn of animated canines.

  • Musher hats never go out of style.

Overall: Rent it for yourself, buy it for your kids. Not much Alaska goodness, but the other strangenesses make up for it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tickets!! We just bought our plane tickets!!


Mike and I just bought our plane tickets from Burbank, CA to Fairbanks, AK. We'll be arriving late late late on August 25th.


Now we just have to buy the plane tickets from Alabama to California.

And pack.

And sell stuff.

And find homes for the ratzelles and the turtle with no name and the Brawley monster.


Well, small steps towards a kick ass goal.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Gerbils and Why I Am In Love

(e-mail conversation with Mike, during my shift working the night audit at the hotel)

Me: oh so cute animal!!

Mike: Is that one of the famous bloodthirsty snow-gerbils?

Me: oooooooooooo. bloodthirsty snow gerbils???? I had not heard of these!!!!!!1

Mike: Ah, yes. Alaska is famous for them. Just look at this completely unretouched photo of one taken right after it massacred a large family of orphans.


Mike: In case you couldn't tell, that's blood all over its mouth!

Me: OH MY GOODNESS!!! Absolute #1 on my To Do In Fairbanks List: SEE DEADLY SNOW GERBIL!!!!! :D

UPDATE: Not a snow gerbil, but a pika. Thank you Theresa!

Friday, June 15, 2007

This Way: Alaska and the Yukon

This Way Alaska

This Way: Alaska and the Yukon

by JPM Publications
ISBN: 2884520511
Price: not listed
Pages: 64

This book is hand-sized and, as modeled by Brawley, slightly larger than a cat's head. Another library book. This one seemed mildly promising when I flipped through it in the stacks. But when I brought it home and tried to read through it, my interest evaporated. Filled with bland tourist brochure language and a few nice photographs, this is a book that is definitely not worth the paper it is printed on.

The most interesting quote:

When one of the many Texans working on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline got a little too uppity, a local would tell him: "If you're not careful, we'll divide Alaska into two halves and then Texas will be the third largest state in the Union."

And this was on the first page. I skimmed the rest, and couldn't bring myself to read much more. The big problem of this tiny book is that it tries to divulge history and tourist bait in as few words as possible. The result is a scary world that I'd like to stay far away from.

Overall: Craptastic. Not even worth opening.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dorms vs. Cabins

I got a letter yesterday from UAF Residence Life. It's pretty ambiguous.

Dear Jennifer:

We now have your completed application on file for Student Family, Graduate & Non-Traditional Housing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Your name is being placed on our waiting list for Fall 2007.

You will be notified as soon as we are able to offer you an apartment in Student Housing.

BARG. I was really hoping for a clear answer. Although this letter does not state it, I am assuming Mike and I have been accepted as a Financially Interdependent couple. Hopefully, we'll get moved from the Waiting List to the Send Us Your Money List.

Mike and I both want to try living in a cabin, but we won't have a car in Alaska and I'm a bit scared of going last minute cabin shopping. I can see Mike searching through dingy cabins while I'm at TAship training all day, with our money being eaten up by a hotel. Not a good way to start the year.

But if it does come to that, it won't be the end of the world. After all, Alaska is all about new experiences.

UAF Cabin Life, Part 1
UAF Cabin Life, Part 2

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Breaking the News - Dad

Jenni and Dad

Mike and I ate dinner at Dad's house last night. While we were sitting at the table eating bean burritos and tacos, I got that nervous pang in my stomach and decided it was time to break the news about Alaska.

Dad was really happy for me, but very surprised.

"How long is the program?" He asked.

"It's 3 years."

"3 years? You were only in Japan for one year."

Beyond the years I'm guaranteed to be in Alaska, there's the nebulous After Grad School realm that we didn't talk about. When I studied abroad, my parents knew I would be coming back to finish my undergraduate degree. But when I leave for Alaska, I'm leaving Alabama without knowing if or when I'll ever live here again.

Yet, I think I will actually see them more after I move away. When I come back to visit I will be dependent on them for a place to stay and transportation. Thanks to crap jobs, the last few years I haven't been able to spend more than two days at a time with my family. I'm not sure exactly how different grad school will be from undergrad, but if I am able to be off for even half the usual vacation time it will be much much more than I have seen since getting my diploma.

Dad has promised to visit at least once. He said Alaska is a place he has always wanted to visit, but never thought he would have an excuse to go there. Dad visited Japan, so I'm pretty confident I'll be showing him around the campus before a year has passed.

And he's already springing into action: offering to share storage space with me, and making plans to move into the mouse house after Mike and I leave. One project I want to complete before we leave AL is to get my ham radio license - so we can have a channel of communication open with Dad all the time.

There were many things I did badly the last time I was living far away. They're still fresh in my mind, even though it was 4 years ago. This time, I'm determined to do better. At the top of the list is keeping in touch with my family, and showing them through pictures and stories what my daily life is like.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Alaska Scrapbook/ Binder

Someday, my posts will have more to do with living in Alaska. But until I arrive in Fairbanks in late August to begin my TA training, all I have are books and preparation reports.

Today I made an Alaska scrapbook/ binder for artifacts and musings that don't fit on this blog. I bought the original scrapbook several years ago at a thrift store for 79 cents. I have several scrapbooks all with the same style of photography on the covers. The others show Spring and Fall landscapes. The one I have chosen to be my Alaska scrapbook looks like this:

Alaska Scrapbook

And the inside cover has a lovely pattern as well:

Alaska Scrapbook - Inside Cover

The only problem with the original scrapbook was the pages. There were only around 25 of them. And the clear plastic covers on each page were loose. The pages were yellowed and browned.

Alaska Scrapbook - Old Photo Pages

So, I removed the pages. Then I cut the front and back covers off of a sturdy 1 inch binder, and super-glued the binder's spine into the scrapbook cover:

Alaska Scrapbook - Revamped with binder

Huzzah! Now I can use it for on the road journal entries, sketches, pamphlets of kisch, leaf pressings - whatever I want. Anything that can be hole punched can go in my new scrapbook. And if I decide I want to take it out or rearrange the pages, it is no big deal.


In other news: Mike and I sent in our dorm housing application a few weeks ago. They've taken the application fee out of my bank account, but I haven't heard anything on whether we have been accepted as a Financially Interdependent Couple. If they don't accept us into on campus housing, it will be time to start searching for a cabin. I'm hoping we can ease into Alaskan life by having a dorm room the first year, and then finding a cabin for the next two years.