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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
Southeast Alaska’s geoduck clam dive fishery did not open this week because high levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning were found.
Clams from eight fishing areas were sampled, and Fish and Game assistant Management Biologist Justin Brease says they all turned up positive.
“Looks like they tested eight areas for a potential opening, and all of those areas failed the PSP test, so therefore we didn’t have any areas left that we could open, so we didn’t have any openings for geoducks this week,” Brease said.
Brease says PSP testing frequently finds positive test results in the Southeast clams. Often several areas will test positive. This time, all of them did.
“It isn’t necessarily all that unusual that they have positive results at all. In fact it’s not uncommon for there to be high results everywhere,” Brease said. “We’re kind of at the northern end of the range for geoduck clams and we typically have higher PSP levels than, say, down in Washington.”
The Southeast Alaska Region Dive Fisheries Association will go out and take more samples this weekend for a potential opening on Jan. 16.
The geoduck clam market is depressed right now because its biggest customer is China, which barred imports of West Coast geoducks last month claiming bad PSP and arsenic results that both Alaska and Washington State authorities said they had found no sign of.
Still, Washington closed a fishery area just in case and this week Alaska is unable to open any areas.
Hurry, you can still make it to Dena’Ina Way of Living with its preserved artifacts and dioramic recreations. Not to worry, the exhibition catalog will be available after the show closes; it’s a good read in cold dark January. Fact: more art aficionados read the book than see live work. Catalogs usually contain more information than what is chosen for museum walls.
Dena’inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi, the Dena’Ina Way of Living illustrates how a population lived thousands of years ago without electricity, running water and modern medicine; be humbled by those who came before. Ethnically Athabascan, the Dena’Ina, have been in the Cook Inlet region and its tributaries for millennia. The cultural focus of this show and catalog begins when Euro-American explorers arrived in the mid-to late eighteenth century and continues to the present.
While I was writing this essay, my daughter Jenn texted me from the Brooklyn Museum. She and her family went back East visiting siblings for New Year’s. Granddaughter Averyl is a fifth generation visitor. My mother was a Brooklyn artist; her father Irving practiced medicine from their Carlton Avenue home. Looking at the same paintings that relatives from a bygone era also contemplated is one way to experience a family’s culture. Today it is very common not to live where your ancestors did. Relocating means appreciating new cultures as my husband Dave and I did when moving to Alaska over forty years ago.
Going to my K Street office, I drive past Nordstrom, absorbed in whether I need more ink for the copier. I am oblivious to the Dena’Ina who once walked right under my tire treads as I think about dinner– is last night’s rice and chicken enough leftovers for two?
In the museum’s exhibition a Native male/mannequin harpoons a Beluga whale from an inverted tree trunk ingeniously stuck into mud flats. The message is clear, creativity is not a modern concept. Sure, the name Dena’Ina is on the new convention center and conferences often have Native dancers beating drums while waving fans—show over, everyone goes home.
What does it mean to look at glass-enclosed artifacts that were once someone’s utility item, most likely for survival? How does an artifact become an art piece? New York’s MoMA devotes an entire wing to twentieth century chairs and toasters. I am always amused when I see a piece of Pyrex or an early computer becoming the focal point for a lecturing docent.
Dena’Inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi begins with a diorama of a present day fish camp. Two adult women are wading in shallow water as they cut salmon on a makeshift table. One of the ladies wears a Helly Hansen parka. The other is wearing wraparound sunglasses. Nearby a small boy watches a catch basin of recently caught fish. He is wearing an ‘Alaska Grown’ sweatshirt. Even if museum goers have never experienced life in a fish camp, they can relate to these mannequins who are wearing clothing that can be purchased locally. Identifying with an art piece is one way to empathize with the message about preserving subsistence.
Europeans brought smallpox which reduced the Dena’Ina population, thus fewer Natives to sew clothing. When America bought Alaska in 1867, traders arrived with fabric bolts and readymade clothing. Missionaries encouraged western dress. Native lifestyles were affected by intruders, as was clothing. Tunics now sported collars or were abandoned for Western shirts and vests.
In the exhibition, a looping video of traditional Native dishes projects onto a dining table. Visitors pause to look down onto contemporary place settings as if becoming part of this virtual meal. Aboriginal fare of beaver, moose and berries are passed around by virtual contemporary Natives (only their hands are visible). This DVD and the fish camp diorama demonstrate how ancient customs are kept alive.
How do you relate to nineteenth century mittens or arrows in glass cases, no longer used as once intended? Boring, you say, as you give objects a cursory glance, thinking about that nice cup of tea you intend to sip after you breeze by the whittled wooden spoons and caribou hide tunics with the matching knee-high footwear. You are not alone; many visitors typically don’t feel connected. That’s because they don’t possess a narrative about the viewed artifacts. Hey, if museum goers can find a story in Lautrec’s café scenes or in Monet’s water lilies, they can construct one from Dena’Ina artifacts.
For example: here’s a pair of summer gloves, 1883, made from caribou. They are decorated with glass beads and dentalium shells, often a mark of wealth and indication of a trading culture. The gloves are attached to an embroidered string, similar to mittens sold today for infants. Unless our museum goers bought gloves to wear to a gala, chances are they bought winter gloves at, say, LL Bean. They can also afford to lose them too, they aren’t precious.
And visitors probably don’t care if the gloves are decorated. In fact, modern day machine washing would destroy beads and shells. Now look carefully at the care that went into making and maintaining the Dena’Ina gloves, their detail and design quality. Ancient cultures couldn’t run to a store or shop online for replacements. Without handmade outerwear, the Dena’Ina would have perished, which is why they highly valued and coveted their gear.
Here is a matching beaded fire bag with a velvet strap, 1883. Imagine the ego this hunter displayed wearing such flash, perhaps along with the gloves. Velvet for making the bag’s shoulder strap was acquired through trade. Recreational and subsistence hunters today might snicker at what would now be considered a feminine satchel, back then it was status—culture evolves.
Here’s a stone lamp found around Fish Creek near Knik. The carving is delicate; there appears to be a figure, maybe a god, in the center. Did everyone have lamps? Probably not. As Heidegger commented, the meaning goes when the artwork leaves the temple, relocating to a museum. The spirituality of this piece may be lost to present day viewers but that doesn’t mean the onlooker can’t imagine, appreciating the lamp as both an artifact and a present day art form.
When approaching Anchorage International by air at night, lights from Girdwood to Wasilla appear on the horizon. Imagine the darkness these Dena’Ina endured thousands of years ago and how much appreciation came from a stone lamp.
Arrows, 1883, reside in an exhibition case like pencils in a desk drawer. While some tools are made from stone or bone, these have metal points. Were these projectiles made locally or was the metal traded? Someone had foresight to see that adding serrations to the blade anchored the material into the wooden shaft. Feathers had been attached to the other end of the arrows with sinew. Did these Dena’Ina know that feathers were needed for aerodynamics? How many animals suffered at the expense of misfires? Did hunters succumb to friendly fire? Was the shaman the only medical aid or psychological comfort?
Here is a shaman doll, 1850-1900, many were destroyed by Russian Orthodox clergy who sensed a competitive spirituality. Can viewers differentiate between a religious icon and a child’s toy?
It took many ground squirrels to make this parka, 1898-1899. This garment is not unlike Western clothing styles made after the 1920s. Except for the tailored sleeves, the piece hangs without any cinching to the waistline. Was it itchy to the skin? Was it washable? What if the person gained weight? Was there a thrift shop, of sorts, for unwanted clothing? In the late eighteen hundreds, Dena’Ina seamstresses began selling their work to tourists and seamen as art works, thus bypassing original functionality.
When does an art piece become an artifact or vice-versa? Is it the monetary value that settles the score or is it established institutions that make the call after they’ve scarfed up the loot? For centuries art philosophers have tried to separate form from content. In the late twentieth century content, not necessarily the intent of the original work, got superimposed on unsuspecting forms by self-declared critics. In the end artifacts need a narrative to enliven form which loses sensuality when stuffed in a box away from its origin and intent. One has only to observe animal abstractions found on utility items from past civilizations to realize narration has been a human necessity.
If a story isn’t offered, make one up and share it over afternoon tea and a crumpet with a friend. If you miss Dena’Ina, Way of Living, the catalog is filled with Chris Arend’s photography along with a cultural narration about efforts to preserve the past in the present. Oh, note: readers will learn that a major collection arranged for this show was abruptly pulled and remains in St. Petersburg because of a 2012 Russian government ruling that prevents loans to American institutions.
Dena’Inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi, available on Amazon.
Two years after Sherlock’s “death”, Dr. John Watson has got on with his life. But, with London under threat of a devastating terrorist attack, Sherlock is about to stage his outrageous resurrection. But if he thinks everything will be just as he left it, he’s in for a very big surprise…
- TV: Sunday, 1/19 at 9:00 PM
For the fourth entry in my 10-track “Dime Piece” series, I tallied up my 10 favorite albums of 2013 and put a song from each in the mix. It’s got a little bit of anything (Editor’s note: including some NSFW language).
Mayer Hawthorne feat. Kendrick Lamar – “Crime”
Where Does this Door Go
He’s come a long way since the classic soul sound of his debut on Stone’s Throw in ’09. The new album is on Universal’s Republic Records and he’s definitely trying to get his Donald Fagen on (not mad!) and has tracks with big name producers Jack Splash and Pharrell. This one featuring Kendrick Lamar has been getting run in my sets lately and since K Dot did a show at the Alaska State Fair this year, I thought it was a great way to start the mix off. Bonus link: Mayer started out as a DJ, check out one of his sets from infamous Sunday LA party, the Do-Over (one of my favorite parties).
7 Days of Funk – “Faden Away”
7 Days of Funk
When you’ve got as much juice as Snoop Dogg, you can just up and do a niche, nine-track side project. It doesn’t sound like Mr. Broadus put a ton of work into the lyrics on this album, but it’s really all about his stoney carefree flow over some slappers produced by G funk revivalist Dam Funk. This one came out on Stone’s Throw and even has an Archbishop Don Magic Juan co-sign and an official video. Crank up the jams and pretend your ride is actually a tinted out Cutlass. Bonus videos: Dam singing during a DJ set at the Do-Over. NSFW language.
DJ Day – “Boots in the Pool”
Land of 1,000 Chances
DJ Day dropped his first 12”, Gone Bad back in ‘05 and he got some shine in a DC shoe ad back in ’09 but he’s not as well known as RJD2 or other “instrumental hip hop” producers (That term is so corny it makes me cringe, but you know what I mean). How about if I said, “This album sounds like DJ Shadow at the beach sipping sangria.” It was executive produced by Piecelock 70 labelmate Thes One from People Under the Stairsand just has a great sunny, chill vibe. Bonus links: Video for the title track, Day’s stellar Do-Over sets.
Major Lazer feat Busy Signal, The Flexican and FS Green – Watch Out For This (Bumaye)
Free the Universe
Diplo is somehow able to work with big label artists (see: Chris Brown, Usher, Beyonce), stay huge in the DJ scene (I just said “instrumental hip hop,” I’m not saying “EDM”) and run his label, Mad Decent. All the while, he’s pushing crazy, non-commercial dance music that somehow crosses over to the mainstream. Case in point. It never occurred to me that a guy who made a mix I worshipped in ‘03, would be doing a blackberry commercial and getting nominated for a grammy.
Major Lazer is Diplo and Switch and a cast of Jamaicans who make wild, reggae-influenced dance music. Beyonce used this Major Lazer cut to make this and Diplo and the crew were daggering and twerking while Miley was still working for Disney. This is one of the tracks from the album that I would play out if I had a crowd open-minded and willing to get freaky. Bonus link: Bumaye video.
Daft Punk Feat. Giorgio Moroder – Giorgio by Moroder
Random Access Memories
Depending on your own personal combination of old and cynical, it was either super cool that Daft Punk was able to pay legends like Nile Rodgers to play on their album or you got grumpy and wondered if the people who liked “Get Lucky” were also huge “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” fans without realizing the same man was behind both riffs. I was definitely guilty of mixing from “We are Family” into “Get Lucky” at more than one wedding. From staple to summer jam while spanning 30 plus years without skipping a beat. It just shows talented Mr. Rodgers is (and how savvy Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo are). On my first listen of Random Access Memories, this cut instantly became my favorite. Digging for old soundtracks had me up on some of Giorgio’s earlier works like Midnight Express, Battlestar Galactica and American Gigolo and when I heard that synth, I was hooked.
Classixx – Dominoes
I put Classixx’s remix of Phoenix’s “Lisztomania” on one of my earlier mixes and I’ve kept an eye out for their releases since. One of my favorite moments of the last year was walking around Seattle and listening to this on headphones. From the opening track, “Hanging Gardens” the vibes on the whole thing are just perfect. Bonus Links: Classixx DJ set at the Do-Over. Oldies, but goodies: The Treasure Fingers and Gigameshremixes of “I’ll Get You”
Disclosure Feat. Aluna George – White Noise
I don’t think I’ve met anyone who didn’t like this album, just people who haven’t heard it yet. It’s that good.
Bonus link: I played another one of their songs, “When a Fire Starts to Burn” the other day during a gig at UAA. Listen / download to an hour of that set here.
Holy Ghost! – Bridge and Tunnel
Donna Summer – Dim All the Lights (Duke Dumont remix)
Love to Love You Donna
This full-length release of Donna Summer remixes was put together by someone in the know. Donna’s voice is obviously amazing and the centerpiece here, but the quality and selection of remixers is what makes or breaks a project like this and the selection here is top notch. They’ve enlisted Old school maestros like Frankie Knuckles and Masters at Work and some of my favorite current producers - Chromeo, Oliver,Gigamesh, Hot Chip, Jacques Greene and two names you’ll recognize from earlier in this list – Giorgio Moroder and Holy Ghost! This thing bangs. You might know Duke Dumont from this jam and I think he just nailed this one, letting Donna’s voice breathe and lacing the track with a great house vibe.
Kanye West – Black Skinhead
I’m a Kanye apologist. Say what you will about his personal life and interviews. But have you listened to this album? It’s crazy! It’s crazy good! This guy is making ART. Of all the tracks on this mix, this was the one I had the most trouble with. I knew I wanted to put on at the end as a standalone moment, but had trouble picking a song because they all have such a high level of emotion and punch. I ended up going with this because Daft Punk worked with him on producing it – but you probably wouldn’t know that unless you checked the liner notes.