So, today, my girl and I happen to be in Valdez. I decided to pop into a museum or three, and, …and well, Moni said something about me being a nerd and told me she was going to take a nap. Lot she knows! Moni totally missed learning about the North Pacific Fur Fish. It really is an amazing specimen. Just see what the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive has to say about it:
North Pacific Fur Fish
This fish is reported to have been a rare sight in the waters of Prince William Sound. Its fur coat is an adaptation to the frigid glacial waters of the area This is one of a few ever caught.
The Northern Pacific Fur Fish was a popular tourist attraction during the late 1950s and early 1960s. This original Fur fish hung for many years on the Valdez Gift Shop.
* New information just in suggests that the Fur Fish is still alive. It has gone through further adaptation since this specimen was caught. It is rumored that one caught recently was not fur covered, but was instead covered in Fore-Tex with a Thinsulate liner.
If you believe this story then you are in for a lot of laughs during your stay in Valdez.
Fur Fish donated by museum supporter Jim Thompson.
So, there it is. I learned about a really really rare breed of fish, and Moni doesn’t know anything about it, because she took a nap instead of going to the museum with me. She knows all about the Mojave Penguin, but she doesn’t know about this one, and I mean to keep it that way. So, shhhh! My dear readers, please don’t tell Moni. This fish will be our secret!
Soylent Green is people!
Yeah we all know that.
Or do we?
I’m sorry, I meant to say; “spoiler alert!”
Anyway, yeah, Soylent Green is people, but the thing is that’s not really what the movie is about, is it? The Movie, Soylent Green, is about the death of the oceans. It’s about the end of life as we know it, or rather the moment in history just before the end of life as we know it. In that moment, as the food sources dwindle down to nothing, human beings begin to cannibalize each other on a scale never before seen in human history.
By ‘human beings’, I of course mean, the powers that be. It is a murky blend of corporate and government power that begins to market human flesh in the form of flavorless green protein wafers. Some might have found it odd to see cannibalism playing out under the auspices of capitalism. The former is a quintessentially primitive practice; the latter is all about of progress.
When Charleston Heston ends the film screaming “Soylent Green is people,” at least a little of the horror in that moment has always been the realization that the engines of progress have somehow brought humanity to embrace one of the greatest horrors of the primitive world.
It’s fiction, of course, but then again so is the story of progress, and so are a lot of those stories about ‘primitive’ cannibals.
Still it’s a little disconcerting to think that we are already in the timeline of Soylent Green. Yes, that’s right. Way back in 1973, 2018 was the very distant future, distant enough to project upon it all the dystopian horrors you might care to imagine.
For those who haven’t seen this old gem, the main plot has us following a police investigation in a world wracked by overcrowding, starvation, and of course food riots. People live on the streets or the staircases of apartment buildings, guarded by armed men, and…
…and seriously, SPOILER ALERT!!!
…and all these people rely upon one corporation (The Soylent Corporation) for food in the form of artificial wafers, color coded for different kinds of nutritional value. As the story begins to take shape, Soylent has just brought a new wafer into its product line, and yes, it’s green.
…but that’s not too important yet.
The main story-line has us following a murder mystery as Police Detective, Frank Thorn (played by Charlton Heston) investigates the murder of a wealthy and powerful man with the assistance of an aging police analyst named Sol Roth (played by Edward G. Robinson). It turned out the victim had in his possession a report, a large tomb purporting to be an oceanographic survey conducted by the Soylent Corporation over the years 2015-2019. Through careful study and corroboration with his own colleagues, Sol comes to realize the report contains a bombshell. The oceans are dying, irrevocably losing the capacity to produce even the algae used in Soylent wafers. This knowledge is what got the wealthy victim murdered in the first place, but not before he lost all hope and gave up living in the first place. The man, so we are told, was not himself in those final days.
Realizing himself that humanity is doomed, and nearing the end of his own life in this miserable world, Sol himself elects to ‘go home’, which is to say that he reports to a facility where people assist him in committing suicide, treating him to a lovely planetarium display featuring all the sights and sounds of nature as he drifts off into oblivion. Thorn arrives too late to save Sol, but not too late to force his way into the facility and watch the display while speaking with Sol in his last moments. Thorn is shocked by the sight of fields and trees, and animals, even as he learns about the end of the world’s food supply, such as it is. He learns of earth’s former glory even as he comes to grips with its coming end. It’s a maddening thought.
But what to do about it?
Thorn begins by trying to learn a little more about the operations at Soylent. After sneaking into the vehicles transporting Sol and the other dead away the facility, Heston comes to realize the bodies are being processed into the creation of green wafers, thus explaining how the Soylent corporation could come up with a brand new and improved food staple even as humanity’s food supply runs out once and for all. Thus, the infamous line, “Soylent Green is people.”
…oh yeah, there are fights and shootings along the way.
So, yes, Soylent Green is people, but there is a reason it’s people. It’s people because people are the only edible resource left.
Faced with diminishing resources, the powers that be have turned to their own population to reproduce their world, at least for whatever time they may be able to keep this up.
I remember watching this as a kid. Those final moments were pretty shocking back in the early seventies. I remember wondering what would happen in the wake of the credits Would people respond to Heston’s character and shut down the Soylent factories? And if they did, what next? This was a story about the end of everything, and the great crime that echoes through its final moments isn’t going to change that. Perhaps the cannibalism could be stopped, but not the disaster that produced it. It’s a maddening thought, the end of humanity, one next to which the crimes of the Soylent corporation seem to pale in comparison.
What shocks me about the whole story-line now is just how much it pales in comparison to the reality in which we live. We’ve already got our own Soylent report, a whole bunch of them in fact. Scientists have been delivering news quite comparable to that of the Soylent Oceanographic Survey for decades now. Most seem to hold out at least some hope that the disaster in question could be averted, but the scale of tragedy envisioned in climate change is quite comparable to that envisioned in the movie Soylent Green. What is the result? Life goes on.
Somehow, the possibility that all life as we know it could be about to end hasn’t generated sufficient public resolve even to attempt a serious solution. Some folks, such as our Tang-Colored Denialist-in-Chief, seem Hell-bent on making sure the whole disaster comes sooner rather than later, even hiding the facts by suppressing scientific findings on the subject, but the fact is that we are all implicated in this story-line. We are all contributing to the disaster. We can point to certain villains who don’t even want us thinking about this issue, much less attempting to tackle it, but in the end, it is humanity as a whole (or at least the more developed nations within it) that is proceeding full steam ahead.
It’s as though Heston’s cries didn’t even lead to an investigation of the Soylent factories. We all heard him, and then we just kept munching away at the quaint little green wafers that give us so much more energy than the red ones or the white ones and even the purple ones.
It’s one of the things that fascinates me about climate change. Somehow this real-world threat to life as we know it carries with it far less force than the comparable horrors of fiction. We can can appreciate the threat of The Thing or the Body-Snatchers. We can even hope that somehow Heston’s cries will bring an end to the Soylent factories. We can pull for the good guys to save the day in these stories, But when credible sources tell us that all life as we know it could come about as a result of our own actions, we ponder it while and then drive to the store.
Don’t get me wrong. Far from being an exception, I count myself among the worst offenders.
This is perhaps one of the interesting features of story-telling, that it enables us to envision solutions which would escape us in real life. Indeed, stories enable us to conceptualize problems we might not even acknowledge in real life. Our world may not contain vampires, for example, at least in the sense that we cannot find real creatures who suck the blood of others in order to sustain immortal life, but we can certainly find people whose success came at the expense of those around them. We can even find people who seem inexplicably to relish the experience of wasting other peoples time and energy in sundry ways. Deal with someone like that long enough, and you might just be tempted to see in vampire stories a real truth about real people. It wouldn’t be unfair to say of such people, I think, that they prosper, much as vampires do, by draining the life energy of those around them. In the real world, one resolves such problems (if possible) by getting such people out of your life (a peoplectomy as one of my old friends used to put it), but of course this is difficult and messy and the people in question simply move on to screw up other people’s lives when we finally get them out of our own. In a story? In story, you can drive a stake through the heart of the damned vampire. You can actually destroy them in the third act. Ironically enough, the vampires of stories may be easier to defeat than some of the bastards we meet in real life. We can’t drive a stake through the heart of toxic people in the real world, but we an sure as Hell do it with the ones we find in our stories.
Perhaps it is the same with the prospect of an anthropogenic apocalypse. It really is a systemic problem. We all know what we do that contributes to that problem, but refraining as an individual from consumption of oil products is like taking your own drop out of a crashing wave. Well it would be if you could even do it, but most of us really can’t. Most of us couldn’t even eat were it not for the fossil fuels that bring our future meals to the grocery stores. Even if we walked to our breakfast cereal, we would find that or cereal flew and trucked its way to us. The problem is simply too big for any one person to resolve on his own. But what are the odds of finding a collective resolution to the matter? The horror is beyond our reckoning. So, we enjoy zombie stories or watch Bruce Willis save us from an asteroid. (That was him, wasn’t it?) We can hope Will Smith’s blood will save mankind or we can grip our seats and wait quietly in the hopes that John Krasinski figures out how to beat those new sound-killing creatures. The end of the world is just easier to beat in a story.
…except, in Soylent Green, it really isn’t.
Perhaps, this is because the source of the apocalypse in Soylent Green isn’t a monster; it’s us, which is a little too close to the realities already taking shape in 1973. (They are more real now.) Either way the real tragedy coming for those characters is still coming for them regardless of the results of Thorn’s final revelation. This horror is closer to that of Cthulhu than it is to the simple zombies or mean-spirited sound-sniffers. This horror is a certain doom. The people in Thorn’s world may or may not be able to stop Soylent from serving other folks up in bite-sized snacks, but (at least in the terms of the story-line) they are not going to solve the problem of hunger. They are all doomed.
To appreciate the doom one has only to consider the death of Sol at the end of the film. This, it turns out, would be the last scene ever shot with Edward G. Robinson. He died of cancer a short time after shooting wrapped on Soylent Green, giving his death scene an odd real-life significance for those involved in production. Watching this film, or any other apocalyptic fantasy, I can’t help wondering if humanity itself doesn’t find itself experiencing a similar sort of parallelism. We can appreciate all manner of stories about the end of life as we know it, but more and more, I at least watch such stories with a faint sense that they are a little less far fetched than I’d prefer to imagine.
We can wonder if the characters in Soylent Green will heed Thorn’s warning.
But that is missing the point.
I Made a quick stop recently at the Alaska Veterans Museum on 4th Street in Anchorage. I’ve written about this place before, but of course they’ve changed a few things around. I’m continually amazed at the amount of material they manage to cram into such a small space. The whole facility is clearly a labor of love.
Anyway, this little throw pillow definitely caught my attention. I think we’ll just let it speak for itself.
Respect means different things to different people.
More to the point, respect means something very different for those of us in civilian circles than it does for those on active duty in the military. I couldn’t begin to do the latter subject justice, but I will hazard the observation that respect seems to an elaborate theme in military life. It is reflected in a number of practices and ritualized in a number of ways. It forms a prominent them in stories told by soldiers from just about every generation. Those of us who’ve never been there have the luxury of putting respect in the back our minds, We notice outright disrespect when we see it, and we may even notice markedly respectful behavior when we see it, but most of the time, we can let the issue ride, so to speak. The very notion of respect must mean something very different to someone who has to live in a world where rank matters and salutation is obligatory. For them, respect is an affirmative obligation. For the rest of us it is assumed.
I keep this in mind when I hear veteran’s complain about failure to stand for the flag. I also keep it in mind when I hear demagogues working damned hard to put veterans between protesters and the rest of us. It’s a dilemma. I want to respect someone’s service, but I am also keenly aware that the terms of that respect can be a real threat to my freedom and those of my fellow citizens.
There is a reason that militarism is a prominent theme in fascist circles, and it isn’t because those in such circles have any special respect for the military. No. The elaborate ritualism of respect which is such a part of military life is precisely what fascists want from the rest of us. It’s a kind of ethic, they would very much like to see generalized to the rest of the population. This kind of agenda is easily framed in terms of respect forthe military,
The likes of Donald Trump want us to salute just as a soldier would; they want us all to affirm our loyalty to the state, in terms we do not choose, at times and places wherein failure to do so will cost us something, the respect of our peers if not our actual freedom. Herein lies the perverse trick behind the argument that we must all stand for the pledge or the Anthem, that failure to do so amounts to a direct and willful attack on our military and the veterans who have served in it. That messages seeks to impose a dose of military discipline on the rest of us. Those pushing this message are effectively packaging a very real act of aggression against the citizenry as a simple courtesy.
It’s significant that this message comes nw in direct response to protests over the health and welfare of a significant portion of the American public. The protests carried out by so many players taking a knee in the NFL have a significance of their own, and that significance is NOT a willful attack on the military. They are protesting police abuse and violence directed at African-Americans. The protests are aimed at trying to get something done to curb such abuse and give African-Americans (among others) a
fighting chance cooperating chance of surviving a traffic stop or just a walk down the street. Putting respect for the military front and center in the response to these protests effectively replaces any dialogue the protesters might hope to generate about civil rights with a debate about respect for the military. It answers a legitimate concern about the rights of American citizens with a demand for express loyalty from those very citizens. It should be said those responding to the protests have been remarkably successful in this regard. We talk less now about police abuse and much more about soldiers and flags.
We can argue about whether or not pressure from the Trump administration to stop protests at football games actually violates the U.S. Constitution, but the central symbolism remains the same. What the Trump administration has effectively done is to say; “fuck your civil rights, give us our due!” In requiring its players to stand for the Anthem, in direct response to such pressures, the NFL has effectively bent its knee, and the end result will be a national gesture of obedience unparalleled in recent years. Whatever else the National Anthem meant before, this coming football season it will also mean obedience.
The message is rendered just a little more toxic when one considers that the Star Spangled Banner contains a passage mocking the hopes of escaping slaves. Folks don’t sing that line anymore, but it certainly does raise questions about what the song really means to various American citizens. Those demanding we all stand and put our hands over our hearts typically envision a pure statement of love for our nation, a nation that serves us all equally, and one whose claims on our loyalty is pretty much the same for all.
And still, the line is there…
A reasonable person might see that line as a problem. A reasonable person might understand how a black football player might not want to pay his respects through a gesture that denigrates his own ancestors. Of course a reasonable person would understand the concerns over police abuse in the first place, and a reasonable person might think that quietly kneeling during the course of the Anthem was a reasonable response to the whole situation.
Downright moderate when you think about it!
Hell, a reasonable person might want to review a few police procedures, not the least of them being the role of civil asset forfeiture in police budgets, and as a source of escalating conflict between police and certain policed populations. A reasonable person might want to review bias (latent or overt) in police actions and see if there is anything more than can be done to ensure that officers treat citizens properly. A reasonable person might want to ask questions about the significance of increasing militarization in police training and equipment purchases (something right wingers were once concerned about, …back when cows were the main issue of the day). A reasonable person might respond to the whole taking-a-knee debacle by trying to do something about the situation that gave rise to the controversy in the first place.
Reasonable people might be interested in such things.
But these are not reasonable times.
And so, here we sit, watching the Manchurian Cheeto move the whole nation a little further down the road to outright fascism, all with the full flag-waving support of good ‘patriotic’ Americans, millions of whom will sit right on their asses drinking beer next season as players are forced to bend the knee by standing for the anthem. These folks will happily remind us that the players are rich, and so they shouldn’t complain, so we are told. They will mock Black Lives Matter, remind us of the worst excesses done in its name, and they will enjoy the hope that the whole thing makes liberals a little less happy. What they won’t do is anything about the abuse of their fellow citizens at the hands of at least some Police
Consumer patriotism isn’t worth the price of the bean dip served with it.
We are often told that we should be mindful that soldiers have fought and died for the freedoms the rest of us enjoy. That’s a far more problematic claim than most seem to think. Our soldiers are as often used to protect financial interests (which may or may not include the welfare of the average citizen) as they are the rights or even the safety of the American population. That’s not there fault (they don’t get to choose when and where they fight), but the American military is far more abused by politicians using it for purposes other than the noble causes making their way into such rhetoric as it is by any protester in any cause out there. That’s something to consider when this thoughtless crap is tossed in the faces of those exercising the very freedoms in question. More to the point, if we are to remember people who fought and died in the name of American freedoms, that memory would surely include an awful lot of activists, protesters just like those people seek to silence with this feigned respect for the military. And its a perverse irony that respect for the one could so easily be used as a means of silencing the other.
…which brings me back to my first point salutation is an obligation for those in the military. For the rest of us, it simply isn’t. Whatever respect we owe those that have served, that respect itself is poorly served when we collectively take on the rituals and the obligations of the military, when we surrender the freedoms that the military has supposedly fault for. Those rights include the right to refrain from public gestures of fealty; they also include the right to walk down the street without fear of assault by law enforcement.
It’s a painful thing to think that some sincere people may be hurt by protests such as those taking a knee. It is at least as painful to think that some very insincere people will get the obedience they demand by manipulating a civilian public’s regard for military service.
At the end of the day, all of this leaves the primary issue untouched. We still have a law enforcement problem in this country. Some folks want to change that.
And some would rather us drink a beer and watch the gladiators salute the emperor before bashing their brains out for our viewing pleasure.
So, a couple of friends and I are putting together a film festival, scheduled for August 3-5 in Fairbanks. We are interested in all manner of independent submissions, but we are particularly interested in just about anything with a social consciousness, so to speak. If you happen to make films, please consider submitting to the festival. And if you happen to like independent films, then please consider watching a few with us in August.
…and if you don’t know, and haven’t been, yes, Fairbanks is gorgeous in August.
We have the following to say for ourselves…
Films from everywhere and of all genres are welcome. MôTif strives to turn our festival into a platform and outlet for voices fighting to be heard. We also encourage submissions from indigenous filmmakers, filmmakers of color, filmmakers with different abilities, LGBTQQIA filmmakers, female-identified filmmakers, and filmmakers from any other underrepresented group. Please help us spread the word and share this with filmmakers from around the world. You can submit your film through FilmFreeway.
MôTif is a multimedia production company that supports and creates art projects, focusing on the underrepresented and the environment.
We have no limits on how to use art to show untold stories and make ideas come true. Our core goal is to explore solutions and help in the fight to decimate racism, bigotry, poverty, sexism, and climate change through art.
We collaborate with masterly artists to offer innovative services for communities, individuals, and organizations including workshops, event development, performing arts, film, photography and design.
With our mission in mind we want to offer the first ever MôTif Film Festival. We are committed to discover new and diverse voices, with 97% of the films coming directly from the submissions we receive. We strive to turn our festival into a platform of voices that still fight to be heard, that need support, and is an outlet for their stories.
The winners of each category will receive an exclusive handmade trophy created by a local Alaskan artist and business owner of The Monolith Project as well as a certificate.
Total Prize Value (USD): Priceless
All submitted films must comply with the Submissions Guidelines including deadlines, exhibition format, entry material, etc.
We do not pay screener fees.
Entrants are responsible for obtaining any necessary licenses, royalties, release forms, clearances, permits necessary to present their work. MôTif Film Festival is not responsible for any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, or royalty infringement related to the work.
Interested parties can find out more here: