Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reviewing the reviewer

Posted on Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Unlike Andy Smetanka, I felt Alice in Wonderland was not that bad (see “In a hole,” March 11, 2010). In fact, I loved it! Nor was I disappointed with Tim Burton’s directorial choices. I don’t claim to be an expert on Burton, but I have seen Sleepy Hollow, and Alice, luckily, was not as bloody or gothic as that film. Nor was it as morbid as Corpse Bride—that was aided by the fact that it wasn’t in that weird, stop-motion animation medium that I feel always lends itself to creepiness. Alice had a very low creep-factor, less than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which wasn’t too bad, and not nearly as creepy as Edward Scissorhands.

I can see what Smetanka means about Johnny Depp playing the “hambone” recently with the Pirates trilogy and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, not to mention Ed Wood, and I was leery of his character for this reason. But luckily, the character of Alice was so strong that she held her own against the Mad Hatter, who luckily didn’t take over the film, even with his too modern, silly dance at the end. I was hoping for something else, like a modified grand waltz or anything better than what it was. This was the only part of the film that made me uncomfortable, almost as if it were creepy.

The fact that it is a film about a well-known story is what held it together for me. I would even have enjoyed it were it not in 3-D, the style of which seemed to fascinate Smetanka more than the story. That’s unfortunate based on the fact that the medium we use to tell stories will always evolve and change with technology—from the oral tradition to writing stories down on stone, paper or Macbooks. The story itself, even if elaborated on or inflated, that’s what remains constant.

But let’s talk about the 3-D for a bit. It was not quite as visually impressive as Coraline. I felt that filmmaker Henry Selik made more use of the 3-D medium than Burton. Alice had a darker tone visually, but that was nice after the techno-color Disney version of Alice that we all grew up with. Alice’s themes are darker than I had ever known, having not (yet) read Lewis Carroll’s book. This story is about battle just as much as it’s about journey and self-discovery and owning one’s life choices, so the dark tone fit. Too many 3-D special effects for the sake of effects would have cheapened it, so I feel Burton made a good call there. I will say this about the ending credits: I really thought the fern on the bottom left was growing out from the screen. It was vivid and tactile. The Cheshire cat, too, was very well done.

It’s too bad that Smetanka was so disappointed by it, but luckily Burton could probably give a rat’s you-know-what about what either of us thinks, which is why he’s able to make such creative films. Bravo. Unfortunately, Smetanka spent so little time actually reviewing the film that he missed the wonderful female characters of the white queen and red queen, nor did he give a nod to Alice herself. Better luck next time Smetanka.

Erin Schmiel

Missoula

No census conspiracy

Posted on Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I recently had a conversation with a local person regarding the 2010 census forms. The person said he was “disinclined to fill it out” because of the information it asked for and the likelihood of his information being shared in unauthorized ways and unauthorized places. To set the record straight: The 2010 census only asks 10 questions. These include name, sex, date of birth and whether you own or rent. This is the shortest questionnaire since George Washington asked Thomas Jefferson to conduct the very first census in 1790! The 2010 census form does not ask your social security number, your income, any bank information or about your hobbies, interests, religion or occupation. Most of the questions could be answered by your neighbors or close friends.

There are strict laws in place to keep any information you give in our census form confidential. Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the confidentiality of all your information, and violating that law is a crime with severe penalties. Your census information isn’t shared with other federal agencies. By law, the U.S. Census Bureau cannot share respondent’s answers with anyone—not the IRS, not the FBI, not the CIA and not with any other government agency. You can feel secure in knowing the census form is both brief and entirely confidential.

The very good news is that by filling out and returning your census form, you are affecting how our community receives funding for the next 10 years, from funding for things like senior centers and flu shot distribution and educational needs, to highway planning and construction. It is estimated that for each Montanan that doesn’t get counted our state could lose over $4,000 of funding over the next 10 years.

Filling out your census form is a very easy way to help yourself and your neighbors. For more information on the 2010 census I would encourage you to visit the census website at http://2010census.gov.

Dale Woolhiser

Board Member

Missoula Community Foundation

Missoula

Congrats on collaboration

Posted on Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 4:00 AM

My congratulations go out to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for taking the initiative to show his support for Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. With the increasing awareness of everyone’s need to cooperate and collaborate with each other along with my own support for the bill, I am pleased to see that these two prominent decision makers have reached a consensus with one another.

As a forestry student in Missoula studying operations and restoration, I am exposed to the economic reality and the need to reopen lumber mills. I am in complete support of wilderness and believe that this bill will be extremely effective at incorporating these two opposites. The bill is groundbreaking and well thought out through its use of post-project monitoring, yet like any bill it will take vast amounts of time and money to accomplish.

 

Like anything at the governmental level, it takes willingness to put oneself out there, and I’d like to thank Secretary Vilsack for coming to Montana to show his support for this great collaboration effort.

Chris Freistadt

Missoula

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Preserve our way of life

Posted on Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I am writing today to express that we all need to push for the passing of Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (see “etc.,” March 11, 2010). As a Montanan I feel it is important to preserve our way of life that we have become so accustomed to and grateful for. This bill would help to maintain many benefits of our residence here in Montana, and create new jobs that we so desperately need in our state. Tester sees that light-on-the-land stewardship logging would help to preserve our forests from beetle kill and help prevent disastrous forest fires from harming our communities. It would also allow continued maintenance of campgrounds and trails so Montanans could enjoy the wilderness without impacting its wildlife and natural beauty.

This bill would ensure not only our natural beauty that we so treasure here in Montana, but also put people to work in the timber industry while protecting our watersheds and big game habitat. Tester’s bill is supported by hunters, anglers, loggers, conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes. It not only protects the forests that we value, but protects the rights of Montanans to enjoy them.

I welcome the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service’s willingness to work with local citizens to help manage our public lands and I look forward to passing the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and getting to work protecting and preserving Montana’s way of life.

Nate Watson

Missoula

Clean energy campaign

Posted on Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Over the last few weeks, and in the months ahead, thousands of young people are meeting at local senate offices across the country in a campaign titled “Show Me Democracy.” We are doing this because we share a common vision of a clean energy future.

The benefits of creating a clean energy economy transcend the issue of climate change. We would be investing renewable energies that actually have a long-term economic viability. Why profit from a coal plant for 50 years when you could profit from a wind farm for centuries? A clean energy economy will create millions of new jobs for Americans who are currently out of work. Manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines, reshaping our electrical infrastructure, and retrofitting buildings to be more efficient are all a simple matter of job creation and economic stimulation. America is falling behind in these areas—China plans on dominating the manufacturing industry for solar panels and wind turbines, and they have already begun this huge investment.

As a young person, I fear for my future. Why is it normal to regularly pump mercury and arsenic into the Big Sky of Montana? Those poisons are found in coal emissions, and coal is currently the main energy source in Montana. We are contaminating the rivers and forests of Montana that I fell in love with as a kid. Those trout I caught with my father? They likely have dangerous levels of mercury in their systems.

As a young person, I demand recognition by our country’s leaders that the environment, the economy and global health are all connected and must all be at the center of our nation’s focus. 

We need Sens. Baucus and Tester to act this spring and pass a climate bill in the Senate.

Zachary Brown

Missoula

Trail to safety

Posted on Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 4:00 AM

In 1910, approximately 2,000 to 3,000 small fires already burning in Idaho, Washington and Montana turned into one fire. It burned about 3 million acres in 18 hours, when a 70-mile-an-hour wind came up.

At that time, U.S. Forest Service workers complained that there were not enough trails for access to fight the fire. Today, with about 3.6 million acres of bark beetle damaged forest, we have the possibility of the same scenario happening again. We need plans for more trails and escape routes for all the people and wildlife. All the spotted owls we have paid to protect and all the other wildlife could be lost in this disaster. In 1910, 86 lives were lost. Today, 360,000 people are at risk, along with approximately $21 billion of their personal real estate.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response to this possibility should not be to send the districts in this area more body bags. Let’s find a better way. Instead of getting rid of trails, let’s keep them open. Let’s make more corridors to fight fires. In the 2010 Department of Interior’s budget, there is approximately $200 million in funding for the Clean Air Act and global warming. At the same time, the Forest Service plans to burn again all the areas that have been burnt. I wonder what kind of air filter all that smoke would take.

As an avid outdoor sportsman, it bothers me that our trails have been and are continuing to be dismantled when more trails are needed for better forest management.

Vern Greyn

Dutton

Political trap

Posted on Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I was disappointed to see the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s (RMEF) statement against I-160, the Trap-free Public Lands Initiative (see “Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation sounds confused,” Indy Blog, Feb. 24, 2010). David Allen, the CEO of RMEF, should research matters before he spews out such outright falsehoods.

Allen claims I-160 is a “backdoor anti-hunting measure backed by out-of state financiers.” This is simply untrue. There has never been any discussion that gives credence to this preposterous statement. In addition, similar initiatives passed in other western states have not been followed by anti-hunting measures.

The “out-of state financiers” claimed by Allen are a figment of his imagination. Montanans for Trap-free Public Lands is a Montana grassroots effort on a low budget. This is simply propaganda, and Allen knows better!

Allen further claims initiatives remove the “science” behind wildlife management and open it to “emotional influences.” Doesn’t Allen know wildlife policies in the state are set by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ commission, which is a political group appointed by the governor? In fact, it was the lack of commission action on trapping issues that brought about I-160.

Allen believes wildlife should be managed by “professionals, sportsmen, and landowners.” That sounds good but, considering the political oversight of the commission, professionals don’t always have their say. And what about landowners? What scientific input and expertise are they providing by simply owning property? Besides, I-160 does not affect trapping on private land, which is the majority of Montana.

Allen needs to be less emotional himself, and give the RMEF the responsible, objective leadership it needs. I agree with another writer, a hunter, who stated: “Trappers make a bad name for all hunters here in Montana. Trapping is not fair chase and is just plain cruel.”

Mike Koeppen

Florence

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sounding the alarm

Posted on Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 4:00 AM

James Balog is full of baloney (see “On the rocks,” Feb. 18, 2010). He’s just a photographer, evidently with no science education, who provides erroneous information. For example, he claims Greenland is melting. However, that’s a gross exaggeration—it’s only melting around the edges, which it has done in the past. It melted enough during the Medieval Warm Period to allow Vikings to settle there and raise crops, until the Little Ice Age drove them out. The main ice sheet, with the vast majority of the ice, is in no danger of melting. The ice cores Balog cites actually reveal that increases in carbon dioxide occur hundreds of years after warming begins. The warming oceans release CO2 into the atmosphere.

Balog suggests that the melting of snow and ice of Mt. Kilimanjaro is due to human-caused greenhouse warming. But researchers conclude that the real cause is deforestation of the lower slopes, which removes the source of moisture that falls as snow and ice at the upper elevations.

Basically, Balog photographs natural occurrences, such as melting glaciers, in time-lapse mode, so he can attempt to frighten people. He’s just another misguided global warming alarmist.

Roger Stang

Missoula

Roasting Rehberg

Posted on Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I recently received an e-mail from Rep. Denny Rehberg about the government spending $572,602,739 per day on interest from the national debt (which he helped to create since he was elected in 2000). He likes scaring me with big numbers, but here’s a number he’s afraid to talk about: $2,876,712,329 every day on oil imports.

That’s right, it’s over five times higher than Rehberg’s scary number and it’s not “funny” money either—it’s real dollars right out of your pocket at the gas pumps. It’s energy jobs in Saudi Arabia instead of Montana, and it’s oil wars spilling American blood on foreign soil. Imported oil costs us nearly $3 billion dollars every day; $350 billion a year bled out of our country in oil imports and another $700 billion in lost jobs.

And what has your Montana representative done about it? Nothing.

But he does want to cut Social Security for Montana’s seniors. Reforming entitlement is political code for taking away benefits earned by hard-working men and women, or putting the safety net in the hands of Wall Street.

He also wants to destroy education by freezing “discretionary spending.” And the “hard-working Americans” Denny wants to lower taxes for are the same Wall Street bankers that nearly drove us into bankruptcy.

Dennis McDonald has a real plan for an energy independent America: Clean coal, wind and natural gas for heavy trucks, and we can do it all in Montana! These are jobs for Montanans, jobs for Americans, and they don’t involve any more “oil wars.”

Let’s tell Rehberg and his foreign oil buddies, “No thanks.” 

Jerry McDonald

Thompson Falls

Buying health care

Posted on Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 4:00 AM

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision lets corporations spend unlimited amounts of their money to influence our elections. A public finance bill could remedy that imbalance of power that corporations now have over real people.

Members of Congress prefer the present system because it favors incumbents—incumbents like Sen. Max Baucus, who received about $3 million from the health care industry and then did their bidding as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. When his committee held an exploratory meeting to discuss the various health care bill options, Baucus would not allow advocates for a “public option” to be part of the meeting. A number of single-payer proponents still attended the gathering. When they stood up in the audience and expressed their support of the single-payer program, Baucus had them removed. That group is now called the “Baucus 8.” Many in that group were practicing physicians.

Polls indicate that over 60 percent of voters support a public option. The same percentage of our nation’s doctors are in agreement.

The health care bill that is now being discussed in the Senate represents a huge give-away to the health care industry—giving them up to three million new clients. People should control the process, not corporations and their subservient politicians.

Gene Jack

Cascade

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